PPV REVIEW - WWf Summerslam 1997

WWE / WWF - Summerslam 1997 - Event poster
August 3, 1997, 
Continental Airlines Arena, East Rutherford, New Jersey

By the summer of 1997, the World Wrestling Federation were finally beginning to recover from the dismal performance -both creatively and financially- that had plagued them for much of the mid-1990s. 

With a compelling heel turn reviving his career, Bret 'The Hitman' Hart was delivering some of his best work in years both on the microphone and in the ring.

Meanwhile, The Undertaker was enjoying his first run as World Wrestling Federation champion, putting in solid main event performances against the likes of Mankind, Vader, and Stone Cold Steve Austin.

Tonight, the two would go head to head on the second biggest show of the year, an event that -if all went according to plan- should have served as the perfect example of how the WWF were finally regaining momentum.

Let's head down to East Rutherford, New Jersey, to find out whether it actually did or not.

Stand for the National Anthem 

Perhaps an effort to counter all the Canadian patriotism showcased at last month's In Your House: Canadian Stampede, we began tonight with a cold open which saw commentators and crowd alike standing for the American national anthem.

This then took us to the usual opening video, in which we were told that life isn't fair, and that's why everybody hated Bret 'The Hitman' Hart, why The Undertaker had to carry the burden of murdering his family, and why Shawn Michaels once lost his smile.

From there, it was fireworks galore, and an impassioned growl from Vince McMahon.

McMahon introduced us to his colleagues, Jim Ross and Jerry 'The King' Lawler.

Lawyer and Ross speculated that we would see some gold change hands tonight, but before we got to our first title match, it was on to the hottest feud of the summer.

Steel Cage Match
Hunter Hearst Helmsley (w/ Chyna) vs. Mankind 

WWE / WWF - Summerslam 1997 - Hunter Hearst Helmsey faced Mankind in a cage match
After Rick Rude and Ultimate Warrior at Summerslam 1990 and Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart at Summerslam 1994, the blue steel cage so familiar from many a pro wrestling fan's childhood made its return here for only the third time in Summerslam history, serving as the battleground for a dramatic brawl between heated rivals Hunter Hearst Helmsley and Mankind.

The two had battled in the finals of King of the Ring 1997 before taking their hatred of one another to all new levels with some out of control brawling at Canadian Stampede.

Tonight was the night they looked to settle things in the cage, and deliver a great opening contest in the process.

A couple of big spots combined with a great crowd really made this one, especially when Mankind flew off the top of the cage ala his idol, Jimmy 'Superfly' Snuka.

From there, it was a matter of formality as Mankind climbed back to the top of the cage and down to the outside to win the match.
Your Winner: Mankind 

Afterwards, Mankind was totally out of it until that terrible Dude Love theme struck up through the PA, prompting Mick to release his inner-Dude and dance his way to the back.

A Political Powerslam 

Up next, we had Todd Pettengill, WWF President Gorilla Monsoon and The Headbangers making a special presentation to the governor of New Jersey.

WWE / WWF - Summerslam 1997 - Gorilla Monsoon, The Headbangers, Todd Pettengill and The Governor of New Jersey
The World Wrestling Federation had not held a PPV in the state for many years because of some entertainment tax law, but this woman had removed them so tonight we were celebrating and awarding her with a WWF championship belt.

I get the point of this, but it was all kinds of cheesy and not very entertaining, so it was a relief that it was kept quite short.

Killing Time 

Whilst the ring crew continued to take down the cage, we were shown a Tiger Ali Singh sat in the crowd with his dad, Tiger Jeet Singh.

What an underwhelming career the younger Singh would have.

From there we were shown clips of the Summerslam beach party which had taken place earlier in the day, and that took us to our next match.

Goldust (w/ Marlena) vs. Brian Pillman 

WWE / WWF Summerslam 1997 - Brian Pillman vs. Goldust (Pillman wears a dress if he loses)
If Brian Pillman lost this one he would have to wear a dress on the following night's episode of WWF Raw, so naturally, he lost.

And so did everybody who watched this match because it was pretty bland.

