With just a handful of days to go until SummerSlam 2019, Hidden Gems continues to roll on (still without an official home on the new 2.0 update). And if we’re this close to SummerSlam, then it makes sense for the spotlight to fall back on a routine that’s been proven to work by now. And so, last Thursday saw the upload of SummerSlam Spectacular 1993. For those unaware, these special TV shows (often colloquially referred to as “Road to” events) would usually air on the USA Network to serve as a major push for whatever Pay-Per-View was rapidly approaching at the time. When you consider that not even Raw was known for regularly presenting marquee matches just yet, these two-hour specials were almost mini Pay-Per-Views unto themselves. Here in late August 1993, we have such curiosities as Jim Duggan looking for revenge against WWF Champion Yokozuna, while the Steiner Brothers defend their WWF Tag Team Championships in a steel cage against Ted Dibiase and Irwin R. Shyster (collectively known as Money Inc). The tag team cage match, in particular, is often cited as a match of the year candidate for 1993, making this rather unassuming (and not particularly rare) special worth its inclusion on the WWE Network by itself. Let’s take a look, shall we?
SummerSlam Spectacular 1993
Name: SummerSlam Spectacular 1993
Location: Mid Hudson Civic Center
Attendance: 3000 (reported)
Yokozuna vs “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan
Blake Beverley vs Razor Ramon
Reno Riggins, Barry Horowitz, and Brooklyn Brawler Vs. The Smoking Gunns (Billy and Bart Gunn) and Tatanka
WWF Intercontinental Championship: Shawn Michaels © Vs. Bob Backlund
Dwayne Gill Vs. Marty Jannetty
WWF Tag Team Championship Steel Cage: The Steiner Brothers (Scott and Rick Steiner) © Vs. Money Inc (Ted Dibiase and Irwin R. Shyster)
Thoughts: Our hosts for the evening are the combination of Gorilla Monsoon and Jim Ross. Rather than running down the whole card, they specifically promote Jim Duggan Vs. Yokozuna and the WWF Tag Team Championship steel cage match. There’s also mention of a sitdown interview with number one contender Lex Luger as he continues his “Call to Action” campaign tour on the Lex Express. It’s a shame that so many hidden gems are currently missing in the transition to the new UI update because if not, I’d recommend checking out the “All Aboard the Lex Express” gem that was released to commemorate Independence Day last year. With hours of raw and previously unseen footage from both the aforementioned tour and the preceding “Body Slam Challenge”, it would have made a perfect companion piece to this SummerSlam Spectacular. Oh well, WWE does seem to be keeping their word as far as very steadily migrating everything over to the new system, so I’m sure that all of the gems will resurface eventually.
Back to this particular night and we indeed start things off with Duggan looking to get revenge on the WWF Champion. As Monsoon and Ross very helpfully summarise, Hacksaw was one of the rotund WWF Champion’s first major challenges after winning the Royal Rumble in January. Duggan did fairly well for himself (even being the first man to take Yokozuna off his feet) before eventually succumbing to multiple Bonsai Drops, seriously injuring the man in storyline terms. So while basic, this is a relatively major rematch with Jim still a big enough name for fans to get behind him in his quest to get revenge against the big man.
As far as the match itself goes though, it’s fairly obvious who’s being pushed and who is at the end of their WWF career. That’s not to say that Duggan gets nothing. He gives the crowd hope by putting up a fight on the rare occasions where he gets an opening (including Duggan throwing everything at the Champ just to knock him onto his back, which is treated as a victory unto itself until an attempted three-point tackle is snuffed out by Fuji chicanery with a Japanese flagpole) but there’s no denying that the WWF Champion is supposed to be dominant here. No matter how WWF may choose to dress this up, it is without a doubt an extended squash. Moves like the champion’s leg drop are sold as particularly devastating by the veteran and any time that the momentum does switch it’s made clear that this is due to Yokozuna’s arrogance, rather than Jim having any serious chance if his opponent was fully focused. That does make sense of course, as the champion was only two months removed from quite literally “killing” Hulkamania (at least for the next nine years in the WWF) which was quite the feat and something that should rightly be reserved for a heel that was going to be pushed as hard as possible. With that in mind, this does exactly what it should, and is still moderately entertaining in the process. That’s good enough for me. As you probably expected, all of Duggan’s fire is eventually extinguished by a Bonsai Drop for the pinfall victory. Postmatch, Yoko wants to hit another drop but a gaggle of referees rush to get Hacksaw out of the ring.
