We are just days away from the biggest party of the summer!
And just like last year, the biggest party gets even bigger with the WrestleMania treatment of a four-hour show. It looks like what could be a solid card with matches like Randy Orton vs Brock Lesnar, John Cena vs AJ Styles, Sasha Bank defending her championship against former champion Charlotte and the first title matches of the new brand split era with Dolph Ziggler against Dean Ambrose on SmackDown and Seth Rollins and Finn Balor for Raw’s new Universal Championship. But there still seems to be a little missing from a proper SummerSlam feel.
This could be a good thing though. I remember thinking after the Raw before WrestleMania last year that the buildup didn’t really live up to proper WrestleMania level build up. The show itself, however, was absolutely phenomenal.
I’m not saying that SummerSlam will be on par with WrestleMania 31, but if you are going to make it a four-hour show, you need to make sure it has a four-hour show feel.
So, to help you get ready for this year’s version of the biggest show of the summer, let’s take a look back at once of the earliest editions of the summer spectacle.
To give us the full late 80s early 90s feel, we are welcomed to the show by the glorious over the top voice of Vince McMahon. McMahon introduces tonight’s double, yes that’s right DOUBLE main event of Hulk Hogan vs Earthquake and The Ultimate Warrior vs Ravishing Rick Rude for the WWF Championship in a FIFTEEN FOOT HIGH steel cage! Thinking about it, back then I really don’t think commentators were allowed to talk about the steel cage without referencing the fact that it was indeed a fifteen foot high steel cage.
We are then taken into The Spectrum in Philadelphia with a rabid crowd ready for the show to begin. Our play by play man tonight is Vince himself. On color, a man that McMahon accurately describes as “the reason for the roar of the crowd” Rowdy Roddy Piper. Obviously need to take a minute here. How heartbreaking was Piper’s passing last year? What a legend he was! Still on the short list of best talkers ever. Nobody could generate heat like Piper could. I’ve heard several stars say it before I firmly agree that there would be no Hulk Hogan and no Hulkamania if the Rock N’ Wrestling Connection that skyrocketed the WWF into the mainstream didn’t revolve around everyone wanting to see Hogan just kick Piper’s ass! RP brought you in and gave you a show that you would remember. “Just when they think they’ve got the answers, I change the questions!” Thank you Roddy – we’ll miss you!
The Rockers (Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty)
Power & Glory (Hercules and Paul Roma) w/Slick
First off, McMahon says that our first match should be, and I quote, “A hum-dinger!” … just thought that was worth sharing!
The Rockers head down to the ring, but not nearly as fast as they normally do. Reason – Michaels is nursing a legit knee injury and can’t compete. To get him out of the match, The Rockers are distracted by Slick, Herc and Roma sneak up from behind and Hercules drives his chain right into Michaels’ knee – he’ll be on the floor for the duration of this match.
I’m assuming you’re watching this on the WWE Network (and why wouldn’t you? It’s only $9.99 if you haven’t heard!) Here’s a funny little side note – did the choice of camera angle and Vince’s voice for this spot seem a little off? Well it was. I had a VHS recorded copy of the live event and the director of the show completely missed the chain shot. So those watching at home had absolutely no idea why Michaels seemed to be having a seizure on the floor. So they had to replace the video and audio to show what happened. I just thought that was interesting.
The match ends up being a glorified (pun intended) handicap match with Jannetty giving it a good run. Power & Glory win using what I think is a phenomenal finisher, especially for its time. Hercules hits a suplex from the top rope on Jannetty and in perfect sync Roma follows with a splash from the opposite corner. Looked great!
Mr. Perfect (c) w/Bobby Heenan
“The Texas Tornado” Kerry Von Erich
This match was originally scheduled to be a WrestleMania rematch with Perfect defending his title against Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake. Unfortunately Beefcake suffered a horrific injury from a boating accident and had to be taken out of the match. So Von Erich debuts in the WWF weeks before SummerSlam and says “Hey, I’ll fill in!”
Both men had solid backstage interviews prior to the match – which helped because the match itself was not that long. Perfect and Von Erich made the most of the time they were given but I would have liked to have seen a longer match.
Von Erich, who again has only been in the company for a couple cups of coffee, beats Perfect and wins the Intercontinental Championship. Crazy part of all this – something I learned watching The Triumph and Tragedy of WCCW – thanks to a motorcycle accident, Von Erich did this with half a foot! Still looked pretty good!
We go to the back where Mean Gene is ready to interview one of the competitors in the next match, Sweet Sapphire … … … OR IS HE???? Sapphire doesn’t show up for the interview! Instead, Perfect and Heenan storm in and give another promo of gold. But wait, what happened to Sapphire? Well, her match was next. Maybe she just already went to the ring…
Sensational Queen Sherri
… NOPE! Sherri is in the ring – all decked out in a silver and black dress/mask/face paint get up that looks like she just got out of The Black Hole at a Raiders game! “American Dream” hits the speakers and we are all anxiously awaiting the arrival of Sapphire…but we get nothing. Try playing the music again…nothing. Howard Finkel is told that Sapphire has a 10 count to get to the ring or she forfeits the match. After a very loud countdown from Sherri that hits 0, Sherri is awarded the match by forfeit.
