Writing Wrestling History: SummerSlam 1987

The crew over at the Place to Be Podcast have made it to late summer of 1987.  Hulkamania is running wild all over the world taking on a variety of challengers for his WWF championship. Jimmy Hart’s stable was riding high with WWF Intercontinental champion and tag-team champions, the Hart Foundation. We had a new WWF Women’s champion in Sensational Sherri. On the road, the company was pumping out up to five shows a day using three different crews and performing double-shots with the A and B crews on weekends.

Several key roster members were either out of action or yet to debut on WWF TV.  Andre the Giant had taken spring and summer off to heal is back.  Also taking some time off was Ricky Steamboat who requested time off to be with his wife as they were expecting the birth of their first son. Ken Patera had suffered a ruptured bicep in his right arm during on match of Superstars of Wrestling and was out of action. Hacksaw Jim Duggan was fired from the company after he and the Iron Sheik were arrested together on charges of drug possession after they were pulled over by police.  Bam Bam Bigelow was on WWF TV, but had yet to make his in-ring debut.  Several of the managers in the company were bidding for the services of Bam Bam.

WWF syndicated shows were bringing in good ratings nationwide and merchandise was selling at an all-time high for the company.  Saturday Night’s Main Event was on hiatus until fall time. The late summer would be the perfect time for the WWF to put on a supercard for a follow up to the record breaking WrestleMania III back in March.  This new event would be called, SummerSlam.

Looking at the calendar of shows that happened on Sunday’s and Monday’s towards the end of August, they would have to find the right location for this super card. Vince McMahon and company would be looking for a prime location that has historically done well for the company. These are actual dates of shows that occurred:

Sunday, August 23: Springfield, MA – Phoenix, AZ – Nashville, TN
Monday, August 24: San Diego, CA –  Santa Cruz, CA – New Haven, CT
Sunday, August 30: Buffalo, NY – Seattle, WA – Wheeling, WV – Toronto, Ontario
Monday, August 31: Portland, OR – Montreal, Quebec

Back in November, Survivor Series was held in Springfield.  That could work again, but after coming off the huge success of WrestleMania III, the company would want a venue a little bigger than the 8,000 seat building in Springfield. Phoenix and San Diego had drawn well for for TV tapings in the past and Seattle had a TV taping planned in November. Geographically, Vince would want this show to be held a little closer to home in the northeast. Looking at the northeast, New Haven was a favorite for the company to visit with up to twelve shows in the city per year.  However, the day after New Haven, there was a TV taping scheduled in San Fransisco.  In an effort to not have two production crews set up in Connecticut and California along with getting the talent from the northeast to the west coast the day after SummerSlam, realistically, New Haven wouldn’t work out. Montreal is a great wrestling city with very passionate fans.  Do to Montreal fans being bias towards certain talent that normally aren’t favorites, this is something at the time Vince wouldn’t want to deal with on TV.  Nashville and Wheeling were not traditional WWF markets with gates not drawing very well in the past at both locations. The decision would come down to Buffalo and Toronto.

In August of 1986, the WWF drew over 60,000 people at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto at The Big Event.  Toronto had ran shows monthly at the legendary Maple Leaf Gardens for year.  It was a city that both Vince and his late father loved and was the home of WWF President, Jack Tunney. With a game plan laid out, we have out date and location set in stone.

When: Sunday, August 30, 1987
Where: Maple Leaf Gardens – Toronto, Ontario 

In an effort to finish its third quarter strong, the company would make this show available on a pay-per-view basis throughout North America.

Your commentators for the evening would be Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse “The Body” Ventura with Vince McMahon running things in the back along with his inner circle of Pat Patterson and others.

WWF Championship match inside a Steel Cage: Hulk Hogan vs “King” Harley Race

With Andre the Giant out of commission for most of mid-1987, the Hulkster had various feuds on the house show circuit. With the likes of Killer Khan, One Man Gang, Randy Savage, and newcomer Ted DiBiase getting their shot at the WWF championship, Hogan needed someone to main event this show.  Bobby Heenan still had an army of men that he could throw Hulk’s way. On this night, one of Bobby’s men would get his chance to grab the title from Hogan. With Andre out of the picture, Bobby’s crown jewel, “King” Harley Race would step up to the plate. Hulk and Harley had met numerous times on the house shows during 1987.  Bobby and Harley wouldn’t only want to end Hogan’s WWF title run, but they would also want to destroy Hulkamania for good by challenging the champ to a steel cage match.  Bobby’s men have a history of steel cage matches with Hogn including King Kong Bundy at WrestleMania II  and Paul Orndorff on Saturday Night’s Main Event. This matchup gives Hogan a fresh challenger and someone who is a legit threat to take his championship

Jake “The Snake” Roberts & British Bulldogs vs Hart Foundation & Honkytonk Man

After defeating Ricky Steamboat for the Intercontinental championship on the June 13 episode of Superstars of Wrestling, Jimmy Hart would now have multiple champions in his stable with the Hart Foundation still holders of the tag team championship.  After losing the IC title, Ricky Steamboat would take some time off to spend with his family.  With Ricky gone, Honky would need someone to chase him for the IC title.  Step in the man who was seeking revenge for his loss to Honky at WrestleMania III, Jake “The Snake” Roberts. Jimmy Hart would take all three of his champions and have them face the three men who were chasing them.  The trio of the British Bulldogs and Jake Roberts were three of the hottest babyfaces in the company and as a unit would try to embarrass Jimmy Hart and his crew.

