The View From Down Here – The Ghost of SummerSlams Past

Summerslam has not been my favourite PPV on the WWF/E wrestling calendar. I was always a sucker for the Royal Rumble (the Rumble match always makes the show, no matter how many crap undercard matches we have to go through; even the truncated 1 hour version was watchable with only the Vince winning it being unendurable today… and that’s not a bad strike rate), and Wrestlemania is Wrestlemania. Hell, even Survivor Series, especially in the early days of actual Survivor Series matches, was usually fun. But with the noted exception of SummerSlam 1992, I always found this show a bit hit or miss, and my memory always told me it was more miss than hit.

 

And yet I have decided that I will do what has always garnered me more than enough abuse in the past when I’ve done this with Wrestlemanias (because my life is not complete if I don’t get abused by people over a pseudo-sport like wrestling). I am going to put together my ultimate SummerSlam card out of the past 25 of them.

 

Here’s the rules: each match is from a legitimate SummerSlam, that is, starting in 1988. Each wrestler gets only one match (and, man, did that almost kill me!). In the end what I’ve come up with will make for an almost 4 hour show with extraneous crap, but Wrestlemania does that so why not.

 

I was going to have each title defended only once, but that restricted me just too much. So we’ll just pretend the titles are useless props that mean nothing anyway, okay? (oh… hang on… wait…)

 

There is another issue with SummerSlam, though, especially in its early years, but I’ll address that with a BONUS DVD choice at the end because, dammit!, this column has done that to me. And there’s another bonus after that.

 

Aaaaaand, let the negative comments commence:

 

Without telling you what’s what, here’s the breakdown of matches from each SummerSlam that I ended up having to choose from: 1988 – 3 matches; 1989 – 3 matches; 1990 – 2 matches; 1991 – 3 matches; 1992 – 3 matches; 1993 – 2 matches; 1994 – 2 matches; 1995 – 1 match; 1996 – 0 matches; 1997 – 3 matches; 1998 – 2 matches; 1999 – 2 matches; 2000 – 3 matches; 2001 – 1 match; 2002 – 3 matches; 2003 – 1 match; 2004 – 0 matches; 2005 – 0 matches; 2006 – 1 match; 2007 – 1 match; 2008 – 2 matches; 2009 – 1 match; 2010 – 1 match; 2011 – 3 matches; 2012 – 1 match.

 

Considering that I didn’t watch much WWF/E from 1996 to 1999 there were quite a few matches from there that on further viewing (thank the powers that be for the Anthology series!) came across as quite good, and also considering I quite liked the 2002-2005 product, the SummerSlams just didn’t grab me.

 

So… Let’s get to the card! In year order:

 

Intercontinental title: Ravishing Rick Rude v Ultimate Warrior (SummerSlam 1989). These two had amazing chemistry together. This match came after Heenan helped Rude defeat Warrior at WrestleMania V. Even the Roddy Piper distraction worked well. And, to top it off, Jesse Ventura on commentary almost made Tony Schiavone cry with his brief rant about shooting people being legal outside the ring! One of Warrior’s best matches (though nothing will ever top his Wrestlemania VII classic against Savage). 16:00

Intercontinental title: Bret Hart v The British Bulldog, Davey Boy Smith (SummerSlam 1992). One of my favourite ever matches and the Bulldog’s best match that I ever saw. Just brilliant in front of a hot London crowd. I’ve read often enough that Bret says he carried Bulldog to the match because Davey Boy blew up within the first ten minutes. But I call BS because this match was great from both men. Even the soap opera family stuff was not overblown. Superb, best SummerSlam match ever. (26:00)

WWF World tag titles: The Steiner Brothers v The Heavenly Bodies (SummerSlam 1993). Old School tag team action that really impressed me when I first saw it twenty years ago, and watching it again recently I was still impressed. I was fun, and this was definitely one of the best Steiner Brothers matches in the WWF/E. Pity it was so short. (10:00)

