WWF SUMMERSLAM FEVER 1990:
* These “preview shows” for PPVs are always a great source for little-seen matches. In this one, we’re a week away from SummerSlam, we have our prelude show in Utica, New York (what kind of a place doesn’t know the expression “steamed hams”?), featuring a handful of big name vs. name matches- Earthquake vs. Hacksaw! Smash vs. Neidhart! Mr. Perfect against Ronnie Garvin! And most importantly, THE BOLSHEVIKS EXPLODE!
JIM “THE ANVIL” NEIDHART vs. SMASH:
* A precursor to the Hart Foundation’s shot at the Demos at SummerSlam, this is one of my favorite things to watch on regular TV back in the day- tag teams split up and fighting each other. They show Demolition beating the Rockers on Saturday Night’s Main Event with Ax running in for Crush and pinning Shawn, sending the Harts AND the Legion of Doom into the ring, making me sad at how much better the tag team scene used to be. Heenan makes a big deal over this match being scheduled as Bret/Smash, but Vince blows it off as a psychological thing.
Standard lockup/headlockery to start, but Smash bounces back from a shoulder tackle and they play a psychological thing. Neidhart works his arm and actually bowls him over with a shoudlerblock. Smash whines (Darsow is a good whiner for such a huge guy), but hits a cheap knee and chokes away. Neidhart overpowers him, bounces him around and hits a clothesline for two. Smash scores a slam out of an armlock, and comes off the 2nd rope with an axehandle, but Jim actually CATCHES him in a good bit, hits an inverted atomic drop (or “reverse piledriver” in Vince-speak), but is run into the corner when he tries to grab Smash from behind. Jumping Demolition Axehandles abound! Jim’s in trouble, but slams Smash’s head into the mat and trips him up. Back body drop & dropkick get two, Russian legsweep & shoulderblock send Smash outside, and Neidhart looks to finish with a sunset flip back in, but Smash grabs the ropes and holds him down for the cheap pin at (6:09). Smash brags at the win, but Neidhart smashes him with the Tag Title to get his heat back. He takes the belt down the aisle with him, but Ax & Crush jump him in the aisle and leave him laying! They cut a dominant promo with Mean Gene for SummerSlam.
Rating: *1/2 (Kind of too long for both guys, as neither has very well-rounded offense and tend to fall into “run into the guy a lot” as moves, but it was fine- there wasn’t any resting)
“THE TEXAS TORNADO” KERRY VON ERICH vs. BLACK BART:
* … okay I’m drawing a blank on Bart, who I don’t think ever made PPV- he’s a longtime vet who was winding down here, got a couple of wins on TV and then became a Booger/Freddie Joe Floyd/Goon-tier jobber. He gets the jobber entrance (“standing to my left…”) and is wearing a generic black singlet, but he actually had significant ring gear, like a cowboy hat, duster jacket and confederate flag hanky. Tornado’s in neon yellow.
Tornado does single-legs to start, but Bart goes to the eyes- they hit each other back and forth as Bobby suggests “wouldn’t it be something if Black Bart knocked this guy off?” and Vince concedes that maybe he COULD, since “not much is known” of this hot young rookie ex-NWA World Champion, since he’s only been around a couple of weeks and all. Tornado hits a shitty hiptoss (Bart is immobile), clothesline & bodyslam, then finishes with the Tornado Punch at (2:39). LOL, Bart kicked out right after the three- who the fuck is HE kidding?
Rating: DUD (just a jobber squash without any real segments to it)
Mr. Perfect & Bobby Heenan cut a pretty generic, but emphatic promo to Mean Gene about how “NOBODY beats Mr. Perfect! NOBODY!”
THE WARLORD (w/ The Doctor of Style, Slick) vs. PEZ WHATLEY:
* Another jobber match, with short, squat Whatley in purple trunks against the Warlord, who’s on his way to start his heel push out by beating Tito Santana at SummerSlam.
Whatley actually tries some wrestling to control, but Warlord casually grabs him and hits a ribbreaker. Warlord does a few lazy strikes as Heenan talks shit on the Big Boss Man’s mother (prelude to that big feud), but Warlord makes the mistake of slamming his head into the turnbuckles, so Pez uses the invincible skull common to all black people to make a comeback. Pez catches him with a headbutt, then one off the second rope! Warlord still isn’t down, though, and catches him when he tries it a second time, and hits a Running Powerslam for the win (2:53). Actually a spirited performance from Pez, but Warlord wasn’t doing ANYTHING in there, which is probably part of why he never got a real push despite his look. Vince still insists his big lummoxes TRY, you know?
