I always liked SummerSlam a lot. I guess a lot of the chilluns younger than me might not have the same great affection for a SummerSlam or a Survivor Series, because they've grown up with a PPV a month mostly, and back in MY day, there were four a year, and they were all a big fucking deal. Survivor Series has of course been turned into a shell of what it once was, and barely even counts as much anymore, and hasn't for years, but the Rumble is still the Rumble, WrestleMania has evolved into something even bigger than it was when I was a kid, and SummerSlam has been pretty consistent as a major show where some shit gets settled and some major happenings go down.
The first SummerSlam was held at Madison Square Garden and continued the fairly interminable Hulk Hogan-Andre the Giant feud, which by this point had lost a lot of spark as it was quite clear that Andre wasn't going to be hobbling his way into a legitimate title win or anything of the sort, and hell, Savage was champion anyway, and looking back, as great as DiBiase was, I don't know that there was ever any major inkling that he might lift the belt from Savage, so realistically the main event here served only to fart with the Megapowers and their overtanned, steroided beyond belief beef. But then I am getting off topic, while on topic, and could probably go on forever about that, and maybe I will later, but let us get to the action, hosted on August 29, 1988, at Madison Square Garden, by Gorilla Monsoon and Superstar Billy Graham, who had some of the greatest influence in wrestling history, almost entirely things I hate.
The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers vs The British Bulldogs
I happened to watch the latest (old) Legends Roundtable on WWE Classics and they talked about the Jacques-Dynamite fight, which was about as interesting as the time Jacques talked about it on Meltzer's old Eyada show 100 years ago and took 27 years to tell a pretty simple story, so if you ever run across someone who needs a CliffsNotes version of that shitty, boring tale, here you go:
- Jacques Rougeau was a baby.
- Curt Hennig was a trickster.
- Dynamite Kid was a fucking prick.
- Jacques punched a bed in his hotel room.
- Jacques sucker-punched Dynamite, with or without knuckle dusters.
- Dynamite didn't like being bullied instead of being a bully, so he ran to the hills.
On that roundtable show, the godawful Pat Patterson (who desperately needs to stop getting invites to the table -- fuck, sit Joey Styles or Arn or someone down) noted that the Bulldogs and Rougeaus had great chemistry. It was also noted that Raymond Rougeau was a badass, which I think I would have always guessed had I not been told. I would have guessed that Raymond was the tough guy and Jacques was the wiener, and it's not just because his name is Jacques or he was the Mountie or whatever.
Were the Bulldogs overrated? Maybe somewhat. I argue with myself about this from time to time. I think I've arrived at the conclusion that they probably were, but were also pretty clearly great. Look, they were not the Rock n' Roll Express or Midnight Express, and anyone who says they were is high on dope and doesn't understand the basic scientific fact that the Southern style tag team match is in fact rasslin perfected.
This is alright. The Rougeaus are a notch below being a notable, standout team, and that was pretty much their modus operandi, at least as far as I'm concerned. Davey Boy winds up playing the WWF version of Ricky Morton, which means that he has his leg worked over tediously by the Rougeaus. Superstar Graham still has the gift of gab, but he's sort of like a cross between Dusty Rhodes in 1996 and Booker T in 2012.
Dynamite gets his hot tag and is the true house afire, snapping off a lovely suplex on Raymond and just getting it done in there. Even if the Bulldogs are slightly overrated, they are sure as fuck better than the Rougeaus, even here when they're past their peak powers.
|MAKE YOU HUMBLE!|
Abdominal stretches and camel clutches, and Gorilla says they need more than one referee, and Superstar Graham is all man man man man. This is so fast-paced that we need two referees, Graham agrees. Someone might blow his mind later if they go any faster than this match. Finally Dynamite gets a break as Jacques winds up crotched on the top rope, and then finally Davey Boy says, "Well I guess I can just go in the ring and do what I want since no one's REALLY going to stop me," and no one does, but the bell rings just as the Bulldogs appear to have gained the upper hand. It's a 20-minute time limit draw. The Rougeaus feign a handshake, take their swings at the Bulldogs, and run away. Superstar says, "Take it to the back and finish it in the showers if you have to, brother!" Yeah. Do that.
Here comes some exciting footage explaining why Brutus Beefcake won't be able to wrestle tonight. (Aw darn!) It's Ron Bass beating him up. Bass-Beefcake was one hell of a feud. That Brutus Beefcake, he was special. Anyway, Bass slices him up with a spur:
Whatever, man. I don't even care no ways. "Beefcake is just being dragged around the ring like a carcass of some kind." You know what bothers me looking back? I was just a little kid and shit, and I understand that the Wrestling Observer nerds back in the day hated the WWF bad, and in some ways for very good reasons, but how on earth was Gorilla Monsoon "winning" worst announcer every year when Vince McMahon worked? I think this is a legitimate question. Maybe if they answered that sometime, I could quote them, and then someone could get mad (the ghost of Gorilla, perhaps), and then they could act like it's not their own fault. I'M JUST SAYING.
