The Three Count

T3C: The History of WWE SummerSlam

Back in 1988 Vince McMahon’s expansion of the World Wrestling Federation was gathering pace. Wrestlemania was well established and the previous year he’d launched The Survivor Series. Now all he needed was a massive event between the two PPVs so on 29th August 1988, Summerslam was born. It’s gone on to become the second biggest PPV of the year, so it’s time to take a look back at the history of this event and explain amongst many other things, why Inter-Continental Champions have every reason to be very worried when they defend their title at Summerslam…

Back in 1988 Vince McMahon’s expansion of the World Wrestling Federation was gathering pace. Wrestlemania was well established and the previous year he’d launched The Survivor Series. Now all he needed was a massive event between the two PPVs so on 29th August 1988, Summerslam was born. It’s gone on to become the second biggest PPV of the year, so it’s time to take a look back at the history of this event and explain amongst many other things, why Inter-Continental Champions have every reason to be very worried when they defend their title at Summerslam.

Like Wrestlemania, Summerslam was born at Madison Square Garden and of course Hulk Hogan was in the first main event. However, Hogan wasn’t champion having lost the title to Andre the Giant and seeing Randy Savage win the belt at WM IV. So the main event saw Hogan team up with Savage to beat Dibiase and Andre. Shockingly Miss Elizabeth revealed her red knickers in order to distract the heels, I wonder what she’d have had to do in 2005 to do that!

Elsewhere on a busy card that included 10 matches, the longest reigning IC Champion met a sorry end. The Honky Tonk Man was due to defend against Brutus ‘The Barber’ Beefcake but he was injured so Honky didn’t know who he’d be defending his title against. Enter The Ultimate Warrior who amazingly beat HTM in just 28 seconds! Demolition retained their tag titles beating the Hart Foundation in just less than ten minutes. First ever match at Summerslam? The British Bulldogs had a twenty minute draw with the Rougeau brothers and probably tried to kill each other backstage! Rick Rude beat JYD, Dino Bravo beat Don Muraco and Jake Roberts beat Hercules Hernandez.

Summerslam proved to be a great success and in 1989 was held in New Jersey. By now Hogan wasn’t just champion again but a film star. He’d filmed the appalling ‘No Holds Barred’ and Vince made the mistake of making another of the movies stars into a wrestler. In the main event Hogan tagged with Beefcake to beat Savage and the woeful Zeus. The IC Title changed hands again and like in 1988 it was the Ultimate Warrior who won the belt. He’d dropped it to Rick Rude at WM5 but got it back here in 16 minutes. There was lots of tag team wrestling on this card with The Brainbusters beating the Hart Foundation, The Rougeaus and Rick Martel beating The Rockers and Tito Santana, Demolition and Duggan beating Andre, Akeem and Bossman and of course the main event. Compare that to what we get now! Other highlights included Dusty Rhodes pinning The Honky Tonk Man (at least he lasted nine minutes this time) and Curt Hennig getting a push as he beat Terry Taylor.

Summerslam moved into the 90s with a double main event in Philadelphia. In the first WWF title match ever held at Summerslam. The Ultimate Warrior beat Rick Rude in a steel cage match but it was Hogan who stole the limelight as usual beating Earthquake. Guess what, the IC curse struck again as Kerry Von Erich beat Mr Perfect for the title, sadly both wrestlers are no longer with us. The tag titles also changed hands as the Hart Foundation laid their Summerslam hoodoo and beat Demolition in a best of three falls match. Elsewhere there were wins for Jake Roberts, The Warlord, Randy Savage and The Rockers lost again, this time to Hercules and Paul Roma.

It was back to MSG in 91 and the post Iraqi war story as Hogan (now champ again) and Warrior beat the team of Slaughter, Mustafa and General Adnan (who has a very interesting autobiography out at the moment). The Legion of Doom beat The Nasty Boys to win the tag titles and there was also a match for the IC Title and for the fourth year in a row the belt changed hands as Bret Hart beat Mr Perfect, the second year in a row that Hennig lost the belt at Summerslam. Virgil beat Ted Dibiase to win the Million Dollar Belt and there were pushes for IRS and The Big Bossman beat The Mountie meaning the Canadian had to spend the night in a jail!

