We continue on with 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!
This week it’s 1993 to 1997
WWF Summer Slam 1993
Champ: Yokozuna w/ Mr. Fuji and Jim Cornette Vs Lex Luger
Yoko had crushed Hulk Hogan at King of the Ring 93 to establish himself as the company’s main monster heel, and with Hogan deciding he was done with the WWF the company wanted a new star to combat Yoko as soon as possible. Thus they did a body slam challenge on the USS Intrepid, which led to Lex Luger turning face and giving Yoko the slam to become the new challenger. They went all in with Luger, having him go on a nationwide bus tour to try and stoke up public support for him. It mostly worked and the crowd here is into the idea of him winning the belt, but that’s not exactly how it worked out.
Luger has his working boots on tonight and peppers Yoko in the early going whilst avoiding his attacks. It’s a good way to start things out and the crowd is into it, but the downside of starting hot is that it absolutely knackers big Rodders and leaves him breathing heavy a few minutes in. Eventually Yoko’s girth allows him to block a body slam and then start putting the hurt on Luger. As a worker Yoko was quite good, but what let him down was that he was so big that it meant once you got anywhere close to the 5 minute range in a match then he was already running on empty. This meant that a lot of Main Events involving him all devolved to him standing around whilst the face did all the leg work before locking in a dazzling array of rest holds.
Some people, however talented, just aren’t up to working Main Events at the end of the day. For some it’s a lack of charisma, for others it’s due to a lack of believability in the role, and for those like Yoko it’s because they just aren’t physically capable of putting in the required time, either due to body size or a litany of injuries. As a result the match starts to drag a bit after a certain point, but the crowd doesn’t give up on Lex and wants him to win, which helps with things. Eventually Yoko misses a Bonzai Drop and that leads to Luger Xenophobing Up with the big body slam before giving Yoko a forearm to send him tumbling down to the arena floor. Luger stupidly decides to beat up Fuji and Cornette rather than trying to heave Yoko back into the ring, leading to a count out “win”
WINNER: LEX LUGER VIA COUNT OUT
This isn’t a terrible match and the finish could have worked as the ultimate flat ending if Luger had tried and failed to get Yoko back into the ring before having to settle on the count out. But instead they do a big celebration with balloons and whatnot, acting as if Luger actually won the belt and that this is a great victory for America. It just comes across as super lame and makes Luger himself look like an idiot. This should be a sad glum moment, not a big triumphant one. Truthfully the crowd was ready for Luger to win the Title here, so they probably should have switched it then and there rather than trying to build up to the win at WrestleMania. Hulk Hogan didn’t do a DQ with The Iron Sheik, he motored in and beat him clean right out of the blocks. He didn’t fail and then chase him for 7 months.
WWF Summer Slam 1994
“The Undertaker” w/ Ted Dibiase Vs The Undertaker w/ Paul Bearer
Oh yes, this storyline. The real Taker had lost a casket match to Yoko at Royal Rumble 94 and seemingly “died” in the process, thus meaning he was gone for months and even missed that year’s WrestleMania. However, as summer came around Ted Dibiase announced that he had bought Taker’s services and brought out Brian Lee in Undertaker cosplay to start doing his bidding. Of course Paul Bearer wasn’t going to put up with that and thus brought the real Taker back to the WWF for the climactic battle between the two. It was a pretty lousy storyline but it did have the benefit of Leslie Nielson showing up to do some comedy sketches as he tried to locate the missing Undertaker.
This one isn’t any good, mainly because it’s just two guys working the exact same deliberate Undertaker style. Undertaker was a good worker but he needed someone interesting to oppose so that he could have an entertaining match, so working against someone who wrestled exactly the same as him is just dull as dishwater. Even in my younger days when I saw this for the first time I found it boring. Kane worked a bit better as a foe for Taker as he at least had some elements to his act that were his own that differentiated him, but Lee just goes for a straight up Taker impression. Mirror matches aren’t fun in fighting games and that extends to wrestling too. Taker eventually puts Lee away with multiple Tombstone Piledrivers to send him packing
WINNER: THE UNDERTAKER
This was a boring match with a flat crowd and was just an overall bad idea to begin with.
