Wrestling Rewind: SummerSlam 1997

August 5, 2018

 

WWF SummerSlam 1997, August 3, 1997, East Rutherford, New Jersey.

 

We're in the midst of the big Hart Foundation storyline, and Bret Hart is set to challenge The Undertaker for the WWF Title in the main event, with Shawn Michaels as the special referee. And in the semi-main event Steve Austin was challenging Owen Hart for his first shot at the Intercontinental title. There's also a ton of stipulations here which we'll get too. 

 

Hosted by Jim Ross, Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler.

 

STEEL CAGE MATCH: Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs Mankind

 

Only way to win this one is by escape, always hated that rule. These guys had a bad match at King of the Ring and a great one at Canadian Stampede, let's see how their third match in a row on PPV goes. Hunter runs for the door immediately but Mankind stops him. He beats on Hunter, then Hunter tries to climb out so Mankinds throws him down in the middle of the ring. Mankind puts his head in cage. Running knee in the corner, followed by a pulling piledriver. Mandible Claw but he's near the cage and Chyna breaks it up choking him with a belt. Hunter whips him but gets caught with a clothesline.  Mankind climbs but so does Chyna and she gets a epic ballshot in. Hunter suplexes him off the cage in a nice spot for the easy win, but instead of leaving he wants to punish Mankind some more. He whips him hard into the cage a few times and rams him into it before going to work with some punches. More cage whips follow and Hunter tries to climb out. Mankind stops him but gets kicked off. He comes back up though and brings Hunter down. Mankind chokes him over the ropes allowing Chyna to interfere again. Atomic drop by Hunter, then Mankind hits one and follows up with a clothesline. This match is going along at a slow pace and the crowd aren't much into it. Hunter uses the knee, Mankind suplexes him into the cage and Hunter gets hung in a tree of woe on the cage. Mankind drops and elbow on him. Hard whips into cage by Mankind. He charges and Hunter back body drops him into the cage. Hunter gets crotched and his leg gets stuck in the ropes. Mankind tries to leave through the door but Chyna smashes the door into his head, ouch. Then she rammed the ref into the steps. She tosses a chair to Hunter, pedigree is reversed. Chyna was up on the cage for some reason and Hunter gets catapulted into her taking her out. Double Arm DDT on the chair. Mankind climbs, Chyna recovers and tries to drag Hunter but she gives up (Chyna screwed up there actually, she was supposed to do that yet and Hunter had to tell her get out). Mankind is about to win but decides to go back up. He takes off the mask and rips his shirt, revealing a Dude Love tattoo and delivers a wicked elbow from the top of the cage in a tribute to Superfly Jimmy Snuka. He climbs again, and this time Chyna pulls Hunter out, but Mankind escapes first and wins at 16:23. After the match Mankind is dead on the floor, but his foot starts moving and Dude Loves music hits. He makes it up and turns into Dude Love and struts his way out of there. 

 

Took way too long to get going and the early parts were pretty boring, but once it did it was got  good, and they had the crowd into it. Points for that sick elbow drop too. (***)

 

Governer Christine Todd Whitman comes out for an interview and gets booed. I don't care enough to listen to any of it. If you're wondering why she's there it's because Vince acknowledged that wrestling was fake, so she passed a law freeing wrestling from the State Athletic Control Board, thus allowing the industry to stage televised events in New Jersey without paying a $100,000 media tax, which had kept the WWF out of New Jersey for quite some time.

 

Brian Pillman vs Goldust

 

First stipulation of the night, if Pillman loses he has to wear a dress on Raw. Pillman jumps to start, he whips Goldust who comes back with a back elbow and unloads a kiss on Pillman. Punch sends Pillman outside. Back in Pillman whips in and then stalks Marlena. Goldust clotheslines him. Back in again Pillman clubs the back then beats on him. This is so sad to watch. Suplex by Pillman and there's the first wrestling move in the match, 5 minutes in. Pillman off the top with a clothesline for 2. He goes to a chinlock and holds it for a while. Goldust tries a pin but Pillman hits a clothesline for 2. Exchange of punches. Goldust tries a Bulldog but Pillman shoves him off. Shoulderblock by Goldust, who botches a sunset flip. Marlena hits Pillman with the purse and Goldust wins at 7:14.

