Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Greatest Night in WWF History: Episode 2

Where the Mega Powers...Meet the Mega Bucks
In my opinion, wrestling has had two golden eras. The first started in 1984 when Hulk Hogan pinned the Iron Sheik at Madison Square Garden and ended when Lawrence Taylor met Bam Bam Bigelow in the main event of Wrestlemania XI (some might argue it ended a little earlier than that). The next golden era started with the Monday Night Wars, extended through the Attitude era, and ended when Vince McMahon purchased the WCW and split his company into two different brands (Raw/Smackdown).

Is it just me or does it feel like the WWE (there I did it) is on the verge of entering a new golden era? It feels like Vince McMahon just flopped a set and if he plays his cards right he can take all of the chips off the table. Last Sunday, the WWE impeccably booked their pay-per-view and set off a buzz around their form of entertainment not heard of since the Attitude era. CM Punk is at the front of this resurgence basically playing the Stone Cold Steve Austin role that surged the Attitude era into huge success. The basic plot is this, CM Punk is the WWE champion but he doesn't work for the company and he is missing with the belt. The next night on Raw, McMahon tried to fire John Cena for losing to Punk, but before he could do so Hunter Heart Helmsley entered the ring and fired Vince. 

The reaction from the mainstream media has reached unheard of levels. Jim Rome offered an open invitation to CM Punk to appear on his radio show. Bill Simmons wrote a column on wrestling theme songs and has talked about wrestling on his ultra-popular sports podcast. Also, Grantland,  Simmons's new independent (but owned by ESPN) website is covering wrestling like it's on par with soccer, hockey, boxing, MMA, or any other fringe/niche sport you can think of. The Masked Man writes a column on Deadspin eulogizing fallen heroes of wrestling's past, and writes on Grantland under the byline David Shoemaker. 

Anyway, we aren't here to talk about any of that. We are here to talk about the greatest night in WWF history. Do you recall August 29, 1988 like it was yesterday? I hope not or this blog is going to bomb. Here is what I remember about that date. It was three days before my  birthday, and since my best-friend Don had an illegal cable box, I would be able to watch SummerSlam live. It was going to kick ass. Today, I have the DVD of the event in my PS3 and it's time to start live blogging about an wrestling event almost twenty-four years ago. 

12:40 PM EST: We are live from Madison Square Garden and Gorilla Monsoon and the ultra boring Superstar Billy Graham will be calling the action. This is the first pay-per-view after Wrestlemania IV where Randy Savage became the undisputed champion of the world by defeating Butch Reed, Greg Valentine, One Man Gang, and Ted DiBiase in the same night. Hogan had helped Randy win the match creating the greatest tag team in WWF history called, The Mega-Powers. Tonight, the Mega Powers will try to settle a score with a team called The Mega-Bucks. The Mega-Bucks are the team of Andre the Giant and Ted DiBiase. To complicate matters, Jesse "The Body" Ventura is the special guest referee. More on all of that later. 

12:47: The first match of the night is a solid tag match as The Brittish Bulldogs will battle The Fabulous Rougeaus. 

