Sunday, December 30, 2012
WWF SummerSlam (August 3, 1997)
Coming into this event, Bret Hart was named No. 1 contender for the WWF title the night after Canadian Stampede, which deserved some explaining, really, but mostly it was forgivable if only because The Undertaker wouldn't be wrestling Faarooq, Vader, or Ahmed Johnson instead. Bret had taken off as the company's clear top heel, and at any rate, Undertaker had that whole dead brother thing going on anyway, and the title needed to go elsewhere. Bret promised to never wrestle on American soil again if he lost, so it was quite clear he would win. Shawn Michaels was named the special referee.
Stone Cold was on his first truly serious pursuit of a singles title, targeting Owen Hart and the Intercontinental belt. Austin said if he didn't win the title, he'd kiss Owen's ass, so it was pretty clear Austin would win.
The Patriot debuted! He got a win over Bret, thanks to Shawn. The Patriot was a curious hire on paper, since he wasn't particularly good, but they would need a stopgap main event foe for Hart in the near future, so he got the job. There have been worse hires.
The Mankind-Helmsley feud continued, even though Foley worked as Dude Love for a while, too. There was an awesome flag match on Raw. Goldust and Brian Pillman started their deal. The LOD drifted aimlessly with no real purpose to their existence. Davey Boy and Ken Shamrock got into it some. And that's where the show came from. Hooray! August 3, 1997, at the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, NJ.
Before the intro, the Star Spangled Banner is played. USA! USA! Intro video is heavy-handed again. Perfect worlds, heroes and villains, Bret's legacy spat upon and bludgeoned by society. If life were fair, Undertaker wouldn't have that dead brother deal. If life were fair, Shawn Michaels' knee would let him dance. "Will vengeance flow ruinous from his biased heart?" Jesus Christ.
We've got Vince and JR and the King. I'm starting to miss this more innocent Vince McMahon. I never appreciated him.
BIG BLUE CAGE, YEAH! This is an exit the cage to win match, if you're new around these WWF parts. It never made sense to me either. Mankind nearly escapes pretty early, but Chyna punches him in the nuts to a big reaction, and Helmsley goes up and suplexes Mankind off the damn top of the cage. Just a nasty, hard crash into the canvas. Helmsley could escape, but chooses not to -- he wants to do more damage. Chyna's like, "EHHH WHAT'S THE IDEA AHHH?" but to no avail.
After Mankind takes over for a while, he gets his head crushed in the door by Chyna, and the crowd is hot. Chyna, before she went insane, was a pretty fucking legitimate asset -- she had real presence, she was something different, and she made HHH a better overall package. Helmsley just keeps getting better himself, but Chyna added something that made him stand out. Helmsley is laid out on a double arm DDT on the chair, and Mankind is escaping. Crowd is psyched, but he stops at the bottom rung and takes his mask off -- up he climbs! And down he flies with an elbowdrop! This match is great fun.
After that it's a race. Mankind climbing over the top, Chyna pulling Helmsley through the door, and Mick Foley wins what may be the first race of his life. The Dude Love music plays after the match, and Mankind recovers on the floor with his foot tapping and struts his way out of here. I didn't totally get it at the time, but they were right: The Dude makes you feel good.
Here's Todd Pettengill to talk to New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman, who is mostly booed at first, but helped bring rasslin back to NJ, and she's hanging out with the Headbangers and Gorilla Monsoon. Gorilla gives her an honorary title. That gets booed, too. She keeps trying to be loose and fit in but, LOL.
If Pillman loses, he has to wear Marlena's dress, which is on a mannequin at ringside. It's an extremely basic match thanks to Pillman's limitations. He's mentally there all the way, but the physical just will not respond anymore, and it's pretty sad. He works around it pretty well for the most part, but the ankle is clearly kaput. Pillman takes advantage, and the finish goes to hell when they blow a sunset flip attempt and do some weird fight over to the ropes, where Marlena hits Pillman and the pin is had.
So Pillman has to wear a dress instead of getting to fuck Marlena. I don't know where this was ultimately going since Pillman died, but they'd get one more PPV match in before that happened. Still, the feud just felt sort of empty. Goldust was OK as a babyface, but that's about where it ended.
The Godwinns mad as shit b/c Hawk broke Henry's stupid fucken neck with the Doomsday Device, but Henry didn't stay out long. They bring a confederate flag so you know they're heels now for sure. I actually think heel Godwinns were kind of awesome. Great music, decent enough big ol hoss power team, good look overall. Before the match, Hawk yells about shit. Shut up you goof.
This is about as good as LOD has looked in a while, as they've at least got a story to sink their teeth into here. Hawk in particular is all full of fire in here like it's about 1988 and shit. Out of spite, the Warriors finish Henry with a spike piledriver. Yeah! Get nasty! Stop telling me things are a rush! Kick someone's ass!
