A look back at WWF SummerSlam 1997, featuring the USA vs Canada rivalry as Bret Hart battles The Undertaker with Shawn Michaels as the referee!
The day is August 3, 1997 and The WWF and WCW are in the middle of the heated, Monday Night Wars. We are in the midst of the WCW’s 83 week run but the WWF is starting to make some noise with the “Attitude Era”. The ratings leading up to SummerSlam are as follows: 7/07- RAW- 2.15 WCW-3.4, 7/14- RAW- 2.6 WCW-3.5, on 7/21 there wasn’t a Nitro, 7/28- RAW-2.9 WCW-3.4. 20,213 fans are in the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey and another 235,000 estimated to be tuning in on PPV. This is a positive for the WWF at the time, as last years SummerSlam only had 157K PPV buys. Stridex is again the major sponsor and the theme songs for the evening are “Real City” and “Queen’s Finest” by Jim Johnston. This is also the first televised event in New Jersey in 8 years for the WWF. More on that later.
The show opens with the crowd standing, hands on hearts, as The National Anthem is being played. Except for Vince, who’s hand is on his belly. The crowd gives a standing ovation when the song comes to an end. The narrator comes on next and tells us all about the WWF being broadcast to “more than half a billion people worldwide” each week.
The opening vignette comes on and it is one of the best that I can recall. The narrator begins with “In a perfect world there would be no villains, no conspicuous manifestations of hate. Heroes remain heroes forever.” It shows this to be true, calling Bret Hart a “Fallen Idol” and “America’s Public Enemy Number One.” Bret is the hot heel and the heat is still there from the amazing PPV the month prior, Canadian Stampede. (More on that here) It shows the events leading to the Main Event and some of the things the narrator uses to describe The Undertaker are phenomenal. Things like “Survivor of Deception” and “Conquer of All Earthly Hell.” It finishes by showing why Shawn Michaels had to vacate the Title and is the special referee in the Main Event. The narrator describes it as “Surrendering your boyhood dream to search for the Lost Smile of Youth.” Even if you have no intention of watching this show, I would recommend you go out of your way to watch this vignette.
We enter the arena and the crowd is hyped up for SummerSlam “Hart and Soul”. The pyro is blasting and we can see the steel cage around the ring for the first match. Vince McMahon introduces his team for the night, “Good Ole JR” or Jim Ross and Jerry “The King” Lawler. JR tells us that “three titles will be on the line tonight”, as Vince introduces the first match of the night.
The “1997 King of the Ring”, Hunter Hearst Helmsley makes his way to arena first and is joined by Chyna. She goes to work checking the perimeter of the old-school, blue cage as Hunter climbs the corner of it and curtsies. The crowd pops when “the demented” Mankind makes his way down the aisle and he waste no time entering the structure. As he is entering Vince tells us that New Jersey Governor, Christie Todd Whitman would join the broadcast, live, later. Helmsley doesn’t waste anytime either because as soon as the bell sounds he tries to run to the door and escape. Mankind grabs the waist of Hunter and manages to make the save. He drags Hunter back in the ring by his feet and goes to work with some blows to the head. As soon as Helmsley reaches his feet he tries to escape, this time by climbing the cage, but Mankind grabs a handful of tights and slams him to the mat. The momentum is still in Foley’s favor for a bit and the crowd pops after a running knee to the face of the prone Helmsley. The “BANG BANG” finger guns he follows it up with send the crowd into a frenzy. After he hits a pulling piledriver, Mankind is headed for the door to make an exit. Chyna is waiting there and keeps the door shut. The bumps in this match do not disappoint.
