PPV REVIEW: WWF Summerslam 1988

WWE/WWF SUMMERSLAM 1988: Poster for event August 29th, 1988
Madison Square Garden, New York

Fueled by success of the almighty Wrestlemania, Vince McMahon and his Titan Sports empire looked to further capitalize on the appeal of Pay Per View TV by throwing another colossal event in to the World Wrestling Federation's calendar. 

Though you may not have been able to tell at the time, Summerslam would go on to be the WWF/WWE's second biggest event after Mania itself.

Yet, much like McMahon's flagship show itself, the legend of Summerslam got off to a less than perfect start.

Here's what went down.

Things began with some fantastic opening credits introducing the ppv audience to the participants in tonight's main event. Even now, your writer has to imagine that modern day WWE events could benefit from such credits.

With that out of the way, it was on to our hosts for the evening, Gorilla Monsoon and 'Superstar' Billy Graham to welcome us to the show. Monsoon wasted no time in informing us that tonight would be 'a happening' (a phrase he would repeat at least every five or ten minutes throughout the show) whilst Graham revealed himself to a have the kind of voice which reminded this fan of Dusty Rhodes with even less bass in his voice.

The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers (Jacques and Raymond) VS. The British Bulldogs (Davey Boy Smith and The Dynamite Kid w/ Matilida) 
WWE/WWF SUMMERSLAM 1988: Gorillia Monson and 'Superstar' Billy Graham host the show
With the recently-turned Rougeaus already in the ring, Davey Boy Smith, Dynamite Kid and their dog made their way to the ring to a large cheer from a crowd already looking forward to a great opening contest.

Luckily, they weren't disappointed. 

Putting away their real-life animosity aside for the most part, both teams brawled, battled and grappled for a full twenty minutes in a text book tag match.

The Bulldogs took the advantage in the early going, thwarting their opponent's every move with a combination of speed and strength before the dastardly Rougeaus found away to turn the tide in their favor.  

As the clock ticked, all four men took turns to swap offence before the final bell rang, signalling the end on as good an opening match as you could hope to witness.
Time Limit Draw

At a certain point in time, Brutus Beefcake was in line for an Intercontinental Championship shot against long-reigning champion The Honky Tonk Man. The match, originally scheduled for tonight's show, would not take place after an episode of WWF Superstars of Wrestling  in which Bruti, about to send his latest victim to sleep, was brutally mauled by Outlaw Ron Bass, putting Beefcake out of action.

Before any further Summerslam action took place, Gorilla Monsoon promised us that we would 'see some exciting action' before we were shown footage of Bass attacking Beefcake.

WWF/WWE SUMMERSLAM 1988: Summerslam '88 came live from Madison Square Garden in New York

Bad News Brown vs. Ken Patera
Meandering in the lower echelons of the roster following his return from serving jail time, Ken Patera, squat little body and silly afro in tow, made his way to Summerslam as fodder for the rising star of Bad News Brown.

A fairly recent acquisition from Stampede Wrestling, Brown jumped his foe from the opening bell and, some short offence from Patera aside, dominated throughout this sluggish squash-fest.

Given the era at the time, it's surprising that Bad News didn't make it higher up the card during his time at Titan. Then again, if all his matches were as dull and uninspired, it's maybe little wonder he didn't/

Following several minutes of boredom, Bad News put Patera, and the audience, out of their collective misery with his Ghetto Blaster enzeguri finisher.
Your Winner: Bad News Brown

Following a brief moment of hype for the upcoming Titan-sports backed boxing match between Sugar Ray Leonard and Don Lalonde (more of which later), we were taken to the back where Mean Gene Okerlund caught up with The Mega Powers

WWE/WWF SUMMERSLAM 1988: The Mega Powers talk to Mean Gene Okerlund
In the mostly-nonsensical style which was apparently in vogue at the time, Hulk Hogan and Macho Man Randy Savage talked about madness, mania, and using Miss Elizabeth as their secret weapon in their upcoming clash against The Mega Bucks. 

For the first time ever, Miss Elizabeth actually looked fairly happy.

'Ravishing' Rick Rude (w/ Bobby Heenan) VS. Junk Yard Dog
Squash bouts were apparently the order of the day on this show as Ravishing Rick Rude continued his ascent to stardom by beating Junkyard Dog around the ring in a passable contest.

As Rude punished his foe, Billy Graham raved about the JYD's head.

 'He'll headbutt a truck, he'll headbutt a Rolls Royce, he'll headbutt the side of a building my man Gorilla Monsoon brother my man!' enthused the former WWF Champion, oblivious to the fact that not once in this contest did the Dog even attempt a headbutt. 

Instead, he absorbed a bunch of punishment from the Ravishing one and lay out on the canvas as Rude scaled the ropes and pulled down his tights, only to reveal a second pair underneath bearing the face of one Cheryl Roberts. 

