Aaron Rift’s thoughts on WWE Summerslam 1998 through 2002

In 2009, WWE released a Summerslam: The Complete Anthology DVD box set. At the time of the release, I reviewed the PPV events and here is what I thought about Volume 3 which features the 1998 through 2002 shows…

Summerslam 1998: By this time, the Attitude Era was in full swing. The quality of wrestling still wasn’t that good but the characters were red hot with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin being at the peak of his popularity.

The highlight of the show was the IC Title ladder match between The Rock and Triple H. Neither of them were full-fledged main eventers yet, but it was clear that both of them had long careers ahead of them. This wasn’t the best ladder match in history, but you could tell these guys were busting their asses and it was easy to appreciate their effort.

Sadly, this would be Owen Hart’s final Summerslam appearance. The Lion’s Den match with Ken Shamrock wasn’t a classic, but it was something different.

The booking of the New Age Outlaws vs. Mankind by himself was strange since Mankind was supposed to be a heel and he was in a handicapped situation.

Jeff Jarrett getting his hair cut was a memorable moment.

Austin vs. The Undertaker was a fun main event.

Rating: 7/10

Summerslam 1999: This big story of this PPV was Jesse Ventura (who had just become governor of Minnesota) making his WWE return as a special guest referee for the main event. The match itself was good although the crowd fell a bit flat when Austin lost the WWE Title to Mankind. For whatever reason (probably for TV ratings), WWE held off Triple H winning the title until the next night on RAW.

The best match on the show was actually one that didn’t seem like it would be very good on paper – Test vs. Shane McMahon. The match was so good that, by the end, Test had come off like a bonafide superstar. As is turns out, WWE would kill Test’s push a few months later.

The Rock vs. Billy Gunn was a waste since nobody bought Gunn as a main eventer.

An interesting thing about this show is seeing guys like Edge/Christian and The Hardys at the early stages of their careers.

Rating: 5/10

Summerslam 2000: Many would say that WWE hit their peak of popularity in 2000. Not only were the storylines and characters hot, but the wrestling quality was arguably the best it ever was up to that point with the signings of guys like Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, and Eddie Guerrero.

The TLC match was one of the most insane and memorable matches in WWE history. Nothing else can really be said about it that hasn’t already been said.

Kurt Angle suffered a concussion in the main event when the Spanish announce table broke prematurely. The fact that Angle came back to finish the match really impressed a lot of people, and it’s no surprise that he would end up winning the WWE Title two months later.

This show already featured Shane McMahon and Steve Blackman’s insane bumps off the top of the titantron. Once again, WWE failed to do anything with Blackman after his memorable performance.

Rating: 9/10

Summerslam 2001: The wrestling landscape had changed drastically since the previous Summerslam. WCW and ECW were out of business and some of the respective rosters were absorbed by WWE. From this point forward WWE would never have to worry about lack talent roster depth again. We got to see lots of fresh faces at Summerslam for the first time.

The WWE Title match between Steve Austin and Kurt Angle was really good but brought down a little bit by a DQ finish. Austin was a heel at this point in the Alliance vs. WWF feud and it was hard to get into the storyline when Austin’s character had to be changed so drastically in order for people to boo him.

The Rock vs. Booker T was good with Booker doing a Rock-imitation gimmick.

DDP and Kanyon, like most the WCW stars, were completely buried by the WWF stars Undertaker and Kane. This match was a perfect example of why the Invasion storyline flopped so bad.

RVD vs. Jeff Hardy was an enjoyable ladder with some innovative spots, although the finish was botched and you could see Hardy’s frustration.

The rest of the card was solid. The problem, however, was that WWE was started to shift in a different direction. The roster was now stronger, but the storylines were getting weaker. This trend would continue at future Summerslam events.

Rating: 5/10

Summerslam 2002: The WWE landscape changed greatly once again from the previous year with the end of the Invasion storyline and the start of the WWE brand extension.

The most memorable match of the night was Shawn Michaels making his return after four years against Triple H in a street fight. The match was built around HBK’s back injury and the psychology was tremendous. In my opinion, every wrestling student should watch this match and see how great work is done. This is arguably the best match in Summerslam history.

The final match of the show, The Rock vs. Brock Lesnar, was a passing of the torch from Rock to Lesnar and it was another great match. The crowd heat was just incredible and Lesnar couldn’t have looked any better as the new champion.

The opening match between Kurt Angle vs. Rey Mysterio was very fast paced and I would rank it as the best opening match in Summerslam history.

The rest of the undercard ranged from good to great matches – nothing was bad. A lot of people believe this is the best Summerslam, and I tend to agree with them. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Rating: 10/10