Sunday, 18 May 2014

PPV REVIEW: WWF Summerslam 1993

WWF / WWE Summerslam 1993: Event poster
August 30, 1993
The Palace of Auburn Hills, Auburn Hills, Michigan

It was the summer of 1993 and the Lex Express had rolled its way across the United States of America in an attempt to turn the former Narcissist Lex Luger into something akin to Hulk Hogan 2.0.

Fresh from slamming WWF Champion Yokozuna on Independence Day (thus turning babyface in process), America's new favourite patroit traversed the country on a 'Call to Action' tour, drumming up support for his one and only title shot against big Yoko.

That title shot, plus a bunch of other stuff, would take place tonight at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

Here's went down.

Summerslam pre-show
Before any of tonight's action got underway, we were 'treated' to a special pre-show, live, apparently from Todd Pettengill's house.

With his fritos, over-sized soda and Summerslam program at the ready, Pettengill basically lounged around on his sofa, talking in his usual goofy manner and running down tonight's card.

Despite the somewhat silly premise, the pre-show was nonetheless an effective way to explain the background to each of tonight's main storylines. Watching this show some 21 years after it took place, it was pretty handy, and there was nothing too offensive involved until it ended with this overly-sentimental, gag-inducing music video for Lex Luger.


With that out of the way  then, it was on with the show.

Welcome everyone to the Palace of Auburn Hills!
WWF Summerslam 1993 began with Mean Gene Okerlund giving us the abridged version of Lex Luger's recent storyline over footage of the challenger arriving at The Palace of Auburn Hills earlier that evening.

Cut away to the opening graphic, after which announcer Vince McMahon growled a throaty Welcome everywaaaaaaaan and we were live in The Palace of Auburn Hills.

Joining McMahon on commentary for tonight's action, Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan got his 'money-grabbing hands' (his words, not mine), ready for the arrival of our opening match.

The Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase vs. Razor Ramon
WWF / WWE SUMMERSLAM 1993: Razor Ramon vs. Ted Dibiase
The story behind this one was hardly the stuff that heated rivalries are made of, but it was certainly a simple, effective way to get two talented wrestlers together in one match.

Having been upset by plucky youngster The 123 Kid, Razor Ramon was routinely mocked and goaded by Ted Dibiase, the latter even suggesting that 'The Bad Guy' hang up the tights and take a job as The Million Dollar Man's domestic servant instead.

Unsurprisingly, Ramon declined Dibiase's offer, instead challenging him to a match at Summerslam.

The result was this, a solid opening contest that served its purpose well in getting the Michigan crowd well fired up.

It always strikes this writer as odd when fans look down on those opening the show. Second only to the main event itself, a show's first match surely must be the most important on the card. It's this spot that sets the tone for the rest of the event, warming up the crowd and getting them psyched for more action.

To that end, both Ramon and Dibiase did a stellar job. 

After trading the advantage several times, The Bad Guy slammed his opponent's head into an exposed turnbuckle and nailed him with the Razor's edge, causing Ted Dibiase to eat the three count in what would be his final wrestling match in a WWF ring.

With the years on top finally catching up with him, Ted Dibiase would soon retire completely. After a few months in All Japan, Dibiase returned to the World Wrestling Federation for a stint on commentary, before inflicting Fake Undertaker on the world and ultimately going on to form the Million Dollar Corporation stable.
Your Winner: Ted Dibiase

WWF / WWE SUMMERSLAM 1993: Todd Pettengil apparently watched the show at home and was there live at the same time!
Out in the crowd, Todd Pettingill interviewed The Steiner Brothers' mother and sister in one of the worst interview segments ever seen on WWF PPV.

'What was it like when they were kids? Were you always telling them "No Frankensteiners!?"' Todd asked of Momma Steiner.
'Sure,' she replied, clearly having no clue what was going on. 'Whatever you say, it sounds good!'

For her part, the Steiner Sister referred to Rick as 'Rob,' probably confusing thousands of casual fans the world over.

