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SummerSlam ’92

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Arnold Furious: The WWF had all manner of booking conundrums in 1992. The steroid allegations had forced Hulk Hogan to take a leave of absence, one that seemed necessary to protect his babyface status as well. Crowds were finally starting to turn on the image of Hulkamania, one perhaps suited to the 80s more so than the cynical 90s. The WWF’s original plan was to simply replace Hogan with Sid Justice. They were both big, blonde muscular guys who could connect with the crowd. No worries. Just swap one for the other. But Sid failed a drugs test and that was the last thing the WWF needed with the federal government breathing down their neck. Sid ended up quitting rather than taking his suspension and the WWF found themselves with a main event void, a Hogan-sized hole that was damn near impossible to fill. They resorted to bringing back The Ultimate Warrior. In desperate times, men do desperate things. In the interim they decided Randy Savage, a former champion and one of the few babyface main eventers the company had left, would be champion. So he took the belt off Flair and the WWF pondered their next move. The one they went for was somewhat radical. They’d turn Warrior heel, align him with Ric Flair and start throwing babyface challengers at him, reversing their standard “superman face champion” routine, quite possibly until the actual return of Hulk Hogan. A genuine saviour who could bring the WWF back to the promised land and a third bout of Hulkamania. Of course we’ll never know how any of this would have been greeted by the fans. Warrior decided he didn’t want to turn heel, after this show was already booked, and the bookers opted instead to turn the setup into a big Flair scheme. Sometimes booking on the fly creates a more interesting picture. This way Flair’s faked support for one of Savage or Warrior turned into his own campaign to reclaim the title, which is exactly what happened. Savage’s injuries during SummerSlam resulted in him losing the belt to Flair shortly afterwards. Meanwhile, because of Warrior’s impending, but not really, turn, they had to book an alternative main event for SummerSlam too. At the time a heel simply didn’t go over in a main event. Send them home happy remained the mantra. As luck would have it, SummerSlam was in England at Wembley Stadium. So the incredibly popular British Bulldog got picked to go on last. His popularity was such that the WWF felt the need to put his matches last on almost every British tour and felt he could hold up his end in a main event. Bret Hart, on the grounds that he was IC champion, happened to slot into the main event. The plan was never to put the WWF title on Bret, as far as I can tell, but rather seek other options. However his performance against Bulldog was so spectacular, so earth-shatteringly awesome, that he forced his way into contention and was WWF champion before their next PPV, Survivor Series. 1992 was a time of great change, but it’s Bret’s performance on this show that effects the greatest change in the WWF’s policy. With the steroid monsters unable to compete in Vince’s perfect world, he has to rely on the workhorses. This show proved he could. We’re in London, UK at the historic Wembley Stadium, so this is the first WWF PPV to take place outside of North America. Hosts are Vince McMahon and Bobby Heenan.

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