McMahon and Piper had been mentioning gifts that Sapphire had been receiving over the last few weeks – could that have something to do with her disappearance? Hhmmm …
Mean Gene is now with Dusty Rhodes who has no idea where Sapphire, the woman that has been by his side for nearly a year, is gone. Love Hacksaw Jim Duggan randomly walking into the shot to let Dusty know that he doesn’t know where Sapphire is. Rhodes then runs off a list of the items Sapphire has received such has a Cadillac, a diamond bracelet, fur coat, cruise around the world, etc. Okerlund references the fact that she was told she would receive the biggest gift of all at SummerSlam. It sounds like all these gifts cost a lot of money … … … hhmmm …
The Warlord w/Slick
Santana finishes his run through the Powers of Pain here after losing to The Barbarian at WrestleMania 6 months before. It was a little sad for me to see a Hall of Famer like Tito Santana used in a glorified jobber role for most of this year. The best part of this match is Piper’s random Mexican food jokes. The Warlord wins a squash match – and then we move on.
TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP – 2 OUT OF 3 FALLS
Demolition (c) (Smash and Crush … and then Ax)
The Hart Foundation (Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart)
Ax and Smash had recently added a third member of Demolition, Crush. To keep things fair, they were told that only two members were allowed to be at ringside for the match. Since they’re the bad guys, I’m sure the two that come down for the match, Smash and Crush, will be the only two members that we see tonight.
I consider this match to be one of the most underrated in SummerSlam history. The ring psychology and crowd reaction was amazing. Demolition takes the first fall after hitting their finisher. Wrestling 101 – in a 2 out of 3 falls match, whoever wins the first fall is doomed to lose the second!
What do you know! The Harts win the second fall to tie things up! Shocking!
During the confusion between the second and third fall, the third member of Demolition, Ax, runs down while the refs back is turned and hides under the ring. It only takes minutes for Ax to switch places with Smash to give Demolition the unfair advantage. Vince is playing this off as Ax and Smash look nearly identical so the ref can’t tell them apart.
When Ax and Smash debuted in 1987, yes they looked eerily similar – especially with the face paint. That lasted a couple months. After that, they still tried of several occasions to pull of the two looking alike. One was tan and one wasn’t – one had long hair one didn’t – COMPLETELY different face pain patterns now. Really made the refs, commentators, and fans seem dumb!
Anyway, back to the match! To help clear things up, here comes the Legion of Doom. Animal pulls the extra member of Demolition out from under the ring and Hawk knocks Crush off the top rope. The confusion gives Neidhart to hit a big shoulder block on Crush, Bret rolls him up and The Hart Foundation are your new tag team champions!
That takes us to the intermission portion of the show – which consists of backstage interviews and a five minute period of literally nothing but looking at a clock counting down from five minutes (though that gem was edited out for the Network).
Quick rundown of the interviews –
Legion of Doom and The Hart Foundation – A very large amount of screaming, and what Bret Hart would probably consider to be his form of screaming.
Demolition – Well, Sean Mooney standing outside of Demolition’s locker room so we can hear mumbled yelling in the background.
Sensational Queen Sherri – Talks about the “rumors” she heard about Sapphire’s gifts. Fantastic line –
Mean Gene “Sensation Sherri, I don’t see anything funny about a missing person!”
Sherri “I said she was missing! I didn’t say anything about her being a person!”
And we’re back from intermission!
Bad News Brown
Jake “The Snake” Roberts
Special Referee – Big Boss Man
The premise of this match is that Bad News is bringing “200 pounds of sewer rats” that he wants to feed Roberts’ snake, Damian, to. Jake brings his trusty bag-o-snake with him and Bad News has a mysterious covered black box that we are told are the rats…though we never see them.
The match is pretty so-so. Best part of it is Jake giving Bad News the old, um, Fireman’s Salute (as pictured here). Roddy Piper chimes in with “Jake says ‘I don’t give up!’ … That’s how you say that in wrestling.” As a kid, I kind of thought that was true – though I luckily never told a teacher of family member that I don’t give up.
Bad News hits Roberts with a chair twice and gets the DQ. He then tries to go after the Big Boss Man for disqualifying him but Jake saves the day by opening the bad and rolling out Damian.
…and we move on.
