Looking Back – SummerSlam 1989 Review

SummerSlam 1989 review

We’re going old school. Check out our SummerSlam 1989 review.

On the lead up to SummerSlam this weekend, we’re going to review some old SummerSlam cards. One of our regular contributors and I will have a discussion about the SummerSlam show (chosen by them), both as a historical look back, and as a way to describe how it reflects on the industry today.

For our first look back, John LaRocca (@LaRoccaJL), president and co-owner of Premier joins me to discuss SummerSlam 1989.

The Stage

August 28, 1989

Venue: Meadowlands Arena, East Rutherford, New Jersey
Main Event: Hulk Hogan and Brutus Beefcake vs Randy Savage and Zeus

The show is the follow-up to WrestleMania V in which the Mega Powers exploded and Hulk Hogan won his WWF Heavyweight strap again, defeating Randy Savage.

In early June, No Holds Barred, Hulk Hogan’s first starring movie role, was released. In the movie, Hogan’s Rip Thomas faces off against Zeus, played by Tiny Lister whose most famous role would come several years later as Deebo in Friday. Even though the movie bombed, Vince McMahon still brought the non-wrestling Lister to WWF to face Hogan.

(LaRocca will be adding his Dave Meltzer/Jim Cornette star ratings to each match. JL will be LaRocca and GG will be myself.)

JL: If you look three rows back towards your left, you will see a young Bill DeMott watching the action.

GG: I’m not exactly sure what this video package is to open the show, but hey, who doesn’t enjoy random people doing summery things?

The Brain Busters Vs The Hart Foundation

JL: A little history to this match: The Brain Busters recently won the tag team titles from Demolition on July 18th. The gimmick here was that when this match was signed, the Busters didn’t hold the tag team titles, so Bobby Heenan pushed that this match would remain a non-title bout. Normally, this would signal the Hart Foundation would win and set them up as the number one contenders. In a booking move that I love, it didn’t exactly happen that way.

GG: The Busters looked so non-gimmicky (even though they had a total gimmicky name). They looked serious, like a prize fighter would who was just there to get down to business.

JL: My favorite part of the match was the chain wrestling between Bret Hart and Tully Blanchard. Hart had the upper hand, but Blanchard would get a reverse. He would not cheat to get the reversal, but he would out-wrestle to gain the advantage. Young heels today feel you need to cheat to get the upper hand, but that is not true. A heel can still out wrestle a guy and still keep his heat.

GG: I liked the sweet double team move where The Anvil picks up Bret in a reverse body slam and then slams him properly on the opponent.

JL: Even though their finisher was the more famous “Hart Attack”, this is a move they used to win many TV matches in 1989 and 1990.

GG: I remember seeing the move a lot, but didn’t even remember they used it as a finish.

JL: The finish was great. Heenan had the referee and Neidhart distracted and Hart was pinning Blanchard. Anderson came off the second rope with a double axe handle to the back of Hart’s head and then rolled himself on top for the pin. Arn would duck his head into Hart’s armpit and drape Hart’s over his head so the referee could not see that Anderson, who was the illegal man, was the one pinning Hart.

GG: The details, the details that are often missing today.

JL star rating: ****

Dusty Rhodes Vs The Honky Tonk Man


WWF SummerSlam 1989 – Dusty Rhodes Interview by Bluthor

GG: It was Tony Schiavone and Jesse Ventura on the call for this show and on this night (like many others), Ventura was all over the babyfaces who were cheating. I also felt that he directed more of the commentary rather than simply being the color guy.

JL: This was a lot of fun, but the negative was the referee bump. There’s no need for a referee bump in the second match, but it was done because the referee had to be out for a bit so Jimmy Hart could try and smash Honky’s guitar over Rhodes’ head. Of course, Big Dust moved.

GG: Dusty won with the big elbow after the guitar shot. Ventura made one of my favorite fat comments when he said Dusty didn’t win best abs, but most abs.

JL: HTM is one of my all time favorite gimmicks. A lot of people will disagree with me, but he was a very good worker. Not like Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit or a Daniel Bryan type, but a guy who knew how to play his role to perfection. His timing for bumping and feeding is always right on the money.

