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Attitude Era Classics: WWF Summerslam 1997

WWF Summerslam

August 3rd 1997

Continental Airlines Arena, East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Attendance: 20,213

Commentators: Vince McMahon, Jim Ross & Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler

Buy-rate: 0.80

The first show of my Attitude Era Classics series. I guess you’re asking yourself ‘why you starting at Summerslam 97?’ well that will be revealed later on. The main matches centred around the Hart Foundation (Bret Hart, Owen Hart, British Bulldog, Brian Pillman & Jim Neidhart) who were booked as heels in America but faces in Canada and the rest of the world. It was booked perfectly and credit must be given to Bret for making it work and also to Vince McMahon for coming up with the idea. Undertaker, who was having the best year of his career, was the WWF Champion and he would be defending the title against Bret Hart who claimed on Raw is War that if he failed to beat the Undertaker, he would never wrestle in America again. To add some extra spice to the match, Shawn Michaels was appointed the guest referee. Shawn and Bret were rivals on-screen (and off screen they had a legit hatred for each other too) so it be interesting to see how things turn out during the main event.

Another big match was for the Intercontinental Championship between the champion, Owen Hart and rising star, Stone Cold Steve Austin. Austin vowed to ‘kiss his (Owen’s) ass’ if he failed to win the title, and European Champion, The British Bulldog, vowed to eat a tin of dog food should he lose to Ken Shamrock.

The American national anthem is playing before the show which makes sense as it ties in with the stipulation of the main event.

A video package is playing highlighting the events which lead up the main event between the Undertaker and Bret Hart. As we head into the arena, we are welcomed to the show by our 3 man announce team.

Steel Cage Match

Hunter Hearst Helmsley /w/ Chyna vs. Mankind

The feud began at King of the Ring where Helmsley won the tournament, defeating Mankind in the finals. A match took place at Canadian Stampede which led to a double countout and here we are with a Steel Cage match between the two. I should point out that Foley is one half of the tag team champions alongside Steve Austin but that’s under his Dude Love gimmick hence why he doesn’t have the belt with him here.

The idea of the match being inside a Steel Cage was to prevent Chyna from interfering after all the interference last month. That doesn’t exactly prove to be the case here, as Chyna is still a factor at ringside in this one, but the match is a pretty good opener for the night. The men are stiff with one another, and Mankind takes a tough cage door shot to the skull when Chyna prevents him from escaping the cage at one point in the bout. He comes back however, and manages to take Hunter down with the double arm DDT on a chair before climbing up the cage. Time for Foley to do something crazy. Mankind rips open his shirt to reveal a faded Dude Love heart on his chest before dropping an elbow onto Hunter from the top of the cage. The crowd goes crazy and with both men down, Chyna comes in to try to pull Hunter out of the cage. In the end, Mankind manages to get out first to win the match by escaping. Post-match, he collapses on the floor outside but begins to tap his foot as the Dude Love theme starts to play.

Winner: Mankind

Rating: *** ½

A solid opener and a solid ending for the feud (at least on PPV). Hunter & Foley would continue to grow and end up having Hall of Fame worthy careers. Foley and Hunter would meet again in a street fight later in the year as the final face of Foley, Cactus Jack, makes his WWF debut.

Todd Pettengill interviews New Jersey Governor, Christie Todd Whitman. The Governor is responsible for cutting the New Jersey tax which made holding WWF events cheaper in the future. WWF President, Gorilla Monsoon and the Headbangers present Whitman a replica WWF Championship title as a way of expressing their thanks for her support for the company.

Goldust /w/ Marlena vs. Brian Pillman

Pillman finally makes his WWF PPV debut, he signed with the WWF back in ’96 but a series of injuries have hampered his career. The backstory for the feud was all about Pillman claiming to have a past romance with Marlena, which Goldust has taken, issue with. The added stipulation for this match, should Pillman lose, he’ll be forced to wear a dress the next night on Raw is War (God, I miss referring to the WWE’s flagship show as Raw is War.) Back in WCW, Brian Pillman was an unbelievably amazing athlete but many injuries have taken their toll and have affected his ability. Such a shame when you think how people consider Pillman to be one of the greatest ever to have never have been a World Champion.

It’s sad knowing where this is headed in a few months’ time as well. As a result we have a pretty poor match here that really could have been solid if Pillman were in a better state at this point. He’s still phenomenal as a character, but in-ring he just doesn’t have it anymore due to matters out of his control. This match is filled with basic stalling and cheap tactics and in the end Goldust picks up the win with a sloppy sunset flip attempt after Marlena nails Pillman with her loaded purse.