As the ref is having words with Chyna, Mankind raises he arm in anticipation of the Mandible Claw. When he puts the claw on Hunter the crowd is, again, going bonkers. Helmsley manages to back Mankind into the cage and this allows Chyna to climb up and choke Mankind with a leather strap. It does break the hold and both men are on the mat. Mankind gets the advantage, after a little back and fourth, and is soon climbing the corner of the cage. When he begins to crest the top, Chyna is there waiting and delivers an ass punch. This allows Hunter to climb up and suplex Mankind off the top of the cage. The bump doesn’t look friendly for either man. Helmsley goes for the exit but when the official opens it he changes his mind and instead tells him to close it. Hunter stays on the offensive by using the cage as a weapon. After a few Irish whips to the cage, he curtsies on the downed Mankind and the crowd puts the heat on Helmsley. He beats Mankind off the cage before trying to climb and escape. After one leg is over Mankind makes the diving save by grabbing the ankle of Hunter. This causes a wishbone of sorts but Helmsley manages to kick him down and send him falling to the mat. Mankind pulls him back in the ring and they exchange some moves. There is a really cool spot in this sequence when Mankind attempts to suplex Hunter but hooks his feet atop the cage instead. When he splashes into the inverted Helmsley next the crowd goes nuts. Helmsley gets his foot caught in the ropes after he and Mankind have a tightrope fight. Mankind attempts to escape through the door but Chyna is there, once again, to make the save. The shot to the head of Foley, from Chyna, really concussed him. She attacks the ref next, who is giving her the business. Chyna climbs the cage next so she can throw a chair to Hunter. Helmsley sets up the Pedigree but Mankind pulls his legs out from under him, causing his head to hit the chair. The next spot is pretty sweet. Mankind slingshots Hunter into the cage, hitting Chyna and knocking her of the cage and into the railing. The crowd is wild and they can’t contain themselves when Mankind hits his patented, Double Arm DDT. Mankind makes his way up the cage and start to descend when the magic happens. I’m sure this next spot is a memorable spot in Mick Foley’s legendary career. Mankind, at about two feet from the bottom, stops and removes the mask, as he is eyeing the top of the cage. He begins to climb back up and the crowd is chanting “Super Fly”. The significance of this being that the very thing that made Foley want to join the business was watching “Super Fly” Jimmy Snuka leap from the top of the cage at Madison Square Garden onto “Magnificent” Muraco. And here he is about to replicate it.
Mankind tears his shirt open and you can see a faint heart painted on his chest, an homage to his teenage wrestling gimmick, Dude Love. When Foley comes soaring of the top of the cage, to deliver the elbow, the crowd erupts. This is pure wrestling magic and what the business is all about. Mankind returns to his feet and begins to climb out but Chyna is in the ring and trying to pull Hunter out. Mankind falls from the cage and the crowd erupts as Mankind is the winner. As Mankind lays on the mat, presumably unconscious, we hear Dude Love’s theme song come on. Slowly, Mankind’s foot starts to tap and before long he is on his feet dancing. And Dude Love is alive. I usually try not to play-by-matches but its hard not to when there are so many great spots in a match. Every time I watch an old match between these two legends it reaffirms that moniker. This is a must watch match for an wresting fan. Match Time: 16:13
We see the Stridex Blimp in the arena before Todd Pentingill introduces NJ Governor, Christie Todd Whitman. She is joined by The Headbangerz and Gorilla Monsoon. We see a picture of The Undertaker, with Whitman, from a newspaper that reads “Whitman buries tax on wresting events”. This why the WWF returned to New Jersey. This is what led to Vince calling it “Sports Entertainment”, as to avoid paying a tax to the Athletic Commission. Todd thanks her for removing the tax. WWF President, Gorilla Monsoon makes her a honorary WWF Champion. The whole “Sports Entertainment” thing caused some controversy with some of the older guys, as it broke kayfabe, but it was for the best and allowed the business to grow.
Vince and JR tell us the stipulations to next match, between Brian Pillman and Goldust. If Pillman loses he has to wear a dress on the following nights RAW. Weird stuff, but what can you expect from “The Loose Cannon”, Pillman. Vince introduces us to two members of the crowd, Tiger Jeet Singh and his son, Tiger Ali Singh. Jeet was a former wrestler, in mostly Japan, and once held the Asia Heavyweight Championship in NJPW. Vince says “We expect to see Tiger Ali Singh here in the WWF very soon.” Ali never really panned out in the WWF even though he was with the company from 97-02. He tried to sue the company for 7 million dollars over an injury, but famed WWE lawyer Jerry McDevitt settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.
