SummerSlam 1988‘s importance in WWE history can’t be overstated.
WWE broke all the rules with the first WrestleMania in 1985. They took Jim Crockett and the NWA head-on with the first Survivor Series, and they created the Royal Rumble as one of their signature events.
On its surface, SummerSlam didn’t have a gimmick match like Survivor Series or Royal Rumble. It was just going to be a wrestling card but it had to be one that could measure up to WrestleMania.
The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers vs. The British Bulldogs
What is it with Canadians and SummerSlam?
Davey starts the match ramming Jacques’s head into the turnbuckles, including the Rougeaus’ own corner, allowing Raymond to tag himself in. Was Davey Boy a legit idiot, or did he just play one on TV?
Referee tries to break them up in the corner, allowing Raymond to take over. Davey tags in Dynamite, and they hit the double head-butt on Raymond. Dynamite takes control with a couple of armdrag takeovers into an armbar before tagging in Davey, who hits a top-rope lariat. A sunset flip from Davey gets a two-count, and now Davey hooks the armbar.
Davey tries to get up a head of steam and hits the ropes, but Jacques trips him up and finally tags in. Jacques locks in a cloverleaf ankle lock, periodically putting extra torque on the knee. Frequent tags from the Rougeaus keep Davey isolated. Davey finally gets to his corner and makes the tag, and Dynamite cleans house.
Dynamite throws Raymond onto the floor below, and Bulldog throws him into the barricade, because it was okay for 1980s babyfaces to “bend the rules” in WWE.
Davey comes back in and hits the powerslam, but Jacques breaks up the pin attempt. Dynamite tags back in and sets Raymond up on the ropes, but Jacques runs back in and drops Dynamite on his head. Jacques tags back in. The Rougeaus double-team Dynamite, including a wicked-looking tandem gutbuster. Raymond hooks him in an abdominal stretch, but Dynamite powers out only for the Rougeaus to keep up the double-team.
Now Davey is reaching out, looking for the hot tag, but the double team continues. Dynamite powers out of a prolonged rear chinlock and gets within a fingertip of the corner, but Raymond runs in and breaks it up. Davey finally tags in for real, but the referee didn’t see it. The Rougeaus can’t put Dynamite away, and he finally gets the tag to Davey.
Davey picks Jacques up and introduces his nuts to the top rope. All four guys are in the ring, and now the Bulldogs are double-teaming the Rougeaus, and the bell rings due to the time limit expiring. I’m all for time-limit draws, but SummerSlam 1988 is the first big summer PPV. You need satisfying finishes. **1/2
Decision – Time-Limit Draw
Bad News Brown vs. Ken Patera
Bad News jumps Patera before the bell even rings and hits a quick bodyslam and elbow. Patera takes some stiff punches to the face, but his giant perm helmet protects him, and he builds some momentum. He goes for an elbow coming off the ropes, but Bad News dodges.
Ventura can’t do commentary, as he’s going to referee the main event. As a result, we’re subjected to Billy Graham trying to string sentences together, and it is painful. It is very painful. There’s “no question about” several things at SummerSlam 1988.
Patera goes for the full nelson, but Bad News makes the ropes. Meanwhile, since this is one of the most boring matches in the history of ever, I’m updating my Rolodex, which I haven’t used in 23 years. Bad News finally catches Patera with his finisher, the Ghetto Blaster, for the pin. *
Winner – Bad News Brown
Backstage, Mean Gene interviews the Mega Powers. During the build-up to this show, Hogan and Savage built up a “secret weapon,” and they reveal to Okerlund that the weapon is Elizabeth. I mean, I guess if there’s one person in the Mega Powers’ corner not strung out on coke, that would be something of a distraction.
Rick Rude w/ Bobby Heenan vs. Junkyard Dog
Rude jumps JYD from behind, which Gorilla Monsoon refers to as a “Pearl Harbor job.” Is that Vince’s grudge against the Japanese?
JYD dumps Rude over the top before dragging him back in the ring. Rude fights back and heads to the top rope for a double axe handle. An elbow to the back of the head keeps JYD on the mat. After a few punches and a headbutt, Rude cinches in a headlock. JYD powers out, but Rude gets a big boot in the corner and drops another elbow for two.