Winner: Goldust via pinfall

Rating: *1/2

As I mention, it was painful watching Pillman here. He clearly wasn’t 100% here and it showed. It would have been more beneficial if he was in a tag match with Neidhart as a way of easing the pressure on him. The feud would continue on to the next pay per view.

We now cut to an interview with the Legion of Doom. Typical LOD promo with loads of shouting and the whole “what a rush” catchphrase at the end.

The Godwinns (Henry & Phineas) vs. The Legion of Doom (Hawk & Animal) 

The big story here is that the Godwinns are now heels after assaulting their former manager Hillbilly Jim, having been frustrated with their recent lack of success in the tag division shortly after Wrestlemania. In the weeks that followed, they began to feud with the Legion of Doom, leading to a match on Shotgun Saturday Night which saw the LOD hit the Doomsday Device on Henry, legitimately breaking his neck in the process. As a result, the Godwinns have been off TV for a few months, looking for revenge on the LOD here. I think the Godwinns were much better suited as heels, especially with their cool creepy new entrance theme, I loved that theme reminds me a lot of the film ‘Deliverance’, but that doesn’t change the fact that they just aren’t very good in the ring. The match is pretty basic as you would expect from these teams, and the crowd just does not care at all, as you can see the LOD have already lost their lustre after being hot back at Mania. Animal gets the hot tag to Hawk at one point and the crowd is just dead. The LOD comes out victorious from this one, hitting a spike piledriver on Phineas, allowing Hawk to score the pin.

Winners: The Legion of Doom

Rating:* ½

Although it was sloppy at times (Hawk mostly) it wasn’t as bad as I imagined it to be considering of who was involved. Surprising entertaining.

Up next is the million dollar giveaway. Todd Pettengill is with Sable, Sunny (who is showing a lot of tit on this PG show) and two contestants who have the chance of winning one million dollars by unlocking a coffin (huh?) with a key selected at random. None of them won and neither did the two contestants that they rang (one of them didn’t pick up the phone!) If you thought the Vince McMahon giveaway from ’08 was bad, check this clusterfuck out! Complete waste of time it was!

WWF European Championship

British Bulldog © vs. Ken Shamrock

It’s time for our second Hart Foundation stipulation match of the night, and also the first time that the European Championship has been defended on PPV. The stipulation for this one is that if Bulldog loses the title he will eat a can of dog food. Of course, these guys were on opposing teams last month at Canadian Stampede, and they’ve been going at it since then. On a recent episode of Raw is War, Bulldog cost Shamrock a match against Vader, leading to the two men facing off in an arm wrestling contest the following week. Shamrock was about to win that contest, but Bulldog cheated by head-butting his opponent and then beat him down before pouring a can of dog food over him. That brings us to the match here. It’s nothing too special as Shamrock is still trying to get used to working WWF style after competing in the UFC for so long. Vince actually mentions on commentary during this one that Shamrock has had difficulty adapting to the WWF. That was true! The announcers also plug the One Night Only PPV coming up next month in England during this one, kind of spoils the outcome huh? The action spills outside the ring, where Bulldog grabs a handful of dog food from a can and slaps it across the challenger’s face. This causes Shamrock to snap, and he hits Bulldog with the can to be disqualified.

Winner & still WWF European Champion: British Bulldog via DQ

Rating: ** ½ 

An enjoyable match but was ruined with a weak finish. Shamrock’s ‘snap at any moment’ character was something the fans were starting to get right behind as it was a fresh gimmick and nothing like the cartoony gimmicks going on in the WWF at the time.

Backstage, Todd Pettengill in interview the guest referee for tonight’s main event, Shawn Michaels. Todd quizzes Shawn weather or not he’ll put personal feelings for Bret aside and the match down the middle. Shawn claims that he will be a fair ref and that ‘there’s nothing between me and Bret’. I wish that was true but you could see it in his face how he really feels about Bret.

A video package plays highlighting the feud between the Disciples of Apocalypse (A biker gang led by former Nation of Domination member, Crush) and Los Boricuas (A Latin America group led by former Nation of Domination member, Savio Vega.)

Los Boricuas (Savio Vega, Miguel Perez, Jose Estrada & Jesus Castillo) vs. Disciples of Apocalypse (Crush, Chainz, Skull & 8-Ball)

Aside from the leaders of the group, everyone else is just an afterthought. The gang wars was anIt was an interesting idea for a storyline, but the matches were flat out terrible. This is no exception as we have a total clusterfuck of an eight man tag (which Vince seems to think is a ten man tag for some reason, dumb Vince). It’s a very basic brawl filled with lots of illegal double teams and such which eventually brings the Nation (Faarooq, Kama, D’Lo & Ahmed Johnson) out to ringside to join in the affray as well. All hell breaks loose as Crush gets into a fight with Ahmed on the outside and is dropped with a Pearl River Plunge for his efforts. Savio looks to capitalise and brings the fallen DOA captain into the ring and scores the pinfall for the Boricuas.

