Aaron Rift’s thoughts on WWE Summerslam 1988 through 1992

In 2009, WWE released a Summerslam: The Complete Anthology DVD box set. At the time of the release, I reviewed the PPV events and here is what I thought about Volume 1 which features the 1988 through 1992 shows…

Summerslam 1988: Looking back at the very first Summerslam PPV, it was a very different WWE (WWF) from what we know today. My take on the company at the time is that it had the cartoon-ish characters yet everything else was still very sports-like. Gorilla Monsoon was still talking about “winner’s purses” and the rules were still strictly-enforced. Today, it’s the opposite since the characters are more realistic but the in-ring action doesn’t resemble a real sport as much as it used to.

This was also a period of time when the talent roster had depth but the wrestlers overall weren’t really that good with guys like The Junkyard Dog and Dino Bravo.

The highlight of the show was easily the main event. With Jesse Ventura as the special referee, the Mega Powers vs. the Mega Bucks really felt like an all-star match. Elizabeth showing some skin was also very shocking for its time. She would definitely pave the way for women wrestlers of the future.

The only other noteworthy happening was The Ultimate Warrior ending The Honky Tonk Man’s lengthy IC Title reign in less than a minute.

Line of the was Superstar Billy Graham: “If you’re gonna pose, take off your shirt, then pose BROTHA!”

Rating: 5/10

Summerslam 1989: This show was similar to the previous year in terms of average match quality with another blockbuster main event. While Zeus was a terrible wrestler, the main event had good storytelling which helped make the match live up to the hype.

It sure is weird hearing Tony Schiavone and seeing Arn Anderson/Tully Blanchard on a WWE PPV.

They left the interview blooper with Gene Okerlund (“f*ck it!”) off the DVD release.

Rating: 5/10

Summerslam 1990: I thought this was a really strong show overall.

The double main events between Hogan/Earthquake and Warrior/Rude were entertaining. Hogan’s reaction proved that, even though he didn’t have the title, he was still “the man” in the WWE.

The show-long storyline with Sapphire and Ted DiBiase was excellent. Even though the characters were cartoon-ish, they were well-developed and you actually had emotional investment in the conflicts that they were going through. Sherri, DiBiase, and Rhodes were all at the top of their game here.

The best match on the show (and in Summerslam history up to this point) was The Hart Foundation and Demolition in two-out-of-three falls. Once again, the storytelling was done well. Demolition (the heels) pick up the first fall, the babyface Harts win the second fall, and when Demolition try to cheat at the end with the 3rd member, LOD comes out to make the save. This is still one of my all-time favorite matches and I feel it is one of the few matches from that era that has stood up to the test of time. Unfortunately, WWE didn’t really go anywhere with the LOD/Demolition feud.

Rating: 7/10

Summerslam 1991: The heaven/hell theme was interesting, but it didn’t really work out too well in execution. Ending the show with a straight wedding was just strange (the after-party attack was tremendous though) and the tag-team match was predictable. Unlike previous years, I feel that the undercard was a lot stronger than the main events.

Bret Hart vs. Mr. Perfect, what else can be said that hasn’t been said already? It’s one of the best matches in WWE history making Bret 2-0 in stealing the show at Summerslam. This match was also amazing when you consider Mr. Perfect’s injury that ended up putting him on the shelf for a year after this.

The “jailhouse” storyline with The Mountie was very entertaining and was one of Jacques Rougeau’s best performances.

Virgil winning the Million Dollar Belt and LOD winning the WWE Tag Titles were also cool moments on the show.

Rating: 7/10

Summerslam 1992: This was the WWE’s first and only Summerslam PPV in the UK. It was a good show overall.

Bret Hart and Davey Boy Smith was another match that is an all-time WWE classic. Hart’s Summerslam streak of stealing the show continued at 3-0. My guess is that this was the match that probably convinced Vince McMahon to put the WWE World Title on Hart.

Warrior/Savage was a good match but it wasn’t on par with their Wrestlemania 7 encounter. Also, it was a waste of Ric Flair to have him on the outside watching the match. The indecisive finish with Savage being counted out also brought this match down a bit.

Michaels/Martel was a fun comedy match between two heels. Like 1989, 1990, and this year, Sherri put on a tremendous performance.

The rest of the matches were just there. Being the first PPV without Hulk Hogan, it was becoming noticeable that the WWE’s roster was starting to wear thin.

Rating: 6/10