One day last summer, I took a train into NYC for the day to the decrepit Penn Station. Above that sits wrestling’s most famous arena Madison Square Garden and it made me want to watch an old MSG show. Settled on Summerslam 1988, in part because it was the first PPV I ever saw live. Airing Monday August 29, 1988, our hosts are Superstar Billy Graham and Gorilla Monsoon. I advise you not to play a Graham drinking game; he says “Gorilla Monsoon” the full name so many times, it’s like Tracy Jordan with “Liz Lemon” on 30 Rock.
British Bulldogs vs Rougeaus: This is early heel turn Rougeaus and Bulldogs are on the way out. This is a very fun match: both teams cheat on tags, bunch of great spots. Dynamite does the snap suplex to a huge pop, Jacques gets an abdominal stretch off an Irish Whip (not many others do this), Davey Boy with a press slam of Jacques and drops him on the top rope crotching him. Bulldogs do their finisher but bell rings for draw. Rougeaus sucker Bulldogs before running off. Graham says they should “take it to the locker room and finish it in the showers!” which is funny because these teams were famous for fighting backstage. (Google “Dynamite Kid Rougeau” fight for more)
We get a recap of why Brutus Beefcake will not be facing Honky Tonk Man for the IC title, because Ron Bass bloodied him on Superstars and triggered the giant red X with CENSORED written in it. Scared me as a kid. Odd thing: first guys in the ring to save Beefcake are the Rockers, who of course would break up on Brutus’ show years later.
Bad News Brown vs Ken Patera: Brown is getting pushed like crazy after winning a WM battle royal and having his trophy destroyed. Somewhere Cesaro shrugged. Nothing match, Patera was useless by this point.
We then get promo #1 for Sugar Ray Leonard vs Donny Lalonde on Nov 7, 1988 in Vegas for the WBC Super Middleweight title and the WBC Light Heavyweight title. This was Vince trying his hand at boxing, which he didn’t do again. Somewhere on the live show they did an interview with Sugar Ray, but that’s cut from the network. He did beat Lalonde by TKO in a fight closer than indicated, but Lalonde was never the same afterward.
Hogan overshadows Savage in a Megapowers promo. They promise a surprise. Is it nudity? Stay tuned!
Rick Rude vs JYD: Rude asks for the “inner city sweathogs” to be quiet and he has JYD airbrushed on his tights. Graham explains JYD’s bald spot by saying it’s from headbutting Rolls Royces and Mack trucks. Ok, then. Gorilla and Graham are OBSESSED with the hardness of JYD’s head, because this is wrestling in 1988 and they don’t know it’s racist yet. Rude goes up top, pulls down his pants and there’s Cheryl Roberts on his tights. Jake Roberts is displeased and he runs in for the DQ. We would have to wait for SNME in October for their blowoff, which only set up Jake-Andre. This is the last of JYD in WWF.
In the back, the Honky Tonk Man is not concerned about his mystery opponent.
Powers of Pain vs Bolsheviks: Graham informs us that Slick looks clean tonight. PoP come out with their new manager “The Baron” (Von Raschke) who was dismissed in short order. PoP weren’t as over as I remembered, at least on this show; they were brought in an mercenaries by Tito Santana to get revenge on Demolition which I didn’t remember at all. (BTW: This is the only PPV from 1985 until Summerslam 1991 that Tito is not on the card) PoP get the win with the power slam/headbutt from the top combo. They are probably the best comparison for Ascension, so a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy.
Brother Love show with Duggan on PPV for some reason. This kills time until Leonard-Lalonde promo #2.
Honky Tonk Man comes out and says “Get me someone out here to wrestle, I don’t care who it is!” Watching this in 1988 with my father, a HTM fan and Elvis lover (not mutually exclusive) he was shocked by what was about to happen. Warrior runs out and kills HTM dead in 30 seconds. I’m not a huge Warrior fan but this is an all-time moment and pop. Maybe you had to be there to know just how much people wanted HTM to lose.
Heenan joins the broadcast booth to save us for a match. He informs us that Andre is reading the Wall Street Journal, DiBiase and counting the money, and Virgil is just enjoying it all which I can actually picture. He must have Olive Garden meat sauce back there. Thank God he’s there for Don Muraco vs Dino Bravo as the only redeeming quality is Frenchy Martin’s “USA IS NOT OK” sign which is kinda funny. Bravo wins, but wow both guys sucked.
Jesse Ventura says to Sean Mooney (in his PPV debut) he’s no fool, he’s gonna take DiBiase’s money. This conflicts with his view of how money corrupts in politics, but kayfabe, ok?
Hart Foundation vs Demolition: Harts are hugely over as faces having just turned. Gorilla says Hart has “excellence of execution”, which he also said about Bob Orton at WM3. But Bret doesn’t have Hep C so he wins. Hart is face in peril and announcers kill Anvil for not helping enough. Later, Bret slingshots Anvil over the top onto Smash on the floor in a cool spot. Breaks down at the end, and Jimmy Hart gives Ax the megaphone and he kills Bret as he goes for a piledriver (his pre-sharpshooter finisher BTW). Hart was there because he still “owned the contracts” of the Harts.
Honky is very upset in the heel locker room. I love how they made other heels stand there to support him, even guys not with Jimmy Hart.
Big Bossman vs Koko B. Ware: One of these guys went to the HOF. The other would be feuding with Hogan in weeks. Try and guess. Koko gets a nice missile dropkick in, but this was an extended squash for the Bossman.
Warrior informs us from the face locker room that if HTM wants to find him, he’ll be on the next spaceship to Parts Unknown. For some reason he has to connect through Atlanta, though.
Hercules vs Jake Roberts: Herc with the jobber entrance and no Heenan. Herc would be turning weeks later and oddly would be considered something of a “third Megapower” believe it or not. Jake has the inside of his right elbow taped; I am NOT going to speculate why that was (cough) but the whole match is a chinlock festival. He gets a DDT out of nowhere and Herc gets the snake treatment because it doesn’t matter because he’s turning face.
Recap of main event feud: Savage says he’s got the best tag partner anyone could have in introducing Hogan. Jesse mutters “Well it ain’t you, Vince.” We see a Brother Love Show with Ventura taking money from main event special interests. I get a kick out of Love calling DiBiase “Brother Million.” Did you know Heenan was set to manage Ventura in ’84 until Jesse’s injuries kept him from the ring full time?
Megapowers vs Megabucks: MPs come out in Hogan’s colors and Hogan’s music. That would bug me too if I was Savage. He’s not #3 in the Megapowers! Before the match, Ventura changes the tag ropes in what I interpret as a power move to indicate he’s in charge. This is the last time Hogan and Andre would ever share the same ring as they were kept apart from then on. Solid tag match as Savage can get something out of Andre, going up for an elbow on him and Andre gets a boot up in a sweet spot. Liz takes off her skirt, MPs have dorky handshake on the floor and destroy the MBs. Savage helps Jesse with the 3 count.
Post-match: Savage shoos Liz away so he can celebrate on the corner turnbuckle by himself. Hogan picks her up and hugs her. Savage sees this and shoots a WTF look. He then picks up Liz on his shoulder, and Hulk rather obviously touches her butt. Oh man, if we only picked up the signs this early. Perfect example of how long term booking works, but to be fair these are two of the biggest stars of all time.
Summary: Show is nice nostalgia, but no 4 star matches or anything. Good tag matches, though Harts-Demos in 1990 was a bit better. And the Warrior’s big moment to cap it all. Probably not something to sit through if you are younger, but this is the first edition of Summerslam and sometimes it is nice to look at the proverbial baby pictures.