Where does Jinder Mahal vs. Shinsuke Nakamura rank among all the WWE Championship matches in Summerslam history? I have gone back and ranked each WWE Championship, let’s see how the list shaped out.
26. Triple H vs. The Great Khali (Summerslam 2008)
By far the worst WWE Championship match to ever take place at a Summerslam. It was the closest thing to seeing Triple H have a match with himself. I’d also say this was one of Triple H’s worst reigns as champion.
25. Diesel vs. King Mabel (Summerslam 1995)
Oh WWE 1995. A dreadful match between two giants. Punches, slams and a terrible dive. Diesel won with a top rope clothesline after a terrible referee bump.
24. JBL vs. The Undertaker (Summerslam 2004)
This match emanated from my hometown and was just a boring brawl. It ended in a DQ which is always groan worthy and I think there was fan interference which spoiled the limo spot.
23. Yokozuna vs. Lex Luger (Summerslam 1993)
It would be hard to expect a classic between these two large men so I think they had the best match they could. The baffling part of this match is the ending where Lex wins by countout which means he did not win the title yet there was an elaborate celebration even having Lex hoisted on shoulders.
22. Randy Orton vs. John Cena (Summerslam 2009)
Another year of WWE I rarely go back to watch other then a match at Wrestlemania 25. This match followed the template of another match on this list with the restarting of a match after DQs and Countouts. Unfortunately for Cena, no one in the crowd was clamoring for justice so it made this match feel like it wouldn’t end. The “fan run-in” added no more drama and killed a bit of the psychology. This should have been the final time we saw an Orton/Cena program.
21. Sheamus vs. Randy Orton (Summerslam 2010)
Sheamus retained by DQ so Orton got his heat back with an RKO on the outside. These two would go on to have a more infamous match and may we never see these two in a main event program again.
20. CM Punk vs. John Cena. Big Show (Summerslam 2012)
One of several triple threat matches on this list. Punk and Cena had great chemistry but the addition of a third competitor makes it a hard match to pull off. I liked the finish where Punk capitalized on Cena’s efforts but it was a very basic match.
19. Dean Ambrose vs. Dolph Ziggler (Summerslam 2016)
A good match but it had to follow a classic. Also by this time it was hard to take Ziggler as a credible challenger and the fact that he came out on the losing end simply fit the existing narrative of Dolph.
18. Ultimate Warrior vs. Rick Rude (Summerslam 1990)
The first time the WWE Championship was defended at Summerslam. These two competed in a great Intercontinental Championship match at the Summerslam prior and it was hard to top that one. This time they were in a Steel Cage and as usual Rude worked hard with the Warrior but was unsuccessful in capturing the title on this night.
17. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. Triple H vs. Mankind (Summerslam 1999)
Jesse Ventura was the special referee in this match. The reception for Austin was amazing and created an electric atmosphere. Mankind picking up the win came out of no where and the crowd took a few seconds to react. There are rumours of Austin not wanting to drop the title to Triple H but that doesn’t seem to be the case here.
16. “Macho Man” Randy Savage vs. The Ultimate Warrior (Summerslam 1992)
My favourite Summerslam of all time and the WWE Championship wasn’t even the main event in Wembley Stadium (rightfully so). I didn’t care for the tease of which side Ric Flair was on but I understood the story they were telling. I’m glad that Savage remained champion but the crowd was more into the Warrior then I expected. This match certainly does not compare to their Wrestlemania retirement match.
15. CM Punk vs. John Cena (Summerslam 2011)
There was no way these two could follow their Money in the Bank classic. I also thought Punk came back way too soon and I didn’t care for the double champion story. Triple H being added as the referee seemed unnecessary as well. The match had a few too many bells and whistles with Cena’s foot on the rope, Nash’s involvement and Del Rio’s cash-in. This was the year of CM Punk and WWE went out of their way to seemingly not capitalize on it.
14. Shawn Michaels vs. Vader (Summerslam 1996)
A great big man versus small champion story here. It seemed as though in this one both men were a bit off and there lacked some chemistry. The restarting of the matches over and over was unique at the time and it made Shawn a more credible champion. Other then some off script antics during the match, this was probably the best Summerslam main event to date in 1996.
13. John Cena vs. Randy Orton (Summerslam 2007)
Ten years ago we got one of the first main event bouts between Orton and Cena. Cena would come out on the winning end and these two would have a good match. Over time, it appeared WWE tried to prolong this feud longer then necessary.
12. Seth Rollins vs. John Cena (Summerslam 2015)
A classic match that pitched the WWE Champion versus the United States Champion where both titles were on the line. It was a great match until the ending, where Jon Stewart, of all people, interfered and helped Rollins retain his title. His reasoning? He did not want Cena to tie Ric Flair. Tremendous match with a terrible finish.
