Welcome to the Age of Zeus, live from East Rutherford’s Meadowlands Arena, right across the water from New York City where last year’s inaugural SummerSlam took place. Last year, we had Gorilla Monsoon and Billy Graham on commentary. This year it’s Tony Schiavone and Jesse Ventura. Of all of these early PPV level events in the WWF between 1985 and 1990, SummerSlam is the one where Gorilla and Jesse never get to team up on commentary.
During one of the highlight packages, it’s revealed that Danny Davis has been reinstated as a referee. My guess is Davis contacted President Jack Tunney, said “Dude, fucking Hebner,” and was able to get his job back.
With this being Schiavone’s WWF PPV commentary debut, let’s have some fun pointing out wrestlers he’s interviewed or called matches for in Jim Crockett Promotions.
The first match of the PPV broadcast is a non-title match where the WWF World Tag Team Champions, the Brain Busters take on former WWF World Tag Team Champions, the Hart Foundation. It was decided that this would be non-title on the account of the match being signed prior to the Busters winning the title, defeating Demolition. Eventually, that concept will go away. Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard aka the Brain Busters pick up the win.
Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard.
Also during this time, J.J. Dillon, Anderson and Blanchard’s former manager has also taken up a position in the WWF in an office capacity. I don’t recall Dillon appearing on WWF TV in any meaningful way until Brian Pillman’s introductory press conference in 1996 which was not long before Dillon’s departure.
Next up it’s the Honky Tonk Man against Dusty Rhodes, who in an effort to make sure his time in the WWF is a unique experience adopts yellow polka dots. Simply being the “American Dream” wasn’t enough for him. HTM and Jimmy Hart attempt a Billy Travis Special (guitar shot to the noggin), but it backfires and Rhodes finishes with the Bionic Elbow for the pinfall victory.
Approximately a year after arriving in the WWF together, Terry Taylor aka the Red Rooster takes on Curt Hennig aka Mr. Perfect. Taylor has fully embraced the literal sense of the Rooster identity, forgetting that it was supposed to mean that he had a temper (Red) and was cocky as fuck (Rooster). Not taking himself seriously anymore, he’s easy prey for Perfect. When you’re calling yourself “Mr. Perfect,” there’s no gray area as to what that means.
The Red Rooster (as Terry Taylor)
History finally happens! Jacques and Raymond, the Rougeau Brothers, managed by Jimmy Hart finally pick up a win on PPV with their 6-man tag team partner, Rick Martel as they defeat the Rockers and Tito Santana. This is during the brief time in which Martel had Slick for a manager before they peacefully parted ways. Since the Strike Force breakup at WrestleMania V, Santana has become the jilted ex-lover of the two. He’s quick to go after Martel whenever he can. It never works out, because he’s too angry and hurt to strategize properly. He also continues to wear the Strike Force gear, because Tito can’t let it the fuck go. For Santana, Shawn Michaels, and Marty Jannetty it’s more frustration on the big stage. For Martel it’s a win and for the Rougeaus it’s a win on PPV, something they had been starving for. Their last big stage win prior to this was over the Dream Team at the non-PPV Big Event in 1986.
Next is a rematch from WrestleMania V for the WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship as Rick Rude defends against the Ultimate Warrior. Rude’s manager, Bobby Heenan once again is up for shenanigans, but comes up empty this time as Warrior for the second SummerSlam in a row wins the IC title. In fact, this is during a remarkable run where from 1988 to 1992, the WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Champion always surrenders the title to his challenger. After five years of this, Shawn Michaels will finally end that streak in 1993.
Something unusual as this card has not one, but two 6-man tag team matches. While Slick got to celebrate the first one, this match goes the opposite way for him as his Twin Towers tag team and the Bobby Heenan managed Andre the Giant lose to King Duggan and Demolition.
The Big Bossman (as Bubba Rogers)
After finally picking up a win on the big stage, Hercules Hernandez resumes his losing ways, this time coming up short against Greg Valentine. However, the match is all sorts of screwed up as Ron Garvin, the special guest ring announcer and adversary of Valentine’s, announces Hernandez as the winner by disqualification. In fairness, Valentine did cheat, but the ref didn’t see it, awarding the match to “the Hammer.”
Special Guest Ring Announcer Ron Garvin
A quick note: once again Garvin’s hand of stone no longer appears to be as fierce since his departure from JCP a year prior. Also of note is that both Garvin and Rhodes, Rhodes being the one credited for running Garvin out of JCP the previous year are on this card. They never acknowledge one another. To my knowledge, Garvin’s never publicly denied being beaten up by Dusty unless he told it to Larry Nelson in an AWA interview somewhere.
Our last singles match of the card has a battle of spirit animals, Superfly Snuka and Ted DiBiase. Snuka’s spirit animal for tonight is the white tiger while DiBiase’s as always is Richie Rich of Harvey Comics. DiBiase gets the win by count out, but Snuka, determined to hit someone with the top rope splash, attacks both and promptly splashes Virgil, DiBiase’s bodyguard.
