Since 1988, SummerSlam has been WWE’s second biggest show of the year. As we count down the days to the 2016 edition, the Top Ten will rank the annual event’s matches year-by-year to determine the best SummerSlam matches of all time.
In this edition, it’s the coming of Zeus. Zeus! ZEUS!
SummerSlam 1989 – August 28, 1989, Meadowlands Arena, East Rutherford, NJ
While 1988 felt like a down year for the WWF, in 1989 it felt like they could do no wrong. The MegaPowers exploded at WrestleMania V and Hulk Hogan’s first feature film – No Holds Barred – debuted in theaters. SummerSlam 1989 was an extension of both of those things. Randy Savage, Hogan’s former partner and WrestleMania loser, brought some backup in the form of No Holds Barred baddie Zeus (also known as Deebo, President Lindberg or tattooed prisoner in The Dark Knight). Obviously, Tiny Lister hit his head while filming No Holds Barred and thought he was still a human wrecking machine. Hogan, for his part, brought Brutus Beefcake as his partner, and thankfully for Beefcake, this wasn’t for the Intercontinental Title, because then The Barber would have ended up injured…
Despite defeating Zeus in the movie with an Axe Bomber, the only way Hogan found to take down Deebo in real life was by hitting him with Sensational Sherri’s loaded (yet visibly empty) purse. And that should have been the end of the Zeus Experience in the WWF. But it wasn’t. You won’t hear more about it from me until I decide to do the Survivor Series Top Ten, though.
Overall, SummerSlam 89 was world’s better than the premiere edition the year before, and that was clear from the first match.
Best Match: Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard defeated the Hart Foundation. What a great way to kick off the Pay-Per-View, with two legendary 1980s tag teams going at it. Now, yes, I am an admitted tag team wrestling mark, but it’s hard to deny that these four guys put on a clinic of what tag team wrestling is supposed to look like, and also got the crowd going for a great show. The nuances extended to whether or not it was a title match, as the Brain Busters won the tag titles from Demolition weeks before on Saturday Night’s Main Event, after the match was announced.
Worst Match: Greg “The Hammer” Valentine defeated Hercules. Really just a backdrop for the Valentine-“Rugged” Ronnie Garvin feud, this match had no chance of being anything from the moment ol’ “Hands of Stone” was announced as the special ring announcer. Garvin’s antics overshadowed the less-than-mediocre match. The match was the shortest of the show at just over three minutes but felt like an eternity.
Most Memorable: Once again, the Ultimate Warrior’s Intercontinental Title match is the backdrop for the best part of the show. It was color commentator Jesse “The Body” Ventura’s masterpiece, alongside play-by-play man Tony Schiavone. Challenger Warrior had sent champion “Ravishing” Rick Rude to the outside and hit him with the belt.
Ventura: “Hit him with the belt? This should be a disqualification! That’s a disqualification! Where the hell is the referee?”
Schiavone: “That’s outside of the ring, Jesse.”
Ventura: “So what?”
Schiavone: “As such it can just be a countout here.”
Ventura: “What are you gonna tell me, Schiavone, you can shoot someone outside the ring, as long as it’s outside the ring?”
Schiavone: “Well no…”
Ventura: “You know, you’re even dumber than Monsoon! I thought Gorilla was the stupidest guy alive!”
A Mean Malfunction: The Intercontinental Title Match had more than one memorable moment. The first came before the match even began, as “Mean” Gene Okerlund attempted to interview the champion. The WWE Network edits out the segment, but there’s always YouTube. Click here to check it out. Rude’s stoic response while manager Bobby Heenan just walks away cracks me up every time.
Simply Perfect: For anyone who believes the legend that Terry Taylor could have been the guy to take the “Mr. Perfect” moniker (which I believe Bruce Pritchard debunked on a Ric Flair podcast earlier this year), SummerSlam 89’s match between Mr. Perfect and the Red Rooster is right up your alley. Curt Hennig takes Taylor to the woodshed and pins him with the PerfectPlex in 3:21, and Perfect continues his way up the card while the Rooster continued to get defeathered.
A Bloated Roster: You can tell that there were a lot of guys on the WWF payroll that they wanted to feature when the pay-per-view has nine matches and two of them are six-man tag team matches. Both of the six-man tags could have been split into a singles match and a normal tag match – Rockers vs. Rougeaus, Santana vs. Martel, Demolition vs. Twin Towers and Andre vs. Duggan – but the dynamic of the card was likely improved by putting the matches together the way they did.
The Top Ten!
*DISCLAIMER* The Top Ten is for discussion purposes only and is in no way an official or authoritative list. It is simply my opinion.
We’ve got a lot of movement (which will likely be the case for the next few editions) this time around. New matches are in bold.
1 – Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard defeated the Hart Foundation (1989)
2 – Ultimate Warrior defeated “Ravishing” Rick Rude (c) – Intercontinental Title (1989)
3 – “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan defeated Ted DiBiase and Andre the Giant (1988)
4 – Ultimate Warrior defeated Honky Tonk Man (c) – Intercontinental Title (1988)
5 – Hulk Hogan and Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake defeated “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Zeus (1989)
6 – Rick “The Model” Martel and The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers defeated Tito Santana and The Rockers (1989)
7 – British Bulldogs vs. Fabulous Rougeau Brothers (Time Limit Draw) (1988)
8 – Demolition (c) defeated the Hart Foundation – Tag Team Titles (1988)
9 – Dusty Rhodes defeated Honky Tonk Man (1989)
10 – Ted DiBiase defeated Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka (1989)