I have a feeling my kids are going to want this game badly, even if they’re too young to have watched many of these guys wrestle.
Here’s the list of wrestlers and managers in the game according to IGN.com.
Andre The Giant
Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka
Junk Yard Dog
Bam Bam Bigelow
King Kong Bundy
Koko B. Ware
Big John Studd
Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake
Ravishing Rick Rude
Greg “The Hammer” Valentine
Rowdy Roddy Piper
Hacksaw Jim Duggan
Honky Tonk Man
Stone Cold Steve Austin
The Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase
Hunter Hearst Helmsley
Jake The Snake
Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart
Bobby “The Brain” Heenan
I was only twelve years old, but I knew what was going on. I knew that Hulk Hogan really didn’t fight Andre The Giant for real at Wrestlemania III. I knew that there was a team of people who came up with ideas, though I didn’t know that Vince McMahon was the owner and not just the announcer until a few years later. But still, in February of 1988 as a twelve year old fan who understood some of the business, I was still saddened even though I knew what was coming. Let’s go back slightly.
In 1987, the WWF had their most lucrative WrestleMania yet with Mania III. The buyrate was spectacular and they filled the Pontiac Silverdome. Even though they marketed the match between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant as the first time they ever wrestled, it wasn’t. And it was a spectacle, even though the match was bad. How can you top that? Well they couldn’t, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.
Fast forward to February of 1988. Ted DiBiase, aka The Million Dollar Man, said he was going to buy the WWF Championship belt. Hogan responded on an episode of WWF Superstars of Wrestling by saying that the belt wasn’t for sale. On The Main Event, which was broadcast live on a Friday evening on NBC, Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant had their WrestleMania III rematch. When I heard that they were doing a live show on national television a month before Wrestlemania IV, I knew something drastic was going to happen. And then on the morning of the show, the San Jose Mercury News Sports Section did a story on the show, writing exactly what the finish would be. I was heartbroken while reading that Hogan would get double crossed by the referee and lose the belt to Andre. But I was the talk of the school that day. I told everyone I knew what the finish was going to be. But deep inside I was upset about what was going to happen. I was a heartbroken fan that night. I guess that means the angle was played out perfectly. Andre The Giant won the match because the referee was paid off by The Million Dollar Man (they used twin refs, Dave and Earl Hebner for drama) and then The Giant subsequently gave the belt to DiBiase. DiBiase had just bought the championship like he said he would.
But, president Jack Tunney said that DiBiase couldn’t buy the championship and declared the title vacant. Wrestlemania IV would be the place where they would hold a tournament for the championship. It would be a 14-man in the tournament, but Hogan and Andre would have their third match in a year to start off the second round after being given a first round bye. There were also some really good possible match-ups, with the best being Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat and Randy Savage locking up in a rematch of their Wrestlemania III classic, but the WWF decided to screw the fans out of that match and had Steamboat lose to Greg Valentine in the first round. Either McMahon had heat with Steamboat, as was the reason Steamboat dropped the Intercontinental Title so quickly to the Honky Tonk Man in 1987, or he wanted to save that possible match-up for later, even though Steamboat would soon leave to the NWA where he’d have classic matches with Ric Flair and eventually win the 10 pounds of gold. With Savage, DiBiase, Steamboat, and Rick Rude in the tournament, there was a possibility of some really good matches. But of course, the WWF couldn’t give us the good matches. Rick Rude and Jake “The Snake” Roberts wrestled to a mind numbing 15 minute draw, knocking them both out of the competition. And in the worst case of overbooking Greg “The Hammer” Valentine defeated Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat in a decent match. The Hammer would go on against Savage in the second round, who beat “The Natural” Butch Reed in the first round, and we would never see Steamboat vs. Savage part two.
They were pushing DiBiase as the favorite because of what happened at the start of round two. Hogan vs. Andre started off the second round and Ted would face the winner. He beat Don Muraco in the second round who defeated Dino Bravo in the first round. There were two trains of thought by fans. First, Hogan would win and he’d face DiBiase. Or Andre would win, and would forfeit his third round match to DiBiase as he said before the tournament started. But none of those things happened. Hogan vs. Andre was an awful punch-fest that was called a double disqualification and caused most of the fans in the Trump Plaza to groan. Both Hogan and Andre were eliminated, and DiBiase would get a bye into the finals. The problem with having Hogan only there for one match is that WWF fans were always trained to understand that Hogan would be in the main event. This time, Hogan was gone early and it caused a lot of the fans to leave as well. Only the die-hard wrestling fans were going to stick around for four hours without Hogan.
