February 11, 2008
Scott Criscuolo & Justin Rozzero

Summerslam
August 18, 1996
Gund Arena
Cleveland, Ohio
Attendance: 17,000
Buy Rate: .58
Announcers: Vince McMahon, Jim Ross, Mr. Perfect

Free-for-All Match

Steve Austin (Williams) beat Yokozuna (Rodney Anoia) in 1:52

Actual Show

1) Owen Hart defeats Savio Vega (Juan Rivera) with the Sharpshooter at 13:22

Fun Fact: In homage to Cowboy Bob Orton, Owen is still wearing his cast from his broken arm that he suffered in May.

Scott: This was a solid opener to the second biggest show of the year. Owen Hart continues to establish himself as a great singles wrestler, and an even better heel. Savio Vega was one of the mid-90s most underrated superstars. Since his debut at the black hole that was the 1995 King of The Ring, Vega has brought it in every match he’s been in. Not the best physique, or the best cache of moves, but he held his end of the bargain in every match he was in. Owen continues to sell the Bob Orton/Mike Sharpe arm injury, but still finds a way to execute crisp moves with one arm in a cast. The storyline hook is when Clarence Mason, attorney for Camp Cornette, comes out to cheer Owen on. Vince has been making overtures that Mason was trying to swipe Camp Cornette from under Corny’s own nose. He already manages Crush, and now looks like he’s paying too much attention for an attorney to Owen Hart. Savio drops Owen with a back suplex, but lands on Owen’s cast. Owen takes the cast off, whacks Savio with it, and wrenches the Sharpshooter for the win. Owen, who got some face pops after the match, is a heel tactician. After the match, Justin Hawk Bradshaw comes out and attacks Savio. This sets up their feud for the next month. Grade: 3

Justin: A nice opener to get the show off to a good start. Savio was a very underrated talent at the time as he always put out a great effort and some good workrate to boot. The more I rewatch Savio matches, the more I appreciate what he brought to the table during this stretch. As Scott said, he wasn’t the best or most polished, but he always put on a solid performance, played a good face in peril and connected well with the crowd. He was very much becoming the mid-90s version of Tito Santana (post 89) or Koko B. Ware at this point: the reliable and plucky face that would put the new heel over. This is Owen’s last PPV singles match for a while, as he finds a full time partner after this show. Owen knocks Vega out with his ever-present cast and locks him in the Sharpshooter for the victory. As much as I disliked Savio at the time, I remember enjoying this match and the fact that it sticks out in my mind says something, I think. Grade: 2.5

2) Smoking Gunns defeat New Rockers, Body Donnas & Godwinns in a Fatal Four Way to retain WWF Tag Team Titles

Eliminations:
Billy Gunn (Monte Sopp) pins Zip (Tom Pritchard) at 4:00; Body Donnas eliminated
Henry (Bill Canterbury) beats Leif Cassidy (Al Sarven) at 7:17; New Rockers eliminated
Billy Gunn pins Phineas Godwinn (Dennis Knight) at 12:17 Godwinns eliminated

Fun Fact: This is the first ever Four-way match of any kind in WWF PPV History.

Fun Fact II: Chris Candido had fractured vertebrae the previous week at Madison Square Garden, and is even sporting a neck collar during this match. He never tags in and the Body Donnas would hang around for the next set of TV tapings, but wouldn’t make it to October. Their final PPV tag team record is 3-3, including 1-1 at a pair of Free for All matches.

Fun Fact III: Al Snow makes his PPV debut here. He’s one of the most accomplished and well-schooled grapplers in the business, knowing genres from martial arts, shoot fighting, and freestyle. He started in Midwest Championship Wrestling in his home state of Ohio. Between November 1986 and August 1992, Snow captured six MCW/ICW United States Tag Team titles with three different partners. He moved to Smoky Mountain in 1995 and won the tag titles there with Glen Jacobs. He arrived in the WWF in October 1995 and was a couple of masked personas (Avatar and Shinobi the Ninja). He was re-packaged as Leif Cassidy, a dorky child of the 70s, and teamed with Marty Jannetty as the New Rockers.