Next we see the tailgate party, that took place in the parking lot of the arena. Vince calls it a “beach party” as apparently sand was dumped into the parking area. They have various Superstars on hand for the reported “15,000-20,000” fans. I’ve heard that the crowd response died out toward the end of the show due to people being exhausted from the heat and booze.
Attitude Of Aggression #275- The Big Four Project Chapter 3: Royal Rumble ’88 & WrestleMania IV
The Attitude Of Aggression returns for Chapter 3 of The Big Four Project, a chronological analysis, review, and discussion about WWE’s Big Four PPVs/ Premium Live Events. On this Episode, Dave welcomes back the one and only PC Tunney to discuss two more immensely important events in pro wrestling history, the inaugural Royal Rumble and WrestleMania IV. The 1988 Royal Rumble was different than any other Rumble in history and not just because it was the first. Dave and Tunney break down the fascinating history of the first installment of an event that would evolve into an annual favorite for many in the WWE Universe. From there, the guys recap the surreal events that led to the end of Hulk Hogan’s 4-year reign as WWF Champion and set the stage for, arguably, the most important tournament in WWE History at WrestleMania IV. Macho Madness reached new heights that night. But was Savage the first choice of Vince McMahon to emerge from Atlantic City with the gold that night? We have the whole story for you here on Chapter 3 of The Big Four Project!
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Chairshot Classics: What I Watched #15 – AAW Defining Moment 2018
Harry covers a show that helped to continue Sami Callihan’s 2018 infamy. AAW Defining Moment should be a fun trip down memory lane!
Apologies for the slight delay getting to this but it’s Harry here once again. And for as verbose as I can be at times, I don’t feel the need to waste any time getting to this one. This is the second part of the double shot for AAW on ‘All In’ weekend in Chicago.
The WayBack Machine takes us to August 31st, 2018 as we once again arrive at the Logan Square Auditorium (and oh boy does that become important later) for AAW’s Defining Moment 2018.
What I Watched #15
AAW Defining Moment 2018
Logan Square Auditorium in Chicago, IL
Runtime: 3:18:22 (HighSpotsWrestlingNetwork)
Commentary By: Tyler Volz (PBP) and Marty DeRosa (Color)
- Match 1: Curt Stallion/Jake Something def. Ace Romero/Colt Cabana, Something pins Cabana @ 8:41
- Match 2: Shane Strickland pins Darby Allin, top-rope Swerve Stomp @ 13:30
- Match 3: Jessicka Havoc def. Palmer Cruise/Steve Manders, pinning Cruise with a Chokeslam @ 2:52
- Match 4: OI4K (Dave/Jake Crist) def. Ace Austin/Brian Cage, Dave pins Austin @ 5:55
- Match 5: AAW Heritage Title- Trevor Lee © pins DJ Z (Shiima Xion), roll-through on CBB with tights @ 13:30
- Match 6: AR Fox/Myron Reed def. Bandido/Flamita, double cover @ 15:42
- Match 7: Maxwell Jacob Friedman taps Marko Stunt, Salt of the Earth @ 10:41
- Match 8: Sami Callihan pins Jimmy Jacobs, Cactus Driver on a bridged guardrail @ 17:52
- Match 9: AAW Tag Titles- Eddie Kingston/Jeff Cobb © def. Davey Vega/Mat Fitchett, Cobb pins Fitchett @ 14:19
- Match 10: AAW Heavyweight Title- Brody King pins ACH ©, All Seeing Eye (Whiplash) @ 22:46
Curt Stallion/Jake Something vs. Ace Romero/Colt Cabana
*The match was decent but nothing special. A pretty big win for Something at the end with the three count over Cabana, who has a storied past in Chicago and was one of the biggest names in independent wrestling. That said, I personally don’t love the flukish nature that Something pins Cabana, as I think Something could have used a defining pinfall to really give him a rub going forward.
