Sunday, March 15, 2015

1996 Summerslam

The pay-per-view opened up with a promo about villains in masks (aka Mankind and Vader) and the heroes that fight them (Michaels and Undertaker). It described Michaels as a "gallant hero" and Undertaker in the role of David vs. Goliath. We're not even 30 seconds in and already the mind boggles.

The video ends but the voiceover continues to tell us that tonight is coming from "beautiful historic Cleveland, Ohio". Using the word 'beautiful' to describe Cleveland may be the biggest lie ever told on a wrestling PPV and there have been some whoppers. I guess Cleveland was attempting some revitalization at the time because entering the arena Vince calls it the 'New American City' and continouisly referred to the 'beautiful' Gund Arena.

Match 1; Savio Vega vs. Owen Hart
Winner: Owen Hart via ref stoppage

The 'Slammy Award winning' Owen Hart came down to the ring with his cast over his supposedly broken wrist and Slammy Award in hand. Vega had a pre match discussion with the ref about the cast, which pretty much telegraphed the finish. Vega started the match working on the arm, much to the chagrin of Curt Hennig (damn he was great as a heel commentator). They had a split screen during the match showing Corrnette in the back training Vader, teasing dissension within Camp Cornette, as he was not ringside to support Owen. There was a lot of talk about Bret during the match and how much better a person he was than Owen. Clarence Mason, the legal counsel for Camp Cornette, started walking down to the ring mid-match with Vince suggesting that he was moving in on Cornette's territory.
After a couple near falls for Vega, and a few horrible facial expressions by Mason Owen won by striking Vega with the cast that came off his wrist and then applying the Sharpshooter. It was right in front of the referee but they pretended the ref didn't see. Pretty sloppy stuff.
Following the match Justin "Hawk" Bradshaw came out to yell at McMahon before laying out Vega

They then had a backstage segment where they were attempting to show how ominous the boiler room was only to find Mankind sitting comfortably back there. Mankind then cut a promo about how he was home.

Match 2: The New Rockers vs.The Body Donnas vs. The Godwinns vs. The Smoking Gunns w/ Sunny (champions)  in Tag Team Elimination Tournament for the Tag Team Championship
Winner: Smoking Gunns via pinfall

The New Rockers (Marty Jannety and Leif Cassidy) came down in their tie dye outfits; the Body Donnas walked in with  a cast around the neck of Skip (casts seemed to be a theme of the show); the Goodwinns entered with a dog and finally the champion Gunns came down to the ring with Sunny, Again the highlight of the tag team division at this time was Sunny. The rules for the match were that you could tag any other person to come into the ring, not just your partner. It was an elmination match so why any team would accept a tag until the end is a mystery they didn't try to explain. The match started off with Billy Gunn and Henry Godwinn and then became Zip vs. Phineas. Zip and Phinas both tagged the Gunns, which resulted them being in the ring together against each other. They argued and moved around the ring until Bart tagged Zip making the whole segment of the match pointless. Marty Jannetty pulled out Zip's legs when he tried to run the ropes, which was enough to incapacitate him and Billy pinned him eliminating the Body Donnas, without Skip getting in the ring. The Rockers' role seemed to be to help the Gunns. After a sidewalk slam by Henry Godwinn both Rockers came in to break up the count but instead double elbowed Billy, who immediately got up and started arguing with them. Immediately.
Somehow, without a tag, Leif Cassidy became the legal man. He was quickly dispatched with a "Slop Drop" eliminating The New Rockers. Sunny teased the Godwinns with a version of 'na-na-na-na poo poo" from the outside. Phineas eventually got the hot tag and had Billy pinned. With Hillbilly Jim and Sunny tangled up on the outside, the ref got distracted and Bart was able to do an axehandle from the turnbuckle breaking up the tag and allowing Billy to pin Phineas for the win.
Sunny then cut a promo praising the Gunns as the only real men and her as the best woman in the arena and unfurled a giant picture of herself as a distraction from the women beside them.
Vince then addressed the entire audience from the announcer's table discussing the WWF events that had occurred in Cleveland that weekend. Then the WWF aired the best Cleveland tourism video of all time. They showed "a race" between The Godwinns using Cleveland rapid transit vs. the Gunns in a horse and carriage. So congratulations Cleveland: your transit system is better than a horse and carriage. They then encouraged the crowd to take the rapid transit to the Gund Arena on Sunday: the arena they were already at on the day they were already there.
The next segment in the video was Jerry Lawler heading to Jacobs Field to get pitching tips from...a catcher. The catcher to be fair was the great Sandy Alomar, but again it made little sense. Lawler asked Sandy how to throw a spitball. Sandy asked him to teach him how to piledrive him. He then asked All-Star pitcher Charles Nagy for spitter tips, again without success.
The third segment of the video was showing WWF superstars helping clean up the inner painting over graffiti, with a voiceover talking about it and surrounded by smiling youth.
Then in a part I rewound multiple times to make sure I heard it correctly Undertaker and Paul Bearer gave away a funeral. Pardon me. A FUCKING FUNERAL!!!!!
Honestly, even if you have no time to go back and watch this PPV, find this video segment and watch it. It's unintentionally  a better parody than the actual parody Cleveland Tourism videos. The final segment was an autograph session. A fucking funeral for fuck's sake.

