With SummerSlam around the corner, it’s interesting to look back at the event’s history. SummerSlam has been an institution in World Wrestling Entertainment since 1988; since then, “The Biggest Party of the Summer” has been one not to miss. Over the past number of decades, many wrestlers have not only competed at this summertime event but amassed considerable success. This brings us to the following question: who is “Mr. SummerSlam?”
It seems like most major events have had certain wrestlers tied to them. The most prominent example is Shawn Michaels, who was crowned “Mr. WrestleMania” due to his stellar performances at the largest wrestling event of the year. Steve Austin‘s three Royal Rumble victories put him in the running for “Mr. Royal Rumble.” Recently, Randy Orton developed a reputation as “Mr. Survivor Series” due to his sterling record in the event’s traditional elimination matches. When it comes to “Mr. SummerSlam,” the discussion is just as intriguing. Given how many names have thrived during this time of year, it can spark debate among wrestling fans.
To this end, it’s important to take a look at the names that can best be considered “Mr. SummerSlam.” This can be due to their win-loss records or the quality of matches to their names, just to name a few examples. Furthermore, this isn’t meant to be a definitive statement on the topic at hand. In other words, your choices may vary. Without any further ado, let’s take a deep dive into the prime candidates for “Mr. SummerSlam.”
As the newest candidate on this list, Seth Rollins has a strong claim to being considered “Mr. SummerSlam.” In addition to being a four-time World Champion, he racked up a number of Match of the Year contenders since joining WWE. When it comes to his SummerSlam work, his talent can’t be denied. If he wasn’t competing for championships, he was part of matches that had the fans’ attention at every turn.
Rollins holds the distinction of being in World Championship matches at back-to-back SummerSlam events. In 2015, Rollins defeated John Cena in a Winner Takes All Match, retaining his WWE World Heavyweight Championship in and earning Cena’s United States Championship. 2016 saw Rollins face Finn Balor in a match to crown the first Universal Champion. Additionally, in 2017, Rollins teamed with Dean Ambrose to defeat The Bar, Cesaro and Sheamus, for the RAW Tag Team Championship. This match would eventually lead a brief reunion of The Shield.
Rollins has had several SummerSlam greats under his belt. Whether he was working solo or fighting alongside a brother in arms, the current “Monday Night Messiah” put on his working boots during this event. Can he be considered “Mr. SummerSlam?” Though other names can stake their claim to this title, Rollins deserves to be in the discussion as well.
Today, Brock Lesnar is known for being one of the most dominant stars in WWE history. However, he wasn’t always the former UFC Heavyweight Champion with a mean streak. Following his WWE debut in 2002, Lesnar had a remarkable rookie year. A King of the Ring victory and a WWE Championship reign were just a few of his early accolades. Lesnar would go on to build a legendary wrestling career, including a line of SummerSlam classics.
Lesnar began his SummerSlam legacy strong. In 2002, he defeated The Rock, who was transitioning into film, for the WWE Championship. The following year, he faced Kurt Angle in a losing effort, though it proved to be one of their many classics in their legendary feud. Lesnar’s SummerSlam efforts continued when he returned to WWE in 2012. His matches against CM Punk and John Cena, the latter of which saw Lesnar dominate the face of the company, are remembered to this day. The Cena match in question helped to develop Lesnar’s mystique as a seemingly unstoppable monster. At the time, if Cena couldn’t stop Lesnar, who could?
One of the common criticisms of Lesnar is his part-time schedule. To many fans, he shouldn’t be so heavily featured when other wrestlers, who are around on a full-time basis, struggle for air time. However, it can’t be denied that when it comes time to work, Lesnar is still a professional. His matches at SummerSlam events are, for the most part, highly regarded. Whether he won or lost at this summertime event, “The Beast Incarnate” never failed to show why he earned his reputation as an irresistible force in WWE.