Thankfully, this awkward moment was interupted by the arrival of James E. Cornette, who led his team of The Heavenly Bodies down to ringside for our next match.

World Wrestling Federation Tag Team Championship match
WWF Tag Team Champions The Steiner Brothers (Rob Rick & Scott) vs. The Heavenly Bodies (Gigolo Jimmy Del Ray & Doctor. Tom Pritchard w/ Jim Cornette)
WWF / WWE SUMMERSLAM 1993: Tag Team Championship Match - Steiner Brothers vs. Heavenly Bodies
Hey, wait a minute. Wasn't Todd Pettengill supposed to be watching Summerslam at home with his Fritos? Just couldn't keep away, could you, Todd?

Anyway, that aside, what we had here was an exciting tag team match as The Steiners, adorned  in the purple and gold of the University of Michigan, went up against Smokey Mountain Wrestling mainstays The Heavenly Bodies.

Your textbook tag match, with Scotty playing the proverbial babyface in peril (this in the days when he still looked human and could get away with such things) for much of the match before the inevitable hot tag led to a couple of Steiner-Lines courtesy of the Dog Face Gremlin.

Pritchard turned tides again for his team, striking Rick with Cornette's tennis racket. Alas, it was not to be the 'Bodies day. Scott produced a Frankensteiner, Rick made the cover, and the WWF tag team champions retained their gold.
Your Winners and still WWF Tag Team Champions: The Steiner Brothers

Backstage, some guy called Joe Fowler spoke with Intercontinental Champion Shawn Michaels and his bodyguard, Diesel. Michaels claimed that the argument over who was the greatest Intercontinental Champion of all time would be settled tonight when he faced Mr. Perfect. For his part, Diesel claimed his only job was to keep 'the chicks' off the champion's back.

WWF / WWE SUMMERSLAM 1993: Joe Fowler interviewed Diesel and Shawn Michaels about the latter's Intercontinental Championship match against Mr. Perfect
For those wondering, Joe Fowler was an actor who was in Mighty Ducks and Independence Day. Admittedly, I didn't know either, and had to turn to IMDB.

Needless to say, Fowler didn't last long in the World Wrestling Federation. The most I can find about his tenure with the company was that he did Summerslam 1993 and a handful of stuff from the 'WWF Command Centre' and that was all she wrote, but hey, with Pettengill still around, why would the WWF need another goofy, over-excitable mic man?

That aside then, let's get back to the matches.

World Wrestling Federation Intercontinental Championship match
WWF Intercontinental Champion Shawn Michaels (w/ Diesel) vs. Mr. Perfect)
Given who was involved, this one had all the potential to be an absolute classic. Sadly, our second championship match of the evening didn't quite live up to expectations, but it was still Michaels vs. Perfect, a match with two men who, even at their worst, could produce a match a thousand times better than many men could do at their best.

Starting off slowly, with both men trading holds and feeling each other out, the match gradually picked up the pace into a fast, exciting affair with sound wrestling from both champion and challenger.

WWF / WWE SUMMERSLAM 1993: Intercontinental Championship match - Shawn Michaels vs. Mr. Perfect
With the crowd firmly behind Mr. Perfect, the former IC champion really took it to the reigning champion, but alas, another reign was not in the cards. 

After a great match, the action spilled to the outside, where HBK landed a sweet looking superkick to the jaw of his opponent. Returning to the ring for a few, Perfect once again found himself on the outside, where he fell victim to an attack by Diesel which gave the champion a win via countout.

It may not have been the ideal ending to a pay per view title match, but given Michaels' role at the time as a dastardly heel who would do anything he could to keep the gold around his waist, it was at least an appropriate finale to a solid effort.
Your winner via countout and still WWF Intercontinental Champion: Shawn Michaels

In the post-match, Diesel clocked Mr. Perfect in the ring, knocking him out cold. As the reigning champion made his way backstage, Todd Pettingill grabbed Shawn Michaels, asking whether he was happy to retain his belt in such a cowardly way. Michaels insisted that all the questions had been answered, and that he was still the greatest Intercontinental Champion.

