Mike Reviews Every WWF/E SummerSlam Opening Match – 1998 to 2002

Happy Wednesday Everyone!

We’ve got some more SummerSlam opening matches for you today, with a pretty notable one from 2002 that a lot of people really like

SummerSlam 98

Opening Match
WWF European Title
Champ: D’Lo Brown Vs Val Venis

Brown was having a very good run as European Champion, with him doing a running gag where he would be introduced from a different European nation every time he wrestled. Brown was not only delivering on the character front but he was also having solid matches, and an eventual feud with X-Pac over the belt gave it arguably its highest level of credibility to that point since Davey Boy Smith won it due to it being treated as a valuable prize that two over guys wanted to hold, as opposed to just a prop that neither Shawn Michaels nor Triple H seemed that bothered about having.

Venis had debuted earlier in 98 and hadn’t done a notable pin fall or submission job yet. He was coming off a pretty lousy feud with Kai En Tai where the Japanese Heel troupe had tried to choppy-choppy his pee-pee due to Venis having it off with TAKA Michinoku’s storyline sister. As this was the Attitude Era though that feud has now basically been forgotten mere weeks after it ended and now he’s just having a match here on pay per view.

Brown was wearing a chest protector during this period due to Dan Severn putting him in a punishing submission hold, but by this stage we were supposed to believe he was milking the injury and didn’t really need the protection any longer. Pfft, next you’ll be telling me Bob Orton Jr’s arm wasn’t really broken for all those years. They actually work it into the match’s story to start, with Brown no selling some Venis attacks thanks to the chest protector.

This match has some decent heat as both of these guys were getting over by this stage in their WWF careers due to them being presented as stars for the future. The wrestling is good as well, with Venis getting a fired up babyface shine and Brown taking some nice bumps for it. It’s interesting to see an Attitude Era crowd actually be invested in actual wrestling for change, as that wasn’t always the case. A lot of solid matches were met with silence during this era as fans just wanted to see entrances and hear catchphrases.

Venis of course busts out his All Japan inspired offence, including an Akiyama styled Exploder and the Kenta Kobashi knees to a gut followed by a Ukranian Leg Sweep. Brown eventually manages to cut Venis off though and works him over for a bit, showing some good Heel charisma. Brown even gets some faint chants at one stage, and the crowd even pops when he applies a nice looking Texas Cloverleaf.

Brown misses a senton back splash from the second rope though and that leads to Venis making a comeback, with the crowd being into the action. We get some really good wrestling in the finishing stretch, with Brown catching Venis with a Sky High powerbomb at one stage when Val tries an attack off the top, with gets a big “Oooooo” from the crowd. Brown also spikes Venis with a DDT at one stage, but Venis kicks out at two in a good near fall.

Sadly the match doesn’t have a satisfying ending to pay off all the good action, as Venis ends up removing the chest protector and getting DQ’ed as a result. Knowing Venis he probably thought the DQ was the result of some kind of QAnon conspiracy and the referee was actually some kind of lizard person put there by Hilary Clinton to ensure Venis didn’t win the belt. It’s a shame as the match was really good up to that mess at the end.

WINNER BY DQ: D’LO BROWN
RATING: ***1/4

This was a really good match, with fun action and a responsive crowd. Sadly the finish was absolute tosh, but aside from that it was a solid way to start the show and it got around anyone having to do a job. Brown would feud with X-Pac for most of the autumn whilst Venis would be embroiled in a love triangle with Terri and Dustin Runnels. One of those feuds was better than the other one. I’ll leave it up to you to discern which was which

SummerSlam 99

Opening Match
Euro-Continental Title
Champ: D’Lo Brown w/ Debra Vs Jeff Jarrett

Brown had regained the European Title from Mideon at Fully Loaded 99, and had then added the IC Title to his haul after rescuing Ben Stiller (Yes, THAT Ben Stiller) from Jarrett. Jarrett and Debra were teasing dissension at this stage, which leads to Debra storming off on Jarrett and then entering with Brown. There was a side story going on here where Brown was trying to help Mark Henry get in shape, with Brown being very hard on him in the aim of tough love.

This one is fought at a quick pace and the action is entertaining, with the crowd being into Brown and enjoying it whenever he has Jarrett on the back foot. Brown is ludicrously over here actually, so much so that it’s kind of amazing that they didn’t really capitalise on it as he was stuck in a going nowhere tag team with Chaz the following year. The crowd doesn’t really care about Jarrett and deflate whenever he is on offence, but they love Brown.

