Friday, July 27, 2018

The History of WWE SummerSlam, part 2 (1991-1993)

Picking up where I left off in Part 1, here's the second installment of's History of SummerSlam.....

SummerSlam '91 - Madison Square Garden - 8/26/91

The mediocrity continued with SummerSlam '91, which many fans strangely hail as a classic.  I'll grant that it was a somewhat stacked show where multiple feuds were blown off, but there's very little good wrestling here.  The Savage-Elizabeth wedding angle also took up way too much time and probably should've happened on free TV to set up Savage's return to the ring.

The main event was the continuation of one of the least fun feuds in wrestling history, Hogan vs. Sgt. Slaughter.  I cannot believe the WWF was still trying to exploit the Persian Gulf War six months after it ended.  Just pitiful.  This time it was Hogan teaming with Warrior against Slaughter, Col. Mustafa (a repackaged Iron Sheik, as though we wouldn't recognize him), and Slaughter's manager Gen. Adnan.  Here's a question, if Slaughter was the lowest ranked of the trio, why was he the leader?  Anyway the match stunk and was notable only for the inclusion of Sid Justice as the guest referee, and for being Warrior's last match for a while after backstage contractual shenanigans led to his firing.

The match this show is most remembered for was Mr. Perfect vs. Bret Hart for the I-C Title.  This would be Perfect's final match for over a year as nagging injuries forced him to the sidelines.  This match was quite good (though I don't rate it as highly as most do), and Bret's singles career took off from this point.  Given how much pain he was in, Perfect did a helluva job elevating "The Hitman."

Perfect submitted the second the hold was applied.
Given his real-life back issues this is not surprising.

The Legion of Doom would complete their Tag Team Championship trilogy by defeating the Nasty Boys in a Chicago Street Fight, which has to go down as the tamest No-DQ match ever.  Hardly any weapons factored into this match and it went a whopping six minutes.  Still it was great to see Hawk & Animal become the only team to win the AWA, NWA and WWF Tag belts.

The other two big blowoff matches were The Big Bossman defeating The Mountie in a "loser spends the night in jail" match that was really only memorable for the post-match antics (Jacques Rougeau played the chickenshit heel to perfection as he was dragged literally kicking and screaming into his cell); and Ted Dibiase vs. former bodyguard Virgil for the Million Dollar Belt.  Not much of note there either.

There were a few other forgettable matches and several prominent talents left off the show altogether, such as The Rockers, The Undertaker and Jake Roberts (I know, Taker and Jake were used for the wedding reception angle, but still).

The wedding angle was a typical staged wrestling wedding but this time featured two beloved stars.  Again, this should've aired on free TV, maybe on Saturday Night's Main Event.  Then the post-wedding angle with Jake and Taker crashing the reception could've aired that same night instead of a week later.

The best part about this angle was Savage repeatedly saying, during the
weeks leading up to it, "I'M GETTING MARRIED!"

WWF PPVs in 1991 weren't much better than the 1990 PPVs, and this show falls right into that pattern.  Only slightly better than 'Slam '90, this show featured a very good I-C Title match and not much else of note.

Best Match: Mr. Perfect vs. Bret Hart (Bret was definitely Mr. SummerSlam back in those days)
Worst Match: Natural Disasters vs. Bushwhackers (noteworthy only for being Andre the Giant's final WWF appearance)
What I'd Change: Put the wedding on a SNME episode a few weeks later to set up Savage's in-ring return at Survivor Series (ya know, instead of using Survivor Series as an ad for Tuesday in Texas?) and book Taker, Jake and The Rockers in various matches.
Most Disappointing Match: Nasty Boys vs. Legion of Doom - I knew LOD would win the belts here but the match was totally forgettable.  They really should've had LOD beat the Hart Foundation at WM7.
Most Pleasant Surprise: Again, no real positive surprises here.
Overall Rating: 3.5/10
Better than WrestleMania VII? - No

SummerSlam '92 - Wembley Stadium - 8/29/92

Now this is a fuckin' SummerSlam.  The 1992 edition was not only the best PPV of the year, but would remain the best SummerSlam PPV until at least 1997.  This show featured two very good to excellent main event matches, some decent midcard bouts, and very little filler.

The World Title match between Randy Savage and Warrior probably wasn't quite up to their WM7 match, but this was still good stuff.  The face vs. face dynamic added a new wrinkle and these two both worked hard to pull off an epic.  Inserting Ric Flair and Mr. Perfect into this angle was pretty stupid, as the feud became a bickering contest about which babyface sold out by hiring Mr. Perfect.  As it turned out the answer was "neither."  Flair and Perfect showed up and more or less ruined the ending of the match.  I'm actually not sure why Flair wasn't given his own match for this show.  Still a fine WWF Title match, even if it would be massively upstaged later in the evening.

These two were really fighting over who
had the more obnoxious outfit.

The undercard featured a few good bouts.  The Legion of Doom defeated Money Inc. in the opener, and then disappeared from WWF television until 1997; former Demolition partners Crush and Repo Man (Smash) had a brief but fun little nothing match; and Shawn Michaels and Rick Martel had a terribly entertaining heel vs. heel match while competing for Sherri Martel's affections.

The rest of the undercard wasn't much to look at.  Nailz squashed Virgil, Earthquake & Typhoon defeated the Beverly Brothers, and The Undertaker beat Kamala by DQ in a pointlessly short bout.

