What the World Was Watching: SummerSlam 1997

by Logan Scisco

So after a six week
or so absence I’m back.  My reviews got
backed up because of some graduate work and some teaching responsibilities, but
we pick back up with the 1997 edition of SummerSlam.  Heading into the pay-per-view the WWF gang
wars were heating up between the Nation of Domination, Los Boricuas, and the
Disciples of Apocalypse, Steve Austin was becoming the top guy in the company,
the Undertaker’s secret of allegedly killing his mother and father was revealed
by Paul Bearer, who also revealed that the Undertaker’s brother Kane was alive,
and the Hart Foundation had lots of enemies, including, but not limited to,
Shawn Michaels, Austin, Ken Shamrock, Goldust, and the Legion of Doom.  There’s also a lingering feud between Mankind
and Hunter Hearst Helmsley that has been going on since the King of the Ring.

It should be said
that this pay-per-view has the best video package in WWF history as it discusses
how “life isn’t fair” in the WWF.
Vince McMahon, Jim
Ross, and Jerry “the King” Lawler are in the booth and they are live from East
Rutherford, New Jersey.
Opening Steel
Cage Contest:  Mankind defeats Hunter
Hearst Helmsley (w/Chyna) by climb out at 16:13:
Mick Foley reverts to his original WWF gimmick for the
blowoff of the summer feud with his biggest rival in the company.  Escape rules are in effect for this match and
the cage is in use to keep Chyna away, but she gets involved on several occasions
by choking Mankind with a chain and then crotching him on the top of the cage
so Helmsley can hit a superplex.  Helmsley
could leave and win after that, but refuses to do so and Mankind takes a series
of sick head-first bumps into the cage. 
In a creative spot, Helmsley locks his legs into the cage to block a
suplex when Mankind lifts him above his head, but Mankind breaks the suplex and
then crashes into Helmsley as he dangles from the cage.  When Helmsley gets caught in the ropes,
Mankind goes for the door, but Chyna slams the cage door into Mankind’s face,
tosses the referee into the steps, and tosses Helmsley a chair, but Mankind
blocks a Pedigree on it and slingshots Helmsley into the cage, which sends
Chyna, who is hanging onto the cage, into the guardrail.  Mankind climbs out, but right before he gets
to the bottom he tosses off his mask and climbs to the top of the cage, rips
open his shirt, and delivers an elbow drop off the top of it to mimic his hero
Jimmy Snuka before leaving for good. 
This was a very spot-oriented cage match and the escape rules hurt it,
as they do most cage matches, but the spots were fun and the ending sequence
sent the crowd into a frenzy.  Rating: 
***½
After the match,
as Mankind lay on the ground outside of the cage, Dude Love’s music plays over
the loud speakers and that gets Mankind back to his feet and he dances to the
back
.
Kevin Kelly and
Sunny hype the Superstar line.  Call
1-900-737-4WWF to speak to the wrestlers after their matches tonight!
Todd Pettengill
interviews New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman, who gets booed out of the
building.  Whitman’s elimination of an
entertainment tax on pro wrestling led to this SummerSlam being brought to New
Jersey.  WWF President Gorilla Monsoon
presents her with a replica WWF title belt as McMahon hypes her as a possible
president, which shows how dated this show is.
Tiger Ali Singh is
shown in the crowd with Tiger Jeet Singh
.
Footage of the
SummerSlam Party in the Continental Airlines Arena parking lot from earlier in
the day is shown
.
Brian Pillman cuts
a pre-taped promo saying that he doesn’t plan on wearing a dress.
Goldust
(w/Marlena) pins “The Loose Cannon” Brian Pillman with a sunset flip after
Marlena decks Pillman with her purse at 7:16:
The stipulation for this match is that if Pillman loses
he has to wear a dress and presumably, Jim Neidhart has to shave off his goatee
since Neidhart said he would do so if any member of the Hart Foundation
lost  a match on the show.  Outside of the stipulation, there isn’t a lot
to add interest to the match, even when Pillman DDT’s Goldust on the arena
floor.  Goldust nearly breaks his neck on
a sunset flip, but he can’t abort doing the move because it’s the finishing
sequence, so he grabs Pillman’s legs until Marlena interjects herself to
produce the ending.  After the match,
Pillman throws a tantrum over having to wear a dress tomorrow night.  This match did not build any momentum and was
a big mess.  Rating:  *
Call 815-734-1161
to get your SummerSlam 1997 t-shirt for $25 (plus $6 shipping & handling)!
-The Legion of Doom
cut a promo where they tell the Godwinns that payback will be hell
.