Ken Patera doesn't get a name graphic because Bad News jumps him as soon as he gets into the ring. Patera, who competed in the '72 Olympics but didn't medal, gets Olympic notes but Bad News, the '76 bronze medalist in judo, does not, because the Olympics are not "ghetto" enough. Can you imagine WWE or anyone having a former Olympic medalist in their employ today and not hyping that up? I mean this was a time in the NWA where if someone had played high school football, Jim Ross made sure to shit his pants on TV over it, and the WWF wasn't acknowledging Brown's background at all, and it makes sense to not, I'm not trying to make a federal case out of it, it's just wild to think of how different this is to what we watch now, and yet somehow the exact same shit.
This match isn't pretty to say the least, but both guys have stories and personalities and characters and histories and shit, so it at least has something going for it. Also I remember watching it when I was a child, so that helps too. Patera gets a slow rally of offene before locking on his devastating powerlifter's bearhug. Out of that, and Paterais still on a roll but gets posted shoulder-first. Ghetto Blaster and Bad News wins as Patera's WWF career is rapidly winding down.
M E G A P O W E R S
M E G A P O W E R S
Rick Rude stories are awesome, but he just wasn't that great between the bells. He was cool and looked great and was really good on the mic and had natural charisma, but he just didn't have a lot going for him in terms of workrate and his moveset sucked. Augh. But for real, that's true. Rude works a couple of his Patented Chinlocks after he fails to put Junkyard Dog away with such exciting moves as punches, JYD running into his foot, a falling punch, a flying punch, and I think a couple kicks were in there, too. He also did some good work when he made JYD miss him with a falling headbutt. Where Rude made it work in a match was selling, where he was not exactly Curt Hennig or Shawn Michaels flying all over the place, but he was mildly comical and cheesy, and these aren't bad things. He had a good feel for when to cornball it up and when to be serious on the sell.
After a Russian legsweep and a flying punch, Rude pulls down his pants that have JYD's face on his dick and ass to reveal pants that have Cheryl Roberts on his dick and ass. That rings Jake Roberts in immediately for the DQ. Rude-Roberts at WM IV is one of the worst matches of all time, and every time they get near each other I can't help but think of that bomb. JYD seems relatively understanding of Jake's explanation for why he (JYD) was DQ'd.
Backstage, Gene is with Honky Tonk Man and Jimmy Hart. Honky needs a new opponent tonight with Brutus Beefcake out. "There is rumor afloat that a very formidable man" will be the challenger tonight, says Gene. Honky doesn't want to know who it is. He doesn't care.
The Bolsheviks have Slick with them, while the Powers have The Baron (Von Raschke). Barbarian was actually good, while Warlord was always kind of exactly what nerds would have you believe. Both were better than Nikolai Volkoff, however and much better than Zhukov. Actually, which Bolshevik sucked more? There's a debate. Zhukov manages to bump on nothing when Barbarian grabs him for maybe a piledriver or the like, suddenly falling to his knees. Nobody chants you fucked up or anything. "Not an ounce of fat" on the Warlord, says Gorilla. Come on. There are many ounces of fat on him. It's nothing to be ashamed of. He's a fucking tank. Volkoff manages to make a run-in to break a pin look as bad as humanly possible, then the referee stares at a non-tag switch by the Bolsheviks, but does nothing about it, and this has broken down into a travesty. It's like Sin Cara & Sin Cara vs Sin Cara & Sin Cara with Teddy Long as the referee, without the flying. Nikolai throws the worst -- well, Gorilla called it a "roundhouse kick," so let's go with that, that I've ever seen. Barbarian gets the hot tag and he's got Ethnic? martial arts for everyone in his path. Ain't got nothin' to do with a Mafia. Since Volkoff is 132 years old, Zhukov takes the devastating double tackle, followed by the powerslam -> diving headbutt for the finish. Parts of this were awful but mostly it was just bad. Baron didn't last long because Vince McMahon was afraid of him or something. I don't know. Spread that on the internet, though. Let's make it a reality.
Here's Brother Love. The guest is Jim Duggan. Duggan has trouble paying attention to anything for more than a few seconds at a time, which is great. Duggan starts in about his patriotism, and why he carries a weapon, and we get "you're not a policeman" from Brother Love, which shockingly is not a cue for the Boss Man. Instead Duggan chases him off and says HOOOOO about 12 more times.
Intercontinental Championship: Honky Tonk Man (c) vs The Ultimate Warrior
Warrior is the mystery opponent and this is his famous breakthrough, as he runs in, lands a few punches, bodyslam, shoulder tackle, terrible clothesline, splash, and that's it.
After an intermission, we are back! Bobby Heenan updates us on what The Mega Bucks are doing. Hangin' out, apparently. Good update.