Cabana usually makes for a fun watch and I’ve grown to enjoy Ace Romero the more I see him (he especially stands out for Limitless, which I hope to get to one day soon). Jake Something is a huge star in the making and you can see it even early in the run of AAW that he has. Stallion is what Stallion is. Solid opener, but nothing you’ll remember post show. (**½)
Darby Allin vs. Shane Strickland
*Showstealer, plain and simple. Strickland had been with AAW for a while but to the best of my memory, it was more often in a tag team with Keith Lee (funny how that works out with 2022 eyes on it, as Swerve and Keith are the current AEW tag champions at the time of writing). I do believe this is only Darby’s second match in AAW (the prior being a five-ish minute loss to Brody King). Both guys are huge names now and with efforts like this, it’s easy to see how. Darby tries to keep pace with Swerve and is able to do so for a good portion of the contest until Swerve finds that next gear down the stretch and puts Allin down with the Swerve Stomp to a massive (deserved) ovation from the crowd. (****)
Jessicka Havok vs. Palmer Cruise/Steve Manders
*I dislike handicap matches in general. However, unlike certain other writers for this site, I don’t mind intergender wrestling. But the suspension of disbelief gets lost here when you have two dudes the size of Cruise and Manders struggling with Jessicka Havok, who should realistically not being coming in at 100% after taking the Ganso Bomb from Brody King through the chairs the night before. I won’t rate the match due to the Larry Csonka (RIP) Rule of not rating anything shorter than three minutes, but I’m calling this a miss regardless. (X)
OI4K (Dave/Jake Crist) vs. Ace Austin/Brian Cage
*The Brothers Crist come out to ringside to stand next to Havok after said match and call out Brody King and Jimmy Jacobs. They get one of those two men as Jacobs makes his way out, but informs Dave and Jake that neither he nor Brody will be facing them due to having prior obligations, but he did find the perfect opponents for OI4K. As for the opponent, Cage does make for a good size fill-in for Brody King. Ace Austin is a OI4K trainee that hadn’t quite made a name for himself at the time but has since turned into a pretty good wrestler, having just competed for NJPW in Best of the Super Jr’s as well as being Impact Wrestling’s X Division champion for a while.
The match itself was not memorable at all. I will admit to typing this review on a bit of a delay and other than the finish (a Tiger Driver ‘98 by Dave to Austin), I don’t remember anything that happened during the course of the contest. Not the best impression for these four men to leave. (**)
AAW Heritage Title- Trevor Lee © vs. DJ Z
*I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…I like DJ Z. I liked him more under his previous identity, but this was him using the Impact Wrestling name for more notoriety with the casual fan. That being said, despite DJZ winning a three way relatively quickly the night before while Trevor was in a war with Ace Romero, I never felt the title was in jeopardy here. For as much as I like DJZ’s run with AAW, this misfortune of his injury just so happened to coincide with Trevor Lee becoming one of the hottest acts on the undercard and there wasn’t anything in the build up to the rematch (despite some good promo work from Z) that made me think that the strap was switching here.
