I’ll be jumping in for Eric Ames from here to finish the way to this years installment of SummerSlam. Make sure you check out the other SummerSlams, in our Chairshot Classics section, leading to this point. (They can be found here.)
The day is August 16, 1996 and we are in the Gund Arena in “The Rock and Roll Capital of the World”, Cleveland, Ohio. There are 17,000 people in attendance and another 157,000 tuning in on Pay-Per-View as “Opposites Attack.” This was an all time low, on PPV buys, for the WWF at the time with a 1.3 percent buyrate. A number that would hold that claim until the 2010 Bragging Rights (137,000) dethroned them. Stridex would be the sponsor as “The Heart Break Kid”, Shawn Michaels defends his World Title against Vader, in the main event.
There was a preshow match that was available on Free-For-All, a show that was used to hype the PPV for free before the event in hope of more buys. It would feature a main on the rise and one on the decline. Stone Cold Steve Austin versus Yokozuna. I find it strange that Austin is in this match as he was hot off his “Austin 3:16” speech at King of the Ring, which took place on June 23, 1996. Yoko on the other hand was dealing with a weight issue and that led to more issues with the company for him. Austin would go over after a bearded Yokozuna would have the top rope break while attempting a BONZAI! drop. Austin would roll up Yoko and get the three. I’ve heard Bruce Pritchard say on his podcast, Something to Wrestle, that this was based on something that really happened at a house show. This is also when the “Bikini Beach Party” took place. I couldn’t find this on the Network and only recall a lot broken kayfabe as Heels and Babyface hung out by the pool together.
The show opens with a black and white vignette, that starts with “some monsters wear masks”, as it shows clips of Mankind and Vader. It continues, as we see Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker, “Monster slayers are varied and unique”. It would show the build up to the feuds between HBK/Vader and Mankind/Undertaker. The narrator finishes with ” For the monsters to be abolished, David must slay Goliath. The Reaper must claim another damned soul”. This is really well produced and I was a fan of it.
Next we see a quick clip promoting Cleveland and its tourist destinations. We see The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Jacobs Field, home of the Indians, and it ends with the newly built Gund arena, home of the Cavaliers. Vince McMahon welcomes us into the arena next and he introduces us to his partners for the night, Mr. Perfect and Jim Ross, sans cowboy hat.
Savio Vega makes his way to the ring first and receives some high fives from the fans. Owen Hart enters next, cast on one hand and his prized Slammy in the other. Vince notes that its “the slowest healing injury” as Owen has been wearing the cast forever. I find this a homage to “cowboy” Bob Orton, as he did the cast gimmick for years. Owen goes for an early advantage and goes for a blast to the back of Savio’s head but is stopped by the official. The ref gives a warning of DQ if he attempts it again. The commentators mention here that Cornette is missing from Hart’s corner due to the fact he is prepping Vader for his match. Vega gets the early advantage and goes to work on the casted arm. This is the theme of the match as Savio wouldn’t do much more than 5 moves that don’t target the cast.
Next a segment of Jim Cornette encouraging Vader as he is pumping dumbbells. Back in the ring we hear “OWEN” chants from the crowd as Savio applies an armbar on, you guessed it, the casted arm. Owen gets his first momentum shift after he counters a roll-up pin, sending Vega into the ring post. The crowd gives a nice response to Hart raising his casted arm. Clarence Mason, the “legal advisor” to Cornette, enters ringside to encourage Hart. Owen hits an enziguri soon after and earning a “what a maneuver” from McMahon, the second of the fight. Vega gets the momentum once again after nailing a spinning heal kick and a few clothesline. He gives Hart a back drop off the top rope and sticks the landing, hitting his head on Owen’s cast. Owen slips the cast off and delivers another blow, then re-apply the cast. He finishes Vega by putting his limp body into the Sharpshooter. The ref raises his lifeless arm, giving Owen Hart the victory. Match Time: 13:23
Todd Pettengill is in the boiler room for an interview with Mankind. After telling us how ” dark and ominous” it is down there he discovers Mankind, by some very dirty pipes, and muttering “There’s no place like home”. He would continue “But as much as I love every square inch, destiny awaits on the other side.” Mankind then licks one of the dirty pipes after which the dirt is visibly gone. Nice touch Mick.
