With SummerSlam a mere 22 hours away, I figured I would post something here that is a bit of a departure for me. I have always enjoyed Scott’s rants on PPV’s, and generally (GENERALLY) find myself in agreement with his star ratings. That is the major reason I stopped reviewing PPV’s many years back. While I know when I am seeing a good match, shit match, or great match, I have always found there are people better suited than me to review the things.
SummerSlam is a different story…
You see, I was born on August 28, 1980. In its first few years, SummerSlam was held on Monday Nights, and always right around my birthday, so SummerSlam almost became a sort of rite of passage for this fan. Even more so than WrestleMania, I hold SummerSlam near and dear to my heart. I want to make clear, this is not some hacky Bleacher Report top 5 match shiftest that festoons that bastion of online journalistic credibility. (Most writers there seem either blissfully ignorant on the history of the game…or their balls just dropped.) This is a top 5 list from a fan who has seen every SummerSlam, someone who, from the time he (I) was eight, have ritually looked forward to the end of summer spectacle. And, to be fair, I, as a fan, have my own likes (Bret Hart) and dislikes (Shawn Michaels). I normally just do synopsis’ of books (yeah, to all you guys who point it out…they are not necessarily reviews, I just try to point out the good and bad of the books and let the reader of the review decide if they want to read it or not). But seeing as SummerSlam is my favorite PPV, and seeing I could not get anywhere around Boston tonight (Yankees-Red Sox at Fenway, UFC at the faux-Garden), I figured I would try something a little different, a departure for this writer. Bear in mind, I haven’t written too many features like this in the last 13 years. But, fuck it. Love it, hate it, deride me, whatever, off we go:
5. The Rockers and Tito Santana vs. The Fabulous Rougeaus and Rick Martel. SummerSlam 89
A sleeper coming in at number five. Santana and Martel had been featured as the lukewarm face team Strike Force, who had stormed the tag team division after Tom Zenk left the WWF and his partnership with Martel as the Can Am Connection. WWF figured Santana a quick, easy, capable replacement…but the fans shit on it in short order. The highlight of WrestleMania IV was Demolition mercy killing Strike Force’s WWF Tag Title reign, after Strike Force had beaten the immensely over Hart Foundation. Martel was injured for the better part of a year, and he teased dissension with Chico. A year later, they reformed to the thrill of almost no one, and Strike Force took on the Brain Busters at Mania V. It was in that match Martel turned on Santana and began a “blood feud” (as if) with his former partner. Meanwhile, The Rockers, still firmly on the low end of the tag team totem pole in WWF, engaged the Rougeau Brothers (on their last legs) in a series of great house show matches, many of which were broadways, some even 60 minutes. Combine the two lukewarm feuds, and you get this six man. Nothing was really expected here, as most fans were looking forward to the epic Zeus/Savage-Beefcake/Hogan main, and Warrior-Rude. Everything else was essentially filler. I debated going with this match or Brainbusters-Hart Foundation, but, as this list is revealed, I decided to go with this match. The match does not have a slow point, even with Martel, who became such a slug for a while in his “Model” character. Just a fun, fun match worth tracking down. Dynamite Kid and Bret Hart disapprove.
Cucch’s Rating: ****1/4
4. Intercontinental Title: Bret Hart(c) vs. Davey Boy Smith, SummerSlam 92
Many call this the greatest SummerSlam match of all time, and, honestly, I cannot begrudge those who do. It is a fantastic, old school, pure as pure can be scientific wrestling match. As a youngster, I was always pissed, because this was the ONE SummerSlam I missed. But I cannot be too pissed about it, because as a birthday gift, my parents decided to take me to Cooperstown, NY. The Baseball Hall of Fame. You give something to get something, and in this case, I gave up SummerSlam to gain the greatest vacation of my young life. I may be well versed in wrestling, a huge fan, but Baseball is second to none to this guy, and it was much the same 21 years ago. I got to see Doubleday Field (the birthplace of baseball….riiiiiiiiiiiiiiight), the Hall of Fame (if you are a baseball fan, an absolute MUST), and, hell, I even got to see future WWF Superstar Pete Rose selling autographs on the outskirts of town. But MAN was I pissed I didn’t get to see Davey-Bret. On top of it, my local video store, who carried EVERY wrestling video, NWA, WCW, WWF, EVERYTHING….did not have SummerSlam 92. It wasn’t until I was right out of High School, in 1998, that I first saw the match (pre You Tube kiddies..we all remember those days…tape trading). I loved the match upon initial viewing, but, to be honest, I did not agree with The Netcop’s assessment of that match. In 98, I was just becoming privy to the online fanbase. I was more involved with ECW at that point (for shame) and, while I thought it was a good match, I felt it overrated. Now, I still feel it is a little overrated, but since reading Bret’s book (still the best), I can see what Bret was getting at. This is the all time carry job of carry jobs. Watch Bret try to hit a Pescado (why is a high flying move over the top to the floor named after a fish?) on Davey. Davey has no fucking clue what is going on, and Bret has to adjust in mid-air just to give him a fairly ugly looking bulldog. My word man. Bret was at the height of his powers here, and, while he certainly got Davey over, Bret Hart MADE himself with this match. Still damned good, but I actually prefer their IYH match over this. The difference? 82,000 fans.