C grade for being perfectly acceptable as a showcase for the champion while still having the façade of storyline revenge for a veteran Duggan.
As a final addendum to the Duggan vs. Yoko matchup, Vince McMahon catches up with the entire entourage backstage and gets a word with Jim Cornette, who goes on to plug the upcoming SummerSlam main event against Lex Luger for the WWF Championship. As you might expect, the master of the loaded racket cuts an intense promo insisting that the babyface challenger has no chance against the dominant “rabid animal” champion.
Ahead of the next match, we get a recap of the situation that’s led us to Razor Ramon vs. Ted Dibiase at SummerSlam (which spun off the iconic 123 Kid upset earlier in the year). Ted incessantly mocked Razor for losing to the inexperienced Kid, eventually leading to a Ramon face turn. What would turn out to be Ted Dibiase’s last ever match as an active competitor in the WWF will have to wait though, as tonight sees Razor Ramon battling Blake Beverly.
On to Razor vs Blake and this is quite the competitive outing. Which is slightly surprising considering that you’d probably expect this to be a showcase for Razor Ramon as he heads into quite a big matchup against Ted Dibiase. But indeed, this is given a good 10 minutes or so with Blake being afforded more than enough chance to look like at least somewhat of an equal to Ramon. He gets to hold his own with some chain wrestling, gets up to some illegal shenanigans like the removal of a turnbuckle pad and just generally comes across as more than simply a tag team competitor. Of course, this is still about making Razor look good and so he eventually overcomes to hit a Razor’s Edge and pick up the victory.
C- grade for being a showcase for the big-name superstar while still being a little bit more even-sided than I expected. That deserves some credit.
Following a Yokozuna-centric SummerSlam advert, we’re led straight into a highlight reel for the ongoing Lex Express tour including seeing Luger rather awkwardly fraternize with the general public in several locations. No wonder his push never reached the heights that it could have.
As a way to briefly hype up the Jerry Lawler vs. Bret Hart contest at the upcoming PPV, we’re treated to a pretaped vignette of “the King” in a 1950s pink Cadillac with an Elvis impersonator. This whole setup serves as a vehicle (pardon the pun) for Lawler to take some shots at Helen Hart’s age while generally belittling and threatening “The Hitman” ahead of their confrontation which had been brewing since Hart became King of the Ring two months earlier. Following that vignette, Jim Ross conducts a brief backstage interview with Bret Hart who tells Lawler he has gone too far by bringing the former WWF Champion’s family into this and “the King” will pay in a little over a week.
We finally get to the next match of the evening which is the six-man pitting The Smoking Gunns and Tatanka (who were heading into a clash with Bam Bam Bigelow and The Headshrinkers at SummerSlam) against the jobber All-Star team of Reno Riggins, Barry Horowitz, and The Brooklyn Brawler. All in all, this gets about seven minutes from bell-to-bell, but it somehow seems longer. When I did my initial watch-through of this, I genuinely thought that it was one of the longest bouts on the show. In hindsight, I think there’s something wrong with the execution. Like I said, none of Riggins, Horowitz or Brawler are big names but they do manage to at least stall the momentum of the higher-profile team. Admittedly, this perception probably isn’t helped by Gorilla Monsoon outright chastising the Gunns and Tatanka for “not being sharp”. Monsoon always tended to have a habit of putting wrestlers down when it served no benefit to the attempted story. In this case, even Ross feels the need to immediately dispute the veteran color commentator’s claim, trying his best to praise the enhancement trio instead. But as a result, it makes the superstar trio look bad for taking 7 minutes to put away a selection of “ham ‘n’ eggers” in a rather pedestrian and unremarkable exhibition. A bit of a misfire all told. So yeah, that’s pretty much my whole issue with this presentation. 7 minutes feels more like 15 thanks to the meandering pace and the commentary of Gorilla makes a team heading into PPV look like chumps for not firing on all cylinders. It’s a mess and counter-productive.
D+ grade for being quite boring and doing more harm than good as far as its purpose of selling a match for pay-per-view.
