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By Michael Partridge
Hello everyone! This is my first article for KayfabeToday!
Over the coming months I’m going to do my best to dig into the massive archive of events in the world of wrestling. I promise zero consistency in my reason for choosing which events I’m going to review. In fact, if you’ve got ideas or suggestions, I’d love to hear from you!
As I’m starting out, just this once and considering it is Summerslam season, I’m going to dig deep into the vault back to a warm August night at Madison Squared Garden in 1988 for the first ever Summerslam!
A small note, I owned this event on VHS when I was younger, so I’m going to try my best to not get nostalgic about it and do my best to tell you whether it is worth your time watching.
The selling point of this 10 match card was The Mega Powers (Hulk Hogan & Macho Man Randy Savage) vs The Mega Bucks (AndréThe Giant & The Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase) with Jesse Ventura as the guest referee. It was part of an ongoing story between all 4 participants, which started at Wrestlemania 3 and would continue to Wrestlemania 5! It’s crazy to even think of a story line running for that length of time in the current climate of the WWE!
Let’s get down to the actual wrestling!
1st match: The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers (Jaques & Raymond) vs The British Bulldogs (Davey Boy Smith & The Dynamite Kid)
This is a decent opener that has stood up excellently over time, it is a very traditional heel vs face tag match. Rule breaking, ref distraction, hot tags, power moves, cheap heat, double team moves and an excellent story told from start to finish.
The Bulldog’s combination of high energy and tag team offence is balanced by the Rougeau’s dirty tricks and submission moves.
This match runs to a 20 minute broadway(draw), which, rather frighteningly, makes this one match almost as long as the following 5 matches and the longest on the card.
2nd match : Ken Patera vs Bad News Brown – winner
It’s hard to say anything positive about this match. It’s not awful, but it is a real throwaway encounter. The strangest thing in this bout is the commentary, Gorilla Monsoon and Superstar Billy Graham make numerous references to Patera’s Olympic appearance and Pan American games medals (YAY! USA! USA!) for weight lifting, yet make no reference to Bad News’ Olympic and Pan American games medals for Judo…Patera got some action, but the match barely felt out of Bad News’ control. I guess you can’t expect miracles in 6 minutes.
3rd match : Ravishing Rick Rude vs The Junkyard Dog – winner
This is a weird example of the change in the WWE from 1988 to 2017. This match existed purely to further the feud between Rick Rude and Jake “The Snake” Roberts. It’s hard to fathom a Summerslam match that would end in a disqualification because of a run in these days, let alone to exist to further a feud. Rick Rude is capable of truly spectacular matches, and this is forgettable. It feels like it would be a match in the middle of Smackdown, not a match worthy of the big 4.
4th match : The Bolsheviks (Boris Zhukov & Nikolai Volkoff) vs The Powers of Pain (The Barbarian & The Warlord) – winners
Let me sum up this example of vintage 80’s WWF quickly for you…
Roid monster 1 & roid monster 2 vs foreign heel 1 & foreign heel 2. Roid monsters beat foreign heels in 5 minutes. I struggle to remember watching a match that Boris Zhukov was involved in, where he wasn’t on the receiving end of a pin fall.
Up next was a Brother Love interview with Hacksaw Jim Duggan. Find the fast forward button or go to the bathroom. This feels out of place, and would have been better suited on a weekly show. I guess everyone needs a chance to go to the bathroom…even the audience.
5th match : Intercontinental Title Match: The Honky Tonk Man vs The Ultimate Warrior – winner
This match was meant to be Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake vs The Honky Tonk Man, but a previous segment had shown “The Barber” being injured by “The Outlaw” Ron Bass. HTM’s opponent was presented as a mystery until the final seconds when the white hot Ultimate Warrior’s music played.
It took me longer to type that paragraph than the match took…
Classic Warrior squash. Lots of running, rope shaking, punches, flying tackle, clotheslines, big splash, done.
Judge this however you want. When I was a kid, this was the best thing ever!
Up next, Gene Okerland interviews Sugar Ray Leonard about an upcoming boxing match. I’m guessing Vince with invested in a PPV. Fast forward time.
Back to the booth with Gorilla, Superstar…they are interrupted by Bobby “The Brain” Heenan who stays in the commentary position for the next match.
6th match : “The Rock” Don Muraco vs Dino Bravo – winner
This match continues the theme of roid monsters and foreign heels. Dino Bravo’s manager French Martin is carrying a sign that says, “USA is not OK”. The most redeeming thing about this match is you are given a brief glimpse into the classic commentary team of Monsoon and Heenan, other than that it’s 2 big dudes hitting each other and not much else.
Interlude – Sean Mooney interviews Jesse Ventura. This interview is meant to cast doubt on Jesse’s ability to call the main event fairly. Jesse nails everything. The man is one of the best talkers ever, this short segment completely re-enforces that.
7th match : Tag Team Title Match: The Hart Foundation (Bret Hart & Jim Neidhart) vs Demolition (Ax & Smash) – winners
Third tag match on the card, and another very enjoyable offering for very similar reasons to the opener. In this case, we get a winner with Demolition via some dirty tricks with assistance from Mr. Fuji and Jimmy Hart.
This is a strange match to try and recommend anyone checks out because two years later at Summerslam 1990, they have an excellent two out of three falls match. This outing isn’t bad for 10 minutes.