Cucch’s Rating: ****1/4
3. Intercontinental Title: Ladder Match: Rock (c) vs. HHH, SummerSlam 1998
I had a dilemma here. SummerSlam 95 had a fantastic ladder match with Razor and Shawn. But by that point, Shawn was a made man, Razor was sliding down the card, and, fairly or unfairly, it was not QUITE what their first ladder match was. THAT MATCH is an all timer. Their SummerSlam 95 match was excellent, but did not have the long term ramifications that this one had.
Rock had recently found his groove as a badass, irritating heel. HHH, long a shit ass heel turned HBK lackey, had become the insanely popular leader of the new DX. Rock was now leading the formerly militant Nation. HHH was a hot face, Rock a hot heel. Both were in the early primes of their career. Something had to give.
The result was this masterpiece. Many fans point to the initial Razor-HBK ladder match as the finest. Many mention Jericho-Benoit at Rumble 01 as the best. Both amazing matches. But no Ladder Match in history has served to elevate two people quite like this one. It was obvious to everyone watching this affair. Scott actually stated in his review of this match, way back 15 years ago, that this match would MAKE both guys. Is that prescient or what? Anyway, young Rock and young Hunter just fucking brutalize the holy hell out of eachother with the ladder, to the point where HHH was incapacitated (literally) with a serious knee injury. Rock took some MANLY bumps, including one dropkick to the ladder to Rock’s face that busted him hardway. Even Chyna and Mark Henry’s interference MEANT something here. To this day, I consider this Ladder Match one of the top three of all time, along with Jericho-Benoit Rumble 99, and Jericho-Michaels 08. Fantastic shit.
Cucch’s Rating: ****3/4
2. Intercontinental Title: Mr. Perfect (c) vs. Bret Hart
Revisionist history in wrestling is rampant. Hulk Hogan and Vince McMahon maintain that Andre the Giant passed the torch to the Hulkster at Mania 3, despite Hogan drawing millions on his own and Andre’s best days being behind him. The examples are limitless. Yet, here is an absolute passing of the torch moment, albeit in the midcard.
Bret Hart had recently separated from longtime Hart Foundation partner Jim Neidhart after their WrestleMania 7 loss to The Nasty Boys (Neidhart ate the pin). Mr. Perfect was the barometer of the midcard, the standard bearer. Whereas the IC title is nothing more than a prop, a joke these days, back in 1991, it meant something. It meant you were the wrestling workhorse of the company, the guy who, if called upon, could go an hour, could make anyone look good or credible, the guy who would set up the next challenger for the WWF Title. And Mr. Perfect, Curt Hennig, in this fans mind, was the greatest Intercontinental Champion to ever inhabit this Earth.
Bret was nothing at this point. He was an upper-mid-carder who had just let go of his tag partner of 6 years. Sure, he had a great look, fantastic physique, and really good workrate. But Mr. P was a cut above, and, even as a ten going on 11 year old, I could realize that. Could Bret pull this off?
In a word: Yes.
The match is still celebrated in WWF lore, and I still celebrate it every year. August 26, 1991. For this fan, the 1991 SummerSlam is still the greatest. Boss Man putting Mountie in the slammer. Virgil finally giving DiBiase his comeuppance. The Match Made in Hell, the Match Made in Heaven. Fun stuff for a kid like me. But the lynchpin, the draw of the event, was Bret and Perfect. Their styles dovetailed much like Steamboat and Flair, and the end result was an all time classic people still talk about to this day, 22 years later. Bret reversed a silly Hennig legdrop into his brand new Sharpshooter, and Earl Hebner famously rang the bell, rang that fucking bell, way too soon to make Bret the IC Champ, back when that title MEANT something besides being a JTTS, as it is utilized currently. Mr. Perfect would sit out most of the next year plus, while Bret would go on to bigger and better things. THIS is a true passing of the torch moment.
Cucch’s Rating: ****1/2 (KOTR 93 was a better match, but this was more significant.)
1. WWF Title, Steel Cage: Bret Hart (c) vs. Owen Hart, SummerSlam 94
On an otherwise forgettable card, this was the crown jewel. Sure, Razor beat buddy Diesel with assistance from NFL Legend Walter Payton. (Really, Walter should have stiff armed the FUCK out of HBK). That was fun. Undertaker-Underfaker was abysmal. SummerSlam 94 is truly a one match show. WWF was in the midst of its no blood no matter what policy period, plus Bret and Owen did not want to give their mother a heart attack with a bloodbath. What they created was something truly special. Now, most fans (including myself), when they see the steel cage, they want blood, they want carnage. They want Magnum-Tully Starrcade 85. Bret vs. Owen was the antithesis of that. Instead, they made the story of the match the chase to get out of the cage. And my word. These two all world workers birthed from the same womb delivered. There were no cage shots, there was very little in the way of outward violence. Instead, these two talented brothers told a story, and it was magnificent. False escape after false escape…I must agree with Bret Hart’s assessment of the match: It is far from the best cage match ever, but it is the best without blood. (Well, Angle-Benoit was pretty good…but still…). Bret won the match in a fantastic fashion, but the post match happenings really lend to it. The entire Hart family was ringside, and Jim Neidhart (then a heel aligned with Owen) charged the ring, knocking Davey and wife Diana (which pissed Bret and Owen off) over the guardrail. Owen and Neidhart beat the pulp out of Bret with the cage locked….while the rest of the Hart family scaled the cage! It was an awesome main event, an awesome moment, and a great way to end a PPV.
Its a shame Undertaker vs. Undertaker ended that PPV….