Jarrett does eventually manage to get an arm breaker off the ropes and works Brown over following that, with Brown selling it well. The crowd still doesn’t really care about Jarrett that much but they wind him up by chanting for Debra’s puppies until Brown is able to catch him with a big powerbomb for the double down. Brown makes the comeback following that, with Jarrett taking some nice bumps for him.

Brown actually tries a Swanton Bomb off the top at one stage, but Jarrett moves and there’s no water in the pool. Debra decides to get up on the apron following that, which distracts the referee and allows Jarrett to go for his guitar and attempt to hit Brown with it (possibly not drawing a single dime in the process). Mark Henry joins us to prevent that though, but then hits Brown with the guitar in SWERVE so that Jarrett can pick up the win and the belts.

WINNER AND NEW CHAMPIONS: JEFF JARRETT
RATING: ***

This was a good match, although Jarrett looked a little off at points. Brown was on fire though and the crowd absolutely loved him. Jarrett would end up giving the European Title to Henry as a “thank you” for helping him out here. Debra was of course in on this as well, and Jarrett would reward her by giving her Miss Kitty as her new assistant. Debra wouldn’t be happy with that though and would eventually turn on Jarrett the following month, leading to her going babyface and not really doing much with it. Jarrett would drop the IC Title to Chyna in October and then leave for WCW, but not before holding the WWF up for 200 grand on the way out

SummerSlam 2000

Opening Match
Right To Censor (Bull Buchanan, Goodfather and Steven Richards) Vs Too Cool (Scotty 2 Hotty, Grandmaster Sexay and Rikishi)

RTC was an example of Vince McMahon getting at a real life enemy by introducing a character onto the wrestling show that mocked them. In this case it was the Parent Teacher Council who he was feuding with at the time, so we wrestling fans had to suffer through a seemingly never ending push for a boring puritanical Heel stable. Godfather even gave up his pimping ways to become a censor, thus removing the trappings that actually made him entertaining.

Rikishi has some of Godfather’s Ho’s with him here, with one of them being future Women’s Champ Victoria. The action isn’t bad to start, with Too Cool clearing the ring and getting a babyface shine. Goodfather ends up going after the Ho’s though and that leads to Sexay getting thrown into the ring steps by Bull for the cut off. Sexay does a decent job selling in the heat, although the crowd isn’t really that interested to see the RTC get any offence.

Sexay eventually manages to prevent Richards coming off the top by bringing him down with a Superplex and it’s hot tag Rikishi, who runs wild and looks good doing so. The RTC actually take some nice bumps for him too, as he throws them all into the corner and sends his partners into them DragonGate style. No, I didn’t expect to make a DragonGate reference in this match either. Life is strange sometimes.

Scotty sets up Bull for the W-O-R-M and the crowd is very excited to see it, but Richards catches him with a Steven Kick OUTTA NOWHERE and that’s enough for three to deflate the crowd. I would get it if this feud was going to continue and Too Cool were going to get their revenge but I think RTC moved onto The APA and Dudleyz after this, so you might as well have had Scotty get the move on Bull and THEN get super kicked just so the crowd could have their moment of fun first.

WINNERS: RTC
RATING: *1/2

This actually wasn’t that bad, but it was pretty abrupt so I can’t really go higher on the rating. Too Cool looked good though, Rikishi especially. RTC kind of needed to win here as they were still new as a faction and without wins they would have been dead out of the gate.

SummerSlam 2001

Opening Match
WWF Intercontinental Title
Champ: Lance T. Storm Vs Edge

Storm had come over from WCW during the InVasion and had quickly won the IC Title from Albert. He actually got a surprisingly decent push, possibly because Johnny Ace had come over to the WWF and he had always been a big Storm supporter. Storm was never outright buried during the InVasion and actually got a match with The Rock at one stage, with him being able to get a solid mid-card push in WWE up to 2003 when they saddled him with a terrible “boring” gimmick.

Edge was coming off a King of the Ring win back in June and this was the beginning of his singles push in earnest, as he would soon be feuding with former tag partner Christian. Storm does his usual “If I could be serious for a minute” shtick and says he has no time for Edge’s offbeat shenanigans, which of course leads to Edge interrupting him. I’m frankly shocked to see such a lack of courtesy from a Canadian in such a situation. Honestly two Canadians trying to out polite one another is worthy of opening any major pay per view event.

