By Keith Elliot Greenberg
When WWE presents SummerSlam on Sunday, August 11, a new chapter in sports-entertainment history will begin. The impact of what transpires that night at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena could play out for months -- or even years. In the short term, viewers will be able to witness the aftershocks on the following night’s Monday Night Raw (seen on USA on Mondays at 8/7), as well as SmackDown Live (broadcast on Tuesdays at 8/7).
Here are 10 SummerSlam memories that still loom large to the WWE Universe:
2018: BECKY BECOMES “THE MAN”
Charlotte Flair had just won her record-tying seventh WWE Women’s Championship in a Triple Threat match against Carmella and Becky Lynch, scoring the deciding pinfall over the “Irish Lass Kicker.” Disappointed, Lynch exchanged a hug with the victor, then completely snapped, battering Flair and hurling her over the announcer’s table. Rather than jeer, however, fans wildly applauded for Becky. Henceforth, Lynch began calling herself “The Man” –- in tribute to Flair’s Hall of Fame father, Ric, who frequently proclaimed, “To be the man, you have to beat the man.”
2016: THE FIRST UNIVERSAL CHAMPION IS CROWNED
The birth of the WWE Universal Championship, the title primarily defended on Monday Night Raw, occurred with this main event pitting Seth Rollins against “The Demon” Finn Balor. Balor became the inaugural kingpin following the Coup de Grace. But while the WWE Universe was celebrating, few realized that Balor had hurt his right shoulder while absorbing a running powerbomb into the barricade. As a result, he was forced to abdicate days later. Still, he forever holds the distinction of being the very first WWE Universal titlist.
2015: JON STEWART ATTACKS JOHN CENA
Jon Stewart, the retired host of the Daily Show, had previously had issues with Seth Rollins. But when Rollins put up his WWE World Heavyweight title against John Cena’s WWE United States Championship, Stewart stunned the crowd by entering the ring with a chair. Rather than going after his foe, the comedian shoved the object into Cena’s midsection, setting up the future Hall of Famer for the loss. The next night on Raw, Stewart attempted to explain that he didn’t want to see Cena tie Ric Flair’s record for most title wins. Cena responded to the statement by punishing Stewart with the Attitude Adjustment.
1999: THE GOVERNOR WAS THE REF
Former WWE legend Jesse “The Body” Ventura’s win in the 1998 Minnesota gubernatorial election shocked the American political community. Observers were almost as astonished when the governor agreed to referee “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s WWE title defense against Mankind and Triple H in a Triple Threat match in Minneapolis. Among the highlights: Ventura ejecting Triple H ally Chyna from ringside after she low-blowed Mankind, and hurling Shane McMahon over the top rope after he argued one of the arbiter’s decisions. Crowed Ventura to the fallen son of WWE honcho Vince McMahon, “That’s for your old man.”
1998: FUTURE GREATNESS ON DISPLAY
The WWE “Attitude” Era was just beginning when The Rock and Triple H gave the WWE Universe a window into the type of excitement that they’d be witnessing over the next few years. This ladder match was not only a contest for The Rock’s WWE Intercontinental Championship, but a battle between two factions: Triple H’s D-Generation X and “The Great One’s” Nation of Domination. Interference was rife on both sides but, in the end, Triple H ally Chyna’s intervention secured him the victory. Regardless of who had won, fans would have been ecstatic, imagining the classics both performers would continue to deliver.
1994: UNDERTAKER VS. UNDERTAKER
After losing a casket match to Yokozuna at the Royal Rumble in January, the Undertaker seemed to vanish. WWE reported numerous Undertaker sightings, but his actual whereabouts remained a mystery. Finally, “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase announced that he’d brought back the Man from the Dark Side. However, the Undertaker’s longtime manager, Paul Bearer, was quick to point out that DiBiase’s charge was an imposter. When the two Undertakers finally met at SummerSlam, the original Undertaker proved his superiority -- while the pretender was deposited in a coffin, never to be seen again.
1994: BROTHERS IN A CAGE
WWE World Heavyweight Champion Bret “Hit Man” Hart had been warring with his jealous younger brother, Owen, for months, dividing the large wrestling family. Bret’s brother-in-law and former tag-team partner, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, had opted to side with Owen. Another brother-in-law, the British Bulldog, expressed solidarity with Bret. Given the intensity of emotions, Bret and Owen were scheduled to clash for the title in a cage, keeping out any family member who intended to interfere. The plan didn’t work. Although Bret managed to climb out of the cage and win, Neidhart helped Owen bring the Hit Man back into the enclosure, padlocking the door. Owen and the Anvil had their way with Bret until other kin were able to rescue the champ.
1992: FAMILY COMBAT
Once again, the intrigue at this event centered around the Hart family. This time, Bret Hart put up his WWE Intercontinental Championship against brother-in-law Davey Boy Smith, a.k.a. the British Bulldog. The Bulldog had the decided advantage. The match took place at London’s Wembley Stadium, where more than 80,000 fans cheered on their countryman, and British boxing phenom Lennox Lewis waved the Union Jack as he accompanied the Bulldog to the ring. When Smith triumphed, Hart initially rejected the victor’s attempt to shake hands. He acquiesced, however, after his sister, a tearful Diana Hart-Smith, persuaded him to accept the sportsmanlike gesture.
1991: NUPTIALS ON THE MAT
It was called “A Match Made in Heaven.” Randy “Macho Man” Savage came into New York’s Madison Square Garden not to wrestle, but marry his long-time manager, Miss Elizabeth. The wedding took place in the ring between confrontations involving such stars as Hulk Hogan, the Ultimate Warrior, The Mountie and the Legion of Doom. After the ceremony, however, Jake “The Snake” Roberts and the Undertaker crashed the reception, terrifying Elizabeth when she opened up a gift box to find a venomous cobra.
1988: THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR’S BLITZKRIEG
The longest-reigning WWE Intercontinental Champion until this point, the Honky Tonk Man expected to defend Brutus Beefcake. After “The Barber” was injured, the Elvis impersonator remained confident. Before the scheduled match, the Honky Tonk Man grabbed the microphone and requested, “Give me someone out there to wrestle. I don’t care who it is.” This prompted the Ultimate Warrior to blaze out of the dressing room – with such force that he knocked over ring announcer Howard Finkel. The Honky Tonk Man never even had a chance to remove his spangled jump suit. Within 31 seconds, the Ultimate Warrior had steamrolled over him to claim the title.
Keith Elliot Greenberg is the co-author of the autobiographies of WWE Hall of Famers Ric Flair, Freddie Blassie and Superstar Billy Graham, as well as the third edition of the WWE Encyclopedia of Sports Entertainment.