Thankfully, the very unexciting action didn't last long, and ended after a few minutes with a roll-up victory for Goldust.
Your Winner: Goldust 

Post match, Pillman threw a fit and destroyed the mannequin which held the dress he was supposed to wear the following evening.

The Legion of Doom are Angry

A while ago, The Legion of Doom broke Henry O. Godwin's neck when he landed awkwardly from a Doomsday Device.

The Godwins had since returned, and in full on heel mode had viciously attacked Hawk & Animal, leading to tonight's match.

Before we got there, we had Hawk and Animal ranting and raving in their typically violent style about just how badly they were going to destroy the pig farmers.

The Godwins (Henry O. & Phineas I. Godwin) vs. The Legion of Doom (Hawk & Animal) 

WWE / WWF - Summerslam 1997 - The Legion of Doom faced The Godwins
Competing in their first Summerslam match since the epic 1992 Summerslam at Wembley Arena (when they defeated Money Inc.) The Legion of Doom went at it with The Godwins in a reasonably decent match.

This wasn't the most entertaining thing you'll ever see, but it was far from the worst, and that's about the best thing I can say about it.

The LOD won and nobody cared.
Your Winners: The Legion of Doom 

Up next, we had the Summerslam sweepstakes in which a little kid and some scrawny Steve Austin wannabe, along with two randoms on the phones, tried to guess which key would unlock a coffin containing $1 million.

Remember McMahon's Million Dollar Mania from a few years ago? This was like that, except with the added bonus that you had Sunny and Sable there looking hotter than hell.

Seriously, that was the only good thing about this whole time-draining segment.

World Wrestling Federation European Championship
WWF European Champion The British Bulldog vs. Ken Shamrock 

WWE / WWF - Summerslam 1997 - Ken Shamrock vs.WWF European Champion British Bulldog
In his first of only two PPV European title defences, The British Bulldog put the title on the line in a disappointing effort against former UFC star Ken Shamrock.

Davey Boy was still capable of having a good match at this post in his career, but either didn't want to, or couldn't get one out of Ken Shamrock, who was apparently still adapting to WWF style pro wrestling.

As such, what we got here was basically one long chinlock interspersed with a bit of brawling.

Towards the end, the action spilled outside where Bulldog threw dog food in the face of his opponent.

This made Shamrock lose his mind and hit Bulldog over the head with the full can of dog food, losing the match by DQ.
Your Winner and Still European Champion: The British Bulldog 

Afterwards, Shamrock continued his beat down and put the Bulldog in a chokehold in the middle of the ring, holding on for so long that Davey Boy turned purple and passed out.

Eventually, a gang of referees and road agents arrived to just kind of hover around Shamrock and wave their arms a bit until The World's Most Dangerous Man got bored and decided to suplex them all instead.

Shawn Michaels is Fair 

WWE / WWF - Summerslam 1997 - Todd Pettengill interviews Shawn Michaels
As per the rules of our main event, if special referee Shawn Michaels had to call things fairly or else he would be kicked out of the company.

In a backstage interview, Michaels told Todd Pettengill that he would absolutely be fair, and lied through his teeth by claiming that there was no hatred between him and The Hitman.

Los Boriquas (Savio Vega, Miguel Perez, Jose Estrada Jr., and Jesus Castillo) vs. The Disciples of Apocalypse (Crush, Chainz, Skull, and 8-Ball) 

To be honest, I missed the first part of this match because I was trying to figure out how the WWF explained the fact that Crush suddenly lost that stupid pizza slice tattoo he had until he left The Nation.

Getting nowhere, I turned my attentions back to the match just in time to see Farooq lead The Nation down to ringside.

From there, what we got was a relatively entertaining match that ended when Nation member Ahmed Johnson hit a crappy looking Pearl River Plunge to Chainz on the outside.

Back in the ring, one of the Boricuas elbow dropped the DOA man and got the win for his team.
Your Winners: Los Boricuas

Afterwards, gang warfare broke out among all three gangs (or 'factions' as the commentators euphemistically called them) until Crush got on his motorbike and tried to run everybody over.

