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WWF SummerSlam 88 starring Miss Elizabeth’s legs

-In an attempt to squeeze every penny out of the market, Vince McMahon made PPV’s a quarter-annual deal, making SummerSlam the hallmark of the end of summer. It’s one of my personal favorite events, having attended the 1990 version, and it was always something to look forward to, even as my friends and I began the doomed countdown to the start of the school year. SummerSlam was to us schoolkids what sex is to sailors before they go off to sail the world: the last rendezvous.

-For the record, SummerSlams 88-07 are being viewed on the boxed set that came out in 2008, so there’s some theme song changes for sure. Also, it’s weird to hear the SummerSlam 2002 song, �Fight�, as the menu music for all twenty shows. There’s nothing like hearing the Triple H/Shawn Michaels hype theme while watching Ken Patera get clobbered by Bad News Brown.

-So here’s the first incarnation, which took place on August 29, 1988 at the hallowed MSG in New York City. The opening montage includes a shot of the World Trade Center, which gives me pause. Never forget.

-Our SummerSlam commentators are Gorilla Monsoon and Superstar Billy Graham, which is good, given that they’re both legends in MSG, but bad, since Graham’s impeccable charisma did NOT translate well into the booth. When he talks, it reminds me of Farmer Fran from the Waterboy trying to imitate a hippie. For further proof that steroids can damage one’s motor skills, this show is exhibit A.

-Not only does Graham call Hulk Hogan �his friend�, but also puts over his �bionic biceps�. I’m going to sit back and let the jokes write themselves.

-To kick things off, The Fabulous Rougeaus take on the British Bulldogs, which is promising. The Rougeau’s gimmick was that they were Montreal-ites who were looking forward to moving to Memphis and being �true Americans�. Someone should steal this gimmick in 2010, and just have two Frenchmen slowly gain weight week by week and tweet endlessly about Katy Perry. I think it’d get over.

-Davey Boy Smith is jacked for 1988 standards, and he’s not even at his bulkiest yet. Graham says that Davey’s physique �gives him an edge�. Well, Graham would know about that.

-For those who follow the backstage lore, seeing Jacques Rougeau and Dynamite Kid working together is a laugher unto itself. Let’s just say it involves cut up clothing, a slap, a few rolls of coins, and a self-exile that led to self-destruction. Fascinating stuff.

-Monsoon gets excited and calls the event �Superstarmerslam�, which is about a .45 on the Piven Scale. Graham tops him as the action gets heated, and says �gonnatakeemoutgonnatakeemout!�. Just imagine Taz if he were a flower child.

-Dynamite drops a headbutt on Ray Rougeau, and Graham adds �He should drop about three or four on him!�. Michael Benoit would not advise that.

-Sadly, the match ends in a twenty minute draw. Great opener with four great athletes that knew how to work. Is it me, or were the Rougeaus among the maybe five or ten only well adjusted wrestlers in this era? Never took steroids, apparently never indulged in vices, and seemed to be all-around nice guys? Seriously, isn’t that rare? Again, great match.

-Next, Gorilla promises us some �exciting� footage, which turns out to be highlights from WWF Superstars, wherein Ron Bass carves up Brutus Beefcake with a spur, and blood is everywhere. Exciting! Way to draw in the kiddies there, Gino.

-Now for the antithesis of �exciting�, which is Bad News Brown vs. Ken Patera, for the title of �most one dimensional former Olympian turned pro wrestler�. Patera’s excited, because News wagered a Value meal at McDonalds on the outcome.

-Graham insists that Patera can’t be a nice guy in this match. That shouldn’t be too hard, considering that Patera once committed a felony just because he wanted a cheeseburger.

-Let’s just say this match is like watching two autistic kids choreograph a samba. News finishes with the Ghetto Blaster, and thus earns a push by not sucking as bad as Patera.

-The Mega Powers then cut a promo, hyping Miss Elizabeth as their weapon, as she blows about thirty awkward kisses at the camera. As a kid, I think my mom could have gotten me to clean the TV screen with my tongue if she just popped in the tape once a week. I loved me some Liz. I still do.

