The Philadelphia Spectrum, a long time stomping ground for the WWF is home to this year’s SummerSlam. The Philadelphia scene has had the WWF at the Spectrum and the NWA at the Philadelphia Civic Center, sometimes on the same day. As the 1990s progress, the city of brotherly love will be best known for ECW.
Commentary is handled by Vince McMahon and Roddy Piper with Gorilla Monsoon absent from commentary for the second straight SummerSlam and Jesse Ventura off doing other things at this point in his life. This is Piper’s PPV debut on commentary while for McMahon, this is his first major card since the 1988 Royal Rumble on USA and his first PPV shot since the New York portion of WrestleMania 2 in 1986. Piper is a stark contrast to Susan St. James.
The first match of the broadcast features the continuing woes of the Rockers, Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty as they lose to a team that formed, basically against them in Power & Glory. The Power is represented by Hercules Hernandez who gets to experience his first PPV win since WrestleMania V and Paul Roma gets to celebrate a win in the ring on PPV for the first time since Survivor Series 1987. Roma did pick up a dark match win earlier this year at WrestleMania VI.
During the match, Piper makes reference to the Rockers resembling Mick Jagger and David Bowie. He makes this reference twice, the second time around as Michaels and Jannetty are laid out on the mat next to each other. I’m not sure if McMahon ever caught on, but the reference in this context is to an alleged sexual incident between Jagger and Bowie years before. I’m guessing it went over Vince’s head.
Brutus Beefcake was originally scheduled for the next bout, a shot at the WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight title, but would be unable to due to injury. Two years prior, he was denied his shot at the title by way of Ron Bass induced violence. This time around however, it’s from a freak accident while Brutus was trying to enjoy some downtime on a beach. More history repeats itself here as the next contender in line, Kerry Von Erich is able to defeat Champion, Mr. Perfect for the IC title.
For Beefcake, it was unfortunate, but at this point, he had his health to worry about. For Perfect, Curt Hennig it was the beginning of a possible curse involving Bobby Heenan as his manager. Prior to Heenan taking over for the Genius, Perfect had a good run going. Between WM6 and here, Perfect picked up the IC title in a tournament put together by President Jack Tunney on the heels of WWF Heavyweight Champion the Ultimate Warrior vacating it. This match shows that Hennig may have been better off without Heenan, a realization he’ll eventually come to in 1992 during an edition of Prime Time Wrestling. Yes, there’s that time he was managed by a guy named Coach and we’ll tackle that some other time.
For Von Erich, this was a much needed boost for his career since entering the WWF. Kerry’s previous PPV appearance was a controversial loss to Jerry Lawler at AWA SuperClash III, surrendering his World Class World Heavyweight title in the process and seeing it unified, albeit briefly with the AWA World Heavyweight title. After that, “the Modern Day Warrior” would suffer a loss to a guy named Taras Bulba, formerly Johnny K-9 and the future Bruiser Bedlam of SMW. It was time to move on while he still could. He arrives in the WWF with a new nickname, the “Texas Tornado” and while still using the Von Erich Iron Claw, it’s basically used as a setup for a KO finisher called the discus punch, or “Tornado Punch.” That combination works well for Kerry as he picks up his biggest WWF win.
For the Intercontinental title, this marks the third straight year in which the title has changed hands at SummerSlam. In 1988, it was Warrior, substituting for Beefcake taking the title from the Honky Tonk Man. Last year it was Warrior defeating Rick Rude for the title and now this year, it’s Tornado over Perfect. This pattern will continue for the next two SummerSlams with Perfect surrendering again in 1991, this time to Bret Hart and Hart losing the title in 1992 to Davey Boy Smith.
Next up is our first ever WWF PPV forfeit as Sapphire refuses to show up for her match against Sensational Queen Sherri. The reason is revealed later in the broadcast, but for women’s wrestling at this event it’s a serious setback.
The WWF was already void of any titles in that division, which was basically just Sherri and Sapphire anyway. The Glamour Girls were gone as were the Jumping Bomb Angels and the WWF Ladies’ Tag Team Championship. Rockin’ Robin was gone and the WWF Ladies’ Championship, a Championship which had the distinction of being the top title bout at the first WrestleMania was no longer active. The WWF will not attempt another match at SummerSlam involving women again until 1993, a mixed tag match featuring Sherri with Tatanka against the duo of Bam Bam Bigelow and Luna Vachon and that match got nixed for a number of reasons, leading to a 6-man tag bout being booked instead. Finally, in 1995 there will be a women’s match at SummerSlam with Bertha Faye defeating Alundra Blayze for the WWF Women’s Championship.
