Madison Square Garden (New York, NY)
Original Airdate: August 29, 1988
I'm the worst. I know it. If you follow this blog, you know it. It has been months. But despite what you probably believed, I did NOT give up on this project. I just let a lot of things get in the way of it, namely getting laid off from my job and sleeping until 1 PM every day. I must be the only person on Earth who lost his job and as a result, somehow found LESS time for his silly leisure activities. I honestly watched Summerslam probably 6 weeks ago, so I really have no excuse for not coming on here and rambling for a couple thousand words much sooner. So if you've stuck with me, thank you kindly. I would like to issue a sincerely good hearted promise to update more often, but odds are that would probably just be an unintentional lie.
WWF was cooking full steam at this point. Clearly a 4th pay per view was needed (although I guess since the first Royal Rumble was on cable, it would have been the 3rd. Whatever. Semantics). So here we have the first Summerslam, an exciting pay per view extravaganza set to take place in the otherwise fairly deplorable month of August. It was also Vince Mcmahon's big "ef you" to NWA (soon to be WCW)'s "Starrcade" pay per view, but I don't want to get into the WWF/WCW wars quite yet. Either way, it really could not have come at a better time. WWF TV at the time was limited in how much exposition it could provide for championship caliber storylines. The champion did not appear on the weekly television programs often. So a new pay per view provided an excellent oppurtunity to further the Hulk Hogan/Randy Savage storyline, which, if you can remember waaaaay back to my previous entry, is the subject of my current concentration.
So in between Wrestlemania and 'Slam, Macho Man and The Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase continued to feud for Macho Man's new WWF championship. Hulk Hogan was off doing his own thing until he was attacked by both Andre The Giant and Dibiase during an interview. His response was of course to challenge them to a tag team match at Summerslam and as a partner, he of course he chose his storyline best friend, the Hulkster. Thus, one of the most well known tag teams ever (at least to wrestling nerds), The Mega Powers, was born.
There was no hint of dissension between Macho Man and Hulk leading up to the event. It appeared them and their manager, Miss Elizabeth, were the tightest, most effective unit in pro wrestling. And in fact, when the event rolled around, it took all three of them to get the win over the newly named "Mega Bucks". The odds were stacked against them going in, as in addition to the aptly named Andre The Giant, Dibiase also had his "bodyguard (read: slave)" Virgil as well as sneaky heel manager Bobby "The Brain" Heenan and heel leaning color commentator (and future governor of Minnesota and nutcase) Jesse "The Body" Ventura as the match's special guest referee.
The end of the match came when Elizabeth distracted Ventura by ripping off her skirt to reveal her underwear underneath. Macho Man hit his signature flying elbow and Hogan his leg drop, and it was over. All is well that ends well, right? Good triumphs over evil? Well no...unless you've been living under a rock, that ultimately doesn't turn out to be the case. A couple of seeds are being planted here: One is that one of Macho Man's ultimate reasons for turning on Hogan is that he is suspicious of Hogan's intentions toward Elizabeth (although as the heel, he obviously ends up just being painted as bitter and insecure. At this time, there were very clear good guy/bad guy lines). Interestingly enough, this may have been a bit of an extension of real life, as most reports from backstage sources at the time say Savage was very protective of Elizabeth (his real life wife at the time) and could also be quite jealous. I'm not sure if some writer picked up on that and put it into this storyline, but it's certainly interesting to consider.
The second reason for the breakup of the Mega Powers was plain jealousy on the part of Savage. He starts to claim he is playing unnecessary second fiddle to Hogan. This is a fairly common method for breaking up tag teams in the wrestling world, but the way it was allowed to slow burn in this case was, in my opinion, brilliant. While, as previously stated, there were no outward signs of tension between the two at this event, the beginnings were there. There were two major seeds planted:
1) The fact that the champion was booked in a tag team bout at one of the biggest shows of the year. It could have just been a way to get Hogan (who was arguably still their biggest draw) into the main event, but I think it was clever booking to make the Savage heel turn seem more believable. "Why should I have to share the main event with anyone else?" would clearly be the character's eventual mode of thinking.
2) Hogan is the one that gets the pinfall to end the match. Once again, very subtle, but in my opinion, very intentional. I suppose it is a possibility I am giving the writers too much credit here, but I really don't think so.
