Monday, September 13, 2010

Vintage WWF Review: Summer Slam 1993

Yokozuna fatting the hell out of America
WWF Summer Slam 1993 was a sad day for everyone who follows WWF: this marks the last wrestling appearance of "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase. DiBiase was injured early in 1994 and would no longer wrestle on a regular basis. I figurd I might as well get the bad news out of the way first...

Anyway, Summer Slam '93 was one hell of an event and finished off the summer in sizzling style for the World Wrestling Federation. Taking place August 30 at The Palace of Auburn Hills in Michigan, Summer Slam saw the culmination of a number of feuds as well as the beginning of one or two. The build-up was phenomenal; there were personal grudges, a promotional invasion, and a national conflict. Without any further hesitation, let's get right to the action!

This is where I was planning on putting a highlight video from the PPV. Unfortunately, the ones I found on Youtube had shitty alternative music in them and I figured no one wanted to hear that (and I apologize for the post-80s U2 bullshit in my KotR review - never again). I like my music the way I like my wrestling: VINTAGE!
The opening match of the night featured two of my favorite wrestlers - Razor Ramon v. Ted DiBiase. The two had been feuding ever since Razor was defeated by the 1-2-3 Kid, something I still don't understand. Anyway, after weeks of verbally sparring and interfering in matches, these two finally got the chance to solve their problems in the squared circle. I just want to note real quick that this is the second PPV in a row that Razor has opened, which I think is kind of strange considering he was so over and such a great worker. He would go on to achieve great success relatively soon in the WWF, so I'm surprised this match went on so early, especially with some clunkers coming later in the evening. All that bullshit aside, the match served its purpose, entertained millions, and ended with what is still the best crucifix powerbomb in the business. In honor of DiBiase's last appearance as a full-time wrestler with WWF, here is the match in its entirety:

The Steiner Brothers v. The Heavenly Bodies was next, and it was the big homecoming match for the All-American Steiner boys. This match was actually a great match and I was really surprised by the work of "Doctor" Tom Prichard and his partner, "Gigolo" Jimmy Del Ray. There was a lot of back-and-forth action between the two teams, and it looked like the Heavenly Bodies were about to win after some interference from James E. Cornette's flamboyant tennis racket. In the end, however, the Steiner Bros. went crazy on the Bodies and finished them up with another ugly Frankensteiner.

I really have to comment on the Steiners right here. Rick Steiner is basically worthless. While he isn't a bad performer, it seems like he's just there because of Scott. Scott is the standout talent of the team and that's obvious both in fan reaction and booking decisions. And though I love Steiner's arsenal of devastating power moves, the Frankensteiner is ugly as sin. I'm surprised Scott never broke his neck performing the move.

My match of the night was probably Shawn Michaels (c) v. Mr. Perfect for the WWF Intercontinental Championship. The two men have been feuding on-and-off since Wrestlemania IX, and this would also mark the last time Perfect would wrestle on a WWF PPV until something like 2002. After months of confrontations, including Perfect at one point costing Michaels his IC Title, the two finally get their hands on each other in some sort of payoff match. The match was a technically sound barn burner until Diesel decided to get involved. As Diesel began interfering, the match devolved into an all-out slugfest between the three men and eventually ended, disappointingly, in a countout win for Michaels. While I assume the feud is supposed to continue into the fall, Michaels gets suspended in late '93 and Perfect doesn't wrestle on PPV for another nine years, so who knows what's going to happen with this feud. That's too bad, really, because these two guys are great performers and with Diesel in the mix anything could have happened in this feud.

The next match, IRS v. 1-2-3 Kid, was a fucking joke. Sure, the match was decent, but its placement on the card is baffling (I assume they wanted to give the crowd time to recover) and I really don't understand the outcome. IRS goes over Kid with a Write Off (Heenan's brain scan after the match was priceless) and becomes quite possibly the first man to kick out of Waltman's moonsault on WWF television. I love Rotunda, but unless they're planning on continuing this Money, Inc. v. Razor/Kid angle, I don't get why he went over at this juncture. And Waltman's mullet is still fucking disgusting.

I was really looking forward to the next match, and after watching Bret Hart v. Jerry Lawler (scheduled) for the title of "King of the WWF", I honestly don't know how to feel about it. Lawler came to the ring on crutches and built heat by ripping on Hart's family and saying he had been in an automobile accident earlier that day and was instructed by doctors not to compete that night. Normally I hate the old bait-and-switch, and I really wasn't excited about this turn on events. I figured it was the best case scenario, however, when Lawler announced his replacement: his court jester, Doink. As I've mentioned before, I love me some 1993 Doink. Unfortunately, this is probably Doink's last match as a heel based on my fuzzy memory, though there may be one or two more. Bret Hart and his family (brothers Bruce and Owen are in attendance at ringside) are understandably perturbed, and Bret takes his frustration and anger out on Doink.

