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WWF SummerSlam 1996
by Scrooge McSuck

- No cute introductions so we'll just get straight into the show. I would like to remind everyone that the Free For All was hyped as the very special "Bikini Beach Blast-Off", which was just an excuse to show Sunny, Sable, and Marlena running around in bikini's for a half hour... oh, and then someone thought it was funny to have residing plumber and wrestler T.L. Hopper retrieve what looked like a turd and take a bite out of it. I don't recall what movie this was ripped from, but here's a spoiler: It wasn't funny.

- Originally broadcasted live on Pay-Per-View, on August 18th, 1996, from the Gund Arena in Cleveland, OH. Vince McMahon, Jim Ross, and Mr. Perfect are calling the action, unless otherwise noted. Disappointment announcement: Ahmed Johnson defending the Intercontinental Title against Faarooq Asaad was originally set to take place on this card, but an untimely injury to Ahmed (the first of MANY) nixed that idea, and the title was held up. Ahmed's super-man push would come to an end, and his career with the WWF ended with a fizzle in 1998 after refusing to job to Kurrgan.

Free For All: Yokozuna vs. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin:

Yes, the King of the Ring Winner and groomed for a big push Steve Austin is stuck in a throw away match on the Preview Channel, against a guy who's been absent from television since May. Yokozuna was looking so disgustingly out of shape at this point, the future Mrs. would look over my shoulder and say "how is he not dead from just walking to the ring?" to which I replied, if it's worth anything, he looks like he's about to pass out halfway there. Austin attacks from behind, and I have to convince that's not padding in Yoko's tights, those are actually his legs. He's clearly sucking wind doing NOTHING. I'm amazed he could get up after the Samoan Drop. The Hulk Buster barely makes contact, thank God. Yoko starts jammin', goes for the Banzai Drop, but the rope BREAKS, and Austin covers Willie for the three count at 1:51. Yokozuna had to have been a legit health concern just putting out there. Other than a handful of appearances and pleas to lose weight, his career with the WWF was pretty much over.

Opening Match: Savio Vega vs. Owen Hart:

Thrown together match for the sake of getting both on the show. Owen is rocking a cast on his wrist, an injury that's been bothering him since the Spring. I call it Bob Orton Syndrome. Owen tries a cheap shot with the cast, but referee Tim White stops and threatens to DQ him right now. Savio rams the arm into the buckle, takes him down and hooks an armbar. Elbow drop misses, as does one from Owen. Back to the armbar. Owen escapes, gets taken over with a monkey flip and arm drags, then back to... you guessed it, another armbar. Vega with a roll up for two, but the kick-out sends him shoulder first into the post. Owen sends him hard to the opposite corner and starts working on the arm. Single-arm DDT for two, then a stop over armbar. He traps the left arm of Savio in the ropes and pounds away. One of the sad visuals of wrestling: Owen Hart dogging it.

Whip to the ropes, a dropkick misses. Savio misses a heel kick, and Owen misses one too. Savio with a diving body press for two. Owen with the enziguri to take over. Savio with a cradle from out of nowhere for two. Whip to the corner, Owen gets a knee up, and a roll-up gets two. Savio with a roll-up for two. Owen connects with the spinning heel kick for two. Whip to the corner, Owen runs into a heel kick. Savio with an inverted atomic drop and clotheslines. Scoop slam and leg drop for two. Side suplex for two. Owen with a neck breaker, followed by a missile dropkick. He goes up again, only to get crotched. Savio follows up and takes him down with a back suplex. Probably learned that from his best friend, Razor. Owen plays possum getting up, blasts Savio with the cast, and slaps on the Sharpshooter for the KO victory at 13:23. Post-Match. Justin "Hawk" Bradshaw shows up to beat on Savio, just for fun. Hot ending, but damn was that middle portion with the arm work dull as dirt.

