Throwback Thursday: WWF SummerSlam ’88 (WATCH)
In the world of wrestling August means only one thing: SummerSlam. And with the return of “The Phenom” The Undertaker for his long-awaited WrestleMania XXX rematch with “The Beast” Brock Lesnar, and the epic “Title for Title” match between Seth Rollins and John Cena, the 28th annual SummerSlam (Aug. 23rd on the WWE Network) is without question the “hottest event of the summer”. With this year’s main events in mind Throwback Thursday is taking a look back at some of the epic returns and momentous matches that made SummerSlam WWE’s “summer classic”.
This week’s TBT entry on WDN takes a look back at the inaugural SummerSlam event.
Only the 8th PPV in WWF history (including The Big Event), SummerSlam ’88 was a counter-punch to JCP’s Great American Bash, JCP’s final pre-sale PPV. Built around the in-ring return of Hulk Hogan, who had been off since April filming No Holds Barred, Hogan’s longest layoff since returning in December ’83, SummerSlam ’88 was the most widely anticipated PPV since WrestleMania III. With all of the bells and whistles and kayfabe history attached to it there was little doubt the “Mega Powers”/”Mega Bucks” main event would be one of the biggest in Federation history.
Context is nearly non-existent. Following WrestleMania IV only two events, April’s SNME XVI and an incomplete PRISM event from Aug. 27th (5 of 8 matches missing), are available on the Network, neither of which deal with SummerSlam. With that out of that way, let’s get down to the ring…
WWF SummerSlam ’88
Aug. 29, 1988 – Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
Attendance: 20,000 – PPV Buys: 500,000 approx.
Commentators: Gorilla Monsoon & “Superstar” Billy Graham
Interviews: “Mean” Gene Okerlund & Sean Mooney
CHAMPIONS AT THE TIME:
WWF World Heavyweight Champion: Randy Savage
WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Champion: Honky Tonk Man
WWF Tag Team Champions: Demolition (Ax & Smash)
WWF Women’s Champion: Sherri Martel
WWF Women’s Tag Team Champions: The Glamour Girls (Leilani Kai & Judy Martin)
— Tag Team Match (WATCH)
The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers (Jacques & Raymond) vs. The British Bulldogs (Dynamite Kid & Davey Boy Smith) w/Matilda
This may well be the match of the night; a classic back-and-forth match that had the MSG crowd on their feet. In the end the Bulldog’s hit their double-team finish on Jacques and are about to win the match when the bell suddenly rings. That’s right; a time limit that was never mentioned has expired. Finish aside this was, to this point, the greatest opener yet for a WWF PPV.
NO WINNERS declared (Draw, 19:40)
Next up is footage of the brutal attack by Ron Bass that took Brutus Beefcake out of his IC title match against Honky Tonk Man. An unnamed opponent, we’re told, has been selected.
— Singles Match (WATCH)
Ken Patera vs. Bad News Brown
This was near the end of Patera’s sad, post-prison run. Pre-prison Patera is represented well on the Network while Brown is largely AWOL from the archives. After Patera posts himself between the ropes Brown connects with the “Ghetto Blaster” back brain kick for the 1-2-3 at 6:37.
WINNER is Bad News Brown (Pin, 6:37)
Up next is a fiery promo from the “Mega Powers” about the main event and their “Kiss of Death”, Miss Elizabeth.
— Singles Match (WATCH)
Junkyard Dog vs. “Ravishing” Rick Rude w/Bobby Heenan
This match had no rhyme or reason. Rude was battling Jake Roberts by this time and JYD was on his way out altogether. The finish comes when Rude reveals a second pair of tights with Cheryl Robert’s face airbrushed on the crotch. This brings out “The Snake” who takes out Rude, giving Rude the win by DQ at 5:31.
WINNER is “Ravishing” Rick Rude w/Bobby Heenan (DQ, 5:31)
Next is a cocky promo from Honky Tonk Man and Jimmy Hart about facing an unknown opponent.
— Tag Team Match (WATCH)
The Powers of Pain (Warlord & Barbarian) w/The Baron vs. The Bolsheviks (Boris Zhukov & Nikolai Volkoff) w/Slick
This marked the WWF TV debut of Baron Von Raschke as the manager of the newly-arrived Powers of Pain. It’s one of only 4 Von Raschke appearances on the Network. These four had been working together all summer and it shows, as this is a solid match. Warlord and Barbarian hit their powerslam/diving headbutt combo on Zhukov for the pin at 7:19.
WINNERS are The Powers of Pain (Warlord & Barbarian) w/The Baron (Pin, 7:19)
Next up is a Brother Love segment with guest “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan. ‘Nuff said.
— WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship (WATCH)
The Ultimate Warrior (sub. for Brutus Beefcake) vs. The Honky Tonk Man(c) w/Jimmy Hart
Warrior and HTM had spent much of July and August working quick matches all over the country. In fact, at three separate TVs in August, the 3rd, the 23rd, and the 24th, Warrior “won” the IC title from HTM and worked various matches with the strap, all of which aired after SummerSlam. At the end of each taping the decision was reversed and the strap returned to HTM. Beefcake’s injury, taped on Aug. 3rd, was no more than kayfabe subterfuge not political goings-on. Warrior hits a clothesline followed by the big splash for the pin at :32 to become the NEW WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Champion.
WINNER and NEW WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Champion, The Ultimate Warrior (Pin, :32 seconds)
— Singles Match (WATCH)
“The Rock” Don Muraco vs. Dino Bravo w/Frenchy Martin
Guest Commentator: Bobby “The Brain” Heenan
Muraco’s music and introduction are both overdubbed. This is another mystery match as Muraco was feuding with Greg Valentine while Bravo/Duggan was just getting going. Bravo reverses a body slam into the side suplex for the 1-2-3 at 5:30.
WINNER is Dino Bravo w/Frenchy Martin (Pin, 5:30)
Next up Sean Mooney interviews Jesse “The Body” Ventura about the refereeing the main event.
— WWF World Tag Team Championship (WATCH)
The Hart Foundation (Bret “Hit Man” Hart & Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart) vs. Demolition (Ax & Smash)(c) w/Mr. Fuji & Jimmy Hart
The main angle here was the Foundation’s “firing” of Jimmy Hart. Despite being sacked Hart retained the teams’ contract and began spilling secrets to Mr. Fuji. This is a terrific match with great psychology and timing. Ax hits Bret in the back of the head with Jimmy Hart’s megaphone allowing Smash to score the pin at 10:48 to retain the tag titles.
WINNERS and STILL WWF World Tag Team Champions, Demolition (Ax & Smash) w/Mr. Fuji & Jimmy Hart (Pin, 10:48)
Up next is an incensed Honky Tonk Man screaming about facing a wrestler not a warrior.
— Singles Match (WATCH)
The Big Boss Man w/Slick vs. “Birdman” Koko B. Ware w/Frankie
This is a glorified squash match. Boss Man was still in Big Bubba Rogers mode, but the potential is clearly evident. Boss Man hits his “Boss Man Slam” for the 1-2-3 at 5:54.
WINNER is The Big Boss Man (Pin, 5:54)
Next up is new Intercontinental Champion Ultimate Warrior. It’s the standard fare, spaceships, parts unknown, lighting bolts. JYD’s facial expression as Warrior goes off is priceless.
— Singles Match (WATCH)
Hercules Hernandez vs. Jake “The Snake” Roberts
Though this is a meaningless match, it’s actually quite good. Hercules strength is a riddle Roberts is forced to solve. Roberts reverses a body slam into the DDT for the pin at 10:09 in a match that exceeded all expectations.
WINNER is Jake “The Snake” Roberts (Pin, 10:09)
Before the main event we see an excellent “WWF Flashback” segment that sets the stage perfectly for the main event.
— “Tag Team Grudge Match” (WATCH)
“The Mega Powers” (Hulk Hogan & WWF World Heavyweight Champion “Macho Man” Randy Savage) w/Miss Elizabeth vs. “The Mega Bucks” (Andre the Giant & “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase) w/Virgil & Bobby Heenan
Special Guest Referee: Jesse “The Body” Ventura
The original main event for SummerSlam ’88 was expected to be the debut of Ric Flair challenging Randy Savage for the World title. But when Ted Turner refused to buy JCP without Flair, Flair refused to leave the Crockett’s in the lurch, or so the story goes. Instead we got the perfect platform for the epic return of Hulk Hogan. While the return of Hogan drew the headlines it was Randy who made it possible. In Hogan’s absence Savage had more than carried the banner. Sadly, with less than 5 title defenses available, nearly none of Savage’s World title run is present on the Network.
This match marked the end of the Hogan/Andre feud on TV and the very beginning of the end of the “Mega Powers”. A great main event partially weakened by the gimmicks attached to it, this match set the standard for SummerSlam’s to come. In the end, after Miss Elizabeth parades around in her “underwear” and the “Mega Powers” share a goofy handshake, the heels are wiped out. Savage hits DiBiase with the diving elbow while Hogan follows up with the atomic leg drop for the reluctant pin at 14:49.
