#WF129(UK) – The History Of SummerSlam
James Dixon: This is not strictly a UK exclusive, and was also released to our friends in Germany via PolyGram Video. Presented by Gorilla Monsoon and Johnny Polo. Gorilla seems to think Polo is four years old, asking him if he was even born when some of this took place. A lot of the matches on here, especially on the early shows, are clipped heavily or joined in progress, so some won’t be given ratings. For those matches, I for the most part agree with the reviews that Arnold Furious did over the course of these volumes, and you can find the scores in the reviews of their respective shows.
Koko B. Ware vs. The Big Bossman
Delightfully, Polo and Gorilla are on commentary for this, and I assume throughout, which will make this a winner right off the bat. Polo immediately amuses by asking what the “B” stands for in Koko B. Ware and asking if there is a “Medium Bossman”. When you look at this show, it does not look like it is from MSG at all. The lighting is so bright and the hard cam is in a different place, so it rather looks like any other building. We join this in progress, as I assume the majority of these matches will be, but that is more than fine because this is a bit of a dog. Bossman goes over with the Bossman Slam, as Polo rightly points out that the result was never in question.
Jake Roberts vs. Hercules
Lee made a lot of cogent and correct arguments about why it was right not to do Jake-Rude on this show, and while I agree with his logic and the business acumen of the WWF in not running the bout, I still can’t help but wishing that it had happened. SummerSlam ’88 suffered from the lack of a big-time marquee match outside of the main event, and that would have helped add to the aura of the card. There is no unwritten rule to say you can’t do reruns of the pay-per-view bout on the house shows, and two years later Hulk Hogan and Earthquake did exactly that. This is joined even later than the previous match, but it means we cut out all of the chinlocks and just get the last few minutes, with Jake winning after the DDT.
WWF Intercontinental Championship
The Honky Tonk Man (c) vs. The Ultimate Warrior
Hundreds of words have been wrote about this match over the course of these books, and countless thousands elsewhere, but with good reason. It is probably the greatest squash match in history, and certainly the most important. The set-up and story was so simple, with Honky a detested long-running champion who always weaselled his way out of losing the belt, and Warrior an unstoppable juggernaut who was starting to really blaze a trail through the company and get very over in the process. Warrior wasn’t even announced as Honky’s opponent, he was a mystery opponent to replace the injured Brutus Beefcake, and he just steamrolled his way through Honky and demolished him to win the title in under a minute. It signalled the beginning of the end for Honky’s unlikely run at the top of the card, but was only the beginning for Warrior.
Hulk Hogan & Macho Man Randy Savage vs. Ted DiBiase & Andre the Giant
Gorilla rips on guest referee Jesse Ventura, because he was an enemy of the WWF at this point, but Polo lavishes him with praise and says what a great job he did. I guess he didn’t get the memo! This is joined fairly late on, which is a shame because it is a very fun match. This was Savage’s only real opportunity to get in a pay-per-view title defence, what with Survivor Series and Royal Rumble following with their multi-man formats, and yet he didn’t even get to headline once on his own as champion. Everywhere that Savage went in 1988-89, Hogan was right there with him, sticking his ample beak in. From what we see here, DiBiase gives Savage a beating, but misses a falling elbow from the middle. Savage gets the tag to Hogan, and he suplexes DiBiase and clotheslines Andre down. The crowd goes crazy as Savage goes up top, but Andre gets his boot up to prevent the elbow as Hogan has a sleeper locked on DiBiase. It’s a great little sequence, and the crowd stay really vocal throughout, and are actually louder for Savage than they are for Hogan. Both of the Mega Powers end up down on the outside, and Elizabeth and Heenan both get on the apron. In a famous spot, Elizabeth takes off her skirt and flashes her arse, then parades across the ring, as Andre, DiBiase, Ventura, Virgil and Heenan all look on in shock. I can only imagine the reaction Savage must have had when he was first broached about the idea. I am actually amazed that he let her go through with it. Hogan and Savage come back in and send Andre outside, then the flying elbow and legdrop combo beats DiBiase. It is pretty exciting bout and a perfectly acceptable main event style match, which deviates from the standard tag formula. Worth checking out in its full, unedited form.