The Legion of
Doom defeat The Godwinns when Hawk pins Henry after a spike piledriver at 9:15:
This is a small feud started when the LOD broke Henry
Godwinn’s neck a few months back on Shotgun Saturday Night.  The Godwinns go for some cheap heat by
taunting fans with a Confederate flag. 
The match gets off to a good start, as both teams brawling styles nicely
complement each other, but Phineas slows the match down in the middle.  Hawk gets the hot tag and the LOD push their
way to victory shortly thereafter.  This
would have been a very serviceable match if they had only given it five
minutes.  Rating:  *½
Pettengill, Sable,
and Sunny host the Million Dollar Challenge contest, but no one picks the
correct key to open the casket with one million dollars so no one wins, which
had to be a relief to McMahon considering the company’s finances at the
time.  There is a funny moment when one
of the contestants that they call isn’t even watching the pay-per-view
.
A video package
chronicles the British Bulldog-Ken Shamrock feud
.
European
Championship Match:  The British Bulldog
(Champion) defeats Ken Shamrock by disqualification when Shamrock nails the
Bulldog with a can of dog food at 7:27:
The special Hart Foundation stipulation on this match is
that if the Bulldog loses he will eat a can of dog food.  There is some great intensity to start the
match, as Shamrock wastes little time going after the Bulldog, but the Bulldog
slows it all down by reverting to a succession of chinlocks.  The Bulldog tosses some dog food in Shamrock’s
face on the floor and that causes Shamrock to snap and get disqualified because
a can of dog food classifies as a foreign object (or would it be an “international
object” in WCW’s case?).  After the
match, Shamrock chokes out the Bulldog and then gives Pat Patterson, Gerald
Brisco, and a host of other WWF referees belly-to-belly suplexes when they get
him off of the Bulldog.  This was much
more suited for Monday Night Raw than SummerSlam, but the crowd really got into
Shamrock going crazy.  Rating: 
**
Pettengill interviews
Shawn Michaels, who says that his issues with Bret Hart were settled at
WrestleMania XII when he beat him.  He
promises to call tonight’s main event down the middle
.
A video package
hypes the WWF gang wars, centering most of its attention on the Disciples of
Apocalypse and Los Boricuas.
Los Boricuas defeats
The Disciples of Apocalypse when Miguel Perez pins Chainz after an elbow drop
at 9:07:
Looking back, this gang wars feud did relatively little
for anyone involved in it and the big stars of this match have to be Skull and
8-Ball, who managed to stick around into late 1998 with their existing
gimmick.  Everyone else was jobber fodder
or out of the company by that point. 
Ross’s job during the match is to be a point man for who is fighting
who, since McMahon keeps messing it up, but after a few minutes Ross just gives
up.  This would have been better booked
as a street fight, since it was more in keeping with the gang wars and would
have worked around some of the limitations of the participants.  The Nation of Domination marches down to
ringside through the crowd to create another distraction and thereby prevent anything
from really developing in this match.  Chainz
is knocked out of the ring and when he punches Ahmed Johnson he is on the
receiving end of a Pearl River Plunge on the floor and Savio Vega rolls Chainz
in, where Miguel Perez delivers an elbow drop and covers for the victory.  After the match, all the gangs fight each
other before the camera crews get tired of covering it.  This was awful, as action happened in the
ring but mattered little and since it didn’t matter it was a chore to watch.  Rating:  DUD
A video package
hypes the Owen Hart-Steve Austin Intercontinental title match
.
Michael Cole tries
to interview Steve Austin on his way to the ring, but Austin tells him to get
out of his way or he is going to kick his ass.
Intercontinental
Championship Match:  “Stone Cold” Steve
Austin defeats Owen Hart (Champion) with a school boy to win the title at 16:15:
Austin continues his slow climb up the card in this match
as he gets a crack at the Intercontinental title and a chance to avenge taking
the pin to Owen at Canadian Stampede. 
This is also a quasi-“kiss my ass” match, as Austin promised to do so if
he lost to Owen in this match.  Owen
tries to immediately go for the legs, but Austin fights him off and a great
technical battle ensues with lots of counters and believable near-falls.  In the midst of Austin fighting out of a
chinlock and Owen getting out of a tilt-a-whirl, Owen delivers an inverted
piledriver, not the tombstone piledriver that the two had agreed to prior to
the match, and Austin goes noticeably limp. 