World Wrestling Federation Intercontinental Championship
WWF Intercontinental Champion Owen Hart vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin

WWE / WWF - Summerslam 1997 - Steve Austin vs. Owen Hart
Getting into a fierce rivalry with the reigning Intercontinental Champion ever since he'd been pinned by him at Canadian Stampede, Stone Cold Steve Austin had vowed to kiss Owen Hart's ass if he could not beat him tonight.

That was on Raw. Tonight, Stone Cold wasn't feeling so talkative. As he made his way backstage, he refused to give any comments to a scrawny little newcomer called Michael Cole who tried to interview him.

One he got to the ring however, Austin was fully ready to do whatever it took to win, taking the fight to the champion in the early moments of what would turn out to be the best match on the card up to this point.

It was a very good match, though watching it knowing what was to come kind of took the shine off it, especially when the announcers began telling us about Austin's neck problems.

The whole time, you were just waiting for *that* moment, the moment Owen hit the Piledriver on Austin and broke his neck.

That was hard to watch, even more so when you saw Owen trying not to act concerned but simply stall for time instead.

After getting the nod from referee Earl Hebner, Owen basically lay down and pinned himself.
Your Winner and New WWF Intercontinental Champion: Stone Cold Steve Austin

Barely able to stand, Austin did his best to celebrate his victory, but could only raise the Championship belt above his head once before being helped out to the back in a scene that was truly painful to watch.

World Wrestling Federation Championship
WWF Champion The Undertaker vs. Bret 'The Hitman' Hart (Special Guest Referee: Shawn Michaels)

WWE / WWF - Summerslam 1997 - Bret Hart beat Undertaker for the WWF Title
The story here was that if Bret didn't win the title, he would never wrestle in the United States ever again. If Shawn Michaels favored The Undertaker, he wouldn't be allowed to wrestle in the States either.

Just to make himself feel at home then, challenger Bret Hart had the crowd listen to the Canadian National Anthem, getting plenty of heel heat before going against The Undertaker in one of the best main events I've watched in a long time.

The two went back and forth until Hart took control and began working over The Dead Man's legs.

All the while, Michaels ran around playing a firm-but-fair referee, a role which only added to the excitement.

Cameos from Paul Bearer, Brian Pillman, and Owen Hart all provided a break from the action, but really it was the dynamic between Hart, Undertaker, and HBK that really elevated this into a solid Match of the Year Candidate.

At the end, Bret used a chair to waffle Undertaker, but Michaels called him out on it.

The two got into a heated argument, with Bret yelling s very visible and obvious 'F*** you!' at the referee and spitting at him.

Michaels swung the chair at Bret, but Bret ducked, so Shawn yelled an equally as obvious 'Shit!'

Hart made the cover, HBK was forced to make a fair three count, and Bret won his fifth and final WWF Championship.
Your Winner and New WWF Champion: Bret 'The Hitman' Hart

Michaels stormed off with Undertaker in hot pursuit whilst Bret celebrated to end the show.

The World Wrestling Federation may have been regaining momentum by the summer of 1997, but watching Summerslam 1997, you'd never have known it. 

This was a really mediocre show, starting off well enough then descending into tedium before picking up again for the last two matches.

Those two matches would ultimately change the game. Austin neck's injury was the catalyst for that last big push en route to becoming 'The Man' whilst Bret's big win in a fantastic main event would ultimately lead him to a title defence against arch-nemesis Shawn Michaels at Survivor Series and, well, we all know what happened there, don't we?

1997 events reviewed so far:
  1. WWF - Royal Rumble 1997
  2. WCW - Souled Out 1997
  3. WWF - In Your House 13: Final Four 
  4. WCW - Superbrawl VII 
  5. WCW - Uncensored 1997 
  6. WWF - Wrestlemania 13
  7. WCW Spring Stampede 1997
  8. WWF - In Your House 14: Revenge of The Taker
  9. WWF - In Your House 15: A Cold Day in Hell
  10. WCW - Slamboree 1997
  11. WWF - King of the Ring 1997
  12. WCW - Great American Bash 1997 
  13. WWF - In Your House 16: Canadian Stampede 
  14. WCW - Bash at the Beach 1997 
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  1. Martha Hart wrote in her book that Owen suspected Austin faked the injury.