12:49: This match is best remembered for the prank gone wrong that occurred in the dressing room before the match and the fall out afterwords. The following commentary is summarized and paraphrased from the Dynamite Kid's book:
 According to Dynamite, he never liked the Rougeau brothers. He felt they were arrogant and ignorant. Before Summerslam 1988, it was decided that the Rougeaus would face the Bulldogs. The Bulldogs did not want to lose to this particular team, so it was decided that they would give the crowd a 20 minute match which would end when the time expired. Some time after this a rib was played on the Rougeaus by Curt Hennig that backfired on the Bulldogs since they were notorious for backstage pranks. Apparently it is an unwritten rule backstage that you should always have someone watch your clothes when you are not around. The Rougeaus had asked Hennig to watch their stuff while they wrestled and he decided to cut their clothes to ribbons. When the Rougeaus returned, he quick ran in the bathroom and came out looking at their stuff pretending to be just as surprised. The Rougeaus instantly blamed the Bulldogs and yelled at them and even threatened them and left their dressing room. Dynamite waited a few minutes (and he remarks he does not know why he did it, even today) and went over to the dressing room the Rougeaus were in. Jacques had his back to him and Dynamite gave him a "flat hander, straight across to the ear". Jacque was both yelling "what's going on", but trying to fight back, but Dynamite laid him out. Raymond tried to get in the middle saying, "Jacques, he's had enough of you", but Dynamite warned him to back off and said "this has nothing to do with you", but Raymond would not back down, so Dynamite knocked Raymond out too. He left the dressing room leaving both Rougeaus on the floor. Days went by and the Rougeaus had done nothing to make Dynamite think that they were out for revenge. He would see them and they would not say a word and just go about their business or bury themselves in a book; at least until a TV taping at Ft. Wayne. 
Dynamite was just returning from lunch when he saw the Rougeaus talking with Pat Patterson and suddenly the thought came to him "they could not be planning something now, not in front of Pat". But Dynamite was wrong as when he passed them (as Pat started walking away) and Jacques hit him square in the mouth, knocking four teeth out. Patterson turned around and started yelling "stop, stop" as Jacques continued to hit him. Dynamite would not go down though. He then saw Raymond getting ready to blindside him as he thought to himself "it's over, I cannot handle two people", since he was not aware of how far they were going to take this. Luckily Bad News Brown showed up to break up the fight, and from Dynamite's stand-point, saved his life. The Rougeaus sprinted out of the building after this. Pat, trying to calm things down, gave Dynamite some money and told him to go to the hospital and get stitched up. He went and returned to the arena upon which he was told that Vince wanted to see him. Vince first remarked to Dynamite that he was in disbelief on how he did not go down. Dynamite came back saying how he would fix the Rougeaus, but Vince warned him against it because they "knew certain people" in Montreal that could make the situation a whole lot uglier. Dynamite left for a tour of Europe after the incident and discovered that when he arrived that Davey Boy had been in contact with their families already telling a different version of the story on how he "saved" Dynamite's life by fighting off the Rougeaus.  
The story came to a close with Vince arranging a meeting between the two teams. Dynamite said he would leave the situation be, if Jacques paid for his teeth (even though the WWF had already paid). Jacques adamantly refused cursing up a storm, but Raymond stepped in as peacemaker and settled his brother down and said to Dynamite to get the bill from the dentist and give it to them and they would pay. According to Dynamite the Rougeaus paid and he had 1,800 extra dollars since the bill was already settled by the company. Shortly after the Bulldogs gave their notice for many personal reasons and the last match they had (as a team) was in the tag-team elimination match at Survivor Series 1988. 
1:00 AM: Despite their differences outside of the ring, both teams are putting on a fantastic match inside of the ring. If you have never had the chance to see the Dynamite Kid wrestle in his prime, you have missed out. I would say that pound for pound he is the greatest wrestler of all time. Death Watch: Davey Boy Smith died in 2002 at age 39.  

1:03: The finish is executed well. All hell has broken loose in the ring and the referee is chasing the illegal men on both teams out of the ring. Dynamite looks to finish off one of the frenchman but before he can get the pin the bell rings to indicate a 20:00 time limit draw. That was an entertaining 3-star (out of 5) start to SummerSlam88. 

1:06: A video is shown of Brutus the Barber Beefcake getting "pearl harbored" (the words of Vince McMahon) by The Outlaw Ron Bass. Bass scrapes his spurs across the face of Beefcake and causes the screen to be censored to save us from the gore and blood that Bass drew on Beffcake's face. Anyway, Brutus will not be able to challenge The Honkey Tonk Man for the Intercontinental Championship at SummerSlam88. 

1:10: Bad News Brown is already in the ring waiting for his opponent Ken Patera. This is a match that would be better for Superstars than SummerSlam. I can't think of any build up or figure out why these two guys would be booked together. Bad News won the battle royal to start Wrestlemania IV after he double crossed his friend Bret Hart. Bret did end up smashing his trophy into a million pieces. Death Watch: Bad News Brown, whose real name is Allen Coage, died in 2007 at age 63.

1:16: There isn't much heat from the crowd for this match and that is mostly because Ken Patera is not over as a face. Not a single person in the arena cares if Patera wins or loses. Bad News catches Patera with his finisher, "The Ghettoblaster" and pins Patera at the 6:33 mark. It was a 1-star match. 

1:18: Mean Gene is in the back of the arena with The Mega-Powers standing in front of a back drop with graphics that remind me of the way promos were cut during Saturday Night's Main Event. Hulk Hogan is in incredible shape and you can almost see the blood dripping from his trunks after his last steroid shot. "What are you gonna do when the Mega Powers come running for you?"

1:19: Back to the ring, Ravishing Rick Rude makes his way down the isle with his manager, Bobby "The Brain" Heenan. He enters the ring and says, "I would like all you fat inner-city sweat hogs to keep the noise down while I take my robe off and show the ladies what a real man looks like." 

