Retro Review: WWE SummerSlam 1990

The Hart Foundation

SummerSlam is just under a month away. The summer show was always considered the second biggest PPV of the year. At least to me. I think over the last 10 years the Royal Rumble has overtaken SummerSlam as the second biggest PPV on the WWE schedule.

Over the next few weeks, I will be writing strictly SummerSlam-related columns. Some will be reviews, others will be more column-based. This week I’m starting with a classic era SummerSlam and watching the 1990 show.

This show is from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which is one of the worst towns in America. Take my word for it. Vince McMahon and Roddy Piper are on commentary. We have the return of the Hulkster tonight as well as he battles Earthquake and the Ultimate Warrior defends the WWF title against longtime rival Rick Rude inside a steel cage.

Power and Glory w/Slick vs The Rockers

Vince McMahon says this one is going to be a humdinger. Both teams start brawling before the bell and it ends with Shawn Michaels on the outside with an injured knee. That means it is 2-on-1 for the first few minutes of the match. The reason for this is because Michaels had a legit knee injury at the time so he could not wrestle. Yes, this was a real injury and not a fake one like he would suffer about seven years later.

I actually think this is awful officiating and Vince agrees. Why did the referee allow this match to start with an injured Michaels on the outside? Every time Jannetty looks like he finally has a chance to win, Slick distracts the ref and causes a delay in the pin attempt. That’s good heel managing.

Power and Glory have tape all the way up their hands. Apparently this is a taped fist match. Power and Glory win with a Hercules suplex of Jannetty off the top and a Paul Roma splash for the win. The crowd pops slightly because this is Philadelphia, and everyone there thinks they are tough guys [and in fairness, also because the PowerPlex was awesome – Ed]. So I guess they don’t like the pretty boy Rockers.

WWF Intercontinental Championship: Mr. Perfect (c) w/Bobby Heenan vs The Texas Tornado

This was originally supposed to be Brutus Beefcake challenging. But this is when Beefcake suffered his parasailing accident. He was probably winning the title here, too.

We get pre-match promos from both men. Perfect gives his traditional good promo. Meanwhile, Kerry Von Erich looks like he’s already taken a ton of drugs beforehand.

Kerry Von Erich is always a big ‘what if’ in the wrestling industry. What if Vince picked him instead of Hogan for his national takeover? What if Kerry had his head on straight during his career?

This match is really short. Perfect gets the better of Tornado early on, but has to regroup after a couple Tornado hiptosses. Perfect then goes back to working over Tornado in the corner, until Tornado just comes out and catapults Perfect into the corner. Then we get the claw and the discus punch for the win.

Part of me believes the match was so short, because as I said, it looked like Tornado was already loopy in his pre match promo. Tornado’s IC title reign was very short and Mr. Perfect would regain the IC title 3 months later.

Sensational Queen Sherri vs Sapphire

Sapphire’s music plays but she does not come out. Sherri is apparently ready to wrestler in heels. They play her music again but nothing. We’re then told if Sapphire doesn’t come to the ring in 30 seconds she will forfeit the match. She doesn’t and Sherri wins. Hmmm, what could be going on here?

We cut to the back where Mean Gene is with Dusty Rhodes. Dusty says Sapphire disappeared 10 minutes after arriving to the building. Hacksaw Jim Duggan comes in and says he hasn’t seen her, but is still looking. Oh great, HACKSAW JIM DUGGAN is looking for Sapphire. She’ll never be found.

Of course Sapphire has been receiving gifts in the weeks before the show, including a gold necklace, new jacket and a Cadillac. Who has the money to provide such lavish gifts?

The Warlord w/Slick vs Tito Santana

How many steroids was the Warlord on? This dude is thick. Poor Tito is stuck in nowhereland at this point. He’s no longer a top guy and is pretty much a jobber to new gimmicks.

This is all about making the Warlord look good and he tosses Tito around the ring. Warlord wears him down with his offense. So in other words, we get a slow plodding match. Warlord wins with a powerslam. This was every Warlord match until the end of time.

Two Out Of Three Falls Match For the WWF Tag Team Championship: Demolition (c) vs The Hart Foundation

This was a weird transition period for Demolition. They win the tag titles at Wrestlemania 6 to a HUGE ovation. But between now and then they turn heel because the WWF finally was able to get the Road Warriors to come in, and they were not about to be heels. Crush is also brought into the group because Ax had heart problems after a bad allergic reaction to shellfish in Japan.