 

This was horrible, Pillman was so limited he just couldn't do anything and everything he did looked weak. It's so sad to watch a wrestler like Pillman, struggling like this, especially knowing how it turned out. (DUD)

 

The Godwinns vs The Legion of Doom

 

The LOD broke Henry's neck and the Godwinns returned recently and have been attacking them in retaliation. Brawl to start, LOD dominate, both Godwinns are sent outside and they're pissed about it. LOD are really over here. Animal misses a charge on Phineas so he tags Henry, they go for a double backdrop but Animal double clotheslines them out. Henry's in there with Hawk and drapes him over the top rope. Legdrop misses, Hawk goes out to the floor with him and whips him into the steps. He rolls Henry back in, legdrops get 2. Henry fights back, and tags out. Phineas controls but Hawk fights out and both tag out. Animal works the arm but Henry whips him. Phineas knees Animal in the back and Henry clotheslines him outside. Animal on the apron, and he's pushed neck first to the railing. Tag to Phineas who slows it down with a long bearhug. Animal tries to fight but Henry tags in.  He misses a clothesline but continues to work on Animal. Phineas back in, he goes for something of the middle rope but Animal counters it. Hot tag to Hawk, Henry in and eats a powerslam. Whip in and clotheslines for both. Neckbreaker to Henry, nice bit playing off the broken neck. Animal takes Phineas out. Running clothesline in the corner. They set Henry up for the doomsday device but Phineas saves. Hawk clotheslines him out and a spike piledriver to Henry ends it at 9:51.

 

Henry had some guts taking a piledriver after his neck was broken months earlier. This was actually decent, the intensity and hatred was there. They worked harder than usual and the crowd were into the LOD (this would be probably the time the LOD were relevant). They also played off the broken neck pretty well. (**)

 

Million Dollar Draw. I'm not paying any attention to this, I'm busy drooling over Sunny. 

 

EUROPEAN TITLE MATCH: The British Bulldog vs Ken Shamrock

 

If Bulldog loses he has to eat a can of dog food. Shamrock starts out on fire, belly to belly and he beats him up all over ringside. Back in he goes for the ankle lock. Bulldog reaches the ropes. Shamrock hammers away in the corner and hits a high knee. Bulldog comes back with a clothesline. Delayed suplex gets 2. Chinlock as we take a rest. Shamrock eventually fights out, then charges and hits a sunset flip for 2. Clothesline by Bulldog and another chinlock. They grapple in the corner, then Bulldog kicks him low, ref doesn't DQ him for some reason. Small package gets 2. Outside Bulldog slams him shoulder first into the post. Hard whip into the steps, he picks them up but the ref stops him using them. Back in Bulldog punches more and hits another chinlock, come on already. Shamrocks lip is bleeding. He fights back but Bulldog throws him out. Bodyslam on the floor and Bulldog tosses some dog food in Shamrocks face and that's it, Shamrock snaps. He goes nuts and hits Bulldog in the back of the head with the can of dog food and gets DQ'd at 7:29. Post match he keeps beating on Bulldog and shoves the ref down. He chokes him Bulldog out. The officials eventually pull him off but he belly to bellys them and screams the patented "get of my way". The crowd absolutely love it.