The Tag Team Titles are on the line for the next bout on the card. The New Rockers, the team of Marty Jannetty and Leif Cassidy, is the first team to enter. One of the highlights of the match is Leif, the future Al Snow’s, charisma and it starts with his dancing down the aisle. Next JR tells us the special stipulations of the match. You can tag anyone (meaning it doesn’t have to be your partner), contact must be initiated before a tag can be made, when someone is pinned, he and his partner must return to the locker rooms, and the titles can change hands by a DQ finish. All the stipulations. “SSOOIIIEEE!”, Vince’s words not mine, and the pig farming Godwinns are on their way down next and are accompanied by Hillbilly Jim. The Godwinns are the team of Henry and Phineas. Phineas would later become Mideon in the Undertaker’s faction, The Ministry of Darkness. Henry would suffer a career ending injury at the hands of Legion of Doom’s Doomsday Device. Skip and Zip or The Bodydonnas are out next. Zip is the late Chris Candido who would have his WWE career cut short allegedly at the hands of HBK over Candido’s wife at the time, Sunny. Zip is sporting a neck brace, from a fractured vertebrae, and will see no action. Skip, on the other hand, is Tom Pritchard, the brother of the one and only Brother Love, Bruce Pritchard. Last to make their way out are the Smoking Gunns and the are joined by Candido’s wife, Sunny. The Gunns are made up of Billy and Bart Gunn, hence Smoking Gunns.
The teams play “musical tags” for a moment letting the guys get a few minutes on screen each, except Zip. What should have been the first highlight of the match is when both Gunns are tagged in by Zip and Phineas. They blow the spot, as it could have made for some excitement, and do nothing with it having them both tag back out. Skip and Billy go back and forth, with Skip getting the upper hand until Jannetty pulls his feet from the outside. This would allow Gunn to get the three and eliminating The Bodydonnas. I wish we could have seen more of Leif Cassidy in this match because his energy is high and you can tell he is excited to be on the big stage. But when he is in the ring he doesn’t last long with Henry Godwinn, as he receives a Slop Drop and is eliminated with a pin fall sending the New Rockers to the locker room. Finally two teams remain and Henry lands an explosive clothesline out of the gate on Bart to get thing going. The Gunns quickly recover and are taking turns on Henry. An act the referee warns them about and we hear Vince remind us that the title can change hands, per the rules, in this match. Henry finally lands a counter body splash and the crowd is popping in anticipation of the hot tag. Henry makes it happen and in comes the rested Phineas who quickly lands a Slop Drop. But the official, who is distracted by Hillbilly Jim trying to empty the contents of his slop bucket on Sunny, misses the initial cover. This allows Bart to break up the cover with a double ax handle of the top turnbuckle. The ref doesn’t miss this cover and the Smoking Gunns retain the Tag Titles. This match is not must watch stuff and as I said, the highlight to me is Leif Cassidy’s charisma and enthusiasm. Mediocre at best. Match time: 12:18
Sunny enters the ring, with the Gunns, for a quick in-ring promo. She goes to work insulting the crowd, as she normally does, saying “I want you to take a look at The Smoking Gunns and what real men are supposed to look like.” She finishes with ” And boys take a good look at the woman next to you and how out of shape they are”. She always tells the crowd that she is “what a real woman looks like” and it is no different here.
There is another Cleveland promo up next, this time promoting Cleveland’s transit system. It all boils down to a race between The Smoking Gunns with Sunny, on a horse and buggy, and The Godwinns using the Cleveland transit and winning the race. They even had time to stop for lunch. Wow. This is dumb and if anything it should have been shown BEFORE their matches against each other. The Gunns could have rode into the arena on the carriage and that would of sold it even better. Jerry Lawler is with the Cleveland Indians next and is trying to learn the art of the “Spitter” from the Indians pitching staff. This was classic King and I enjoyed this part of the segment. Broken kayfabe is up next as we see various Superstars, Heels and Faces, cleaning up the streets by painting over graffiti. It ends by showing the Stridex sponsored autograph sessions that included The Worlds Strongest Man, Mark Henry.
The next match was, allegedly, supposed to feature The Ultimate Warrior facing Sycho Sid. It’s rumored that the reason The Warrior walked out and “no-showed” was an argument over merchandise money. Another story on the inter-webs is that Warrior was mad at Vince for not wanting to let Warrior attend his Father’s funeral saying it was because he wasn’t close to his dad and didn’t get along. Who knows the real story for sure.
Sycho Sid makes his way to the ring first and receives a decent pop from the crowd. The British Bulldog, on the other hand, not so much pop. They test each other with some early shoulder blocks in to each other but Sid would win when he delivers a clothesline. Bulldog rolls out of the ring to regain his composure and, when he returns, the “Lets Go Sid” chants start from the crowd. This where, at 53:11, we see a well placed man in a “BISCHOFF SUCKS” airbrushed shirt. I have to think he is a plant because of the war with WCW at the time and the fact he stands right out. I could be wrong though. Clarence Mason joins The Bulldog at ringside at this point and, again, the commentators mention Cornette being busy with Vader. Bulldog elevates the 313 pound Sid for what seems like an eternity, for a powerplex. Davey Boy applies a side headlock that he hold for some time, wearing down Sid and the crowd is rallying for the comeback. The rally is quickly stopped with an explosive clothesline that sends Sid over the top rope, crashing to the outside.