Rude switches the attack to JYD’s arm but winds up hitting himself in the nuts with JYD’s arm. JYD takes over and hits the headbutt, but Heenan distracts the referee on the apron, and Rude sneaks in a Russian leg sweep. Rude goes up top and pulls down his pants, revealing another set of tights with Jake the Snake’s wife’s picture.
This draws Jake out, who chases Rude off and gets JYD disqualified. Jake tries to plead his case, and JYD seems sympathetic, because 80s babyfaces were idiots. And on SummerSlam 1988, the debut SummerSlam event, we have our second non-finish. **
Winner – Rick Rude via disqualification
The Bolsheviks w/ Slick vs. Powers Of Pain w/ The Baron
For some reason, Slick is managing the evil Soviets at SummerSlam 1988. Volkoff does his tried-and-true heat-seeker of singing the Soviet anthem, but Powers of Pain run in before the bell.
Zhukov and Barbarian start the match, but Warlord runs in and they knock Zhukov out of the ring. Then they double-team Volkoff. Barbarian gets a quick pin attempt on Zhukof, but Volkoff breaks it up. Warlord tags in and rams Zhukov’s head into the turnbuckle, but Volkoff breaks up another pin attempt.
Warlord hits a suplex and has Zhukov pinned, but the referee is distracted, allowing Volkoff to break it up again. I think I might have the formula for this one figured out. The Bolsheviks keep Warlord isolated and keep up the double-team. This kind of reminds me of the Bulldogs-Rougeaus match from earlier, except no one in the ring is talented.
Barbarian finally tags in and cleans house, and Monsoon keeps referring to any kind of kick as a “karate” kick. Zhukov almost loses his head to a kick from Barbarian, who dispatches Volkoff over the top. Warlord tags in, and they double team Zhukov. A powerslam into a diving head-butt gets the win for the Powers of Pain.
Hot finish, but a pretty boring affair overall. **1/4
Winners – Powers Of Pain
Brother Love Show
It’s so weird to see Bruce Prichard holding a microphone and doing something other than kissing Vince’s ass. I think I just realized that Tom Hanks stole his speaking cadance as Forrest Gump from Brother Love.
Apparently the original intended guest for Brother Love at SummerSlam 1988 was Ric Flair, but the deal wasn’t done. So instead we get Hacksaw Jim Duggan. Instead of any kind of actual interview, Duggan shouts “Hooo!” six or seven times and threatens to beat up Brother Love. You know, once the Flair thing falls through, why not just kill the segment?
The more things change, right?
Intercontinental Championship Match – Honky Tonk Man (C) vs. Mystery Opponent
The match for the IC title at SummerSlam 1988 was originally advertised as Brutus Beefcake challenging Honky Tonk Man. Before the match, though, we get footage of Brutus being attacked and taken out of action. The announcers say that there will be an IC title match, but they don’t know who the challenger will be.
Mean Gene tried to tell him who it would be in an earlier promo, but Honky cut him off. And, in the moment that put him over as a major player in WWE, the mystery opponent is announced as the Ultimate Warrior.
Warrior runs out, and Madison Square Garden comes absolutely unglued. The bell rings, and 24 seconds later there’s a new Intercontinental Champion. We crack more than our share of jokes about the Warrior, but you really can’t overstate what a big deal this was.
Honky had been the IC champ for a long time, so for Warrior to unseat him at SummerSlam 1998 was a big vote of confidence from the office. ***, not so much for quality but for being exactly what it needed to be.
Winner and NEW Intercontinental Champion – The Ultimate Warrior
Dino Bravo w/ Frenchy Martin vs. “The Rock” Don Muraco
If only Muraco had known all he had to do was refer to himself in the third person. And seriously, why does Vince have such a fixation on evil Canadians?
This was kind of a throwback of sorts, as Muraco was one of the biggest WWE stars of the late 70s and early 80s, and Bravo was a big name before and after the dawn of Hulkamania. And both guys could still go. It’s worth noting that Monsoon thinks that any kind of flip is called a “monkey flip.”
Muraco owns most of the match, but there is quite a bit of back-and-forth action, and Bravo takes control with an atomic drop. The Rock (I like saying that) gets back into the match with a Russian leg sweep putting both guys down. Bravo misses an elbow drop, and Muraco goes for a bodyslam, but the referee gets in the way, allowing Bravo to reverse into a sidewalk slam for the win. *** for being pretty solid considering the length.