 

Pretty bad match, Shamrock was trying but he was still very green and the Bulldog wasn't putting much effort in here. The ending itself was bad but the post match angle with Shamrock going nuts was great and really got him over huge with the fans. As a whole we'll call it (**)

 

Shawn Michaels says there's nothing between him and Bret and he'll be a fair, impartial referee

 

The Disciples of Apocalypse vs Los Boricuas

 

Ugh, I'm not looking forward to this. DOA beat on the Boricuas in various combinations for a while, Savio cheats and the Boricuas take over. Not much happening here, lots of kicking and punching and some clothesline. The Nation of Domination come to ringside. Ahmed is with the Nation of Domination here, that lasted long, actually he looks pretty scary as a heel with the Nation. More crap goes on in the ring and I don't care about any of it. Nor does JR who's working tons of metaphors. Finally something happens as Chainz comes in and cleans house, and everyone brawls. The Nation get involved too. Ahmed gives Chainz a Pearl River Plunge on the outside and Boricua pins him at 9:06. They all brawl after the match, and Crush rides his bike very slowly around the ring to break it up. 

 

Horrible match with absolutely nothing going for it. No good spots or anything worth noting at all. (DUD)

 

INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH: Owen Hart vs Stone Cold Steve Austin

 

If Austin doesn't win the the IC title he has to kiss Owens ass, remember that when we get to the finish. Owen goes after the knee but Austin comes back and kicks Owens ass all over the ring. Cross corner whip and Owen tries to flip out of a wristlock so Austin pokes him in the eye. Austin hammerlock slams him. Outside and Owen stomps on Austin's hands. Owen ties him in the ropes and bites the middle finger. He ties Austin up in the ropes and pulls the fingers back. Austin gets out of that and drops Owen with a stun gun. Owen tries a rana but that's countered into a powerbomb. Clothesline sends Owen outside and he tries to take a walk. Austin chases him and hits in the back of the head. Back in Owen hits a belly to belly and a neckbreaker. Legdrop gets 2. Owen hits a slam and goes up. Owen works on him with a neck vice and JR mentions Austins neck problems, that's rather prophetic. Owen whips him but Austin comes back with a clothesline and goes for a Sharpshooter but Owen power out of it. Clothesline for Owen and legdrop on the back of the neck. Owen whips him in but Austin counters and Owen springboards into a cross body. Austin rolls through for 2. Owen comes back with a bridging German for 2. These near falls are awesome. Camel clutch by Owen and Austin fights out of it. Owen hits a nice DDT for 2.  Owen gets a shoulder-block then Austin gets a sleeper.  Owen reverses into his own and Austin drops him with a jawbreaker. He climbs to the middle rope but Owen punches him in the gut. Neckbreaker gets 2. Body scissors as Owen keeps going for the neck, cheating to go with it. Ref realizes what's going on and Owen argues, Austin punches him, then whips him. He goes for a backbreaker and Owens counters into the inverted piledriver. Yes, that piledriver, and that's it for Austin's neck, he's done. Owen looks to cover but Austin tells him he's hurt, so Owen has no idea what to do. He stalls and berates the crowd. See, ordinarily you'd just have Owen win at this point, but the stipulation was that Austin would have to kiss his ass if he didn't win so they're in an impossible spot here. Owen keeps stalling unsure what to do, eventually, Austin calls a roll up, crawls over and Owen falls over him for the most gentle roll up wrestling history 16:15.

 

Before the piledriver botch, this was great and well on its way to being a classic. I loved the near falls and the story here with Owen working over Austins neck. The finish was understandably weak, and make no mistake about it, Austin is one tough SOB for getting that roll up. Apparently the match was supposed to go on for about 5 more minutes with Owen continuing to go for the neck and Austin eventually winning with a stunner. (***3/4)

 

WWF TITLE MATCH: The Undertaker vs Bret 'Hitman' Hart

 