Scott: This was a four-way match for the tag titles between the four top teams in the WWF. Chris Candido was wrestling with an injured neck, so the Body Donnas were not going to win. In fact, they pretty much vanished after this. The New Rockers were the heel team of Marty Jannetty and Leif Cassidy, the PPV debut of Al Snow (not counting Free for All matches). Snow’s real impact wouldn’t be for a few years, but for now he was a mid-carder without a real identity. So really it was the Godwinns and the Gunns for the titles, with two other teams for distractions. This feud is really starting to run its course, and the tag team division was really at its lowest point. The action was very choppy, as all those tags to other teams kind of ruined the flow of the match. Sunny was still with the Gunns, but that wouldn’t last. They retain the titles, but their shelf life as a team, now 3 years, was running out. As a whole the match was kind of a dud, and the tag division really needed a shot in the arm. Grade: 2

Justin: A pretty boring match that completely kills the crowd, despite Sunny at ringside, which tells you just how boring this really was. The Donnas were useless at this point, the Rockers were quite good but had been buried so badly, no one bought them as legit challengers, and the Godwinns were fairly over but not enough to generate good heat for the stale Gunns. Thankfully, the tag division would get a huge shot in the arm over the next couple months, because it was sorely needed at this point. There is no flow here, but I guess it is understandable, as this is the first time the WWF had tried one of these matches. Still, this killed anyway goodwill the opener had established with the crowd. They would wake up big time in a few minutes, however, because the next match features arguably the hottest face of the second half of 1996. Grade: 1

3) Sid (Eudy) defeats British Bulldog (David Smith) with a Powerbomb at 6:22

Fun Fact: This is Sid’s first and only Summerslam match.

Scott: Is this the same Sid we saw one year earlier? He was energetic, into the match, and got the fans jacked up. This was the start of the greatest run of his career in the WWF. His return has completely re-energized the fans who ditched him after that debacle heel run in 1995. Bulldog was still a solid heel, but someone had to be the fodder in this match. Sid was a sluggish, uninterested bum throughout 1995. But this was a different year and he had a different attitude. The fans are into their guy again, and his momentum would continue throughout the rest of the year. In fact his momentum, along with a defection to WCW, would change the course of WWF storylines. More on that in future reviews. For now, Sid is the man! Grade: 2

Justin: A really fun, quick match here that ends with a nasty Powerbomb from Sid (he just lets go, prompting Bulldog to try and brace his fall with his arm, making him look like an ass in the process). I think the reason Sid’s 1996 run was better than 1995 was because he was positioned as an ass-kicking face instead of a cowardly heel. The crowds were always into this guy, and in 1995 here was this huge over ass kicking monster forced to play a bitch-faced weak heel against the tepid Big Daddy Cool. This time around, he is a Psycho Killer and the crowd can finally rally behind him. This is the way Sid should always be booked and I think explains why this was his best run of his career. Bulldog puts up a good fight here, but goes down quickly to the Ruler of the World as Sid embarks on the best run of his WWF career. The loss doesn’t really affect the Bulldog, as he would change directions following this show and would finally strike some gold. Grade: 2

4) Goldust (Dustin Runnells) defeats Marc Mero (Marc Merowitz) with the Curtain Call at 11:00

Fun Fact: This is during the bizarre storyline where Goldust, Mankind and Marlena were paired as a surrogate family. Mankind started looking up to Sable as a mother figure, going as far as calling her “Mommy.” He kept coming out during Mero matches to stalk her which is why Goldust is facing the Wildman here. Mankind comes out to stalk Sable during this match, but quickly disappears. The story was dropped shortly after this show.

