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.
So soon after discussing Alberto Del Rio vs. Christian from this past Monday, we're already back to talking about SummerSlam 2013, and for good reason. It was an amazing event! What more can be said? And one of the reasons it was such a monumental night was because of the main event, which saw John Cena defend his WWE Championship against Daniel Bryan. A match many years in the making, it was the perfect way to close out such a stellar summer for WWE.
Over the course of 2013, similar to CM Punk in 2011, the fans gradually got behind Daniel Bryan. Unlike The Voice of the Voiceless with his patented "pipebomb" promo, however, Bryan didn't have a breakout moment. Rather, fans simply started to appreciate his in-ring work more through his sensational series of matches with The Shield and how they felt they could relate to him. Rumors ran rampant that Bryan was slated to be Cena's next WWE Championship challenger at SummerSlam, but no one seemed to believe it.
Sure enough, Cena chose to face Bryan at SummerSlam during a segment on Raw where the entire roster was lined up on the stage, hoping to get their shot at championship glory at the pending pay-per-view. When Bryan and Cena went face-to-face that night and the entire Barclays Center erupted with thunderous "Yes!" chants, not only was it was apparent that Bryan belonged to be at Cena's level, he also needed to be the next WWE Champion.
The build to babyface vs. bayface bouts are rarely compelling because they typically feature each guy showing "respect" toward the other, but that was far from the case throughout this program. For one thing, the McMahons did not want Bryan to be their WWE Champion (which would become the focus of the product for the next three years), pressuring him to change his look prior to the pay-per-view. But Bryan refused, going so far as to call Cena a "parody," and thus the stage was set.
Aside from a one-off encounter on Raw a year earlier (and a forgotten Velocity match from 2003), Bryan and Cena had never gone one-on-one before in WWE. Although fans didn't know exactly what to expect from them, the match was guaranteed to be great simply based off Bryan's incredible in-ring ability and Cena's ability to bring his A-game to every high profile match he competes in. And, oh yeah, Triple H served as the special guest referee, but thankfully, he remained a background player during this matchup.
Cena and Bryan had the tough task of attempting to top the instant classic between Brock Lesnar and CM Punk from earlier in the evening, but there was zero doubt among fans that they would be up to the challenge. And the best part about the bout, for me anyway, was how serious of a threat Cena took Bryan. He didn't act like he was beneath him but rather prepared for him the same way he would any other adversary. With the Staples Center solidly behind WWE's resident "Yes!" man, Bryan was ready to take the title from the face who ran the place.
What followed was an exceptional array of in-ring prowess from both combatants, the momentum constantly shifting between them. Bryan powered out of everything Cena had in his arsenal, and once Cena started to question himself as to how he could possibly put Bryan away, the NXT alum surprised Cena with a running knee from out the corner to score the clean three count. Cena's elbow injury didn't play a factor in the finish whatsoever. With a win over Cena in the main event of SummerSlam, Bryan was solidified as a star.
SEE ALSO: "SummerSlam Recall, Match #12: The Rock vs. Brock Lesnar, SummerSlam 2002"
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