Shawn Michaels has the moniker “Mr. WrestleMania” all locked up, of course, but who’s HBK’s equivalent on the biggest stage of the summer? Armed with a loose set of criteria — match quality, milestones and endurance — WWE.com editors have made their case for why certain Superstars should be called Mr. SummerSlam. Read the arguments and then decide for yourself by voting in our Mr. SummerSlam poll.
1.) Bret "Hit Man" Hart
Don’t get it twisted. Bret “Hit Man” Hart was no slouch on The Grandest Stage of Them All. His WrestleMania bouts against “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Owen Hart and Shawn Michaels? Classics, all. But there was something about the hottest day of the summer that that brought out the best in the pride of The Great White North.
First, there was the technical ecstasy of Hart’s Intercontinental Title victory over Mr. Perfect in 1991. Brilliant enough to be deemed the SummerSlam equivalent of Randy Savage versus Ricky Steamboat from WrestleMania III, the mat masterpiece stole the show and announced the former tag specialist as a singles competitor worth watching. The following year, it was Hart against his brother-in-law, The British Bulldog, in front of more than 80,000 WWE fans in London’s Wembley Stadium. "Hit Man" may have lost his Intercontinental Championship in what was undoubtedly SummerSlam’s greatest main event, but he proved that he could be brilliant in defeat. Bulldog walked out the champion, but The Excellence of Execution’s performance is what we remember.
Beyond this pair of classics, there was the gripping cage match versus Owen in ’94, a heated WWE Title victory over The Undertaker in ’97, and a World Tag Team Title triumph against Demolition in ’90. Hart even thrilled against Doink in 1993. “The Best There Is, The Best There Was, The Best There Ever Will Be” always seemed like a tremendous boast for a good guy. But after watching "Hit Man" at SummerSlam, it’s hard to deny.
2.) Triple H
Triple H may be The King of Kings, but he’s also the king of SummerSlam. Much like his close friend Shawn Michaels did with WrestleMania, Triple H has taken SummerSlam and made it a showcase of his own.
Dating back to his WWE pay-per-view debut, a win over Bob Holly at SummerSlam 1995, several of The Game’s career-defining wins have come at the summer spectacular. Arguably Triple H’s breakout match — the singular bout that “made” him — was his Intercontinental Championship win over The Rock in a Ladder Match in Madison Square Garden at SummerSlam 1998. Not only were the 25-plus minutes of high-impact hits show-stealing material, but Triple H’s title win over the quickly ascending Great One was also the stuff of legend.
It was a losing effort against Shawn Michaels in a Street Fight that arguably took home match-of-the-night honors at SummerSlam 2002, and the very next year, Triple H regained momentum with a successful World Heavyweight Championship defense in a stacked Elimination Chamber that featured HBK, Chris Jericho, Randy Orton, Goldberg and Kevin Nash. Factor in the punishing tone he and Mankind set at SummerSlam 1997, when they opened the show with a classically brutal Steel Cage Match (held within the confines of the big blue bars), a major return win over King Booker in 2007, two tag team wins with D-Generation X cohort Shawn Michaels and a monstrous brawl versus Brock Lesnar, and it’s clear to see that SummerSlam — win, lose or draw — is The Game’s domain.
The Rated-R Superstar, The Ultimate Opportunist, Mr. Money in the Bank. All of those are nicknames that have been given to Edge. However, none is more fitting than this nickname: Mr. SummerSlam.
Edge made his debut at The Biggest Party of the Summer in 1998, not long after arriving in WWE, helping the sultry Sable defeat her former beau, Marvelous Marc Mero, and Jacqueline. It was the first of eight victories (versus two losses) at SummerSlam for the WWE Hall of Famer. He further established his summer superiority in 2000, when he and Christian successfully defended their World Tag Team Titles in the first Tables, Ladders & Chairs Match.
Edge’s most personal feud came to a boiling point at SummerSlam in 2005. The Rated-R Superstar shockingly showed a new side of himself, unleashing a rage-filled attack that left a battered Matt Hardy unable to continue their battle. But perhaps Edge’s biggest victory at SummerSlam came in 2006. Though he was the WWE Champion, he was seen by many as the underdog against John Cena. However, Edge had two things on his side: Lita and a pair of brass knuckles she slipped him during the bout. The Ultimate Opportunist lived up to his name, cracking Cena with the weapon and retaining his title on the summer’s biggest stage.
4.) Mick Foley
The Hardcore Legend’s SummerSlam record is a relatively unspectacular 3-2, but those three victories are among the most monumental of his WWE Hall of Fame career. The first, in 1996, was a star-making Boiler Room Brawl against The Undertaker that came only slightly more than four months after debuting in WWE.
The following year, Mankind was victorious in an emotional Steel Cage Match against Triple H that made him a beloved figure. (Helping matters was his a series of sit-down interviews with Jim Ross that gave insight into Foley’s childhood.) And in 1999, Mrs. Foley’s Baby Boy closed out the millennium in style by winning pinning “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and winning his third and final WWE Championship. The win came soon after Mankind re-emerged from an extended absence due to knee surgery, and none other than the sitting Governor of Minnesota, Jesse Ventura, counted the pinfall.
Even Foley’s two losses at SummerSlam came on technicalities. In 1998, Mankind entered the event as World Tag Team Champions with Kane, but The Big Red Monster was nowhere to be found. Foley lost the titles after putting up a valiant effort in a de facto Handicap Match against The New Age Outlaws. And in 2006, Mick Foley battled Ric Flair a brutal “I Quit” Match between two Legends. The Hardcore Legend lost the bout, but only when The Nature Boy threatened Foley’s friend Melina.