This is where we see another clip of Jim Cornette training with Vader but this time he is shadow boxing. Bulldog would hit another powerplex, this time dropping him on his midsection, on the top rope. After that we see the first false finish when Bulldog gets a near three count. Sid would start to rally behind the crowd again but is stopped once again when he takes a scoop slam from Davey Boy Smith. Jim Cornette enters the arena next and begins to argue with Mason. The British Bulldog goes to separate the two managers, that are both in his corner, and for his efforts Sid rewards him with a chokeslam. “313 Pounds of PowerBomb” are next for The Bulldog and this enables the three count for Sycho Sid. I was impressed with this match, as I didn’t think two powerhouses would be able to keep the pace, but it flowed well. The two big men deliver a match worth taking a look at and it showed why they are legends, dare I say, of the mid-card. Match time: 6:24
The “Androgynous” Goldust enters the arena, joined by his real life wife at the time, Marlena, to a pretty negative response from the crowd. Next Todd Pettengill is joined in the back by Marc Mero and his wife at the time, Sable. Todd shows a clip from Superstars, the previous week, where Mankind interrupts Mero’s match and pursues Sable, calling her “Mommy” in the process. They cut back to Mero and Todd, never acknowledging the video they just showed, and Marc says something about Mankind becoming a “fallen star”. Marc and Sable enter the arena and receive not much of a response from the crowd. The little pop they get is probably for Sable, in all honesty. This is where Jim Ross tells us Mero, if given the chance, will unveil his new finish, The Wild Thing.
Goldust “bitch slaps” Mero before the bell sounds and cowers in fear, behind the ref, as Marc goes after him. The Wild Man gets an early advantage with some hip tosses. Goldust regains some steam when he sends Marc over the top rope with a back drop. This is where JR comments “Goldust wants to leave with Sable.” This is due to them changing the angle because it was originally Marlena who was infatuated with Sable. They changed this approach, allegedly, because USA Network wasn’t a fan of the “Lesbian Angle”. Enter any Attitude Era Degeneration-X clip here. Goldust knocks Mero of the apron with a clothesline then drops him off the railing “throat first”, per Vince.
Mankind comes down the aisle and goes straight for Sable. She is crying out for help as Mankind approaches her, again calling her “Mommy”. He quickly runs back down the aisle and back to the boiler room, I presume. Goldust has the momentum rolling when Mero reverses an Irish whip to the corner, with a springboard elbow off the second rope. Marc is pounding away the “ten-count” in the corner when Goldust picks him up and dumps him over the top rope. This is an interesting spot as Mero’s foot hooks in the armpit of Goldust and he flips over with him. I don’t know if this is a blown spot or meant to happen. Mero goes right back in the ring and jumps out on Goldust with a nice sunset flip. When they are back in the ring Mero debuts his “Wild Thing”. This is another interesting spot to listen to as JR calls it by both, Wild Thing and the original name, The Shooting Star Press. I’m sure Mr. McMahon wasn’t thrilled by this because he didn’t like to use other promotions names for moves because that would give them some legitimacy. Marlena then distracts the referee from the apron, allowing Goldust time to kick out. The distraction allows Goldust to sneak in the “Curtain Call” and get the pin. After the match is when things get weird. Goldust lustfully preys, and basically sexually assaults Sable here as she cries to her husband for help. I understand this was a work but it was very distasteful. He gripped her up and tried to kiss her before Marc makes the save. He atomic drops him on the top rope and sends him to the outside with a dropkick. Overall the match had okay flow in it with some decent high spots from Mero. Again, nothing special here and if the kids are in the room you may want to skip the awful finish. Match time: 11:01
We see an explanation of Ahmed Johnson‘s absence in a shoot style interview, like the ones we’ve grown accustomed to today, but were not something of common place at the time. It shows Ahmed’s injury suffered at the hands of Faarooq Asad on the July 22 edition of Raw. He would wrestle after the ruptured kidney, against doctors orders, in a Battle Royale two weeks later than he would win. But he would re-injure the kidney on the process. Gorilla Monsoon, the acting GM at the time, would vacate Johnson’s spot on Raw the following week. In the interview Ahmed would say he understands Gorilla’s position and we hear a doctor say that if the bleeding of the kidney doesn’t stop they would have to be removed and Johnson could never wrestle again. Ahmed finishes by saying ” He don’t care what the doctors say” and “I got a commitment to the people, the fans. I’ll do whatever it takes to get the job done.” They announce next there will be a sudden death Battle Royale for Ahmed Johnson’s vacated spot on the following nights raw. The participants are Sycho Sid, Savio Vega, Stone Cold Steve Austin and Goldust. They were the final four in the Royale that Ahmed one. Injury would be a common theme in Ahmed’s career and it would happen, always it seemed, when he was on the receiving end of an upward push. I always was a fan of Ahmed Johnson, and his Pearl River Plunge finish, as a kid and its a shame he had a career plagued by injuries.