No guesses for where the 1992 event was held, it was of course at Wembley Stadium and Hogan was nowhere to be seen. Quick hint to Vince here, that’s 13 years since one of your major PPVs was held in the UK. Main event was the IC Title match and lo and behold it happened again as the British Bulldog beat Bret Hart to become the new champion. Five years and five IC title changes. Randy Savage retained his WWF title against The Ultimate Warrior in a match dominated by the presence of Ric Flair (who won the belt days later) and Mr Perfect. The Natural Disasters retained their tag titles against the awful Beverley Brothers, Shawn Michaels had a bizarre ‘don’t hit me in the face’ match with Rick Martel and The Undertaker came to the ring in a hearse and then beat Kamala by DQ in just three minutes. Big pushes were being given to Papa Shango, Nailz and Crush.

By 1993 it was all-change in the WWF. Bret Hart had won the WWF Title, lost it to Yokozuna who then lost and regained it against Hogan. Lex Luger was the companies new all-American hero beating Yokozuna by count-out in the main event but not winning the title. Shawn Michaels created history by beating Mr Perfect to retain the IC Title, the first successful defence of the belt at the PPV and Mr Perfect’s third IC loss at Summerslam. Lots of awful matches on this card with Undertaker beating Giant Gonzalez (when they said Orton would meet a former opponent of Undi on Smackdown I had a great fear that the Giant might return). Razor Ramon beat Ted Dibiase in the latter’s last match for the company, World Tag Champs The Steiners beat the Heavenly Bodies and Jerry Lawler beat Bret Hart, The big push was being given to Ludvig Borga who beat Marty Jannetty.

1994 saw the event in Chicago and a terrible main event as The Undertaker made his return to beat Ted Dibiase’s Evil Undertaker (Brian Lee). Unbelievably that was above the WWF Title steel cage match which saw Bret Hart beat Owen Hart. It was too good to last as the IC Title changed hands again as Razor Ramon beat Diesel but more from the former champ later. The Women’s title was defended for the first time on a Summerslam card as Alundra ‘Madusa’ Blayze beat Bull Nakano to keep the belt she’d one day dump in a bin on Nitro.

If the 1994 main event was bad enough, Vince managed to top (bottom?) it in 1995 with Diesel successfully defending his WWF Title against King Mabel in just under ten minutes Meanwhile Shawn Michaels proved he could do what others couldn’t with another successful IC Title defence, this time against Razor Ramon in a ladder match ordered by Commissioner Gorilla Monsoon. The late Bertha Faye won the women’s title from Alundra Blayze and Bret Hart beat Isaac ‘Kane’ Yankem. Hunter Hearst Helmsley made his Summerslam debut beating Bob Holly and Barry Horowitz beat Skip (aka the late Chris Candido and am I sick of writing about the fact great stars have died).

We were due a better main event in 1996 and nearly got it as Shawn Michaels beat Vader to keep his WWF Title. The Smoking Gunns beat Skip and Zip, The New Rockers and The God(Awful)Winns to keep the tag titles. There was no IC Title match. Best match was when Mankind beat The Undertaker in a Boiler Room brawl with Paul Bearer turning heel. Sid beat Davey Boy Smith, Goldust beat Marc Mero and the dark match was Austin beating Yokozuna in less than two minutes.

History was made in 1997 as the WWF title finally changed hands as Bret Hart beat The Undertaker. Mankind beat Triple H in a cage match, Goldust beat Brian Pillman who sadly died a few months later and Davey Boy Smith beat Ken Shamrock to keep his European Title. The curse continued as Steve Austin beat Owen Hart to win the IC Title in a match that shortened his career.

It was back to Madison Square Garden in 1998 and in the main event Steve Austin retained his WWF Title beating The Undertaker. The New Age Outlaws won the tag titles beating Mankind (Kane didn’t appear) and Ken Shamrock beat Owen Hart in a Lion’s Den match. European Champ, D-Lo Brown beat Val Venis by DQ and X-Pac beat Jeff Jarrett in a hair v hair match. What about the IC Title I hear you cry? Well, again it changed hands as Triple H beat Rocky Mavia to win the title.

Onwards to Minneapolis in 1999 and a WWF Title change as Mankind beat Triple H and Steve Austin (defending champ) to in he title. He didn’t have a long reign though, losing the belt to Triple H the next night on Raw. Oh no, not again! The IC Title changed hands again as Jeff Jarrett beat D-Lo Brown to win the IC and European titles. Undertaker and Big Show beat X-Pac and Kane to win the tag titles, Test beat Shane McMahon to further his hopes of marrying Stephanie, The Rock beat Billy Gunn and Ken Shamrock beat Steve Blackman in a Lion’s Den match. Ivory retained her women’s title against Tori.