WWF Tag Team Championship; Elimination Match:
The Smoking Gunns © (w/ Sunny) vs. The Godwinns (w/ Hillbilly Jim) vs. The Bodydonnas vs. The New Rockers:

Sad but true: This was the entire Tag Team Division at the time. If there's a reason for this, damn if I remember what it was. Skip (Chris Candido) shows up in a neck brace, suffering from an injury suffered a few days earlier, but still ballsy enough to go out there. Billy and H.O.G. start. Henry with a headlock and shoulder tackle, followed by a hip toss. He plants Billy with the wheel-barrel slam, and now it's Zip and Phineas' turn. They do a goofy criss-cross and tag out to the Gunn's, forcing them to make contact. What a stupid move... it wasn't until 1998 when the rule was used and wisely incorporated into the stipulations of the match. Here, it's just wasting time. Zip tags back in, gets tripped up by Jannetty, and pinned at 4:02. I understand Skip is injured, but why not let Zip job to an actual move?

Leif cheap-shots Henry from the apron, and now it's time for the New Rockers to show what they can do. They must've drank the same water as Owen Hart, because they're dogging it, too. Jannetty with a snapmare and fist drop on Henry as the crowd goes silent. Leif accidentally clotheslines Billy, because they're friends? First time that's come to light. Henry with a side suplex for two as we get more arguments between the Gunns and New Rockers. Jannetty rolls up Henry for two, gets sent into his own partner, and the Slop Drop finishes him at 7:21. To the surprise of no one, it's down to the two teams getting a push.

Bart with a slam and boots in the corner. He meets a boot on a charge, and Henry lays him out with a clothesline. They're selling it as if they're Bret and Shawn at the 50-minute mark of an Ironman Match. Bart casually tags out to Billy, who continues to do nothing more than punchy-kicky. Dive into the corner is countered with a powerslam, and Henry with more laying around. Phineas FINALLY gets the bizzaro-world hot tag, does his usual wild Cousin Junior offense, and a cheap shot from behind knocks him out for the three count at 12:19, allowing the Gunns to retain a belt nobody gives a shit about anymore. This sucked in every possible way, no matter how you look at it. The work was half-assed, there's no crowd investment, lack of structure, pointless teamwork between teams that have been wrestling each other every other week for months, and zero reason to care for anyone other than "oh look, it's the attention whore!"

Sycho Sid vs. The British Bulldog (w/ Clarence Mason):

I guess this might be an extension of the Camp Cornette vs. Uppercard Faces thing from IYH: International Incident, or just an excuse to get two uppercard performers onto the PPV when they had nothing better to do, storyline wise. Jim Ross' subtle explanation of Sid's lack of ability is always an entertaining listen. Thankfully the crowd wakes up. Sometimes fans ARE to blame for someone's push. Bulldog grabs a headlock, but Sid's too big to use a shoulder block on. Sid with a clothesline and slam, sending Bulldog to the floor. Back inside, Sid with a headlock takeover, Bulldog counters with a head scissors. Sid tries and fails at the nip up, but still catches Davey with a powerslam for two. Bulldog with a boot to the chest, followed by the delay suplex for two. Chinlock! Sid escapes with elbows, but takes a clothesline to the floor. Meanwhile, backstage, Vader is punching air. Davey Boy clotheslines Sid off the apron, drops him across the top rope with another suplex, then goes back to the chinlock. Sid fights free, only to miss a shoulder in the corner. Bulldog with a powerslam, but suddenly Cornette shows up to fight with Clarence Mason, buying Sid time to recover. Seconds later, he plants Bulldog with a chokeslam, and finishes with the powerbomb at 6:25. Surprise: This match DIDN'T suck. It wasn't great, but clearly the best match of the night so far... how depressing.

"Wildman" Marc Mero (w/ Sable) vs. Goldust (w/ Marlena):

