WWF SummerSlam 1994
by Scrooge McSuck
- Originally broadcasted from the United Center in Chicago, IL, marking this one of the first, if not the first, events held at the new stadium. This also took place on August 29th, meaning it was a birthday PPV for yours truely, and considering how much I was into the WWF in 1993-94 (and some of '95), you have to know I was really pumped to see this show. This really does mark the first show of the New Generation Era, after King of the Ring '94 ended with a stinker between dinosaurs Roddy Piper and Jerry Lawler. Instead of a play-by-play recap, I'm going through with this one almost entirely on personal memories of the show and thoughts on all the programs coming into it. It feels like one of those shows I could pull off without much of a hiccup.
- Vince McMahon and Jerry "the King" Lawler are calling all the action, with Todd Pettengill and "Macho Man" Randy Savage wandering around as interviewers... poor Savage. Can you really blame him for jumping to WCW the first moment he could? I never liked the idea of keeping Savage around not to wrestle, and was actually happy to see him on a regular basis in WWF Jr. (that's what WCW was in late 94 and most of '95).
The Headshrinkers (w/ Afa & Lou Albano) vs. Bam Bam Bigelow & Irwin R. Schyster (w/ Ted Dibiase):
This was hyped for weeks as a Tag Team Title defense for the Headshrinkers, but only days earlier, they randomly dropped the titles to the super-duo of Shawn Michaels and Diesel, either at the Nassau Coliseum or Meadowlands Arena, if I recall correctly. As a kid, I thought that kind of sucked, and being a young moron, would've much prefered THAT instead of this... yes, even then I had a sense of what would've been better. Samu was also being phased out, as the 'Shrinkers introduced a third member, Sionne, formerly known as the Barbarian. I don't know why they decided to do this, but whatever, I didn't like the Headshrinkers THAT much, to begin with. On top of being a very "bleh" match to open the card with, we get a stupid finish to, with Afa becoming physically involved to give Bigelow and I.R.S. the win by Disqualification... why?! They didn't do anything with the Headshrinkers after this, and actually pushed Bigelow and I.R.S. for weeks leading into this, going over random teams of undercard babyfaces.
Women's Title Match: Alundrra Blayze © vs. Bull Nakano (w/ Luna Vachon):
Welcome to the only time I ever truely cared to watch women's wrestling. Blayze went through a program with Luna that ended pretty quietly, mostly done on house shows and one lone match on a random episode of Superstars, so Luna brought in Nakano to have a Non-Title Match with Blayze on Monday Night Raw and took her to a Double Count-Out, so here we go with an official title shot, because not-winning a match automatically makes you the number one contender. Seriously, a harder hitting, better worked match than what most of the male performers were doing on this show. I remember vividly a submission move that Nakano did that started out like a sharpshooter, but then turned over on it and pulled Blayze's entire body off the canvas. Now THAT is some serious shit. Nakano eventually misses her top rope leg drop, and Blayze finishes her off with the German Suplex at 8:40. Don't cry, Nakano fans... she would get another title shot a few months later in Tokyo's Egg Dome, and vanquish her for the title with the leg drop in another kickass match. Pretty much all of their matches were at least good, so check some of them out. There's a bunch of handhelds out there online, as well their matches on Raw, the title change in Japan, and this one.
WWF Intercontinental Title Match: Diesel (w/ Shawn Michaels) vs. Razor Ramon (w/ Walter Payton):
Tidibit as a kid... I never thought there was a chance in hell Diesel would win the title from Ramon on Superstars. Honestly, Diesel was portrayed mostly as a lackey and occasional goon, rather than a true title contender, so it's understandable I think... again, Diesel and Shawn won the Tag Titles the day prior to this, so Diesel is walking around with TWO belts. UGh... I know this show is in Chicago, but was that all they needed to convince themselves they had to have Walter Payton at ringside? At least he seems to be kind of into it... This also marks the first match with Diesel that I thought didn't suck. After months of him stinking up the ring, this one was pretty good (I wonder why... Cough:KLIQ:COUGH), and there really wasn't much in terms of giving away who was leaving with the belt. Hot finish kicks off the eventual split between Diesel and Shawn, with Shawn accidentally hitting Diesel with the Super-Kick, and Ramon taking advantage of this to regain the gold for his second reign as Champion. Tension would continue to mount until Survivor Series, and we all know what happend after that show... (flushes toilet).