Rating: 1/2* (almost all one-sided, but Pez had some fun stuff going)
I always hated the “Warrior logo on the cheek” look.
We see Rick Rude preparing for his match with the Ultimate Warrior. Heenan is great as his exhausted trainer, using gloves with Warrior’s face on them for Rude to punch away. Heenan’s just SOAKED with sweat and cowers away as Rick gets too revved up for him. This is one of the few times I’ve seen Heenan actually act like a real trainer. The Warrior then cuts a promo with Mean Gene, saying some cocaine-infused thing about how “If the Warriors want me to walk out with the cage, then THEY WILL MAKE THAT COMMANNNNNNND!”
NIKOLAI VOLKOFF vs. BORIS ZHUKOV:
* THE BOLSHEVIKS EXPLODE!!!! So they air the clip of Nikolai formally defecting to the United States, deciding now that he’s a patriot, and the angle is capped off on the Brother Love show by Hacksaw Jim Duggan coming down to welcome him- a good bet just in case the fans didn’t accept it. They certainly seem enthused, however. Then the friggin’ BOY SCOUTS give him a medal and recite the pledge of allegiance. Zhukov, not long for the company, was presumably outraged and dumped out there to be the first JTTS to put Nikolai over in what I assume is a “thank you for your service” run, because he wasn’t around a lot longer, either. Volkoff is his big, pasty, broad self, and Zhukov is tanned but still has that “dumpy giant dwarf” look to him, especially with that big head.
Volkoff takes an eternity to get his USSR/USA jacket off, so Zhukov jumps him from behind, hitting his herky-jerky strikes, then running into a boot and not selling that right, either. Volkoff throws low punches and whips Zhukov into the corner, and he runs in super-slowly, leaving his “deflection” bump unconvincing. He rolls outside, where Nikolai slams him into the apron and slams him to a “U.S.A.!” chant. Back in with soft-ass punches, but Zhukov goes to the eyes- he puts his head down early and Volkoff slams him into the mat by his beard. Nikolai scores a back bodydrop, but gets eye-gouged again, then simply catches Zhukov’s boot, whips him around into an Atomic Drop, then tosses him to the corner and hits a clothesline to the back of the head for the pin (2:38).
Hilariously-short match, likely for the benefit of both guys, who looked very clumsy an uncoordinated out there. It’s not exactly a hot take that either was a poor worker, but they were that weird combination of “looks like ass” and “hopelessly clumsy”- if you’re gonna wrestle like Giant Baba your ass better be 6’5″, ya know?
Rating: DUD (well at least it was short)
Mean Gene interviews Macho King & Sherri, who is now decked out like she’s about to sing “Memory”. And Savage is now in his “cowboy hat” look despite still being a king. Sherri keeps hissing and snarling like a cat, screaming “Look into my EYES- look into my animalistic EYES, Sapphire!” as the Mixed Feud continues.
THE BROTHER LOVE SHOW (Hulk Hogan & Jimmy Hart): We see clips of Earthquake & Dino Bravo beating down Tugboat, meaning he can’t be in Hogan’s corner at SummerSlam. Boss Man makes the save, but Tugboat gets taken out on a stretcher- we even get a shot of a crying fan at ringside! Jimmy taunts Hogan like an absolute dumbass, being all “We want you to make it to SummerSlam!” and demanding Hogan not interfere in Quake’s match later tonight. So Hogan of course launches his ass out of the ring with a boot to the rump. “A Pre-SummerSlam kick-off” indeed! Brother Love makes the brilliant decision to talk shit, straight-up doing a head-bobble while doing it, but Hogan tears the shirt off to a HUGE reaction (you can’t even hear him talk) when Love accuses him of being afraid. Man cuts a hell of a babyface promo, I gotta give him that- all setting off the Richter scale as Earthquake “falls to the feet of the most powerful force in the universe”.
POWER & GLORY (Hercules & Paul Roma, w/ The Doctor of Style, Slick) vs. MARK THOMAS & MIKE WILLIAMS
* Another squash, this time with Power & Glory in their black trunks against some jobbers- one with a curly mullet and beautiful tiger-striped neon tights, and the other with a beard and white trunks. Vince & Heenan try to get over “Herc & Jerk” as a nickname, Heenan decrying it as cruel. This is to set up the P&G/Rockers match at SummerSlam.
Roma suckers Mullet with a clothesline and an AMAZING dropkick, then Hercules clotheslines Beard and press-slams him right to the floor in a huge bump. He beats on Mullet and BOOM- Power Plex finishes at (2:36), Roma breaking the pin to ensure he can pin the guy with one foot. Perfectly-timed finisher.
