(All screen captures are the property of World Wrestling Entertainment)
August 18, 1996
News & Notes: After he pinned Shawn Michaels at International Incident, Vader demanded a WWF title shot. He got his wish. Camp Cornette then made Shawn’s life difficult. They interfered in his matches. Vader hit multiple Vader Bombs. Cornette and Jose even had another confrontation. This time, Shawn couldn’t save Lothario. Mankind attacked Michaels backstage and put him in the Mandible Claw. (Don’t worry. It will come into play soon enough.) Cornette praised Lothario for being a great wrestler in his day. But Jim said he would become a nobody when Shawn lost the WWF title. That would be Cornette’s revenge on Jose. That will teach him to pull a switchblade!
Next, I want to talk about a debut in the WWF. Ron Simmons joined the company. They gave him a new name and gimmick. He is Faarooq Asad, the Modern Day Gladiator. They dressed him in a bright blue gladiator outfit. It came with a ridiculous foam helmet. He also got Sunny as a manager. This is an old-school booking philosophy. They paired white women with black wrestlers because it garnered massive heat. It’s sad this is still a mindset in 1996. Faarooq debuted by attacking Ahmed Johnson during a match. He kicked him so hard it ruptured Ahmed’s kidney. Now, Johnson is out with an injury and the Intercontinental Title is vacant. Ahmed vs. Faarooq was originally on this card, but that won’t happen soon.
I also want to discuss the Free for All. It included two things of note. First, Stone Cold Steve Austin faced Yokozuna. The bout ended when Yoko’s weight broke the ring ropes. They gimmicked the ropes, so the wrestlers avoided hitting them. It made for an awkward encounter. The other note is the Bikini Beach Blast-Off. (Say that three times in a row.) Sunny, Sable, and Marlena competed in a swimsuit competition. It took place around an indoor pool. (Are there beaches in Cleveland?) It was all fun and games until someone spotted a turd in the pool. Wrestling plumber T.L. Hopper investigated. It was a candy bar. He even took a bite of it. (Welcome to the WWF in 1996!)
Affiliate of the Week:
The narrator tells us about deranged psychotic monsters and their sinister plans. He also speaks about the monster slayers. Shawn Michaels uses guile, athleticism, and courage to overcome Vader’s weight advantage. Meanwhile, The Undertaker will exorcise the demon, Mankind. David must slay Goliath. The reaper must take another damned soul. But sometimes good doesn’t triumph over evil. Sometimes the horror lives on. Oh, and this all takes place in the beautiful historic Cleveland! Welcome to SummerSlam. It’s presented by the new super-sized Stridex! (That was a drastic shift in tone.)
Vince McMahon welcomes everyone to Cleveland and SummerSlam. He’s with Jim Ross and Mr. Perfect. (Lawler has a match on this card.) Perfect thinks Shawn will lose the WWF Title. Ross believes the Boiler Room Brawl will change both men forever. Vince says the fans are electric for Savio Vega! (I doubt that.)
Owen Hart (w/ Clarence Mason) vs. Savio Vega
Notes: There’s no build for this match. They wanted to get these guys on the show. Savio still has issues with Bradshaw. (Why didn’t they put that on the PPV?) Owen comes to the ring alone. Cornette is busy backstage with Vader. However, Clarence Mason joins Owen later in the bout. Also, Owen still has his arm in a cast. He claimed it was because people kept attacking his injury. It couldn’t heal.
The Match: The ref prevents Owen from using his cast. Savio answers by attacking Owen’s arm. He slams Hart and avoids his attacks. Savio also uses various arm holds until Owen shoves him into the post. Owen then focuses on Savio’s arm and shoulder. He ties Vega in the ropes and slaps him. Next, both men attempt wheel kicks. They also trade crossbodies and an enziguri. Both men exchange pin attempts, but Owen uses the ropes for leverage. Vega fires back with strikes, a leg drop, and a side slam. But Owen hits a neckbreaker and a missile dropkick. Savio rallies with a back superplex, but his head lands on Owen’s cast. Owen then removes the cast and nails Savio in the face. He places an unconscious Vega in the Sharpshooter for the win.
