It’s time to move on to WWE’s traditional biggest event of the summer. Summer Slam was always my favourite WWE show during my younger days and I would excitedly look forward to it through the years.
I’m going to break this one up a bit into roughly something like 6 parts, so by the time we reach the end we should be in August and I’ll then leave myself some time to cover WCW Road Wild (Shudder)
Along the way we’re going to see some great matches and some…not quite as good to put it nicely. Regardless I hope we all have fun together!
Let’s start off with 1988 to 1992
WWF Summer Slam 1988
Guest Referee: Jesse Ventura
The Mega Bucks (Andre The Giant and Ted Dibiase) w/ Bobby Heenan Vs The Mega Powers (WWF Champion Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan) w/ Elizabeth
The first Summer Slam is a bit of a strange show to watch these days, as it doesn’t really feel like a “proper” pay per view and more like a jazzed up TV show a lot of the time, but it still has some good stuff on it too (notably Ultimate Warrior destroying Honky Tonk Man). This match was built from what happened at WrestleMania IV, where Dibiase had lost to Savage in the Main Event, with Andre in the corner of the former and Hogan in the corner of the latter. There were suggestions going in that heel commentator Jesse might not be especially fair due to Dibiase slipping him some cheddar.
Jesse quickly makes a nuisance of himself by switching the legal corners around because he doesn’t like where they are placed. I’ll be honest right from the off and say that I’ve never really liked this match all that much, but I also haven’t watched it for quite a while so hopefully time has been kind to it and I’ll enjoy it more this time around.
The Mega Powers shine on Dibiase to start and he sells it all brilliantly, bumping around like a pin ball as the crowd cheers along. Andre eventually decides he can no longer sanction this buffoonery and just lumbers into the ring to attack both of the baby faces illegally. This leads to Hogan getting worked over in the heel half of the ring for a bit. In some ways this was the perfect use of Andre at this time, as the more mobile Dibiase could do a large part of the wrestling and Andre could just come in for monster spots as and when he needed to. They even re-used the formula with Meng about a year later.
Andre’s work is slower than a bike without tyres going uphill on a road made of treacle, but thankfully he has Dibiase to tag out to when he needs to. We do the old Rock and Roll Vs Midnights double heat gimmick, with Hogan doing the first heat segment and Savage doing the second. I can understand why they are doing this as they are aiming for a longer match due to it being the Main Event, but they probably go too long and it starts to drag after a certain point.
Hogan gets the second hot tag and runs wild on Dibiase with a good comeback, but Andre soon shows why he’s the trump card for the heels by recovering destroying both of the faces. When all looks lost for The Mega Powers, Elizabeth distracts the heels by taking off her dress to reveal her knickers. This gives the faces a chance to recover and they finish Dibiase with both of their finishing moves for the reluctant three count from Jesse.
WINNERS: THE MEGA POWERS
This was decent actually. It dragged a little bit but it was fine for a Main Event tag match to send the fans home happy.
WWF Summer Slam 1989
Randy Savage and Zeus w/ Sensational Sherri Vs WWF Champion Hulk Hogan and Brutus Beefcake w/ Elizabeth
Savage and Hogan’s friendship EXPLODED in 1989, leading to a Main Event clash between the two at WrestleMania V. During the feud Savage got rid of Liz as his manager and took on Sherri instead. Zeus was actually an actor called Tony Lister who had played the villain in Hogan’s “No Holds Barred” movie. He had an impressive look so the WWF decided to bring him in as a regular character on the show, as he debuted to attack Hogan on an episode of Saturday Night’s Main Event. He really didn’t have the goods for a satisfying Main Event singles bout with Hogan yet, so teaming him up with Savage gave him someone to carry him for a bit. Beefcake had been getting pretty over since getting the Barber gimmick and was a real life pal of Hogan, so he got selected for a Main Event pay off here.