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Rick Rude (c) vs. The Ultimate Warrior
This was a great match, and easily the best of Warrior’s career at this point. We are way into the action when we pick this one up, with Warrior getting a near fall from a piledriver, but getting thwarted by knees when he goes for his splash. It is no surprise; that was his spot for turning the tide in every match. Rude hits a sick piledriver/powerbomb hybrid, which I can only assume happened because Warrior was out of position. Rude hits a crappy looking fist drop to the throat from the top and Gorilla basically calls it the shits. Roddy Piper strolls to ringside for the distraction and Rude poses at him for a bit, so Piper moons him in return. It is like a less appealing version of the Elizabeth spot from the last match. All of this results in Warrior hitting an accidental German suplex and then his usual finishing routine to win the title for the second time.
Superfly Jimmy Snuka vs. Ted DiBiase
This is a poor choice, because these guys had no chemistry and this match is nothing, yet it is shown near enough in full. Snuka hadn’t been back with the company for long after his four year hiatus, but he was a completely different guy from his first run, where he was a top tier star and a super over one at that. He is no-where near as popular here, and the crowd really don’t care about this at all. Mind you, DiBiase and Snuka don’t give them anything to care about, and the lame DiBiase count out win is met with a chorus of silence.
Final Rating: ½*
Zeus & Macho Man Randy Savage vs. Hulk Hogan & Brutus Beefcake
Zeus, like Nailz and Giant Gonzalez, is on my guilty pleasures list. He was not a proper wrestler of course and was god awful, but he looked the part and played the character well, and I am mildly fascinated by him. Savage had to carry the workload for his team here, but that was nothing new to him because he had been doing that for a year with Hulk Hogan before this. Considering the participants, there is nothing wrong with this match, and it has a decent story going in and the crowd wanted to see it. Hogan inevitably cheats, hitting Zeus with Sherri’s loaded purse and then finishing him off with the legdrop. Hogan partakes in some woman beating after the match, giving Sherri an atomic drop before Elizabeth knocks her out with the purse. To add insult to injury, Beefcake cuts her hair off after the match, because his character was a complete tossbag too.
Where the hell is the incredible bout between The Brainbusters and The Hart Foundation? I guess they didn’t want to show a match of that quality featuring a guy who was so significantly involved with WCW (Arn Anderson). I hate it when politics ruin a good wrestling tape.
Macho Man Randy Savage vs. Dusty Rhodes
Sadly, Polo and Gorilla are replaced by the original commentary team of Vince McMahon and Roddy Piper. We get this from the start, which is not pleasing because this was one of the worst feuds of either guy’s career. It is amazing just how bad their series was, when you consider the legendary statuses of the participants. I guess Savage was in a career lull and Dusty was lacking motivation due to his idiotic attire and character. Like last year, the purse comes into play with Savage clocking Dusty and getting the win in very short order. This rivalry couldn’t end soon enough.
Final Rating: ¼*
The Ultimate Warrior (c) vs. Rick Rude
Warrior won the WWF championship since they met last year, famously beating Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania VI. We get this from the start again, and Piper wastes no time in showing his disdain for Warrior, asking why Rude doesn’t just tie his tassels to the bars and calling them the “dumbest thing I have ever seen”. Rude was a good choice for Warrior’s first opponent on pay-per-view while WWF champion, because he was one of very few men to have ever beaten him, and he was capable of carrying him to a decent match. I adore Rick Rude, he is one of my top five of all time, but I don’t think the fans quite bought him as a credible challenger to the top title. He was always portrayed as on a level just below the main event while in the WWF, and didn’t have the credibility in that spot of say a DiBiase or a Savage. I am sure that played a part in his decision to leave the company, and he was certainly treated much better when he turned up in WCW the following year. In fact, he was involved in my favourite match ever, against Ricky Steamboat in an Iron Man Match at Beach Blast 92. Compared to their better matches together, this is only ok, but it does feature a little blood from Rude, and the odd impressive spot such as Rude hitting an axe handle off the top of the cage. As usual, Rude gets his ass out, giving the cheap seats a prime view of his chocolate starfish. Rude tries his best to get this over by taking all of Warrior’s moves, and for the most part he does succeed. There is not a great deal of drama for a cage match though, and Rude’s blue bar bout with Roddy Piper that turns up on a couple of comp tapes, was far more intense and much better all round.