They try to push the narrative that it is tough to tell the members of Demolition apart. Vince says it is really tough to tell Ax and Smash apart when that couldn’t be further from the truth. Ax has short hair and is a bit rounder in the belly.

After taking a bit of a breather in the last match, the crowd is fully invested in this one from the bell. We get a really good near fall from Bret Hart with a Russian leg sweep for two. Crush breaks up the pin though. Demolition then takes the first fall with Decapitation.

The second fall sees Demolition slowing the match down and working over Bret until he is finally able to tag in Jim Neidhart. The Hart Foundation made the perfect team because Bret could do the technical wrestling and get worked over and Neidhart did the power stuff and was great on the hot tags.

After taking out Smash with the Hart Attack, Earl Hebner goes and takes the longest time possible to go and count Bret. Crush stupidly jumps on the ref instead of Bret to break up the pin, which causes a DQ. So don’t tell me Earl Hebner never helped Bret Hart out. Also, how dumb is Crush for doing that?

In between falls, Ax runs down to the ring and hides underneath it. Neidhart drops Bret on to Smash and Smash rolls out of the ring. Ax comes in and Earl Hebner has no clue it is Ax. Like, it is comically bad when EVERYONE but the ref knows that there was a switch.

Smash lands some shots to Bret on the outside. Out come the Legion of Doom who take out Ax, then trip Crush on the top rope. Neidhart shoulder tackles Crush over Bret and Bret pins Crush to win the tag titles.

This is the start of the downfall of Demolition. They’d be broken up within the next year. Legion of Doom surprisingly wouldn’t win the tag titles until SummerSlam next year.

We get a Wrestlemania 7 ad for the LA Coliseum. I’m stunned Vince allowed these commercials still on the show. You’d figure he would want this written out of existence.

We get intermission time here with a handful of interviews. Nikolai Volkoff gives one hilariously bad promo talking about how much he loves the USA. It almost sounds just like Borat. I’m always amazed how good Earthquake was at promos while bouncing up and down.

Bad News Brown vs Jake The Snake Roberts

Big Boss Man is the special guest referee for this match for some reason. Jake of course has the snake, Bad News has his sewer rats. Pretty sure a snake wins over a sewer rat any day of the week.

Bad News uses a chair to the gut on Jake but Boss Man does not DQ him. What the hell kind of officiating is that? Bad News starts working over the back of Jake. Bad News Brown matches are a lot like Warlord matches: slow and plodding. Of course Bad News finisher is the Ghetto Blaster, a name that wouldn’t fly at all today.

After Bad News misses off the second rope, Jake lands some short punches and short arm clothesline. The crowd knows that means the DDT is coming but Bad News counters it with a backdrop. Bad News uses the chair on the outside again and THIS TIME Boss Man calls for the bell.

Bad News tries to leg drop Damien put Boss Man pulls the bag out of the way. Bad News attacks Boss Man after Boss Man turned his back and Piper calls it a dumb move. Jake eventually comes back and puts the snake on Bad News and he bails.

We get a Brother Love segment with the return of Sgt. Slaughter, who is now an Iraqi Sympathizer right in the middle of the tensions in the Middle East. He gives Brother Love the “Brave American Award.” Sarge declares war on Nikolai Volkoff and says America is too weak to declare war.

The Orient Express w/Mr. Fuji vs Hacksaw Jim Duggan and Nikolai Volkoff

Duggan and Volkoff sing ‘God Bless America” and it doesn’t have the same ring to it as Volkoff singing the Soviet national anthem. The match is a total Duggan and Volkoff squash and they win in short order. I long for the Orient Express/Rockers matches after this.

Sapphire was found before the previous match but Dusty can’t get her out of the room so he has to go to his match.

Dusty Rhodes vs “Macho King” Randy Savage w/Sensational Sherri

If I was ever one of these guys carrying Macho Man to the ring on his throne I would be terrified that I would drop him. I could never do it no matter how confident I thought I was with my strength.

We suddenly cut to the Million Dollar Man and Virgil up on the interview stage. He’s always said everyone has a price, and he is here to show off his latest purchase. And it is Sapphire!

She has a bag full of money and is showing off all her gifts. Dusty starts to go after DiBiase but Savage attacks him from behind.