As for the match itself, they have really good chemistry together and that isn’t a surprise given how many of the same promotions they were working for at the time as well as their history in AAW up to this point. I do think this match does a nice job of setting the stage for a return match as it is DJZ’s offensive attack at the end of the contest that gets reversed into the cradle (with a handful of tights) for the finish. The nature of the victory leads me to believe that the story with these two isn’t over quite yet. (***½)
AR Fox/Myron Reed vs. Bandido/Flamita
*This was similar to the main event the night before, but didn’t have the same crowd investment that match did. Bandido and Flamita once again shine here and it is easy to see why they become semi-regulars in AAW after this weekend. AR Fox and Myron Reed (Team Firefox, as they were referred to by Sarah Shockey) get a massive victory with a double pinfall following stereo 450 splashes. This sets up Fox and Reed for a title match against the winners of WRSTLING vs. Besties later in the night, but honestly, I think that Bandido/Flamita was the better pairing to have go forward to a title shot. Firefox had previously unsuccessfully challenged for the tag belts and if I’m being fully honest, I prefer AR Fox as a singles wrestler over being in a tag team. Good match, but I think the wrong team wins. (***½)
Maxwell Jacob Friedman vs. Marko Stunt
*Marko had just made a name for himself at GCW’s Lost in New York (a show I have watched) and this was a way for him to break out back in his Midwest home. MJF has been on a hot streak point up to this point (believe he is the current CZW Heavyweight champion, though I don’t think he ever actually defends that title) and MJF would make himself a known commodity the next night opening the ‘All In’ PPV against Matt Cross (in a losing effort)
Easy story to tell with MJF taking the much smaller Stunt lightly and Marko making him pay for it. It is unfortunate that more people didn’t get to see what Stunt is capable of, because his run in the indie scene before he went to AEW was quite special to watch due to his ability to connect with a crowd (no different here). The finish sees MJF take advantage of the arm work that he did early in match and after Marko escapes a fujiwara armbar, MJF is able to catch Marko in ‘Salt of the Earth’, a wakigatame (Marko on stomach as MJF applies a cross-armbreaker) for the the tapout. Very good work and Marko does really well for himself in his debut with another high end US Independent. (***)
Jimmy Jacobs vs. Sami Callihan
*Ooooh, boy. A lot to unwrap with this one. Let’s get the match first, because the drama that it creates leads to the fallout that has to be discussed. It is honestly a pretty standard Sami brawl for the time frame. PWG used to have what was known as the “Sami Sprint”…by which it would be Callihan vs. Opponent and the match would run anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes of hard hitting back and forth action with little in terms of a cohesive story or selling. Pretty much a ‘can you top this?’ kind of situation. This feels like that in a sense because the match features both Sami and Jimmy going into their well of tricks (the crowd brawling, the spike, the guardrail that gets used in the finish) while maintaining the crowd reaction from the prior night’s tag match. Fittingly, the finish is visually impressive as Callihan hits the ‘Cactus Driver’ (pulling piledriver) on a guardrail bridged across two metal folding chairs to secure the three count. (***½)
The bigger story coming out of this is that this match almost costs AAW the Logan Square Auditorium and almost ends even more disastrously personally for Callihan. At one point, Callihan and Jacobs are brawling over by the stage in the venue (traditionally used for concerts) where Callihan buries Jacobs under a portion of the stage. Callihan then starts winging metal sitting chairs (not the standard folding ones you see in most companies because the four legged dinner table type chairs) at Jacobs. A voice comes over the house mic telling Callihan to stop, causing a loud visceral boo from the crowd. Callihan more or less tells said voice to “fuck himself” and hurls more chairs at Jacobs.
At first, I thought it was Danny Daniels telling Callihan to stop, but it turns out it was actually building management. This becomes important when after the three count goes down, building security surrounds the ring to escort Callihan out of the building as they were pissed at Sami for throwing chairs that the venue used for other events. As I’ve heard the story, Callihan thinks this is part of a storyline and begins to push the security guys until one of them shows Callihan that he is carrying a real pistol and will use it if necessary. Things break down from there with the rest of OI4K getting involved and eventually Sami is escorted to the back (and presumably out of the building).
How much of this is real? How much of this is scripted? How much of this was sensationalized for additional attention? I don’t have the answers for those questions. I do know that cooler heads would prevail and AAW was able to continue running at LSA, however I feel the truth lies somewhere in the middle. It may have been a planned altercation to play off the recklessness of Callihan. It may have been a real reaction from the building to what they perceived as damage to personal property. The old axiom in wrestling is “believe none of what you hear and half of what you see”. Overall, it makes for a great story with a relatively happy ending all considered. But man does it take the wind of the crowd for quite a while. And I will have to check out the follow up AAW shows to see what the fallout truly is.
AAW Tag Titles- Eddie Kingston/Jeff Cobb © vs. Davey Vega/Mat Fitchett
*Trevor Lee’s promo before the match is not one I can do justice. I recommend the show in general, but Trevor’s asshole smarmy heel persona in AAW (Impact Superstar Trevor Lee) is one of the best things going in the company.