Scott: This was a very stiff match between two men going in opposite directions. Goldust is kind of floating aimlessly right now. He no longer has the IC Title, his feud with The Undertaker is almost over, so now he and Marlena are messing with Sable. Mero, on the other hand, is looking up. After toiling with Hunter Hearst-Helmsley for a while, he gets a golden opportunity after this match when Ahmed Johnson has to forfeit the IC Title due to kidney injuries. Those injuries were suffered at the hands of the new goofy gimmick of the company. Former WCW World Champion Ron Simmons, who was now called Faarooq Assad. Most casual don’t remember him as WCW champ because that was when Ric Flair was in the WWF and WCW had to use another belt, but I actually enjoyed his title run until Vader squashed him. He also had a solid feud with Lex Luger, when Luger had Harley Race as his manager. But, I digress. Due to the forfeit, Mero gets into a tournament for the vacant title, which we’ll expound on in our next review. This was a solid, stiff encounter. Grade: 3

Justin: A very stiff, but slow-paced match here, as the decomposition of Goldust continues. This was a bit of a surprise, as Mero was very over, especially when he debuts the “Wild Thing” shooting star press during the match, but Goldust picks up the big win. Better days were ahead for the Wildman, but Goldust would continue to float aimlessly in the mid-card ocean. Not a great match, but a decent effort for a couple of new WWF stars. The crowd has flattened out a bit after the big pop for Sid, and this really wasn’t the type of match to bring them back. They do pop when Mero busts out the Shooting Star Press, but the Goldust win quiets them back down. As mentioned above, Mankind makes his way to the ring during the match and starts to stalk Sable around the ring. Mick Foley actually talks a bit about the angle in his first book, and basically says it was just dropped out of the blue as they changed directions with both characters shortly after. Grade: 2.5

***At this point, Ahmed Johnson was supposed to have been defending his Intercontinental Title against the newcomer, Faarooq (Ron Simmons). However, on the July 22nd episode of Raw, Ahmed and Shawn Michaels were challenging the Gunns for the Tag Titles when Faarooq ran out (making his debut, dressed in a hilarious Gladiator outfit, with silver helmet of course) and kicked Ahmed square in the back, rupturing his kidney in the process. Ahmed missed two weeks and then returned to the ring to take part in a Battle Royal to determine who would face World Champ Shawn Michaels on a special Friday Raw. Ahmed won the Battle Royal but proceeded to fuck his kidney up even worse than before and was forced to have surgery and miss some significant time in addition to forfeiting his I-C Title. Instead of the match here, Faarooq comes out with his manager Sunny, to run down Ahmed and takes credit for putting him on the shelf. Ahmed would return in October, but would never be the same wrestler again. He would be injury plagued and dangerous (trying to protect himself, thus injuring others) in the ring. ***

5) Jerry Lawler defeats Jake Roberts (Aurelian Smith, Jr.) with a bottle of Jim Beam to the throat at 4:07

Fun Fact: Jerry Lawler had been tormenting the Snake for the better part of a month about his “demons” and his past, despite Jake’s claims that he was clean and had found God. The sad part was that Jake was rumored to have been getting back on the sauce and doing crack again, making this storyline a little too real.

Scott: This was very bizarre. Another “King makes fun of someone and gets his ass kicked” feud. However, this one ends differently. King actually beats Roberts, who by now really looked like he was back on the sauce. Lawler really had some good one-liners here, but it’s sad that it took real life problems to make a storyline. The irony is that Lawler, who’s a die-hard Cleveland Browns fan, had to fire up the crowd by wearing a Baltimore Ravens jersey. s usual with Lawler this match takes forever to get going and really saps the energy out of the crowd, the second time for this show. We also see the first appearance of Mark Henry, truly a man who duped the great Vince McMahon to a 10-year debacle of a contract. This entire segment was one big waste of time. Grade: 1

Justin: A really boring stallfest, as is usual for Lawler. Mark Henry, whose sole highlight to this point was a video of him dunking a basketball and him slamming the King during a commercial break on Raw, had just been signed his 10-year contract and is doing commentary for this abortion. The best part of this match, once again, is Lawler’s pre-match banter as he breaks out his Vinny Testaverde Ravens jersey (the Browns had just left Cleveland for Baltimore earlier in the year) to help embarrass the crowd a little more. After riffing on Cleveland for a while, he breaks out a couple of bottles of liquor to torment the Snake some more and nails a few pretty funny lines. Jake was reportedly a mess by this point, and the fact that he lasted until January 1997 is amazing. I think Vince brought Jake back because he figured since he was clean, he could be a valuable tool in teaching younger wrestlers some psychology, give some guys a good rub by beating a legend and by helping book a bit. Jake was still very over in 1996 (more so than the Warrior was), so it wasn’t a bad move, per se, until Jake fell off the wagon, which was pretty much a given. A waste of time here, however, as I don’t see what putting Lawler over Jake accomplishes, but whatever. Grade: 1