Final Rating: **
Ted DiBiase vs. Virgil
The original commentary team again here, though it is Gorilla, Piper and Heenan and thus very good anyway. There is a lot of history in this match of course, with Virgil having served as DiBiase’s man-servant for years until he “saw the light” and broke free of DiBiase’s oppressive shackles. Piper gets incredibly excited during this, rooting for Virgil so much that you really believe he wants him to win. He is positively distraught at the potential DQ when Sherri hits Virgil with the loaded purse, but the referee shows wise judgement and instead sends Sherri to the back and restarts the match. Piper is beside himself with joy. Random musing: did DiBiase confiscate Virgil’s roids when they were in unison? I only ask, because Virgil looks like he has been inflated here compared to when he was just a bodyguard. Piper is now so into the match that he starts speaking in tongues. DiBiase gets the visual win with the ref down and removes a turnbuckle pad, but takes too long setting it up and Virgil reverses an attempt to send him into it by putting the brakes on and sending his ex-boss into it instead. DiBiase is out, and Virgil covers him for the win and the title. Piper has a massive grin etched across his face .
Final Rating: **
Hulk Hogan & The Ultimate Warrior vs. Sgt. Slaughter, Colonel Mustafa & General Adnan
What an awful main event this is. Warrior was fired directly after the match, having held up Vince for money prior to the bout. Sgt. Slaughter was incredibly played out as a heel and the Iraqi sympathiser gimmick had long since lost its controversy factor and any real drawing power. Iron Sheik as Colonel Mustafa was long past his prime, and the former Billy White Wolf, now General Adnan, was even further past his. There was no need for this match to happen, and the Hogan-Slaughter issue should have ended at WrestleMania. The problem was; the WWF didn’t have any other decent heels for him to work with, so just dragged this issue out long past its sell-by-date. The most interesting thing about the match is the appearance of Sid Justice as the referee, and his accidental collisions with Hogan and Warrior provoke “oohhs” from the crowd. Piper defends his performance in the white and black stripes to the hilt, praising him for trying his heart out. I love Piper as a commentator, he really had a special energy to what he was doing and an affinity for the product. He is wildly underrated in that role, and I think he added something to the broadcasts he was on.
Final Rating: *½
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Mr. Perfect (c) vs. Bret Hart
This is a genuine classic, but again they maddeningly cut half of it and start in the middle. Why? So then can show throwaway shite like Bossman-Koko and that last match! What is the problem with showcasing your best stuff!? Because of the clipping we miss all of the wonderfully smooth exchanges at the start, with them mirroring each other and matching each other hold for hold. Instead this comes across as almost slow when taken out of context and is just shown from Bret selling and taking a beating. The commentary team really help to make this match even better though, and the way they sell Hart kicking out of the Perfectplex is first rate. Bret comes back with atomic drops, and then biels Perfect across the ring so hard that he slides crotch-first under the ropes and into the post. A suplex gets a close two count, as does a subsequent small package. The Russian legsweep gets another near fall for Bret and he goes to the backbreaker and elbow from the middle. Again, he only gets two. The crowd is ELECTRIC and there is a feeling of every single person in the arena willing Hart to win the match. Bret kicks Perfect’s legs from under him and he goes for the Sharpshooter, but gets distracted by Coach and Perfect kicks the rope into his balls. Perfect continues to go low with a kick and a legdrop to the groin. He tries the legdrop again, but Bret catches his foot and turns it into the Sharpshooter for the win. A certain Earl Hebner rang the bell VERY quickly indeed. Honestly, you could sub that in for Montreal and not know the difference, that’s how fast he called for it. The unclipped version is an incredible bout, one of the best of its generation, and even more impressive considering Perfect was injured. If you are looking to get this tape because you saw this on the listing, don’t bother. If you have somehow never seen it before, you won’t get the full experience like this. What was on offer here is still excellent of course, but the clipping kills it as a competitive contest.