Don Muraco vs Dino Bravo
After their classic at WrestleMania, you just knew this wasn't settled. Heenan joins on commentary and calls Graham a cripple. Gorilla's like "hey now guys" but it's good-natured ribbing about cripples. Graham is worried about a Muraco-Bravo bench press competition, which might be better than a match between these two in 1988. Look at these two ... "go." Muraco still has his NY fans, so that's good. But Bravo wins with a side suplex in what is only a slightly tainted victory, nothing that Muraco or Graham or Gorilla can complain about TOO much. Monsoon calls it "kind of an upset."
Jesse Ventura is with Sean Mooney, as he will be the special guest referee tonight in the main event. Jesse doesn't say he's been bribed, just says he's not an idiot and he gladly took the money DiBiase gave him. The way he says "Million" bugs me.
When I was a kid, I thought Bret Hart was awesome. Then I got into my 20s, and I started getting a little tired of his matches, and I thought he was overrated. But he was in fact really quite great, and I've come back around on that watching Hart Foundation matches, where he was just outstanding. Neidhart was really a pretty good power guy/#2 for the team, too, but it was no doubt Bret that made them stand out. Demolition are accompanied by Mr. Fuji, because he is their manager, and by Jimmy Hart, who is there to help them against his old charges.
The thing that makes Demolition better than the Road Warriors is that they always seemed totally intimidating and badass, but they could also work a match and get over selling and bumping around, which the Road Warriors frankly could not. Once the LOD became human and vulnerable, they didn't have the ability to really keep rolling in the ring. It's not that Demolition were one of even the ten best tag teams of the 80s, unless you're a complete and utter WWF mark and don't have time for the other teams (and I'm just talking U.S. teams here), and no one would ever rank them higher than the Warriors on an all-time list, because the LOD at their peak were so different and so awesome that they beat a lot of teams that were really better than them just because they were the tits. But I'd almost always rather watch Demolition matches than LOD matches. Demolition retain titles here when Ax hits Bret with Jimmy's megaphone.
Backstage, the Honky Tonk Man is SEETHING
Big Boss Man vs Koko B. Ware
Early Boss Man when he was still sporting some baby fat before he leaned up a little bit. But man could he still move. Boss Man steals the Andre getting stuck in the ropes spot early, which takes something major from the main event later. He gets out and Koko looks at him and claps and shit. Koko is an idiot. Koko trying to use his speed, duck and counter, duck and counter. Crowd impressed by Boss Man squishing Koko in the corner. It was a simpler time. Did Frankie ever go apeshit and peck anyone in the face or anything? Anyway, Koko gets some offense in here, but Boss Man wins clean. It was OK. bird bird bird, bird bird bird.
Backstage, real wrestlers congratulate the Ultimate Warrior on his Intercontinental title win. Once Warrior starts talking, JYD looks at him with sort of a bewildered expression and walks out. Everyone else left, too, I think, but JYD was easy to see leaving.
Oh goodie, it's Hercules, who had the second-worst match at WrestleMania IV, and Jake, who again, had the worst. By the way I keep referencing WM IV because:
1. It's the same year as this show.
2. I've probably watched WM IV more than any show in history, even though it is terrible.
The big story here is that the Brain is not out there with Hercules. And Jake is all mentally distracted by Rick Rude's pants. Hercules does some power moves (not really) and then locks on a powerful chinlock, which Superstar Graham says is a great opportunity to talk to your opponent. Jake and Herc combine their suck and come up with a predictably shitty match that Roberts wins with the DDT.
Savage and Andre start for a moment, DiBiase tags in and calls on Hogan. So we get the "other" pairings to start, which makes everyone wet or hard or whatever they might be. Both? Some. Hogan gets beaten up as the inexperienced Ventura has trouble keeping order.
This is one of those WWF main events where, when you compare it to what the NWA was doing at the time, it's pretty horribly difficult to defend. It's really, really not good, save for Savage and DiBiase giving a strong effort, particularly Savage. Can you imagine how crazy shit would have changed if Vince's idea to bring Flair in to face Savage on this show would have actually happened? Maybe we'd have just gotten Hogan/Beefcake vs DiBiase/Andre in the co-main event.
Elizabeth eventually takes off her skirt and parades her fine ass around as all the heels and Ventura stare at her covered vagina. The two idiots recovering on the floor exaggeratedly shake hands. Back inside, Hogan slams DiBiase and Savage drops the big elbow, legdrop, Ventura counts and hesitates on two, so Savage brings the hand down for him. Bell rings with no referee signal. Whatever.
After the match, Hogan lifts Liz and Savage starts to hate Hogan before overcoming it long enough to pose with his friend. Hulk Hogan, like Benjamin, is nobody's friend.
THREE STARS OF THE SHOW
1. Randy Savage
Without him, the main event would have been godawful. As was, it was just bad.
2. Bret Hart
There really weren't many standout performances on this show. Even Gorilla Monsoon had an off-night working with Superstar Graham, who was OK really, sort of like a 1988 version of Booker T, but they had no chemistry or skits. Gorilla struggled without a heel to harass and be annoyed by.
3. Honky Tonk Man
I guess some damnfools would put the Warrior and his "awesome" title win in a top three, but Honky is the guy who got knocked around for a few seconds and cut two good promos on the night.