In a slight reversal of WM6, the Warlord gets to wrestle and beat Tito Santana. Warlord’s former Powers of Pain tag team partner, the Barbarian had that honor at WM6. For Santana, it’s a continuing futility on the big stage while still trapped in his Strike Force gear. For Warlord’s manager, Slick it’s a 2-0 record on this card with both Warlord and the P&G team winning.
After going 5-0 at SummerSlam against non-facepainted competition, the facepainted contingent finally suffers their first loss at this annual event. The defeat is at the hands of the Hart Foundation, finally rebounding from their non-title loss a year earlier to the Brain Busters to defeat Demolition in a Best-of-3 falls match. This match was part of the beginning of the end for Demolition. They had lost part of their state of being with their two biggest rival teams, the Powers of Pain and the Colossal Connection both splitting up. They now had to deal with the Legion of Doom who made no bones about wanting to put an end to Demolition. Ax and Smash also added a third wheel to a two wheel vehicle in Crush. All of it just combines to their eventual downfall which kicks into gear here. The LOD, who are also facepainted competitors, but have no match on the card show up in ring gear and help the HF fend off Demolition who in the third and deciding fall were attempting to use all three members to get the win.
The Hart Foundation get to hold on to the titles for a little while, the LOD and the Demos go about fighting each other with the Legion getting the upper hand there and Demolition basically being killed off dead at WrestleMania VII.
Next up is what turns out to be the last major WWF match for Bad News Brown as he’s DQ’d in his bout against Jake Roberts. The Big Bossman, looking rather trim here serves as special guest referee for whatever reason. Brown doesn’t like Bossman’s officiating and goes after him, warranting the DQ. Roberts breaks out his snake, Damien and Brown exits… and keeps on exiting out of the World Wrestling Federation.
The Orient Express of Akio Sato and Pat Tanaka, managed by Mr. Fuji had been doing well for themselves. They had picked up a big win over the Rockers at WM6 though in fairness, it’s the big stage against the Rockers so they basically had no choice, but to win. Along comes a fairly new team in Jim Duggan and Nikolai Volkoff. Volkoff had split away from Boris Zhukov, proclaiming a new love for the USA and wearing new gear that symbolized the hope for a partnership between the United States and Soviet Russia.
The Cold War wasn’t too far from ending, Russia’s decade long adventure in Afghanistan had done them no favors and the Berlin Wall was collapsing. Time was about to be up on the USSR portion of Russia’s history and perhaps Nikolai was able to sense that. Duggan embraces him as a tag partner and a friend, but Piper isn’t as trusting of Volkoff on commentary. Meanwhile, Sgt. Slaughter who had returned to the WWF with a rather salty attitude, possibly inspired by his departure from the last stint there was no longer proud to be a Real American Hero like he had been with the GI Joe franchise. Slaughter, in an interview segment with Brother Love doing this broadcast would voice his displeasure with Volkoff and with American fans and certain wrestlers embracing him. Slaughter’s displeasure with the American people reaches a point where he finds himself aligning with Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi government, who had just invaded Kuwait and made the Kuwaiti government’s business partner… er… ahem …ally of freedom and all things good, President George Bush rather upset about it, giving us Desert Shield and eventually, Desert Storm.
I mention all that to get to this part. Duggan and Volkoff win and the Orient Express fail to pose any major threat in the tag division going forward. There’s a serious groundswell of “U-S-A!” Patriotism going on at this time all from an invasion involving business partners and the White House choosing a side in the argument. No wonder Slaughter was pissed. Still, siding with Hussein? Party foul, yo. Serious party foul.
All political nonsense and sending people off to kill and/or die aside, there are still some other matches to deal with including the one where we get the resolution of the Sapphire Saga. After two years of competing in tag matches, Randy Savage gets to compete in his first SummerSlam singles bout and it’s also his first bout not involving Hulk Hogan in anyway. Dusty Rhodes was 1-0 at this event, picking up a win the year before against HTM. This time, things don’t go well for “the American Dream,” suffering a rather quick loss to the “Macho King.” Worth noting is that Savage is no longer bothering with a crown, basically retiring the King’s Crown concept and instead going with a wild looking cowboy hat. This will become Savage’s go-to style for most of the 1990s.