On Rick's tights, is a picture of his opponent, The Junk Yard Dog. JYD was always over with the fans and enters to a huge pop. As always, JYD has the word, "THUMP" written across the back of his pants. 

1:24: One thing missing from this event so far is a heel color commentator. Jesse Ventura is preparing for his job reefing the main event and Heenan is managing his clients. Monsoon and Graham are both faces and it doesn't work as well as a face playing off of a heel. 

1:25: Death Watch: In 1999, Rude died at age forty. It was creepy because just days earlier I had seen him as part of an ECW show in Buffalo. Also, in 1998 the JYD died at age 45 when he fell asleep at the wheel of his car while returning from his daughter's graduation. 

1:28: Rude pulls his pants down on the top rope to expose a second pair of tights with the image of Jake Roberts wife, Cheryl Roberts, on them. Within a second, Jake Roberts is in the ring attacking Rude. As a result, at 6:18 the JYD is disqualified for outside interference. It was no better than a 1.5 star match. 

1:30: Mean Gene is in the locker room area with the Intercontinental Champion, The Honky Tonk Man and his manager Jimmy Hart. Honky is downplaying the absence of Beefcake for their match later on the card and says he will face anyone that the company puts in front of him. Honky won't even let Mean Gene tell him who the opponent is. Honky says that it doesn't matter because he is a cocky and worthless jerk off. 

I have a personal reason to hate Honky. Rickey Steamboat is my favorite wrestler. When he pinned Randy Savage and won the WWF Intercontinental Championship at Wresltemania III, it was the greatest moment in the first six years of my life. A few months later my step dad took me to the Memorial Auditorium to see Steamboat defend his title at a TV taping. Wrestling legend has it that Steamboat was there to drop the belt to Butch Reed so he could spend more time with his family. Instead, Butch Reed no-showed an event and was bumped off the card and replaced with the Honky Tonk Man. At age 6, I was not privy to any of that information and fully expected Steamboat to win without a problem. Of course, he didn't. Instead, I witnessed the start of Honky Tonk's run that wouldn't end until he was the self-proclaimed greatest Intercontinental champion of all time. I didn't take the result of the match well and cried and cried and cried in the arms of my loving step-father. To this day, I still hate you Honky Tonk Man. 

1:37: Back in the ring, Slick is dressed to the nines with his team Nikolai Volkoff and Boris Zhukov. Slick reminds us to stand and pay respect as Volkoff sings the Russian national anthem. Their opponents, The Powers of Pain (The Barbarian and The Warlord) rush to the ring and attack Volkoff and Zhukof before the anthem is finished. 

1:42: Incredibly, all four men in this tag-team match are still alive. The crowd is confused as to who they are supposed to be rooting for. Obviously, the Russian team are heals but Barbarian and Warlord look big and mean and scare the crowd. I just don't see the Powers of Pain as a face team. Everyone in the Garden is board and ready for whatever is next. 

1:45: I just realized that the Powers of Pain have a manager with them. He is a guy named the Baron and he is wearing a hooded outfit. Despite being inside, Baron decides to keep his hood up. Baron is an old-timer trained by Verne Gagne named, James Raschke.

1:47: At 5:27, The Barbarian pins Volcoff in the center of the ring. I wouldn't be able to go any higher that 1.5 stars for that lame, slow, and lifeless match. I guess this victory would position The Powers of Pain as the number one contender to face whoever wins the tag-teag title match later in the night. If Demolition keeps the belts, The Powers of Pain could be a face team that could take them on. If the Hart Foundation wins, you pair the Powers of Pain with Slick and they can be heel opponents for the Hart Foundation. That last run-on sentence was all a little too kayfabe for this column. 

1:50: Oh dear lord. Brother Love is in the ring and is going to interview Hacksaw Jim Duggan. Upon the announcement of Duggan, Gorilla gets real excited and says, "Wait till you hear this place explode!" Duggan gets a small pop from the crowd, but it was a bit short of an explosion. 

1:51: Hacksaw Jim Duggan is from Glens Falls, New York and he got himself into trouble with Vince McMahon about a year before this event. Duggan was driving in a car with the Iron Sheik from one event to the next. They got stopped by the police and were both arrested for possession of various drugs and Duggan was also booked for DUI. Vince was furious, not because of the drugs, but because a face and a heel were caught together in the same car. 

1:57: Mercifully, Duggan chases Brother Love out of the ring with his 2x4 and ends that dreadful interview. 