Interlude Sean Mooney interviews a very angry Honky Tonk Man. It was amazing to see the very genuine anger in this short segment.
8th match : Koko B. Ware vs The Big Boss Man – winner
When The Big Boss Man arrived in the WWE he was a massive guy (and not in a good way), who in his defence was pretty agile, but he was massively blown up after about 5 minutes of this match. It’s amazing how much weight he would go on to drop and become a valuable part of the Midgard in years to come. This outing is totally forgettable again.
Interlude Sean Mooney interviews The Ultimate Warrior. This is a few years before the Warrior’s promo’s became complete (glorious) nonsense, but the level of intensity is something else!
9th mach : Hercules vs Jake “The Snake” Roberts – winner
I don’t remember Hercules having decent matches, he was a roid monster in a sea of roid monsters, but throw in the masterful Jake Roberts and suddenly you have a decent match on your hands. I remember enjoying this as a kid; as an adult, I can’t help but notice the masterclass of selling, subtlety and psychology on display by Roberts. Roberts has easily had better matches, but this is an example of Jake bringing up an opponent in defeat.
Cue the build up to the main event…
The video package only focuses on the build up to this match, which is a shame as it wouldn’t have hurt to bring in the history between Hogan and André and Savage’s title win at Wrestlemania 4. That would have made this match feel even more important.
10th match : The Mega Bucks (AndréThe Giant & The Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase) vs The Mega Powers (Hulk Hogan & Macho Man Randy Savage) – winners
This is classic tag team ensemble match where everyone involved plays their role effectively. Savage and Dibiase’s exchanges are smooth and technical, André plays the equaliser to any offensive build ups, Hogan works the crowd and sells like a champ, the managers (Elizabeth, Bobby Heenan and Virgil) interfere at the right times and Ventura nails his role as the heel referee.
As I said earlier, I owned this event on VHS as a child, but tonight, watching it for the first time in years, I saw something I had never seen before, a flicker of jealousy in Savage’s eyes as he saw Elizabeth hugging Hogan in celebration. It was the briefest glimpse, but it was an incredible hint of what was coming over the following months as the Hogan and Savage feud built towards Wrestlemania 5.
It’s also fair to say, any time you are faced with a big Hogan match, his command of the crowd makes it hard to not get a little swept up in the match, no matter the quality.
Is this card worth your time?
Maybe. This is more of a glimpse into the WWE at this time, rather than an event that is worth nearly 3 hours of your time. Of the 10 matches on the card, 5 are easily forgotten, and of the remaining 5 matches, each performer has had stronger performances.
Non finishes are a terrible thing on a big card, but I’ve always been a fan of the broadway as a storytelling device, it is far more interesting than a double count out or disqualification and can add to an ongoing feud by raising the participants. The opening bout delivers on this front, however, if you want an excellent broadway, check out Kenny Omega vs Kazuchika Okada at NJPW Dominion 2017.
It’s almost worth watching The Bolsheviks vs The Powers of Pain for a benchmark of the WWE in this period. Almost…
You can watch the Warrior match, including build up in less than 3 minutes, it is far from his best in ring performance (check out his match with Randy Savage at Wrestlemania 7), but I can’t help but think this is a crazy moment in the history of the WWE. Two very important moments occur in 30 seconds. Firstly, The Ultimate Warrior wins his first title, which would send him on the path to his iconic champion vs champion match with Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania 6. Second, it was the end of the longest single reign of the WWE intercontinental Title. The Honky Tonk Man held the title for 454 days and lost it in 30 seconds. There is no doubt, this is one for the history books for shock factor.
The main event is a footnote in the story of Hogan and Savage, is it a match that will be talked about on lists for the greatest matches ever? No. Does it serve a purpose to further the storyline between Hogan and Savage? Perfectly.
It is also a glimpse, for better or worse, into how far women have come in the WWE. If we look at the two women’s matches on this year’s Summerslam we have Natalya vs Naomi and Sasha Banks vs Alexa Bliss. Both matches have a chance to be great, Sasha and Alexa could be excellent. In 1988, Elizabeth’s involvement was taking off her dress as the men in the match stood around shocked staring at her. Mainstream wrestling has come a long way and I am going to re-watch Sasha Banks vs Bayley from NXT: Takeover Brooklyn to remind myself of this!
Wrestlemania 1 has not aged well and I think it’s fair to say the same of 2. Wrestlemania 3 was the first show of that name that really showed potential for being a special event. Hogan vs André and Savage vs Steamboat were both excellent for different reasons, the rest of the card wasn’t great, but it laid some of the groundwork for what we know as a super card in the WWE.
Summerslam 88 suffers from a similar problem. Was it great? No.
If you are an older fan, like myself, is it worth watching out of nostalgic curiosity? Perhaps. I guess it is down to you fair reader.
However, if you are relatively new to the world of wrestling then probably not. If you do wish to dig into the archives of “biggest party of the summer”, I’d say 92, at Wembley Stadium is a stronger contender from this time period.
It is the only major WWE pay per view event held outside North America and the 80,000 strong crowd was white hot from start to finish (I’m a little biased as a 10 year old me is part of that number). Classic matches from The Ultimate Warrior vs Randy Savage and the main event between Bret Hart and The British Bulldog are the highlights.