Match is good but you’d have to expect that from the four men involved. Kingston and Cobb work surprisingly well as a team and despite being on separate pages for most of the bout, Vega and Fitchett do link up for a few double teams (corner enzuigiri/Kippou kick combo being standout among them) to continue to prove why they are one of the best tag teams in pro wrestling (still are to this day, though not known as the Besties in the World anymore). The finish sees the final stab from Vega to Fitchett as Vega chooses to take Scarlett to the back after she gets knocked off the apron, leaving Fitchett alone to take a one-two combo of the Backfist to the Future from Kingston that staggers him into a Tour of the Islands from Cobb to finish the contest. The ring work is on point, the story is very well told and you can hear the disappointment from the crowd when Vega chooses the hussy over his long-time tag partner. (****)
AAW Heavyweight Title- ACH © vs. Brody King
*Unfortunately, something gets lost during the course of this contest through no direct fault of the participants. As I understand it, Brody King got concussed relatively early in the bout. Credit to ACH for keeping things together as well as he did, but I would be curious to see what they are capable of with both competitors at 100% capacity for the full duration of the match.
As for the match, it does tell a pretty good story. ACH comes in still pretty beat up from the match with Jeff Cobb the night before. However, ACH lets his pride (or perhaps his ego) get the better of him as he once again tries to hang step for step, strike for strike and move for move with a man much bigger than he is. It ends up coming back to bite him at the end as a distraction from Jimmy Jacobs allows Brody King to take a distracted ACH up into the All Seeing Eye (fireman’s carry into a Michinoku Driver) for the three count to crown a new champion. Slightly cheap on the distraction ending but does help get Jimmy some of the heat he lost earlier in the evening back after dropping the contest to Callihan. (***½)
THE FINAL REACTION
Overall, a better show then the day before but not without a couple flaws. Obviously, the big story to come out of this show would be the fact that AAW almost lost Logan Square Auditorium due to the issues in the Callihan-Jacobs match. Thankfully, those would be resolved and to my knowledge, AAW is still running there. But it gets awfully hairy there for a few.
The highs: two four star matches on this show and they come in completely different type contests. Eddie Kingston continues his march of dominance in AAW and cuts one hell of a promo at the end of the show to run down how ACH let him down by losing the title. Marko Stunt has a fun debut and quickly gets the crowd behind him. The lows: that handicap match helped no one and the tag match that followed wasn’t much better. The main event isn’t what it could have been either, but that’s a case of shit happens with the early concussion to King. I will also say that I thought Sarah Shockey did a better job on color commentary yesterday then Marty DeRosa does here.
We’ll call it an 8 overall. As I said, it is a better top to bottom show then Destination Chicago is. And while high on the guest stars (for obvious reasons), you also get a really good look at what the overall AAW roster is all about too. I look forward to coming back to AAW down the road (ironically, upcoming shows are a double shot as well for the ‘Jim Lynam Memorial’ tournament), but I do want to mix in some other odds and ends before I do so.
Best Match/Moment: Shane Strickland vs. Darby Allin
Worst Match/Moment: The Havok handicap. Especially when you consider what Steve Manders would come to mean for AAW, it’s a really inauspicious debut.
Overall Show Score: 8/10
MVP: Eddie Kingston. The key part of a match that tied for best match of the night honors and absolutely shows why he is viewed the way he is when it comes to talking with an amazing promo to close out the show.
So, where does ‘What I Watched’ go from here? I go on vacation in about a week’s time and will be gone for most of August. I spoke to Andrew and what I hope to do is reformat the ‘All In’ report that I did to the new style so you guys have something to tide you over. As for where I go when I get back from vacation…well, the Peacock WWE Network watch-through that I am working on has reached a show that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen (and if I have, it has been quite a while). Therefore, ‘What I Watched’ #16 will be ECW’s Guilty as Charged 1999 to set the tone for a year where all hell breaks loose in two of the three major promotions. Hopefully, you guys enjoy the ‘All In’ redo to hold you over and I’ll be back later in August with Guilty as Charged. I appreciate everyone who has been checking these out and if you’ve missed any, feel free to click on my name at the top of the article to check out my archive. Thanks for reading.
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