Foley’s presence was even felt after he retired from full-time competition. As Commissioner in 2000, the WWE Hall of Famer was responsible for scheduling the TLC Match for the World Tag Team Championship at that event, which ended up being widely considered one of the finest tag team matches of all time.
5.) Brock Lesnar
Brock Lesnar has competed in just four matches at The Biggest Party of the Summer, but he has done more in those appearances than most Superstars have accomplished in their entire careers.
The Next Big Thing made his debut at SummerSlam in 2002, headlining the event against The Rock for the Undisputed WWE Championship. The Beast Incarnate conquered The Great One, cementing his place atop WWE, while also making history at the time as the youngest WWE Champion ever. In 2003, the former NCAA Division I collegiate wrestling champion battled Olympic Gold Medalist Kurt Angle for the WWE Title. Lesnar suffered his only SummerSlam loss, but his match with Angle was one of the most captivating bouts in the event’s 26-year history.
The Anomaly’s WWE hiatus kept him away from the SummerSlam stage for nine years, but in true Lesnar fashion, he returned in a big way by headlining the event’s 25th anniversary against WWE COO Triple H. After forcing The Game to tap out to his vicious Kimura Lock submission, Lesnar returned in 2013 to defeat CM Punk in a barbaric No Disqualification Match.
Simply put, the most physically commanding Superstar in WWE history has made SummerSlam his playground for pain. Lesnar will add to his remarkable SummerSlam résumé in 2014 when he once again headlines The Biggest Party of the Summer in a WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match against John Cena. Win, lose or draw you can bet SummerSlam’s biggest beast will make his presence felt.
6.) Shawn Michaels
WWE Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels’ legacy at SummerSlam is nearly as great as his history at WrestleMania. Making his SummerSlam debut in 1989 as one half of The Rockers, HBK and Marty Jannetty teamed with Tito Santana in a losing effort against Rick Martel and The Fabulous Rougeaus. Though his first two SummerSlam appearances ended in defeat, HBK’s record at WWE’s annual summer extravaganza would ultimately include matches against a veritable “who’s who” of WWE Legends. Michaels successfully defended the Intercontinental Title against Mr. Perfect in 1993, and in 1995, he defeated Razor Ramon in a rematch of their legendary WrestleMania X Ladder Match.
HBK headlined SummerSlam 1996, defending the WWE Championship against Vader, but the true testament to The Showstopper’s storied SummerSlam career came in 2002. After four years away from active competition due to a debilitating back injury, Michaels made a triumphant return, battling Triple H in a Street Fight. The brutal contest between the two competitors proved to the WWE Universe and to himself, that Shawn Michaels was ready to once again compete full-time.
In 2005, Michaels stared down the legend known as Hulk Hogan and the two WWE Hall of Famers collided for the first time ever. Though Michaels came up short, he held his own against The Hulkster, earning respect from the very Superstar that headlined the same event early in Michaels’ career. HBK’s final SummerSlam appearances as an active competitor came in 2006 and 2009. Both instances saw Michaels and Triple H together as D-Generation X. In 2006, they successfully defeated Mr. McMahon and Shane McMahon, and in 2009, they defeated The Legacy. Even though his SummerSlam career started out slow, Shawn Michaels has stared down some of the most daunting odds at The Biggest Party of the Summer
7.) The Undertaker
Through the years, there have been legends and there have been icons. And then, in a category of his own, is the legendary, iconic Undertaker. With 15 SummerSlam events under his belt, there is no doubt that The Phenom from Death Valley not only withstood the test of time, but also grew stronger with every successive event, no matter the outcome.
His first three SummerSlams were winning ones, as The Undertaker battled some of WWE’s most unique competitors. In 1992 and 1993, Harvey Wippleman threw the best that he had to offer — Kamala and Giant Gonzales — at The Undertaker; it was an epic fail for the bespeckled manager. Then The Undertaker completed an early trifecta of victories in 1994 against, yes, an imposter Undertaker, who was the creation of “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase.
Other notable SummerSlam highlights for The Deadman include his Boiler Room Brawl with Mankind in 1996, WWE Championship matches against Bret Hart (1997), "Stone Cold" Steve Austin (1998) and JBL (2004), and the memorable Hell in a Cell Match against Edge (2008). I truly believe that because of his longevity, amazing prowess, “never say die” attitude and consistency in battling the odds no matter how tough they were, The Undertaker deserves the vote as Mr. SummerSlam!
8.) Randy Orton
If you wonder why Randy Orton should be in the conversation for the distinction of Mr. SummerSlam, allow me to share with you an impressive stat: 5-2. That’s The Viper’s record in championship contests at The Biggest Party of the Summer. Those two losses? They include a main event Elimination Chamber Match that was Orton’s rookie debut at the event and a barn-burner contest in 2007 against John Cena. Even in defeat, when a major title was on the line at SummerSlam, Orton exceeded expectations.
But let’s look at his victories. His first win crowned Orton as the youngest World Heavyweight Champion in history and the last came as one of the biggest shocks in recent memory — the night when Orton cashed in on Daniel Bryan and crushed the collective heart of the WWE Universe, joining The Authority in the process. There have been only two SummerSlams in Orton’s career where he hasn’t battled for either the WWE or World Heavyweight Championship. Even then, he competed in marquee matchups. Back in his days as The Legend Killer, Orton took on two of the biggest icons this industry has ever seen in Hulk Hogan and The Undertaker. Not only did he survive his encounter with The Deadman, but was victorious as well.
Many will argue Triple H’s contention for Mr. SummerSlam, but when you look at The Game’s résumé, you can see that his protégé Orton has just as much reason to receive the honor. If not more so.