The SmarK Rant for WWF Summerslam 1997

– Live from East Rutherford, New Jersey. State motto: “You have the right to remain silent.”

– Your hosts are Vince, Jerry and good ol’ JR.

– Opening match: Hunter Hearst Helmsley v. Mankind (cage match). Ah, the days before conspiracies, breast implants and videos featuring HHH saying “shit” as many times as humanly possible. These two had an inconclusive match at Canadian Stampede to set this up and would later fight another two thirds of a trilogy, culminating with the WWF debut of Cactus Jack. Hunter had zero heat. Why they would open with a cage match is beyond me, but then we’ll likely see it again this year, too. Hunter runs a lot in the beginning. Mankind is massively over as a babyface due to Dude Love. I don’t like WWF cage matches as a rule because of the stupid looking cage and constrictive rules. Mankind goes for the Mandible claw early but Chyna interferes and gives HHH the advantage. They do an ugly top-of-the-cage suplex spot which looked mighty awkward. HHH takes over with his four move offense. One of them is his formal bow. Another is ramming Mankind’s head into the cage. I’ll leave it as an exercise in mental fecundity to guess the other two. Chyna keeps interfering through the cage to keep Mankind from keeping control. Interesting move as HHH gets hung feetfirst from the top of the cage and Mankind rams himself into him. Luckily both guys are *great* sellers so the numerous cage-involved spots look good. HHH gets tied up in the ropes and Mankind goes for the door but Chyna slams it in his face and takes out the ref, then tosses a chair in. Pedigree attempt gets reversed and Chyna gets knocked off the cage as a result. DDT on the chair and the crowd is getting pretty hot. Mankind climbs over the cage…but decides to climb back up and dives off with a nasty looking Cactus elbow. It was an ode to Jimmy Snuka, see. Chyna tries to pull HHH out before Mankind can climb out, but no go. It should be noted that she came in *before* the elbow and you can see HHH motioning to go away because it wasn’t time yet. Dude Love’s music starts up and revives the fallen Mankind. Decent opener. **1/2

– Kevin Kelly and Sunny’s cleavage hype the hotline.

– Toad Pedophile interviews the guv’ner of Joisey.

– Goldust v. Brian Pillman. As part of “Free match stipulation with every nachos purchased” night, if Pillman loses he has to wear a dress on RAW the next night. This was of course during the incredibly lame “kinder, gentler” Goldust period. Pillman was almost totally deteriorated as a wrestler at this point, just two months before his death. Kick and punch match. Dustin is actually in much better shape here than he is these days. I can see why Vince is making him lose the weight again. Pillman chases Marlena around the ring (bounce, bounce, bounce…) but gets caught with a shot from Goldust. We’re about five minutes in and I haven’t seen a single wrestling move. Oh, there’s a suplex from Pillman, I take that back, we’ve seen one. Pillman off the top with a clothesline, which is astounding given what we know the state of his ankle to be at that time. Extended chinlock. Pillman is just covered in makeup via Goldust. Dustin works in the flip-flop-n-fly. Goldust with an unbelievably botched sunset flip, which Pillman valiently “fights off” to the ropes, where Marlena whacks him with a LOADED PURSE OF DEATH! Goldust gets the win. 1/2* It’s sad to watch Pillman struggle those last months, knowing how it turned out.

– The Godwinns v. The Legion of Doom. You may know these teams better as “Southern Justice” and “LOD2000”. Bet you’d forgotten about this feud, right? Right? Hawk doesn’t seem to be drunk tonight. Big brawl to start. Hawk hasn’t yet turned into the disgusting pile of goo he is today, thank god. I mean, Hawk was never very good, but wow did he ever go downhill fast once the LOD got beat by the Outlaws. You know, it’s not that this feud was horribly unwatchable or anything, because the match actually was floating in that “bad -> decent” limbo, but the principles were just so uninteresting that it seemed worse than it was. Much like the Gang Wars which we’ve all been trying to forget. Jerry makes fun of Arkansas while a bearhug drags on. Animal with the hot tag to Hawk, who of course takes both Godwinns on. A bunch of clotheslines, since it’s generally hard for Hawk to screw that up, and a spike piledriver on Henry finishes it, which actually shows psychology because of the broken neck. Hey, guess what, it wasn’t that bad! **

– They do the big million dollar draw, which no one wins, but Sunny does attempt to show as much of her boobs as she can on PPV, pre-Attitude era.