The Big Bossman vs. The Mountie
“The Mountie? That guy looks vaguely familiar” says Johnny Polo before the match. Just to clarify, Polo was the manager of the Quebecers at the time of this tape’s release, and one of the members was Jacques “The Mountie” Rougeau. This match is the culmination of a feud between two guys with law enforcement gimmicks. The stipulation is that the loser spends the night in jail. Bossman has the best of the early exchanges, until Mountie goes to the eyes. Then it is just the usual spots between these two, and like I have said before, Mountie was a pretty boring wrestler. Even when he did something good, it seemed dull. He was exhausting to watch. Bossman evades a cattle prod electrocution attempt and hits a Bossman Slam, but Mountie surprisingly kicks out. An Alabama slam out of a piledriver attempt finally finishes it for Bossman, and the NYPD comes to the ring to handcuff Mountie and lead him off to jail. He sells being taken to prison brilliantly, screaming and complaining, giving the cops the finger and then freaking out when a gay guy hits on him. Not much of a match but a really fun angle afterwards, which they show in full here.
Final Rating: ¾*
Shawn Michaels vs. Rick Martel
I really enjoyed this match growing up, and was always especially impressed with the superb athletic ability of both guys and how smooth their exchanges were. This is interesting because both were heels, though Martel is clearly cast in the babyface role. For all the match is good (and we get the whole thing with it being closer to the present era and both still working for the WWF at the time), this is the Sensational Sherri show. She was the focus of the whole rivalry in the first place, and her concern for both men led to the unique “no hitting in the face” rule. I must say, her attire here is wildly risqué, with a hole cut in her pants where her ass is and her goods only covered by the tiniest of thongs. She spends most of the match bent over, and the cameraman and director have no problem lingering on her ass. Speaking of asses, both Michaels and Martel get theirs out in a sequence where they reverse hooked tights pinfall attempts. The “no hitting in the face” stip goes out of the window as tempers boil over, and Sherri “faints” at the sight of it, resulting in a drawn out but fun comedy sequence involving Sherri playing possum when it comes to fainting further and both guys taking turns carrying her to the back. I would have liked to have seen much more between these two, because this was richly entertaining.
Final Rating: ***
The Undertaker vs. Kamala
This however, was bad. After months of build up, it only went 4-minutes and nothing happened at all. However Kamala and Taker did achieve one thing: they managed to make a scientific breakthrough in the field of controlling and manipulating time. How so? Well, they managed to make a 4-minute match feel like 40-minutes. Impressive indeed! Kamala was a clown by this point and no threat to Taker, and the people didn’t see him as one. Even as an 8-year old I knew Taker could and would kick the shit out of him. Kamala in the 80s, I could just about get away with, but by 1992 he was a joke. Of course, we don’t get a finish here, so we can drag this interminable nonsense out to another pay-per-view.
Final Rating: DUD
Macho Man Randy Savage (c) vs. The Ultimate Warrior
We join this as Mr. Perfect and Ric Flair make their way down the aisle, and this turns from a match into a soap opera, with the crowd and the commentators unsure which side they are on. I actually really loved the storyline and angles leading up to this match, with the premise that one of Savage or Warrior had paid for the services of detested heels Flair and Perfect, and neither trusted the other at all. Perfect trips Savage and Vince is aghast that Warrior sold out. The crowd doesn’t seem too bothered, and cheers Warrior’s subsequent flurry anyway. Mind you, with a crowd full of kids, they probably didn’t pick up on the numerous clever yet subtle nuances that are layered into this. Warrior does briefly display some heel mannerisms and for all the world it looks like he has turned. When Mr. Perfect comes in to help Warrior get up the turn seems solidified, but then he holds Warrior as Flair nails him with brass knuckles, and no-one knows what the hell is going on. In reality, neither babyface had sold out to the heels, but the original plan was for the Ultimate Warrior to turn and go on a fairly lengthy title run. It is for the best that this didn’t transpire, as Warrior was gone by the time the next pay-per-view rolled around only three months later. If he hadn’t departed, he would have certainly been an interesting opponent for the likes of Bret Hart, the Undertaker and a babyface Mr. Perfect. A match as a heel against the returning Hulk Hogan would have made for very curious viewing too. This is one of very few matches where outside interference and a non-finish both actually enhance the match rather than detract from it. It is a wonderful example of theatre in a squared circle, and features fantastic performances from all of the players involved. The post match assault from Flair and Perfect on Randy Savage’s knee is suitably vicious too, and builds wonderfully to a future tag contest between Flair/Perfect and Warrior/Savage. It is just a shame it never transpired. Epic storytelling here, and enough of it is shown to give you the full feel of what they were trying to accomplish.
