Thursday, 11 August 2011

WWF Summerslam 1991 - Retro Review

With the hottest event of the summer just a few days away what better way to look to the future than to look to the past with look at the match made in heaven and the match made in hell at Summerslam 1991.

The show began with six man tag team action as Ricky Steamboat, Kerry Von Erich and Davey Boy Smith faced the team of Power & Glory, Hercules and Paul Roma, and the Warlord, accompanied by their manager, the doctor of style himself, Slick.

This was back when Steamboat was simply known as the Dragon, and came to the ring in a ridiculous costume before standing on the middle rope to breath fire. The bad entrance aside Steamboat put on some pretty good opening sequences with Roma before Slick’s team used him as their proverbial punching bag.

But when the big Warlord went for an elbow drop off the middle rope it was the beginning of the end. Moments later Davey Boy took Smith down with his power slam before Steamboat sealed the deal with his top rope body block for the pin. Not bad.

The first title match of the show saw Bret “Hitman” Hart challenging Mr. Perfect, accompanied by Coach (now that was one gimmick that longevity written all over it) for the Intercontinental Championship.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen this match over the past 20 years, but each I do I get that warm fuzzy feeling inside.

This was a classic encounter, the Hitman’s first step to super-stardom, and it’s the nearest you can get to a perfect encounter (no pun intended). The execution was excellent, the storytelling was sublime, and the most amazing thing about this match was that Perfect was suffering from a career threatening back injury at the time. He was offered the chance to forfeit the title and pull out of the match, but chose to go through with it instead.

I don’t think I need to go into hyperbole mode any more, so I’ll move forward to the ending, when Hart locked in the sharpshooter at the second time of asking, with Perfect quickly submitting to give the Hitman his first WWF singles title, and sending the Coach into obscurity.

It was back to tag team action for the next match as Jimmy Hart’s Natural Disasters, Earthquake and Typhoon, took on the Bushwhackers, Luke and Butch, accompanied by the barely mobile Andre the Giant.

While this won’t go down as one of the most memorable matches in history it was pretty entertaining. The boys from down under did their usual comedy routine at the start, making the big boys run into each other a few times before Hart’s men took over and used their power to good effect.

Luke and Butch put in a good effort but in the end fell to the superior size and power of their opponent, with Earthquake taking Luke out with his sit down splash for the win.

The Disasters then went after Andre, who were headed off at the pass by the Legion of Doom, sending them running for cover.

Interesting backstage segment next. Bobby Heenan, carrying a big gold World title belt, went to Hulk Hogan’s dressing room to challenge him on behalf of Ric Flair, only to get the door slammed in his face. I think we all know how this storyline turned out.

The second title match, if you can call it that, saw Ted Dibiase, accompanied by Sensational Sherri, defending his Million Dollar title against his former gopher Virgil.

To compare this match to their Wrestlemania encounter would be like comparing chalk to cheese, mainly because Virgil was a far better wrestler then.

I couldn’t believe the crowd reaction for this one as Virgil took it to his former boss early on, only for Dibiase to throw him around outside the ring before taking him apart inside of it.

But later, when Virgil locked in the Million Dollar Dream on Dibiase Sherri came into the ring and clocked him with her purse. The referee immediately called for the bell, and conferred with the Fink. So when everyone thought that Virgil would win the match by disqualification and not the title the Fink announced he was banishing Sherri from ringside and re-starting the match.

So the action continued, and Dibiase took Virgil down with two suplexes and a pile driver while the referee was taking a snooze. He then removed one of the corner pads, intending to ram Virgil’s head into it, only for the former bodyguard to use the exposed steel for his own ends.

As the referee counted both men Virgil crawled over to his fallen foe and made the cover, and a three count later he’d won the title, with the crowd going nuts as he celebrated in the ring. And you know what? This was actually quite good!

Next up was the jailhouse match between the Big Boss Man and the Mountie, accompanied by Jimmy Hart. The stipulations for this one were simple - the loser would spend a night in the slammer.

No technical classic here, this was two guys beating the hell out of each other while trying to stay out of the pokey, and it was pretty damn entertaining at that.