-Batting third, Ravishing Rick Rude takes on the Junkyard Dog, which marks the last major WWF appearance for the Dog. I always loved when Rude would wrestle in WWF, especially when I watch his matches now. The staggering amount of women in the crowd with mall hair and lust in their eyes deserves an essay of its own.

-Speaking of things I miss: Junkyard Dog’s theme song, �Grab Them Cakes�. It really needed to be recycled for Rikishi, just for the creepy factor.

-Match is just as generic as the last one, which is the MO for this era: matches to put over characters, not so much blow off feuds. Rude and Dog had no issue, but the match is a backdrop for�.well, you’ll see.

-Rude ends the match when he yanks his tights down, only to reveal a second pair with Cheryl Roberts (Jake’s wife) on them. Roberts runs in, since that’s one of three things that can get him out of his perpetual stupor (the other two involve ziplock bags), and he attacks Rude for the DQ. Bad match, but it got Rude over as a scumbag, so yay.

-Dog’s not even mad about the DQ loss, since it means he no longer has to exert energy. It’s win-win all around!

-Honky Tonk Man on not having an opponent for the IC Title due to Beefcake’s injury: �Give me anybody!�. He forgot to add �that’s willing to sell my phony punches�. That’d certainly shorten the list.

-SLICK! My mood is lifted. Always good to see the Doctor of Style. Sadly, he’s managing the Bolsheviks, which begs the question why is a pimp associating with Communist soliders? That’s like teaming D’Angelo Dinero with Vladimir Kozlov now. But of course, I say that like everything else in 1980’s WWF made perfect sense. Silly me.

-Superstar Graham informs us that Slick’s first name should be �Oil�. Man, it’s a shame that Graham lost such biting wit when he was blaming McMahon for his steroids-wracked joints.

-Anyway, the Shevs are facing the Powers of Pain. In heavy metal canon, the Legion of Doom were Black Sabbath (the originals), Demolition was Metallica (the best of the best), and that leaves the Powers of Pain as Ratt.

-I’d like to apologize to Ken Patera, because this match is far worse than the crap he fed us earlier. Let’s just say that Boris Zhukov was never noted for his impeccable timing.

-Powers of Pain win it with the powerslam/diving headbutt combo, and not a minute too soon. I was getting ready to make up an excuse to Eric to not have to finish this tour. Barring him not believing me, I was going to sever my fingers with my own incisors.

-To waste some time, Brother Love interviews Hacksaw Jim Duggan, and I’m forced to figure out which guy I hate more: the drunken booker or the drunken has-been wrestler. Result: it’s a tie!

-Now onto something of substance: Honky Tonk Man in his fifteenth month as Intercontinental Champion, issuing an offhanded challenge to anyone in the building. Could anyone be less coordinated, more prone to blowing up, and have a more comically implausible physique than Brutus Beefcake?

-Well, one guy can.

-Yes, it’s the Ultimate Warrior, who hits the ring, destroys Honky for 30 seconds, and pins him to kick off his rise up the card and to super-stardom. Some say it’s the best 30 second match ever, and I agree. Right guy, right place, perfect moment.

-Bobby Heenan goes to the commentary booth, hopefully to gag Graham with a bottle of drain cleaner and take over, but instead he rants on the Mega Powers. Then we get our first song change of the DVD set, as Don Muraco’s �Jesus Christ Superstar� gives way to some generic gladiator song. The commentary during Muraco’s entrance is also muted out. Damn, I think that was the part of the show where Monsoon revealed the meaning of life, too. Stupid song edits.

-Muraco’s facing Dino Bravo to determine who can possibly move any slower when walking into an oncoming breeze. Say what you will about the muscleheads in WWE now, but at least they can move at a speed faster than �Macy’s float�.

-Punchy kicky stuff, and it’s all slow. Muraco’s been accused of being a coke fiend (at least openly so by King Kong Bundy at Iron Sheik’s roast), and you’d think that’d make him hyper and more energetic. Yeah, you WOULD think that.

