Friday, July 7, 2023

The History of WWE SummerSlam (1989)

Welcome back to our History of SummerSlam series!  We're picking up where we left off, with the second edition, for me a considerable improvement on the first....

SummerSlam '89 - Meadowlands Arena - 8/28/89

The sophomore 'Slam holds a special place for me.  It was far from a perfect show but at the time it just felt like a big deal, and from a star power perspective it was a pretty stacked PPV.  I was at the Saturday Night's Main Event taping a month prior when the company started building in earnest toward SummerSlam, so I really got into the hype for this show.

Following the tag team main event template from the previous year's show, the WWF continued the huge MegaPowers feud by teaming Hulk Hogan up with Brutus Beefcake against Randy Savage and Hogan's onscreen nemesis in the film No Holds Barred, Zeus.  The fact that WWF Champion Hogan's main feud for the summer of 1989 was against costar "Tiny" Lister who, according to the storyline "became lost in the character," was truly moronic.  But they built Zeus up as an invincible killing machine who was impervious to chair shots.  Sadly they didn't bother teaching him how to wrestle, as his moveset consisted of choking, punching his opponents' trapezius muscles, and more choking.  The match itself was very similar to the 'Slam '88 main event, but not as good.  Savage worked hard to make the match exciting though, and despite one of the stupidest endings ever (Hogan completely no-sold Savage's elbowsmash and then knocked Zeus out with Sensational Sherri's tiny purse - what was in there, a roll of uranium quarters??) it was still a fun, dumb 80s main event.

Watch your junk goin' over those ropes, Zeusy-boy.

The undercard however had a triumvirate of awesome bouts.
In the opener, new WWF Tag Champs Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard wrestled The Hart Foundation in one of my all-time favorite tag matches.  These were the two best teams in the company at the time and they completely tore it up.  Not sure why this wasn't a Title match if the Harts were gonna lose anyway, but whatever, it's still boss.  Best WWF match of the year says I!

This move always blew me away.
Neidhart slammed his own partner on top of Tully.

SummerSlam '89 featured two big six-man tag matches, one of which was great - The Rockers & Tito Santana vs. The Rougeaus & Rick Martel.  This match was action-packed and incredibly fast-paced.  All kinds of great teamwork and reversals here.

The final killer match on this card was I-C Champ Rick Rude defending against The Ultimate Warrior.  Their 'Mania 5 bout was strong, but this match blew that one away.  16 minutes of excellent power wrestling resulting in Warrior's second I-C Title, plus it marked the beginning of Roddy Piper's comeback as his distraction of Rude ended up costing him the title.

The rest of the show ranged from mediocre (Ted Dibiase vs. Jimmy Snuka, Mr. Perfect vs. Red Rooster) to bad (Dusty Rhodes vs. Honky Tonk Man, Demolition/Jim Duggan vs. Twin Towers/Andre), but there wasn't anything really offensive on this show, and the three great matches plus the entertaining-if-silly main event made up for all the shortcomings.

Best Match: Brain Busters vs. Hart Foundation
Worst Match: Honky Tonk Man vs. Dusty Rhodes
What I'd Change: Given what a flop No Holds Barred would end up, I would've elevated a new monster heel WRESTLER to align with Savage.  Zeus really had no business in a wrestling ring.
Most Disappointing Match: The Demolition six-man.  This looked to be an epic match but only went about 6 minutes or so.  Also on paper, Mr. Perfect vs. Terry Taylor looked pretty good.  However since Taylor's gimmick at the time was to act like a male chicken that kinda ruined it.
Most Pleasant Surprise: I actually wasn't looking forward to Warrior vs. Rude.  I enjoyed their first match but was a little sick of both guys by SummerSlam.  As it turned out this was one of both guys' best bouts.
Overall Rating: 7.5/10
Better than WrestleMania V? - Yes


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