WWF Summer Slam 1995
Champ: Diesel Vs King Mabel w/ Sir Moe
This one came about because they decided they wanted to push Mabel up the card due to his gigantic size, so they had him win the King of the Ring tournament to set him up as a challenger. They actually did a really good storyline on Raw prior to this where the British Bulldog turned heel on Diesel to join in on a heel beat down. Sadly it led to a terrible match between Bulldog and Diesel, but at least the angle itself was really well done.
Diesel actually gets a great reception coming down to the ring. Mabel uses his girth right from the off to put Diesel on the back foot. Diesel slugs back but he can’t get Mabel up for a slam. Diesel delivers some clotheslines and finally a leaping shoulder block to knock Mabel down. Mabel rolls outside, so Diesel actually follows him out with a dive! LUCHA NASH!!
Back inside, Diesel keeps slugging away at the big man but Mabel comes back with an ugly looking Bossman Slam before delivering a sit out but splash right onto Diesel’s lower back. We’ll come back to that move later as it’s quite important. Mabel attempts to apply a camel clutch to the downed Diesel and fails miserably.
Mabel goes for an elbow drop to a grounded Diesel, but he misses and manages to steamroll the referee over in the process. Moe comes in to attack Diesel whilst the referee is down and the heels pound him down two on one. Lex Luger runs down for the save and brawls to the back with Moe, leaving the match one on one.
Mabel gets a belly to belly suplex but Diesel is out at two. Mabel goes up for a splash from the second rope, but Diesel moves and then gets a clothesline off the second rope to bring an end to Mabel’s claims to the title.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: DIESEL
To his credit Diesel was working really hard here to get something out of Mabel, but sadly Mabel’s awfulness was just too much for him to overcome. So you know how I mentioned that the butt splash was quite important? Well, Diesel had made it clear to Mabel prior to the match that he didn’t like that move and didn’t want him to do it. However, Mabel defied him and did the move anyway, thus injuring Diesel in the process. Diesel was understandably furious about this and chewed Mabel out about it following the match. Kevin Nash has even said in interviews that Vince McMahon was willing to fire Mabel on the spot.
Mabel did inevitably keep his job, but his push as a main eventer was well and truly over, a fact that was cemented when he then went on to injure The Undertaker not soon after this, causing him to have to wear a protective mask. If Mabel wasn’t done with the Diesel debacle then he was certainly done after that, and after getting stuffed into a casket at the end of 1995 he was soon sent packing and wouldn’t get regular work in the WWF again until 1999 when he got a gig as Viscera.
WWF Summer Slam 1996
Champ: Shawn Michaels w/ Jose Lothario Vs Vader w/ Jim Cornette
Shawn had been having good matches as the WWF Champ since winning it at WrestleMania XII, but his storyline with the British Bulldog hadn’t been the greatest, so they decided to go with the proven storyline of a big nasty monster heel trying to crush the smaller babyface Champion. Vader was as good a choice for that role as anyone, especially due to how well he’d done in his feuds with the likes of Sting and Ric Flair in WCW. Vader had pinned Michaels in a six man tag in July to officially put him in contention, and discussions were in place for him to eventually dethrone Michaels, either on this show or at a later date.
Shawn gets a big shine on Vader in the early going by using his speed, but Vader is eventually able to block a rana and then follow up by giving Shawn a power bomb on the floor to take over. Vader mauls Shawn back inside the ring, which gives him a chance to bump around and sell to his usual high standard. The long shine also means that Shawn doesn’t lose anything from getting dominated here, whilst Vader getting to lay a whupping on Shawn here helps restore some of his mystique after getting shined on for so long, as he eventually got to grips with Shawn’s speed and has adapted his plan of attack accordingly.