We get another brief highlight package from Lex’s tour followed by an in-ring interview with The Undertaker conducted by Gene Okerlund. “The dead man” is finally winding up his feud with the terrible Giant Gonzalez which began back at the Royal Rumble in January. The planned stipulation for this monumental clash of titans is a “Rest in Peace” match. Before proceedings, Ross and Monsoon suggest that we’ll finally discover what this match type is. As it turns out, we get nothing of the sort. Taker says something noncommittal about how this Rest in Peace bout will only end when Giant Gonzalez’s carcass has every organ removed by hand. Thanks, that helped!
Speaking of the clumsy devil, Gonzalez shuffles his way down to the ring with manager Harvey Wimpleman in tow. The giant in a spray-painted bodysuit tells Undertaker that he won’t get up this time and will be the one to rest in peace. Thank God that was short but sweet. The SummerSlam opponents do their best to stare at each other menacingly and tease a physical confrontation but nothing comes of it after Gonzales bails out of the ring. Oddly, undertaker follows the giant down the aisle but does not attempt to catch up to him, making it look that “The Dead Man” really isn’t that bothered about his hated rival all that much after all. Quite the strange way to wrap the segment up.
Our gag reflexes are tested once more with yet another brief highlight reel from the Lex Express tour. And people say that Roman Reigns is forceded down our throats nowadays!
Next up, we have the WWF Intercontinental Championship contest between champion Shawn Michaels and challenger Bob Backlund. On paper, this feels like a legitimate minor dream match. After all, you have a man who went on to become one of the best in-ring performer’s of all time in Michaels and a former WWF Champion from another era who held the belt for the better part of a decade in Backlund. And although Bob wasn’t particularly (he was in his mid-40s at this point) he still had enough in the tank to potentially give us something to remember here.
Unfortunately, I don’t know whether this was due to a clash in styles or if this particular matchup was never intended to be anything more than a stopgap, but either way the result is extremely average. Of course, there’s too much talent in the ring for this to be particularly bad but it just doesn’t stand out in any particular way once everything is said and done.
In all fairness, it could be because Shawn seems to be a lot more focused on character work here as he plays the beginning out acting cocky well in control of his much more veteran challenger. Things eventually shake out to an offensive flurry for Backlund but Bob has always been more of a traditional wrestler so his offense tends to stick to atomic drops, body slams and backslides, even if they do have a little extra babyface fire to them. And then, Michaels uses a lot of weardown moves to slow the pace right down. From a traditional heel perspective, this makes sense but it does feel kind of odd considering that later on in his career, even when Shawn Michaels played the heel, he did so at a quicker pace. In this scenario, the 40-odd-year-old Backlund is the one picking it up. He does a good job of this and the crowd seems to react better than they did for most of his early 90s good guy run, but it never quite feels as epic as it should. One admitted highlight is a very crisp swinging neck breaker from the challenger which leads to a halfway decent near fall and at least some of the crowd buys into it. The near fall leads to a delayed atomic drop and another attempted pinfall but this time Diesel distracts the referee, saving his charge. This distraction catches the eye of the challenger long enough for the champion to execute a bizarre-looking rollup (which initially looks like an attempt at a low blow) with a handful of tights to give Shawn Michaels the tainted victory.
C grade. This may be another one of those cases where I feel like I’m being a bit harsh in hindsight but I don’t think I can give this any higher of a grade. Shawn does too little for my tastes here (which I understand fitted into his character to some degree) and although Bob does a very good job of keeping a frantic pace for a short match, his moveset is extremely outdated even by 1993 standards which stops the whole affair from being too interesting. Solid, but could have been so much more if it was on a show which allowed for more time to be allotted.
The mega push of Lex Luger continues as we now get a sitdown interview with the all-American. Lex talks about his role models and what it feels like to become a role model himself. You know, when you look at this show purely from a historical perspective, it’s hard to believe that Vince McMahon probably already knew that Luger wasn’t going to win the championship at SummerSlam. With that in mind, this is an insane level of promotion for a man that would be soon seen as a loser by the audience. It’s baffling really.
Before we can get to our next contest, Jim Ross throws us backstage to Vince McMahon, set to interview the new foreign heel Ludvig Borga who is being positioned as the next foil for Luger. If you were watching this at the time, you almost certainly expected Lex to become WWF Champion at SummerSlam. And in that case, you probably expected Borga to be the next challenger. No wonder business fell through the floor. Anyway, this is the typical “America bad, everywhere else good” spiel that every antagonistic bad guy who isn’t from around here has used since time immemorial.