Naturally, this raised the ire of one Jake 'The Snake' Roberts who, after Rude had delivered a ridiculous-looking top-rope fistdrop to his opponent, raced to the ring and battered arch-rival Rude. Unsurprisingly, this cost JYD the match.
Your winner via disqualification: Ravishing Rick Rude

WWE/WWF SUMMERSLAM 1988 - The Honky Tonk Man welcomes all challengers in this promo with Mean Gene Okerlund
Though Roberts was miffed that Rude had managed to escape, a perplexed JYD didn't seem to mind to much that The Snake had cost him the match. Bizare.

Out in the back, Mean Gene Okerlund caught up with The Honky Tonk Man and Jimmy Hart.

After claiming that he knew Brutus Beefcake wouldn't have been up to challenging him for the title, the longest reigning Intercontinental Champion in the history of the world insisted that he would still defend his title tonight and, what's more, he couldn't care less who his opponent would turn out to be.

Mean Gene did try to reveal that opponent, but the ever-cocky Honky Tonk Man would hear none of it. It was an entertaining segment which served its purpose well in building the excitement for the upcoming IC title clash.

The Bolsheviks (Nikolai Volkoff and Boris Zhukov w/ Slick) VS. The Powers of Pain (Warlord and Barbarian w/ The Baron)
Led to the ring by Baron von Raschke in a druid-like hood, The Powers of Pain once again proved why they should have been a much more successful tag team as they successfully took the battle to their Russian adversaries.

In full-on babyface mode, Warlord and Barbarian were a delight to watch, combining a speed an agility which belied their large frames with a power and strength which suited them perfectly. Though hardly the greatest tag team match in the world, this was nonetheless an entertaining affair.
Your winners: The Powers of Pain

WWE/WWF SUMMERSLAM 1988 - Hacksaw Jim Duggan is not impressed with Brother Love
Offering a respite from the in-ring action, Brother Love made his way to the ring to interview, or rather, provoke Hacksaw Jim Duggan. Slowly beginning his transition from general tough-guy to Stars and Stripes waiving tough-guy, Duggan entertained the crowd before sending Love packing. 

Despite what you may read elsewhere, it was at least an entertaining segment, eliciting more than a brief flicker or a giggle from your easily-amused reviewer. 

Intercontinental Championship Match:
Intercontinental Champion The Honky Tonk Man (w/ Jimmy Hart) VS. The Ultimate Warrior
Still oblivous as to the identity of his opponent, The Honky Tonk Man made his way to the ring gushing with confidence. Shaking, rattling and rolling in the ring, Honky took to the mic to demand somebody to wrestle.

Unfortunately for Honky, he got his wish.

A hush fell over Madison Square Garden, building the tension before the familiar chords of The Ultimate Warrior's music rang out through the arena and The Warrior charged to ringside.
WWE/WWF SUMMERSLAM 1988: The Ultimate Warrior won the Intercontinental Championship from The Honky Tonk Man

Several clotheslines and a big splash later, and Honky's memorable reign as Intercontinental Champion came to an end.

OK, so it wasn't a match, but it was certainly  an incredible scene. With the crowd as wild as the Warrior himself, it was one of those moments that always serves to make wrestling worth watching.
Your Winner and NEW intercontinental champion: The Ultimate Warrior

Following The Warrior's epic win, we were subject to a lengthy intermission. 

First, Monsoon shilled the upcoming Survivor Series for all his worth, promising us 'exciting action like this...' whilst showing us the dullest moments of Survivor Series 1987.

Then came the boxing.

Remember earlier I said there'd be more on the Leonard/Lalonde PPV bout? Well there was, about 20 minutes more.

Since the match was promoted by Titan Sports, we were given lengthy interviews and clips of both men to try and encourage us to buy it. 

Sitting here now, I'm grateful for the fast-foward button, and can only feel sorry for fans who were watching live at the time without that option.

WWE/WWF SUMMERSLAM 1998: Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan invades the commentary booth
Heading back to the action at last, Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan interupted Monsoon and Graham to tell us that, whilst Andre the Giant was reading The Wallstreet Journal, The Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase was counting his money and Virgil was, well, just kinda standing there, their opponents The Mega Powers were hiding scared in their dressing room.

Heenan then stuck around for the next match.

Dino Bravo (w/ Frenchie Martin) vs. Don 'The Rock' Murraco 
As it turned out, Heenan's involvement in the match turned out to be one of the best things about it.

Not that the in-ring action itself was particularly atrocious or anything. The Rock and Bravo did at least engage in some decent action, but for the most part, their short battle was entirely forgettable.

Thankfully, Heenan's banter with Graham made up for the lack of excitement, whilst Gorilla Monsoon's insistence that Frenchie Martin should go back to France and that a particularly irate member of the audience would 'give him half the fare to get there' was especially funny.

Alas, by the time Dino Bravo walked away with the win, your life was really no better nor any worse than it was before.
Your winner: Dino Bravo

In a pre-recorded segment, Sean Mooney quizzed Jesse 'The Body' Ventura on his role as the special guest referee in the upcoming fight betwen The Mega Bucks and The Mega Powers, particularly his acceptance of several hundred dollars slipped into his pocket by The Million Dollar Man.

