PPV REVIEW: WWF Summerslam 1989

WWF / WWE Summerslam 1989 - Event poster
August 28th, 1989
Meadowlands Arena, East Rutherford, New Jersey

By the summer of 1989, the World Wrestling Federation had finally begun to work out how to deliver blockbuster pay per views which went above and beyond your average large houseshow with a fancy name.

Nowhere was that more evident than with the arrival of the second annual Summerslam, an event which not only looked the part, but delivered the goods in terms of entertaining the crowd, and delivered them in spades.

Our show tonight opened with a brief montage of excited wrestling fans arriving at the Meadlowlands arena.

We had some decked in Ultimate Warrior facepaint waving at the camera, some buying merchandise and a young child no more than five year's old doing the Rick Rude hip-swivel in a gesture which would probably be deemed inappropriate by today's standards.

WWF / WWE Summerslam 1989 - Jesse 'The Body' Ventura and Tony Schiavone were our commentators for the pay per view
From there, we were welcomed to the show by our commentators for the evening, Tony Schiavone and Jesse 'The Body' Venture before a second video package, complete with awful, typically 80s, music, intersperses clips of WWF superstars with cute shots of people enjoying the summertime, as though to suggest that there was some sort of connection between The Hart Foundation decaptiating an opponent and a young boy playing on a swing.

Speaking of the Harts, they were up first in our opening contest.

Non-title match:
WWF Tag Team Champions The Brain Busters (Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard w/ Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan) VS. The Hart Foundation (Bret 'The Hitman' Hart and Jim 'The Anvil' Neidhart)
And so for the second year in a row, Summerslam kicked off with a very memorable tag team contest.

Apparently, reigning champions Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard were not required to put the belts on the line since our match tonight was signed before the Brain Busters stole the gold in an upset win over Demolition.

Still, eager to gain a title shot, Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart took the fight to their opponents in a thrilling opening contest which bucked almost all the tag team norms and was all the better for it.

Eschewing the usual format of faces take charge, heels do something sneaky, babyface in peril, hot tag, finish, here we had The Hart Foundation dominating the bulk of the match, with the Busters grabbing brief moments of offence here and there.

Regarded as something of a dream match (given Arn and Tully's long affiliation with the NWA), this opening match delivered exactly what fans had hoped for; crisp technical wrestling, drama and excitement in abundance.

Following a lengthy battle, Bobby Heenan distracted the referee as Bret attempted to pin Blanchard. The distraction allowed Anderson to leap from the ropes and attack Hart, then role Blanchard out of the ring and cover The Hitman. Referee Joey Marella returned his attention to the action, paid no mind that Anderson wasn't the legal man in the ring, and delivered the three count.
Your Winners: The Brain Busters

WWF / WWE Summerslam 1989 - Dusty Rhodes cuts a promo on his Summerslam opponent, The Honky Tonk Man
If they were going with that finish, you have to wonder why they didn't just make this one a title match. Surely clinging on to their belts by such dastardly tactics could have only helped the Busters' cause as dirty, dirty heels whilst making the Hart Foundation look good too in the process.

Heading to the back, Mean Gene Okerlund caught up with a clearly elated American Dream Dusty Rhodes.

Donning a police officer's hat and clutching a nighstick as reminders of his ongoing problems with The Big Bossman, Dusty focussed his attentions this evening squarly on The Honky Tonk Man. 'I ammmmmm the propaaaaaaaaayatuh, of Heartbreak Hotel, I aaaaaaaaam, the man, who wears the blue suede shoes, baby' screamed the dream as he vowed to settle a score with the Honky Tonk over who was the better singer, dancer and wrestler.

Say what you want about Dusty's WWF run, that promo was just wonderful. The Dream was clearly having the time of his life, and his enthusiasm here radiated through the screen.

WWF / WWE Summerslam 1989 - The Honky Tonk Man dominates the American Dream Dusty Rhodes
American Dream Dusty Rhodes VS. The Honky Tonk Man (w/ Jimmy Hart)
Yet if Rhodes was having a great time, the same could not be said for his opponent, The Honky Tonk Man, nor, sadly, for anybody watching this abysmal contest.

Going for far too long without a single interesting thing happening in the ring, this was beyond dull.