Backstage, Mean Gene Okerlund also asked Shawn Michaels for comments in a Coliseum Home Video Exclusive. Michaels basically repeated exactly the same thing he'd just told Pettingill before Perfect returned and attacked him.

A gang of officials including Pat Patterson, Shane McMahon and Bill Alfonso eventually broke up the scuffle and we were sent to the relative calm of another Joe Fowler interview.

WWF / WWE SUMMERSLAM 1993: 123 Kid vs. I.R.S
This time, Fowler was standing by with the 123 Kid, who was on something of a roll, having defeated both Razor Ramon and Ted Dibiase in upset victories. 

Whether it was all part of his character as the perenial underdog, or genuine nerves at making his WWF PPV debut, the future WCW Crusiersweight Champion came across as incredibly shy and awkward in his vow to 'give it a hundred and ten percent and throw caution to the wind.'

I.R.S vs. 123 Kid
Prior to his opponents arrival, I.R.S claimed that Michigan was known as Tax Cheat City, or something like that, much to the chagrin of the live audience.

Their jeers turned into raucous cheers with the introduction of 123 Kid, and a great little match was underway.

Other fans have referred to this contest as little more than a squash match, but in this reviewer's mind, that hardly seems fair.


Yes, I.R.S was in control for much of the bout, but this was much more than your usual Superstars fodder. An entertaining, quick-paced match, of which the Kid's big comeback was a genuine highlight, this one was very enjoyable despite its limited time.

Unfortunately, aforementioned comeback was shortlived. I.R.S took down his rival with a brutal clothesline for the win.
Your Winner: I.R.S

Despite having competed in a dark match earlier on (in a winning effort against Barry Horrowitz), Owen Hart apparently had to buy a ticket to watch brother Bret take on Jerry 'The King' Lawler in our next match.

The Rocket was joined on the front row by his other brother, Bruce, and the two were interviewed by Pettengill, saying nothing that was  very interesting.

Jerry cries off
Scheduled to face Bret 'The Hitman' Hart after viciously assaulting the former WWF Champion at that year's King of the Ring pay per view, Jerry Lawler instead limped to the ring on crutches and claimed to have been involved in a car accident, caused by some little old later, that had badly damaged his knee.

Rendered 'unable to compete' Lawler then announced his substitute in the form of his 'very own court jester', Doink the Clown.

Bret 'The Hitman' Hart vs. Doink the Clown
With Hulk Hogan out of the picture, Matt 'Doink' Bourne was left as one of only two men to have competed at the first Wrestlemania still featuring regularly on WWF pay per view (the other, of course, being Mike 'I.R.S' Rotundo).

Here, the wiley veteran put his skills to work in a good effort against The Hitman, though not before he soaked Bruce Hart with water, causing the Hart brothers to jump the rail and get a few shots in on the clown.

Picking up where his siblings left off, Bret brought Doink back into the ring to begin a good, if not necessarily great match. 

Just when it looked like Bret was about to put Doink away, Lawler, who had been watching at ringside, revealed his injury to be a ruse (shock, horror!), leaping up into the ring to attack The Excellence of Execution with his crutch.
Your Winner via Disqualification: Bret Hart

WWF / WWE SUMMERSLAM 1993:  Bret Hart vs. Jerry LawlerOn cue, WWF President Jack Tunney made his way to ringside, stating that, since Lawler had proved himself able to compete, he had to wrestle right there and then or else face permenant suspension from the World Wrestling Federation.

Bret 'The Hitman' Hart vs. Jerry 'The King' Lawler
Following a wild, enjoyable five minute brawl that reignited the Michigan faithful, Bret Hart used Lawler's own patented piledriver against him before slapping on the Sharpshooter.

As predicted, Lawler quickly gave up.