Winner – Dino Bravo
WWE Tag Team Championship Match – Demolition (C) w/ Jimmy Hart and Mr. Fuji vs. Hart Foundation
For the record, this show is less than 3 hours long, and this is the seventh of ten matches. Vince? Cody? You guys listening? You can stack your card without having it stretch across two calendar days.
Bret goes for a tie up with Ax, but Ax puts him on the mat before Bret fights back and gets a near-fall on a roll-up. Smash tags in, and Bret hits an armdrag before tagging in Neidhart. Neidhart puts the beatdown on Smash but gets tripped up b Ax on the apron.
Demolition isolates Neidhart in the corner, but Neidhart makes it to the corner to tag in Bret. Smash runs in and throws Bret shoulder-first into the steel post, allowing Ax to take over in the ring. Ax and Smash keep up the pressure on Bret’s arm, tying him up in the ropes before Ax slams Bret’s arm into the turnbuckle.
Bret finally makes it to the corner and tags in Neidhart, but the referee didn’t see the tag, and the beatdown continues. The Hitman manages to get a foot up to halt a charging Smash and finally tags Neidhart in. Neidhart cleans house on everybody. A powerslam from Neidhart gets two. Bret tags back in and swings Neidhart into Smash for a two-count.
A backbreaker from Bret leads to a pin attempt, but Ax runs in to break it up. Neidhart fights him off but gets distracted by Mr. Fuji. Jimmy Hart throws his megaphone in the ring, and Smash nails Bret in the head for the pin for Demolition to retain at SummerSlam 1988. ***1/2, as there was some solid booking and decent action.
Winners and STILL WWE Tag Team Champions – Demolition
Big Boss Man w/ Slick vs. Koko B. Ware
Slick distracts Koko early, allowing the Boss Man to get a head start before the bell rings. Koko fights back and gets the Boss Man tied up in the ropes for a flying splash.
Boss Man frees himself and fights back, retaking control of the match. The announcers quite rightly point out that he’s allowed in the ring with all of his prison guard gear. Boss Man keeps up the attack, and now Monsoon mentions that Koko’s bird doesn’t look happy with how things are going. It’s a bird.
Koko is out, hanging over the ropes, and Boss Man drops a leg. Boss Man body slams Koko in the center of the ring and heads to the top rope. He goes for the splash, but Koko rolls out of the way. Boss Man goes for a splash in the corner, but Koko moves, and Boss Man crotches himself on the top rope. Koko goes up to the second turnbuckle and hits a dropkick and a splash, but Boss Man throws him off.
The Birdman goes for another splash, but Boss Man powers him over the rope and onto the apron. Boss Man drags him back in and hits the slam for the pin. Yeah, this match sucked. *
Winner – Big Boss Man
Backstage, Sean Mooney tries to interview the Warrior, but Warrior just wants to talk about getting picked up by a spaceship and getting a ride to the Garden. Cocaine’s a hell of a drug.
Jake “The Snake” Roberts vs. Hercules
Jake takes a stiff boot to the face early, and Hercules goes to town on the Snake, but Jake regroups. He signals for the DDT, but Hercules scrambles under the ropes for a breather.
A body slam from Jake sets up a headlock. Hercules reverses into a backdrop suplex, but Jake maintains the hold until Hercules gets a foot on the ropes.
After some back-and-forth action, Hercules locks on a headlock of his own, but Jake finally fights out and reverses into a hammerlock, but Hercules hits a back elbow sending Jake to the floor. Jake gets back to the apron, and Hercules starts clubbing him with forearms. Hercules goes for another one, and Jake snapmares him over the top rope.
The referee starts to count Hercules out, but Jake drags him back to the apron only for Hercules to hit a neckbreaker over the top rope. Back inside, Hercules goes back to the headlock, but Jake powers up and hits a jawbreaker. Jake takes over with a right hand a short clothesline, and he signals for the DDT again, but Hercules counters it with a backdrop.
A bodyslam followed by an elbow drop gets two for Hercules. Jake finally hits the DDT, and he gets the pin. **3/4. It was boring, but Jake working the psychology kept it interesting.