1:58: Honky Tonk Man enters the ring with his manager Jimmy Hart to defend the Intercontinental championship. After a few seconds of silence, Honky takes the mic and asks for anyone to come out from the back and wrestle him. Finally, The Ultimate Warrior's music starts pumping out of the Madison Square Garden speakers. Warrior makes it to the ring in ten seconds and pins the Honky Tonk Man in :31 seconds to become the new Intercontinental champion. Honky never got the chance to take his Elvis costume off. I guess that was a 2-star match with a 1-star bonus for being kind of cool. The crowd loved it. 

Intermission: The PPV heads to an intermission. I am headed for an intermission as well. 

(I am back after a night's sleep, preparations for episode 32 of The Sports-Casters, and a stop at The Tea Party reunion concert.)

11:38PM EST: SummerSlam88 returns from a brief intermission and Bobby "The Brain" Heenan is in the booth with Gorilla Monsoon and Superstar Billy Graham.

11:40: The first match after intermission is garbage. Don "The Rock" Muraco is first to the ring and his opponent is Dino Bravo. This is another one of those matches that doesn't have any heat and has the crowd confused as to who they should cheer for. 

11:41: Heenan is a welcomed addition to the booth and he wastes no time in insulting the Superstar. Death Watch: Dino Bravo has the most bizarre wrestling death I have heard of. He passed away on March 11, 1993 after being shot 17 times in the head. It was rumored that Bravo was involved with organized crime and his death was somehow related to a cigarette smuggling scheme. He was 44-years old. 

11:45: Muraco and Bravo are both juiced up to the max. Neither of them can move around much in the ring and the pace is very slow. In only a few short minutes both men seem gassed. 

11:46: Out of nowhere, Bravo catches Muraco in a side suplex and pins him in the center of the ring at 5:28. I would call that match a .5-star snooze fest. 

11:47: In the back, Sean Mooney is joined by Jesse "The Body" Ventura. Ventura admits that he accepted money from Ted DiBiase, but he promises to be fair when the time comes to step in the ring as the guest referee of the main event. 

11:50: The next match should be a good one. The Hart Foundation will challenge Demolition for the WWF Tag Team Championship. The Hart Foundation lost the tag team titles before WrestleMania IV to Strike Force. At WrestleMania IV, Demolition crushed Strike Force to become the tag champs.

11:57: I just noticed that it seems like Bobby Heenan has left the broadcast booth. Shortly before this matchup, The Hart Foundation parted ways with manager Jimmy Hart and are the faces in this match. Hart has joined Demolition manager Mr. Fuji at ringside. The Hart Foundation will have to wrestle Demolition while keeping one eye on Jimmy Hart and Mr. Fuji at all times. The Hitman is just a few years away from being one of the biggest stars in all of wrestling.

12:00: Demolition spends about four minutes working on demolishing the shoulder of The Hitman. Ironically, The Hitman avoids sure death by clotheslining Smash with the arm and shoulder that Demolition had almost severed. 

12:03: All hell breaks loose as all four men are in the ring and Mr. Fuji is on the apron. From behind, Ax emerges with Jimmy Hart's megaphone and crushes the Hitman in the back of the head. Smash gets the pin in the center of the ring at 9:49 to retain the WWF tag titles. That was fun, 3-stars. 

12:05: In the back, Mean Gene is with a furious Honky Tonk Man. Honky lets this quote fly, "I said I would wrestle anybody, but I didn't say I would wrestle the Warrior." Somehow, Jimmy Hart got from ringside where he interfered with the tag match to the locker room to pout with Honky in a split second. Snotty must have beamed him up. 

12:07: The next match is The Big Boss Man against Koko B. Ware. Boss Man is joined by Slick and Koko is joined by a bird. Death Watch: Big Boss Man also known as Ray Traylor died in 2004 at age 41.

12:10: I am sure this was a great time for the fans in attendance to purchase a t-shirt or use the restroom. 

12:11: Gorilla calls Slick a piece of garbage. I think Slick is hilarious. You be the judge. 

12:12: After Koko gets in about ten-seconds of offense, Boss Man slams him like a sack of potatoes and pins him at the 5:57 mark. After pinning Koko, the Big Boss Man hammers him with his billy club. Superstar is furious and wants Boss Man suspended. 1-star. 

12:14: Sean Mooney is in the back with the Ultimate Warrior and a group of faces who are celebrating his victory. Warrior cuts a promo that makes sense to no one but him. 

12:15: It wouldn't be a pay-per-view in the late 1980's without a Hercules match. He will face everyone's favorite crack head, Jake "The Snake" Roberts. Gorilla is all fired up that Hercules isn't joined at ringside by his usual manager, Bobby Heenan. Death Watch: Somehow, Jake Roberts is still alive. Unfortunately, Hercules passed away in 2004 at age 47. 

