I’ve always loved this particular show and we’re now in August, so it makes sense from a seasonal perspective to review a SummerSlam event, so this one got the nod. I’m watching the Silver Vision VHS version of the show, which means pretty much all of the music has survived the editors. There’s only so much rubbish dubbing of Rick Rude’s theme that you can live with you know?
Main Event on this one is Hulk Hogan teaming up with Scrappy Hogan against Randy Savage and Zeus, with Ultimate Warrior going after Rick Rude’s Intercontinental Title in the mid-card. There are also some solid matches sprinkled throughout the card, so let’s quit jabbering about it all and watch some chuffing wrestling!
The event is emanating from East Rutherford, New Jersey, Home of The Devil’s, on the 28th of August 1989
Calling the action are Tony Schiavone and Jesse Ventura
We get a wacky 80’s intro video, where we get to see clips of people doing summer activities, such as playing in the park and jet skiing, interspersed with clips of wrestling moves from the WWF wrestlers.
The Brain Busters (Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard) w/ Bobby Heenan Vs The Hart Foundation (Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart)
The Busters were the WWF Tag Champs at the time of this match but the belts aren’t on the line here. So yeah, it’s these two teams with 15 minutes to play with in front of a hot crowd, so I don’t think it’s even possible for that not to be good. The Hart Foundation does the babyface shine to start, which Tully and Arn bump, sell and feed for perfectly as you’d expect. Anvil is clearly the weakest wrestler of the four, but he knows how to work his gimmick and he’s in there with two high quality opponents, so he acquits himself just fine.
The crowd loves watching The Busters get outdone by the babyfaces, and lose it when Bret manages to catch both of them with a double arm drag at one stage. They even do a few fake outs where you think the babyfaces have been cut off, only for them to then shrug it off and continue to shine. A huge chunk of the match is the babyfaces constantly dominating, but eventually The Busters are able to cut Anvil off when he misses a charge in the corner, and that leads us into the Heel heat segment portion of the match.
I’m surprised that they went with heat on Anvil instead of Bret actually, but Anvil sells it pretty well in all fairness to him. It’s a nice subversion of expectations as well, as you would think the bigger huskier Anvil would be the one running wild, but instead it will be the quicker more technically proficient Bret who is required to do it. The Busters are excellent whilst working the heat on Anvil, with their stuff looking good and their character work being on point as well. It’s classic Heel tag team work and the crowd reacts whenever it looks like Anvil will fight back.
They tease the hot tag a few times, and in a nice touch Bret catches Arn with a cheap shot at one point because the Heels did it earlier, and because The Hart Foundation came in as Heels originally it makes sense that they would be happy to fight fire with fire. The crowd loves it too. That allows Anvil to make the tag and Bret runs wild on the Heels, with Tully in particular stooging around in his own imitable style. Bret looks really good too, with his offence having a really nice snap to it, especially when he starts throwing some suplexes. Things eventually break down with everyone going at it, and that leads to Arn catching Bret with an axe handle and Tully stealing the pin.
WINNERS: THE BRAIN BUSTERS
Dave Meltzer apparently must have been sniffing glue when he reviewed this one as he awarded it a paltry **, which I personally think is bonkers. This match was excellent, with good work from all four men and a hot crowd that loved watching The Hart Foundation run wild
Mean Gene Okerlund is backstage with Dusty Rhodes, in a promo that Maffew would go on to immortalise in Botchamania. Dusty has stolen the nightstick from Big Boss Man and was feuding with him, but he’s wrestling Honky Tonk Man tonight in a battle to decide which of them is the flyest of the white guys.
Honky Tonk Man w/ Jimmy Hart Vs Dusty Rhodes
Honky was past his peak as a singles act by this stage, whilst Dusty was still quite new to the company, so the result here is pretty obvious. Tony is of course in his element hyping Dusty up on commentary seeing as they were both refugees from WCW at the time before they both eventually got repatriated in the 90’s.
This one is all stalling and character work, but the crowd enjoys it for the most part due to how over Dusty is and the fact Honky still has some residual heat left over from his long reign as IC Champ earlier in the decade. Dusty takes things to a whole new level at one stage during his shine by having the temerity to mess up Honky’s hair!
That’s basically an act of war from Big Dust there! Honky is happy to stooge around to make Dusty look good, and knowing him he was probably just happy for an easy night’s work. Eventually Jimmy Hart helps his man out by distracting the ref so that Honky can catch Dusty with a shot from Hart’s megaphone for the cut off.
