Happy Wednesday Everyone!
I did a series where I looked at every opener for WrestleMania so I decided to do it for SummerSlam as well. SummerSlam was always the pay per view I looked forward to the most in my younger days, and it usually had some of the better matches of the year on it. This week we’re covering 1988 to 1992, with every match being under tag rules. I guess they liked starting SummerSlam off with a tag match back in the day?
Les Fabuleux Rougeaus(Jacques et Raymond) Vs The British Bulldogs (Dynamite Kid and Davey Boy Smith) w/ Matilda
This of course ended up being a real life feud behind the scenes when Dynamite Kid cheap shotted Jacques whilst Jacques was playing cards with Curt Hennig, leading to Jacques then retaliating by clobbering Dynamite with either brass knuckles or a roll of quarters depending on who you ask. It all stemmed from something really minor like Jacques asking to leave early one night I think as well, with the completely disproportionate response from Dynamite being a good example of how nuts wrestlers were back in the 80’s sometimes.
Both teams seem to working together fine here though, with The Rougeaus being entertaining cocky villains who are insincere about how much they love the USA whilst The Bulldogs are excellent as high-flying technicians who aren’t interested in sanctioning the Heels’ buffoonery. The Bulldogs shine in the early going with some nice stuff until The Rougeaus are able to cut off Davey Boy with an unseen attack from the apron, leading to the Heels working over Davey’s leg in their half of the ring. Davey Boy sells that well and the crowd gets behind him to make a comeback, so the match is entertaining.
Dynamite eventually gets the tag and runs wild, looking great even though a combination of injuries and steroid abuse had slowed him down a bit by this stage. The sad thing is that Dynamite could have probably toned it down and remained over due to the fact he was still more exciting than most of the slugs the WWF had hired at the time and he had cache from his prime years that he could have coasted on, but his pride wouldn’t allow that and he continued to destroy his body in the hard 80’s WWF rings until he was retired by the 90’s.
As they’re putting in some time in this one, they do the old two heats tag formula, with Jacques catching Dynamite with an illegal back suplex at one stage, leading to some work on him. He sells that well, with The Rougeaus getting some nice tandem offence and the crowd continuing to be into the contest. Davey eventually gets our second hot tag and presses Jacques crepes first onto the top rope for a big pop, leading to things breaking down and the time limit running out to give us a draw just when it looks like The Bulldogs might win.
TIME LIMIT DRAW
The whole point of this one was to have the two teams have a fun match that ended abruptly with the time limit draw so that you would want to see them wrestle again and actually wrestle to a finish, and it succeeded well on that front as I would happily watch a rematch following this. The Rougeaus disrespect The Bulldogs and then flee following the match to keep the feud cooking
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
Power and Glory (Paul Roma and Hercules Hernandez) w/ Slick Vs The Rockers (Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty)
Hercules had been a babyface (and briefly The Third Mega Power) whilst Roma had been a babyface tagging with Jim Powers, but they both joined the dark side at the same time and became a tag team unit as a result. The story here is that Shawn is in no condition to perform, but in this instance it’s due to an actual injury and not just because he had too much of a good time the night before. As a result The Powers attack him right from the off, with Hercules bonking him in the leg with his steel chain, thus giving Shawn an excuse to sell outside the ring whilst Marty essentially wrestles in a glorified handicap match against the two Heels.
Marty gives a good account of himself as he bravely fights against the two Heels, with the Heels showing some good continuity as a unit. Power and Glory spend a lot of time inside the ring at the same time, but they cover for it by having Slick distract the ref to explain why the match isn’t ending in a DQ due to the Heels wrestling beyond what would constitute a five count. The crowd immediately gets into the story being told, popping whenever it looks like Marty might be able to pull off the big upset, but eventually he gets overwhelmed and pinned following a Superplex/Big Splash combo from Power and Glory called the Power-Plex.
WINNERS: POWER & GLORY
This one told a good story and everyone played their respective parts well. Even Shawn did a good job in the limited role he was given. It was a little too short and a bit sloppy in places so I don’t think I could go any higher on the rating, but it still covered the ground it needed to and worked well as a way to get both Marty and the Heels over
Hercules, Paul Roma and The Warlord w/ Slick Vs Ricky Steamboat, Kerry Von Erich and Davey Boy Smith
Power and Glory had fallen down the tag ranks in the year following the previous bout, mostly due to The Road Warriors creaming them at WrestleMania VII and sapping them of a large chunk of their star power in the process. The real feud going on here was Warlord and Davey, as they were having a series of surprisingly great matches with one another as the crowd loved seeing Davey throw the big Warlord around. Steamboat was just known as “The Dragon” during this run, which didn’t really make much sense seeing as it wasn’t that long since he’d be in the WWF under his usual name so to rebrand him and act like he was a totally new guy was a bit of a stretch, but Vince gonna Vince.
