WWE SummerSlam has always been one of the biggest shows in WWE. Second, only, to WrestleMania the ‘Biggest Party of the Summer” is where WWE pulls out all the stops. It puts all its star power into one night to send the fans home happy and cap off the summer with a great night of wrestling.
Sending the fans home happy is, of course, the most important part of the evening, but it is not the only slot of importance. The opening contest of the night is just as important if not more than the main event. In that spot, WWE can start the night off on the right foot and set the tone for the rest of the evening.
There have been times in history when WWE hit gold with these SummerSlam openers. Times, where the opener was the highlight of the show, helped to elevate SummerSlam. Below are some of these openers.
Mankind vs. HHH (Steel Cage Match @ SummerSlam 1997)
Triple H and Mankind had a feud of the year contender program in 1997. Both men were natural in their face/heel role, and they added to that by putting on some fantastic wrestling. The best of which was their blowoff contest at Summerslam.
Adding a cage stipulation to their atch was the best option. The feud had gotten incredibly personal, and the cage just heightened that intensity. It was a great back-and-forth car wreck where both men took some incredible bumps.Mick Foley winning with the Superfly Splash was the perfect way to complete Mankind’s story. It was a star-making moment for him and one that got the night started off on the right foot.
Kurt Angle vs. Rey Mysterio (SummerSlam 2002)
If you’re going to open oe of the best PPVs in WWE history then you better bring you’re A-game, and that’s precisely what Kurt Angle and Rey Mysterio did.
Their feud was only a month old by the time they squared off but that didn’t take anything away from the match. It was a race from the opening bell. Both men sprinted through their spots and performed them to near perfection. They fit more wrestling into 9 minutes than any other competitor on the roster could have.
The Olympic Gold Medalist and Mr.619 put on a show to open SummerSlam. They set the tone for the rest of the night and made sure 2002’s SummerSlam was one of the best.
Rey Mysterio vs. Dolph Ziggler (Intercontinental Championship Match @ SummerSlam 2009)
The Show Off had been trying to wrestle the IC strap away from Mysterio for a month leading up to their Summerslam opener. He had failed in his attempts to wrestle the title away from the Luchador, but hopes were high heading into SummerSlam.
Mysterio and Dolph Ziggler were two of the best workers in the company so it shouldn’t come as a huge shock that this match was fantastic. Both men exhibited some great chemistry, in the ring, and their styles meshed wonderfully. It also didn’t hurt that there were few, in the company, who could sell offense as well as Ziggler and Mysterio.
The Intercontinental Championship match was a masterclass in PPV openers. The crowd was hot for the rest of the night, and it left a memorable impression on everyone who witnessed it.
Bianca Belair vs. Becky Lynch (Raw Women’s Championship Match @ SummerSlam 2022)
The feud between Becky Lynch and Bianca Belair can be traced back to the previous year SummerSlam. Belair, the reigning champ, was defeated handily by a returning Lynch. The loss triggered an aggressive streak in the EST and propelled her to a redemptive victory at WrestleMania the following year.
Belair and Lynch’s story didn’t end there. They traded blows throughout the Summer leading to a banger of an opening contest at SummerSlam. The personal nature of the rivalry added so much to this match. The two women had been engaged in a bitter feud for close to a year and it oozed out of every move they utilized.
Belair vanquishing Lynch was a perfect arc to their year-long story. What was even better was the debuting Damage CTRL and Lynch turning face to side with Belair. It was a great way to start off the night.
The British Bulldogs vs. The Fabulous Rougeaus (SummerSlam 1988)
The first SummerSlam had a lot riding on it. If the night wasn’t a success the gamble that WWE took would have been for naught. Luckily, the night was an overwhelming success with outstanding matches all over the card, especially the hot tag team opener.
There wasn’t much in the way of story leading into the tag match but that didn’t matter. When all four men involved were world-class athletes it was a guarantee that things would go well.
It was a great back-and-forth match that played the heel/face dynamic perfectly. The Fabulous Rougeaus were the perfect detestable heel to the conquering British Bulldogs. It was a great way to get the crowd going to start the show and the 20-minute run-time gave both teams plenty of time to put together some wonderful action.
Seth Rollins vs. Dolph Ziggler (Intercontinental Championship Match @ SummerSlam 2018)
The Architect and The Show Off were the best part of the Intercontinental Championship, in 2018. For the better part of the year, they traded the championship back and forth in fantastic television and PPV matches. The best of which came at WWE SummerSlam.
Dolph Ziggler had been gaining the advantage over Seth Rollins, due to his allegiance with Drew McIntyre. The numbers game was always in their corner so when Dean Ambrose took up Rollin’s cause it heightened the stakes going into the hot Summerslam opener.
Of course, this was one of the best matches of the night. Ziggler and Rollins had been wrestling each other for months so the natural chemistry was there. Then they just sprinkled in one of the best-worked matches of the year to create one hell of an opener to WWE SummerSlam.
More From LWOS Pro Wrestling
Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world. You can check out an almost unlimited array of WWE content on the WWE Network and Peacock