Dusty was always good at selling, so the heat is basic but decent. Honky keeps it simple with punches, kicks and rest holds, and the crowd sticks with Dusty whilst Honky works him over. The heat does probably go on for a bit too long to be honest though, and it reaches a point where it starts getting kind of boring. Why these two had to do 10 minutes when 6-8 would have done just fine is beyond me, but it’s what we’ve got.
Dusty eventually starts no selling Honky’s punches and makes the comeback with punches of his own, with Honky selling it all fantastically. Dusty misses a charge in the corner though and the ref ends up taking a bump when he stumbles out. This leads to Hart trying to hit Honky with the guitar, but Dusty ducks and Hart hits his own man by mistake, leading to an elbow drop and three count.
WINNER: DUSTY RHODES
That went a tad too long and I started getting a bit bored during the heat, but in general it was an okay match, with good selling from both men and a fun finish that the crowd enjoyed
Sean Mooney tries to interview Honky in the aisle following that, but Honky is glassy eyed and doesn’t know where he is in a gag that was probably funnier in a pre-Benoit world.
Mean Gene is with Jim Duggan and Demolition, who have gone back to basics in order to take out Andre The Giant and The Twin Towers tonight.
Mr. Perfect Vs The Red Rooster
Perfect was rocking the undefeated streak by this stage whilst Rooster had gone face at the turn of the year. Sadly they didn’t use that face turn as an excuse to let him going back to being Terry Taylor and he was stuck with the loser gimmick. I mean, he still probably wouldn’t have gotten out of the lower mid-card because, despite being a good worker, Taylor just didn’t have the spice and flavour for the wacky WWF of the 80’s. He fit in much better in WCW when he eventually went back there.
Rooster gets a babyface shine to start and its good action, with both men being good workers. Sadly the match never really gets going, as Rooster seems to suffer a legitimate leg injury that turns a nice back and forth wrestling match into a slugfest, leading to Perfect quickly putting Rooster away at the three minute mark with a Perfect Plex. Perfect seemed legit annoyed at the end there.
WINNER: MR. PERFECT
Wasn’t really enough match to rate, but it was going along nicely enough until Rooster got hurt
Survivor Series will be the 23rd of November
Mean Gene is with Rick Rude and Bobby Heenan, and this time the sign behind them even stays up! Rude says he will prove himself to be the ultimate IC Champ, whilst Heenan says Warrior lied to his fans when he said he would win tonight, because he’s going to let them down. Good promo segment
Rick Martel and Les Fabuleux Frères Rougeau (Jacques et Raymond) w/ Slick and Jimmy Hart Vs Tito Santana and The Rockers (Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty)
This was a combination of two feuds, as Martel was feuding with ex-partner Tito whilst The Rougeau’s were feuding with The Rockers. There is some fantastic action in this one; with the Heels bumping all over the place for Tito and The Rockers to start us out, and it’s a lorra lorra fun chuck! The first time I watched this I was in that phase that all smart fans go through where I was really into Heels because I thought that made me cooler than the average fan (It really didn’t) so I used to love this match just for just how entertaining the Heel team is.
Martel in particular is just hamming everything up, showing all kinds of Heel charisma and fleeing whenever it looks like he might have to fight Tito. He’s also got his working boots on as well, which makes me wonder where this Martel was for the rest of this WWF stint? He seemingly reached a point in the 90’s where he just stopped caring and his matches became dull as dishwater (the fun match with Shawn Michaels at SummerSlam 92 aside).
Tito eventually gets cut off and worked over in the Heel corner, which of course leads to Martel now being happy to get stuck in, which is just fantastic snide shithouse behaviour. The crowd pops whenever it looks like Tito is going to get anything close to an offensive manoeuvre in on his former friend, and it’s a shame that we never got a proper pay per view payoff to the feud, although they did meet up in the Final of the 1989 King of the Ring tournament in October of that year.
The Heels of course bust out the assisted abdominal stretch spot at one stage, and it has the desired effect of getting the crowd behind Tito. You can tell how hard everyone is working here because they are all drenched in sweat. They do some excellent teases of the hot tag, with Tito getting incredibly close on more than one occasion and you can just feel how much the crowd wants him to get it. It’s stupendous.