Winners: Los Boricuas via pinfall

Rating: ½ *

No one cared. There was complete silence throughout. The only time the fans came alive was when the Nation of Domination interfered.

It’s time for another video package. This time, it’s focusing on the Owen-Austin feud which began at Canadian Stampede after Owen pinned Austin during the 10 man tag match. “I was the man that beat Stone Cold Steve Austin” claims Owen throughout the video. This leads to Austin vowing to kiss Owen’s ass should he lose against him tonight.

Michael Cole (a rather young and thin Michael Cole) tries to get a word with Austin about the upcoming match. Austin simply brushes Cole aside and makes no comment.

WWF Intercontinental Championship

Owen Hart © vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin

As I mentioned earlier, Austin is also one half of the tag champs with Dude Love here. Now this match is most famous (or rather infamous) for what happens in the closing minutes, but before any of that, the match is actually very good. Both men put on a solid showing, and Austin is incredibly over as his ascension to the top of the company continues. It’s a great match for the most part between two very talented workers doing their thing, but sadly things go very work in the closing stages of the match. Owen hits a piledriver on Austin but messes up and ends up dropping Austin straight on his head. And with that, the hottest act in the company has potentially been taken out, and I’m sure Vince was shitting himself at that moment; you could hear it in his voice when he told the TV audience that Austin is “hurt bad”. Austin isn’t able to move and Owen’s face tells you this is legit. He does his best to stall for time whilst the official checks on Austin. I think some of the fans suspect something is seriously wrong too. Finally Austin manages to get some small amount of control of his movement, and ends up rolling Owen up into a very (understandably) weak small package to win the I.C title. His first singles title in the WWF.

Winner & New WWF Intercontinental Champion: Stone Cold Steve Austin via pinfall

Rating: ****

It was a nasty spot with the piledriver. You can actually see Austin’s head get rammed into the canvas and it’s not pretty! It’s always scary re-watching this match for the obvious reasons. The commentators, the fans and Owen knew something serious had happened. Owen had to think on his feet and try and stall for some time. Honestly, I really don’t know how Austin managed to continue on (even if it was a weak roll up) but considering the pain he was in, it was impressive. If the injury never happened, I’m sure that this would have been match of the night. Austin would be side-lined for a few months (he continued appearing on Raw in a non-competitive role but returned to action in November). The refs help Austin to the back and he receives a deserving standing ovation.

We get another video recap about the main event. We return to the commentators who express concern for Austin’s health. Jerry Lawler remains in character and asks the two why they didn’t show this much concern when Henry Godwinn broke his neck.

Prior to the match, Bret Hart cuts a heel promo on American and requests for the Canadian national anthem to be played. Classic heel tactic by Bret.

WWF Championship

Guest Referee: Shawn Michaels

Bret “Hitman” Hart vs. The Undertaker ©

I guess when you look back on this match; the added stipulation of Bret not wrestling in America again should he lose makes the outcome a bit obvious right? There’s more than just the Bret & Shawn feud going on here. Undertaker still has an on-going issue with Paul Bearer who claims that his brother, Kane, is still alive and is coming after him. A lot of fans, myself included, thought that Kane would make an appearance tonight. God, it was exciting. Before the match gets started, Bret takes the title belt from Michaels and nails Taker over the head with it before we get under way to take the advantage. Anyway, this is a very good match, as we have two incredible superstars in there going at it for the richest prize in the business with another major star being the referee. The pace starts out quite slow but things pick up the longer the match goes for. Paul Bearer makes his way down to ringside midway through the match to play some more mind games with Taker just as the Phenom has taken control. He gets decked for his efforts, but the distraction allows the Hitman to get back in control of this one. We see Owen and Pillman head down to ringside later on to lend their support to the Hitman, but they don’t get involved. Shawn ends up ejecting them from ringside and misses a pin for Taker following a chokeslam in the process. From here, Taker and Bret go at it some more until Taker sends Bret crashing into Michaels. With the referee down, Bret gets a chair shot to the face of the champion. Shawn sees the chair and confronts Bret over it. Bret ends up spitting in Shawn’s face which results in Shawn going to smash him with the chair in return. Bret ducks however, and Shawn’s chair shot connects right on Taker’s skull. Bret makes the cover, and due to the stipulations, Shawn has no choice but to count the three.