Things kind of livened up towards the end. The referee took a bump, Honky held Dusty in place, Jimmy Hart grabbed Honky's guitar and attempted to smash The Dream with it. Dusty ducked, Honky took the blow. Dusty dropped an elbow, the referee recovered and a three count was made.
Your winner: Dusty Rhodes

Afterwards, a visibily dazed and confused Honky Tonk Man told Sean Mooney that everybody had come to hear him sing and asked somebody to show him to the stage. This brief post-match promo was the highlight of the entire thing.

WWF / WWE Summerslam 1989 - Demolition Ax talks about going back to basics to prepare for a six man tag against Andre The Giant and The Twin Towers
Backstage, Mean Gene met up with Demolition and Hacksaw King Duggan. Duggan, looking all kinds of funky in his King of the Ring garb with a Demolition mask concealing his grizzly mug, stood back whilst Ax and Smash did most of the talking.

Mostly, they talked about going back to 'basic training' in order to prepare for their upcoming six man tag team match against Andre The Giant, Akeem and The Big Boss Man. Smash also mentioned something about tossing cars around the parking lot.

Mr. Perfect vs. The Red Rooster
With Mr. Perfect in the midst of his 'perfect' streak, the outcome of this brief contest was never really in question.

WWF / WWE Summerslam 1989 - Mr. Perfect delivers a post-match promo after beating The Red Rooster
Yet that was no reason why two fantastic wrestlers like Perfect and Terry 'Red Rooster' Taylor couldn't put on a great little wrestling match. Indeed, the opening moments showed all the signs of developing into something special.

Alas, we were barely in a minute into battle when the Rooster's knee blew out from under him, forcing a change of plans and an early win for Perfect via the PerfectPlex.
Your Winner: Mr. Perfect

When you think of famous professional wrestling bloopers, it's never usually long before all thoughts turn to the infamous 'Mean Gene F-Bomb' incident which took place at Summerslam 1989.

Unfortunately, your reviewer's copy of the show skips this out for seemingly obvious reasons, but if you can track down an original one, this is where you'll find it.
After a disastrous first attempt (saved by Ventura's hillarious comments), Mean Gene did finally get his interview with Ravising Rick Rude and Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan.
WWF / WWE Summerslam 1989 - Intercontinental Champion Ravishing Rick Rude vows to defeat The Ultimate Warrior
In it, Rude and Heenan vowed to finish The Ultimate Warrior once and for all and that Rude, who bested the Warrior the Intercontinental Championship at Wrestlemania earlier in the year, would walk out of the Meadowlands Arena still with the title in tact.

Six Man Tag:
Tito Santana and The Rockers (Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty) VS. Rick Martel and The Fabulous Rougeaus (w/ Jimmy Hart and Slick)

The latest chapter in the seemingly never-ending feud between former Strike Force partners Rick Martel and Tito Santana saw the one-time friends team up with two of the most exciting teams in the World Wrestling Federation at the time to do battle in an energetic, exciting and altogether excellent six man tag team contest.

WWF / WWE Summerslam 1989 - Shawn Michaels celebrates after flooring Rick Martel
The Rougeaus were as on form as ever, delighting this writer from the moment their memorable theme music All American Boys hit to the closing bell. The Rockers were, well, The Rockers, a team I've yet to see compete in anything less than a really good match.

Combine this with the skill and experience of Martel and Santana, and we had ourselves a great, lengthy match which earned its place as a highlight of the card.

When order broke down towards the end of the match as these things were prone to doing, Marty Jannetty ate a pin to give the victory to his team's opponents.
Your winners: Rick Martel and The Fabulous Rougeaus

Building to one of the most hyped matches on the card, we were next reminded of the history between Rick Rude and The Ultimate Warrior. 

WWF / WWE Summerslam 1989 - The Ultimate Warrior cuts a promo on Ravishing Rick Rude
It began at the 1989 Royal Rumble with the Super Pose Down, picked up at Wrestlemania V when Rude, with Heenan's assistance, upset the Warrior to win the Intercontinental Championship, and waged on through the summer in the guise of Warrior's ongoing war against the Heenan Family. 

And now it came down to this, a rematch for the Intercontinental title. 

Before the action hit the ring, The Ultimate Warrior cut a Mean Gene assisted promo in which he held up his hands as though he were squeezing melons and said something like 'roar grrr arggghhh Warrior!' 

I'd say it was odd, but then, it's a Warrior promo, would you expect anything less?