Faarooq Asad and Sunny join Todd Pentingill in the ring for an interview when we return to action. Faarooq says that Monsoon should be out here giving him what is his, The Intercontinental Championship. Todd tells him “Gorilla doesn’t want the criminal awarded for the crime.” Asad takes offense to this and goes on a rant about taking out Ahmed and finishes with “if this is the best that you’ve got I see a lot of Sunny days ahead.” A nice touch and I wonder how The Hitman felt about it. Sunny would finish by telling everyone how much better she is than everyone else and revealing this:
For a lead up to the next bout we see Jake “The Snake” Roberts taking about struggling with his “personal demons”, AKA addiction. This was not a work as Jake had real life problems at time. Roberts interview segments would cut to clips of Jerry “The King” Lawler making jokes about that situation, even holding down Jake’s protege at the time, Aldo Montoya and forcing liquor down his throat on a episode of Raw. Even though it is said to have been Jake’s idea I still think it is done in poor taste.
The newest member of the WWF universe is introduced next as The Worlds Strongest Man and a participant in the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, Mark Henry. Mark suffered an injury during the Clean and Jerk at the games and was not able to compete. Henry does hold all kinds of records though, for a drug tested athlete, including WDFPF records in squat, deadlift and total weight. Mark also is the 1995 WDFPF World Champion and is credited with having the heaviest raw squat and raw powerlift of all-time. The WWF invested some time into Henry and in the long run it was a good pay off. Mark Henry was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame with the Class of 2018.
Jerry “The King” Lawler enters the arena caring a canvass sack, akin to the one Roberts carried his snakes in, and would mostly receive “BOOS”. When he is in the ring he removes his jacket, which had a bottle of Jim Beam in each pocket, revealing a Vinny Testaverde, Baltimore Ravens jersey. This really turns the heat up with the crowd because their beloved Cleveland Browns had recently left town and became the Ravens. The King goes on a comedy routine next with stuff like “I gave two tickets to Art and David Modell.” They were the owners of the team at the time. He then shoots on Jake’s family, saying of his wife, “she’s nothing a light switch and a six pack can’t, am I right Jake?” We hear some “Burger King” chants here. Mr. Perfect says “Jake has B-arthritis. That’s were you are stiff in a different in a different joint each night.” Just then Jake “The Snake” Roberts music comes on and the crowd erupts as Jake enters carrying a canvas sack of his own.
As soon as Jake enters the ring Lawler is right back on the microphone. And he says “You have something in your bag I don’t like. But I have something in my bag that you’ll like even more than what’s in your bag.” Jerry goes onto to pull a rather large bottle of champagne from the bag. The referee is trying to wrestle the bag away from Lawler and this allows Jake to get the contents of his bag out. A huge albino python. He attempts to wrap the snake around Lawler and he exits the ring in a hurry and head up the ramp. Then finally the bell rings. As Jake is returning the snake to the sack Lawler, once again is going for the microphone. Thankfully, for us, it wont turn on this time and soon Roberts is going to work with some haymakers. He delivers a scoop slam and some shots to the ring post on Jerry before Lawler throws a fans soda into The Snakes face. This allows The King to bring one of the bottles of whiskey into the ring. Jake goes for the DDT but it is reversed with a back body drop. The crowd is really into it after Jake reverses with his patented clothesline and they are calling for the follow-up move, The DDT. King manages to escape another one by grasping the officials waist. The official, Harvey Whippleman, happens to be a guy who got his start managing two guys on the card in Memphis Wrestling, Jerry Lawler and Sycho Sid. This opens a window for Jerry Lawler to strike Roberts in the throat with the whiskey bottle. Lawler hooks the front of the tights to get the three count victory. This was a gimmick match from the beginning and it continues after. Unfortunately, Jerry gets a working mic and, while Jake is grasping his throat, ask if his throat is dry and says “He needs a drink.” Lawler then proceeds to pour the contents of the bottle down Robert’s throat and all over his head. Jake has claimed he was extremely pissed off by this because he says it was real booze. This is a claim that The King denies on his Podcast, Dinner with the King, that it was sweet tea. Bruce Pritchard has also said the same on Something to Wrestle. Either way I don’t think it was done tastefully. Lawler would go to empty the second bottle of whatever on Roberts but this time Mark Henry chases him away and help Roberts to the back. There was very little wrestling from the minute the wrestlers enter the arena. I am a fan of most gimmick matches, as they provide a sometimes needed break in the action, but this one was just plain awful.