The story for this one is that Zeus is all but invincible and the faces can’t do anything to hurt him, so they are on the defensive right from the off. It’s a different take on the usual tag formula and does a good job of making Zeus look like a monster that everyone should worry about. It also limits how much selling Zeus has to do, which is a good thing as he’s pretty terrible as a wrestler and that means Savage has to pick up a lot of the slack for his team. Thankfully that’s one heck of a clean up guy to have!
I actually thought Beefcake wasn’t bad during this period of his career, as he was a perfectly serviceable over guy in the mid-card that you could use for roles like this. His work wasn’t terrible either and the WWF had a glut of very talented heels that could get good matches out of him. We get the double heat segment just like we got in 1988, with Hogan going first and Beefcake going second. The crowd is in to Beefcake and pops big when he gets to do his mini hot tag segment before getting cut off for the second heat segment.
It looks at one stage that we might even get a TRIPLE HEAT of all things, but Savage makes the mistake of giving Hogan the old Reviving Elbow to wake him up. However, Savage had tagged Zeus before going up, which gives us Zeus Vs Hogan one on one. Hogan manages to drop Zeus to a knee to a big pop, highlighting how effective the booking of Zeus was. Liz takes out Sherri and that allows Hogan to get hold of Scary Sherri’s loaded purse. He clocks Zeus with it before getting the slam and leg drop for the three count.
WINNERS: HOGAN & BEEFCAKE
This was structured really well and the crowd loved it. The downside was that they had Hogan pin Zeus almost right out of the gate, which undid a lot of the good work they’d done in the match up to that point. Yeah, Zeus was a terrible wrestler, but they had something here and could have possibly done Zeus Vs Hogan in a singles match and drawn some money in the process. Sure, the matches would have sucked, but the fans probably wouldn’t care so long as Hogan won.
This was one of those occasions where I would have been fine with a DQ finish, with Beefcake maybe getting killed post-match to set up Hogan coming for revenge. They could have easily switched the match order so that Rick Rude and Ultimate Warrior went on last, so they could have still sent the fans home happy with a babyface win to close out the night whilst doing the big heat angle earlier in the show.
WWF Summer Slam 1990
Champ: The Ultimate Warrior Vs Rick Rude w/ Bobby Heenan
Warrior had won the Title at WrestleMania VI but didn’t really have much in the way of opponents to work with, so they decided to go back to Rude due to the previous good matches between the two and the fact that Rude had once pinned Warrior back at WrestleMania V, thus giving him something to taunt the new Champion about in promos. It wasn’t the worst choice for a first proper feud for Warrior, but you also never really got the impression that Rude was taking the belt either.
This is pin or escape rules. I really wish they’d sort out the music rights for Rude’s entrance music on these older shows, as it essentially kills his entrance due to the dubbing. Warrior pin balls Rude around to start, with Rude taking lots of great melodramatic bumps in the process. However, Warrior’s inner Strowman ends up doing him in as he charges at Rude only for Rude to move to send him flying into the cage.
Roddy Piper is doing the colour commentary for this one and he spends a lot of the match talking smack about Warrior, despite ostensibly being a babyface at the time. Rude actually does a blade job for this one, not something you always saw in this era unless it tended to be a big Hogan match. This one isn’t their best match together but it’s still watchable due to the fact they have such good chemistry with one another. It’s a lot of punching and kicking, but that works for the match stipulation they are using.
Rude seemingly has it won on a couple of occasions but keeps trying to inflict more pain instead of finishing things off, which allows Warrior to make a break for the door. Heenan slams the cage door in his face however and Rude gets a two count from the resulting pin attempt in a good near fall. Rude, with Bobby’s assistance, makes a break for the door next, but Warrior stops that and then drags Bobby in for some pain.
The big comeback comes next, with Warrior Hulking Up and running wild with clotheslines. A Gorilla Press Slam comes next and Warrior escapes by climbing out to win. I’m actually kind of surprised that Warrior didn’t get the pin but I’m also kind of glad that he didn’t and it kept Rude strong and meant the two only had a pin each over the other.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR
Not a great match or anything like that but I enjoyed it for the most part and it gave the live crowd what they wanted, so no complaints from me.