WWF Intercontinental Championship match:
World Wrestling Federation Intercontinental Champion 'Ravishing' Rick Rude (w/ Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan) vs. The Ultimate Warrior

Ask any long-term wrestling fan to list The Ultimate Warrior's greatest matches, and this one always, without fail, comes up in the top two. 

WWF / WWE Summerslam 1989 - The Ultimate Warrior blocks Rick Rude's 'Rude Awakening' in their classic Intercontinental Championship match
Playing to the Warrior's strengths by focussing on drama and storytelling over first-rate technical wrestling, the only title match on tonight's card was an intense, gripping affair which created genuine 'edge of your seat' moments from start to finish.

Most critics give all the praise to Rude for this, and indeed, the champion did work hard to make his adversary look like the proverbial million bucks, but then Warrior was no slouch here either. 

Playing his part well and selling like a trooper, the Ultimate Warrior made you believe completely that Rude could have won the match.

Of course, he didn't. 

Towards the finish, Rowdy Roddy Piper (who was having troubles of his own with Rude) made his way out to the ring and mooned the champion. 

The distraction was enough for a fatigued Ultimate Warrior to recover, batter Rick Rude and hit him with the Big Splash.

A three count later, and for the second year in a row, The Ultimate Warrior walked out Summerslam as the new Intercontinental Champion.
Your Winner and NEW Intercontinental Champion: The Ultimate Warrior

Backstage, Mean Gene Okerlund played host a series of wrestlers with a lot on their mind. First, Mr. Perfect boasted of his victory over The Red Rooster and claimed the Rooster was only a stepping stone, because 'Nobody beats Mr. Perfect, nobody'

WWF / WWE Summerslam 1989 - Bobby Heenan and Rick Rude swear revenge on Roddy Piper and The Ultimate Warrior
Then, the always-insane Rowdy Roddy Piper said his next challenge was to drive Voyager 3 before delivering a balmy promo in which he admitted he'd cost Rick Rude the title and claimed he was going to 'get a garage' (or something).

'Rugged' Ronnie Garvin stopped by in a tuxedo, then Rick Rude and Heenan turned up, screaming, yelling, swearing revenge against Piper and Warrior. Heenan, almost on the verge of a heart attack, was even more enraged than his charge.

Following a lengthy recap of the feud between Hulk Hogan and Brutus Beefcake and their rivals 'Macho Man' Randy Savage and Zeus, it was back to the action

Six Man Tag:
Andre The Giant and The Twin Towers (Akeem and The Big Boss Man w/ Slick) VS. Hacksaw King Duggan and Demolition (Ax and Smash).

WWF / WWE Summerslam 1989 - Hacksaw King Duggan joins Demolition for the night
Never has a professional wrestler been such a mishmash of characters as Hacksaw Duggan was in this match. With the trusty 2x4 of his 'tough guy' gimmick painted in red, white and blue and his American flag waving proudly, Duggan also wore the cape and crown from his recent King of the Ring win as well as a Demoltion mask which, when removed, revealed Old Glory facepaint on his mug. 

 Fair play to them, it gave the babyfaces a sense of unity as they tackled their much larger adversaries.

As for the match itself, well, it was pretty much as you may expect; a slow, plodding big man brawl which relied more on playing to the crowd than on physical combat. 

Not half as bad as more brutal critics may have you believe, yet not very good either.

Duggan laid out Akeem with his 2x4, allowing Smash to earn the pinfall for his team.
Your Winners: King Duggan and Demolition

Backstage, The Million Dollar Man cut a solid promo against Jimmy 'Superfly' Snuka which was better than the actual match between the two.

Hercules VS. Greg 'The Hammer' Valentine (w/ Jimmy Hart) featuring Special Guest Ring Announcer, Rugged Ronnie Garvin
WWF / WWE Summerslam 1989 - 'Rugged' Ronnie Garvin was the special guest ring announcer for the Greg Valentine vs. Hercules match
Prior to the opening bell, Greg Valentine's arch-rival Ronnie Garvin was introduced as the special guest ring announcer.

Garvin introduced Hercules as per the standard, then proceeded to introduce Valentine through a series of insults so lame they wouldn't make a four year-old laugh. I mean really 'here's a man with two left feet?' that's the best you could come up with, Garvin?

The in-ring action was entirely forgetabble, a short, squash intended only to further the saga between Valentine and Garvin which would ultimately lead to their memorable submission match at the 1990 Royal Rumble.