-The only thing notable about this match is Graham carrying on about Bravo’s 700 lb bench press record not being legit, since Jesse Ventura was not a �legit spotter�. Do you need a license to be a spotter? Next time Graham does one of his self-serving shoot interviews, someone should pop that question.

-Heenan calls Graham a �freeloader�, and Monsoon doesn’t even bother try to stick up for Graham. That’s why I love The Brain.

-Bravo ends it with a side suplex, which is a transition move in 2010. In other words, wrestlers were weaker in 1988. Next time some veteran talks about how the kids today are weak and haven’t the heart that they had, I should be a smart-ass and point this out. Just because it’s funny.

-Moving on, a silver lining as the Hart Foundation try to regain their WWF Tag Team Titles from Demolition, managed by both Mr Fuji and Jimmy Hart. Jimmy and the Harts had an acrimonious split earlier in the year, which was basically done to give Bret a road to becoming a top babyface (although the road in question had its bumps). So Jimmy’s here to tell Fuji all the Harts weaknesses. Oddly enough, he doesn’t mention �adultery�.

-This is also before Bret Hart’s Mylar shades, back when he was wearing the mirrored specs that he wears now. Except in 1988, Bret didn’t look like Bob Dylan after a good shave.

-Graham informs us that the Harts are able to think for themselves. Right. When Jim Neidhart wants to choose between blowing his money on fleeting possessions and cheating on his nagging wife, it’s a decision that only HE can make. And he can think for himself.

-Good back and forth match, as Bret’s matches almost never suck. He plays face in peril after an arm injury, and Demolition were just good at playing callous brawlers. I’m enjoying myself.

-As I watch Jimmy and Fuji heel it up, I tell myself that WWE is right to not showcase managers anymore. It’s pass�, and let’s face it. It’s unrealistic to have some cartoonish motormouth do your talking for you, especially in 2010 when we know it’s a giant work. Only in cases like Paul Heyman, who can play a slimy, Scott Boras-like agent, does it work. Other than that, the days of Jimmy Hart and Mr. Fuji are over, and it’s time to accept it.

-Neidhart does a plancha onto Smash via Bret slingshotting him. If I’m Smash, I go number two in my little S&M trunks, watching Neidhart descend upon me from eight feet up.

-It wasn’t to be for the Harts, as Jimmy Hart’s megaphone is used by Ax to finish off the Hitman. Ah well, match was good.

-By the way, I’m doing my best to tune out Billy Graham. No sense in my blood pressure elevating over a show that first aired when I was four.

-Honky Tonk Man is spazzing out over losing the IC Title to Warrior. Well, yeah, because now Honky’s meal ticket is gone, and he’s being shunted to the midcard. If he learns more than six moves and can make his punches look legit, that may change, but I won’t hold my breath.

-The parade of non-issue matches continues, and it’s Big Bossman and Koko B Ware. Um, that earlier point I made about managers being irrelevant? I’m gonna waive that for Slick. Slick can show up any time he wants to.

-Bossman and Koko put on one of my favorite kinds of matches, and that’s big man vs. little man. That’s when you see the skills of the performers at their finest, when they have to compensate for the size difference. This is truly one of the more underrated SummerSlam matches ever.

-Bossman’s wrestling with his key ring on, which Graham claims is illegal. Ease up, Billy. It’s not like Bossman, you know, is loaded up with anabolic steroids or anything. Now THOSE would be illegal.

-The goodness that both men bring is tempered by Graham saying he’ll take Jack Tunney’s job and take Bossman out himself. Jerry Lawler said about Graham’s Hall of Fame speech regarding the girl whose liver Graham now has, �I was starting to wish that girl was a better driver�. I’m with Lawler.

-Koko lands an awesome missle dropkick on Bossman and the crowd pops. �Awesome’ in the sense of �Wow, is this really before 1993?�. Bossman however ends things with the Spike Slam. Good match, even if this show is sagging like Stephanie McMahon at this point.

-Ultimate Warrior cuts a crazed promo. In other words, Ultimate Warrior cuts a promo.

