Vince McMahon loved playing “anything you can do, I can do better” with Jim Crockett, his chief rival in the wrestling wars of the 1980s.
Every event Crockett promotions and the National Wrestling Alliance held, the WWF countered with an event of their own. The NWA had Starrcade. Vince McMahon and the WWF created Wrestlemania. The two companies went back and forth creating pay-per-view events until finally Crockett went bankrupt and sold his company to Ted Turner.
Even though Vince had won, he still wasn’t finished cashing in on the pay-per-view model. After Wrestlemania, Survivor Series, and the Royal Rumble, the WWF needed an event to close out the summer. Thus, in 1988, SummerSlam was born.
The WWE considers SummerSlam the second biggest event of the wrestling year (after Wrestlemania) and this year’s match-up of John Cena and Brock Lesnar promises to be an event for the ages. SummerSlam 2014 prompted us to look back at the history of the August pay-per-view and we uncovered more than a few odd facts, stats and moments that even hardcore WWF/WWE fans probably forgot all about.
Powers of Pain worked as babyfaces at SummerSlam 1988
The Powers of Pain were an important tag team in the WWF back in the 1980s. They never won WWF tag team gold but the Warlord and the Barbarian were imposing enough to always be considered a threat to the reigning champions and a victory over the two mountains shaped like men meant instant credible to any tag team that took down the hulking heavyweights.
The Powers of Pain wrestled at the inaugural SummerSlam in 1998. That’s no surprise. The shocking part is the duo worked as the faces in the match and were accompanied to the ring by long time AWA villain Baron Von Raschke (working as The Baron). Many WWE fans forget Raschke was a part of the company at the tail end of his career and that the Warlord and Barbarian were the babyfaces in a match against the The Bolsheviks lead by “The Doctor of Style” Slick.
The Nature Boy was supposed to be at SummerSlam 1988
The main even of SummerSlam 1988 saw the combining of two bitter feuds — Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant battled the entire summer, Hogan still angry over Andre turning on him and costing him the world heavyweight championship. WWF Champion “Macho Man” Randy Savage was in a feud of his own against “The Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase. DiBiase was champion for only a few days before being stripped of the title that Savage eventually won in a tournament earlier in the year.
In the main event of the first SummerSlam, Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage joined forces as the Mega-Powers to take on Andre and Dibiase, dubbed the Mega-Bucks. It was a tag team match that made sense but it wasn’t the main event Vince McMahon envisioned when planning the card.
The original plan for SummerSlam was to steal Ric Flair from the Jim Crockett and the NWA. McMahon wanted Flair to challenge Savage in the main event for the WWF Championship. At the last minute, Flair had a change of heart and felt obligated to the NWA. Flair would eventually jumped ship to the WWF but not until 1991.
A comedian and a NFL Hall of Famer had huge roles in SummerSlam 1994
It’s no shock to any long time WWE fan that the federation loves hosting famous guests. Especially when those guests get involved in story lines. SummerSlam 1994 involved two major names — one from the world of movies and the other from the NFL.
A major storyline going into the summer was the disappearance of the Undertaker. After losing a casket match to Yokozuna at the 1994 Royal Rumble, ‘Taker was taken off WWF TV and house shows for several months. He was given time off to heal up a nagging back injury. During his absence, people would speculate about just where the Undertaker went. In an effort to find ’Taker, Leslie Nielsen (playing a variation of his Frank Drebin character from The Naked Gun series) went looking for The Undertaker and trying to solve the case of how two Undertakers could exist.
The Real Undertaker finally showed up, at SummerSlam, to face off against The Fake Undertaker (Primetime Brian Lee) managed by Ted Dibiase.
The other celeb of the night acted as a bodyguard to a guy actually wrestling another body guard. Sometimes we miss the old WWF! Razor Ramon was facing off against Diesel — former bodyguard of Shawn Michaels — for the Intercontinental Championship. In an effort to keep Michaels from interfering in the match, and since the event was taking place at the United Center in Chicago, Ramon enlisted the help of hometown favorite and future NFL Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton.
The Greatest match in SummerSlam history wasn’t the original plan
It is hard to imagine WWE and SummerSlam history without the legendary Davey Boy Smith vs. Bret Hart Wembley match. That was almost the case if the WWE writers had their way. According to reports, the original plans going into SummerSlam 1992 were for Shawn Michaels to wrestle Bret and beat him for the intercontinental title. Keep in mind that creative was done back in those days months or even over a year in advance. Once Wembley was booked for the event plans changed and I think it worked out best for everybody.
Christening a new building
Speaking of SummerSlam1994, the seventh annual pay-per-view event was held on August 29, 1994. The aforementioned United Center, future home of many a Chicago Bulls championships, was just eleven days old. It was the first wrestling event held in the new building.
Oddly enough, the SummerSlam pay-per-view has never returned to the building but the United Center has been the home of several other WWE events since 1994.