GG: Compare him to other people who have done similar gimmicks (Rockabilly/Fandango) and he’s world’s above them as workers.

JL’s star rating: **3/4

Mr. Perfect Vs The Red Rooster

JL: Terry Taylor suffered a knee injury in the match and thus they go home early. Taylor’s knee seemed to go out after the second time he attempted a leap frog. He then went to body slam Perfect, but his leg gave out of him.

GG: I didn’t even realize that’s what happened when I watched this match years and years ago. I just figured they wanted to get Perfect over in a near squash.

JL: Sucked Taylor got injured because this could have a great match. Both men were top workers and this could have been that highlight match we would all be talking about during his horrible run as The Red Rooster.

GG: Perfect hit the Perfect Plex beautifully to win the match in just over 3 minutes.

JL’s star rating: *

Rick Martel and The Fabulous Rougeaus Vs Tito Santana and The Rockers

JL: This match was a lot fun and made for the fact that the Perfect and Taylor match had to end early.

GG: I forgot how great that Rougeaus music was. All American Boys!

JL: Martel is such a phenomenal worker babyface or heel. If Mr. Perfect didn’t come to WWF, Martel would have eventually been the Intercontinental Champion. I’m not saying that was the plan, but he would’ve been the best fit. This six man tag was a mix of the two best in-ring feuds in the WWF during the summer.

GG: There was super long heat spot on Tito Santana.

JL: I thought it was great. A long heat spot on either The Rockers was predictable, but I like how the “captain” took the heat. For those wanting to know the art of the “hot tag” they just need to watch this match.

GG: It was Rock ‘n’ Roll Express-esque.

JL: First there’s a double down (where both guys go down), perfectly timed to build to the first person to tag. Then, the heel tags first to build the drama and finally the babyface makes the hot tag and his partner comes into the ring like a house on fire.

GG: After the hot tag came, I was sure that the babyfaces (Santana and the Rockers) were going to win this match, but that wasn’t the case.

JL: The finish was great, as you think Raymond Rougeau was going to steal the victory over Marty Jannetty with the O’Connor Roll, but Jannetty rolls through for a great near fall. Unfortunately for Jannetty, Rick Martel clocks him and pins him.

JL’s star rating: ***1/2

The Ultimate Warrior Vs Rick Rude

GG: This match is a Rude title defense after beating Warrior for the IC strap at WrestleMania V. At Mania V, Warrior went for a suplex near the ropes and the Brain tripped him and held onto Warrior’s foot with his dear life, allowing Rude to pin him.

JL: This match started out similarly to their WrestleMania V match, with Warrior throwing Rude all around the ring. Of course The Warrior made a mistake and Rude started to lay his offense in.

GG: Rude was tremendous at making it seem like Warrior was killing him, but then again, maybe he was.

JL: I liked how Rude never hit the “Rude Awakening.” Warrior powered out of it, but Rude never hit his and the Warrior never kicked out of it. Back then, WWF protected finishers. Today, every big match has guys kicking out of each other’s finishers. It is so formulaic and lacks drama.

GG: Who do we blame for that by the way? Austin and Rock?

JL: Roddy Piper made his way to ringside and flipped up his kilt and “mooned” Rude. A distracted Rude fell prey to the Warrior’s press slam/splash combo. The Ultimate Warrior won his second and last IC title.

GG: I always wondered why Piper’s bare ass bothered Rude so much.

JL: Sad thing about this match is that everyone involved except Bobby Heenan have all passed away – Rude, Warrior, referee Joey Marella and now Roddy Piper.

JL’s star rating: ***1/2

Jim Duggan and Demolition Vs André the Giant and The Twin Towers

GG: Jim Duggan and Demolition are really large men and they look so small compared to André and the Towers. I remember seeing Duggan and Ted DiBiase in the ring together the first time I ever saw WWF live and they were gigantic.

JL: Since this match didn’t have a lot of time, it was actually pretty fast paced. Akeem looked great in the beginning, moving fast and bumping around for Ax and Smash. André really has to rely on the ropes a lot here which is very sad.

GG: It is sad, but at least here, André is protected in that when he’s in the ring, he’s in control and scary. I didn’t like his feud with Jake Roberts earlier in the year because it made him look like a joke.