Lex Luger vs. Tatanka:
Where to begin with this one... first, Luger's incredibly obvious push down the card since the previous years SummerSlam, where he headlined as the second coming of Hulk Hogan or Jesus Christ. For months, the WWF booking team dragged out a painfully boring storyline where Dibiase would claim to have added Luger to his Corporation, Luger denies the accusations, and Tatanka calls him a liar. This honestly went on for two months, and it seems like it would never come to an end... before the match started, we got "results" from a mark pole of wether you believe Luger sold out, and the majority said yes. I remember the week before on Sunday Night Slam, Vince and Lawler did a "call in" show and a "fan" said he believed it was Tatanka who sold out, and hey, guess what, they totally flushed his call.
Anyway, onto the match... it was something like 7-minutes long and it sucked, because Tatanka needed someone to carry him, and Luger was as unmotivated as you could get in the ring at this point, and he was the talent chameleon: he worked at the level of who was in the ring with him. Tatanka won after a distraction from Dibiase, then turned heel in what honestly was a pretty shocking turn to me... and then he did a beatdown on Luger that lasted longer than the match. BORING. Then he kept going around wrestling and looking the same, except without any smiling. Some turn... Tatanka might have been one of the worst heels after having one of the most surprising turns, just because he didn't seem like a guy who could pull off being a heel, and damn was everyone right. They dragged this crap out on and off until a final blowoff on another Sunday Night Slam, before WRESTLEMANIA. Yes, 7 months later. I guess doing it at WrestleMania would've screwed the Blu Brothers out of a payday, or something.
Mabel (w/ Oscar) vs. "Double J" Jeff Jarrett:
You hear that loud screeching? It's the sound of a car crash. Who came up with this?! Other than the lame "Mabel is a Rapper, Jarrett is a Country Singer" nonsense, I don't recall one instance of physical interaction these two had on television, and I watched and recorded shows religiously all year long. Mabel had been going solo for most of the summer, with Mo out with an injury I guess. They did an angle on Challenge where Owen tore the crap out of his knee, but who knows (and cares), it meant more Mabel, and his first failed singles push. Not much of a match, something you would see on Superstars as a feature. Jarrett wins, next match.
WWF Championship, Cage Match: Bret Hart © vs. Owen Hart:
This is the match I wanted to see, even if it was playing second banana to the following nonsense. We all know the backstory... Owen became jealous of Bret's accomplishments and felt like he was being held down, got a flukey victory over Bret at WrestleMania, and then, with the assistance of returning Brother-in-Law Jim Neidhart, won the King of the Ring Tournament, much like his brother did the year before. To keep Bret and Owen in the ring, and the Hart Family, especially Anvil, out of the ring, it was decided to have this held inside a Steel Cage (the big blue bar version, of course... PG!). Awesome mark out moment at the time... Davey Boy Smith is at ringside, with wife and sister of the Hart's, Diana, and I was hoping this meant a return to the ring for him. Pretty much every Hart is there, with Neidhart sitting away from everyone else, being a total dick. I'm surprised Bruce didn't run in the ring and offer to make it a triple threat.