Let's take a look back at the British Bulldog and Ken Shamrock arm wrestling, before Davey Boy headbutts him, hits him with a chair repeatedly (legs first!) and then puts dog food on his head. If the Bulldog loses, he has to eat dog food. This show is so great.
This starts good and fast, but Shamrock runs out of gas pretty quick since he's not used to doing much physically other than lifting weights and twisting on someone's foot and staring at Dan Severn. This match makes Shamrock look like a total pretender and Davey Boy like a super-pro who's being forced to carry like hell. But then Shamrock gets to lose his ass when Davey Boy hits him with some dog food. AHHH! AHHH! I'M IN THE ZONE FROM DOG FOOD! So then Shamrock chokes him out and shit after being DQ'd or whatever. This match was kinda dumb but I get it. So this takes a while as Shamrock keeps choking him to death while officials are like, "Hey, Ken, let him go, stupid." So he suplexes them and shit and he's in his zone. You know how he gets, this Ken Shamrock. Vince McMahon cannot applaud Shamrock, but he equates assaulting a bunch of human beings to having dog food put on your head.
Shawn Michaels gives Todd Pettengill some jive. After that, a stupid video package for Vince Russo's idiotic Gang Warz.
Listen, if you're booking wrestling for adults to watch, you can do this racial gang war thing right, if you have someone who understands how to write TV and wrestling. But that was not the case here.
Add in the fact that almost everyone in every stupid ass gang they came up with was a boring and/or shitty rassler, and you just had one of the all-time worst fucking ideas the WWF ran with. And the Truth fuck Commission hasn't even shown up yet.
This stinks. The crowd doesn't care because nobody even knows the names of the stupid Los Boricuas. Nation of Domination come through the crowd to stand around ringside, with Ahmed Johnson wearing a choker for some fucking reason or another. God, I hate this. Chainz punches Ahmed in the face, and Ahmed takes forever to sell it like he's in a fucking movie, all shrugging it off like he's got time to act, and Chainz is like, "uh, so do I punch you again?" and then Ahmed gives him the world's worst power bomb on the floor. Man fuck this. I think Los Boricuas win and the blacks and teh whites fight each other in the aisle. Ahmed Johnson looks moronic. Crush tries to run people over with a motorcycle, doesn't even come close, and gingerly makes his way around the ring to try again. He'd do more good actually fighting -- but he just .... leaves. Someone chants "ECW" by himself. He couldn't be more wrong. Holy cow, this was awful.
Here's a video package to hopefully wash some of that shit out of your brain.
Here, Steve Austin is getting the pop. It's all coming together. And it has been timed so, so well. In May, going for the WWF title, that wasn't there. In August, going for the IC title (his first WWF belt), Austin is the star, and everyone knows it. And they're still slow-burning him a little bit.
There's a cool thing with Austin as a babyface against these guys who really know how to work heel like the Harts, where they sort of know they have to be extra vicious, because at heart, Austin is a villain himself, a guy who will get nasty and take shortcuts just because he can, and he's a prick, just like they are. They can't count on Austin to make typical dumbshit babyface mistakes because he's nice or whatever. So Owen starts this with a chopblock from behind and goes after Austin's bad knee immediately. Austin turns that around by being similarly dickish.
The match is a pretty strong back-and-forth affair, certainly no Austin-Bret, but pretty damn good, and then there's the wicked piledriver. And Owen just has to do the best he can to get some cheap heat and give Austin time. That they even managed to get the (understandably) very weak finish they did is half a miracle.
Shawn has to call this square or he loses his job. Shawn checks the gear and what have you, but Bret steals the belt and hits Undertaker with it before the bell. Pretty sneaky, sis. Undertaker quickly has enough of Bret's nonsense.
Paul Bearer waddles down eventually to be a nuisance, and Undertaker stops caring about the figure four leglock that he's in so he can be like OOH THAT PAUL BEARER! Bret keeps the advantage. Brian Pillman and Owen Hart come to ringside next. Blah blah blah.
This match is not even close to as good as I remember it being. Dramatically speaking, Bret does a pretty good job with the slow build leading to a solid final few minutes, and Michaels isn't terribly overbearing in his role, but Undertaker feels absent or something here, like a total afterthought. It's almost, "well, of course Bret's winning, because he made that ridiculous stipulation" -- Taker's title reign was decent but had reached its limit, too, while Bret was arguably the hottest thing going in the WWF past Austin, who just fuckin broke his neck anyway. You know the finish: Bret pisses Shawn off to the point Shawn finally decides to act on his feelings, which means he swings a chair, Bret ducks, and Undertaker goes down. Shawn, with his job on the line, is forced to make the three count, making Bret a five-time WWF champion.
The show was OK, with Austin-Owen the best match by a good bit, and hardly a classic. The clear best segment, of course, was the part where Todd Pettengill used a telephone.
Speaking of which, this was Todd Pettengill's final PPV. Goodbye, Todd. You were the absolute worst.