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.
Today, it’s summer time and the living is anything but easy! It’s the match made in heaven and the match made in HELL!
SummerSlam 91 – August 26, 1991, Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
It’s a SummerSlam with Hulk Hogan as champion, which means there must be a tag team main event! After breaking the formula the previous year, the WWF came back to the dance in 1991, putting champion Hogan in a handicapped tag team main event with Ultimate Warrior against Sgt. Slaughter and his entourage. Of course, with Gen. Adnan and Col. Mustafa as your partners, you could argue that it was Slaughter who was at a disadvantage.
Two months before this card, I was at MSG to see Hogan beat Slaughter in a Desert Storm match, an attempt to recreate the magic of the Boot Camp match between Slaughter and Pat Patterson from 1981. Really, that should have ended this feud and allowed WWF to set up an even BIGGER main event for SummerSlam – Hogan and Warrior vs. Jake “the Snake” Roberts and The Undertaker. For those interested, the Hogan-Slaughter June MSG match is available on the Network.
Of course, it was still a double main event of sorts, as the epic tag team match became secondary to the real main event of the evening – the “marriage” of “Macho Man” Randy Savage to his longtime manager/love Miss Elizabeth (in reality, of course, the pair had been married for several years and this was, in fact, one of the final years of their marriage). The marriage was preceded by a video package with a noticeable music edit, taking out the song, “Together” and replacing it with some more shmaltzy crap.
SummerSlam 1991 is one of the more well-regarded of the early entries, with some fun matches and even more memorable moments.
Best Match: Bret “Hitman” Hart defeated Mr. Perfect (c) – Intercontinental Title Match. It was Bret Hart’s coming out party. After a couple of failed singles pushes, the WWF final got behind the Hitman and gave him the Intercontinental Title. The Hitman, in return, gave fans one of the evening’s memorable moments, with a great match against a broken Curt Hennig. I really don’t know how Hennig took the bumps he did in this match, considering the state he was in, but he kept up with Hart in his last match for more than a year. Perfect submitted to Hart’s finishing move, the Sharpshooter, before it was even set in. It was the fourth Intercontinental Title change in four years at the Summer Slam. Lord Alfred Hayes goes up to Stu and Helen Hart after the match and does what he can to help Stu look like an idiot. Another great SummerSlam moment! Hayes should probably have stayed doing pre-tapes.
Worst Match: The Natural Disasters defeated the Bushwhackers. You can add in Andre the Giant and the Legion of Doom, nothing is going to save this stinker. The whole match was nothing more than a backdrop for the Andre-Jimmy Hart angle, and an opportunity to have Andre on screen one more time. He couldn’t wrestle, though. He could barely walk, using crutches to get around. Everything about this match screamed main event of WWF Wrestling Challenge.
Memorable Moments: The highlight of SummerSlam 1991 came after the “Jailhouse Match” between Big Bossman and The Mountie, where the loser had to spend a night in a New York City jail. After mouthing off about the NYPD, of course, the Mountie loses the match and proceeds to give the performance of a lifetime, fighting with cops, with corrections officers and fellow inmates in a series of post-match vignettes. How can you go wrong with scenes like the biker approaching Mountie and asking him if he likes the way leather feels against his skin? Every segment was gold and still hold up 25 years later. While the match was fun, its position in the Top 10 is earned by the vignettes.
Post-Match Antics: Unfortunately, the Network version of SummerSlam 1991 doesn’t include the Coliseum Video exclusive set at the Savage-Elizabeth wedding reception, where Jake Roberts’ cobra popped out from a gift box to ruin the party. Now, having just gotten married recently, I question why Savage and Elizabeth would be opening gifts at the reception. Who has time for that between greeting people, kissing when a glass is tapped and desperately trying to find food? Had they just left the cobra in the box and waited until after they shipped it home, it wouldn’t have been a problem. But I guess they had to set up a new angle for Roberts and Undertaker, who had been feuding with the Warrior that summer.
Oh Yeah, Warrior: Thanks to the DVD “The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior,” the story of SummerSlam 1991 is pretty well known. Or, at least, Vince McMahon’s side of the story is pretty well-known. Warrior “held up” Vince for more money and was fired as soon as he chased Adnan and Mustafa through the curtain to set up the Hogan-Justice bromance.
A Dream Comes True: Perhaps the most ludicrous big match winner this year was former bodyguard Virgil, beating Ted DiBiase for the “Million Dollar Championship,” the vanity belt DiBiase created after failing to win the WWF Title. Not to worry, though, Virgil would lose the title back to DiBiase later that year and slide back down the card to be the jobber we all know and avoid at conventions and in the New York City subway system.
Photo courtesy of LonelyVirgil.Net
Speaking of Titles: In the weeks before SummerSlam, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan had been showing off the NWA World Championship title, taken from WCW when “Nature Boy” Ric Flair left in July. Here, Heenan brought the title to “Hulk Hogan’s Dressing Room” and “confronted” the champ (who was never seen with Heenan) before getting a door slammed in his face. Play-by-play announcer Gorilla Monsoon later buried the title by asking Heenan, “Why are your fingers green? What have you been carrying around?”
The SummerSlam Top Ten!
Bret Hart continues to outdo himself at the Summer Slam!
*DISCLAIMER* The Top Ten is for discussion purposes only and is in no way an official or authoritative list. It is simply my opinion.
1 – Bret “Hitman” Hart defeated Mr. Perfect (c) – Intercontinental Title Match (1991)
2 – Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard defeated the Hart Foundation (1989)
3 – The Hart Foundation defeated Demolition (c) – 2-out-of-3 Falls Tag Team Title Match (1990)
4 – Ultimate Warrior defeated “Ravishing” Rick Rude (c) – Intercontinental Title Match(1989)
5 – “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan defeated Ted DiBiase and Andre the Giant (1988)
6 – Ultimate Warrior defeated Honky Tonk Man (c) – Intercontinental Title Match (1988)
7 – Big Bossman defeated The Mountie – Jailhouse Match (1991)
8 – Hulk Hogan and Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake defeated “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Zeus (1989)
9 – Rick “The Model” Martel and The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers defeated Tito Santana and The Rockers (1989)
10 – British Bulldogs vs. Fabulous Rougeau Brothers (Time Limit Draw) (1988)