As for Rhodes, Ted DiBiase shows up and doesn’t have a match. He does have business however and that involves sealing the purchase of Sapphire’s loyalty to her client and friend, Rhodes. Sapphire basically quits as Rhodes’ manager, aligning with DiBiase and disappearing. For Rhodes, it was the end of his time having fun. Sure, the situation with Savage had gotten intense at times, but at least he still had the loyalty of his manager, at least until tonight. He liked rocking the polka dots and having just enough of a different look in the WWF. It was a nice contrast from somehow always being involved in about everything happening in JCP. Instead of feuding with half the roster, sometimes at once, Rhodes got to settle on a rivalry here and there and dropping bionic elbows on enhancement guys to the delight of the WWF audience. He had Sapphire and they had good times. All of that ends here and for Rhodes it’s heartbreaking. The yellow polka dots will disappear, being replaced with a single, angry red dot on his trunks until his departure in early 1991.
For Sapphire, it turns out that she immediately felt guilty about what she had done and will disappear from the WWF and wrestling altogether until finally resurfacing one last time in Memphis, once again rocking the yellow polka dots. With Sapphire’s death in 1996, it’ll also be implied that Rhodes and Sapphire had made peace with Dusty singing her praises as a good person upon hearing of Sapphire’s death.
Now we get to the moment Hulkamania started to cool off a bit. Make no mistake, Hulk Hogan still had some big moments ahead of him during his WWF run, but it’s never really the same after this. For the past year-plus, Hogan’s impact was starting to show some vulnerability. He was having troubles with a rookie of limited talent in Zeus Lister. He lost his WWF Heavyweight title to Warrior at WM6 with Warrior showing how to proof against Hogan Time. Then he started in with more movies to star in and Earthquake splatted him during a Brother Love interview segment.
Part of the reason why all of this led to the cooling off of Hulkamania is that sure, Earthquake managed to hurt him, but reports of serious injury were exaggerated to say the least. No doubt, Hogan suffered some bruised ribs at least, because that’s still a lot of weight crashing down on him, but the problem was he was still able to go out and work in Hollywood while being portrayed as seriously injured by his friends. Maybe his fellow wrestlers with the Hogan friendship bracelets just didn’t know that Hulk was basically using what Earthquake did to him as an excuse to focus on other things.
After all that, he comes back just in time for SummerSlam and for some reason his match is billed as co-main event, meaning that the new WWF Heavyweight Champion wasn’t going to have the opportunity to solely main event a WWF PPV, which was also a bit of an insult, not just to the Warrior, but to his opponent later tonight, Rude.
So Hogan returns and he has his match against Earthquake. Earthquake has manager Jimmy Hart and cohort Dino Bravo in his corner. Hogan has Bossman in his corner. Hogan’s usual superheavyweight gameplan doesn’t seem to pan out as well and quite frankly, Hogan looks sloppy and less like the conquering hero we had been so used to seeing. Hogan gets the win, but it’s by count out. Hogan, who makes it clear he wants back in the conversation for the WWF Heavyweight title despite Tunney saying that he and Warrior could never compete against each other again, winds up settling for a count out victory? Something’s not right here. Something’s off. Hogan is clearly not on his game here and against a man who had wronged him, at that. It’s clearly the most disappointing Hogan win this side of whatever count out or DQ wins he got against Piper years earlier.
That leads us to the match that should’ve been the only main event on the card, the WWF Heavyweight Championship being defended inside the iron steel cage for the first time since the cage’s debut at 1986’s WM2. At WM2, it was Hogan fending off King Kong Bundy by escaping the cage. Here, there’s the added stipulation of being able to win the match by pinfall or submission inside the ring the cage surrounds or settling for escaping the cage as competitors in the WWWF and WWF had done before.
For the Ultimate Warrior and his challenger, Rick Rude this is the third match of the PPV trilogy between these two with Rude winning at WM5 for the IC title, Warrior beating him back for that IC title at SumSlam 1989 and now this match. Rude, a former World Class World Heavyweight Champion has been rivals with Warrior going back to those World Class days when Ultimate was Dingo Warrior. Rude’s manager, Bobby Heenan is ringside.