This is an enjoyable bout, with Edge shining on Storm to start, with Storm doing his usual excellent job of bumping and feeding. Storm really was smooth as silk in that ring and he’s kind of the perfect opponent for Edge at this stage in Edge’s career. Storm drops Edge chest first on the ropes to put a stop to Edge’s babyface shine, leading to our heat segment. Edge sells that well and Storm does a good job working him over and even talking some smack for good measure.

These two actually work really well together, with the counter sequences being nicely executed and the two personalities contrasting well, with Storm being more serious and dour whilst Edge is more extroverted and bombastic. They probably could have done a decent 2-3 month long feud between these two had the WWF not been on its arse creatively at the time due to the InVasion angle being an all-time stinker of a storyline. Edge does a good job selling his mid-section and they give the match a decent chunk of time to work with.

Edge eventually manages to catch Storm with a powerslam when Storm tries a move off the top, leading to a double down and the comeback from Edge. Storm bumps and feeds for that perfectly, with Edge’s offence looking good and the crowd getting into the possibility of Edge picking up the win. The finishing sequence is done slickly, with both men getting some tight near falls/submission teases and the crowd biting on quite a few of them.

Christian tries to help Edge but accidentally Spears him, leading to Storm getting a really good near fall. The crowd totally bought that and Edge’s kick out was a good subversion on the usual formula. Storm and Edge do a nice counter sequence and that leads to Edge getting an Implant DDT for the three count. Christian longs longingly at the belt but then hands it to Edge. He would turn on his storyline brother soon enough though.

WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: EDGE
RATING: ***1/4

This was a strong opening to the show, as both men worked well together and the crowd enjoyed seeing Edge pick up the win. Storm would end up forming a team with Hurricane for the rest of the year, which led to some fun odd-couple stuff, whilst Edge and Christian would feud over the next two pay per view events before moving onto a feud with William Regal over the winter months

SummerSlam 2002

Opening Match
Kurt Angle Vs Rey Mysterio Jr

Rey had debuted in the summer of 2002 and had quickly gotten over, with this match being his first appearance on a WWE pay per view event. Angle was coming off a win over Hulk Hogan at King of the Ring and a fantastic man of the match performance at Vengeance 2002 in a World Title match. Rey actually comes from under the ring to attack Angle to start. I remember from the Rey Mysterio DVD that WWE released around 03/04 that he said he barely got his mask on in-time whilst he waited under the ring.

Rey runs wild on Angle to start, with the action being really exciting due to both men being “on” and having good chemistry with one another. Angle eventually manages to cut Rey off outside the ring and works him over back inside, with Rey of course selling that well. Angle is drawing great heat here, but the crowd is also enjoying the action, especially when Angle starts throwing Rey around with some big suplexes.

Some of the counters in this one are really smoothly done, such as Angle turning a Rey spinning head scissors into a side slam at one stage. That looked fantastic and it’s really impressive how Angle is able to adapt his style to hang with Rey in this sort of scenario. Angle is actually lightning fast at points during this, as his body hadn’t been utterly destroyed by working a hard style night in night out yet.

Rey eventually low bridges Angle and follows up with a TOPE CON HILO for a big pop, as he’s basically already a big star just one pay per view in, which is a testament to how good he’s looked but also to how good a job Angle has done at making Rey look like he’s on his level. The finishing stretch is done excellently as well, as Rey gets a fantastic near fall off a rana, but when he tries another one Angle is able to counter it to the ankle lock and that’s enough for the clean submission win. Rey lost nothing in that defeat though.

WINNER: KURT ANGLE
RATING: ***3/4

This one deservedly is well remembered for being a great match, as the wrestling was really fun and the match itself had some of the best crowd heat on the entire show. Angle went over clean but he gave Rey so much offence that Rey ended up being a bigger star after it than when he came in, whilst Angle lost nothing from making the newcomer look like a genuine threat. Big thumbs up for this one, I really enjoyed it!

In Conclusion

Four good to great matches this week, with Angle/Rey being the pick of the bunch. Brown Vs Venis was probably the surprise package as they really had a very good match until the terrible finish.

I’ll hopefully see you all next week for 2003 to 2007!