Welcome to the "your initial push is over, so you get thrown together" phase of Mero and Rhodes' WWF run. Goldust was doing something to piss off Mero, probably teasing Sable, to set this up. Really gripping storylines, right? Lockup to the corner, Goldust with a slap, then hides behind the referee. Criss-cross sequence ends with Mero taking Goldust over with an arm drag. Another sequence, and a body press gets two. Mero with a drop toe hold, then works a lengthy armbar. Goldust escapes and hits the drop-down uppercut. Mero charges, taking a back drop to the floor. Goldust clubs across the chest and knocks Mero off the apron, onto the security rail. He drops Mero across it again before sending him back in the ring. Whip to the ropes, clothesline for two, and to the chinlock. Suddenly, Mankind shows up, scaring Sable enough to stand there like a poorly acting idiot. GRIPPING! If you thought Mero's armbar lasted forever, then dig this rest period. There's a fan in the front row dressed as Goldust, supplying me my own entertaining for the last 5-minutes. Whip to the corner, and Mero springs off the second rope with an elbow. Mero with an inverted atomic drop, followed by a diving clothesline. Mero with a back drop and running knee lift. Goldust dumps Mero over the top to counter mounted punches, but Mero gets the better of it and heads back out with a somsersault senton. Slingshot leg drop from the apron, followed by a slam. Shooting Star Press, but Marlena hops on the apron, buying Goldust time to kick out. Powerslam for two. Goldust sends Mero to the corner and hits the Curtain Call from out of nowhere for three at 11:02. I honestly didnt expect that finish, as it happened live. Match was garbage until the last few minutes, and then it looked like Mero started giving a shit.

Jake "The Snake" Roberts vs. Jerry "The King" Lawler:

We've only got 7 matches on the PPV, and one of them is THIS... that's how badly depleted the WWF roster was in 1996. Roberts was doing the born-again crap and Lawler was calling him a liar. In storyline sense, we're supposed to cheer for Jake, but in real life, Lawler was on the nose, so... um... yeah. Stupid feud. Mark Henry joins the broadcast position, for whatever reason. Lawler's pre-match ranting includes a dig at Cleveland for the Browns leaving for Baltimore, and offering Roberts the largest bottle of booze I've ever seen. You can kind of hear Mark Henry chuckle on commentary, despite being a babyface. Jake responds by whipping out his snake... and for those unsure, unless I'm recapping Heroes of Wrestling, then I really mean a snake. After an hour of time wasting, we get the match started with Jake pounding away. Snapmare takeover and a blatant stomp to the balls, but Harvey Wippleman is a terrible referee, so no DQ called. To the floor, Lawler comes back with the dreaded Beverage of Doom to the face, which is enough to trap Jake in the Andre Special™. He fights off a bottle attack, but a DDT is countered. Things drag more, and Lawler nails Jake in the throat with a bottle for three at 4:10. Putrid. Post-match, Lawler offers Jake a sip until Mark Henry makes the save. Who thought this belonged on a $30 Pay-Per-View?

Boiler Room Brawl: The Undertaker vs. Mankind:

After months of Mankind beating the crap out of the Undertaker, the Undertaker started returning the favor, and thus we get this: a "match" that starts in a Boiler Room, and only ends when one man makes it back to the ring and claims the urn from Paul Bearer. Any baby with a brain could see the ending a mile away, especially if they've seen King of the Ring '96, but we'll hold off until the end. I have to wonder how exciting this is for fans at the arena, having to watch it on the jumbo screen. 'Taker searches with caution before being ambushed. Mankind finds Duggan's old 2x4 and bops him with it. Mandible Claw is blocked and Mankind gets a taste of a trash can lid. Lots of plunder used, so forgiveness for lack of commentary. Technical difficulties allow us to cut ahead in the action, with 'Taker getting thrown against another wall. Garbage cans and lead pipes are used frequently. 'Taker slams a wooden crate over his head, and Mankind retaliates with a pipe to the junk. Charging knee to the face, followed by an elbow drop from a ladder. Mankind with a bad looking DDT as this drags. More technical difficulties (to boos) cut us to... an add break.

