SummerSlam is arguably the second most important pay-per-view event in WWE (second only to WrestleMania), although a strong case could be made for the Royal Rumble. Since August 1988, it has been the annual summer extravaganza. Unlike WrestleMania and Royal Rumble, the inaugural SummerSlam event started on pay-per-view.
Below is the complete list of each year's event with the headlining match listed:
- 1988: The Mega Powers beat Andre The Giant & Ted DiBiase.
- 1989: Hulk Hogan & Brutus Beefcake beat Randy Savage & Zeus.
- 1990: WWF Champion Ultimate Warrior beat Rick Rude in a steel cage.
- 1991: Hulk Hogan & Warrior beat Sgt. Slaughter, Gen. Adnan, & Col. Mustafa.
- 1992: Davey Boy Smith pinned IC Champion Bret Hart.
- 1993: Lex Luger beat WWF Champion Yokozuna by count-out.
- 1994: WWF Champion Bret Hart beat Owen Hart in a steel cage.
- 1995: WWF Champion Diesel pinned King Mabel to retain.
- 1996: WWF Champion Shawn Michaels pinned Vader to retain the title.
- 1997: Bret Hart pinned WWF Champion Undertaker to win the title.
- 1998: WWF Champion Stone Cold Steve Austin beat Undertaker.
- 1999: Mankind beat WWF Champion Stone Cold and HHH for the title.
- 2000: WWF Champion The Rock beat HHH and Kurt Angle to retain.
- 2001: The Rock pinned WCW Champion Booker T to win the title.
- 2002: Brock Lesnar pinned Undisputed WWE Champion Rock to win the title.
- 2003: HHH beat Goldberg, HBK, Y2J, Orton, and Nash in an Elimination Chamber.
- 2004: Randy Orton pinned World champion Chris Benoit to win the title.
- 2005: Hulk Hogan pinned Shawn Michaels in an "Icon versus Legend" match.
- 2006: WWE Champion Edge beat John Cena to retain.
- 2007: WWE Champion John Cena pinned Randy Orton to retain.
- 2008: Batista pinned John Cena; Undertaker beat Edge in Hell in a Cell.
- 2009: CM Punk beat World champion Jeff Hardy in a TLC match.
- 2010: WWE All Stars beat Nexus in an elimination match when Cena forced Wade Barrett to submit.
- 2011: WWE Champion CM Punk beat WWE Champion John Cena with guest referee HHH.
- 2012: Brock Lesnar forced HHH to submit to an armlock.
WWE released SummerSlam Anthology on DVD in 2008.
Three of the first four events featured a tag team match in the main event. In 1990, the event was billed as a double main event with Warrior/Rude and Hogan/Earthquake. Since then, SummerSlam has featured at least two marquee matches more often than not.
Wembley Stadium in England hosted the 1992 event, featuring Bret/Bulldog, Savage/Warrior, and Undertaker/Kamala. Unfortunately, the buyrates were way lower than expected and the WWF has not held a major pay-per-view overseas since then.
In an amazing streak, Undertaker appeared at every SummerSlam event between 1992 and 2005. While much ado is given to The Streak at WrestleMania, Kay always found the SummerSlam streak more impressive since it was not something WWE could control and if he were injured, then he would miss an event. Unfortunately, he missed 2006 (not by injury, but because of a subpar feud with The Great Khali).
In 2002, Shawn Michaels returned from a four-year absence for what may have been his last match. However, the match with HHH went so well that he picked up a few more matches and, after those went well, he resumed his in-ring career altogether and wrestled for almost eight more years.