Summerslam 2000 next and the main event was a corker with The Rock retaining his WWF Title in a three-way match against Kurt Angle and Triple H who were too busy feuding over Stephanie. Can you believe this? A new IC Champ was crowned as Chyna and Eddie Guerrero beat IC Champ Val Venis and Trish Stratus in a mixed tag match. Chyna got the pin and the belt! Steve Blackman beat Shane McMahon to win the Hardcore title and Edge and Christian retained their tag titles in a titanic TLC match against the Hardys and the Dudleys. The Kat beat Terri in a Stink face thong match and The Undertaker had a no-contest against brother Kane.

2001 was a strange year as the failed invasion storyline was in full flow but it didn’t stop the IC title changing hands! Edge beat Lance Storm to win the belt. WCW Cruiserweight champ X-Pac beat WWF Light Heavyweight Champ Tajiri, RVD won the Hardcore title in a ladder match against Jeff Hardy and WCW Tag champs, Undertaker and Kane beat WWF Tag champs DDP and Kanyon. The Rock won the WCW Title from Booker T and in the main event Kurt Angle beat WWF Champ Steve Austin by DQ but the belts didn’t change hands. A really confusing year!

2002 saw a changing of the guard as Brock Lesnar beat The Rock to become the new Undisputed Champion. Again!! RVD beat Chris Benoit to win the IC Title. Tag Champs Christian and Lance Storm kept their belts against Booker T and Goldust. Elsewhere Kurt Angle beat Rey Mysterio, Ric Flair beat Chris Jericho, Edge pinned Eddie Guerrero and Undertaker beat Test. Match of the night was when Shawn Michaels made his comeback to beat Triple H.

By 2003 the WWE had split its brand into Raw and Smackdown and the IC title was no more. Main event saw Triple H keep his World Heavyweight Title as he beat Goldberg, Orton, Nash, Michaels and Jericho in an Elimination Chamber Match. Smackdown champ Kurt Angle beat Brock Lesnar. Raw tag champs, La Resistance beat The Dudleys, while Eddie Guerrero beat Benoit, Rhyno and Tajiri to keep the US Title. Shane McMahon beat Eric Bischoff in a waste of time and The Undertaker had to put up with a match against A-Train, he won of course. Kane beat RVD.

Finally we reach 2004 and an amazing fact. Edge retained the restored IC Title against Batista and Jericho. Randy Orton became the youngest World Heavyweight Champ as he beat Chris Benoit and WWE Champ, JBL lost to the Undertaker by DQ but kept his belt. Kane beat Matt Hardy so he forced Lita to marry her, could we ever have guessed what would happen over the next 12 months? John Cena beat Booker T, Triple H beat Egene and Kurt Angle beat Eddie Guerrero.

2005 saw Summerslam held in Washington and  the return of Hulk Hogan in his first ‘Summerslam’ match for 14 years. His opponent was Shawn Michaels in one of those dream matches.  While Hogan was in his heyday, Michaels was on his way up to the top, by the time he got there, Hogan was in WCW. Michaels had shocked the world by turning on Hogan thus beginning another of his temporary heel turns that seem to end the minute his paycheque clears.  Hogan won by pinfall after a leg-drop and Michaels never got his return match.

Batista beat JBL in a No Holds Barred match to retain his World Heavyweight title while John Cena kept his WWE title beating Chris Jericho.  WWE have had some pretty sick storylines over the year but they went way over the top in the ladder match between Rey Mysterio and Eddie Guerrero.  No title shot at stake just the custody of a child, namely Dominick. Mysterio got the win after interference by Vickie Guerrero. None of us would dare imagine that within months Eddie would be dead and Vickie would be a future Raw and Smackdown GM and ‘married’ to Edge.

The opening match on the card was over before you knew it as Chris Benoit beat Orlando Jordan in just 25 seconds.  Good to see WWE fully utilising their talent isn’t it?  The feud between Edge and Matt Hardy continued but failed to make the impact that it should have.  All of the anger Hardy took into the match after the real-life story of Lita’s affair with Edge ended in the match being stopped after Hardy was cut after hitting the ringpost.