Just kidding. We're back, with Mankind slamming 'Taker on the concrete. Here comes another ladder, and there's clearly a stunt pile set up, so no surprise, Undertaker sits up, and throws him off. Well, he mostly landed on the pile. Mostly. Undertaker with a fire extinguisher blast, no doubt retaliation for the shot of exhaust smoke. They fight out the door, but they still have to make it to ringside. Mankind tries barricading the door, as a bunch of scrubs look on. 'Taker choke throws him across the room, which seems counter-productive in beating someone to a certain location. 20-minutes into this fight, they finally make it to the ring area. 'Taker greets him with a clothesline and breaks a 2x4 across his back. More brawling as they fight their way onto the apron. Mankind with a piledriver onto the exposed concrete. Undertaker mounts a comeback and slingshots Mankind backwards off the apron, onto the concrete. OUCH. Undertaker goes to claim the urn... but Paul Bearer doesn't relinquish it. And now everyone knows. Mankind with the Mandible Claw to put 'Taker out, and Paul Bearer KO's him with the urn to add insult to injury, giving Mankind the victory at, I don't know, the 27-minute mark. This certainly aged horrible, being much more boring and pointless than I remember. The chemistry between the two would get better, at least. Druids carry Undertaker away in a story direction that, surprisingly, went nowhere.

WWF Championship Match:
Shawn Michaels © (w/ Jose Lethario) vs. Vader (w/ Jim Cornette):

Barring a miracle, I don't think this match is going to be enough to save the show. Vader pinned Michaels at IYH: International Incident, and been a thorn in his side since, to set this up. Smart money and booking had Vader going over... BWAHAHA! Lockup, Vader pounds away and connects with a short-arm clothesline. Shawn blocks a boot, leg sweeps the big man, and lands a basement dropkick. He kicks away at Vader like his initials were R-V-D, then mounts him for rights and lefts. He slips out of a press slam attempt, but Vader catches him with an elbow. Michaels uses Vader's momentum to throw him over the top rope, then follows out with a suicide dive. Back inside, Shawn does his best Hulk Hogan impression, before going back to the floor to mess with Cornette. Back inside with a double axehandle, followed by a Frankensteiner (as called by Vinnie Mac). He takes Vader to the floor with a Victory Roll, but another Frankensteiner is countered with a powerbomb.

[Note: At this point of typing up the review, I suddenly become stricken with a 103 degree fever, so if the grammar, spelling, or just anything in general seems off, it's the medication]. Vader carries Shawn back in over his shoulder, slamming him over the top rope. He pummels him in the corner, then takes him over with a suplex. Whip to the corner, with Shawn taking the Harley Race (later Tripe H) bump to the floor. Vader misses a charge to the corner, but still has it in him to lay Shawn out with a clothesline. Shawn goes for a head scissors, but gets thrown across the ring. Vader with an odd looking bearhug. Shawn mounts the comeback, then they blow a spot resulting in Shawn throwing a pussy-boy tantrum like a spoiled little kid. Shawn with a body press, taking them both to the floor. Vader rams him into the ring, and press slams him across security rail, beating the count for the victory at 13:47.

But wait... they want the match to continue. Vader throws him back in the ring, and crushes him in the corner with an avalanche. Belly-to-belly suplex for two. Shawn escapes a Powerbomb and comes off the ropes with a forearm. To the top, and he comes off with the elbow drop on attempt #2. He sets up for Sweet Chin Music, but Cornette hooks the leg. Stuff happens, Shawn uses the racket, and he's DQ'ed at 17:46... but the match must go on! Shawn hammers away in the corner. He avoids a butt drop and connects with the diving forearm, and another elbow drop. Someone's stopped trying to change things up. Sweet Chin Music only gets two! Ref' bump to the floor, Powerbomb for two. Vader goes for the Moonsault, but misses. Shawn to the top, and a standing Moonsault wins it anti-climaticly at 22:18. Started off strong, slowed down in the middle, and kind of fizzled at the end. Still, easily the best match on the show, and the only match worth watching.

Final Thoughts: Throughout all of the In Your House recaps I've done from this time period, I explained how the quality of the shows was slowly pushing me away. Here's a classic example of one of the more important shows of the year, delivering an even lesser quality show than those cheaper throw-away PPV's. Other than a solid, if not unspectacular, Main Event, there's a 30-minute brawl that has aged terribly, and an undercard straight out of the "We have no idea how to use anyone" file. A horrible, heatless Tag Title Match, making fun of someone's alcoholism (no matter if it were true or not), the wasted talents of Marc Mero in favor of a dying character... is there any doubt I wouldn't recommend tracking down a copy of this one?

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