Both guys put in good performances, with the Mountie wanting to use his cattle prod at one point. However, there was one point where it looked like there may have been a foul up on the Mountie’s part when he kicked out after the Boss Man slam.

The match ended seconds later when the Boss Man reversed the Mountie’s second pile driver attempt and took his man down with an Alabama slam. A three count later and it was over, with the local fuzz coming down to the ring so they could cuff the Mountie and cart him off to prison.

After a ton of interviews with various stars and segments with the Mountie arriving in prison it was onto the final title match as Hawk and Animal, the Legion of Doom, challenged the Nasty Boys, Brian Knobs and Jerry Sags, accompanied by Jimmy Hart, for the Tag Team titles in a no disqualification and no count out match.

Although there were essentially no rules for this match this was a few years before hardcore matches came into vogue, which meant that there wasn’t that many weapons shots in this one. Early on the Nasties used a can of mace and what looked like a water cooler on Hawk.

From there the four big guys basically beat the hell out of each other, with Hawk taking most of the punishment before getting the tag to Animal, who clobbered Jimmy Hart, stole his motorcycle helmet and clobbered Sags with it. A doomsday device later and the LOD had the title winning pin, becoming the first team to have held the WWF, AWA and NWA Tag Team titles.

Then it was back to singles action, as Irwin R. Shyster faced Greg Valentine in his role as a beloved baby face, a rather unusual role for the Hammer.

Although this is regarded as a throwaway kind of match it was actually a very good encounter between two technically sound veterans. Nothing too spectacular but everything was well executed.

Valentine managed to get the figure four onto IRS, but the taxman managed to get to the ropes so he could break the hold. The next few moments saw Valentine signalling for the figure four again without actually going for the hold. Eventually he went for a second figure four, only for IRS to take the pin with a small package.

The first of the two main events was next, the “Match Made in Hell”, as the Triangle of Terror, Sgt. Slaughter, Colonel Mustafa (aka the Iron Sheik) and General Adnan faced WWF Champion Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior, with Sid “Vicious” Justice as the special referee.

This match has gone down in history for what went on before and after it happened. Before the match began the Warrior demanded that Vince McMahon pay him a massive amount of money or he’d do a no-show. Warrior was basically black-mailing him and McMahon, not wishing to jeopardise his main event, paid up.

As for the match, there had been speculation as to where Justice stood, especially after he was filmed talking to Slaughter and his boys earlier in the day. There was also speculation as to whether Hogan and the Warrior could get along. A foretelling of what was to come, perhaps?

This was a typical Hulk Hogan early 90’s kind of match, and as far as main events goes it was pretty bog standard. Both Adnan and Mustafa looked years past their prime and did very little, with Slaughter carrying the load for his team and looking pretty good in doing so.

There were the usual moments where Slaughter and his men took it to Hogan and the Warrior, but as the Warrior chased after Adnan and Mustafa with a chair in his hand Hogan threw powder into Slaughter’s eyes before delivering the leg drop of doom for the three count.

Hogan then began his usual posing in the ring, calling Justice back into the ring to join him. Nobody seemed to care that the Warrior wasn’t there, but by then Vince McMahon had fired him (do you think he did the famous “you’re fired!” bit?).

The second main event was the “Match Made in Heaven” as “Macho Man” Randy Savage married Miss Elizabeth, and since I don’t review weddings you’ll have to watch this yourself to see how this turned out.

In conclusion - it’s been quite a few years since I’ve seen this show in full, and I found it very enjoyable for the most part. The matches ranged from great (Hart/Perfect) to okay (most of the rest).

But once again this was a timely reminder of those wrestlers who appeared on this show who are no longer with us, Kerry Von Erich, Davey Boy Smith, Hercules, Andre the Giant, Earthquake, Sensational Sherri, Big Boss Man, Hawk, Randy Savage, Miss Elizabeth, great talents all of them.

It’s also a reminder of how what goes on backstage can have a drastic effect on things. Back then everyone wondered just what had happened to the Warrior, and why he hadn’t returned to the ring for the pose down. Well, if he hadn’t been such a greedy so-and-so.

So in all Summerslam ‘91 gets the thumbs up from me as an entertaining event, one that’s definitely worth viewing again. Well, apart from the main event, and the wedding.