After quite a bit of good wrestling action, Bret looks to finish the match with his signature Sharpshooter submission hold. This is where shit starts to get a little weird for me. Lawler, who was faking his injury, attacked Bret from behind with his crutch. For some damn reason, there are like eight refs/officials out at ringside holding back Bruce and Owen Hart but letting Lawler beat on Bret with a foreign object for minutes in the ring. Then Jack Tunney comes out and announces that Lawler must face Hart or he is suspended for a month, so Lawler and Hart start brawling and kicking the crap out of each other with various weapons. Aapparently there's no DQ, even though both try hide it, because there are eight officials out here and one of them must be aware that they are hitting each other with water pails and crutches. Anyway, Hart wins by submission with the Sharpshooter and refuses to let go of the move. Instead of the ref and other nine officials that are down at ring forcefully removing Hart from Lawler, they stand there asking him to let go for like five full minutes. Eventually, Hart lets go, but the ref then reverses his decision and announces Lawler is the victor by disqualification for not letting go of the hold, even though the match was officially over when Lawler submitted.

If this sounds like the biggest clusterfuck this side of WCW 2000, you're absolutely correct. And I apologize if my analysis seems a little disjointed, but I watched the entire thing and I still don't understand why the hell they didn't just have a proper match with Lawler and Hart instead of this bullshit. What a disappointment, though still fairly entertaining.

Ludvig Borga v. Marty Jannetty is the first time I've seen Borga actually wrestle (he hasn't been on RAW yet) and I'm not terribly impressed. He basically squashes Marty here and wins with some sort of torture-rack derivative. This wasn't a bad match for what it was, but it also wasn't anything spectacular. Still, his promos were hilarious:

"You call this the 'land of milk and honey'? Well down here it stinks funny" - Classic Ludvig Borga

 Undertaker v. Giant Gonzalez was another match that was entertaining for what it was, and it also featured the return of Paul Bearer (alright!). The match was pretty much a no-DQ match that saw both men take advantage of the stipulation before Undertaker won with a nice flying clothesline off the top rope. This match may not have been a five-star classic, but both men worked well and Taker looked great going against the limited Gonzalez. This was much better than their match at Wrestlemania. The only negative thing about this match was Gonzalez hitting a chokeslam on everyone's favorite manager, Harvey Wippleman! Seriously, who would do that to such a class act? Disappointing...

The match I was least looking forward to, Bam Bam Bigelow/Headshrinkers v. Tatanka/Smoking Gunns, was actually more entertaining than I was expecting. Both teams worked relatively well together and there was a great spot that saw a triple headbutt on Tatanka lead to an attempted triple top-rope headbutt from Bam Bam and the Headshrinkers. Unfortunately, the big boys missed and the match ended with a disappointing roll-up by Tatanka. I cannot tell you how much I want this man to finally lose.

The final match of the night, Yokozuna (c) v. Lex Luger for the WWF World Heavyweight Championship, was so much better than I ever thought the match could be. I like Luger, but I wasn't totally sold on him in the ring from what I had seen so far. He had a great match with Tatanka at King of the Ring in June, but Yokozuna can be a hard match for anyone to work considering his size and limitations. That said, these two men put on a great performance in a surprise candidate for match of the night.

Randy Savage at some point jumped on Lex's American dick and became a super Lex fan, so he came out rocking a ridiculous Old Glory outfit. Even better, he was accompanied by Aaron Neville. If you'll recall, I made a comment in the July review about some drunk-ass Aaron Neville singing the national anthem on the USS Intrepid at the body slam challenge. Little did I know that the real Aaron Neville would appear to sing the national anthem one month later at Summer Slam. I am awesome! Unfortunately, I cannot find video footage of this.

The match contained most of the spots you would expect: the failed body slam, the salt bucket schtick, and a whole bunch of awesome Fuji. Just when things looked most dire for Luger, he rolled out of the way of the Banzai Drop and started an amazing comeback that would lead to the win for Lex Luger!!!! countout. That's right, folks, all of this build-up only to pull an Irvine and fail to pull the trigger. And for some ungodly reason, the Steiners and Macho Man then come in to raise Lex onto their shoulders as if he had somehow achieved something. Quick note to these morons: the title doesn't change hands on a countout, for fuck's sake. Here's this spectacular sequence of events:

While I am good with this outcome, I also don't understand it. There was so much build-up here with Lex Luger and this patriotic gimmick, I can't believe they didn't give him the ball and let him roll with it. More importantly, they also added in (for no good reason) the stipulation that no matter the outcome, Luger won't get a rematch. So here we are after one of the biggest events of the year and our biggest face just defeated our monster heel champion and we're going to let the program die. Who booked this shit? I'm going to assume they didn't put the strap on Luger for two reasons, and if anyone has any ideas feel free to add in your two cents:

1) The company simply didn't buy into Luger as the top face.

This is certainly possible, but it doesn't explain why they spent so much time building the man up. Perhaps they didn't like the numbers or weren't impressed by fan reaction during this period and that made up their minds, but I really don't know.

2) The company did not view Luger as a reliable champion.

I think this is a real possibility. The company decided to give Luger a run, but his battles with drugs, steroids and alcohol throughout his career are common knowledge to us now. I wouldn't be surprised if they played a role in WWF's decision to withhold the strap from Luger at this point in time.

Whatever the reason, Luger would never really recover from this and never held the WWF World Heavyweight Championship (though he did get another crack at it at WM X).

Reflections: This was really another great PPV. I forgot how awesome the World Wrestling Federation was in 1993, but shows like Summer Slam '93 speak for themselves and show  the product at a great time in its history. I would recommend finding and watching this show if you can, as it was extremely entertaining from both a nostalgia and wrestling point of view. For those who might follow wrestling today but have never seen some of these older shows/wrestlers, this PPV is a great place to jump in and get started.

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