WWF Tag Team Championship Match: 
WWF Tag Team Champions Demolition (Ax and Smash, w/ Mr. Fuji and Jimmy Hart) VS. The Hart Foundation (Bret 'The Hitman' Hart and Jim 'The Anvil' Neidhart)
It's no secret that the World Wrestling Federation's tag team scene was thriving in the 1980s. That said, it always comes as a nice surprise that a show like Summerslam 1988 can feature four completely different tag team matches and have each one entertain in its own way.

This tag team championship clash was no exception.

WWE/WWF SUMMERSLAM 1988: Demolition prepare to defend their titles against The Hart Foundation
With former manager Jimmy Hart routing for their opponents, The Hart Foundation took the fight to the champions in a dramatic match.

Before long, Ax and Smash took charge, pummeling The Hitman around the ring and controlling the contest. Eventually, The Anvil made the inevitable hot tag and cleaned house.

Yet just when it looked like the titles would change hands, Mr. Fuji distracted the referee, allowing Demoltion to take out Bret with Jimmy Hart's megaphone and ultimately steal a win.
Your winners: Demoltion

Backstage, a crowd of heels tried in vain to console an irate Honky Tonk Man. Sending them packing, Honky vowed to Mean Gene Okerlund that he would, come hell or highwater, get his belt back.

The Big Boss Man (w/ Slick) vs. Koko B. Ware
Looking younger than this writer ever recalls, The Big Boss Man went toe-to-toe with a nimble Koko B. Ware in another decent yet ultimately forgettable contest.

Indeed, whilst this one was certainly watchable, you can't help but think that, had Sunday Night Heat been around at the time, this is exactly the kind of match that would make filler content for that show.

The end came when Bossman picked up the three count, and we all moved on with our lives.
Your winner: The Big Boss Man

WWE/WWF SUMMERSLAM 1988: The Ultimate Warrior celebrates his victory in an interview with Sean Mooney
Out in the back, new Intercontinental Champion The Ultimate Warrior, flanked by the British Bulldogs and a throng of babyfaces, was interviewed by Sean Mooney.

In typical fashion, Warrior spoke mostly about flying spaceships from Parts Unknown and insisted he wouldn't back down from a challenge from the Honky Tonk Man.

Hercules vs. Jake 'The Snake' Roberts
With his manager Bobby Heenan conspicuous by his absence, the mighty Hercules wrestled Jake 'The Snake' Roberts in yet another filler-bout.

I'd go in to detail about this match, but absolutely nothing happened beyond a couple of prolonged chin-locks and some punches for what seemed like several millenia.

The end of this massively dull affair saw a win for Roberts with a DDT.
Your winner: Jake 'The Snake' Roberts

Finally, it was on to our main event.

First, we were given a decent recap of the story that brought Dibiase, Andre, Virgil, Heenan, Hogan, WWF Champion Randy Savage and Elizabeth together in a tag team match with Jesse 'The Body' Ventura as the special guest referee.

It was a story which went something like this:

The Mega Bucks ('The Million Dollar Man' Ted Dibiase and Andre The Giant w/ Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan' and Virgil) VS. The Mega Powers (Hulk Hogan and World Wrestling Federation Champion 'Macho Man' Randy Savage w/ Elizabeth) with special guest referee Jesse 'The Body' Ventura

Donned in jeans, sneakers and a white shirt and looking entirely unlike referee in the history of wrestling, special guest referee Jesse Ventura asserted his authority in the early going. Ordering managers and seconds to the apron and switching the tag ropes (remember them?) to neutral corners, Ventura looked to be playing things firm but fair.

It was an approach he took as the action finally began before a New York crowd who were hot for every blow.

As both teams traded the advantage under the watchful eye of a referee who seemed content to let both teams do whatever they liked, an MSG audience who had already been into most of the matches, were even louder than ever.

They ate up everything the two teams could give them, and they gave them plenty.

WWE/WWF SUMMERSLAM 1988: Miss Elizabeth stuns Ted Dibiase and Andre the Giant by taking her dress off
Once again proving that, when they wanted to, the WWF could do tag team wrestling incredibly well, this was a wildly entertaining match made all the more exciting by the sheer star power involved.

The end came when Elizabeth, who had been hyped by the Mega Powers as their 'secret weapon' hopped up onto the apron and pulled away her dress, revealing shapely pins which distracted the heels long enough for her men to get the win.

It says something about the innocence of the time that the sight of Elizabeth, wearing the top half of her dress over a swimsuit, should elicit such a response. In the modern era, most women would have worn less clothes to begin with and nobody would have battered an eyelid.
Your winners: The Mega Powers

Predictably, Savage, Hogan and Elizabeth celebrated before the crowds to bring the first annual Summerslam to a close.

And that was that. Though hardly the greatest professional wrestling event of all time, the first annual Summerslam at least saw signs of promise for things to come. If you take away the filler bouts and concentrate purely on the tag team action and the IC title change, this was a fun show that did exactly what it was supposed to; entertain. Shame about all the boxing though. 

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  1. Bad News Brown did indeed ascend to main event status, in feuds with both Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan.

  2. Warrior winning the IC Title was the best part.