11. The Rock vs. Triple H vs. Kurt Angle (Summerslam 2000)
The match appeared to be more focused on the rivalry between Angle and Triple H and then both men found themselves in the title picture. Kurt Angle gets knocked out early in this one but both men continue to be preoccupied with one another that champion, the Rock, capitalizes and retains his title.
10. John Cena vs. Chris Jericho (Summerslam 2005)
This was Cena’a first WWE Championship defense at a Summerslam and his opponent would be gone if he lost. Both men had a competitive match, but what is notable about this match is the crowd getting behind Jericho who was a heel at the time. This was the infancy of the polarization of champion John Cena as crowds would go on to be divided with their allegiance and disdain for the Cenation leader.
9. The Undertaker vs. Bret “Hitman” Hart (Summerslam 1997)
Two legends squared off in this main event out with another legend as the special guest referee. In 1997, attitude was beginning to take shape and we saw a lot of it in this match. Shawn and Bret hated each other both in and out of the ring and Shawn found himself around controversy in this match as he screwed the Undertaker, leading to a Bret Hart win (not the last time in 1997). This main event bout would lead to some history in WWE as we saw the first ever Hell in a Cell result from Shawn’s actions against the Undertaker and Shawn would go on to face champion Bret at Survivor Series that year.
8. Edge vs. John Cena (Summerslam 2006)
It has taken time, but looking back more then a decade ago, I really appreciate the rivalry between Edge and Cena. It absolutely elevated Edge to main event status and it brought out the best in John Cena as a fighting champion and contender. If Edge were to be DQ’d in this one he would have lost his title. Not only did Edge manage to retain, he used brass knucks unbeknownst to the referee and adding further insult to injury, he beat John in his hometown!
7. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. The Undertaker (Summerslam 1998)
We were on the highway to hell in this one as there was a strong build to these two meeting. Early on in the match, it appears Austin and Undertaker crack heads together and this leaves Austin loopy. The brawl continues and you have to give credit to Austin who may have been battling a concussion. Highlight of the match for me is the leg drop from the top to the announce table adding further devastation and punishment to Austin. Despite all this, Steve Austin does retain his title with a Stunner and a clean pin; a rarity against the likes of the Undertaker. The post match has a tremendous sign of respect between these two legends.
6. Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar (Summerslam 2003)
As far as work rate and a technical match, this match had it all. I still prefer their Wrestlemania main event over this match but this match is worth checking out. You can see that Brock and Kurt really did bring out the best in each other and Summerslam would eventually become Brock’s shining stage as he competed in various WWE Championship matches as we move onto the top five where his name pops up again.
5. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. Kurt Angle (Summerslam 2001)
A fun match between these two that was physical and showed that Kurt could hang with the top star even this early in his career. The sight of blood definitely added to this match and the crowd and commentary was invested in this one. I enjoyed the referee bumps but like many matches in 2001, I hated the WWF vs. Alliance feud and unfortunately this was a part of this match. As the Alliance referee, Nick Patrick, came in for the finish and disqualified Austin allowing him to hold onto the WWE title. A great match and although I didn’t care for the finish, I understood the story they were telling.
4. John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar (Summerslam 2014)
This main event was no other I’d seen in WWE history. We saw a top guy dominated and get in very little offence. Brock was coming off just ending the Undertaker’s Streak and his tear continued as he made easy work of champion John Cena as he would go on to win the WWE World Championship. I can only encourage you to go back and watch this spectacle.
3. The Rock vs. Brock Lesnar (Summerslam 2002)
The main event of the perhaps the best Summerslam card of all time. Brock had just appeared on the scene and the Rock was on his way out so the result may have been apparent. The Rock, one of the greatest WWE superstars of all time would have one of his best matches against a young Brock Lesnar. Brock was still a bit green but you could see he indeed was “the Next Big Thing”. The crowd turned on the Rock in this one and it was a perfect atmosphere as the crowd got behind Brock as we ushered in a new era and Brock continues to exude “ruthless aggression”
2. Bret “Hitman” Hart vs. Owen Hart (Summerslam 1994)
The greatest Summerslam WWE Championship defense took place in a Cage Match between two brothers. These two had a masterpiece of a match as they wrestled one another and made attempts at escaping the cage. The superplex from the cage is the only high spot I’d say in an otherwise fantastic wrestling match. Great story with two quintessential professionals. Bret Hart is Mr. Summerslam for a reason and add this classic to his resume.
1. John Cena vs. Daniel Bryan (Summerslam 2013)
The best WWE Championship has to be the one with the most exciting title win in Summerslam history. Not only was this an exciting and perhaps unexpected win, this was also a classic match between Bryan and Cena. The fans were solidly behind Bryan and were clamoring for him to win the big one. Not only did he win the World title but he defeated one of the all time greats in WWE history to do so and pinned his shoulder 1-2-3. Unfortunately, the Authority did not see Bryan as the guy and allowed Orton to cash-in and being the face of the company. This led to Bryan’s journey to Wrestlemania where he won the title again in another tremendous WWE moment.