Shawn makes sporadic attempts at a comeback but it always leads to Vader cutting him off again, with the crowd sticking with Shawn during the heat and popping when he is finally able to take the monster down with a clothesline. However, when he goes up for an elbow drop it appears that Vader forgets to move, so Shawn instead lands on his feet next to him and delivers a stomp before chewing him out. Well, that was certainly exceedingly unprofessional on Shawn’s part. If Vader forgets to move then just elbow drop him, that’s punishment enough for him forgetting the spot. You don’t need to verbally castrate him like that too, especially as a match is still going on and you’re supposed to be creating a suspension of disbelief.
Both men tumble over the top rope to the floor, which is a heck of a bump for a man Vader’s size to take, and Vader drops Shawn on the railings out there before rolling in to break the count. Jim Cornette doesn’t want that result to stand however as it means his man Vader won’t win the belt, so he demands the match be restarted. Shawn agrees and the match is on again. This would now be a good opportunity for Vader to crush the already injured Shawn to take the belt and set up rematches, especially as Shawn was being a gutsy fighting Champion who the heels took advantage of, but that’s not the plan here.
Shawn makes the comeback and ends up taking out a tennis racquet wielding Cornette in the process, which leads to him hitting both men with it for the apparent disqualification. However, we’re still not done and the match restarts once again, with Shawn catching Vader with the Sweet Chin Music for two. That kick out helps get Vader over as a dominant force at least, especially as he’d already eaten some shots from the tennis racquet. The ref takes a bump and a Vader power bomb follows, but the delay in getting the new ref into the ring allows Shawn to kick out at two.
You know, I appreciate that them giving Vader two cheap wins, a moment where he kicks out of the Champs finishing move and also a visual pin fall does more for him than just having him rock up and get pinned like he’s just the monster of the month, but this would be so much more effective if it was Shawn getting all of these things only to then get essentially robbed of the belt to set up some big rematches. It’s kind of hollow to do all this for a monster heel, but for an underdog babyface it enhances them. Imagine if Shawn won twice but agreed to keep going at the goading of Cornette, then kicked out of a big Vader move of some sort before getting the visual pin fall, only to then lose when Vader ultimately squished him? You’d have insane heat and would probably have done some good business as Shawn came back to avenge the loss. What we get instead is Vader missing the moonsault and Shawn following up with a moonsault press of his own for the last gasp win.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: SHAWN MICHAELS
This was cooking along nicely until the booking got a bit silly at the end. Still, there was a lot of good action and you’d have to actively try to ruin a match between two guys who are so good at playing their respective roles, so I enjoyed it overall. Discussions happened over Vader winning the belt later in 1996, but that push ended up going to Sid instead and Vader never won the WWF Title. It’s probably the one major Title that eluded him during his career, as I think he won the big belt in every other major company he worked in, both in Japan and the USA (He might not have won the GHC Title now I think of it, but I’m pretty sure he won the IWGP, UWFi and Triple Crown)
WWF Summer Slam 1997
Guest Referee: Shawn Michaels
If Bret Hart loses he can no longer wrestle in the USA
If Shawn is a biased ref who causes Bret to lose unfairly, then he can no longer wrestle in the USA
Champ: The Undertaker Vs Bret Hart
Bret had gone heel at WrestleMania 13 and had put together an anti-American heel stable of himself, Owen Hart, British Bulldog, Brian Pillman and Jim Neidhart. They had mostly been feuding with Stone Cold Steve Austin and his associated allies, but now that Austin was focusing on a feud with Owen specifically, it led to Bret working himself into the WWF Title picture. Despite being the WWF Champion, the issue here is really more to do with Bret and Shawn not liking each other, which kind of relegates Taker to being a bit of a third wheel.