King Kong Bundy & “Ravishing” Rick Rude vs “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff w/ Oliver Humperdink & Billy Jack Haynes – Bobby Heenan handcuffed to Ken Patera

There’s plenty going on that leads into this match.  Orndorff recently fired Bobby Heenan after Heenan wanted Orndorff to admit that new Heenan Family member, Rick Rude had a better body than him. Orndorff would introduce his new manager, Oliver Humperdink. This would set up a feud between Orndorff and Rude. Back in May, during a debate between Ken Patera and Heenan, Heenan attempted to attack Patera with his belt, with Patera easily fighting him off, he would wrap the belt around Heenan’s neck and throw him across the ring. Heenan was taken out on a stretcher following the incident, which resulted in Heenan wearing a neckbrace for several months. Patera would be set to team with Orndorff for this math, but a week earlier Patera sustained an arm injury during a match of Superstars of Wrestling. With Patera out, he would ask good friend, Billy Jack Haynes to step in for him. Rude would be joined by fellow Heenan Family member, King Kong Bundy.  To add to all that’s already lead to this match, Heenan would be handcuffed  to Patera’s good arm during the match.

WWF Women’s Championship: “Sensational” Sherri vs Fabulous Moolah

Since Wendi Richter left the company in November in 1985, the WWF women’s championship title scene had been mediocre at best.  The search for Fabulous Moolah’s next challenger had taken over a year to find.  Velvet McIntyre defeated Moolah for the championship in July of 1986 in Brisbane, Australia, but her title reign would only last six days as Moolah would win the title back. This past July in Houston, TX, Sherri Martel, who was making her company debut defeated Moolah for the championship. On the August 15 episode of Superstars of Wrestling, Sherri announced that she now wants to be known as “Sensational” Sherri. This match here would serve as Moolah’s rematch, but would end up on the short end again as Sherri continues to be the queen of the women’s division.

“Dangerous” Davis vs Mystery Opponent (Randy Savage)

Ever since losing the IC title to Ricky Steamboat at WrestleMania III Randy Savage has been looking to take the next step in his career.  Savage came into the company as a heel in mid-1985, but had always received cheers from many fans.  Throughout this summer, the cheers for Savage had become louder and louder. Even though he hadn’t officially turned babyface yet, the wheels were in motion for it to happen. With no major program going on at this time, the easiest way to get Savage on the card and advance his babyface turn would be for him to work a heel.  Enter Danny Davis.  Davis was getting a moderate push at the time and this event would serve as a good place for him to have a singles match.  Having Davis offer an open challenge for SummerSlam to any WWF superstar on the roster in the weeks leading up to this show would have fans speculating on who would accept the challenge. Let’s not forgot that Davis is managed by Jimmy Hart, who manages the current IC champion, Honkytonk Man.  Honky had been bragging that he’s the greatest Intercontinental champion of all time.  Savage accepting Davis’ open challenge and squashing Davis would be an easy transition for Savage into feuding with Honkytonk Man.

Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake & Rougeau Brothers vs New Dream Team & Johnny V

With Brutus Beefcake getting dumped from the Dream Team at WrestleMania III, this serves as a fallout match.  Beefcake took a new gimmick under his wing shortly after Mania, becoming “The Barber”. Beefcake would seek retribution on his former stable members by joining forces with the team that they faced at Mania, the Rougeau Brothers. Beefacke was being pushed as one of the top babyfaces on the roster and this would be a good opportunity for Brutus continue his push up the ladder and get his hands on Valentine, Bravo and former manager, Johnny V.

Don Muraco & “Superstar” Billy Graham vs “The Natural” Butch Reed & One Man Gang

Over the course of 1987 Slick had added some depth to his stable with the addition of the Gang.  Meanwhile, Billy Graham was in the middle of yet another comeback after successful hip surgery and the Gang along with Butch reed were trying to end Superstar’s comeback and career for good. Don Muraco had recently turned babyface after a fallout with former tag partner, Bob Orton. Graham was in need of a tag partner to help him take on Slick’s stable mates. Muraco would offer his services as Graham’s partner.

“Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase vs Sam Houston

Vignettes for Ted DiBiase had began on WWE TV over the summer and his Million Dollar Man gimmick had a lot of buzz among fans.  DiBiase had a few TV matches under his wing at this point and this match would serve as his official introduction. Someone has to do the favor for DiBiase and Sam Houston serves as the right victim.  The two had a brief history on Houston, TX shows for the company over the summer.  DiBiase had been working babyface on those Houston shows.  On June 26 in Houston,  Dibiase turned on his partner Sam Houston, throwing him to the floor, ramming his head into the ring post, slamming him, and throwing him back into the ring before leaving ringside.

Demolition vs George “The Animal” Steele & Junkyard Dog

Ax and Smash had been demolishing their opponents WWF TV for the past six months. Without being put into a major program yet, Demolition had been working several teams including the Rougeau Brothers and Killer Bees on the house shows for the past few months. Another team they had been working were veteran fan favorites George Steele and Junkyard Dog.  Steele was on the final leg of his career and serving as a comedy act on TV and house shows.  JYD had taken a huge plummet since losing to Harley Race at WrestleMania III. He was still quite popular was fans, but had gained significant weight and was turning into a special attraction/comedy act himself.  With JYD and Steele being so popular with fans, seeing them lose to Demolition here would help Ax and Smash get more heat from the fans and continue their way up the tag team division’s ladder.

Author: Jason Greenhouse

Jason is a proud nerd for all things 80s and 90s. He's a life long wrestling fan and can make a Seinfeld reference out of any situation. In addition, he hopes to see the Jets win the SuperBowl in his lifetime.