We see a two time WWF Champion and 2013 Hall of Fame inductee, Bob Backlund in the crowd. Vince tells us of Bob’s campaign to become President of the United States. Who in their right mind thinks that someone, who appeared on wresting, could be president….
Todd Pettengill would narrate another well done vignette of the feud between The Undertaker and Mankind. There would be some cool clips like when Taker got pulled through the ring, by Mankind, just to emerge on the other side behind him while Pettengill says thing like “Though both dwell in a world of darkness only one embrace the light.” Again, really cool stuff. I’m sure while this clip is being showed the production team used the time to wheel classroom TV sets in for the people down front to watch the “Boiler Room” segment of the match. This was had to be done because there wasn’t a TitanTron at the time and the only way to see this segment, because it was pre-recorded, was on the screen on the scoreboard.
The Bells of The Undertaker‘s theme begin to chime, as the place goes black, and we hear Howard Finkel say “About to come down the aisle, with the urn, Paul Bearer.” The urn is significant here as it is the win condition of the match. The winner must exit the Boiler Room and return to ringside and gain possession of the urn. After Bearer is in the ring we see an official letting The Undertaker through a door that leads to a hallway. The way Taker just walks down the corridor and turns is classic stuff and I am a big fan of this version of the Deadman. He tightens his purple glove, again classic, before, hesitantly, opening a door that reads: BOILER ROOM DANGER!. Taker peeks the dark corner and start to assess the situation and head down some stairs, going deeper into the bowels of the building.
Eventually, Mankind appears behind Taker and ambushes him with a rain gutter to back of the head. He would kick a pallet apart next and use a piece of it on The Phenom. Undertaker would be back on the offensive after he give Mankind a few headshot with a trashcan lid. They are off to a brutal start, and I wouldn’t of expected anything less from these Legends,as Taker is going to work on Mankind. The pair is fighting over a sawhorse, next, when Mankind hits a stunner over the sawhorse and goes to work with some boots and punches to the head of Taker. Just then the screen goes scrambled, due to what Vince accredits to “transmission problems”. It returns shortly and, the “Physically and Mentally Deformed”, Mankind is going to work with the whole trashcan now. Taker lands a few defensive blows before Mankind opens a valve on a pipe and unleashing “steam” into the face of The Undertaker. The steam just looked like compressed baby powder but I still found it to be a cool spot.
The Undertaker has received the brunt of the beatings thus far but the tables would soon turn after Taker big boots a trashcan back into the face of Foley, Mankind. He follows the boot up with a nice clothesline into the can, which Mankind was still holding onto. It is Taker’s turn to retaliate and does so with the trash can and pallet remnants. His effort doesn’t last long because Mankind would raise a pipe, between the legs of Taker, delivering a low blow and the first crowd reaction we have heard in the match. This is understandable, as I mentioned prior, the fans are watching it on TVs that are place at ringside. Mankind would Irish whip the Deadman into a garage door and deliver a “Knee2Face” that bounces the head of Take off the door. Mankind would keep the momentum for a bit with the highlight being a elbow drop of a ladder and onto the bare concrete floor. Mankind, after he takes a second to get on his feet, delivers a DDT onto the floor, that was a bit sloppy. A 2×4 to the back is next for Taker and up until this point the Undertaker has taken the hardest bumps. Not to take away from Mick Foley here, but I found this a little surprising as Mankind is traditionally viewed as the Hardcore guy around the industry.