But the main event of the show still holds up as one of the best matches of all time.  Bret Hart and Davey Boy Smith unexpectedly got to close the show for the Intercontinental Title, and created an in-ring masterpiece.  Legend has it that Davey was very hungover for this match and had to rely heavily on Bret to guide him through, but you'd never know by watching it.  Bret and Davey gelled perfectly and delivered a 25-minute technical classic.  The match was built around the backdrop of intra-family tension between Bret, his sister Diana, and Diana's husband Davey.  Despite being another face vs. face match, Bret played the heel here, allowing Davey to be the conquering hero in his home country.  Bret may have lost but this match cemented his status as a worthy main eventer, and almost directly led to him winning his first WWF Championship.  This is just an awesome bout.

All kinds of BOSS.

1992 marked a real turning point in the WWF product where the giant musclebound superheroes were being phased out in favor of smaller, more athletic wrestlers like Bret and Shawn, who could put on great 20-25 minute wrestling matches.  SummerSlam '92 is a great illustration of this, as the Bret Hart era really began here.

Best Match: Bret Hart vs. Davey Boy Smith
Worst Match: Nailz vs. Virgil
What I'd Change: Book Ric Flair in an actual match.  It's a shame the Triple Threat match hadn't been invented yet, because Savage vs. Warrior vs. Flair would've been a no-brainer.
Most Disappointing Match: Undertaker vs. Kamala - Why this only went three minutes I don't know.  Not that I was expecting a classic, but this was barely even a match.
Most Pleasant Surprise: That Warrior didn't win the WWF Title.  Going into this I was sure he'd end up with the belt.  I wanted to see Savage keep it for a while longer, so I was relieved he got to retain.  Of course he dropped it back to Flair two weeks later, but that's beside the point.
Overall Rating: 8/10
Better than WrestleMania VIII? - Yes

SummerSlam '93 - Palace of Auburn Hills - 8/30/93

Here's a show steeped in mediocrity.  SummerSlam '93 is an odd case of a PPV event providing neither highs nor lows.  Every match except one (Undertaker vs. Giant Gonzales) is watchable, but almost none of them are memorable.

The big story going into this show was the rise of Lex Luger as the All-American hero who bodyslammed Yokozuna on the 4th of July.  Luger had been using the goofy Narcissist heel persona that understandably didn't light the world afire, and with the departure of Hulk Hogan the company felt it needed another musclebound superhero to build the company around.  Luger toured the country in a bus to promote the event, and all signs pointed to him becoming the next WWF Champion and posterboy.

The match itself was underwhelming.  It wasn't a bad match per se, but also not terribly exciting.  Luger winning the Championship would've at least provided the big moment the bout (and PPV) needed but strangely the company didn't pull the trigger, instead booking a countout win for Luger, complete with a post-match victory celebration generally reserved for an actual Title win.  This moment was just baffling; Luger and other babyfaces basking in the glory of his All-American countout.  Just bizarre.

YAAAAYYYY!!  Congratulations Lex, on winning........nothing.

The undercard featured a few pretty good matches but again, nothing past 3-star territory.  The highlight of the night was WWF Tag Champs The Steiners vs. The Heavenly Bodies, in a very good undercard tag bout.  Also strong was Bret Hart, mired in midcard doldrums, taking on Doink the Clown, who subbed for the "injured" Jerry Lawler.  Bret and Doink had a solid match which led to Lawler's injury being exposed as a fake.  Bret then had a brief match with Lawler which didn't amount to much at all.

The Intercontinental Title match, which should've been epic, saw Shawn Michaels defending against Mr. Perfect.  HBK vs. Perfect.  Read that and just think about how ungodly awesome that match would be.  Yeah well, it wasn't.  Perfect seemed unmotivated and Shawn was uncharacteristically out of shape, leading to a banal affair that also ended in a countout.  Really?  Both singles Championship matches decided by a countout??

Yikes, Shawn was HUNGRY in those days.

The rest of the show consisted of RAW-caliber matches: Razor Ramon vs. Ted Dibiase, Marty Janetty vs. Ludvig Borga, IRS vs. 1-2-3 Kid, and a six-man pitting Tatanka & The Smoking Gunns vs. Bam Bam Bigelow & The Headshrinkers.  Nothing of note there.

SummerSlam '93 was a PPV where basically nothing important happened.  When it was over everything was pretty much as it had been the week before.  No titles changed hands, no new feuds were born, no old feuds were resolved, and no matches were must-see.  Lex Luger became a main event WWF star briefly, but that's about it.  Seven months later he was a midcarder again.

Best Match: Steiners vs. Heavenly Bodies
Worst Match: Undertaker vs. Giant Gonzales - Seriously, this feud started in January of '93 and didn't end until August.  Seven months of just putrid drivel, spread over three PPVs.  Coincidentally seven months is how long each of their matches felt.
What I'd Change: I mean I'd probably actually have Luger win the belt I guess.  If you're trying to create the next Hulk Hogan you can't have him come up short in his first attempt,right?
Most Disappointing Match: Shawn Michaels vs. Mr. Perfect - How they screwed this one up I'll never know.
Most Pleasant Surprise: I guess Bret Hart vs. Doink?
Overall Rating: 6/10
Better than WrestleMania IX? - Yes, this sucky ending is still way better than WM9's sucky ending.

Part 1                                                                                                                                                Part 3

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