Retro Recap – Summerslam 1993

Summerslam 93 was in the middle of a really strange year in the WWF. The failed rehash of Hulkamania that ran from Wrestlemania IX through King of the Ring was over and Vince was stuck with a world champion in Yokozuna he didn’t want to keep in place but no one to overthrow him and take the reigns of the company. So it was time to go back to the patriotism well in an effort to give someone enough buzz to have people excited. It didn’t help that a nationwide downturn for the business was in full effect making it hard for anyone to emerge as a real draw.

To determine who would next face the champion there was a bodyslam challenge about the deck of the aircraft carrier The USS Intrepid. Whoever could successfully bodyslam the 600 pound champion would get the shot. The winner of that would be Lex Luger, who was still wrestling as the Narcissist at the time. Desperate times call for desperate measures so Luger was quickly rebranded in red, white, and blue and would go on a nationwide tour in a bus dubbed The Lex Express to meet fans and get them hyped for the match.

Razor Ramon vs Ted DiBiase

Ramon was a face here not even six months after WrestleMania IX where he had a weird match with Bob Backlund. DiBiase was nearing the end of the road on his in-ring career, and this would in fact be his last WWF match. Ramon was hitting his stride here in the ring and had it all figured out and Ted could still go even though he was past his prime. Decent opener but an unceremonious sendoff for one of the best characters in wrestling history.

Tag Team Title Match: The Steiner Brothers (c) vs Heavenly Bodies

The Heavenly Bodies were on loan from Smoky Mountain Wrestling, and were accompanied by Jim Cornette who was pulling double duty as a WWF manager while running SMW. It is always striking seeing Scott Steiner before the ahem, vitamin supplements, really kicked in. Reminds me a lot of Chad Gable. The Heavenly Bodies were a reasonable facsimile of the Dennis Condrey/Bobby Eaton Midnight Express. Good match here and all, but I’d seen this kind of thing a million times in the NWA/WCW so to hear announcer Vince go over the top on commentary was a bit much.

Intercontinental Title Match: Shawn Michaels (c) vs Mr Perfect

Perfect had caused HBK to lose the I-C title briefly to his former partner Marty Jannetty to set this off, and was still working face here. HBK was accompanied by Diesel (Kevin Nash) for the match. Bobby Heenan was openly rooting against Mr. Perfect, as his face turn came at the expense of Heenan and his former associate Ric Flair. With two of the best technical wrestlers in the world at the time going at it you were sure for a really good match, which this was. We get a crap finish here as HBK wins on a countout. What’s with the countout finishes in Michaels’ pay per view matches? That’s two in one year between this and Mania IX.

IRS vs 1-2-3 Kid

The Kid, who we’d get to know later as X-Pac, was a few weeks off his WWF debut where he’d upset Ramon and then DiBiase. He was being booked as a little engine that could, and now was in there with DiBiase’s partner IRS. Short match (5 minutes) mostly controlled by IRS. Kid makes a brief spirited comeback before getting caught by IRS finisher for a clean win. Not sure what they were going for here with this result. Why did Kid need to lose this soon and why did IRS need a win?

Bret Hart vs Doink

Hart went from the billed WrestleMania main event to winning King of the Ring to this. Bret’s brothers Bruce and Owen are at ringside in the front row. This was supposed to be Bret vs Jerry Lawler, but Lawler came out on crutches claiming to be injured and then got on the mic for an A1 ‘run down the city you’re in and your opponent’ promo before sending out Doink in his place. They have a decent, standard kind of match that gets interrupted when Hart gets Doink in the sharpshooter and Lawler miraculously recovers and attacks him for the DQ. WWF President Jack Tunney stops Lawler from leaving and orders him back to the ring to wrestle. So we get….

Bret Hart vs Jerry Lawler

Bret starts wailing on Lawler, even hitting him with his crutch outside the ring. Lawler gets the advantage and starts choking Bret with the crutch. All this goes on before the get in the ring to start the match. Vince sets a record for a saying ‘I’ve never seen this before in the WWF!’ Once Bret gets control again he dominates, gets Lawler in the sharpshooter and then doesn’t let him go even after he submits. In what is a moronic development about eight referees and officials try to get Bret to let him go……….by standing around him and talking to him. The referee ultimately reverses his decision and DQs Bret. Man I guess…….

Ludvig Borga vs Marty Jannetty

Glorified squash match here. Borga was undefeated so the announce team constantly stressed that and Marty’s recent brief IC title reign. Not sure why this needed to be on a pay per view.

Undertaker vs Giant Gonzales

This was bad. Really bad. I said Gonzalez didn’t look too terrible in my Wrestlemania 9 review but he ruined that here. 1993 was a wasted year for Taker because he got saddled with this guy. Good grief.

Smoking Gunns & Tatanka vs Bam Bam Bigelow & The Headshrinkers

This was the cool down match before the main event. Standard six man tag stuff here. Heenan was pretty bad here making constant Cowboy & Indian jokes about the Gunns and Tatanka. Heenan was one of the funniest guys in the history of the business but this part of his act has really not aged well. Everyone got some work in and it was pretty good match all around.

World Title Match: Yokozuna (c) vs Lex Luger

I expected this to be really bad, and it was not at all. They didn’t venture too far outside of the strongman vs giant man paradigm but that was fine. Luger had his working boots on and Yoko was still pretty mobile here.

Overall this was a pretty good match by any measure. But the finish……what in the hell were they thinking here? All that buildup and you have Lex win by countout? It’s the kind of thing that has you wondering if that was a botch of some kind that they just won’t fess up to. I know hindsight is 20/20 but you gotta either have Lex win the title or Yoko cheat to win and get more heat. This ending solved nothing, and with the balloon drop celebration after they just gave out a supersize participation trophy.

We know now that they didn’t think Luger could carry the company so they didn’t pull the trigger on crowning him champion. OK, no problem. Build to the match and use it get more heat on Yoko. If you’re gonna keep the belt on him until Wrestlemania X then get as much heat on him as possible. This didn’t do that, it just made him look like a chump. I think it’s fair to say that at this point having a heel as your top champion was something Vince didn’t know how to do, because he kept undercutting Yoko at every opportunity.

Final Verdict

The actual wrestling was mostly good for everything except the Undertaker’s match. But that main event finish was some convoluted nonsense. That’s like watching Batman beat up the Joker, the Joker getting away, and then Gotham thanking Batman for stopping the Joker and saving them. Seriously, what in the hell? The show is worth watching but be glad you didn’t pay 40 bucks for it back in the day.

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