Owen tries to bide time and he taunts the crowd, which enables Austin to
carefully crawl over and weakly school boy Owen to win his first WWF singles
title.  It’s amazing that Austin was able
to finish the match in any way and this match is a reminder to all wrestlers of
the things that can do wrong in the course of a match.  That single piledriver nearly changed the
entire course of WWF history, as the loss of Austin could have destroyed an
entire year’s worth of booking and perhaps prevented the company from
overtaking WCW in 1998.  Thankfully for
Austin he was able to resume his in-ring career by November, but the neck injury
shortened his career and made him more of a brawler than the technical wrestler
he had once been.  It’s tough to rate the
match since it had to stop halfway through, but up to the piledriver it was
working up a good pace.  Rating: 
***½
After the match,
you can tell something is wrong because three officials come to the ring to
help Austin and get him to the locker room, but true to Austin form he leaves
on his own two feet and isn’t stretchered out
.
A video package
hypes the Bret Hart-Undertaker main event
.
The announcers
discuss the evening’s WWF title match
.
WWF Championship
Match:  Bret “the Hitman” Hart defeats
The Undertaker (Champion) to win the title after Shawn Michaels inadvertently
hit the Undertaker with a chair at 28:19:
There are lots of stipulations in this match.  If Bret loses, he promises not to wrestle in
the United States again.  Shawn Michaels,
Bret’s mortal enemy, is the special guest referee for this match, but if he
fails to call the match fairly then he will not wrestle in the United States
again either.  The Undertaker is sort of
the odd man out in this match, as the Bret-Shawn issue completely overshadows
him, and his title reign since WrestleMania has been lackluster and devoid of
quality opponents.  The Undertaker’s
issue with Paul Bearer has nothing to do with this match either, so his only motivation
is defending the title and while that might be enough for some, the lack of a
clear direction for the Undertaker with the title after this made a title
switch here fairly predictable. 
Continuing his metamorphosis into Nikolai Volkoff 2.0, Bret demands that
the crowd stand for the Canadian national anthem.  Bret has an entertaining spin on looking at
the WWF title before the match, as he takes it out of Michaels hands, poses
with it, and then clocks the Undertaker to kick off the match.  The Undertaker goes for Bret’s back, but Bret
survives the onslaught and targets the Undertaker’s left leg as this match
starts to resemble their 1996 Royal Rumble encounter, dead crowd and all.  Paul Bearer makes a short appearance to wake
them up and he distracts the Undertaker after a figure-four, which allows Bret to
keep the advantage.  After enduring
almost seven minutes of leg damage, the Undertaker rallies to plant Bret with a
chokeslam, but Michaels is distracted by trying to send Owen Hart and Brian
Pillman, who have wandered out to ringside, to the locker room.  Bret tries to take advantage of the Undertaker’s
anger at the lack of a count with a school boy, but that only gets two.  After enduring about ten “moves of doom,” the
Undertaker mounts a rally, forgetting the leg damage as he delivers a flying
clothesline and a leg drop, but Bret crotches him when he goes for the rope
walk and hits a superduperplex, which allows him to lock in the
Sharpshooter.  However, the Undertaker
kicks out of the move, but Bret escapes the Tombstone and locks in a sloppy
Sharpshooter with the help of the ring post. 
When the Undertaker kicks out of that, Bret goes crashing into Michaels
on the floor, but that enables Bret to grab a chair and smash the Undertaker in
the face with it.  Michaels comes into
the ring to make the count, but he gets in too late, so it’s only a two count
and Bret is not happy.  Michaels
confronts Bret about the chair, leading Bret to spit on Michaels, which hits
him in the face and not on the shirt as intended if you believe Bret’s
autobiography, and Michaels in anger swings the chair, which clocks the Undertaker
when Bret ducks and Bret captures his then-record tieing fifth WWF championship
when Michaels reluctantly counts the pin. 
I did not care for the Undertaker forgetting some of the psychology as
the match went along, but this match still told a great story of Bret trying
his conventional offense and when it didn’t work descending into heel tactics
and when that faltered, using Michaels hatred of him to his advantage to win
the contest.  This match also set up a
great fall feud between the Undertaker and Michaels, of which Bret would get
inserted at the end, thereby becoming the odd man out like the Undertaker was
in this contest.  Rating:  ****
The Final Report Card:  This show is quite hit or miss.  The bad stuff is bad, but the good stuff is
quite good and when the show finishes you remember more about the good than the
bad, mostly because Austin-Owen and Bret-Undertaker are memorable contests and
you don’t forget Foley jumping off the cage early in the night either.  That alone makes this a thumbs up.
Attendance: 
20,213
Buyrate:  0.80
Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Up