Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Greatest Night in the History of the WWF: Episode 1

Made in Heaven or Made in Hell?
I was trolling around the internet tonight and got sucked into an article written by David Shoemaker (or The Masked Man on Deadspin) posted on Bill Simmons's Grantland. In the article, David writes about the upcoming WWE pay-per-view featuring a match between CM Punk and John Cena. The build up for the match has apparently been fantastic and the internet is split on how the match will end. I lost interest in wrestling sometime after Vince McMahon destroyed the WCW and lost the competitive edge that resulted in wrestling's re-birth in the late 1990's thru the turn of the century.

Anyway, Shoemaker had my mouth watering for wrestling. Like a heroin addict, wrestling is a part of me that will never go away. I don't keep up with the current programing, but I have a nice collection of DVDs that focus on my golden era of wrestling. I watched the WWF exclusively from about 1985-1997. The company has done a great job of documenting this era with PPV box-sets, wrestler anthologies, and plenty of other creatively packaged sets.

Instead of just watching wrestling tonight, I decided to start a new series of blogs. The series will be called,  The Greatest Night in the History of the WWF. I will occasionally, when I get the itch, break out a DVD of a PPV from the WWF's past and  blog as if the action is playing out before me for the first time. I'm not breaking any new ground here. Scott Keith is a blogger that has similarly had great success with this agenda, and the guys at Pro Wrestling Insider have done a podcast for each of the Wrestlemania, Summer Slam, Royal Rumble, and Survivor Series pay-per-views. Despite all of the competition I will give it a shot anyway. Who the hell is Scott Keith anyhow?

The weather has been hot in Buffalo and one of the things that got me through the hot weather as a kid was looking forward to Summer Slam. Summer Slam was always my favorite pay-per-view of the year because it was usually a few days before my birthday. For those reasons,  It seems appropriate to start out with a Summer Slam. I decided to watch Summer Slam 91 which first aired on August 26, 1991 in front of a sold out crowd at Madison Square Garden. This live blog is going to start at 1:00 AM Eastern time so that I can use the clock to jump from post to post. Here we go.

1:00 AM EST: The card is billed as the Match Made in Heaven and the Match Made in Hell. The heaven part is the marriage of Miss Elizabeth to the Macho Man Randy Savage. Amazingly, only a decade later and they are both no longer with us. The match made in hell is a tag match main event between Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior against Sgt. Slaughter, Colonel Mustafa (or The Iron Sheik), and General Adnan. More on how ridiculous that is later. 

The PPV starts with a slickly packaged open voiced by Vince McMahon. We then head live to the arena floor where Gorilla Monsoon, Bobby Heenan, and Rowdy Roddy Piper welcome us to this fabulous event. Heenen cracks the first joke of the night referencing a noose in the context of Savage and Liz's wedding.

1:02: The opening match is a pretty impressive 6-man tag. The heels are The Warlord and The Power and Glory (Paul Roma and Hercules) against the face team of Rickey "The Dragon" Steamboat, Davey Boy Smith, and the Texas Tornado. Death Watch: In this match the Texas Tornado, Davey Boy Smith, and Hercules have all passed away.

1:05: Piper is getting under Heenan's skin by calling him Boobs. Gorilla is forced to try and keep his color men focused. That could be the hardest assignment of the night.

1:06: I forgot to mention that Slick is on the outside "managing" the heel team. Slick had a glorious debut.

1:12: The opening match comes to a conclusion as Steamboat lands a high cross body of the top rope and pins Roma in the center of the ring at the 10:43 mark. That was a decent opener and I would call it a solid 3-star match (out of five).

1:14: Sean Mooney is in a dressing room that is cleary fake. Sean is interviewing the Intercontinental Champion of the World, Mr. Perfect and his manager Coach. Perfect gives a great promo explaining he is ready for the battle of  between the excellence of execution and perfection.

1:15: Bret Hart as the challenger makes his way to the ring first. His parents, Stu and Helen Hart are shown in the stands of the Garden. Mr. Perfect Curt Hennig makes his way to the ring with the glorious Intercontinental Championship belt around his waist. Death Watch: Mr. Perfect passed away in 2003. Also, Coach died in 2009 at age 69.

1:18: Heenan says, "Piper used to come home from school to find out his parents had moved."

1:21: Who is Coach? Well, according to Wikipedia, he is John Tolos. John was born in Hamilton, Ontario and often wrestled under the name the Golden Greek.

1:29: This match is awesome. I forgot I was writing. Perfect and Hart are painting a picture worthy of Picasso with speed, near falls, back and forth action, and seemingly brutal violence. Hart kicks out of Mr. Perfect's finisher the "perfect-plex".