Can “Mr. Survivor Series,” as he’s become known as in recent years, be “Mr. SummerSlam” as well? Randy Orton is one of the longest-tenured WWE Superstars and his resume reflects this. As a thirteen-time World Champion and two-time Royal Rumble winner, just to name a few accolades, Orton has been incredibly successful since his debut in 2002. Over his eighteen-year-plus career, “The Legend Killer” has also put on incredible performances throughout SummerSlam history.
Orton made his SummerSlam debut in 2003, competing in an Elimination Chamber Match for the World Heavyweight Championship. It wasn’t until the year after, however, that he won the title in question, becoming the youngest World Champion in company history. This eventually led to Orton breaking away from Evolution, becoming a bigger main event star in the process. In the years that followed, Orton was either in high-profile matches, such as against The Undertaker, or involved in the World Championship picture. If Orton was scheduled for SummerSlam, more often than not, he was involved in an important angle.
Orton’s most recent SummerSlam match was against Kofi Kingston for the WWE Championship last year. This proved to be not only a solid match but a fitting conclusion for a feud with personal stakes attached to it. It’s unknown what SummerSlam events to come have in store for “The Apex Predator.” Whether he’s in the title hunt or not, expect Orton to have a strong presence on the show. Word of the wise to his opponent: even years later, “The Viper” can strike from anywhere.
Of all the candidates to be considered “Mr. SummerSlam,” John Cena may be the most interesting. Despite being one of the most highly decorated WWE Superstars, having amassed a total of sixteen World Championships, his win-loss record at SummerSlam leaves much to be desired. Though he scored victories over Chris Jericho and Edge in 2005 and 2006, respectively, he also fell to stars including CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, and Brock Lesnar in later years. With such an uneven record, one may wonder why he should be in the running for “Mr. SummerSlam.”
Simply put, when Cena was on SummerSlam, it was safe to assume he would be in a high-profile match. This was true even if he wasn’t in title contention. Case and point, in 2010, he fought for the honor of WWE when he put together a team to challenge The Nexus. Furthermore, many of his SummerSlam matches were highly regarded. His 2016 match against AJ Styles, though a losing effort, was so well-received that it became a Match of the Year candidate. This was one of many instances where the “You Can’t Wrestle” chants were less like declarations and more along the lines of hazing from raucous crowds.
It’s important to note that “Mr. SummerSlam” is a reputation that transcends wins and losses. It must also be a name attributed to a talent that puts on quality matches. Furthermore, the individual should have a relatively prominent presence at the event. Cena fits these criteria and for the reasons discussed here, it would be an oversight to leave him out of the “Mr. SummerSlam” discussion.
“The Excellence of Execution” is a lofty moniker, but if anyone fits it to a T, it would be Bret Hart. From the mid-80s to the late 90s, Hart became a staple of WWE. In WWE alone, he was a two-time Tag Team Champion, 2-time Intercontinental Champion, two-time King of the Ring winner, and five-time WWE Champion. The accomplishments of “The Hitman” are worthy of a column all their own, but our focus is SummerSlam. As one may have already guessed, “The Pink and Black Attack” was in full force during these summertime events.
Hart’s first SummerSlam match, as a singles wrestler, took place in 1991. It was during this year he defeated Mr. Perfect to win his first Intercontinental Championship. The following year, he defended the title against Davey Boy Smith at Wembley Stadium. Despite losing the match, Hart main evented the show against his real-life brother-in-law in a memorable encounter. In the years that followed, he wrestled other unforgettable SummerSlam bouts, including an emotional Cage Match against younger brother Owen Hart and a WWE Championship victory against The Undertaker in 1997.
The common trait these matches share is that they are revered among wrestlers, fans, and critics alike. Each match was unique, not only in terms of the action and styles but the story that was told. Hart’s claim to fame was his wrestling acumen and SummerSlam was perhaps his greatest platform to showcase it. To leave “The Best There Is, The Best There Was, and The Best There Ever Will Be” out of the “Mr. SummerSlam” discussion would be a tremendous miscalculation.
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