After defeating Reed, Savage also went through Greg Valentine in a decent match. He would go on to face the near 400-pound One Man Gang. The Gang defeated Bam Bam Bigelow by countout earlier. Bigelow was the hottest young wrestler in the federation just one year prior. It was the dumbest finish of the night as Bigelow sat there and watched the ref count him out while he was standing on the apron trading blows with the Gang. Savage defeated the Gang in another terrible finish as the Gang decided to use the his manager Slick’s cane on Savage right in front of the referee.
So the table was set. It was Randy Savage vs. Ted DiBiase in the finals of the tournament to declare the new WWF Champion. There were five other matches outside of the tournament and none of them were very good. Bad News Brown turned Bret Hart face by winning a battle royal to start off the show. They double teamed the Junkyard Dog and threw him out and then Bad News double crossed Hart to win the match. The Barber, Brutus Beefecake beat the Honky Tonk Man by DQ in a meaningless match for the Intercontinental Belt. The one match that was meaningful out of the five undercard bouts was Demolition defeating Strike Force to win the tag belts, though in my opinion they didn’t win it in convincing enough fashion to get them over as a WWF version of the Road Warriors.
Jesse Ventura and Gorilla Monsoon as the announcing team made Savage out to be a complete underdog for having to wrestle four times and with Andre in DiBiase’s corner, they sold it like Savage had no chance. That was until Elizabeth brought out the Hulkster, giving the fans one more chance to see their favorite, and also to even up the sides. The finish was good, albeit a little rushed as Hogan broke DiBiase’s Million Dollar Dream sleeper with a chair shot to the back and Savage was able to hit his elbow off the top to finish the match and be crowned champ. Since Hogan would be doing No Holds Barred with Tiny Lister and David Paymer, Savage would have a full year’s run with the belt. To foreshadow Savage turning on Hogan the following year, they had Elizabeth bring Hogan down to the ring hand in hand. That subtlety was great and it kicked off the single greatest angle they did which would “explode” at WrestleMania V.
There wasn’t a single standout match on this show, and the tournament final was fine, but unspectacular.
In some cool trivia, Ted DiBiase was actually supposed to win the tournament. He was going to get the WWF Championship and Savage would get his IC Title back. But the Honky Tonk Man didn’t want to drop his IC belt to Savage. Vince then changed his mind to go with Savage as the top guy rather than DiBiase.
Results Bad News Brown won a 20-man battle royal Brutus Beefcake defeated Intercontinental Champion Honky Tonk Man via DQ The Islanders & Bobby Heenan defeated the British Bulldogs & Koko B. Ware via pinfall The Ultimate Warrior defeated Hercules Demolition defeated Strike Force for the Tag Team Championship Round One, Championship Tournament: Ted DiBiase defeated Hacksaw Jim Duggan Don Muraco defeated Dino Bravo by DQ Greg “the Hammer” Valentine defeated Ricky “the Dragon” Steamboat via pinfall Randy “Macho Man” Savage defeated Butch Reed via pinfall One Man Gang defeated Bam Bam Bigelow via countout Rick Rude and Jake “the Snake” Roberts wrestled to a 15-minute draw Round Two, Championship Tournament: Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan wrestled to a double DQ Ted DiBiase defeated Don Muraco via pinfall Randy Savage defeated Greg Valentine via pinfall Semifinals, Championship Tournament: Randy Savage defeated One Man Gang by DQ Finals, Championship Tournament: Randy Savage defeated Ted DiBiase to capture the World Wrestling Entertainment Championship
In late 1986, the main event was already being set up for Wrestlemania III. I remember watching Superstars of Wrestling and they held an awards ceremony on the Piper’s Pit. I had never seen this before so it looked like a big angle. And it was one of the biggest. Throughout Hogan’s career on top in the WWF, which started in late 1983, he was the guy, but Andre was always treated as just as special of an attraction. Hogan was the champ, but Andre was just as unbeatable. I honestly don’t remember him losing by pin fall from the time I started watching. Even Hogan would constantly point to Andre as the big man. During the awards ceremony, Hogan received a big trophy for being the champ and Andre came out to congratulate him. Then Andre received his trophy for being undefeated and Hogan came out to congratulate him. Andre seemed perturbed as if Hogan was coming out to steal his glory. Later, Andre famously ripped the cross off Hogan’s chest that made viewers understand that Andre wasn’t going to be so lovable anymore. The turn happened and Andre was now an unstoppable bad guy.