Soon after The Undertaker yanks the feet out from under Mankind and this sets up for a cool camera shot. The camera zooms in of Mankind’s face, with both men on the ground, Taker starts to drag Mankind closer to him. And then the camera goes fuzzy again. Well done. It cuts in and out as we see Taker crawl up the body of Mankind and deliver some blows before it cuts out again. Vince, again, mentions the “transmission difficulties” and apologizes for them. Due to the well timed nature of these “interruptions” I’m led to believe they are a work. It continues to cut in and out and we see Mankind deliver a scoop slam in the process. When the camera is clear again we see Mankind setting up a ladder and begins to ascend it, for what Vince thinks is another elbow drop. This is where The Undertaker sits up, in his tradition fashion, and sends Mankind crashing onto a stack of cardboard boxes. Mick Foley suffered a real life injury here, causing sciatic nerve damage, from the bump. Just on a side note, I am currently recovering from a pinched sciatic nerve and I can barely walk let alone be tasked to finish a “Boiler Room Brawl” match with The Undertaker. Props to you Mr. Foley. Mankind takes some hard bumps, including a solid flat-back bump into the wall. Undertaker begins to make his way towards the exit but Mankind grabs the feet an hits Taker in the midsection with a chain. This allows Mankind to get the edge heading towards the exit but the Deadman stops it with his famous uppercut to the throat. Mankind would bounce the head of Taker of the door when he tries to exit but Undertaker empties the content of a fire extinguisher into the face of Mankind, allowing him time to open the door. This attempt would also be foiled as Mankind delivers blows to the backside and escaping first. As he attempts to shut Undertaker in the room, by slamming the door with Taker in door jam, this leads to a cool shot of Taker grasping Mankind, through the door, by the throat. Mankind eventually escapes and crawl down the hallway and out the second door where the official is standing.
Mankind builds a barricade against the door, out of random items, but it wouldn’t be long before Taker comes crashing through it. This sends the makeshift wall on top of Mankind. The pair begin to battle their way back to the arena and we see various Superstars standing around cheering them on. This is weird as there are guys next to each other that squared of earlier in the night, like The Godwinns and Skip of The Bodydonnas. Mankind gets a lead on The Undertaker and this allows him to ambush Taker with a giant container of “hot” coffee. Bruce Pritchard has said later on that the coffee was actually hot. This allows Mankind to be the first in the arena and he is again waiting to ambush. It backfires this time as Taker comes out with an explosive clothesline and the crowd explodes as well. He hits Mankind in the back with a 2×4 and they begin to battle down the ramp. This is where we can see all the monitors surrounding the ringside area. Mankind gets an advantage after throwing Taker into the stair as Paul Bearer watches on, with the urn in hand. Mankind would remove a ring mat next leaving the concrete floor exposed. He then deliver a piledriver onto the exposed floor. He then begins to make his way in the ring when The Undertaker makes the save by grabbing the ankle of Mankind. Undertaker finds his way onto the apron, with Mankind, and begin to deliver blows. This eventually leads to Taker sling-shoting Mankind off from the apron and onto the exposed concrete. Taker is finally in the ring and stumbling his way towards Paul Bearer and ending in his signature kneel. But Paul doesn’t hand the urn over and instead turns his back as the stunned Undertaker looks on. This then allows Mankind to sneak up from behind Taker and apply the Mandible Claw, as Bearer looks on laughing. Paul begins to polish up the urn in anticipation of turning it over to Mankind. But we all know what happens when Paul raises that urn, The Undertaker begins to rise as well. Mankind reapplies the Claw and begins to put Taker out. He then holds The Undertaker’s arms so Paul could slap and kick Taker to make sure the fans understood the switch of sides is real. The fans start to turn up the heat as this all goes down. Paul find his way to the corner of the ring and The Undertaker is crawling towards him and ends kneeling at the feet of his former manager. Bearer uses this opportunity to plant the urn upside the head of Taker and handing over to Mankind.
The new pairing of Mankind and Paul Bearer make their way to the back. As soon as they exit the arena the lights go black and the Undertaker’s bells begin to toll. It’s not long thereafter that a group of, what look to me as, Druids appear and make their way to the ring area, as monk-like chanting can be heard. They pick Taker up and carry him out of the arena. We hear Vince end with “Who would of thought such treachery could possibly occur”. Match time: 26:40
This match was amazing. It was brutal from the moment they met up in the Boiler Room and it didn’t miss a beat throughout. Usually these gimmicky, hardcore style matches have a hard time keeping pace and telling a good story. But not this one. It even ended very well with a heel turn by Bearer. matches of these caliber just show why these are two of the greatest superstars of my generation and, quite frankly all-time.
Doc Hendricks is in the back with Vader and Jim Cornette for a quick pre-match promo for the Main Event. Cornette would do all the mic work, per usual, and say some off the wall stuff, that I enjoyed, like “Shawn, when he grabs you around the neck,and you try to talk, and your voice is gonna sound like Peter Frampton’s electronic kazoo.” He rants on some more and Doc wrap it up with “Guess we are fixin to find out if it’s Vader Time. “The Man They Call Vader” enters the arena, with Cornette, and the fans are on their toes as the Main Event, for the World Title, is about to begin.