JL: André dropped his big rear right down on Smash that got a nice pop from the Meadowlands crowd. Like many six man tags, this match broke down. Akeem hit a his “747” off the second rope, but as the referee was distracted trying to restore order in the match, Jim Duggan hit Akeem with his 2×4 and Smash got the pin.

SummerSlam 1989 review

GG: Ventura was livid that Schiavone was outright cheering the finish.

JL’s star rating: **

Greg Valentine Vs Hercules

JL: Ron Garvin was the special guest ring announcer.

GG: Ugh. I hated this whole thing.

JL: In the spring, Garvin lost a “retirement” match to Valentine. Garvin did some refereeing and was a pain in Valentine’s side. He was fired from that and now “hired” as a ring announcer. Garvin made fun of Valentine as he introduced him. Unfortunately Garvin’s thing is not comedy and the jokes written only got a polite chuckle. I can’t believe this match only went three minutes, but the point was the Garvin and Valentine program.

GG: Valentine beat Hercules with his feet on the ropes and Garvin kept announcing Hercules as the winner because Valentine cheated. Garvin was the babyface, yet all I was hoping was that Valentine would kick his ass.

JL’s star rating: 1/2*

Ted DiBiase Vs Jimmy Snuka

JL: Snuka returned to the WWF in 1989 at WrestleMania V and the only thing accomplished was a very cool theme song.

GG: Shoogi, shoogi, wahhhhhhh.

JL: Basically, Snuka was hired back to be a recognizable name on the mid-card baby face side of the card; a guy with name value a new heel could go over.

GG: Snuka was off during the match as well.

JL: Snuka tried his double leap frog spot, but came crashing down on top of DiBiase during the second one. However, like true pros, they did not freak out and worked from there. Since DiBiase was in a feud with Jake Roberts and this was Snuka’s first PPV back in the ring, the count-out finish was all that could be agreed upon I guess. Snuka would get his heat back doing the Superfly Splash onto Virgil after the match.

GG: Virgil probably told him a penis joke.

JL’s star rating: **

Hulk Hogan and Brutus Beefcake Vs Randy Savage and Zeus

GG: And now, the main event.

SummerSlam 1989 review

JL: This match is amazing for the one man show that Randy Savage put on inside the ring. Zeus could not do anything more than a bearhug and various chokes. Savage not only bumped his ass off for both Hogan and Beefcake, but he also called most of Zeus’s spots.

GG: Savage must’ve had whatever the 1989 version of an energy drink was. My man was on fire all match.

JL: Other than being the first in ring confrontation between Hogan and Zeus, the other main story was Elizabeth returning to manage Hogan and Beefcake to counter Savage’s new manager, Sensational Sherri. The build up to her entrance was perfect and Elizabeth received a great pop.

GG: I completely forgot she was part of this match. Sadly, she wasn’t wearing an itsy bitsy teenie weenie bikini in this one either.

JL: I can’t believe Zeus was this bad. Either he had no time to train or he just could not get the simplest things down. I mean he can’t do a body slam? Or even throw a clothesline? Yes, Zeus was an actor Tom Lister Jr, but he had to some some athletic ability.

GG: Put Deebo in the Performance Center right now. He’ll at least be able to do a tackle drop down hip toss.

JL: Hogan pinned Zeus (during their first meeting) so at the time it seemed Zeus would be long gone, but they brought him back for the Survivor Series and finally a blow-off tag match teaming with Savage again against Hogan and Beefcake inside a steel cage in December.

GG: The movie and the match PPV!

JL: The only negative in this match (and yes this was a good match), was that Hogan no-sold the Savage’s flying elbow. Earlier I said WWF protected finishes then, but maybe I was wrong because this sure killed Savage’s elbow. Hogan could have kicked out and done his Hogan comeback, but no, he simply just popped up. I can’t believe Savage let that spot be done. Hogan’s ego was truly running wild and I am not sure why Savage did not nix it.

GG: Well, it’s weird to me that they pin Zeus instead of Savage, keeping Savage protected, but then kill his finisher. Then again, if Hogan kills your finisher, it’s probably not dead against anyone else right?

JL’s star rating: *** 3/4 (majority for Savage’s performance in making the babyfaces look like a million bucks)

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