Less predictably, The Hitman refused to release the hold. The usual 'Men in Shirts' contingent rushed to the ringside to intervene, yet Hart was unrelenting, syncing the hold in tighter as retribution for the anguish Lawler had caused to his family in the build up to this contest. 

Eventually, after cheering on their brother from ringside, Owen and Bruce hit the ring and bargained with their brother. 

Hart finally let Lawler go, but was punished for his actions by having the decision reversed. Jerry Lawler was thus named the 'Undisputed King of the World wrestling Federation' and, in a stupid move, Bret Hart actually looked surprised at the referee's decision.
Your Winner via Disqualification: Jerry Lawler

Post match, officials tried to get Lawler onto a stretcher, through their progress was hindered by a second attack from Bret, a shot from Bruce, and a final double ax-handle from the apron courtesy of The Rocket.

The King was finally carried away on a stretcher, raising his arm in victory, much to the ire of the crowd, as The Hitman celebrated in the ring with his siblings.


Ludvig Borga has words for Lex Luger
In a pre-taped vignette, Ludvig Borga wandered about in some rundown part of town, talking about how the United States was falling apart, and how he was gunning for the one and only Lex Luger.

Wrapping things up, Borga said "I'm going to take my opportunity to show all of these so-called American wrestlers, AND Marty Jannetty, what Ludvig Borga is all about.'

Whether Borga was insinuating that Jannetty was not a wrestler, or not an American citizen, will forever remain one of professional wrestling's great unsolved mysteries.

Colliseum Home Video exclusive time!
Backstage, Mean Gene caught up with Bret, Bruce and Owen Hart for an always entertaining Coliseum Home Video Exclusive.

'I couldn't believe that  they reversed the decision,' quipped Okerlund.
'You couldn't believe it? My brothers couldn't believe it, my fans couldn't believe it, and I couldn't believe it.' replied the Hitman.

Come on dude, seriously? You held Lawler in that sharpshooter for like three whole minutes after you'd already won the match.

Anyway, Hart promised that things were not over between himself and The King. Bruce claimed that the Hart family were coming for Lawler, and Owen said that Lawler deserved a broken leg.

Quite.

Ludvig Borga vs. Marty Jannetty
WWF / WWE SUMMERSLAM 1993: Marty Jannetty vs. Ludvig Borga
True story: Around this time, Marty Jannetty was my absolute favourite wrestler. Look, I was nine years old at the time and for reasons that I can't quite fathom 21 years later, Janetty looked like the coolest dude in the world.

Though perhaps not so much here, where, despite a valiant effort against Finland's finest, he was ultimately pulverized and put away quickly.

To those who were watching at the time, this shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. Borga's star was still on the rise in the summer of 1993, and killing people dead was pretty much his thing.

As the Finnish Fiend destroyed the former Rocker, Heenan and McMahon took the time to put over Borga's achievements in boxing, powerlifting and well, just about everything apart from professional wrestling.

Not a great match by any standards, and certainly not anything you need to seek out, though in no means was this necessarily bad. Just dull, perhaps, and ending quickly thanks to Borga's Torture Rack.
Your Winner: Ludvig Borga

Whatever happened in between the previous match and our upcoming encounter, it was cut out of his home video release, meaning we went straight down to Howard Finkle, who announced that our next match would be the 'no countout, no DQ' Rest in Peace match between The Undertaker and arch-rival Giant Gonzales.

Rest In Peace Match
Giant Gonzalez (w/ Harvey Wippleman) vs. The Undertaker 
WWF / WWE SUMMERSLAM 1993: Rest in Peace match - The Undertaker vs. Giant Gonzalez
You have to wonder what kind of drugs the WWF brain trust were smoking when they looked at the first Gonzales/Taker clash at Wrestlemania 9 and thought 'Hey, that went well, let's do it again at Summerslam!'

The way both matches turned out, this writer can only assume it was pretty strong stuff.

Which sadly couldn't be said about anything that took place here. 

Since we last saw these two on ppv, Gonzalez' manager Harvey Wippleman had enlisted the services of Mr. Hughes to steal the Undertaker's coveted urn, and take out his manager, Paul Bearer.