So there we have it. A win for the Mega Powers, but things begin to come unglued pretty quickly in the coming months. The keyword here is months. I know I might be humping the same point a bit here, but it is worth repeating that there are NO angles like this anymore. I can think of at least 5-10 times in the past couple years WWE or TNA has broken up a tag team for no real reason (seemingly just because they no longer want them to be a tag team). A couple of examples:
-Generation Me, a talented, acrobatic team of real life brothers who worked together in various independent promotions, signed with TNA and were broken up within about a year of entering the promotion. Suddenly one day, the older brother in the team, Max, decided he wanted to be a singles champion. There was no real rhyme or reason to it and the ensuing feud between the two was buried very very quickly. By contrast, the breakup of The Rockers (a late 80's - early 90's tag team to whom Generation Me owes a lot of their image/moves) was handled gradually and organically through miscommunications that eventually led to Rocker Shawn Michaels getting fed up and throwing his partner through a window on WWF television (one of the best, most compelling moments in WWF history in my opinion. More on that later)
-More recently, WWE put together the team of Miz and R-Truth and had them main event one of the bigger matches of recent years against John Cena and the returning Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Shortly thereafter, The Miz turned on Truth. Now I'm not sure whether this is leading to Truth turning face or not (he is currently suspended for violating the company wellness policy), but I just don't understand why they had to be pulled apart so quickly. The Miz has a title match at the next WWE pay per view, so I guess they wanted to make sure he had something to do on television during Truth's suspension, but Truth could have been written off TV any number of ways that didn't involve Miz turning on him. But that is representative of the overall problem with today's WWE programming and my reason for talking about the Hogan/Savage feud to begin with - EVERYTHING IS RUSHED NOW TO THE POINT WHERE NOTHING IS ALLOWED TO MAKE AN IMPACT. I hate to sound all old and "get off my lawn" about this, but I really think I am right here.
A couple more notes before I wrap this one up:
The first match on this card is an absolute barnburner between the British Bulldogs and the Fabulous Rougeau Brothers. They work a 20 minute broadway (time limit draw) which no one does anymore, complete with some great back and forth chain wrestling and really solid ring psychology. I know I stressed in earlier entries that the Dynamite Kid is one of the unheralded best wrestlers of all time, but watch that match and tell me I'm wrong. It's a shame the Bulldogs were nearing the end of their WWF run here and Dynamite was nearing the end of his career. His partner and cousin, Davey Boy Smith, managed a few more good years before completely self destructing himself.
The second match on this card is between Bad News Brown and former Olympic power lifter Ken Patera. Neither of them could do much of anything in the ring, so if you are watching this show and want to get a sandwich or use the bathroom or something, this is probably your best oppurtunity. That having been said, I'd like to point out Bad News Brown as one of the odd examples of casual racism that would come up from time to time during this period of WWF.
Bad News Brown's real name was Allen Coage. He was an African American gentleman from Calgary Alberta Canada who apparently had a genuine tough streak. He was an Olympic Bronze Medalist in Judo in 1976. Also, in a now legendary tale that Bret Hart confirmed in his autobiography, News was once called a racial slur by Andre The Giant on a tour bus, and in response, got the driver to stop the bus and demanded Andre come outside and fight him. Now Andre wasn't 800 lbs or whatever they billed his weight to be, but he was still a very very large man, and to a casual observer, this seems either super cocky or borderline suicidal. But guess what? As the story goes, not only did Andre not get off and fight News, he later apologized.
Anyway, I digress. News came up in Calgary's Stampede wrestling promotion as "Bad News Allen". However, when he signed with WWF, he was saddled with the new hometown of "Harlem New York", a finishing move called "the ghetto blaster" and the new moniker of "Bad News Brown", just in case anyone forgot that he was indeed an African American. I don't know that this was so much outward racism so much as Vince Mcmahon not believing at the time that his audience could handle any sort of subtle characters. I guess I could go on about this, but I've written quite a bit, so I think I'll call it a night. I've just always wondered why the Bad News Brown character was necessary. Maybe I'll talk about it further another time. In the meantime, good night.
PS - Bad News Brown died in 2007. He lived to be a semi-advanced age (63), but he is still another in the ever growing list of wrestlers from this era to die of a heart attack/heart failure. I didn't love his work in the ring, but it is still sad. RIP.
The British Bulldogs (Davey Boy Smith and The Dynamite Kid) fought The Fabulous Rougeaus (Jacques and Raymond to a time limit draw
Bad News Brown def. Ken Patera
"Ravishing" Rich Rude def. The Junkyard Dog by disqualification
The Powers Of Pain (The Warlord and The Barbarian)(w/The Baron) def. The Bolsheviks (Boris Zhukov and Nikolai Volkoff)(w/Slick)
The Ultimate Warrior def. The Honky Tonk Man (w/Jimmy Hart) to win the Intercontinental Championship
Dino Bravo (w/Frenchy Martin) def. "The Rock" Don Muraco
Demolition (Ax and Smash)(w/Mr. Fuji and Jimmy Hart) def. The Hart Foundation (Bret "The Hitman" Hart and Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart) to retain the Tag Team Championships
The Big Boss Man (w/Slick) def. "The Birdman" Koko B. Ware
Jake "The Snake" Roberts def. Hercules
The Mega Powers (Hulk Hogan and "Macho Man" Randy Savage)(w/Miss Elizabeth) def. The Mega Bucks ("The Million Dollar Man" Ted Dibiase and Andre The Giant)(w/Virgil and Bobby "The Brain" Heenan)
Next up: a brief detour into indie wrestling (my day at the first Chikara iPPV)