Match 3: British Bulldog w/ Clarence Mason vs. Psycho Sid
Result: Sid via pinfall

I recently watched a Kevin Nash video that said that Sid wanted to be a vicious heel but Vince wanted him to be the new face of the WWF a la Hogan. Quick personal shout out to the member of the audience, who was featured several times on camera, in full Goldust regalia.
Sid got a long entrance, talking to himself and hyping the crowd.The crowds started chanting 'USA' and despite Sid's psychosis he still remembered he was American, so that's good, I guess, Sid started dominating the match, which led Bulldog to rollout of the ring. A 'Psycho Sid' chant then emerged. Sid then started some headlocks, takedowns and slams. JR called it deliberate, which is JR speak for 'boring'. Surprisingly, they let Bulldog get some offense in, before returning to some more rest holds despite the fact they had hardly done anything in the ring. They showed the split screen with Cornette in the back again but this time Cornette was actually watching the match. The match ended after Bulldog powerslammed Sid but got distracted by Cornette who had come down to the ring to argue with Mason. As Cornette and Mason settled down Sid was able to powerbomb Bulldog and get the win. Just some awful stuff.

A promo aired for the next WWF In Your House PPV, Mind Games. A guy watching wrestling alone on his couch suddenly became surrounded by aliens, then hot girls. Sold.
Match 4: Goldust w/ Marlena vs. "Wildman" Marc Mero w/Sable
Winner: Goldust via pinfall

They said in a prematch interview that this match was due to Goldust's obsession with Sable but showed a video of Mankind calling Sable 'Mama', which just confused things. I guess women being a rare commodity in the WWF made all the men go crazy, even Goldust.
Mero changed his look away from the leopard print and JR said Mero promised a new move during this match, They explained during this match that Ahmed Johnson was injured at home, which helped me to understand why Vince's golden boy wasn't there. Vince did promise an interview with Johnson later in the PPV. Hennig, who was on commentary, tried to get to JR and Vince to focus on the match in the ring. Once again, Mr. Perfect was the best. During the match Mankind came down to find his mother Sable. After scaring Sable, he left as quickly as he arrived.
Meanwhile, Marlena was unperturbed on the other side, continuing to smoke on her cigar.and right, there was still a a match going on. Mero seemed to be a much better worker than Goldust and his moves looked crisper, while Goldust looked lazy and sloppy. There was a botched spot where he carried him to the side of the ring and both just fell over the ropes, but Mero quickly got up and did an attack from the ring to the outside to save the spot. Mero did an impressive shooting star press, called "The Wild Thing", his new signature manoeuvre, but Marlena distracted the referee preventing the pin. Goldust then got the Curtain Call for the win. With Mero out Goldust creeped out Sable again, which led to her acting scared for the second time in the match, and equally unconvincing.
 Mero eventually recovered to save Sable.