As a result, The Phenom made his way to the ring solo and threw himself around the ring for the best part of ten minutes to try and create an at least passable offering.

For his part, Giant Gonzalez basically stood around in a new suit, one featuring much more airbrushed hair than his famed 'flesh suit.' Speaking of that suit, did you know that it turned up on Ebay last year, signed by old El Gigante himself?

If you think I'm spending more time talking about Gonzalez' attire to the detriment of covering the action, allow me to correct you. There was no action, at least not until Paul Bearer returned to the WWF, knocked out Wippleman and took the urn back.

That gave The Deadman the strength to clothesline the Giant half a dozen times, finally taking him off his feet with a flying clothesline and scoring the pin. 

That whole 'no countout, no dq thing? barely came in to play.
Your Winner: The Undertaker

Afterwards, Giant Gonzales took his frustrations out on Wippleman, chokeslamming him to hell and ultimately turning babyface in the process for a run that would last all of five minutes before he left the company that October.

Cutting to the back, our old friend Joe Fowler held the microphone aloft as Jim Cornette cut an explosive promo on behalf of WWF Champion Yokozuna and manager Mr. Fuji.

Cornette expressed his outrage at the outcome of the earlier Heavenly Bodies/Steiner Brothers clash, though vowed that Yoko would not suffer the same fate as the Doctor and the Gigolo. Rather, Cornette claimed that Yokozuna was going to tear Lex Luger in an absolutely thrilling promo that ended with just one word from our champion:

BONZAI!

Six Man Tag Team Match:
Tatanka & The Smoking Gunns (Billy & Bart Gunn) vs. Bam Bam Bigelow (w/ Luna Vachon) & The Headshrinkers (Fatu & Samu w/ Afa)
WWF / WWE SUMMERSLAM 1993: Six Man Tag - Tatanka & The Smoking Guns vs. Bam Bam Bigelow & The Headshrinkers
The look Native Indian Tatanka passed to Cowboys The Smoking Guns as the three arrived for this contest was priceless. For their part, Billy and Bart could only look on and applaud the undefeated Tatanka. 'Hey dude, we're all friends here, right?'

Friends or not, all six men worked together almost flawlessly to produce a strong six-man tag team match which, on paper, should have been little more than pre-main-event filler.

Far surpassing most expectations, this strong, exciting match did a great job of enhancing the ongoing rivallry between Bam Bam Bigelow and Tatanka, while giving the Gunn brothers an opportunity to mix it up with one of the WWF's premier tag teams.

Following some good action before an admittedly subdued crowd, Tatanka survived a Triple Flying Headbutt attempt from his three adversaries and rolled up Samu for the three count.
Your Winners: Tatanka and The Smoking Gunns 

Outside the arena, our buddy Joe Fowler spoke with Hank Carter, the driver of the Lex Express tour bus. Carter, who apparently couldn't even get a ticket to the show his troubles, had been watching the whole show from a small screen on the coach. Speaking to fowler, the coach driver put over Luger as some kind of modern day saint, and, obviously, picked him to win the upcoming WWF Championship match.Kiotika Suzuki
Out in the arena, Todd Pettengill hung out with some drunk, grown-up man called Bruce whose mother had made him a cute little red, white and blue suit.

With that out of the way, it was onto our main event.

World Wrestling Federation Championship match
WWF Champion Yokozuna (w/ Jim Cornette and Mr. Fuji) vs. Lex Luger
WWF / WWE SUMMERSLAM 1993: WWF Title Match - Lex Luger vs. WWF Champion Yokozuna
Adding to the big match spectacle of the hottest main event of the summer, we had a whole pre-match ritual in which both competitors' countries were well represented.

Howard Finkle drew huge heel heat, asking the Michigan faithful to show some respect for Kiotika Suzuki, on hand to sing the Japanese National Anthem. The Internet gives me nothing on Suzuki other than his appearance at this very event, so if anyone reading knows more about him than that, please do let me know in the comments below.