WWF Summer Slam 1991
Guest Referee: Sid Justice
Sgt Slaughter, General Adnan and Col Mustafa Vs WWF Champion Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior
In perhaps one of the most tasteless angles the company had done, the WWF decided to turn former pro American wrestler Sgt Slaughter heel and make him an Iraqi sympathiser during the first Gulf War. Needless to say, they got a lot of flak for it and it didn’t even lead to success at the box office when Slaughter finally took on Hulk Hogan either, as the WWF had to move WrestleMania VII from the LA Memorial Coliseum due to poor ticket sales.
Slaughter had defeated Warrior to win the WWF Title at Royal Rumble 91 but had then lost it to Hogan at WrestleMania, so this is the first chance Warrior has had at some payback, even though he was actually feuding with Jake Roberts and Undertaker at the time. Justice shows early on that he’ll be unbiased, by stopping Slaughter from taking off his belt and using it as a weapon. Hogan and Warrior tee off on Slaughter, much to Gorilla Monsoon and Roddy Piper’s delight on commentary, but they can’t hold him down for three.
Hogan and Warrior actually work pretty well as a team, wearing Slaughter down with quick double teams. Hogan chokes away at Slaughter in the corner and Sid makes him break, to again show he is going to be unbiased. Slaughter is able to get a cheap shot on Hogan and then tags in Adnan for some exhilarating back rakes. That was so horrible that I’m actually happy to see Mustafa come in!
Mustafa gets a side gut wrench suplex and then goes to the Camel Clutch, but Warrior comes in to break it up. Slaughter chokes away at Hogan in the corner and Justice again gets in there to break it up. However, Slaughter uses the opportunity to whip Hogan into Justice, which causes both men to have a stare down. This allows Slaughter to jump Hogan from behind and bring Adnan in for some biting. Nice of him to vary his move set at least.
Slaughter heads up but Warrior throws him off and Hogan manages to make the tag. Warrior runs wild on Slaughter but clumsily runs into Justice, which allows Slaughter to cut him off whilst the two argue. I have to say the guest referee spots here have been good and have told an interesting story. Warrior manages to catch Slaughter with a shoulder block for the double down and then manages to tag in Hogan to a big pop.
Hogan unloads on Slaughter with the punches, which causes Mustafa and Adnan to run in. Warrior chases them to the back with a chair, which leaves Hogan and Slaughter in the ring. Whilst Sid is distracted by Warrior sprinting to the back with a chair, Hogan throws powder in Slaughter’s face and then drops the leg to pick up the fair three count from Sid.
WINNERS: HOGAN & WARRIOR
When Slaughter was in it was alright, when the other two members of his team were in it was awful. Just a shame they couldn’t have actually given him a good worker to team with, but the Iraqi gimmick wasn’t long for the world at this point anyway and he was back as a baby face by Survivor Series. Hogan calls Sid back down to the ring following the match and the two men pose. To be honest, watching this stuff makes it kind of obvious that they were always going with Hogan and Sid at WrestleMania VIII. Warrior would actually be fired following this show after allegedly holding Vince McMahon up for money before going out to do the match. That’s mostly a case of “he said, he said” though in all honesty, so take it with a pinch of salt.
WWF Summer Slam 1992
WWF Intercontinental Title
Champ: Bret Hart Vs British Bulldog
This one stemmed from Bret telling Vince he’d be happy to drop the IC Title at Summer Slam that year, with Shawn Michaels lined up for it if the event were to happen in Washington and Bulldog being lined up for it should it happen in Wembley. Eventually Wembley got the nod due to the WWF being so popular in Europe during this time frame. Both Bret and Bulldog were big stars in the region (It’s hard for me to convey just how popular Bret and Bulldog were in the UK especially. Along with Hogan they were probably the biggest names for the UK audience) so it made sense to put them on last. Bret has gone on record that Bulldog was having all kind of issues due to injuries and drug use, basically meaning he was charged with carrying his brother-in-law to a watchable outing.
