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The five best SummerSlam matches of the past decade

With SummerSlam only a few days away, I thought it would be fitting for another “Five Count.” This article will look at the my five favorite SummerSlam matches of the past decade (1998-2007). The list will go in chronological order, not order of preference. As always, any comments/complements/critiques are welcome below or in the shout-box...

1. SummerSlam 1998: Hunter Hearst Helmsley defeats The Rock in a ladder match for the Intercontinental Championship.

This match had everything you could ask for. Two future Hall of Famers battling in their respective primes, and each used the ladder in inventive ways. The match ended when Chyna low-blowed The Rock as he was climbing the ladder, allowing Helmsley to get the win. In my opinion, this match is as good as, if not better then, the epic Shawn Michaels-Razor Ramon battle at WrestleMania XII.

(A quick aside: I can't remember if Triple H has EVER beaten The Rock cleanly. I can understand that being the case when Trips was the heel and Rocky the face, and heels usually need help to beat faces in the WWE, but even in this match, when Helmsley was sort-of the face and Rock the heel, Helmsley STILL couldn't get a clean win over The Rock. No wonder he sounded bitter when the Rock stole the show at the 2008 Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Orlando...If anyone can remember Triple H beating the Rock clean, no interference of any type involved, please let me know).

2. SummerSlam 2000: Edge and Christian defeat The Hardy Boyz and The Dudley Boyz for the WWE Tag Team Championship in the first-ever Tables, Ladders, and Chairs Match.

Three of the best tag teams in the history of the WWE squared off in a match that was invented for their unique styles. These six men delivered in a huge way, and notable spots include a 3-D on Christian through a table, Jeff Hardy missing a Swanton and eating a table of his own, and Edge and Christian pushing Bubba-Ray off a ladder through four stacked tables on the outside. As JR would say, “It looked like these six men went through a car wreck!” by the time a battered Edge and Christian retrieved the titles. These teams would go on to have an even better match at WrestleMania X-7, where this time Jeff Hardy didn't miss a massive Swanton off an extra-tall ladder through two tables.

3. SummerSlam 2002: Shawn Michaels defeats Triple H in an Unsanctioned Street Fight.

This match was, quite simply, incredible. For Shawn Michaels to be out of action for four years due to a debilitating back injury, then come back and deliver the kind of performance he did in this match is nothing short of miraculous. The action went back and forth, with lots of counters, and Michaels beating on Triple H with a ladder. Even the ending was good, as Michaels reversed a Pedigree for the roll-up, setting the stage for the HBK-HHH feud that would last a good two years.

4. SummerSlam 2004: Randy Orton defeats Chris Benoit for the World Heavyweight Championship.

It is probably not an exaggeration to say that Randy Orton went to the equivalent of wrestling finishing school during this match with Benoit. They were helped by the crowd, which was hot from the get-go (they taunted Earl Hebner with chants of “You screwed Brett;” an homage to the Montreal Screwjob). This match featured several Sharpshooter reversals, and six consecutive German suplexes by Benoit. Benoit missed a diving headbutt, jumping right into a very stiff-looking boot from Orton. After a few more counters, Orton hit the RKO for the win. Even though he was playing a heel, Orton began to visibly break down, truly understanding his place in history. It was a very neat moment, and the crowd gave the then-24-year-old, the youngest-ever champ in the history of the WWE, a standing ovation.

5. SummerSlam 2007: John Cena defeats Randy Orton for the WWE Championship.

This match is special for me: I was invited to a friend's house to watch it, and it sucked me right back into wrestling, which I had given up on after the idiocy of the Invasion in 2001. The match itself was good, but not great, as Orton pretty much carried the action until Cena hit an FU for the win. Orton, like most great heels, has the ability to make his opponent look awesome in the ring. Cena's in-ring ability, which was pretty bad early in his career (case in point: the WrestleMania 22 main even where Triple H absolutely carried the match) had by this point gotten to where he was serviceable, and he put on a good show as well.

What I loved about this match was the build-up: All the evil things Orton did to Cena, from RKOing him through a chair on Saturday Night's Main Event to punting his dad in the head, Orton made himself look unstoppable, and was incredibly over. Cena portrayed the never-say-die underdog (even though he was in the middle of a long title defense) excellently, and his win, while not unexpected, was a bit of a shocker. The build-up to Edge-Undertaker at this SummerSlam has been equally good. Hopefully the two veterans can put together what should be an incredible match on Sunday.

Honorary Mention:
SummerSlam 2001: Rob Van Dam defeats Jeff Hardy in a ladder match.
SummerSlam 2003: Kurt Angle defeats Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship.
SummerSlam 2005: Rey Mysterio defeats Eddie Guerrero for the custody of Dominick in a ladder match
(penalty points because it was such a dumb premise, even by wrestling standards).

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