Winner – Jake “The Snake” Roberts
“Macho Man” Randy Savage And Hulk Hogan w/ Miss Elizabeth vs. Andre The Giant And Ted DiBiase w/ Bobby Heenan and Virgil – Special Guest Referee, Jesse Ventura
SummerSlam 1988 was Hogan’s first match back since WrestleMania IV and the start of the storyline that carried WWE through to WrestleMania V. In a rare display of humility, Hogan comes out side-by-side with Savage and Elizabeth, to Savage’s ring music no less.
Ventura decides early that he wants to change the corners for each team. Hogan argues for some reason, and Ventura gets in his face. Savage starts the match against Andre and gets absolutely obliterated. Andre tags in DiBiase, and the two guys who know what they’re doing face off.
DiBiase says he wants Hogan, so Savage tags the Hulkster in, and we get a glimpse of what could’ve been a huge money-making feud. Hogan gets an atomic drop early that sends him into Savage’s corner. Savage lays in a couple punches, and Hogan hits a clothesline. Hogan tags Savage back in, and they drop a double elbow on DiBiase.
Ventura throws Hogan out of the ring, only for Hogan to quickly tag back in. Savage tags in, and Hogan holds DiBiase up for a double axe-handle, but DiBiase kicks out at one. Hogan’s back in now, and a double-boot gets two. For some reason, Hogan runs over to Andre’s corner and gets his ass kicked for his trouble. Andre takes out Savage while he’s at it, and the Mega Powers are reeling.
The Giant tags in and sits on Hogan a couple of times, which in real life would be more than enough. Andre hooks a blatant choke on Hogan, and Ventura allows it. Hogan hulks out of it, but Andre starts choking him with his own singlet. Savage tries to call Ventura’s attention to it but just gives DiBiase a chance to sneak in and double team.
DiBiase tags in for real and hits Hogan with a clothesline for two. It’s kind of cool seeing Hogan be the guy trying to make a hot tag at SummerSlam 1988. Don’t get used to it. DiBiase cinches in a headlock, but Hogan fights out of it, but DiBiase keeps dragging him closer to Andre’s corner.
Hogan finally hulks out of the headlock, and he and DiBiase clothesline each other, putting both guys on the mat. Savage gets the tag, and he goes to town on DiBiase. A double axe-handle from the top puts DiBiase down, but the Million Dollar Man recovers, and we get a slugfest in the corner. DiBiase tags in Andre, who traps Savage in the neutral corner.
Andre tags DiBiase back in, and the beatdown on Savage continues. Hogan is reaching for the hot tag (see?), as DiBiase hits a backbreaker before heading to the second rope for an elbow, but Savage moves out of the way.
Savage makes the tag, and DiBiase begs Hogan off to no avail. Hogan gets a suplex and goes for a pin, but Andre runs into the ring to make the save. Hulk knocks him out on the apron locks in a sleeper on DiBiase while Savage goes to drop the elbow on Andre, but the Giant gets a foot up, knocking Savage out.
Andre and DiBiase start double-teaming Hogan, and Andre clears the ring. Ventura starts counting the babyfaces out, and Elizabeth gets on the apron to unleash her secret weapon: She pulls off her skirt to reveal her panties, and Ventura and the heels are understandably distracted.
Hogan and Savage sneak back into the ring. Savage knocks Andre out of the ring, and Hogan holds DiBiase down for the top rope elbow, setting up the leg drop and the three count. After the match, Savage and Hogan lift Elizabeth on their shoulders, and Hogan gets a little too handsy with Elizabeth. Blink and you’ll miss it, but it plants the earliest seeds of the Mega Powers feud. Not the most sound technical action, but it told a really solid story and had a creative finish. ***1/4
Winners – Hulk Hogan and “Macho Man” Randy Savage
Not exactly the greatest in-ring action in the history of the business, that’s for sure. But WWE was firing on all cylinders when it comes to building and telling stories.
I could’ve done without the non-finishes, and the card could’ve stood to lose the Brother Love segment. But SummerSlam 1988 was a pretty good start for WWE’s summer legacy.
It’s a historic show and, for the most part, it’s a really entertaining one. SummerSlam 1988 is an easy thumbs-up.
All images courtesy of WWE.