To be honest it’s quite obvious how much Bret is walking Bulldog through this one if you know what to look for, although I must admit I never noticed it in my younger days. The way the match is laid out by Bret is pretty much close to perfect though, all the way down to the opening stages where Bret has Bulldog out wrestle him a few times to show that he had what it takes to take the Title.
The crowd loves the action, even doing duelling chants at one stage. In a clever moment a frustrated Bret is the first to deliver a significant strike in the bout by delivering a knee to the gut and then following up with a stomp for good measure. This essentially shows that Bret has conceded the technical wrestling battle by taking a shortcut, thus establishing himself as the subtle heel for the rest of the bout. The crowd picks up on this and there are some audible boo’s for Bret’s actions. It’s such a simple yet clever bit of storytelling.
Bret uses a chin lock and side headlock a lot so that he can feed Bulldog spots, with him burying his face into the back of Bulldog’s head so he can do it at some points. Can you imagine if it was John Cena having to call this instead of Bret? Maffew would have a field day! The match does have one very notable botch where Bret goes for a dive to the floor and Bulldog isn’t ready for it, so Bret has to improvise on the way down and almost turn into a kind of modified neck breaker. Bulldog is smart enough to sell that at least so they cover it somewhat.
One downside to this one is that we get a lot of shots of Diana (Bret’s sister and Bulldog’s wife) throughout the match looking worried, but her acting skills leave a bit to be desired. There is one very good shot where she looks genuinely worried and is even crying, but that’s kind of overshadowed by the other twenty or so shots (I’m exaggerating, but there’s quite a lot of them) of her looking on blankly like she’s trying to remember whether she left the gas on or not. Sean Mooney actually tried to do a pre-match interview with her and oh boy was it bad. Bret controls things for quite a while and it succeeds in keeping the crowd behind Bulldog whilst allowing Bulldog constant breathers so that he doesn’t need to deprive half the stadium of oxygen.
Bulldog finally manages to fight his way out of a sleeper and then drops Bret crotch first on the second rope with a Gorilla Press. Clotheslines and another Gorilla Press get a two count before Bulldog digs deep with a hanging vertical suplex for another two. The Running Powerslam looks to end things next, but Bret actually manages to kick out at two in a great near fall. The crowd reaction there was great there as they really thought that was it. Bret quickly replies with a German Suplex, but Bulldog kicks out, which leads to the big Main Event Superplex from Bulldog, which again gets two.
In a great spot both men take one another down with a double clothesline and whilst they are lying on the mat Bret is able to set up the legs for The Sharpshooter before rolling over to lock it in. If this was modern WWE then Bulldog would probably tap out here whilst Vince and Kevin Dunn had a big belly laugh, but this was back when they thankfully still had a clue and Bulldog makes it to the ropes. Bret tries a sunset flip next, but Bulldog counters it into a pinning hold of his own and hangs on for three in a great “out of nowhere” finish.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: BRITISH BULLDOG
Bulldog had to win here, where he wanted to or not! This match was incredible, with good action, amazing work from Bret and strong storytelling throughout. Bret apparently promised Vince the best match ever in the build up and he sure did his best to deliver it. Obviously as a UK based wrestling fan, this one has a special personal value to me and it remains a match I love to watch, but I think I can happily say that anyone can enjoy this one regardless of nationality due to how good it is.
Well there was nothing overly bad this time around and we had one heck of a match to close us out, so I’m calling this one a thumbs up. I’d recommend checking out Summer Slam 89 if you’ve never seen it actually, as there is some cracking stuff on the under card including Brain Busters Vs Hart Foundation, Rougeous and Martel Vs Tito and Rockers, and a fantastic match between Rick Rude and The Ultimate Warrior. It’s very much a “wrestling comfort food” show for me.
See you all next week for 1993 to 1997