6) Mankind (Mick Foley) defeats Undertaker (Mark Callaway) in the Boiler Room Brawl when Paul Bearer (William Moody) hits Undertaker with the urn and gives it to Mankind at 27:22

Fun Fact: The early portions of this match (all of the Boiler Room parts) were taped the day before and edited down to make it crisp and give it a flow. Mankind and Taker just waited backstage until the pre-taped part ended, and at the point they came through the curtain and finished the match.

Fun Fact II: Undertaker was carried off by Druids at the end of the match and, according to the rumor mill, was supposed to be taking a couple of months off, after which he would return with a new look, since rumored to have possibly been an all white costume. Amidst rumors that he was headed to WCW, Vince decided to quell the rumblings and not re-package the Dead Man just yet, and he showed up the next night on Raw with no explanation of the Druids or his disappearance.

Fun Fact III: Undertaker cuts his arm in the Boiler Room portion of the match and develops a very serious Staph Infection, which nearly led to him having to have his arm amputated from the elbow down, which could have obviously been quite bad.

Scott: This is the ultimate example of unpredictability. Everyone and their mother thought Undertaker was going to win this match, and that was that. Taker only got screwed in title matches, and won the rest, right? Wrong…dead wrong. The shocking heel turn of Paul Bearer led to Mankind winning his second PPV match from the Deadman in 3 months. I was very shocked that this match was as long as it was, considering the first 23 minutes were spent smacking the shit out each other with various weapons in the bowels of Gund Arena. Even with the first part of the show edited it could have been a little shorter. The crowd starts to get restless when the video feed goes out for about 90 seconds, which could have been edited out. Taker comes out to the ring first, and is on the verge of finishing the feud off, but the shocker: the man who has been with the Deadman since almost the beginning turns on his protégé. Paul Bearer now leaves the ring with his new man, and Taker is left in the ring puzzled with the rest of those watching in the arena and at home. Mick Foley has been nothing short of brilliant since debuting in April. Taker, now looking mortal, has gained even more sympathy from fans, making his character even stronger. Taker also gets a nasty looking elbow cut that leads to a serious infection and near amputation. This storyline continues on and why not, it’s great. This was a solid, stiff brawl that could have been a little shorter. Grade: 3

Justin: A really, really long match that features some great brawling and awesome psychology. You really have to be patient when watching this match, as there is no commentary, for the Boiler parts anyway, to keep you focused. These two really smack the shit out of each other with various weapons, with one especially awesome spot where Mankind flew backwards off a ladder into a pile of steel poles. They go back and forth through out the boiler room and backstage area before tumbling out into the arena to hit the climax of the match. Mankind works in another sick bump once they hit the ring, as he takes the Nestea Plunge onto the exposed concrete floor outside the ring. The reason they started in the Boiler Room to begin with is due to Mankind’s original back story. As a child, Mankind was a young prodigy of a piano player. One time though, his mother got so pissed at him she slammed his hand in the piano, severely breaking his hand and ending his piano playing days. Mankind ran away and ended up living in sewers and boiler rooms to hide his disfigured body. All of the original vignettes that back this up are on Mick Foley’s Greatest Hits and Misses DVD. Anyway, this match ends with a very shocking twist, as Bearer turns his back on his long time friend and joins forces with Mankind. Foley had done what nobody had done before: beat the Undertaker at two straight PPVs. The awesome feud would continue through the end of the year, but would Taker finally get his revenge? Stay tuned. Grade: 3

7) Shawn Michaels (Michael Hickenbottom) defeats Vader (Leon White) to retain WWF World Title with a moonsault at 22:16

Fun Fact: According to internet rumors, Vader was supposed to win the title here, but Michaels threw a big tantrum backstage and the finish was changed to the two non-title wins by Vader during the match but the Title win by Michaels.