Winner & New WWF Champion: Bret “Hitman” Hart via pinfall

Rating: **** ½

Great chemistry involved with all 3 guys involved in the match. When I originally watched this pay per view, I though Kane was going to make his appearance soon after Paul Bearer made his way to ringside. He didn’t and we had to wait. A lot of things would happen after this match but all of that will be reviled at a later date.

So Bret Hart is now a 5 time World Wrestling Federation Champion. Shawn Michaels leaves the ring in disgust, you could tell that he wasn’t happy with Bret spitting on him although it was a part of the match, whiles Undertaker goes after the man responsible for costing him the title. We close the show as Bret Hart celebrates his title victory with the rest of the Hart Foundation.

 

Random thoughts

  • You could tell Shawn was pissed off about getting spat on. The spot was agreed upon between both Bret and Shawn with the understanding that Bret would spit on Shawn’s shirt. In book, Bret mentions how his mistimed his shot and some of the spit landed on Shawn’s face and Shawn though Bret did it on purpose. The tension between Bret and Shawn off camera would continue to grow.
  • I still cringe whenever I see Austin’s injury. You can actually see his head getting driven into the mat. You could tell by Owen’s facial expression that something serious had happened. Vince knew it too as did the fans too.
  • Another spot I cringe at is when Chyna slammed the Cage door into Foley’s head. Foley took some sick bumps throughout his time and even more sicker bumps will be covered as we progress.
  • I actually enjoyed Undertaker’s title run in 1997. Sure, he first won the title back in 1991 but this time round it felt more legit. 1997 was arguably the best year in Undertaker’s career.
  • The ‘Gang War’ storyline between the Nation of Domination, Los Boricuas & Disciples of Apocalypse was an interesting storyline on paper but we had to put up with poor quality matches such as this one.

 

Best Match: Undertaker vs. Bret Hart – A superb match. Great chemistry between the three guys involved (Shawn being the 3rd btw)

Worst Match: Los Boricuas vs. Disciples of Apocalypse – Crowd didn’t care. Neither did I.

Attitude Era Moment: Austin breaking his neck. It was touch and go for Austin but he came back and help turn around the fortunes of the World Wrestling Federation

 

Top 5 Superstars:

1. Stone Cold Steve Austin – How he managed to continue with a broken neck is beyond me. It’s a testament to his toughness.

2. Bret Hart – A 5 time WWF Champion and on top of the company, or so we though. Who would have thought that Bret would be more of the focus of the company in 1997 prior to winning the title?

3. Undertaker – Put up a good performance in the final match of his lengthy title reign. The match would setup his next feud against Shawn Michaels.

4. Mick Foley (Mankind) – Taking a blow to the head courtesy of a Steel Cage door and the elbow from the top of the Cage were worthy reasons a lot to Foley apart of the top 5.

5. Shawn Michaels – Added a little something extra to the main event. You could tell that he was pissed off with Bret about the spitting spot.

After each Superstar Ranking, I’ll be rewarding points based on their position, so for example 1st will get 5pts, 2nd 4points and so on. I also want to point out that throughout the Attitude era; Mick Foley competed under the names Mankind, Dude Love and Cactus Jack. For simplicity, I shall refer to him as Mick Foley throughout.

Superstar Rankings

1. Stone Cold – 5pts

2. Bret Hart – 4ts

3. Undertaker – 3pts

4. Mick Foley – 2pts

5. Shawn Michaels – 1pt

Overall show ending (out of 10): 6

A bit hard to outdo the previous pay per view (Canadian Stampede, PPV of the year in ’97) but it was a great effort. Better than last year’s Summerslam that’s for sure. Most of the undercard matches were pretty forgettable although the IC title match was decent as was the Cage match. Going into the next pay per view, the focus will be on Undertaker and Shawn Michaels whiles WWF Champion, Bret Hart, fades in the background despite being the focus of the company prior to becoming Champion.

 

So there it is guys. The first review for the Attitude era series. For your information, I shall be reviewing every pay per view between August 1997 to April 2001 (Wrestlemania 17). The only two pay per view which I will not be reviewing will be “Mayhem In Manchester ’98” and “Over the Edge ’99”. I’m sure you don’t need reminding why I’m not reviewing Over the Edge ’99 but Mayhem In Manchester is only presented in “highlight” form which will make it difficult to review. I’m looking forward to reviewing these shows and I hope you guys enjoying reading them too.

*RIF VAN DER SHERIFF

RifRasslin@hotmail.co.uk

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