– European title match: The British Bulldog v. Ken Shamrock. In addition, if Bulldog loses he has to eat a can of dog food. Shamrock was still learning at this point. Shamrock controls to start, staying basic. Shamrock is essentially doing Goldberg’s spiel here, minus the no-selling. Herb Kunze has a theory that Bischoff created Goldberg as a way to show Vince that he was mis-using Shamrock, a theory which I personally disagree with because Goldberg didn’t actually get over until months after his debut and a repackaging, but that’s getting off the track again. Bulldog with a side headlock for lack of anything better to do. I dunno if that was for Shamrock’s benefit or Bulldog’s, but there really didn’t seem to be much need for resting. Shammy bleeds hardway from the mouth. Shamrock takes a pretty good beating, going shoulderfirst to the post and then taking a ride to the steps. Bulldog tries to suplex Shamrock on the floor but he won’t cooperate and goes dead weight. Odd. Back in the ring and another chinlock. Shamrock must have been blown up or something. Back outside the ring, and Bulldog smears some dog food in Shamrock’s face, and Shamrock snaps for the DQ, taking out the ref and beating the hell out of the Bulldog. He chokes out the Bulldog until the Usual Gang of Idiots runs in to break it up, but Shamrock won’t let go. It should be noted that Bulldog would be dead at this point were this real. Finally he lets go, then takes out Patterson, Brisco and two referees, culminating with the “Get out of my way” soundbite that has since been used ad nauseum. Shamrock is over HUGE at the end of this. Match was okay. **1/4

– Shawn Michaels contends that there’s nothing between him and Bret and that he’ll be a fair, impartial referee.

– The Disciples of Apocolypse v. Los Boriquas. Let me speak on this…arriba la raza! Oops, wrong racial stereotype. Well, let’s see, the Boriquas are all decent->good wrestlers and the DOA are, well, not. Various combinations of DOA beat on various Boriquas until Savio cheats and the Puerto Rican faction takes over. Kick, punch, clothesline, taunt, you know the routine. Then the Nation (of Domination — Faarooq, D-Lo, Kama and Ahmed) makes their way to ringside to watch. Ahmed is one scary looking motherf*cker, no wonder Faarooq felt threatened by him. More pointless stuff goes on in the ring as the crowd chants “Ahmed sucks”. No, that’s the guy who replaced him, people. JR uses about 20 metaphors during the match, hoping to hit upon a catchphrase for the review package at the end of the show, I’d assume. “It’s like a minefield made of wedding cakes built inside of a veteran’s memorial at the foot of a volcano…” and I kind of tune out after a while. Much like the match, where lots of stuff is going on but nothing is really happening, you know? Finally some coherance as Chainz gets in and cleans house and a pier-six (okay, there’s eight guys, so I guess it’s a pier-eight) erupts and the Nation gets involved too, as Ahmed gives Chainz the Pearl River Plunge on the concrete and a Boriqua pins him. 1/4* A big three-way brawl breaks out after the match.