Fun Fact II: Vader had dominated the pair of altercations he had with the World Champion over the past month of television, starting with picking up the winning pin at International Incident. Then, on the August 12th Raw, Michaels took on Owen Hart. After Shawn picked up the victory, Vader made his move. While Shawn was distracted with Owen, Vader drilled him with a clothesline and then began putting the boots to him. Vader continued to punish him, finally putting him down for good with a pair of killer Vader Bombs. The show faded out with Vader making his way to the top rope, lining up a Vadersault.

Scott: This was a good title match for a Summerslam, but it was flawed in many ways. First, we have the plusses. Great psychology as Vader wins this match twice; once by countout at 13:48, and once by disqualification at 17:57. Jim Cornette asks for the matches to be re-started so Vader can win the title. Well that fails, as Shawn hits the moonsault, and retains the title. Now, we get to the minuses. Vader is a monster heel, but obviously his mobility is somewhat limited. So the pace of the match is painfully slow, and Michaels isn’t used to wrestling guys that slow. Then, there was of course, the monthly Shawn Michaels bitch-fest. He hadn’t had an on-air tantrum since May, but it comes back here. This time he attempts his elbow from the top rope, but realizes that Vader is too close to the corner to hit it effectively. So, instead of improvising, he goes to the top rope, sees Vader is out of position, jumps from the rope to his feet, and throws another tantrum in the ring, blaming Vader. What the fuck is his problem? What wrestling school did he learn that from? I can’t imagine Jose Lothario throwing tantrums. Lothario was at ringside as he usually is, and I can’t imagine he was too happy that his prized pupil, the WWF Champion was crying like a chick. Now wanting perfection in a match is one thing, but showing you’re upset on camera is totally unprofessional. It happens again next month, but his opponent there doesn’t stand for it. Grade: 3.5

Justin: A really good, stiff match, which is totally expected from Vader, with some great bumping and selling by HBK. It is so sad to see what a bitch Michaels became during this run because he is putting on a very entertaining Title reign featuring some great Title matches on both PPV and TV. I am sure Vader worked extra stiff as a little payback for Michaels’ reported hissy fit in the back, but Vader has always been a professional, so he didn’t fuck him up as bad as could/should have. Michaels run is coming to an end, as 1997 would bring unpredictability and extra attitude from ol’ HBK as he steamrolls to his temporarily career ending injury. Anyway, this is a very good Main Event that overcomes the odd booking and ends the show on a good note. Sadly, this was pretty much the high point of Vader’s WWF run, as he never really gets this high profile of a feud again. Michaels continues to deliver the good as Champion, however his reign has come during one of the worst down periods in WWF history, so his days were starting to be numbered. Grade: 3.5

FINAL ANALYSIS

Scott: This was a better show than it looked on paper, with Michaels headlining his first Summerslam with a successful title defense, but the undercard was a little shaky. The tag team match was a mess, and Mero/Goldust was dreadfully boring. Also missing from this show was two of the top undercard studs. Hunter Hearst-Helmsley didn’t wrestle in the show and Steve Austin defeated Yokozuna in the Free for All. The last two matches ate up 49:38, so that was one reason there were only 7 matches. In other years this show would probably have gotten a below average grade, but considering we are following 1995’s quality, in hindsight this show wasn’t as bad as it could have been. 1996 continues to be a transition year, and the new crop of talent continues to make a big impact. Final Grade: C+

Justin: A pretty good show that was always one of my guilty pleasures. With the exception of the Tag Team Clusterfuck and the Lawler nonsense, although that is somewhat saved by his comments, every match is entertaining and meaningful in one way or another. The last two matches are very solid and fun to watch which definitely helps this show hold up now-a-days. This may not be as good as KOTR, but it holds its own for sure. Vince was still working on his product, all while trying to play catch-up to WCW. Michaels’ title reign was popular and entertaining, but WCW was so red hot and thus neither HBK nor the WWF were drawing big numbers and the company was starting to leak money left and right which led to Vince finally deciding a change was necessary. And it would be a change that caught many fans and pundits off guard. Final Grade: B-

MVP: Sid & Vader
Runner Up: Mankind & Undertaker
Non-MVP: Shawn Michaels
Runner Up: Steve Austin (poor booking)

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