A video segment then showed Ahmed Johnson, who was having surgery for his kidneys after an attack by Farooq and Gorilla Monsoon vacating the title. There will be an 8 man tournament for the Intercontinental Title beginning on RAW the next night. The video questioned whether Johnson would ever return to wrestling. Johnson had also won a WWF Title shot in a Battle Royal so the Final 4; Stone Cold, Goldust, Savio Vega and Psycho Sid would be in a sudden death Battle Royal for a title shot at a special Raw Championship Friday.
Farooq, dressed in his then gladiator-like outfit, came to the ring with his manager Sunny, who had changed from earier.
Farooq demanded the Iintercontinental Title in an in-ring interview. Sunny called him a "modern day glaidator", which explains the outfit. Sunny then promised Farooq Assad would be the next Intercontinental Title because "what Sunny wants, Sunny gets". Farooq, Ron Simmons, was a WCW Champion back in the day so he probably should have been given a better gimmick but hey Vince knows best.

Match 5; Jake "The Snake" Roberts vs. Jerry "The King" Lawler
Winner: Lawler via pinfall

I was not looking forward to this match. They aired a video beforehand outlining the fued. Jake was shown being interviewed about being an alcoholic and drug addict interspersed with clips of Jerry on commentary making fun of him about it. Prior to the match they introduced "The World's Strongest Man" Marc Henry, complete with fireworks, who joined them at ringside for commentary,
Lawler came to the ring carrying a green bag, with bottles in his pockets. He removed his jacket to reveal a Ravens jersey and pennant. Cheap heat as the Browns had recently left town to become the Ravens.

Jerry cut a promo talking about how he had invited his friends the Modells (owners that moved the Browns to Baltimore) to the arena and Jake's friends 'Jim Beams', pulling out the bottles. He then ridiculed Jake's wife and Marc Henry for not winning any medals at the Olympics. Jerry is a terrific heel and the way they use him now, with that much great heat is such a misuse of talent. Jake walked to the ring with his green bag, with the snake inside.

Jerry took out a giant bottle to offer to Jake, which resulted in Jake taking out the snake to choke Jerry. Jerry rolled out of the ring to escape and again grabbed a mic and the Jim Beam bottles. Finally, Jake started attacking Jerry on the outside. After a short attack, a boot to the 'lower abdominal area' , an attack on thhe ring post, Jake was dominating. The crowd was chanting for the DDT but l Lawler hit him in the throat with one of the Jim Beam bottles, again right in front of the ref, Harvey Whippleman, who didn't see it.

As Jake sold the throat shot Jerry attempeted to pour the two bottles of Jim Beam down his throat. Mark Henry then got up to stop Jerry before he was able to pour the second bottle, seemingly too lazy to get up to stop the first.

Henry and Whippleman helped Jake get to the back and a video played outlining the fued between Mankind and The Undertaker.

Match 6: Mankind vs. The Undertaker in a Boiler Room Match
Winner: Mankind via grabbing urn

Paul Bearer walked down to the ring with the urn as Vince explained the object was to fight out of the boiler room and get to ring to take the urn.

They immediately cut to the back where Undertaker was entering the boiler room and began playing hide and seek with Mankind. There was a lot of walking around here until Mankind finally came out from behind Taker and hit him with a 2x4.
This was a fairly typical backstage fight; some wood , some trashcan lids, and the slamming into various walls and barriers. The commentaors were silent throughout the initial portions of the fight other than some grunts and yelps of "ouch". Maybe they took a bathroom break. The crowd was also dead silent or unable to be heard on camera. I can't imagine their excitement at paying money to go see a live show and then watching a fight on video. What a thrill!
There were even some transmission difficulties resulting in dead air static for a few seconds.
As much as I like Mankind and Taker, the idea of them fighting in a dimly lit back room was ill conceived, especially on a PPV, with no commentary and no crowd noise. At some point the crowd was able to be heard after Mankind put a pipe in Undertaker's nether regions but they returned to dead silence again after that. Throughout the fight Mankind screamed unintelligibly and was responsible for most of the offense. Once again there was sporadic crowd noise, which makes me think it was just poor audio engineering. They then returned to this wonderful screen for an uncomfortably long time:

Getting your money's worth, When the screen returned Mankind had grabbed a ladder, from helpful production staff I assume. He climbed to the top but Undertaker recovered to knock him off for a backstage ladder bump. The two of them began to struggle towards the exit, with Taker finally getting in some attacks, and a visible bleeding elbow. Taker was able to launch a fire extinguisher into the face of Mankind and open the door. The two struggled with the door for a while before Mankind emerging first and attempting to barricade the doors that led to the arena. Instead of using the time to run to the ring he stood there holding the barricade until Taker broke through. The fight continued past the locker rooms where we got an Austin cameo. Mankind was first into the arena as he had incapaciated Taker with hot coffee but once again he just waited for Taker to follow. The two began to fight to the ring past TVs that had been set up for the fans to watch what was going on TVs. Not even a giant Titantron, mini TVs.

Taker was able to get to Bearer first but Bearer turned the urn away from him. Mankind applied the Mandible Claw on Undertaker twice and held him for Bearer to slap and kick.

Finally, Bearer delivered the final blow and smashed the urn into the head of Undertaker allowing Mankind to take possession of the urn and win the match.
As Paul Bearer left the arena with a taunt of "I'm Paul Bearer and you're not." the arena when dark and masked druids walked to ring as a Gregorian like chant played. The druids carried out the commentators wondered what was going on and the crowd clapped. Cartoon like stuff.
Then after abruptly cutting to the back, Cornette cut a promo standing behind Vader, in an interview with Michael Hayes.
Match 6: Vader w/Jim Cornette vs. Shawn Michaels (champion) w/Jose Lothario for the WWF Championship
Winner: Michaels via pinfall

This is, according to Cornette and others, the match that killed the possibility of Vader becoming a legitimate top level heel. The original plan was for Vader to win the title, but HBK being HBK refused to the job and the finish was changed. The Outsiders had just recently debuted on WCW Nitro and they were beginning to have some winnings in the ratings, perhaps scaring Vince in taking the title off Michaels. Short term thinking hurt what could have been a long term money making feud.

This was a good match, albeit a little overbooked. Jose Lothario was supposedly at ringside with HBK but he's completely useless so I didn't notice until halfway through the match. Shawn initially had control over the match until Vader caught Michaels and powerbombed him on the outside. They tried to show Michaels punch Vader with no effect, but since Michaels had already managed to get Vader down a few times it wasn't very convincing. The fact that Michaels got as much in as he did isn't the way you want to build a massive heel.

Vader managed to get Michaels knocked down for long enough by picking him up and dropping him on the steel barrier on the outside that he was counted out. Since the title could not change on a countout, Cornette asked Michaels to continue the match to which Michaels agreed.

Cornette hit Michaels with the tennis racket outside the ring and Vader hit a belly to belly but could not get the pin. Michaels took the advantage and was set to hit Sweet Chin Music when Cornette jumped in. He then hit Vader in the head with Cornette's tennis racket earning himself a DQ, giving Vader his second victory of the match. Since the title could not change hands on a DQ Cornette once again asked Michaels for a restart. Michaels once again acquiesced.

Michaels hit Vader with the Sweet Chin music, but Vader kicked out, which was almost unheard of at the time. Vader hit another powerbomb but referee Earl Hebner was knocked out and by the time a replacement ref came to count Michaels kicked out. Vader attempted a moonsault, which is super impressive for a man his size, but Michaels moved out of the way. Michaels then prevailed with a moonsault of his own

All in all this could have been done better. They could have had Michaels hit multiple superkicks to Vader in order to put him out. Better yet, they could have put the title on Vader and had him go on a heel reign with Michaels struggling and eventually getting it back. Instead they killed the Vader experiment before it got off the ground and he was out of the WWF before the Attiude Era got hot. Worst of all they gave away a funeral. A fuckin' funeral...