Shawn Michaels is the special referee and we've got more stipulations. If Bret doesn't win the title he won't wrestle again the US. If Shawn favors The Undertaker he can't wrestle in the US. Bret clobbers Taker with the belt before the bell. Bell rings, Taker overpowers him in the corner. Clothesline and Bret bails out, he eats some steel railing, then the ring post. Shawn tells him to get back in the ring, but he ignores that. He misses a clothesline and hits the ringpost, and Bret tosses him into the steps. Bret tries to jump him but Taker catches him and rams him into the post. Shawn keeps telling them to get back in the ring or he'll call for a DQ. Back in Taker gets a backbreaker for 2. He puts Bret in a bearhug, but he bites his way out of it and gets booted in the face. Elbow misses as does a big boot and Bret kicks away at the leg. He works the knee over in usual fashion, it goes on for a while. Figure four leg lock and Paul Bearer walks down (as the announcers wonder if we'll meet Kane tonight). Taker reverses the figure four. He smashes Brets knee into the mat and goes outside to punch to Paul Bearer. Bret chases him out and clips the knee. Paul Bearer gets sent back. Bret locks in a figure four around the ring post. Shawn counts to 4 so Bret breaks it and argues with him. Bret works over the knee some more as Pillman and Owen come down. Shawn warns them. Bret wraps Takers around the ring post. Shawn tells them to keep in the ring. Bret locks in a leg grapevine. The psychology is obviously very good as it always is in Bret Hart matches but this is so slow. Taker breaks it by pounding his leg into Brets chest in a nice counter. He flips over the top and pounds away on Owen and Pillman. Shawn sends them to the back. Back in Bret charges but Taker hits a chokeslam. Shawn has his back turned and doesn't see the pinfall. Taker is understably not happy with that and grabs Shawn, allowing Bret to roll him up with a handful of tights for 2. That was a good near fall. Taker clotheslines Bret out and stalks Shawn. Shawn climbs the ropes so he's the same height as Taker to talk to him in a funny bit. Bret yanks Taker out then slams him into post. Back in Bret hits a double axe handle to the back. He works on the back some more with the usual set up for the sharpshooter. DDT gets 2. Taker blocks a headbutt, then drops Bret on the turnbuckle for 2. Bret comes back with a Russian legsweep. A couple more legdrops and he tries the sharpshooter, but Taker counters grabbing his throat and buries his knees in the ribs. Punches in the corner and hard whip. Bret blocks a charge. Taker hits his flying clothesline. Whip and Bret goes chest first into the corner for 2. Big boot and legdrop get 2. Bret goes to the apron but Taker chokeslams him back in but he's slow to cover and Bret kicks out. He tries the ropewalk but Bret crotches him. He tries a superplex but Taker slips, he tries it again and hits it. Both men are down but Bret recovers first. He locks in the sharpshooter, but Taker powers out of it and sends Bret flying outside the ring. Taker tries a tombstone but Bret fights out. He goes for a sharpshooter around the ringpost. Taker forces out, shoving Bret into Shawn. Bret grabs a chair and levels Taker with it. Shawn counts to 2 but he sees the chair and stops the count. He grabs it and interrogates Bret. Bret spits in Shawns face and that's enough for Shawn, he takes a wild swing with the chair and blasts Taker. Bret covers and motions at Shawn to count. Shawn has no choice but to count and we have a new WWF champion at 28:10. Shawn bails after the count, he pissed off about what's happened. The crowd is pissed off, filling the ring with trash. Undertaker wakes up and he's extremely pissed off, he walks out seemingly going after Shawn Michaels. And boy will there be hell to pay for Shawn Michaels for this. 

 

Both guys were more than solid here, but the match started out too slow and took a while to get going. The psychology was good as always with Bret matches, and it certainly built up well to a red hot ending. Good match here, though they'd have a way better one at One Night Only the next month. (***1/2)

 

The Verdict:

This show was pretty mediocre and exposed the weak line up the WWF had at the time. It had a few matches that could've been great but none got there. Austin/Owen would've been a classic if the unfortunate injury didn't happen and they had a proper finish. I'm giving Bret/Taker match of the night even though I rated it lower mostly because of the ending (in both cases, actually). This show is recommended for historical reasons, but beyond that, it's a solid thumbs in the middle.

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