Eventually some Heel miscommunication leads to Tito being able to make the tag to Shawn and the crowd are READY for it! Shawn runs wild with a fun hot tag segment, with the Heels continuing to bump all over the place to make him look good and the crowd loves it. Things break down following that, with all six guys going at, including a moment where Tito sends Martel out to the floor with his flying forearm. The Heels manage to sneak the win however, as Marty has Jacques pinned only for Martel to catch him with a cheap shot leading to the three count.
WINNERS: MARTEL ET ROUGEAUS
Another fantastic tag team match, with all six guys being on form and the crowd loving the action
We get the video recap of the Rick Rude/Ultimate Warrior feud. Rude attacked Warrior at the Royal Rumble and then stole the IC Title from him at WrestleMania V. Warrior has been working his way through The Heenan Family since then, with Andre The Giant laying him out at one stage in order to set that feud up for down the line.
Ultimate Warrior says that his condition has only continued to worsen as a result of that attack, but Rick Rude will surrender the IC Title to the God’s above regardless. Usual Warrior wackiness.
WWF Intercontinental Title
Champ: Rick Rude w/ Bobby Heenan Vs The Ultimate Warrior
Warrior is MEGA over here, to the point that I would have 100% tried him as a Main Eventer in 1990 because of it. Rude is probably tied with Randy Savage as far as being the person who could get the absolute most out of Ultimate Warrior, and he bumps all over the place to make him look good in the early going, including a moment where Warrior flings him over the top to the floor like he’s Bam Bam Bigelow fighting Spike Dudley. Warrior actually hits Rude with the IC belt outside the ring, but the ref has to just ignore it whilst Jesse goes on one of his all-time greatest angry rants about it all.
Warrior looks decent on offence too, really getting across how angry he is about being cheated out of his belt at Mania V. I’d say that it’s genuinely one of his best overall performances, and Rude being on his game just makes him look all the better. Eventually Heenan is able to distract Warrior when he heads up top though, which leads to Rude cutting Warrior off and working him over. Selling was never really Warriors forte, but he does okay for the most part here and Rude’s offence all looks good, including a fantastic snap suplex at one point.
Warrior makes the occasional attempt at fighting back, but every time he does Rude has some kind of an answer, including a sleeper hold when Warrior manages to block a Rude Awakening. Both Tony and Jesse are fantastic on commentary here as well, with Jesse openly cheering on Rude and Tony doing everything he can to get Warrior over. Warrior manages to break out of the sleeper hold, but both men collide after that and take the referee out in the process.
Warrior makes the comeback following that, no selling Rude’s offence and firing off his usual array of clotheslines before getting a big powerslam, but there is no referee to count. I like that because it shows that Warrior had the bout won fairly, so even though the match has the finish it does, Warrior had originally won it himself regardless of what happens next. Warrior gets a piledriver following that, which gets a two count from the revived ref, but when he tries the Big Splash he finds only knees waiting for him.
Rude gets Warrior with a piledriver that looked more like a Ganso Bomb, but Warrior kicks out and the crowd pops big for that. Rude gets a fist drop from the top rope, which is Roddy Piper’s cue to join us. Piper was feuding with Rude at the time, so Rude makes the mistake of yelling at him. Piper moon’s Rude to really agitate his onions, which causes Rude to get even angrier and not realise that Warrior has recovered. Warrior suplexes Rude and then follows up with the Big Splash to win the Title and send the crowd BANANA!
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: ULTIMATE WARRIOR
This was a fantastic performance from Rude and one of Warrior’s best nights to boot, as they told a great story and the action was on point as well. What I liked about the finish was that Rude was completely the creator of his own downfall, because Piper didn’t get physically involved in any manner and didn’t even try to do so either, so if Rude had just kept his mind on the prize then he would have won, but he’s an egomaniac who can’t handle being upstaged and it led to him losing
We get the parade of interviews with Mean Gene. First Mr. Perfect, who says no one is going to beat him. Next up is Piper, who cuts a frankly unhinged promo about how he’s going to eat a garage. He happily takes the blame for Rude’s loss, setting up a series of matches between them that led to some cage matches on House Shows I believe. Next up is Rubbish Ronnie Garbage (Watch OSW Review) who has a special assignment tonight. Following that is Bobby Heenan and Rick Rude, who are angry about the result of that match. Vengeance is sworn. Heenan is always great when he’s angry about something.