The final match is our main event and it’s an unusual encounter involving Hulk Hogan and a couple of rivals of his, one from pro wrestling and the other from a film shoot about pro wrestling. Before we get to that…
…Lanny Poffo, after years of trying to work his way up to relevance in the WWF finally gets to make his PPV debut, reading a poem to the audience concerning the main event where he sides with his brother, Randy Savage.
No, the WWF would never acknowledge that relationship publicly and Savage and Poffo seemed content to let that be as well with Poffo by this point becoming “the Genius.”
Okay, now on to the match. “Macho Man” Randy Savage and “Sensational” Sherri Martel have with them a rookie making his in-ring debut and on the big stage at that. In Hollywood, he was known as Tim “Tiny” Lister Jr. or just Tiny Lister. However, while filming the movie No Holds Barred with Hulk Hogan, Lister began to adapt the Zeus character he portrayed and decided he wanted to compete against Hogan, the WWF Heavyweight Champion in an actual match. So now we have Zeus Lister arriving and wreaking havoc on Hogan’s WWF life as the film garners whatever attention it was going to garner.
Spoiler: Movie sucks.
Lister’s issue with Hogan was that he was sure in a real fight, in a real pro wrestling showdown, he could take him. He wasn’t like other big dudes who relied on girth. He was pure muscle and raw talent and now it was up to Savage and Sherri to get Lister ready, similar to Hogan preparing Mr. T for their big match at the first WrestleMania against Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff.
Playing on Lister’s color scheme, he, Macho and Sherri all arrive rocking the silver and black which not only makes them look like they’re paying homage to the Los Angeles Raiders of the NFL, but also worth noting is the black and silver was the final NWO color scheme in WCW.
Anyway, Hogan and the former Dizzy Hogan, Brutus Beefcake are the opponents. Hogan relies on the Andre Strategy from WrestleMania III when it comes to Lister which is continuous strikes until they finally chip away at the superhuman shields and break through. Just like with Andre, Hogan finally brings Lister down with the Axe Bomber clothesline. After that, it’s a loaded purse brought in by Sherri, which Sherri wound up losing to further the damage, the bodyslam and the atomic leg drop for the pinfall victory.
Hogan and Beefcake get the win and while yeah they should’ve won considering the inexperience of Savage’s partner, I’ll say this for Lister. For a man in his position, he handled himself well. He knew he had a psychological edge on Hogan from previous encounters. He knew he had a powerful clubbing forearm attack. He knew his defenses were near impenetrable even with Hogan on the attack. He also had to know that this wasn’t a movie, this time he would have to compete and that’s where Lister got lost. At some point, the forearms and bearhugs weren’t going to cut it for long against men like Hogan or Beefcake. Lister’s limitations got the better of him and once he was bodyslammed, it took away the psychological edge, reversing it and leaving Lister stunned. He never had a chance after that.
At the following PPV event, Survivor Series, Lister will learn not to be shocked so much if bodyslammed and will proceed to annihilate Hogan before being DQ’d.
Also worth noting is that Miss Elizabeth makes an appearance as Hogan and Beefcake’s manager for this match, even helping to down Sherri post match.
Other fun stuff.
Schiavone and Ventura will team up for commentary again at WWF Royal Rumble 1990. After that, they’ll work together in WCW from 1992 until Ventura’s departure in 1994.
After going 3-0 the previous year, face painted competitors improve their mark to 5-0 at SummerSlam, thanks to Warrior and also the team of Duggan and Demolition. Duggan also has his face painted for this match. The first face painted loss will come the following year and that will be partially due to some interference from another face painted team not on the card.
For Duggan, this is his only PPV appearance as King Duggan after taking the crown away from Haku. Soon after this, Duggan will surrender the crown to Randy Savage, who redubs himself the “Macho King.” With Randy Savage, the King’s Crown is no longer defended and there won’t any kind of battle over a King status until 1993.
Prior to the broadcast there was a dark match in which Dino Bravo defeats Koko Ware, continuing Ware’s string of bad luck on the big stage, even when non-televised.
Jimmy Hart was the most successful manager of this event, going 2-1 with wins by the Rougeaus along with the Slick managed Rick Martel and also by Valentine. His lone loss was by HTM.
Current/Former World Heavyweight level Champions involved
Dusty Rhodes (NWA)
Mr. Perfect (AWA)
Rick Martel (AWA)
Rick Rude (World Class)
Big Bossman (UWF)
Special Guest Ring Announcer Ron Garvin (NWA)
Hulk Hogan (current WWF)
Randy Savage (WWF)
If counting Kentucky’s ICW, then the Genius could be thrown in as well. Other ICW Heavyweight Champs here include Savage and Garvin.
Future members of WCW’s New World Order involved
Mr. Perfect (as Curt Hennig)
Virgil (as Vincent)
Hulk Hogan (as Hollywood Hogan)
Brutus Beefcake (as the Disciple)
Next up, WWF Survivor Series 1989.
Seen by Kace Box at 4:20am
Tags: SummerSlam 1989, WWF