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Bret Hart (c) vs. The British Bulldog
We get this one from the start! What a fantastic decision from Silver Vision. This, for my money, is a frontrunner for greatest match of all time. It really had everything, from the enormous crowd to the superb in-ring action. The storyline going in was excellent too, with two family members, both babyfaces, competing to see who was better. It was so simple, but incredibly effective storytelling. The crowd was very much behind Bulldog, but Hart had an incredible army of fans too, and the atmosphere is absolutely electric. It is probably the most vociferous audience you are ever likely to hear. Listening to it again, it staggers me that WWE haven’t tried to run another major pay-per-view event in a massive UK stadium since. The argument against it is that the time difference would mean it had to be shown at an inconvenient time in the US, or on tape delay, and that would affect orders. I really don’t think it would, and the revenue generated from holding a show in such a monster setting, would surely offset any buy rates lost. Maybe not for something like WrestleMania, but for SummerSlam or even Survivor Series, it could work. You get a unique feeling when watching a perfect match, and you definitely get that here. It was no coincidence that the two greatest WWF matches at this point both came at the two shows with the biggest audience. The very best workers up their game and are able to perform at the very highest level. This match really defined Bret Hart as the finest worker in the company, and indeed of his generation. It has been well documented that Davey was out of shape and blown up during this, having come into the match off an injury which kept him out of the ring and the gym. The fact that Hart manages to carry and lead him into a bout of such stunning quality, is a testament to his abilities. It is probably his greatest match ever when that is taken into consideration. He has had a multitude of great bouts which are a level just below, and a few that were as good technically (against brother Owen Hart at WrestleMania X for example), but none that combined the in-ring stuff with the setting, atmosphere and emotion. Two other matches that Bret often gets the full 5* for are his cage match with Owen at SummerSlam ’94 and the famous WrestleMania XIII bout with Steve Austin -both of which are very different to this- but I don’t think either comes close. Actually, I think both are often slightly overrated, and I prefer the match he had with Austin at Survivor Series ’96 to either. When Furious reviewed this, he ummed and ahhed about the rating, complaining about the use of chinlocks to call spots. I thought he was nuts and I told him as much, because I don’t think thirty seconds of slight slowdown can ruin 30-MINUTES of pure perfection. This match is untouchable, and without question a clear and easy 5* rating. If you call yourself a wrestling fan and you have not seen this match, rectify the situation at once. Bret-Bulldog will be remembered long into the future, and may be the best bout ever to take place on British shores. Anyone in doubt? Just listen to that crowd when Davey wins the title. That reaction will likely never be matched.
Final Rating: *****
Razor Ramon vs. Ted DiBiase
This was DiBiase’s last match in the WWF, and he went out in a very low-key fashion with minimal fanfare. DiBiase was not the exciting worker he was a few years prior, and the pace of this is fairly slow. This was Razor’s first pay-per-view as a babyface in the WWF, and the turn was a smart move because there was a dearth of good faces in the company at the time, and Razor had a cool persona with a bit of spice to it, even if his offence wasn’t exactly explosive and exciting. Scott Hall was a decent worker, but his best work came against better wrestlers, he wasn’t the kind of guy to drag slugs to decent matches. DiBiase is no slug of course, but he was so banged up by this point after six hard years of non-stop graft with the company, that he just couldn’t perform at a high level anymore. Razor beats him cleanly with the Razor’s Edge and that is the end of the Million Dollar Man as an in-ring performer. Unfortunately he returned as a manager and led the atrocious Million Dollar Corporation, one of the most tedious and awful factions in history.