WWF Women’s title: Alundra Blayze v Bull Nakano (SummerSlam 94). I think Blayze was under-rated as a wrestler, and this match is one of the better ones the WWF/E have put on. It looks stiff at times and the dynamic between the two is surprisingly good. Blayze’s German suplex to finish and the way Bull took it was very impressive. (10:00)

Intercontinental title: Owen Hart v Steve Austin (SummerSlam 1997). Even if this is the match where Steve Austin had his neck broken in a botched piledriver, it’s still a fine match. These two had great chemistry together. (17:00)

Hardcore title: Shane McMahon v Steve Blackman (SummerSlam 2000). I’m not a big fan of the hardcore style, but this was a decent wrestling match and then the ending with the insane Shane bump off the top of the scaffolding, and Blackman following him just made it awesome. Really cool. (10:00)

2/3 falls: Chris Jericho v. Chris Benoit (SummerSlam 2000). This is probably my favourite Jericho match. There’s quite a few I like, but this one is the best. These two just went all out on one another here, and the result is a match that was so well put together and done that I can still watch it. It just felt too rushed. (Okay, the anti-Benoit brigade are going to come out in force here. And that’s cool, I understand your point of view. But I still like some of his matches. I feel I am able to separate the man from the art. Again, if you can’t, I’m sorry for upsetting you). (13:00)

TLC Match: Edge & Christian v The Hardy Boyz v The Dudleys (SummerSlam 2000). This is one of my favourite garbage matches ever. Some felt they topped it at WrestleMania with TLC 2, but I just really liked this one with the three teams going at it hammer and tongs and the spots felt less set up. The bumps were insane and the fact that any of them can still walk after this (though Edge is still a bit iffy) colours me impressed. Just… just awesome. (15:00)

Non-Sanctioned Match: HHH v Shawn Michaels (SummerSlam 2002). While I think it was too long it was still an example of how Shawn Michaels could bump better than anyone and how HHH could pull out a good match with the right opponent willing to sell for him. (28:00)

WWE title: The Rock v. Brock Lesnar (SummerSlam 2002). The match that made Lesnar (in my opinion), and the Rock seemed to be doing everything he could to make Lesnar look like a big deal. I know he beat Hulk Hogan before this, but Rock was “the” man at the time. The thing is, this match us still fun to watch more than a decade later. (16:00)

I-Quit Match: Mick Foley v Ric Flair (SummerSlam 2006). I’ll be honest – going into SS06 I was not looking forward to two old men beating the hell out of one another, but damn did they ever put on a good one. The ending with Melina felt awkward (especially considering Mick’s wife is better-looking) and detracted from it, but the bulk of the match was a surprisingly good hardcore one. (13:00)

Intercontinental title: Rey Mysterio v Dolph Ziggler (SummerSlam 2009). The first match that made me take note of Dolph Ziggler, and showed that a healthy Rey still had it. Like most Ziggler matches, it was all bump but there was actually a story here. But if you ever watch the match, get ready for the invasion of the instant replays. (13:00)

WWE title: CM Punk v John Cena (special guest ref HHH) (SummerSlam 2011). Yes, I know HHH appears as a wrestler as well, but if this match goes on before that one, it’ll be okay, I plum reckon. While Cena bores me to tears, with the right opponent and in a PPV setting, he can deliver the goods, and that he did here, in spades. Good match, and the right man went over. (25:00)

 

A break down would be one match from each of 1989, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1997, 2006, 2009, and 2011; two matches from 2002; and an amazing 3 matches from 2000.

 

Yes, because of the restrictions I placed upon myself, some great matches were left off. I really wanted to put Warrior killing Honky Tonk Man in there, as well as his match against Savage at 1992’s show, and there were a number of Shawn Michaels matches that could have been thrown in, a few more with Edge and Christian (his match with Orton in 2011… close call, but TLC topped it), even more with HHH and Rocky, and I had to leave Randy Savage off all together.