Ultimate Warrior demands a raise the day of Summerslam 1991
The Ultimate Warrior and Vince McMahon had a tumultuous relationship to say the least. It seems the two egos ironed things out before the Warrior’s unfortunate passing this year but it’s probably still hard for Vince to forget the time the Warrior almost put a stop to a pay-pay-view. In the original documentary about The Ultimate Warrior, Sergeant Slaughter explains that Vince McMahon had told him on the day of the 1991 SummerSlam show in Madison Square Garden that the Warrior “had just held him up for $500,000 in cash” on the day of the show. McMahon told Slaughter of his plan to agree to the Warrior’s request so that the match would go on, but how he would fire Warrior the second the ended. At that time, everyone in wrestling was under the impression that Warrior made the demands moments before the match.
Shawn Michaels wrestled at SummerSlam 1990 with an injured knee
This story comes straight from our esteemed leader, Mr. Eric Gargiulo — “Back in 1990, for reasons I can’t comprehend now, I used to go hang out down at the Philadelphia Airport Marriot whenever the WWE or WCW stars came to town to get pictures and autographs. I guess I could have been doing worst things in my teenage years? Anyway, this story comes from firsthand experience as a result of an encounter I had one early August afternoon with Mr. WrestleMania Shawn Michaels.
Michaels and Marty Jannetty were outside waiting for their ride to the Philadelphia Spectrum which was hosting SummerSlam. Shawn was on crutches with a brace on his leg, carrying around an injury that had not been reported anywhere at the time. Nobody was around so I approached them to ask about his injury. Shawn couldn’t have been cooler and we actually talked for a few minutes about the injury which he said was to his knee.
The Rockers had a forgettable match that night with Power and Glory, Hercules and Paul Roma. Hercules attacked Shawn with a chain before the match even started to take him out, because he couldn’t wrestle. Jannetty wrestled the entire match himself and the WWE was able to not only deliver Michaels as advertised, but take advantage of what could have been a bad situation.”
Paul Heyman had to fight to get Michael Cole and Tazz to call the SummerSlam 2002 main event
Paul Heyman retold this story on a recent edition of the Chris Jericho Podcast. Heyman recalled his days as the head writer on SmackDown and brought up an interesting story about an argument with Vince McMahon leading up to SummerSlam 2002.
Michael Cole and Tazz were the announce team for SmackDown at the time and SummerSlam was headlined by a SmackDown brand match between The Rock and Brock Lesnar. It would only make sense for Tazz and Cole to call it as the brand announcers right. Not according to the Chairman of the Board. According to Paul Heyman, Vince insisted that Jerry Lawler and Jim Ross call the match because they were his “A team.” Paul fought for Cole and Tazz and eventually won. Heyman also knew that Tazz and Cole had to be on their game and used the argument to motivate the pair to call the match of their careers.
This story is significant because it marked the first WWE pay-per-view main-event that was called by the “B team” of announcers. Up until that point, it was strictly J.R. and the King or whomever the A team announcers were on Raw. From that point forward, announcers would call matches based on brand.
Vader was originally supposed to go over Shawn Michaels at SS 1996 for the title
This video and story, told by Vader’s manager Jim Cornette, tells fans just about everything they need to know about Vader’s WWE run.
The US didn’t see SummerSlam 1992 until it was two days old
SummerSlam 1992 was the first WWF pay-per-view done outside, in the open air of Wembley Stadium in London, England.
The 1992 incarnation of SummerSlam was originally booked to take place in Washington, D.C. but the WWF moved the event to Wembley Stadium because of the WWF’s growing popularity in the UK and the possibility of selling out a much larger arena.
Another odd fact about the event was that it took place on August 29, 1992 in London, but US fans didn’t see the PPV until August 31, a feat that would be impossible now with the internet.
The best and worst of SummerSlam streaks
Much like Wrestlemania and the other WWF/WWE pay-per-views, there are interesting streaks, stats and facts about several wrestlers. Here are some of the more interesting nuggets we found while researching the annual summer event.
Rey Mysterio holds the record for the most opening matches in SummerSlam history with five.
The Undertaker’s Wrestlemania streak was impressive but his SummerSlam streak is just as impressive. The Undertaker has wrestled at fifteen of the twenty-six SummerSlam events. At one point “The Dead Man” wrestled fourteen straight years from 1992-2005.
The Champ is here! but he doesn’t always win. John Cena has six SummerSlam losses but at least Cena’s got some SummerSlam victories. Both Jeff Hardy and Booker T are 0-5 at SummerSlam.
Among the undefeated at SummerSlam, Hulk Hogan holds a 6-0 record while The Ultimate Warrior is 5-0 at the summer event. Honorable mention goes out to Bart Gunn, Jerry Lawler, John Morrison, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, The Road Warriors and Tantaka who’re all 3-0 at SummerSlam.
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