1:34: The last five-minutes have been very fast with more near falls. The crowd is very into it and Hart and Perfect are both over. Hitman blocks a kick to the balls and turns it into his famed sharp-shooter. At 18:04, Bret Hart becomes the new IC champion. That match was awesome and should easily be the match of the night. I would call it a 4.5-star match. 

1:36: The great Lord Alfred Hayes is with Mr. and Mrs. Hart who are both celebrating as their son's music blares in the arena. Bret makes his way up the isle and has a nice moment with his parents. Have you read Bret Hart's book? I would easily call it the best book ever written by a wrestler.

1:39: Mean Gene is in the back with The Bushwhackers and a crippled looking Andre the Giant. Andre is on crutches because the Mouth of the South Jimmy Hart had him attacked by the Earthquake.  Luke and Butch will try to defend Andre's honor by taking on the Earthquake his partner Typhoon also known as, The Natural Disasters.

1:42: I have no recollection of who won this match, but I could almost guarantee that The Bushwhackers will not be the winners. Did they ever win a match? Death Watch: Andre the Giant passed away in 1993 at age 46 and Earthquake passed away in 2006 at age 42.

1:45: The quality of the wrestling has went from Major League Baseball to North Tonawanda Little League in just one match. Bobby Heenan announces that Hulk Hogan is in the building and then leaves his spot at the broadcast booth to go embarrass him.

1:49: Mercifully, at 6:27 Earthquake drops his fat ass on Butch and pins him in the center of the ring. Piper says, "baby that was a ten on the Richter scale." It appears that the Natural Disasters are going to punish a helpless Andre the Giant but the Legion of Doom come from the back to save the legend. That was  a poor showing worth no more than the rating of a 2-star match.

1:50: Heenan is at the door of Hulk Hogan's dressing room with Ric Flair's championship belt. He tries to challenge Hogan to a match but Hogan slams the door in his face. Heenan leaves flustered.

1:51: Sean Mooney is in the fake dressing room with the Million Dollar Man and Scary Sherri. DiBiase is preparing to defend the Million Dollar Belt against his former bodyguard Virgil. Rowdy Roddy Piper is very enthusiastic towards Virgil, and he lets us know early and often that he is rooting for the former body guard. Death Watch: Sherri Martel passed away in 2007 at age 49.

1:56: Bobby Heenan returns to ringside very angry that the Hulkster slammed a door in his face. Piper to Heenan: "Hey Boobs, did that kind of remind you of when you were a kid at Halloween?"

1:59: This match is torture. Sheri seems to grant mercy to all of us when she jumps into the ring and knocks Virgil out with her purse. Instead of the disqualification, Sheri is sent to the dressing room for interfering in the match. Virgil and Ted are laying face down on the canvas as the match is ordered to continue.

2:03: I mentioned that Bret Hart's  book is one that I highly recommend. Ted DiBiase's book on the other hand is a pile of shit. I thumbed through it at Borders and it clearly was not written by DiBiase. It's a generic WWF production that doesn't offer much inside information. It does have a cool cover.

2:06: Piper screaming at the top of his lungs in support for Virgil is incredibly annoying. For some reason, DiBiase uncovers one of the turnbuckles only to inevitably have it back fire when Virgil musters enough energy to slam Dibiase's face into it. Virgil pins Ted at the 13:11 mark. Heenan says, "The next time you see that belt it will be hanging from the mirror of a 1979 Caddy driven by Virgil." That was a 2-star match.

(Alright, time for some gold old fashioned honesty. Shortly after finishing that post, I passed out. I was on the couch drooling on my MacBook Pro and snoring The A-Team theme. Anyway, its 1:13AM EST the next day. Let's get back at it.)

1:13 AM: Mean Gene is in the garage at Madison Square Garden interviewing The Mountie. It's time for the first and probably last jailhouse match in WWF history. The Mountie is going represent Canadian law enforcement and wrestle the Big Boss Man. The winner will receive glory and the loser is going directly to jail.

1:15: Sean Mooney drew the Big Boss Man who gives a crazy promo threatening to send our buddy the Mountie to prison. Death Watch: The Boss Man, AKA Ray Traylor died in 2004 at age 41.

1:19: Gorilla Monsoon is very concerned for the loser because he is going to have a criminal record. They are really pushing the whole, "suspend disbelief" angle with the ridiculous terms of this match.

1:24: Monsoon just called The Mouth of the South Jimmy Hart the biggest walking add for birth control he has ever seen. That is very harsh, Gorilla.