Following Suzuki's heat-inducing singing, Finkle had a chance to redeem himself by introducing our Master of Ceremonies for the main event, none other than Macho Man Randy Savage, accompanied by 'singing sensation' Aaron Neville.

Savage worked the crowd, before turning over to Neville, who promptly handed over the Stars and Stripes flag he'd been carrying to belt out the US National Anthem.

In the background, former Orient Express member Akio Sato stood waiting, ready to fly the Japanese flag on behalf of the WWF Champion.

After much ado then, we finally got our entrances, Yoko with his usual geisha and an entourage which included Jim Cornette in a neckbrace (selling an angle from Smokey Mountain Wrestling which wasn't mentioned once on this show), and Luger with an introduction which saw Macho Man refer to him as 'the next World Wrestling Federation Champion.'

And then, finally, it was underway, the most well-built match of the year, champion vs. challenger, USA vs. Japan, Lex Luger vs. Yokozuna.

Was it any good? Well yes, actually.

Having never seen this match before, I'll admit to being pleasantly surprised that this wasn't an absolute stinker.

Of course, it helps that Yoko could move incredibly well for his size, but give Luger his credit, he really worked well here to prove himself worthy of main event status.

Following an explosive start, the action spilled to the outside, where, in this normal-sanctioned match, the count out and usual disqualification rules were ignored much more than in our earlier Rest in Peace match.

Regardless of the rules, the crowd were certainly wild for this one, sitting on the edge of their seats, hearts in their mouths with every near fall, waiting for the moment Luger finally made the three count, waiting, for a moment that would sadly never come.

Admittedly, I haven't read enough dirt sheet goss or seen enough shoot interviews to understand why this match turned out the way it did (other than the urban legend that Luger gave the game away in a bar the night before, which I don't believe), but even now it doesn't make sense.

A win for Luger here would have been the perfect ending to the summer-long storyline of the one time Narcissist taking pride in something more than his own appearance, standing up for his country and battling the Big Monster From Japan, en route to the WWF title and status as a true American hero.

Instead, this dramatic main event contest came to a disappointing finale via countout. After finally bodyslamming the champion, Luger stupidly forearm-smashed Yoko to the outside, where the big man lay, out cold. The referee counted, Luger beat up on Fuji and Cornette, and Lex Luger won by countout.
Your Winner via Countout: Lex Luger (Yokozuna retains the WWF Championship)

Joined in the ring by Savage, The Steiners and Tatanka for a celebration of epic proportions, Luger was drowned in red, white and blue balloons whilst Vince McMahon sold the victory as though Luger had single-handily won World War 2 or something.

The fact that Yoko retained the WWF Title was barely mentioned until the very end, and even then, it came as an afterthought to the feel good ending to Summerslam 1993.

Wrapping things up at last, we got another look at that overly-sentimental Hero video that I posted at the top of this review.

In all honesty, Summerslam 1993 was a much better show than this writer was anticipating. Sure, we had the Rest in Peace match clogging things up, but with three solid title matches, no less than two Bret Hart contests and bouts which, on paper, shouldn't have amounted to much going far beyond expectations, this was a pretty good show. 
The only downside to this event was that, beyond Undertaker/Gonzalez, nothing was really resolved here. Luger and Yokozuna would continue to be at loggerheads until at least Wrestlemania 10, Bret Hart and Jerry Lawler would feud, on and off, until well into 1995, and Mr. Perfect would still be at war with Michaels, and the later Diesel, in the run up Survivor Series 1993
That aside, a decent show that, whilst not necessarily a must-see event, is certainly better than you may have imagined.

2 comments:

Tatanka & The Headshrinkers, you put.

But good work. I remember watching this PPV and was really confused by all tiger celebrating at the end. He didn't win the belt and wouldn't get another shot. What's to be happy about?

That's supposed to be "all the" not "all tiger." Commenting on a Kindle is THE WORST.

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