WINNERS are “The Mega Powers” (Hulk Hogan & WWF World Heavyweight Champion “Macho Man” Randy Savage) w/Miss Elizabeth (Pin, 14:49)
The SummerSlam ’88 main event was strong enough to draw a nearly identical PPV audience as WrestleMania III. The return of Hulk Hogan was an easy sell, even if the rest of the card was not, and helped establish SummerSlam as the top show of the year second only to WrestleMania. The event is historic, as well, for what it meant for pro wrestling as a whole. Where WrestleMania was the big event and Survivor Series a gimmick show, SummerSlam ’88 was a statement show. The event signaled the decisive end to the territory days and positioned Vince McMahon as the kingpin of the wrestling world and the preeminent visionary of PPV TV. But SummerSlam ’88 is not without its faults. Like many WWF PPVs of the day it was quantity over quality. Though the event was the standard “one-match show” and half of the card is beyond forgettable, standouts such as the three tag matches, Hercules/Roberts, and the main event itself help save the show and give it historical significance. Throw in truly memorable moments like the Warrior’s Intercontinental title win and Elizabeth removing her dress, and you have a WWF PPV for the ages.
That’s a wrap for this week’s Throwback Thursday. As always thanks for reading, and if you’re a WWE Network subscriber check out the show, see it for yourself, and let me know what you think. And don’t forget to tune in to SummerSlam 2015 on Aug. 23rd, just 10 days from now!
Until next time, see ya at ringside.
Like most, Warrior, Hart Foundation vs Demolition and Mega Powers vs Mega Bucks were the clear standouts for me. But any of those three are better than most of WWE today. The hottest thing in WWE isn’t the main roster, it’s NXT. Cesaro and Ziggler are the only exceptions as far as as young, full time talent goes. But I think Cesaro’s an NXT product as is Rollins, Ambrose, Wyatt Family. The Divas Revolution is stronger with the NXT additions than it would have been without them. In fact, I don’t think there’s enough divas wrestlers on the main roster that would’ve made up that revolution or made it as credible as it is without the NXT additions.
The version of SummerSlam ’88 that’s on the Network, while much better than the Coliseum Video and Anthology releases, is missing about 20 minutes from the show. On the live PPV version, right after the Warrior IC Title win they cut to a shot of Regis Philbin sitting in the front row and then they went into hype mode for Survivor Series. They spent about 5 minutes showing highlights of the 1987 Survivor Series and recapping all the matches. Right after that they went to Mean Gene in the audience talking to Sugar Ray Leonard with Ray saying how much of a WWF fan he is and then they went into heavy plug mode by talking about the upcoming Leonard vs Lalonde boxing match coming up that Vince McMahon was promoting on PPV. Btw, Vince also promoted one other Leonard boxing match on PPV in 1997. After the Mean Gene interview with Leonard they had the usual PPV intermission clock. Now I understand why they would edit out the intermission, since nobody wants to watch a 5 minute countdown clock, but I have no idea why they would cut out the Survivor Series recap video and the live interview with Leonard. Sometimes there’s no rhyme or reason for why some things get cut and others don’t on the Network.
what was it, that Steph said when launching the Network:
“…Uncut and Unedited..”
Yes, the intermission was edited out. I had originally written it in but it bogged the article down so it was cut. The event is long enough without having to talk about an intermission that isn’t even mentioned. It was an editorial decision on my part. Btw, as an avid boxing fan, I actually think the Leonard/Lalonde fight was one of the best of the ’80s. It is an epic fight. I would agree, however, that editing the intermissions out entirely is pointless. The WWE is often like George Lucas. Neither can leave well enough alone.
send those editing-biat(hes Lucas and Vince to Supplex City! he he he
I remember Donny Lalonde being built up as the next great boxer with all this hype surrounding him. But once he lost to Leonard that all went out the window. Lalonde fought for a few more years I think, but any drawing power that promoters thought he had was gone after the Leonard fight.
Not unlike John Mugabi, was just a destroyer. Once he got KO’d by Hagler, one of my favorite Hagler fights btw, Mugabi’s career nose-dived. Lalonde said he just couldn’t live with himself being paid to harm another human being, basically. But that was some years after he was dropped by Leonard. But both guys were pushed as the next big thing and got knocked out for their troubles.
John Mugabi. Wow, there’s a name I haven’t heard since I was a kid. He was The Beast From The East before Bam Bam was using that name. I remember thinking “Mugabi” was the funniest name as a kid. Man you just took me way back with that one. Watching all those 1980s boxing matches with my dad and uncles. Hagler was the man. One of the greatest ever. He got robbed in the Leonard fight though.
Hagler was just amazing. And yes, he was robbed terribly in the Leonard fight. Hagler is a man of his word. He said he was retired and he’s stayed retired. Hagler has left A LOT of money on the table to stay true to his word. How can you not respect that?