1:26: The Big Boss Man was an incredible athlete. For  as large as he was, poorly dressed, and not exactly in the best shape of his life, The Big Boss Man did move well in the ring. Anyway, Boss Man pins Mountie in the center of the ring at 9:38 to win the jailhouse match. The police rush to ring side and drag The Mountie to jail. I am waiting for a Monopoly joke.

1:30: Mean Gene is in the fake locker room with an angry Ted Dibiase and Scarey Sherri. Ted has a number of complaints with the officiating. Then, Sean Mooney interviews Bret Hart who is in a much better mood. Now, we are back in the fake locker room with Mean Gene interviewing an irate Jimmy Hart and two fat slobs (The Natural Disasters). Jimmy wants to talk to his lawyer. Quickly, we are back to Sean Mooney who has a pleased Big Bossman. Next, Mean Gene is in the locker room with the Macho Man who is on the phone talking to fans (allegedly) of the WWF who got suckered into calling a 900-number. This dreadful segment of interviews mercifully ends with Mean Gene announcing the pay-per-view will take a five minute break.

1:35: We are back from the break with Gorilla, Piper, and Heenan. The guys go over some of the action from the first half of the show and Heenan predicts Sid Justice will pull some funny stuff during the Match Made in Hell.

1:36: Oh good, the paddy wagon has made it to jail and we get to see the police drag a screaming Mountie into the jail.

1:36: We are in the fake locker room again with an angry Jimmy Hart, The Nasty Boys, and an intimidated Sean Mooney. The Nasty Boys are ready to defend their tag team titles against The Legion of Doom.

1:38: More jail foolishness.

1:38: Mean Gene has the Legion of Doom in front of a Summer Slam back drop and Animal is all fired up for the chance to be the first team to win the AWA, NWA, and WWF tag team titles. Hawk gives his classic, "OHHHHHHHHHHHH what a RUSSSSSSSSSSSSSSH."

1:40: More jail foolishness.

1:41: The promos just keep coming. Sean Mooney is now in the fake dressing room with Sargent Slaughter, The Iron Sheik, and Adnan to discuss the match made in hell. It's so sad that Slaughter has chosen to back Iraq in this international conflict. Hogan is going to have to teach him the meaning of patriotism.

1:42: Mean Gene is with Sid Justice who will be the guest referee in the match made in hell. Gene has some incriminating video to play that clearly shows Justice fraternizing with Slaughter, Sheik, and Adnan. He promises to be an honest, fair, and even official.

1:44: We are finally back to ringside for the WWF tag team title match between The Nasty Boys and The Legion of Doom. Death Watch: Hawk, also known as Michael Hengstrand died in 2003 at age 46. Somehow, both of the Nasty Boys are still alive.

1:47: This match is called a street fight brawl and there are no disqualifications. The match is relatively tame compared to some of the extreme matches that would define the attitude era of the WWF in just a few short years. These teams are basically just brawlers so the format fits them. I always enjoyed the Legion of Doom and their DVD was one of the first I purchased.

1:51: The LOD trap Knobs in the doomsday device and at 7:45 the LOD are the new tag team champions. I am a little disappointed because they didn't take advantage of the no DQ to tell the story. It was basically a regular tag match.  Overall it was a 2.5-star match that could have been much better had they had a little more time.

1:53: More jail foolishness. Really? They are dragging this nonsense out. How many segments do we need for them to dump the poor Mountie into his  jail cell? If they didn't waste so much time on this they could have given the tag title match a bit longer.

1:55: For some reason, Irwin R. Schyster is in the ring for a match against former Intercontinental Champion, Greg the Hammer Valentine. This match seems way out of place on the card and the crowd that was all pumped up after the LOD win is now dead. Who is the heel? Who is the babyface? This match is confusing. The good news is that Greg Valentine and Irwin R. Schyster are both still alive.

1:57: Gorilla foreshadows some trouble for later by stating that his source in the back has spotted Jake the Snake Robers and the Undertaker roaming around the locker room area.

1:59: This match blows. The Hammer is from Seattle, for that reason, lets check out some good Seattle rock and roll.

2:01: Here is an interesting piece of WWF irony... IRS is actually Mike Rotunda who was a very popular tag team wrestler in the early 80's. He used to team with Barry Windham as the US Express. At Wreslemania I (at Madison Square Garden), they won their second WWF tag team championship by defeating The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff. Two months later they dropped the belts to Brutus Beefcake (not yet the barber) and Greg Valentine.

2:06: Anyway, Shyster rolls the Hammer into a nifty small package and pins him at the 7:07 mark. I can't say that was any better than a 1-star match.