Yet again Kurt Angle found himself in a storyline that revolved around his precious Olympic Gold medal. That now belonged to Eugene but a submission win for Angle meant he regained the medal. Now take it home and put it under lock and key Kurt.  Randy Orton beat The Undertaker after interference by a fan who was later revealed to be ‘Cowboy’ Bob Orton.

2006 saw ‘Summerslam’ in Boston and for the first time ECW was included. The main event on Raw saw Edge beat John Cena to retain his WWE title after using brass knuckles. Over on Smackdown the World Heavyweight title match saw Batista beat King Booker after interference by Queen Sharmell but it was Booker who left the arena as champion.  The ECW debut saw The Big Show make it a good night for defending champions as he beat Sabu in an Extreme Rules match  Hulk Hogan was back for another payday and surprise, surprise he managed to beat Randy Orton.  Guess even Randy can’t kill every legend in the business.

2006 saw the feud between DX and The McMahons drag on and on and on.  There had to be a match at Summerslam and it was DX who got the win over Shane and Vince despite interference from the likes of Kennedy, Umaga, Regal and the Spirit Squad.

Chavo Guerrero beat Rey Mysterio as Vickie Guerrero’s interference backfired. The year before had seen WWE mix fact with fiction to create a feud  as Edge faced Matt Hardy, they tried it again this year with Ric Flair and Mick Foley. The pair hadn’t been getting on since Flair made derogatory comments about Foley in his autobiography.  They met in an “I Quit” match and it was Flair who got the win with Foley quitting as it looked as if Flair was about to hit Melina with a barbed wire baseball bat.

Not one match on the card lasted 16 minutes, again there were no tag title or women’s title matches and Hulk Hogan made one of his earliest appearances on a PPV wrestling in the fourth match.

The twentieth ’Summerslam’ took place on August 26th 2007 in East Rutherford, New Jersey and for the third year in a row Batista had a match for the World Heavyweight title. No chance of a classic though as he challenged The Great Khali for the belt. Just like the year before Batista got a DQ win but not the belt as Khali got himself intentionally disqualified hitting Batista with a steel chair.  John Cena retained his WWE title beating Randy Orton after an FU.  The ECW title match saw John Morrison beat CM Punk.

Kane beat Finlay in the opening match.  The IC title was defended at the PPV for the first time since 2004 and Umaga pinned Mr Kennedy in a match that also included Carlito to keep his title.  A year had passed but Mysterio was still having matches with Chavo. This was Mysterio’s comeback from injury and he managed to get the win this time around. Also making a return from injury was Triple H who pinned King Booker.

For a change there was a Diva’s match, an inter-promotional Battle Royal no less.  A great way for Vince to get as many women on screen as possible at the same time.  A shot at the WWE Women’s title was up for grabs and it was Beth Phoenix who got the win.

‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin made an appearance facing US Champion MVP in a beer drinking contest. Of course he gave MVP a ‘Stone Cold Stunner’ as ever.

2008 saw the PPV held in Indianapolis and amazingly Khali was in another title match. This time around he lost a WWE title match to defending champion Triple H. A year after losing a match for the ECW title, CM Punk was the World Heavyweight champion and that’s how he left the arena after a win over JBL as he fought to win the crowd over.

Many people thought that Cena v Batista might be a main event for WrestleMania 25 (if Batista was fit and that’s a big ask). However, WWE rushed the feud along and Cena got the win over his opponent. The main event though didn’t have any titles on the line as the Edge v Undertaker feud continued in a Hell in a Cell match. Undi didn’t just get the win but sent Edge to hell. MVP pinned Jeff Hardy in a match that saw interference by Shelton Benjamin. Second match of the night was a unique battle that saw both the IC and Women’s titles on the line.  Mickie James and Kofi Kingston defended their belts against Beth Phoenix and Santino Marella,  Phoenix pinned James to give herself the Women’s title and Marella the IC belt.  Mark Henry retained his ECW title despite a DQ loss to Matt Hardy after the challenger was assaulted by Tony Atlas. Jeff Hardy came to the ring and gave Atlas a Swanton Bomb and a double suplex on Henry. That certainly gave the champion plenty of momentum, not.Shawn Michaels announced that doctors had told him to retire but he was soon interrupted by Chris Jericho who ended up accidentally punching Michaels’ wife.

So we come to 2009 and such is the current stagnation in WWE the main event sees Orton v Cena which also happened back in 2007.  Look out for more about ‘Summerslam 2009’ elsewhere on this site…

Stephen Ashfield