– Intercontinental title match: Owen Hart v. Steve Austin. The match that changed everything. Owen goes right after the oft-injured knee of Austin, but Austin retaliates quickly. The little differences in Austin in movement and wrestling between then and now are very noticeable. Owen is massively over as a heel by proxy to Bret Hart. Austin counters the flip and flop out of the wristlock by poking him in the eye. Out of the ring and Owen tries to break Austin’s hand by slamming it on the steps and stomping on it. Ouch. Owen bites. That’s an action statement, not a personal feeling. Owen spends way too much time on Austin’s fingers. Austin comes back with a powerbomb and clothesline over the top, so Owen runs. Austin beats him up and drags him back. Have I ever mentioned that Owen has the best belly-to-belly suplex in the biz? They trade clotheslines and Austin tries the Sharpshooter but it gets blocked. Owen nails a german suplex and “injures” Austin’s neck, which is why many people wondered if the eventual injury was real or a work, since Owen proceeds to go to work on Austin’s neck. A snap DDT reinforces this point. Sleeper by Austin, reversed by Owen, countered with a jawbreaker. Slows down again with a side headlock by Owen, which he thankfully turns into a heat segment by putting his feet on the ropes. Austin and Owen trade punches, Austin goes for a tombstone, and Owen reverses for his own, and then it happens: Austin’s head hits the wrong way and he’s left paralyzed. Owen stalls for time while Hebner checks with Austin, and somehow Austin crawls over and does a weak cradle on Owen to win the Intercontinental title. I have no idea how Austin managed to even get off the mat. Still, weak ending aside, it was an excellent match. ****

– WWF title match: The Undertaker v. Bret Hart. Shawn Michaels is the guest referee. Here’s the stipulations: If Bret loses, he can’t ever wrestle in the US again. If Shawn favors Undertaker, he can’t ever wrestle in the US again. And if Undertaker loses, he has to spend the next year feuding with his long-lost presumed-dead half-brother Kane. Okay, so I’m lying about that last stip. Brawl outside the ring to start, and a long one at that. Shawn tries to gain control but Undertaker throws him an awesome dirty look that has half the front row going “Oooooh”. Finally in the ring and Undertaker overpowers Bret and bearhugs him. Crowd is suprisingly quiet. Finally Bret starts kicking at UT’s leg to take over. Slow match. Bret and Shawn natter at each other off and on. Crowd whoo’s for a Bret figure-four until Paul Bearer waddles down to ringside. Undertaker reverses and starts working on Bret’s knee, then rolls out of the ring and pounds the fat man. That allows Bret the opportunity to cheapshot Undertaker and further pound on his knee. Ringpost figure-four. Bret and Shawn yell at each other some more. Now Owen and Pillman wander down to ringside for moral support. Bret continues working on the knee. Great psychology, boring match. The match at One Night Only was eons better. Undertaker temporarily subdues Bret and then takes care of the cheerleaders on the outside. Back in the ring, UT with the chokeslam, but Michaels is busy with the Harts. Undertaker is noticably upset with this and chokes out Michaels, allowing Bret to get a cradle for two. This kicks off the Shawn-UT feud which raged for months afterwards. Bret and UT fight outside the ring some more and Bret and Shawn exchange some more words. FIVE MOVES OF DOOM, out of official order (it goes backbreaker, vertical suplex, elbowdrop, russian legsweep and Sharpshooter with some other stuff in between in this case). UT blocks the Sharpshooter with a choke first time around and ends up nailing his flying clothesline. 6″ whip for two. Big boot and legdrop for two. Chokeslam from the apron into the ring for two. Rope walk, but Bret drops him on the top rope then superplexes him. Sharpshooter in the middle. Undertaker powers out and flips Bret right out of the ring. Tombstone, but Bret gets free and does a form of the Sharpshooter around the ringpost. Shawn gets bumped in the escape and Bret brings a chair in and knocks UT into the middle of next week. It only gets two. Bret and Shawn argue this point. Shawn sees the chair and debates further. Bret responds by spitting on Shawn, who takes a big ol’ swing with the chair, but misses and decks the Undertaker, and is forced to count the winning pin by Bret for his fifth WWF title. The crowd is pissed. Undertaker is *really* pissed. Bret’s happy but that’s only temporary. Slow start with a great build by Bret leading to the hot ending. ***

The Bottom Line: A pretty painfully mediocre showing that exposed how weak the lineup for the WWF was at that point, and really still is today because they don’t that many more people outside of Rocky and the few WCW signings. It was party time here in the Canada, of course, but the show doesn’t really hold up after a year to let it simmer. A mild recommendation because there’s a couple of good matches to end it, but nothing else is terribly notable.

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