 

And, especially with one other wrestler, there were some awesome matches. So, without further ado:

 

NOW the bonus DVD. Watching all of these made me think that a “Best of Bret Hart at SummerSlam’ could be one great DVD. Here’s the listing (yes, of course the match in my ultimate SummerSlam card is on here! This is a bonus DVD!):

The Brainbusters v The Hart Foundation (1989). While it wasn’t as good as I was hoping for at the time, it still stands up remarkably well. (16:00)

WWF World tag team title, 2/3 falls: Demolition v. The Hart Foundation (1990). At the time I enjoyed this match, especially LOD coming out to make sure justice was served. It’s a bit goofy nowadays, but still fun. (16:00)

Intercontinental title: Mr Perfect v Bret Hart (1991). One of the best matches ever, but because of the Bulldog one, I couldn’t fit it into the main show. This made Hart look like a legitimate singles contender, and Perfect was always a superb worker. (18:00)

Intercontinental title: Bret Hart v The British Bulldog (1992). One of the best matches ever. Deal with it. (26:00)

King of the Ring match: Bret Hart v Jerry Lawler / Doink (1993). The whole story-line of the two matches, the reversed finish, everything was really good, and it showed this Australian why Lawler was lauded so much as a wrestler. (17:00)

WWF title, cage match: Bret Hart v Owen Hart (1994). One of my favourite cage matches as they didn’t just fight inside a cage, they told a story, and then when the rest of the family got involved… wow. Just… wow. Again, if not for SummerSlam 1992, this would have been there. (32:00)

WWF title: The Undertaker v Bret Hart (Shawn Michaels special guest ref) (1997). Yes, an Undertaker match. From me. I know, I know… Again, they told a story in the ring that was easy to follow, even if the ref did overshadow things at times, and the ending was leading to Shawn v Undertaker, not the world champion (Bret). (29:00)

Elimination match: Wade Barrett, David Otunga, Heath Slater, Justin Gabriel, Michael Tarver, Skip Sheffield & Darren Young v John Cena, John Morrison, Edge, R-Truth, Bret Hart, Chris Jericho & Daniel Bryan (2011). I liked this match, so sue me. Even thought the ending was all Super-Cena rubbish, and the Nexus should have gone over, I still enjoyed it. (36:00)

Total: 3:10:00. A double DVD set. Surely it wouldn’t be horrid!

 

There could also be something to be said for the greatest of SummerSlam’s Intercontinental Title matches as well as a DVD set:

1988: Intercontinental title: Honky Tonk Man v The Ultimate Warrior (5:00, including the stiff beforehand)

1989: Intercontinental title: Ravishing Rick Rude v Ultimate Warrior (16:00)

1991: Intercontinental title: Mr Perfect v Bret Hart (18:00)

1992: Intercontinental title: Bret Hart v The British Bulldog (26:00)

1995: Intercontinental title, Ladder match: Shawn Michaels v Razor Ramon (25:00)

1997: Intercontinental title match: Owen Hart v Steve Austin (17:00)

1998: Intercontinental title, ladder match: The Rock v HHH (25:00)

Total: 2:12:00. Tell me that wouldn’t be an awesome DVD.

 

Now, having done this, what it tells me is that for years I have been selling SummerSlam short. It was for a long time the show of the Intercontinental title, and then, again in recent years, it’s become the show of some good matches. So I am almost looking forward to this year’s offering!

 

And that’s the view.

 

 

 

 

 

DISCLAIMER: I have been accused in comments and by email of not knowing what I am talking about when it comes to professional wrestling. So these simple thoughts are merely those of someone who has been watching wrestling for more than 30 years and has been stepping into the ring as an appallingly underskilled indy jobber for nigh on 20 years, who was a former state level gymnast and was one of the worst boxers in the history of the sport. I apologise for knowing nothing.

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