The crowd is electric when “The Heartbreak Kid“, Shawn Michaels theme, one of my all-time favorites, come on. This theme, like many others throughout time, was written by Jimmy Hart. The crowd is loosing their minds as, the current World Heavyweight Champion, Shawn Michaels makes his way to the ring joined by his trainer, Jose Lathario. Lothario was Shawn’s trainer and confidant. He was also a wrestler, primarily in the NWA, and once had a streak on 500 consecutive losses. Take that Kurt Hawkins. But he has held various NWA gold throughout his career, including being a three time Florida NWA Brass Knuckles Champion. HBK does his normal poses in the ring as the pyro went off.
After the pre-match antics of Shawn, the bell sounds and the rematch, from International Incident, is underway. Vader starts off with some intimidation tactics by “flexing” on “The Boy Toy”. He backs them up by unloading haymakers to the midsection of Michaels before putting him on the mat with a brutal clothesline. Many other wrestlers throughout the years have said Vader’s punches are legit and just from these few early punches you can see that is factual. Vader attempts to land a big boot but Shawn catches it and sweeps the leg of the big man. He follows that up with a beautifully planted dropkick, on the sitting Vader. And The Heartbreak Kid is off to a hot start after he drops to Vader’s level and lands a few jabs. Vader tries to get in the fight again, by attempting to throw Shawn to the outside, but the swift-footed Michaels goes prone. This, as a result, sends Vader through the rope and allows for a baseball slide from HBK. There is a great high spot next when Shawn does a running leap over the top rope and into a cross body block. The crowd explodes and are hanging onto Michaels every move, as he is back taunting in the ring. Vader is still failing to gain momentum, even receiving a “beautiful maneuver”, a frankensteiner from Shawn. We get another “What a maneuver!” from Vince after Shawn leaps onto the back of the big man and positioning himself to receive an electric chair drop. But what Michaels does instead is a reverse hurricanrana of sorts that send Vader back outside. Shawn, meanwhile, holds the ropes and flips back in the ring. This is some impressive in-ring work, as always, from HBK. Vader finally goes on the offensive when he catches Shawn, who is leaping over the top rope to attempt a second frankensteiner, and delivers a jarring powerbomb to the floor mats.
Vader uses this gaining momentum to throw Michaels around like a ragdoll for a bit, even carrying his limp body up the ring stairs at one point. Vader is once again delivering those monster hands all over Shawn and the crowd erupts when Michaels hits the deck and Vader flexes the guns. It’s always a positive when the crowd is cheering for both guys. They just forget sides and favorites for a moment and truly enjoy the performance in the ring. He hits HBK with a few big chops next before he Irish whips him from buckle to buckle. When Vader whips him for the second time he hits the turnbuckle and flips to the outside and onto the ring mats. Shawn soon returns to the ring and Vader sends him “sky high” for a back body drop. The crowd begins to rally behind Shawn Michaels when he stops a belly-to-back suplex with some blows to the head of Vader. The big man holds onto Shawn and attempts the same suplex but this time Michaels back flips through the move and slugs Vader a few times. But the attempt doesn’t phase Vader and he soon levels Shawn with a clothesline. Michaels next flips through another suplex attempt and slug away on Vader but, again, the punches go unnoticed by Vader. He attempts to toss Shawn from the ring but Michaels holds the top rope to flip back in. The big man just grabs the legs off Michaels and just tosses him across the ring. The strength this dude exhibits here is nuts and as JR would say “It’s a physical dissection of the WWF Champion.” This leads to the first pin attempt of the match.
After Michaels manages the kick out, Vader begins to wear on Shawn with a side shoulder lock. Michaels starts to rally and the crowd is right there with him. He hits Vader with a knee followed up by a clothesline. Vader just absorbs the clothesline like a sponge and Shawn is back bouncing off the ropes. This time he attempts to slide under Vader but falls short. This opens the window for a splash from Vader but he takes Michaels knee to the groin instead. He then delivers a clothesline that lays the big man down this time. And Shawn is teasing the elbow drop, as he climbs the turnbuckles. This next spot is partially responsible for Vader’s push ending so abruptly. Shawn was apparently yelling for Vader to get up and he obviously just lays there and blows the spot. Michaels kicks Vader in the head twice and they don’t look like works. He continues to yell at Vader as he lays on the mat. The match continue to the outside when Shawn cross body blocks Vader into, and over, the ropes and crashing outside. But Vader soon gets the edge on the outside when he picks Shawn above his head and drops him onto the guard rail. This leads to our first true false finish when Vader makes it in the ring in time and Michaels is counted out. Vader is soon rewarded the victory by count-out and Cornette is quick to get on the mic and dispute the victory. He says over and over, “we came here to win the title” and challenges Shawn to restart the match, telling him, “get back in there if you have any guts.” Earl Hebner, the official, is on the ramp asking Michaels if he wants to go back. This is when we can see Shawn mouth “I’ll do it.” As he is limping back down the aisle Finkel announces “This match will continue”, as Vader attacks Shawn on the ramp. Jose Lathario tries to interrupt the ambush but the ref stops him and this allows Cornette to hit Shawn with his tennis racket.