The Brother Love Show w/Sgt. Slaughter
There is not a man my age that didn’t hate Brother Love and the Brother Love Show as a kid but feel all sorts of nostalgic watching an edition now! This was the first major appearance for Slaughter after turning his back on his country-though he wasn’t as pro-Iraq as he would be down the road just yet. I didn’t really have a problem with Sgt. Slaughter as the Iraqi sympathizer. I plan on doing a review down the road of a show where Slaughter is more in-tune with his inner-Saddam – I’ll get more into the reasons I don’t have a problem with it there.
An interview with The Orient Express is interrupted as Mean Gene spots Sapphire! We go to Mean Gene who gets the door slammed in his face. Apparently Sapphire doesn’t want to talk right now. At least she is safe so that’s a good thing…right?
The Orient Express (Sato and Tanaka) w/Mr. Fuji
“Hacksaw” Jim Duggan and Nikolai Volkoff
To start things off here, we are treated to Duggan and Volkoff singing “God Bless America” together … I’ll just let you take a second to let that sink in.
The match…well…it happened. That’s about the most I can say. Oh, Duggan and Volkoff won.
In the back, Dusty Rhodes is at the door that Sapphire had slammed shut to let her know Rhodes’ match is next and they need to go…to no avail.
“Macho King” Randy Savage
Dusty is far from the jubilant “American Dream” that we normally see coming to the ring. Polka dots never looked so serious.
I understand the allure of having the “first ever” mixed tag match, but I really wish THIS would have been the match we got at this year’s WrestleMania. Two legends going one-on-one is what WrestleMania is all about.
The match starts and…wait…I hear the sound of the most recognizable laugh in wrestling history – “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase. DiBiase comes out to remind Dusty Rhodes that “everybody has a price” by revealing that HE is the one who bought Sapphire away from Rhodes! Sapphire comes out in her new fur coat, diamond necklace, diamond ring and a bag full of money. A little different from the polka dotted sweater we had been accustomed to seeing her in.
Dusty goes after DiBiase but Savage hits him from behind and brings him back to the ring to officially start the match. Like Perfect and Von Erich, this was a good match between Hall of Famers that should have gone longer. Savage hits Rhodes with a loaded purse handed to him by Sherri and picks up the win.
Backstage we see DiBiase, his bodyguard Virgil and Sapphire getting into a limo. Dusty catches up to them but is just too late as the limo takes off. Rhodes tries to chase it down but can’t because…well…it’s an automobile, and we are left with a sad image of Rhodes just standing in disbelief in the garage.
Earthquake w/Jimmy Hart and Dino Bravo
Hulk Hogan w/Big Boss Man
That takes us straight to our double main event as the tremors start and Earthquake makes his way to the ring. Hogan follows and gets the typical Hulkamania reaction from the crowd. He may not get the same type of reaction these days…at least not from a demographic or two.
A really underrated match – Earthquake was a great big man performer. He really held his own in what was his first main event level program. During the match, Earthquake has Hogan in a bear hug. Instead of giving up, Hogan decides to rip a section of the ref’s shirt off. So…that happened.
After “Hulking” out of Earthquake’s finisher, the two take the fight outside where Hogan slams the 400 pounder on the table left from Bad News Brown’s sewer rat cage (which was apparently the only reason the cage was out there). Hogan comes back in and wins by count-out. I think its funny that Hogan looks happier from that count-out win than he did winning the title a couple times.
As the crew sets up the cage for the final match, we get a few more backstage interviews in including one with a distraught Dusty Rhodes. He’s not sad though, he’s mad. He hints that the fun-loving, polka dot wearing man that was introduced to the WWF the previous year is gone and he’s going to get bad again. Will the Dusty Rhodes that won the NWA Heavyweight Title on multiple occasions how up in the WWF? Well, kind of. The polka dots were gone but Rhodes didn’t stick around long enough before heading back to WCW in early 1991.
WWF Championship – Steel Cage Match
The Ultimate Warrior (c)
“Ravishing” Rick Rude w/Bobby Heenan
I miss the old blue bar cage!
During his backstage interview, The Ultimate Warrior gave us this gem… “Do you know what Rick Rude and Bobby Heenan have in common with the Liberty Bell? … One is cracked and one is a ding-dong!”
…(pause for awkward silence)
Both men enter the cage…and I tell you, this cage is so high! If I had to guess I would say it is a ten, maybe even twelve foot high steel cage. If ONLY I had someone to tell just how tall this particular steel cage is!
The Warrior has never been described as being one of the best in-ring technicians in history. However Rick Rude always seemed always seemed to get the best out of him and this match was no different. The two used the cage very well creating scenarios that made it seem like either man could win the match.
In the end The Warrior climbed over the top of the cage, did a little Rick Rude hip shimmy for good measure and landed on the floor to keep the WWF Championship.
All in all it is a very solid show. I consider it to be one of the best top to bottom shows the WWF had in that era. Definitely one to get you in the proper SummerSlam mood.
What do you think of the show? What other shows would you like to have reviewed? Follow us on Twitter @From_TheTopRope and let me know what you think!