The only Bret Vs Taker match that I’ve ever enjoyed a lot would be their battle at One Night Only later in this year, with this one being in the middle and the snoozer at Royal Rumble 1996 bringing up the rear. However, it’s been a while since I’ve watched this one so it’s possible it might have aged well. Bret dedicates the match to his fellow Canadians, as well as his international fan base, and demands that the Canadian National Anthem be played. I love how just being proud of his country made him such a big heel in America. Due to Bulldog being part of the team and Bret’s popularity over in Europe, I think a few of us in the UK tended to take The Hart Foundation side in their battles, except for whenever they did battle with Stone Cold. For instance I’m sure Owen Hart gets cheered against Vader at One Night Only in their match and Bret gets his fair share of cheers against Taker.
Taker’s whole “explosion whilst raising the lights” entrance was so cool and I wish they’d bring it back. Bret jumpstarts things with a belt shot and we are up and running, with Taker of course fighting back. After the fight on the floor goes Taker’s way, we head back inside where Taker gets a prolonged babyface shine. Everything looks good and Bret sells it well, with them seemingly pushing the idea that Bret’s cheap shot in the early going has gotten Taker all good and riled. Bret responds by targeting the legs, which makes sense from a psychology perspective, as Shawn has been calling it pretty fair thus far.
The crowd is pretty quiet considering the star power in the ring and the fact that Bret was enjoying a good heel run at the time. Paul Bearer comes down to watch and that wakes the crowd up a bit. At this stage Bearer had confirmed that Kane was still alive, but Kane hadn’t debuted as of yet. Taker soon rolls out to clock Bearer, but that allows Bret to chop block him in classic heel style before staying on the legs with the ol’ ring post Figure Four spot. With Bearer dealt with, it’s time for Brian Pillman and Owen Hart to come down to the ring as well, as I’m starting to think that this match is verging on becoming a tad overbooked.
I mean, you have Bret Hart, The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels in there; do you really need to jazz that one up with all the cameos? Bret does some nice methodical work on the legs of Taker, and he sells it well, but eventually he is able to break free and heads out to attack Owen and Pillman before rolling in to deliver a choke slam to Bret. However, Shawn is too busy making sure the heels leave, thus meaning he misses the chance to count and earns Taker’s ire in the process. This match had had some very nice spots and exciting moments, but the meat and potatoes of it all has felt kind of flat for whatever reason.
I have enjoyed the work though, with both guys entering a strong performance on that front. I think the issue being more about Bret Vs Shawn hasn’t helped, as it kind of minimises the Bret Vs Taker moments due to the latter being in more of a supporting role to facilitate the issue between the other two. It also feels to me like the match goes on for a bit too long too, clocking in at over 28 minutes in total. It’s similar to how I felt about the match these two had at Rumble 96 actually. Things do pick up a bit as we enter the home stretch, with Taker choke slamming Bret from the apron back into the ring and Bret replying by managing to give his bigger opponent a superplex.
Taker manages to power out of the Sharpshooter to a big pop and then goes for the Tombstone Piledriver, only for Bret to slip out and go to a previous unseen ring post assisted Sharpshooter of all things. Taker manages to break out of that too, but Shawn takes a bump in the process and that allows Bret to bring a chair into the ring and smash Taker right on the bonce with it for two in a great near fall. Shawn notices the chair once he recovers a bit more and that leads to an argument between he and Bret. Bret spits at Shawn, which causes Shawn to try and take Bret out with the chair, only to clock Taker instead. Bret quickly makes the pin and Shawn reluctantly counts before storming off.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: BRET HART
Oooo the crowd HATED that finish, but in the good “we can’t wait to see Undertaker kill Shawn Michaels and get even with him” way as opposed to “that finish sucked and we’re not watching the show next week” kind of way. The match itself was solid but it was also lacking that something special for me. If they’d shaved it down to 20 minutes instead of going for 28 then they might have had a leaner more exciting outcome. Getting the belt on Bret seemed like a smart idea at the time, but he’d be moved into a secondary position whilst the Shawn and Taker feud took centre stage and the reign itself would end up being pretty forgettable aside from how it ended.
A couple of stinkers this time out but there were also some good matches to even it all out, so I had fun overall.
I’ll hopefully see you all next week for 1998 to 2002!