By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Here on SummerSlam Recall, I will be ranking my top 20 favorite matches in WWE SummerSlam history. A new installment will be posted every day leading up to SummerSlam 2016, culminating with my No. 1 favorite match on Saturday, August 20th. Each article will offer an in-depth look at each match and an analysis of why it is among my favorites.
In my previous installment of SummerSlam Recall, I mentioned how 2002 was one of my favorite SummerSlam shows and arguably among the best of all-time, and SummerSlam 2011 leads that list for me as well. That entire summer was a blast for both Raw and SmackDown, culminating in a stacked show at SummerSlam. The main event matchups, CM Punk vs. John Cena and Christian vs. Randy Orton, were stellar, and I'll discus them at a later date, but today I want to focus on a match that doesn't tend to get the love it deserves.
A late addition to the event, the bad blood between Daniel Bryan and Wade Barrett had been building for weeks, ever since Bryan cost Barrett the Money in the Bank briefcase at the pay-per-view of the same name in July. Days later on SmackDown, Bryan announced his intentions to cash in the contract at WrestleMania 28 before being interrupted by an envious Barrett, who he had history with dating back to their time in NXT Season 1 together as well as in The Nexus (albeit briefly).
Personally, I had been waiting for Bryan vs. Barrett for a long time, and other than a one-off outing they had early on in the inaugural season of NXT, they had never faced off on the main stage of WWE. Granted, I had always hoped they would have met under different circumstances and not in a midcard match that was thrown together at the last possible minute, but I was going to appreciate what they put together, regardless, and they definitely did not disappoint.
Honestly, I can't blame fans for not remembering much about this match, simply because it was overshadowed by everything else that occurred at the event. Not to mention that the hype was abysmal and fans likely didn't even know it was scheduled to take place until they entered the arena, but they had an excellent match in spite of all that, earning its place on this elusive list of my favorite SummerSlam matches ever. And you should come to appreciate this bout as well upon watching it back on WWE Network.
I hate myself for having to call this a match catered to the "IWC," but that's exactly what it was. At this point in time, Bryan nor Barrett were the most over athletes on the roster. Sure, the American Dragon was fresh off becoming the new Mr. Money in the Bank and fans remembered Barrett from The Nexus and The Corre, but they had zero reason to care about them or their rivalry. That's why the Staples Center really wasn't all that engaged in the action during this contest.
And that's funny to me because as we would later come to find out, Bryan was actually entertaining. We already knew he was a hell of a wrestler, but who knew he had charisma, too? He showed signs of that here, as well as Barrett, but with little to no crowd interaction, it isn't difficult to see why the audience wasn't as hot for this one-on-one affair as they should have been. Regardless, the former Nexus stablemates put their awesome in-ring chemistry on full display in this bout and proved to the world they were capable of contesting a gem of a match.
Counter for counter, hold for hold they went with the momentum constantly shifting between the two. Bryan and Barrett seemingly pulled everything out of their respective arsenals in an attempt to put the other away, but to no avail. It wasn't until Barrett caught Bryan with a Wasteland that he was finally able to secure the clean victory. They had a number of matches against each other in the years that followed, but this was the match in my eyes that solidified them as stars on the rise.
SEE ALSO: "SummerSlam Recall, Match #15: Kurt Angle vs. Rey Mysterio, SummerSlam 2002"