-As the semi-main, we get to Jake Roberts vs. Hercules, as I wonder why they didn’t just split the difference and do Roberts vs. Rude on this show. They ended up giving two blowoff matches to that feud: one on an MSG show in October, and other for free on Saturday Night’s Main Event days later. Clearly, the formula was not here yet.

-Slow match, as many of Jake’s matches tended to be. Herc isn’t the guy to be pumping the crowd full of life, and Jake’s subtleties are sometimes lost on the audience. Not a bad match, but it’s not curing my insomnia any.

-Roberts ends it with the DDT, and the fans are happy, because they know the main event can take place now. Like the cynical New Yorkers had no idea that Roberts was going over Herc. Right.

-Recap of the Mega Powers vs. Mega Bucks feud that has spanned a fair amount of time, actually. From Hogan feuding with Andre a year and a half earlier, to Hogan and Savage earning each other’s trust, to Dibiase using Andre to get him the belt, to all four men crossing paths at Wrestlemania IV, you have to appreciate it all coming full circle the way it has.

-The underlying angle is that Jesse Ventura is the special referee (explaining his absence from commentary, his horrible, horrible absence) and is trying to resist taking a payoff from Ted Dibiase to officiate in the Mega Bucks favor. Oddly enough, after this show, Ventura was never portrayed as a babyface. Odd indeed.

-Jesse Ventura gets a mixed reaction, since he’s just so damn cool that the world can’t unanimously hate him. The Mega Bucks are booed lustily, and it’s clear where Jeri-Show got the influence from. Mega Powers get the Mega pop, and I guess this makes them DX. Hogan as Hunter and Savage as Shawn? Works for me. Although Liz as Hornswoggle is the deal breaker.

-I’m gonna spend the next 30 seconds ogling Miss Elizabeth

-I took 34. Don’t hold it against me.

-The only person not in awe of the star power on display is Ventura, who very overtly yelling at everyone in the ring, to the point of overacting. This might explain his acting range in Abraxas, however.

-The Powers double team Dibiase, and it rules as much now as it did then. If Teddy Jr could sell anywhere like this, he’d be the modern Shawn Michaels. Minus the personality, obviously.

-Ventura orders Miss Elizabeth around, including telling her to get off the apron. Jesse vicariously got to live every wrestler’s dream of being allowed to look at Liz without Savage murdering him. Good on The Body.

-Andre manhandles Savage in the corner, and proceeds to deliver, I kid you not, a stinkface. Andre was doing it over a decade before it ever occurred to Rikishi to try it. Rikishi owes royalties to Andre’s estate. He and Big Show can just collectively send a check each month.

-Hogan gets the hot tag, and the crowd is shockingly quiet for the moment. To be fair, the show was starting to slow to a crawl, and there weren’t a whole lot of payoffs other than Warrior getting the IC Belt, and Patera missing out on a quarter pounder, so you can’t really blame them.

-The Bucks take control, and then we get the famous moment of Elizabeth removing her skirt to distract everyone. Hogan and Savage share the exaggerated handshake, and then clean house, finishing Dibiase with a flying elbow and a legdrop. Good crowd pleasing match to end the show as both men pose, and Ventura oddly never factors into canon again.

-Hogan hugs Liz for about 30 seconds, and then Savage shakes his hand with a �when these cameras go off and we get backstage, I’m knocking all of your teeth out� look on his face. Savage is the best.

-CYNIC SAYS: It felt like a house show sped up for television, or perhaps even a three hour Monday Night Raw set in 1988. It’s not a horrible show or anything, but no singles matches were good save for Bossman/Koko, and the tag matches saved it, save for Powers of Pain/Bolsheviks. As a nostalgia lesson, it’s recommended viewing, but it’ll in no way resemble SummerSlams of the future.

Still, check out Elizabeth when you get the chance. Yowza.

Justin Henry is the owner and (currently) sole writer of Couch Groove Football. He can be found on Facebook.com and Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/couchgroove

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Justin Henry

Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.

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