For WWE, Summerslam is easily the second biggest show of the year, something which has become more and more the case year-on-year with residency at the Barclays Centre in New York over the past few years, the addition of the NXT Takeover show in Brooklyn the night before and a general festival of WWE and wrestling based events happening around Summerslam. For 30 year this August tradition has been a major part of the wrestling calendar so it’s no surprise that a celebratory DVD set has been released to cover some of the major moments from the history of the “biggest party of the summer”.
Notable by its omission on this set is the lack of a documentary feature profiling Summerslam importance. While it would have been nice to see, I enjoyed the addition of the old school report-style segments introducing each individual “era”, with grouping of around 4-5 years present to give some context of WWE’s landscape during that period. It’s a really nice touch, reminiscent of the old Coliseum Home Video releases (God, I miss Silvervision sometimes, not the company per se, but the logo and the blue-spined VHS tapes a huge nostalgia triggers for my childhood and it feels slightly strange to see this sort of set without those elements).
The match quality on this collection is superb, as you would expect. With thirty years of shows to choose from WWE have selected some absolute crackers. Disc 1 has the short but memorable title win for The Ultimate Warrior from the first Summerslam, as well Bret “The Hitman” Hart’s classic with his brother-in-law Davey Boy Smith from Wembley Stadium in 1992, and his cage match with brother Owen Hart from 1994, both of which are superb. It was also nice to go back and watch The Undertaker vs Mankind from 1996 with the Boiler Room Brawl which actually holds up surprisingly well 22 years later. It would have been nice to see something from the 1991 show included, but with Bret Hart in a number of bouts already it’s understandable. Less so is the decision to bypass any full matches from 1997 which is arguably one of the best Summerslam shows they have ever put on.
Disc two has more of a focus on the early 2000s, with some forgotten gems including a very good ladder match between Jeff Hardy and Rob Van Dam, as well as a cracking brawl-heavy match between Stone Cold Steve Austin and Kurt Angle. 2002, arguably the best Summerslam ever, is heavily represented with the unforgettable Shawn Michaels vs Triple H street fight, as well as Brock Lesnar’s first title win over The Rock. The latter is not necessarily a great match, but it’s a huge marquee moment. HBK vs Hulk Hogan is worth a watch for Michaels comedic over-the-top selling, while Randy Orton vs John Cena is a very serviceable affair.
Disc three has a very decent line-up overall. John Cena vs Daniel Bryan and Jeff Hardy vs CM Punk are both worthy Summerslam main events and definitely happy inclusions here. Sasha Banks vs Charlotte is fine, but not necessarily one of their better matches together while the four-way match between Braun Strowman, Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns and Samoa Joe is riotous good fun. Brock Lesnar vs John Cena from 2014 is not a good match per se, but it is again a momentous affair and one that makes sense to be included.
Of course, picking matches from 30 years’ worth of shows was always going to be difficult, but the minimal amount of matches featuring The Undertaker seems an odd oversight, as does the decision to omit 1997 in its entirety. While all of these events are on the WWE network those that are included are an unusual mix.
While this set would have benefitted from a documentary feature and the match selection is an acquired taste I do believe that this set represents very good value for money as well as a very reasonable representation of what Summerslam has been over the years.