Valentine stole the pin by placing his feet on the middle rope, causing announcer Garvin to first announce Hercules as the winner then, admitting his mistake, announced Hercules as the winner by disqualification. 
Your Winner: Greg Valentine by pinfall, erm, Hercules by DQ I guess.

Afterwards, Valentine hit Garvin with a cheapshot then killed time brawling with Herc' until Ronnie regained his composure and hit back.  Excuse me while I stifle this yawn.

Cameras cut to a bizare (even for the time) promo from Savage, Zeus and Sensational Sherri. 

Gathered around the apparently much-talked-about Cauldron of Madness (literally a witches cauldron frothing with smoke), Sherri and Savage insisted that they could see into the future and forsaw the end of Hogan, Savage and Miss Elizabeth. 

All the while, Zeus gurned and grinned like an idiot.

The Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase (w/ Virgil) VS. Jimmy 'Superfly' Snuka
WWF / WWE Summerslam 1989 - Ted Dibiase cut a promo on Jake Roberts before wrestling Jimmy 'Superfly' Snuka
By the time cameras returned to the ring, Dibiase was already in the ring. He took to the mic, gloated over putting Jake 'The Snake' Roberts out of action, then proceeded to fill up some dead time in a dull match against Jimmy Snuka.

An early botch from Snuka, messing up a leapfrog attempt and landing on Dibiase's head, quashed what little momentum this one may have had and led to a match which, whilst technically not bad, was boring beyond belief.

A brawl on the outside between Snuka and Virgil, then later Dibiase, led to the Superfly being counted out.
Your winner by countout: Ted Dibiase 

In the post-match shenanigans, Superfly Snuka beat up Dibiase and Virgil to the delight of the crowd, nailing Virgil with the Superfly Splash. 

Out in the back for our final promo of the evening, Mean Gene Okerlund met up with Hulk Hogan and Brutus 'The Barber' Beefcake.

WWF / WWE Summerslam 1989 - Hulk Hogan and Brutus Beefcake cut a promo on Randy Savage and Zeus
Hogan went to his bank of ready-made promos to deliver the usual spiel about riding in to town on a Harley Davidson and rivers parting like the Red Sea ala Moses. This time however, Hogan's imaginary ride had Miss Elizabeth with her sexy, curvacious legs wrapped around him. 

Beefcake, for his part, claimed that his titanium steel blades were a part of him, and that equally, they would become a part of 'madness.' 


With the main event then moments away, fans were treated to a poem, of sorts from Randy Savage's real-life brother, Lanny 'The Genius' Poffo. 

Randy 'Macho Man' Savage and Zeus (w/ Sensational Sherri) VS. World Wrestling Federation Champion Hulk Hogan and Brutus 'The Barber' Beefcake
And so for the second year running, Summerslam's main event pits Hulk Hogan in a tag team match against some combination of his most hated rivals.

This year, Randy Savage was his opponent rather than his partner, whilst Savage's former valet, Elizabeth, was introduced before the first blow could be struck as being in the good guy's camp.

Then the bell rang, and Summerslam 1989's main event accelerated into an exciting, entirely captivating main event which kept the audience enthralled throughout.

WWF Champion Hogan, and his mission to fell the seemingly indestructable Zeus provided the focal point of this entertaining main event whilst Savage and Beefcake, not to mention Sherri and Liz on the outside, all played their parts perfectly too.

The end of this epic encounter came when Hogan finally got Zeus on his back, causing the crowd to erupt in the process. One Leg Drop of Doom later, and this thing was over...for now.
Your Winners: Hulk Hogan and Brutus Beefcake

After the bell, Sensational Sherri (who admittedly looked incredibly sexy here), recieved an atomic drop (no doubt flashing the crowd her panties in the process) from Hogan for her troubles before having her lengthy hair chopped by Elizabeth and Brutus Beefcake.

Despite the few especially dull or dismal enocunters (Rhodes/Honky and Dibiase/Snuka), Summerslam 1989 was an exceptionally good show. 
Compelling battles from Warrior/Rude and the main event, coupled with great wrestling from the Harts/Brainbusters and our first six man tag match, not to mention insane promos, all helped to create a sense of excitement which made Summerslam 1989 incredibly fun to watch. 
In terms of its importance in the greater history of professional wrestling, this isn't necessarily must-see stuff, but if you want to sit back enjoy some thoroughly entertaining old-school WWF, you can do far worse than this show.

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