12:19: This match is slower than Sid Bream trying to leg out a triple. I can't stress enough how much this pay-per-view suffers by not having a heel in the booth with Gorilla Monsoon. There is little chemistry between Monsoon and the raspy Billy Graham. 

12:21: Jake Roberts unleashes his powerful finisher, "The DDT" and pins Hercules at 10:06. Why the hell did they give this match 10-minutes? I will never know. I give it 1-star.

12:23: A video package is played to get viewers up to speed on the feud between the Mega-Powers and the Mega-Bucks. Basically, Savage is cutting a promo when DiBiase sneaks up from behind with Andre the Giant and beats Savage within an inch of his life. Savage later challenges DiBiase and the Giant to a tag match at SummerSlam. To build suspense, Savage doesn't announce a partner but instead promises to pick one in the future. It is announced that Jesse Ventura will be the guest referee for this epic match. Finally, Savage announces that Hulk Hogan will be his partner. I thought he might choose the Brooklyn Brawler. 

12:27: Jesse Ventura is first to the ring and is dressed in ridiculous attire. The Mega-Bucks are next to the ring. Ted DiBiase and Andre the Giant will wrestle in the match, but to do so they need to be joined at ringside by Bobby Heenan and Virgil. The Mega-Bucks don't use any entrance music. 

12:30: The Mega-Powers are next and Hogan and Savage come to the ring together with the lovely Miss Elizabeth at their side. Surprisingly, Hogan and Savage come to the ring with Savage's music playing and not the Hulkster's. Elizabeth is dressed in yellow and red and she looks incredible. 

12:33: Death Watch: This is sad. Andre the Giant died in 1993 at age 46. That makes him 41 on this night, and he looks like he can barely move. Unfortunately, Randy "Macho Man" Savage passed away just last month at age 58. Last, the Lovely Miss Elizabeth passed away in 2003 at age 43. In the previous wrestling blog that I wrote last week, I detailed Liz's terribly destructive relationship with Lex Luger. If you need evidence that Luger was a drug user, I beg you to watch this video. 

12:38: It took me almost 5-minutes to write about all of the dead people in the SummerSlam88 main event. In the meantime, the action is underway and Ventura is having trouble keeping Virgil, Heenan, and Liz off the apron and out of the ring. Andre looks so big and each of his chokes, slaps, and chops appear to sting Savage and Hogan. Legend has it that Andre was in extreme pain at this stage of his career, but he gave everything he had for the fans. Here is a video of Andre when he was at his best. 

12:41: The crowd breaks out in a "Weasel" chant meant to rattle Bobby Heenan. The fans seem very into the match. Savage is an expert at playing to the crowd even when he isn't the wrestler in the ring. I am watching for hints that might of foreshadowed the Mega-Power's exploding just seven months from now. I haven't noticed anything yet. 

12:44: Andre sits on Savage's head and leans all of his weight into the face of the champion. If there was ever a great opportunity for Andre to fart in the face of Savage, this would be it. 

12:46: Hogan drops Andre to his knees and then to the canvas and the crowd goes bananas. It is easy to forget just how over Hogan was in 1988. 

12:47: With Hogan knocked out and laying on the arena floor, Miss Elizabeth jumps to the apron to disrupt the count of referee Jesse Ventura. Next thing you know, Liz rips off the bottom of her dress and the entire crowd and everyone in and around the ring stops to view the glory that is the lovely Miss Elizabeth. In the meantime, Hogan and Savage regain themselves and sneak into the ring and knock Andre to the area floor. Savage drops his big elbow on DiBiase and then Hogan drops the big boot. Jesse doesn't appear to want to count, but he begrudgingly drops to his knees and counts 1-2-....3 (with a little help from Savage). At 13:57, an exciting main event ends with The Mega-Powers defeating the Mega-Bucks.  3.5-stars.

12:51: Long after Jesse and the Mega-Bucks make their way back to the dressing room, Hogan, Savage, and Liz pose and celebrate as "Real American" blares from the Garden speakers. Overall, SummerSlam88 was a snore fest. The IC title match lasted only thirty seconds, and most of the matches lacked the build up that was common at this time for pay-per-view matches. If you haven't seen this event since 1988, there isn't any reason to rush out and purchase the DVD. In the end, it was yet another greatest night in the history of the WWF.

Here is a you tube video that contains most of the main event. 

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