WWE organized its first summer festival PPV event in 1988. Since then, WWE has hosted SummerSlam every year. It is an important part of the WWE calendar, and is among the “Big Four” PPVs of the year. WWE usually tries to stack SummerSlam events with high-profile matches and usually puts on good shows.
However, due to the number of events over the decades, we’ve seen some stinkers as well. As we wait for SummerSlam 2023, let’s take a look at the best and worst editions of SummerSlam from each of the last 5 decades.
10 Best of the 1980s: 1989
The 1980s featured just two SummerSlam events, so there wasn’t much to choose from. However, the 1989 edition was the better of the two. It opened on a high note with a fantastic tag team match between The Brain Busters and The Hart Foundation.
The best match of the night was undoubtedly the intercontinental title match between The Ultimate Warrior and Rick Rude. It was full of drama, and the crowd was fully invested in the contest. There was also a good six man tag team match where Rick Martel & The Fabulous Rougeaus defeated Tito Santana & The Rockers.
9 Worst of the 1980s: 1988
SummerSlam 1988 is primarily famous for its main event. It was a star-studded match as the team of Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage, known as The Mega Powers, faced off against the team of Ted Dibiase and Andre The Giant, known as The Mega Bucks. It was a great show with a hot crowd.
However, the match of the night was the tag team title match between Demolition and The Hart Foundation. It was a solid match with Demolition going on. The Ultimate Warrior winning the Intercontinental title from Honky Tonk Man was also great to see, but it was pretty short. The rest of the show is pretty forgettable.
8 Best of the 1990s: 1998
SummerSlam 1998 had an impressive build and was promoted as “The Highway to Hell”. The show opened with a surprisingly good match between D’Lo Brown and Val Venis for the European Championship. X-Pac and Jeff Jarrett also had a fun Hair vs. Hair fight.
The show got even better in the second half when we had an all-time classic ladder match between Triple H and The Rock that propelled both wrestlers to a new level. Ken Shamrock and Owen Hart also had a brilliant and unique match at the Lion’s Den. The only bad part of the show was the match between The Oddities and Kai En Tai.
7 Worst of the 1990s: 1995
1995 was a pretty bad year for WWE, and that year produced some below average stuff. SummerSlam 1995 was no different. The main event of the WWE title match between Diesel and Mabel ranks among the worst WWE title matches in history.
The fact that even Bret Hart’s match against Isaac Yankem DDS was forgettable says all one needs to know about the event. The only competition worth watching on the show is the ladder match between Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon for the intercontinental title.
6 Best of the 2000s: 2002
SummerSlam 2002 is not only the best SummerSlam of the 2000s, but it is also arguably the best SummerSlam of all time. The PPV was packed with great fights throughout the card. The show opened with an incredible and fast-paced encounter between Kurt Angle and Rey Mysterio.
Edge and Eddie Guerrero also had a solid 11-minute matchup. The last two matches of the show took it to the next level. Shawn Michaels and Triple H had a classic brutal Unsanctioned Match. Lastly, Brock Lesnar defeated The Rock in the main event to win his first WWE Championship and close out the show in brilliant fashion.
5 Worst of the 2000s: 2007
In a decade of great SummerSlams, SummerSlam 2007 was easily the worst. It was an extremely mediocre event with only one great match, which was the main event between John Cena and Randy Orton for the WWE Championship.
Rey Mysterio vs. Chavo Guerrero and John Morrison vs. CM Punk were decent matches, but nothing special. Triple H and King Booker had a forgettable match. The world heavyweight title fight between Batista and The Great Khali was absolutely horrible and summed up the quality of the show.
4 Best of the 2010s: 2013
SummerSlam 2013 is head and shoulders above all SummerSlam events of the 2010s. It featured many incredible and memorable moments. The show didn’t get off to the best start, but it picked up in the third match, which was a scintillating world heavyweight title match between Alberto Del Rio and Christian.
The show also featured a huge David vs. Goliath fight between CM Punk and Brock Lesnar. John Cena and Daniel Bryan made sure the event ended on a great note as they had a riveting WWE Title match in the main event. Bryan was victorious in the match, but Randy Orton cashed in his Money in the Bank contract and became WWE Champion to end the show in shocking fashion.
3 Worst of the 2010s: 2010
SummerSlam 2010 was just an average show from start to finish. It was a one match show, and even that match had an incorrect result. It was the main event between Team WWE and Nexus. The match was pretty good, but Team WWE came out the winner of the match, in the face of fan demands.
Other than that, the show was full of mediocre matches. Both Randy Orton vs. Sheamus and Kane vs. Rey Mysterio were extremely boring world title matches. There was also a horrible 3v1 handicap match where Big Show destroyed The Straight Edge Society.
2 Best of the 2020s: 2020
SummerSlam 2020 happens to be the only SummerSlam that doesn’t feature a crowd. Instead, it took place in the Thunderdome. Despite the fact that there was no public, WWE put on a pretty good show. Bayley and Asuka kicked off the show with a solid match for the SmackDown Women’s Title.
The match of the night was easily Drew McIntyre vs. Randy Orton for the WWE Title in a properly paced match with good psychology. We also got Dominik Mysterio’s WWE debut in a deadly Street Fight against Seth Rollins. The main event of the Universal Title match between The Fiend and Braun Strowman was disappointing, but the exciting return of Roman Reigns ended the show on a good note.
1 Worst of the 2020s: 2021
SummerSlam 2021 had a decent card, but it fell short of expectations. The show took two games. Edge and Seth Rollins had great success, and Roman Reigns’ universal title defense in the main event against John Cena was pretty good as well. We also got the long-awaited return of Brock Lesnar after the match.
Other than that, there is nothing really worth seeing. Alexa Bliss vs. Eva Marie and Drew McIntyre vs. Jinder Mahal were a total waste of time. And Becky Lynch’s return to win the SmackDown Women’s Title from Bianca Belair in just 27 seconds also left a bad taste in fans’ mouths.