This is a good way to open the show, as there are decent workers on both sides of the ring and the crowd are into the action. The Warlord is the closest you could say to someone in this match not being that good a worker, and even he was capable of having a decent match when in there with someone good. He’d probably be one of the better workers in the entirety of NXT 2.0 today, whilst Roman would probably be the Champion, which is kind of terrifying in some ways. The babyfaces shine on the Heels to start, with the Heels bumping and stooging around for them whilst the crowd has fun with it all.
Eventually Steamboat tries a monkey flip on Warlord though and Warlord is too hench to go over for it, leading to Steamboat getting cut off and worked over in the Heel corner. Steamboat of course sells that well because he’s Ricky Steamboat, and the crowd sticks with him whilst the Heels beat him up. Warlord ends up heading to the second rope and lands on Steamboat’s boot, giving us a Von Erich hot tag. Kerry runs wild on the Heels and the crowd is INTO it. The finish goes a little bit awry, as Davey gets the tag and gives Roma a Power Slam but can’t decide whether to pin or make the count, so he pins Roma for a one count and then tags in Steamboat for the match winning cross body
WINNERS: STEAMBOAT, SMITH & VON ERICH
This was a decent opener outside of the confusion at the end. Just a solid way to open the show with a crowd pleasing babyface victory and some enjoyable work along the way
Money Incorporated (Ted Dibiase and IRS) w/ Jimmy Hart Vs The Road Warriors (Hawk and Animal) w/ Paul Ellering and Rocco
Dibiase has a very cool white version of his ring gear for this one. Hawk and Animal do the motorcycle entrance here, with Hawk parking too close to Animal meaning that Animal ends up burning his leg and having to wrestle the match with his gear melted onto his leg which sounds positively awful. Hawk was also supposedly absolutely off his noodle due to indulging in questionable substances, so much so that Animal didn’t trust him to do certain things and just wanted to get through the match with everyone leaving unscathed.
IRS would of course be known as Henry Montague Robertson Chalice if he were from the UK, so it’s probably for the best that he’s from the USA instead as his current name is less of a mouthful. Rocco is a ventriloquist dummy that Ellering found at the dump, and to his credit he actually went to the trouble of having ventriloquism lessons to make the gimmick work, although he wouldn’t be doing it for much longer after this show. Why The Road Warriors needed a ventriloquist dummy as part of their entourage is beyond me but I guess we can’t all be blessed with genius.
It’s not like Hawk comes off particularly blitzed watching this, although he does kind of wander around the apron at points looking like he doesn’t really know where he is. The match itself is a decent opener, with the crowd being into The Road Warriors and the Heels knowing how to work in order to put The Roadies over. The Road Warriors were definitely one of the more popular WWF acts during this period, to the point that many years later there was still a guy on the British indie scene making a decent living working in Hawk cosplay as “The Legend of DOOM”.
Hawk eventually misses a clothesline off the top and that leads to Money Inc. working him over for a bit, with it being a fine slice of tag team formula. The crowd remains into the contest and chants for Hawk to make a comeback, whilst Money Inc. do classic Heel tag team spots such as swapping out without a tag behind the referees back. It’s not the most exciting match ever, but it’s solid enough and it hits the notes it needs to. Hawk does start to look gradually more out of it as the match progresses, but part of that might be selling on his part.
The crowd continues to chant for Hawk though and bite on the teased hot tag spots, as Dibiase and IRS are doing an excellent job holding this together. Animal eventually gets the hot tag and runs wild, with the crowd digging the cut of his jib and popping for his big clotheslines and power moves. They prep for The Doomsday Device on Dibiase but IRSE breaks that up with a dropkick. Animal runs the two Heels into one another though and then Power Slams Dibiase for three, which I believe was an audible called as Animal didn’t really trust Hawk to do their usual finisher properly.
WINNERS: THE ROAD WARRIORS
This was another decent opening tag match in a series of them in this edition. I believe Hawk was done with the WWF once this was over and that led to Animal and Crush teaming together for a bit until Animal hurt his back wrestling in Japan and decided to sit out for a few years with a Lloyds of London insurance claim. That would make him the third Minnesota wrestler to do so during this period along with Rick Rude and Mr. Perfect I believe. Hawk would form The Hell Raisers with Kensuke Sasaki over in Japan, leading to genuine bad blood between Hawk and Animal until they reconciled later in the 90’s
Four solid matches and one excellent bout make me a happy lad!
Hopefully I’ll see you all next week for 1993 to 1997!