We get a recap of the Hulk Hogan Vs Zeus issue. The two filmed the movie No Holds Barred together, but Zeus has now entered the wrestling world “for real” and has aligned himself with Randy Savage, who also hates Hogan. Thus we’ve got a tag team match tonight with Hogan and Brutus Beefcake against Randy Savage and Zeus.
The Twin Towers (Big Boss Man and Akeem) and Andre The Giant w/ Slick and Bobby Heenan Vs Demolition (Ax and Smash) and Hacksaw King Duggan
Andre had caused Demolition to lose the tag belts, so they’re looking for some payback here, whilst Duggan also had an issue going on with Andre around this time. In the “you had no idea at the time but its super uncomfortable now” category; we have a sign in the crowd depicting the Twin Towers in New York falling down to signify what Demolition is going to do to the Heel tag team of the same name. Obviously that’s just a coincidence but it’s a big yikes these days of course.
In a fun moment, we see that Duggan has gotten special USA inspired face paint in order to fit in with his teammates. That’s cute actually, I like it. This match is all about punching, so if you like that then you’ll probably enjoy this. It’s not like it’s boring or anything, but there’s very little actual wrestling going on, so your own personal mileage may vary. I do like how Demolition didn’t really change their style at all when they became babyfaces, they just started clobbering Heels instead. That’s usually the secret to a successful turn in all honesty.
Andre can barely move here, and watching him continue to wrestle at this stage in his career was getting increasingly upsetting. He is presented as the difference maker though, and whenever he’s in the babyfaces are in trouble. For instance, Smash runs wild with body slams on The Twin Towers and the crowd loves it, but one shot with Andre immediately puts him out of commission. Things break down following that though, and whilst the ref is trying to get Andre to leave, Duggan clobbers Akeem with his 2×4 and drapes Smash on top for the pin.
WINNERS: DUGGAN & DEMOLITION
I was okay with that. There was next to no wrestling going on, but it was worked at a pretty quick clip and the crowd enjoyed it, so I’m feeling generous
Did I mention Survivor Series on the 23rd of November? Well, Survivor Series, 23rd November. Straight after John Fashanu on BBC 2.
Mean Gene is with Ted Dibiase and Wrestling Superstar Virgil. Dibiase is facing Jimmy Snuka tonight, and he’ll prove he’s the greatest athlete in the WWF when he makes Snuka another statistic, just like he did Jake Roberts.
Ronnie Garvin will be the guest ring announcer for the next match.
Greg Valentine w/ Jimmy Hart Vs Hercules
Garvin was feuding with Valentine at the time and had lost a match where he couldn’t wrestle anymore, so he got a number of additional jobs such as reffing and ring announcing as a way to mess with Valentine in order to force him to demand that Garvin be reinstated. Garvin’s jibes fall on deaf ears for the most part and it’s pretty lame to be honest, with the crowd barely registering a titter, never mind a chuckle.
The match itself is pretty brief, with Hercules getting a bit of a shine in the early going with power stuff whilst Valentine spends the majority of the match trying to get into a fight with Garvin. They only get three minutes to work with, which isn’t really enough time to tell a story. The action itself is decent for the most part, and I’ve always had time for Hercules, especially in his feud with Ted Dibiase in 88/89 as they had good matches together. Valentine eventually wins it with a rope assisted pin.
WINNER: GREG VALENTINE
Too short to rate really. It wasn’t bad, but it didn’t have much heat either
Garvin announces Hercules as the winner just to spite Valentine, which leads to Valentine clocking Garvin in disgust. Strangely they play Hercules’ music following that, even though Valentine clearly won. Not even Tony is suggesting that Garvin can overturn the ref like that.
Mean Gene is with Randy Savage, Sensational Sherri and Zeus, who are cutting a promo with a Cauldron of Madness, where Sherri looks into the future to see the babyfaces getting destroyed later. This was all kinds of goofy, but not without its charm.
Ted Dibiase w/ Virgil Vs Jimmy Snuka
Dibiase didn’t have his entrance music yet, which makes him roughly 17.2% less cool. Dibiase had done an injury angle to put Jake Roberts out, which would lead to them wrestling one another at WrestleMania VI in Toronto. Snuka had come back to the WWF following a spell away, and he wasn’t anywhere near as over as he had been at his peak and his matches became tiresome as a result. This match has next to no heat and the action isn’t very good either with lots of sloppiness going on.
