With Summerslam going down on Sunday I thought it would be cool to look back at the original show, Summerslam 1988. Summerslam was a further expansion of the WWF into the pay per view world. WrestleMania had been established in March/early April, and the Survivor Series was put up in November to stick it to the NWA’s Starrcade show, so now they wanted to get a foothold in the summer months. The card had some storyline associated matches, but a lot of filler. You’ll see what I mean here.
Opening Match: The Rougeau Brothers vs The British Bulldogs
The Rougeaus had recently turned heel, while the Bulldogs were esentially playing out the string in their WWF run as a tandem. These guys were all good workers; the Bulldogs were one of the best teams of the decade and the Rougeaus kept up with them pretty well. Match went to a time limit draw which served……no purpose whatsoever. They didn’t go into a feud afterwards, and with the Bulldogs only a few months away from being out having them put the Rougeaus over would have been a better move. Good match, questionable finish.
Bad News Brown vs Ken Patera – Brown was an up and coming heel, Patera was a washed up former big name. This went how you expect it would – Patera puts up a fight, Brown wins with his finisher. In 2016 this would be a WWE Superstars/House Show match, but in 1988 it got on a pay per view. Yikes.
Rick Rude vs Junkyard Dog
Rude was in the midst of a hot feud with Jake The Snake Roberts, and Dog was a former big star on his way out the door. Match progressed in a similar fashion to the previous one, before Roberts does a run in to attack Rude. Dog gets DQ’ed. Another dumb finish, but the real question is why even have this match instead of Rude vs Roberts? The two were tearing it up at house shows and bringing in a lot of money but you didn’t have to go to a pinfall finish here. Just bizarre all around.
Powers of Pain vs The Bolsheviks
The Bolsheviks were a heel team that basically existed to put over other teams. The Powers of Pain were fresh off of defecting from the NWA. Basic tag team match here; Bolsheviks were brawlers and the Powers were musclebound power guys (think of the Road Warriors minus the charisma; the Powers even copied their look). The point of the match was to get the Powers over to set up a feud with Demolition, the other Road Warrior imitating team that were the tag team champions. Powers win after some generic tag team back and forth.
Intercontinental Title Match: Honky Tonk Man vs ???
The HTM was supposed to defend against Brutus Beefcake, who got attacked by Ron Bass and knocked out of action. HTM didn’t know who his opponent would be and didn’t seem to care. Out comes…The Ultimate Warrior, to a crazy eruption from the crowd. HTM had been on a super hot heel run, doing the cowardly heel champion routine to a tee. He’d been champ for over a year, escaping from all comers and getting crazy heel heat for it. Warrior coming down and thrashing him in 30 seconds was like the villain getting his comeuppance at the end of a movie. It was also the highlight of the evening, to be honest.
Don Muraco vs Dino Bravo
And another match that didn’t need to be here. Two midcard guys, not in a feud with each other. The highlight here was Bobby the Brain Heenan joining the commentary team. Heenan was one of the best as both a manager and a commentator. Muraco was a few months away from leaving and Bravo was coming up as a solo act, so you know what happens here.
Tag Team Title Match: Demolition (champs) vs The Hart Foundation
The Harts had recently turned faced and left their longtime manager Jimmy Hart, who responded by joining Demolition’s manager Mr. Fuji in the champs corner. Demolition was one of many teams that copied the look of the Road Warriors – they were put together because Hawk and Animal didn’t come to the WWF, and they were the most successful of the imitators. Ax and Smash weren’t anything special but they were two veterans who were decent brawlers that play well off of guys like the Harts. Match was pretty good, thanks largely to Bret Hart’s selling and offense. Demolition cheats to win and keep the titles with help from Jimmy Hart. One of the rare undercard matches that both belonged on a pay per view show and served a storyline purpose.
Koko B. Ware vs The Big Bossman
Good grief….another house show/WWE Superstars worthy match. Squash win for Bossman, who was another recent NWA defector.
Jake Roberts vs Hercules
Again…why this instead of Jake vs Rude? Decent back and forth, went on longer than it needed to, Jake wins with the DDT. Yawn.
Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage (The Megapowers) vs Ted Dibiase and Andre the Giant (The Megabucks)
The main event here was essentially the big blowoff to the Hogan/Savage vs Andre/DiBiase feud that had been going since the beginning of the year. The special hitch here was Jesse Ventura as the special referee, and whether or not his full on hatred of Hogan would cloud his decision making. The match your standard 80s Hogan fare; Savage and DiBiase did the heavy technical lifting while Hogan brought the sports entertainment (that’s not a dis; Hogan was great at what he was). The finish was some convoluted nonsense. Hogan and Savage were laid out on the outside, about to get counted out, when Savage’s manager Miss Elizabeth got on the ring apron and took her skirt off to distract both Jesse and the Megabucks, allowing Hogan and Savage to recover and get back in the ring to finish them off. Uhh…..yeah. It played a lot better in real time than it does almost 30 years later.
Oof….where do I start? The makeup of this show was par for the course back then – a few matches with stories to them but a lot of stuff that had no significance. Not having Roberts and Rude face each other on the show was downright criminal, and some of the finishes made zero sense. A lot of the card was more of a setup for fall house shows than any kind of special event, which is both a travesty and a reflection of how the business worked back then. But the Warrior title win was a true historic moment in WWE/WWF history so the whole night wasn’t a waste. A decent nostalgia watch, but this show hasn’t aged well at all.