Speaking of Borga, our penultimate match of the evening sees his opponent for SummerSlam, Marty Jannetty taking on the man who would be Gillberg, Duane Gill. Now, this is the very definition of a squash match. The whole thing lasts somewhere around four minutes and mostly involves Marty getting to show off some technical wrestling along with his highflying skills. One sequence that particularly caught my eye was Gill placing Jannetty on the top turnbuckle, only for Jannetty to block a punch with his foot and then hit what could almost be called a top rope Diamond Cutter or RKO. Impressive. Jannetty then finishes things off with a flying fist drop to get the win. Let’s be honest, this was about making Marty Jannetty look good before he goes on to be destroyed by Ludvig Borga at SummerSlam. With that in mind, it served its purpose.
C- grade for being extremely simple but at least having a memorable moment with the prototype diamond cutter.
We still have nearly half an hour to kill, so we head over to the SummerSlam Report studio with Gene Okerlund where we get a rundown of the entire SummerSlam 1993 card that’s just a little over a week away at the time that this aired.
And finally, here is our blockbuster main event: a steel cage match for the WWF Tag Team Championships, as champions Scott and Rick Steiner faced the challengers (and former champions) Ted Dibiase and Irwin R. Shyster of Money Inc. As I said in my introduction, this tag team battle is often cited as one of the very best of the entire year. Even if I do say so myself, it’s for a damn good reason.
Frankly, this would probably be hailed as a classic even if it aired on an episode of Raw next Monday. Despite being 26 years old, it holds up just as well today as it did back in 1993. Why? Because it manages to not only incorporate fantastic psychology but it also feels hard-hitting throughout. It utilizes the rules where both members of the team must exit the cage to be declared the victors and champions. This means that both teams expertly use this to create drama where one member of the team will manage to escape but then the other will get into trouble, creating a rollercoaster of emotions where victory is never quite certain for either team until the very closing moments. But this isn’t just about telling a good story as the top of the traditional blue cage is also used very well, including multiple superplexes off of the foreboding structure (the best beingfrom Irwin to Scott). The whole thing feels like a legitimately desperate brawl and it’s times like this that I’m glad I refrain from a true play-by-play review style, as I wouldn’t want to spoil such a great match for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet. This is more than 15 minutes of bell-to-bell action that has been carefully planned to never allow for a true lull in proceedings and thanks to extremely solid psychology underpinning everything, it never feels exhausting. All things considered, I think I would have preferred it if this was Ted Dibiase’s swansong for the company, rather than his lukewarm defeat at the hands of Razor Ramon during the upcoming SummerSlam event. This feels worthy of SummerSlam itself (even if the Steiner Brothers vs. Beverly Brothers title bout was solid as well).
B+ grade. This is one of the best tag team cage matches in at least WWF/WWE history. I almost feel bad for only giving a B+ grade. However, I try to save anything higher than that for things that are truly near-flawless. As great as this Tag Team Championship clash is, the cage escape rules do lend themselves to at least a little bit of inherent repetition, even if this particular example does its best to mitigate this handicap. Still, a flaw is a flaw and I have to at least show that in my final grading. Who knows, ask me in a day or two and I’d possibly bump it up a notch or two. I am a creature of mood.
We close things out with a rap music video featuring Randy Savage and Men on a Mission (in support of Lex Luger, of course), which became somewhat of a tradition for the TV specials of this period.
Overall video grade: B-. When I tally everything up, this is a very solid show. Sure, only the main event is truly memorable but when you consider that this was designed to be a hype machine for the WWF’s second-biggest show of the year, it pretty much did exactly what it needed to do. Both Lex Luger and Yokozuna were promoted heavily, all of the other notable attractions were given a chance to shine and everything was topped off with what was given the feel of a major championship defense. You don’t need to watch all of it. Just watch the main event if you’re short on time but when 90 minutes go as quickly as this did, that’s a good sign.
Thanks for reading, guys. I’ll see you next time for what I would expect to be another SummerSlam-focused gem addition. There is one more stand-alone SummerSlam Spectacular event from 1994 (editions before 1993 were technically classed as Prime Time Wrestling episodes and WWE has thus far avoided uploading any of these PPV hype vehicles separately). I guess we’ll see whether my hunch amounts to anything tomorrow.
Watch the “Hidden Gems” and more than 10,000 hours of content on the WWE Network. Get 30 days of access completely FREE! Click here to subscribe to the WWE Network.