Vader throws Shawn back into the ring a hit a splash in the corner before belly-to-belly suplexing him. He goes for the cover but Shawn manages the kick out. Vader attempts the powerbomb next but Shawn delivers blows to the head, bringing the big man down. Michaels then ducks under two clothesline attempts and hit a flying forearm of his own. When he does his signature kip-up the top comes off the arena. This sets up the elbow from the top rope and The Heartbreak Kid is soon tuning up the band. Cornette is on the apron to stop the chin music, which he does, and his tennis racket ends up in the ring. Michaels goes to work on Vader with the racket and the ref soon rings the bell. He continue to unload with the racket and is soon hitting Cornette too, as the bell keeps on ringing. This allows Vader to get a chair from the outside but the officials keep the two separated. At this time Finkel announce that Vader is the winner, this time by DQ. Vader’s music begins to play as Cornette gets back on the horn saying that Michaels got DQed on purpose. He goes on to call Shawn a “gutless, no-good, coward” and finishes by telling Michaels to “get back in there if he has any guts. Get that thing started again.” Before you know it Shawn Michaels in attacking Vader, as the bell sounds. He would land a forearm of the ropes, to the face of Vader, that definitely connect to the face of Vader. The Heartbreak Kid hits the elbow drop of the top rope again and the crowd is pumped, as Shawn encourages them by “Tuning up the Band”. And he delivers the Sweet Chin Music to Vader. What comes next is the second blown spot by Vader. Michaels goes for the pin and the official stops on the two count, even though Vader doesn’t kick out. This is said to be the reason for the sudden end to Vader’s push and its a shame. Both men are on their feet again and regaining their composure when the big man whips Shawn into the ref, that in turn sends the ref through the ropes and to the outside. Vader slams Michaels with the Vader bomb next that transitions nicely into a pin. With no official present and it taking a moment for a new one to enter the ring, Michaels manages to kick out at two. And the crowd is as hyped for the false finish as Cornette is pissed.
After the near fall, Vader begins to drag the limp body of Michaels to the corner. Vader starts to climb the turnbuckles and hesitates as he reaches the second one. After the pause he goes to the third rope, kinda rare for Vader, and does a moonsault of the top that Shawn narrowly avoids. Michaels is climbing the ropes now and does a moonsault of his own on the standing Vader. This allows The Heartbreak Kid, Shawn Michaels to hook the leg and get the three count victory. This was a hell of a match and I wish the feud could have continued and maybe even put the strap on Vader, at some point. This wouldn’t happen of course as Shawn was the face of the company at the time and expressed displeasure with working with him again. Michaels got his way and their story arc was cut short. The match told a story and had great momentum switches, that the crowd seemed to enjoy either way, and even a few true false finishes. Hell, we even get a solid ref bump. I loved this match and would say it is an overlooked match when most people in the Internet Wrestling Community talk of Shawn’s greatest matches. Match time: 28:59
This was a decent SummerSlam and was typical of the WWF at the time, all top heavy cards and not much worth noting at the bottom. If you don’t want to watch the whole show I would definitely recommend the last two matches of the night. They are classic bouts between some of the all-time legends of the business. After I watch these I always like to see what Dave Meltzer, of Wrestling Observer Newsletter fame, rates the matches. If you are not familiar with Meltzer he has used, what was at the time, a five star rating system. He thought highly of the main event, giving it four stars. The Tag title match would receive the “DUD” moniker and I would have to agree here. Owen/Savio and Goldust/Mero would get a 2.5 and a 2.25. I didn’t see a rating for the “Boiler Room Brawl” on profightdb.com but I can’t imagine it was rated bad but you never know with Dave.
This concludes my first article for The Chairshot Classic series on SummerSlam. Be sure to always #UseYourHead and follow us on Twitter and stay up to date with all the breaking news surrounding all aspects of the business we all love and learn something about some of your favorite classics!