Rating: 1/2* (standard P&G squash, with the press slam and finisher being outstanding)
Mean Gene interviews Sapphire, who talks about getting all of these lavish gifts- the means by which to write her out of the company, as Ted DiBiase buys her services. “I don’t know who he is, but I think I’m falling in love!” “That sounds like a threat”. I love Heenan.
JAKE “THE SNAKE” ROBERTS vs. IRON MIKE SHARPE:
* Jake prepares for his match with Bad News Brown against one of the more highly-ranked jobbers. Jake’s in powder-blue, which I’m told was the guaranteed “future jobber” color in the ’80s, but it didn’t hold up here.
Jake hits his kneelift early as Heenan brags about 250-lb. “Harlem sewer rats” as they do the “Brown might be afraid of snakes” angle, which I assume is racist but I don’t recall that particular stereotype. Sharpe actually uses wrestling and power to control Jake, and hits an ugly back elbow for two. Sharpe controls with his trademark yelling and choking, but Jake dodges a blind charge, hits his phony “boxing” punches, the short-arm clothesline and the DDT (2:40).
Rating: DUD (pretty weak match, as Sharpe’s offense was dreadful and Jake just ate a bunch of it until a quick comeback win)
Bad News boasts about the size of his “Harlem Sewer Rats”, but rejects what is clearly a possum as “too small”.
Ronnie Garvin was short and squat, but he was legit tough.
MISTER PERFECT (w/ The Perfect Manager, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan) vs. “RUGGED” RONNIE GARVIN:
* And here’s Garvin on the tail end of his WWF run, going from the Valentine feud to being “in the ring to my left”, with green trunks.
Perfect bumps like nuts for Garvin’s rights, going wobbly-legged and bails twice over to put him over, and it turns into a slugfest back in- Garvin puts him on the top rope and punches him all the way to the floor! A headbutt sends Perfect collapsing to the mat, and Garvin hits a double-leg roll for two. Perfect comes back with chops and turnbuckle shots, but Garvin is just too tough for him and comes back- whip to the corner leads to a HUGE right hand that nearly KO’s the IC Champ, and Garvin lands several more, preparing for the end… but he tries a vertical suplex and Perfect immediately snags the leg and hits the Perfect Plex at (5:59). Damn- he gave him a TON here and almost got nothing in return, but still pulled it out in the end. Puts over Garvin a lot and sells the finisher.
Rating: **1/4 (simple, short match, but Perfect bumped like crazy before a sudden victory)
THE ORIENT EXPRESS (Sato & Tanaka, w/ Mr. Fuji) vs. SHANE DOUGLAS & SONNY BLAZE:
* Yup, JTTS-era Shane Douglas is one one team, with the Orients on the other side, preparing for their match against Duggan & Volkoff. The Orients are in long red tights, which is a weird look. Douglas has orange trunks, and Blaze is a pudgy guy in black trunks.
Douglas’s “kinda-sorta a named guy” run sees him take over both Orients at once and look good for a sec, but he takes a kneecrusher. Blaze is in and takes a complete non-stop ass-kicking- running boot, double-team leapfrog attack, standing side kick, and Sato’s Sit-Out Powerbomb finish him at (2:07). Man, what was Douglas doing there? Get in and help your guy!
Rating: 1/4* (some good moves by the Express, but an all-out squash)
EARTHQUAKE (w/ Jimmy Hart & Dino Bravo) vs. “HACKSAW” JIM DUGGAN:
* So Quake’s in the double-Main Event and most-heated match of SummerSlam, but Duggan is almost constantly protected. Bravo’s out there, too, so you can see the Fuck Finish coming a mile away, even though Hebner sends him to the back before the match starts.
Pretty simple brawl to start after a pose-fest (Heenan cracks up at Quake mimicking Hogan’s posing), with Quake soaking up a clothesline but deftly moving out of the way and dumping Hacksaw, then sending him into the post. He stuffs a comeback and hits the bearhug, but Duggan bites free, dodges a corner charge, and hits shoulderblocks until Quake’s wobbly (showing that sumo-trained flexibility), then the Three-Point Stance… leaves him only leaning on the ropes! But Dino Bravo’s in for the DQ at (6:02). They prepare to kill Duggan, but Hogan runs out with the 2×4 to send the fans home happy- they are going NUTS.
Rating: 1/2* (not much of a match, as it’s just plodding “slapping meat” stuff until the DQ)
Not much of a show compared to the Survivor Series one from ’89, but some okay stuff and matches you’re otherwise not likely to see. Perfect’s bumping has to be seen to be believed.