It's really hard to find much to criticise this match for, because it's an outstanding performance... but there's two things that must be addressed: 1. the excessive use of the slow climbing bits. I know, you have to build suspense, and the match went 30-minutes, so odds are it's going to happen a lot. I LOVED the spot where they're climbing over each other going for the door, clawing like animals, so it's something that can be tweaked. 2. Owen is over the cage and gets stopped through the bars, then forced back into the ring... how does this work? You would think that Owen would drop and break a leg or something to win because he wanted to win that badly, but it's another contrived cage spot. Cute ending though, with Owen getting his foot hooked in the bars and Bret escaping because of it. I'm sure Shawn did that spot too with Bret, but on a Coliseum Video exclusive. Post-Match, Neidhart leaves his seat and wipes out Davey and Diana, before tossing Bret back in the cage and bolting the door for a good ol' fashion beating. The rest of the Hart's try and help, but Owen and Anvil have the higher ground... until Davey Boy pops off the shirt, because that's a sign of awesomeness, and leads the charge to send Owen and Neidhart running for the dressing room like the cowards they are.
The Undertaker vs. The Undertaker:
Remember when I said "where to begin with" for Tatanka vs. Luger? Well, multiply that by about 67,456.5 and ram your head into a concrete wall. I guess we start with the '94 Royal Rumble, where it took no less than TEN men to stuff the Undertaker into a casket long enough to get him to do the job. You'd think that was enough, but the Undertaker then cut a promo from inside the casket, then somehow vaporized out of the casket, appearing on the top of the jumbo screen, before floating into the lights... with wires clearly visible, of course. But wait, there's more! Sometime after WrestleMania, there were "Undertaker" sitings... yes, like Elvis Presley. Anywhere from a butcher shop to a fire station to a PLAYGROUND, people were claiming to have seen the Undertaker. WWF Magazine even ran an article on the nonsense, with some outlandish pictures that would inspire photoshop to be all that it could be. But wait... there's MORE! Suddenly, Ted Dibiase was claiming he not only saw the Undertaker, but was bringing him back, just like when he originally introduced us to him 5 years ago (brownie points for breaking the Mooney Law of History), even after Paul Bearer claimed if he couldn't bring him back, then no one can.
Dibiase was able to back up his words, and reintroduced the world to the man from the darkside... and then he wrestled, and my god it was obviously not the REAL Undertaker (Mark Calaway). Then, the creative team trumped the absurd card, by announcing the main event to SummerSlam.. The Undertaker vs. The Undertaker. But wait... THERE'S MORE!! Because there wasn't a chance in hell of any interaction between the "two", someone thought that it would be a wonderful idea to use Leslie Nielsen, most famous at the time for starring in the Naked Gun trilogy, in a series of vignettes trying to solve the mystery of the Undertaker. The segments were awful, nonsensical, lacked a cohesive plot, and were so randomly thrown together it made a 9 year old mark go "when are they going to stop with these?". Towards the end, they even brought in George Kennedy (a co-star from the movies) to add "depth" I guess. Sadly, O.J. Simpson wasn't available, but the WWF would poke fun at that about 2 years too late... anyway, we're REALLY way off the course here, so let's get to the action.
Or lack thereof, I should say. This match, honest to God, might be the worst I have ever seen to headline a card. Imagine The Undertaker, before being taken seriously as a worker, wrestling someone imitating him and everything he did as close as possible. Throw in the fact the FakeTaker (Brian Lee, formerly good buddy of 'Taker, and future member of D.O.A.) is a good 3-4 inches shorter to give it away even more that they don't look exactly alike (see also: Sting/Windham, Havoc '90), a crowd that is as dead as you could possibly find, make it drag out for ten-minutes that felt like an hour, and you have an all-time classic example of what not to do to successfully promote a card. The Undertaker wins with three Tombstones, tosses FakerTaker in the casket, and the whole thing was dropped that second. I don't think anyone ever mentioned this again.
To end the show, George Kennedy stumbles across a closed briefcase, declaring that Leslie Nielsen has "closed the case." Ugh...
Final Thoughts: Despite two of the major programs leading into the show delivered nothing and would make one question being a wrestling fan in the first place, Bret vs. Owen is just something that really changes that perspective, and throw in two very solid undercard title matches between Ramon and Diesel, and Blayze and Nakano, and you have a show that delivers with the hits more than it misfires. Far from the most entertaining of shows from this era, it's worth a watch until the 2 hour 11 minute mark. Stop the tape or DVD after that if you cherish your sanity.
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