We get a short two minute match that ends with Savage hitting Dusty with Sherri’s purse for the win. This was a weak blow off for an almost year-long feud.

The angle wouldn’t go anywhere as Sapphire left the company after the turn. She was a legit Dusty Rhodes fan and did not want to take part in the angle.

DiBiase and Virgil leave with Sapphire. We get a bad shot of the stage people telling Dusty to hold on before chasing after the limo.

Earthquake w/Jimmy Hart and Dino Bravo vs Hulk Hogan w/Big Boss Man

Of course Tugboat was supposed to be at the side of Hogan, but Earthquake took him out. We all remember Earthquake taking out Hogan on the Brother Love Show which lead to Hogan taking off the summer of 1990.

Earthquake uses his strength to shove Hogan down a few times and Hogan has to regroup on the outside. Hogan can’t get him down with punches either until the last one sends him down and now Quake has to regroup on the outside. Suddenly Dino Bravo and Boss Man are in the ring and the heels get taken out.

Agile big man Earthquake goes to the top and hits an ax handle. Savage must have been pissed Quake stole one of his trademark moves. Quake misses an elbow drop and Hogan goes for a slam but Quake lands on Hogan instead.

The traditional big man bear hug spot is next as Quake wears down the Hulkster. Today this would be met with a boring chant but in 1990 its great big man psychology. Hulk for some reason rips Earl Hebner’s shirt trying to get out of the move. Hogan goes for a crossbody but the Quaker catches him and slams him. Quake puts a foot over Hulk and Hulk awkwardly puts his shoulder up to break it.

Quake hits two splashes but Hogan HULKS UP which causes everyone to go nuts in 1990. Hogan hits a big boot and bodyslams Quake. I bet Quake weighed 900 pounds that night. Dino bravo distracts the ref. Hogan tosses Jimmy Hart into Quake as Boss Man gets rid of Bravo. Hogan bodyslams Quake onto a randomly placed table right next to the ring, which doesn’t break. Must be a Japanese table. Hogan gets back in the ring and wins via countout.

After the match Quake attacks Hogan and holds him up in a chokehold. Boss Man uses a mini step stool to take out Bravo as well as Quake, but it takes three shots. He scares everyone off with the nightstick. And of course as we all know, HOGAN MUST POSE!

This is actually kind of genius by Hogan. We all know Hogan resented putting Warrior over and was happy to see him fail. So he comes back here and can’t main event because you can’t put up the cage then take it down for another match. So instead Hogan gets the crowd fired up for his match and poses for a pretty long time after. Essentially, this wears out the crowd for later so they will be dead for Warrior’s match.

We get a handful of interviews to fill time as the cage is setup. Earthquake’s bouncing up and down promo isn’t as good as his first one.

Steel Cage Match for theWWF Championship: Ultimate Warrior (c) vs Rick Rude w/Bobby Heenan

We get the stupid dubbed over Rick Rude theme here. How does the WWE not own the rights to this? Anyways, they try to put the commentary soundtrack over this and it sounds like Vince and Piper are talking in a bubble.

The match starts with Warrior on top of the cage outside of the ring, so that is a bad ref job starting the match at the beginning and end of the show. Warrior tosses Rude back and forth between the cage until he misses a charge and runs into the cage himself. Rude is already busted open as we remember there used to be blood in cage matches.

Warrior looks like he is busted open now too but I can’t get a good look. Rude thrashes his head back and forth in between the cage. Warrior fights off the Rude Awakening at first but Rude is able to hit it. But Rude goes to the top of the cage instead of escaping and hits an ax handle off the top. He goes for a second one but Warrior hits him coming down.

As Warrior tries to escape through the door, Bobby Heenan slams it into Warrior. Now Rude goes for a pin but Warrior kicks out. Heenan comes into the cage but he gets taken out by the Warrior.

Now it is time for Warrior to, I guess Warrior Up, and he clotheslines Rude a handful of times and gorilla press slams him. Warrior climbs over the top and does Rude’s pose on the bars as he hits the floor for the win.

Rude would be gone from the WWF a few months later after a pay dispute with Vince McMahon. As for Warrior, his title reign at this point was considered a let down and with the Hulkster back, you knew the title would get there eventually.

As far as the show, if you are nostalgic for this era of wrestling like I am you will enjoy it for that. As far as the actual wrestling? I would say only the tag titles match qualifies as above average, even with the silliness involving Demolition.