2:09: Mean Gene is in the back with Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior. Hogan mentions winning the WWF title in 1984. He doesn't mention that he defeated The Iron Sheik and that tonight we are supposed to believe that The Iron Sheik is actually a different person named Colonel Mustafa. Warrior has words coming out of his mouth but they are mostly incoherent.

The Match Made in Hell

2:13: It's time for the main event of the evening. Sid Vicious comes to the ring first dressed in jeans and a muscle shirt with referee stripes.

Next to enter the ring is The Triangle of Terror. Sargent Slaughter is the leader and his partners are The Iron Sheik  Colonel Mustafa and General Adnan.

The Ultimate Warrior races to the ring to his own music without Hogan. These guys had absolute massive egos.

Hogan enters the ring with the WWF title around his waist and Real American blasting over the Garden speakers.

Piper is playing up the Hogan/Warrior rivalry as best as he can, and Heenan is very vocal about his concern that Justice will not be a fair official.

2:17: Most of the readers of this piece probably know about the massive piece of WWF history that occurred just before the start of this match, but some of the readers might not. With that in mind, I will briefly recap what happened.

Basically, Vince McMahon claims that Warrior threatened to no-show the event if he wasn't paid some undisclosed amount of money. When Hogan and Slaughter heard about the threat they told Vince that they wanted to handle it physically. Instead of a physical altercation, McMahon paid the Warrior his money and fired him immediately after the match was complete. The Ultimate Warrior claims that he was still owed a bonus from Vince for his work at Wrestlemania VII and he wasn't going to perform at Summer Slam without his bonus being paid out front. Either way, this was the end of the Warrior in the WWF until Wrestlemania VIII in March.

2:23: This match is dreadful. There is no buzz in the crowd and all of the wrestlers are stiff and uninteresting. This is the anti Perfect vs. Hart match. I think most of the crowd was offended by Vince capitalizing off a war being fought by some of the young men and women of the United States. It was one thing to play up the cold war during the early 1980's but this was a different kind of war. It was bad enough that they headlined Wrestlemania VII with this crap, but did we need a second PPV? Why not let Hogan defend the title against the top heel in the company. Why not Hogan vs. Warrior II? I can think of 10-20 different ideas that would have been better than this dreadful handicapped match.

2:28: Justice is losing control of the match. Warrior chases Mustafa and Adnan down the isle with a chair and Vicious is distracted by those antics. In the meantime, Hogan comes out of nowhere with what looks like an eight-ball of cocaine and throws it into the face of Sargent Slaughter. He then drops the deadly boot and pins Slaughter at 12:40. I will give the match made in hell a half of a star. It was a truly dreadful wrestling match.

2:31: After five minutes of posing and playing to the crowd as his familiar music blares on the loud speakers, Hogan motions to the locker room and calls Sid Justice into the ring to pose with him. The two leave the ring as best buddies. I am sure going into the night most expected that Justice would be against Hogan and possibly cost him and the Warrior the match. Thank goodness that didn't happen.

2:33: More dreadful prison footage.

The Match Made in Heaven

2:34: Hogan and Justice have finally cleared out of the ring and we are showed the video of Randy Savage proposing to the lovely Miss. Elizabeth. Death Watch: I just want to get this out of the way because it makes me very sad.  On May 1, 2003, Miss Elizabeth passed away at age 42. She was always such a beautiful, sparkling, and charming woman that I am glad I never had the misfortune to see her at her worst. Apparently, after divorcing Savage, and a second husband, Liz became romantically involved with Lex Luger. There relationship was very toxic and was destroyed by domestic violence, drug abuse, and the eventual death of Miss Elizabeth. It's ridiculous how many competitors in this event died in their forties. This one is the saddest. I will always remember the lovely Miss Elizabeth like this...

On May 20, 2011, Randy Savage was killed when he suffered a heart attack while driving with his wife in Seminole, Florida. He was 58-years old.

 2:41: Back to the PPV, we are treated to a nicely done video package that shows Elizabeth as I always remembered her. The strange thing about this wedding is that Liz and Randy were actually married in 1984 and ended up getting divorced in the Summer of 1992.

2:45: Savage is dressed like a clown, but Liz looks as beautiful as she ever did.

2:46: Instead of saying "I DO," Savage lets out a great loud OHHHH YEAAAAH.

2:48: Savage kisses the bride. Gorilla calls it, "the kiss heard around the world." Confetti and streamers are falling from the ceiling as pomp and circumstance blares on the Garden speakers.

2:51 The happy couple exits the ring and the pay-per-view is over.

And with that, the first edition of The Greatest Night in the History of the WWF is over. I hope you enjoyed the photos, videos, and pros that made this blog what it is.

Say goodnight, Bella.