The frustrating thing about watching this bout is that Rude had more than one occasion to win the match, but didn’t. Instead he went for showboating and further punishment against a man he so despised. That strategy will cause Rude to lose the match and his best shot at the WWF Heavyweight title. Warrior leaves the cage, gets the win and puts the incumbent at 2-0 on PPV in WWF title matches inside the iron steel cage. Rude, pissed off at things not working out would verbally take his frustrations on Bossman’s mother, of all people and decide to leave the WWF behind right about the time Tunney was ready to kick him out for saying bad things about a competitor’s mom.
Jack Tunney has a weird way of governing sometimes.
Other fun stuff.
While Demolition brought about the end of the facepainted competitors’ undefeated run at SummerSlam, Warrior balances out the scale with his win over Rude, bringing the facepainted guys to 6-1 at this event. Next year will see that mark improve to 8-1 thanks to the Legion of Doom and Warrior. The facepainted contingent’s next SummerSlam loss will be at the expense of Kamala in 1992 in a DQ loss to the Undertaker.
Speaking of which, this is the final WWF PPV of the Pre-Undertaker days. The future Undertaker, “Mean” Mark Callous was wrapping up business in WCW and also getting a bit part in a Hulk Hogan movie… though I highly doubt that was his voice when he spoke his line.
Before the broadcast, there was a match featuring Buddy Rose and Shane Douglas. Yes, Douglas wrestling in Philadelphia before that became a thing. Shane gets the win, but at this point, pretty much everybody was beating Rose in the WWF while his former AWA World Tag Team Championship partner Doug Somers was suffering futility in WCW. I guess Rose and Somers were just better together. Too bad Sherri was busy with Savage to help a Buddy out.
Tito Santana will finally have an improved showing on PPV at Survivor Series. His former Strike Force tag partner, Rick Martel is absent here.
Philadelphia’s next major card and PPV appearance will be the Civic Center hosting WCW Halloween Havoc in 1992. The Spectrum won’t host another WWF PPV until 1995’s King of the Ring. At this point in history, ECW’s predecessor, the Tri-State Wrestling Alliance is still going.
Future ECW talent (including NWA Eastern Championship Wrestling and Extreme Championship Wrestling) on this card, both dark match and broadcast alike includes Shane Douglas, Sherri Martel, Tito Santana, Jim Neidhart, Jake Roberts (okay, it was a one-off appearance, but whatever), Nikolai Volkoff, Pat Tanaka, Dusty Rhodes, and Rick Rude (serving as color commentator with Joey Styles).
The number of current and former World Heavyweight Champions on this card is 7 with 6 of them in matches against each other. Hogan (WWF) is the odd one out here as Von Erich (World Class) defeats Hennig (AWA), Savage (WWF) defeats Rhodes (NWA), and Warrior (current WWF) defeats Rude (World Class). World Class World Heavyweight Champions bat .500 with both guys competing in Championship bouts. 8 is the number counting Bossman (UWF) as ref and ringside guy.
7 is also the number of future WCW’s New World Order members with two matches involving future members competing against each other. This also includes Savage’s win over Rhodes as well as the Hart Foundation (Bret Hart) defeating Demolition (Crush aka Brian Adams). Well, 9 overall counting DiBiase and Virgil’s cameo and 10 counting Bossman again.
This is the first SummerSlam in which the last match/main event was a singles bout. It also marks the first time the WWF Heavyweight title is defended at this event. Next year will see the return of the WWF Heavyweight Champion (Hogan) competing in a tag team main event while 1992 will see the WWF Heavyweight Championship defended, but not as the main event last match. 1993 will finally see the title go last as the main event, but with a less than desirable ending for all involved and 1994 will the title bout, inside an iron steel cage again will take a backseat to a bout between the Undertaker and Brian Lee, the Million Dollar Undertaker.
1995 will finally see the start of the WWF Heavyweight Championship/WWF Championship bout go last in the order. The title will only change hands twice during the Classic Era and one of those will be during a triple threat bout.
Next up, Survivor Series 1990 where I’ll wrap up the WWF side of things for now to focus on the NWA PPV’s of the 1980s and 1990.
Seen by Kace Box at 9:30am