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 2 which features the 1993 through 1997 shows…
Summerslam 1993: By this point, WWE had entered their “dark ages” period that started with the steroid/sex scandals and would last until the start of the Attitude Era. Vince McMahon would soon be on trial and it was clear by watching WWE TV that his eye was “off the ball” so to speak.
The highlight of this show was easily the Bret Hart (once again the Summerslam MVP) vs. Jerry Lawler match/storyline. The whole thing went about thirty minutes and there was never a dull moment. Jerry Lawler did a tremendous fake injury promo which lead to a solid Hart vs. heel Doink match. Of course, Lawler wasn’t really hurt and Bobby Heenan’s “it’s a miracle!” line was classic as Lawler attacked Hart. Jack Tunney ended up forcing Lawler to wrestle Hart and it was time for revenge. The babyface Hart would proceed to beat the sh*t out of the heel Lawler and win with the sharpshooter. However, Hart wouldn’t let go of the hold after the match was over. The stipulation of the match was that the winner would be the true king of the WWE, and since the referee reversed his decision due to Hart not releasing the hold, a devastated Lawler was victorious. The PPV is worth watching just for this alone.
The rest of the show ranged from decent to bad matches. Lex Luger was supposed to be Vince McMahon’s new Hulk Hogan but things didn’t quite work out. Luger’s match with Yokozuna ended up having a really disappointing finish with WWE Champion Yokozuna being counted out. For some reason, Luger was thrilled even though he didn’t win the title.
Shawn Michaels vs. Mr. Perfect was also a major disappointment and it failed to deliver what you expect from those two.
Summerslam 1994: The WWE’s “New Generation” era had begun by this point. There were some noticeable changes since the previous years in terms of production such as increased lighting effects and custom stage designs. However, it was still typical WWE for the time with decent wrestling overall and fairly strong storylines geared towards kids.
Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart for the WWE Title inside a steel cage was another all-time classic. For the 5th straight year in a row, Bret stole the show. At first, I wasn’t a huge fan of this match since I didn’t like the concept of wrestlers trying to run from each other in a cage match. However, once I read Bret’s book, I had second thoughts on this match. Since blood was banned at the time, both guys trying to escape the cage was the only other way they could make a dramatic impact in the match. The post-match storyline with the Hart family getting involved was also really well done.
Another good storyline was Tatanka turning heel and joining Ted DiBiase’s stable after Tatanka had been accusing Lex Luger of being the one that “sold out” to DiBiase.
The Undertaker vs. The Undertaker match got huge reactions for the entrances, but the crowd was totally dead for the match and the show ended flat for a second year in a row.
Summerslam 1995: This would be the last WWE PPV before the Monday Night Wars era officially began. It’s a good thing WCW started breathing down WWE’s neck because the quality of the product had really gone down during this time. The storylines had gotten bland and the talent roster had gotten fairly weak. Seriously, Barry Horowitz on a major WWE PPV?
The 1-2-3 Kid vs. Hakushi was a good opening match but the rest of the undercard was forgettable.
Bret Hart and Issac Yankem (Kane) had a good match but this was the end of Hart’s Summerslam streak thanks to, of all people, his long-time rival Shawn Michaels. Michaels and Razor Ramon had their ladder match sequel from Wrestlemania 10. Unfortunately, it was almost impossible to top the first match but they gave it a great effort. The match was really strong up until the botched finish where Michaels wasn’t able to get the belt on cue and had to climb the ladder a 2nd time.
Diesel vs. King Mabel might very well be the worst Summerslam main event in history. What was WWE thinking by putting Mabel in the main event of the 2nd biggest show of the year? During the match, Sir Mo had gotten involved and Lex Luger came out to make the save. For some reason, Diesel attacked Luger and Luger just went backstage again. The whole thing made no sense. As it turns out, Luger would shock the world by appearing on the debut edition of WCW Monday Nitro a week later and a new era in wrestling history would begin.
Summerslam 1996: The Monday Night Wars was in full swing and WWE was feeling the pressure. The talent roster was really thin with Diesel/Razor Ramon jumping to WCW and Bret Hart taking time off.
Shawn Michaels vs. Vader was a really good main event after previous years of disappointment. It was a unique situation with the match stopping and then restarting again. Michaels was counted out and, after the match got started again, got disqualified after using Jim Cornette’s tennis racket that Cornette tried to give to Vader. Finally, Michaels scored the pinfall on the big man. Good stuff here.
The Undertaker vs. Mankind boiler room brawl was also unique for its time and it would set the standard for future WWE hardcore matches. Paul Bearer would end up turning heel on Undertaker which would eventually lead to the debut of Kane, so this was quite an important match in WWE history.
Jerry Lawler vs. Jake Roberts was amusing, but the rest of the show was run-of-the-mill.
Summerslam 1997: As Jim Ross would say, business was starting to pick up for WWE in 1997. Blood was brought back, wrestlers started using profanity, more half-naked women were running around. For this PPV, all-red ring ropes replaced the red-white-blue ring ropes of classic WWE/WWF events. WCW was still winning the Monday Night Wars, but it was clear from watching this show that WWE wasn’t going down without a fight. The Attitude Era was upon us.
Bret Hart came back from missing the previous year to have one final great Summerslam match with The Undertaker. Shawn Michaels was the special referee and the stipulation was that, if Hart lost, he’d never wrestle in the United States again. Likewise, if Michaels helped The Undertaker, he would also never wrestle in the United States again. The finish saw Hart spit in Michaels face. Michaels, who was holding a steel chair that Hart brought in the ring, swung the chair in rage but Hart ducked and Undertaker got hit instead. Hart made the cover and Michaels had no other choice but to make the pinfall. This was an awesome storyline.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin was on the rise and he had a great match with Owen Hart up until the infamous piledriver incident that almost ended Austin’s career and certainly cut it short.
There were some fun moments on the show such as Pillman/Goldust and Ken Shamrock snapping. There was one disastrous segment where WWE tried to give away a million dollars and all that was accomplished was twenty minutes of PPV time wasted. Also, there will guys such as the Godwinns/Boricuas/DOA that had no business being on a major WWE PPV. This was a good show storyline-wise but the undercard wrestling quality was weak.