The turn was helped even more by Bobby Heenan who became Andre’s manager. Heenen was always such a great foil for Hogan. He managed King Kong Bundy, Paul Orndorff, and Andre who were three of Hogan’s biggest money opponents. Heenan was masterful here, painting the picture as to why Andre would want to wrestle Hogan. Heenan would go on to say that Hogan never offered Andre a shot at the title, Hogan never respected Andre, and Andre was sick of it. At the same time, Andre would just sit there with this careless look on his face as Hogan tried to convince Andre that Heenan was evil. Much of what Heenan said made sense though, and that made the angle for me. I could see why Andre wanted a shot at the title.
The other angle that had a huge affect on me as an 10 year old was Ricky Steamboat vs. Randy Savage. Savage was tremendous in his portrayal as a win at all costs heel. They had a match where Savage draped Steamboat’s throat over the outside railing and jumped off the top rope and hit the back of his neck, thrusting Steamboat’s throat into the railing. He then used the ring bell to do the same thing, targeting Steamboat’s throat. Steamboat sold it like a champ as they carried him to the back while he was grasping for air. Vince McMahon was screaming and saying that Steamboat had swallowed his tongue. I hated Savage with a passion at the time.
Those were the two big matches for Mania III, but what also made this event was the fact that most of the rest of the matches were booked with some nice build. The Honky Tonk Man and Jake Roberts and JYD vs. Harley Race feuds ended with bad matches, but you remember the build. You remember Honky blasting Roberts with the guitar and JYD bowing and curtsying to Race before sucker punching him.
Tomorrow night, WWE celebrates 21 years of SummerSlam, the “biggest party of the summer” as they’ve been calling recently. There have been 20 SummerSlam Events since 1988. But were all of them really worthy of being called the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th best PPV of the year? Absolutely not. So today I’ve decided to take a look and list what I consider the Top 10 Greatest SummerSlam Pay-Per-Views of All Time! So sit back, relax, and enjoy.
10. SummerSlam 1988
So we begin with the very first SummerSlam in 1988, live on PPV from Madison Square Garden in New York. The whole purpose of the creation of this PPV was for the WWE to compete with NWA’s Great American Bash, hoping to convert wrestling fans to save their hard-earned cash and purchase their show at the end of the summer as opposed to the Bash. This soon became the last of the “Big Four” PPVs, alongside Survivor Series, Royal Rumble, and of course, Wrestlemania. The main event was a highly-anticipated tag team match between Hulk Hogan and WWF Champion Randy Savage, collectively known as “The Mega Powers” against Ted Dibiase and Andre the Giant, collectively known as “The Mega Bucks”. Savage won a 16-Man Tournament at Wrestlemania IV, last defeating Dibiase to become champion. Hogan had teased prior to the show that Miss Elizabeth would showcase her “eenie, weenie bikini”, which is creepy in retrospect considering she is no longer with us.
Besides that huge match, the most memorable part of this Pay-Per-View was the Ultimate Warrior defeating the longest reigning WWF Intercontinental Champion in history – The Honky Tonk Man. Honky was scheduled to face Brutus Beefcake, but prior to the match, Beefcake was hospitalized by “The Outlaw” Ron Bass. Honky came out on the show and challenged anybody in the building to take the title and the undefeated Warrior came out and pinned him in thirty seconds to take the title, beginning the monster four year run that he would have in the WWF. Tag Team wrestling was definitely one of WWF’s high-points during this era, as Hart Foundation vs. Demolition was easily the best match on the show, followed slightly by the Rougeaus vs. The Bulldogs.