Final Rating: *¾
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Shawn Michaels (c) vs. Mr. Perfect
Yet another airing for this match, and we are joined in progress. This was hands down the most underwhelming and disappointing WWF match of the 90s. Going in it was a workrate fan’s wet dream, because both guys moved and sold better than pretty much anyone is history. I have seen other matches between these guys on both Coliseum releases and on TV, and they were excellent, but they just don’t click here. The timing is all off and for me, the heel/face alignment is wrong too in order to get the best out of both. Obviously that was unavoidable in this particular match because that is how they had been positioned, but I am merely digressing. The best possible match for them would have been babyface Shawn from either 1995/96 or towards the end of his career, and Mr. Perfect in 1989/90 as a heel. Both were untouchable in their respective prime eras. I have heard some blame Michaels being angry with Hennig for the communications breakdown in this match, but I am not convinced this was the case and feel it might be one in a long list of “common wrestling fan misconceptions”. According to Kevin Nash, Curt Hennig was considered “a god” by the Kliq guys because he helped break some of them into the business and helped a lot of them along the way, in Shawn’s case back in the AWA and on his route to singles stardom. Thus is it unlikely that Shawn would disrespect Curt or indeed blemish his own burgeoning reputation by purposely derailing the match. Unfortunately, the more likely reason for it falling apart and both guys being somewhat off, is an overindulgence the night prior. That of course, is entirely subject to conjecture. I think I should point out that this is far from bad, and when you try and watch it without the albatross of disappointment hanging around its neck, it becomes slightly more enjoyable. The lame count out finish is a shame though, especially in hindsight with Perfect retiring again soon after the bout. They should have just put Michaels over cleanly. Keep your non-finishes to TV and CHV, do a goddamn blowoff on pay-per-view. We get like 5-minutes of this tops here, and thus it is not worth your time.
Bret Hart vs. Doink the Clown
This was supposed to be Hart vs. Jerry Lawler, but we get saved, briefly, from that styles clash disaster because Lawler was in a “car crash”. It is all just an angle of course, and Lawler gets his self-appointed court jester Doink the Clown to take his place. They have a decent match, but it is heavily clipped here and we start with Doink controlling Hart with the Stump Puller. What a contrast for Bret compared to last year for him to go from a 5* classic in front of 80,000 fans to working a cartoon villainous clown. I love the heel Doink character and Matt Borne who played him, but he was on a very different level to Hart and this should never have happened. Hart should have been wrestling Hulk Hogan on this show and regaining the WWF title, but obviously things went severely tits up with that plan and the Lawler feud was the result. It is probably my least favourite Bret Hart feud of all time, because I hated their matches and thought they had absolutely no chemistry at all. I personally think that Bret felt so affronted by his drop down the card after giving everything to the company in 1992, that he just dogged this series. Bret has this match won but Lawler attacks Hart with his crutch, showing he is not injured at all, and Lawler is forced to wrestle Bret right away or face a lifetime suspension from the company.
Bret Hart vs. Jerry Lawler
Lots of shenanigans and shortcuts in this one, which is not surprising seeing as though Hart has just wrestled. We barely get any of it, just a revisionist version of what happened, with the footage ending with Bret applying the Sharpshooter and winning the match. All of the post match stuff with Bret refusing to release the hold and the decision getting reversed are cut, making this another rather useless inclusion.
Yokozuna (c) vs. Lex Luger
The gimmick here was that this is Luger’s only shot at the title. Silver Vision must have realised that they were running out of tape time, and this again is joined midway through. The way they are sweating you would think they have been in an epic battle, a war for the ages. You only have to look at the names involved to realise that this was not the case. As far as Yoko-Luger matches go it is alright, but nothing more. The finish is a real cop-out, with lifelong choker Luger managing to win the match on a count out, but not the title. The celebrations afterwards are baffling to me, because he parades around like he is the new champion and the babyface roster celebrates with him. You cannot mask the fact that Luger failed to win the title with excessive smoke and mirrors. If Vince really wanted to push him as the next Hulk Hogan babyface megastar then Luger would have won the title here. I cannot fathom why he didn’t, especially in a WWF that had always traditionally had babyface champions on top. Maybe the lack of top stars to challenge a babyface champion was the issue, but I am sure they could have found someone. SummerSlam ’93 was the show of underwhelming booking, matches and results (the Bret-Lawler match changing, Perfect-Michaels failing to live up to expectations, Hogan being gone and not defending the belt in the proposed match with Hart) and this was in a way a fitting end to the show.
Summary: A fun and surprisingly comprehensive look back at the annual SummerSlam pay-per-view, with a decent time allotted to each event. The clipping does hurt the quality of some matches and the choices could be a little better in places, but overall it is not a bad highlight tape. Obviously if you own all of the SummerSlam pay-per-view events already, there is nothing to see here, but for a newer fan looking for a quick catch-up of what the WWF used to be about each summer, this does the job just fine.