by Daniel Johnson
WWE SummerSlam 2014 has a lot going for it. Brock Lesnar/John Cena is a great marquee attraction, Jack Swagger/Rusev is a midcard match WWE actually cares about and the members of The Shield have jumped way up the card since last year. In thinking about this last point let’s just remember that of all the possible gimmick matches Dean Ambrose is facing Seth Rollins in a lumberjack match. Lumberjack matches are an oddity in today’s WWE to have for major feuds on pay-per-views. To play devil’s advocate of the lumberjack match naysayers this could create an interesting and unique dynamic for this feud. Yet, WWE could have went for a match that is always a home run at SummerSlam. A ladder match. Heck, the first great match Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins ever had in WWE was a ladder match where they teamed together with Roman Reigns to take on Ryback and Team Hell No (Daniel Bryan and Kane) in a major encounter at WWE TLC: Tables Ladders & Chairs (2012). Yet, for whatever reason the WWE office has went with a lumberjack match instead. Looking back at least Ambrose and Rollins won’t have a slew of great SummerSlam lumberjack matches to live up to. If they were scheduled to have a ladder match they would have really had to work hard to be on the level of past ladder matches held at the Summer spectacular. Let’s push aside concerns of the future and rank SummerSlam’s ladder matches.
6. Rob Van Dam vs. Jeff Hardy (2001)
Jeff Hardy has wrestled in half of the ladder matches that have taken place at SummerSlam to date. While this was his least memorable performance of the three, in general, it is by no means an unmemorable showcase. In the middle of a bunch of WWF inVasion non-sense Hardy and Rob Van Dam tore this show up! There is a big back and forth going on throughout this contest, which keeps the men looking nice and even. This is perhaps best shown when RVD looks to have the clear victory after Hardy misses a swanton bomb only for RVD to then miss his signature five star frog splash. On a side note the championship they are fighting for is the WWF Hardcore Championship and these two proved that any title can be elevated. This is an incredibly overlooked SummerSlam match and while it may not outshine the other ladder matches from the Summer spectacular, it is a brighter sight than most bouts in SummerSlam’s history.
5. Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero (2005)
Yes, this is the match revolving around the ridiculous storyline of Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio fighting in the ring for the custody of Mysterio’s son Dominic. Taking the storyline out of the equation the match itself has plenty worth watching. Guerrero looks to have it won toward the end when he hits his trademark three amigos move, but his wife, Vickie Guerrero ends up costing him the win. The ending is botched when Vickie misses her mark, but you have to appreciate this one. With a few exceptions SummerSlam has not been the greatest event known for showcasing cruiserweight action. Maybe the cold water from Vince McMahon’s “Ice Bucket Challenge” will finally wake him up to the fact that wrestling fans enjoy cruiserweights. Yet, despite it all this was one of those aforementioned exceptions and an example of the best of WCW coming to WWE at long last.
4. HHH vs. The Rock (1998)
Watching HHH and The Rock rise up the ranks of the WWF was an experience unlike watching just about any other two stars make waves in a major promotion. A lot of the time midcarders look like surefire main eventers, but as heavy as their pushes may be many fall through the cracks or fail to reach that final step for whatever reason. Heck, just look at the midcard scene of WWE from the 2000s. As much as some may want them to John Morrison, Carlito, Chris Masters, Shelton Benjamin, even guys still with the company like Kofi Kingston are not headlining WWE cards. HHH and The Rock was that rare instant of when you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that you were watching the main eventers of the future today and you were completely right. Even having Chyna and Mark Henry in HHH and The Rock’s respective corners isn’t enough to drag this one down. HHH destroys The Rock with a chair at one point yet this bout still continues and Rock even hits a people’s elbow while HHH is down on a ladder. This encounter is an example of what made The Rock one of the best WWF Intercontinental Champions of the 1990s and the victorious HHH a performer any wrestling fan can never completely hate.
3. Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon (1995)
One argument against this match some critics may have is that it was a rehash of the WWF WrestleMania X classic between Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon. That point may have some validity, but let’s look at the rest of the show that night to properly paint the picture. The undercard of WWF SummerSlam 1995 wasted a lot of the company’s top talent. Bret Hart was paired with a pre-Kane Isaac Yankem, DDS, The Undertaker was thrown together with Kama Mustafa and heck even The Smoking Gunns (Bart Gunn and Billy Gunn) couldn’t fulfill their potential because they had The Blu Brothers (Jacob Blu and Eli Blu) to work with. Looking to the main event King Mabel challenged Diesel for the WWF Championship in a match that was truly worth forgetting. The WWF was just two months removed from WWF King of the Ring 1995 arguably the worst wrestling pay-per-view the WWF had ever held. The WWF needed a savior of a match and this one delivered. While some spots from WrestleMania X are recycled watching the two bouts back to back will show they are hardly the same encounter. A little known fact about this match is that leading up to it Ramon wrestled Jeff Jarrett in a series of ladder matches on the house show circuit. Even earlier than that Michaels and Ramon had worked for years together fine tuning their chemistry. This was the first ever SummerSlam ladder match, but the last ladder match ever between Michaels and Ramon. Rather than a simple rehash this performance was the culmination of all the work Michaels and Ramon put into a legendary feud.
2. Jeff Hardy vs. CM Punk (2009)
CM Punk had not yet become a bonafied main eventer for WWE at the time WWE SummerSlam 2009 took place. So why is he main eventing in this TLC match on one of the biggest shows of the year? The reason is simple. Punk’s feud with Hardy and the mic work he put into it blew away anything else WWE featured close to the main event at the time. Perhaps the only thing that surpassed Punk’s mic work was his in-ring talent, which he gives a remarkable display of here. This match is brutal in all the right ways. From Punk recklessly throwing Hardy’s back into a chair to Hardy flipping Punk out of the ring and through a table to the match’s conclusion. How does the match end you ask? With Hardy taking out a ridiculously large ladder and hitting a swanton bomb off of it and onto an announcing table, which Punk is laid across. Punk pulls out the victory here in what was the greatest ladder match in SummerSlam history. Almost.
1. The Hardy Boyz vs. The Dudley Boyz vs. Edge and Christian (2000)
It is easy to make the mistake of thinking the first ever TLC match happened at WWF WrestleMania 2000. That bout was actually promoted as a triangle ladder match. The true grandaddy of all TLC matches took place at WWF SummerSlam 2000. This night was full of insane spots including Shane McMahon and Steve Blackman falling goodness knows how many feet off the entrance stage in their hardcore match. To top them all and create a legacy that lives on to this day Edge, Christian, Jeff Hardy, Matt Hardy, Buh Buh Ray Dudley and D-Von Dudley needed to pull out all the stops. Christian is the first to go through a table after taking a Dudley death drop, then Jeff follows not too long after by missing a swanton bomb. Buh Buh Ray then goes through a group of stacked tables and the match isn’t even close to being finished! This match is a hair over 19 minutes and there is not a wasted second in there. Jeff ends up being the last domino to fall on Edge and Christian’s way to grabbing the WWF World Tag Team Championship belts after all the other participants and The Hardy Boyz’s buddy, Lita had been taken out. Although WWF WrestleMania 2000 had taken place only four months earlier like Michaels/Ramon this performance was again by no means a rehash. Yet, the drive all six men showed in this contest is worth rehashing.
Photos 1-3, 5, 7: en.wikipedia.org
Photos 4, 6: Daniel Johnson / Johnsontranscript.com
Categories: Wrestling Lists