Snuka gets a babyface shine that the crowd doesn’t care about and Dibiase then gets a Stun Gun for the cut off. Dibiase’s work in the heat is fine, but the crowd continues to not care regardless. Dibiase finally manages to get a bit of reaction by missing an elbow drop from the second rope, which leads to Snuka making the comeback with the usual array of chops and head butts. Snuka heads up for the Superfly Splash, but Virgil lures him to the floor and that leads to Snuka getting counted out.
WINNER BY COUNT OUT: TED DIBIASE
Bleh match in front of a crowd who just wanted to see the Main Event
Snuka lays out Virgil post-match so that the fans get to see the Splash. They still don’t really care that much though, although it’s a better reaction than anything in the match itself.
Hogan and Beefcake cut the usual wacky promo, with Hogan going on about parting the Hudson River like he’s Moses. Actually the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of the Hudson is the Tanker level from Metal Gear Solid 2. This was standard Hogan promo material from the 80’s and it was good.
The Genius reads a poem and the crowd boo’s.
Randy Savage and Zeus w/ Sensational Sherri Vs WWF Champion Hulk Hogan and Brutus Beefcake w/ Elizabeth
Savage and Hogan’s friendship EXPLODED in 1989, leading to a Main Event clash between the two at WrestleMania V. During the feud Savage got rid of Liz as his manager and took on Sherri instead. Zeus was actually an actor called Tony Lister who had played the villain in Hogan’s “No Holds Barred” movie. He had an impressive look so the WWF decided to bring him in as a regular character on the show, as he debuted to attack Hogan on an episode of Saturday Night’s Main Event. He really didn’t have the goods for a satisfying Main Event singles bout with Hogan yet, so teaming him up with Savage gave him someone to carry him for a bit. Beefcake had been getting pretty over since getting the Barber gimmick and was a real life pal of Hogan, so he got selected for a Main Event pay off here.
The story for this one is that Zeus is all but invincible and the faces can’t do anything to hurt him, so they are on the defensive right from the off. It’s a different take on the usual tag formula and does a good job of making Zeus look like a monster that everyone should worry about. It also limits how much selling Zeus has to do, which is a good thing as he’s pretty terrible as a wrestler and that means Savage has to pick up a lot of the slack for his team. Thankfully that’s one heck of a clean-up guy to have!
I actually thought Beefcake wasn’t bad during this period of his career, as he was a perfectly serviceable over guy in the mid-card that you could use for roles like this. His work wasn’t terrible either and the WWF had a glut of very talented heels that could get good matches out of him. We get the double heat segment that usually comes with a Main Event level tag match, with Hogan going first and Beefcake going second. The crowd is in to Beefcake and pops big when he gets to do his mini hot tag segment before getting cut off for the second heat segment.
It looks at one stage that we might even get a TRIPLE HEAT of all things, but Savage makes the mistake of giving Hogan the old Reviving Elbow to wake him up. However, Savage had tagged Zeus before going up, which gives us Zeus Vs Hogan one on one. Hogan manages to drop Zeus to a knee to a big pop, highlighting how effective the booking of Zeus was. Liz takes out Sherri and that allows Hogan to get hold of Scary Sherri’s loaded purse. He clocks Zeus with it before getting the slam and leg drop for the three count.
WINNERS: HOGAN & BEEFCAKE
This was structured really well and the crowd loved it. The downside was that they had Hogan pin Zeus almost right out of the gate, which undid a lot of the good work they’d done in the match up to that point. Yeah, Zeus was a terrible wrestler, but they had something here and could have possibly done Zeus Vs Hogan in a singles match and drawn some money in the process. Sure, the matches would have sucked, but the fans probably wouldn’t care so long as Hogan won.
This was one of those occasions where I would have been fine with a DQ finish, with Beefcake maybe getting killed post-match to set up Hogan coming for revenge. They could have easily switched the match order so that Rick Rude and Ultimate Warrior went on last, so they could have still sent the fans home happy with a babyface win to close out the night whilst doing the big heat angle earlier in the show.
Hogan gives Sherri an atomic drop post-match in a rare example of a babyface man beating up a woman from this era (It was usually solely a Heel move to do that) and Liz adds a shot with the purse for good measure, followed by Beefcake cutting off her ponytail. Wow, it took three of you to beat up one valet, big whoop.
Those three **** matches make this an easy thumbs up. Yes, it runs out of steam a bit following the Warrior match, but that’s why the fast forward button was invented! For 1989, those three matches are an excellent return and worth a viewing all by themselves.
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