Thoughts: This was a solid opener. It told a basic but good story. I liked the finish, but the ref saw what Owen did. He did a poor job of pretending not to witness it. Shaky ending aside, it was enjoyable. Owen’s heel work was great.
Winner: Owen Hart (13:23)
Clarence Mason celebrates with Owen. It confuses Hart for a moment, but he hugs him. Mason raises Owen’s cast-covered arm. Hart winces in pain and tells him not to do that. Owen then leaves while Justin Hawk Bradshaw arrives. He yells at Vince and then attacks Savio. Bradshaw gives him a clothesline him from behind. Justin and Zebekiah taunt Vega and then leave. (I’m still unsure why Savio/Bradshaw wasn’t on this show. They must think it’s important enough to take their time with it. But I’m glad to see Owen on the PPV. I won’t complain.)
Meanwhile, Todd Pettengill is in the boiler room. He calls it disturbing, ominous, and freaky. He explains the rules of the Boiler Room Brawl. Then Todd says there are things in there. (Things? Oh, no! Not things!) Todd continues his tour and finds Mankind in a corner. Mankind calls the boiler room the hallowed halls. He says there’s no place like home. Mankind also licks a dusty pipe. He then warns Taker not to enter the boiler room. A fate worse than death awaits him on the other side. He claims the match will alter the future of all mankind. Mankind then tells everyone to have a nice day and runs away into the darkness. Todd points out the lick marks on the pipe and reacts with disgust. (This was great stuff from Mick. I hope he washed out his mouth after licking that pipe.)
4-Way Elimination Match for the Tag Team Titles: The Smoking Gunns (c) (w/ Sunny) vs. The New Rockers vs. The Godwinns (w/ Hillbilly Jim) vs. The Bodydonnas
Notes: This is a new match-type for the WWF. They gave it a trial-run at the RAW Bowl in January. The competitors can tag anyone. This means tag partners might face each other. If they do, they must make contact before tagging out again. (It makes no sense. The WWF needlessly complicated these matches.) I should also point out Skip wears a neck brace. He injured his neck on a house show. He never tags into this bout, but he is there. Other than the ongoing feuds, there isn’t much of a build for this bout. They added the New Rockers to the mix and had all four teams attack each other on TV.
The Match: Henry Godwinn gives Billy Gunn takedowns and a wheelbarrow suplex. Then Phineas and Zip wrestle. But they tag both Gunns after a moment of action. Billy and Bart protest fighting each other until Bart tags Zip. He doesn’t last long. Jannetty trips Zip and Billy covers him for an elimination. (Elimination: The Bodydonnas) Both The New Rockers and The Gunns double-team Henry. However, Marty hits Billy by accident. The Gunns and Rockers argue, so the Godwinns give them noggin knockers. Henry then pushes Marty into Leif and gives him the Slop Drop for another pin. (Elimination: The New Rockers) The Gunns continue attacking the Godwinns. They use more double-teaming. Billy attempts a corner splash, but Henry catches him with a powerslam. This allows him to tag Phineas. He cleans house with punches and Henry takes Bart to the floor. Phineas nails a Slop Drop, but the ref is distracted. Hillbilly Jim is trying to slop Sunny. Bart uses the opening to nail a flying axehandle. Billy covers for the victory. (Final Elimination: The Godwinns)
Thoughts: This wasn’t anything special. It highlights how uninteresting the tag division is. The Bodydonnas and New Rockers did little. We’ve seen plenty of the Gunns vs. The Godwinns. And we will see more. I’ll give the WWF credit for mixing it up a little. But this was dull. The crowd lost interest as it progressed.
Winners: The Smoking Gunns (12:18)
Sunny celebrates and grabs a microphone. She says The Gunns will remain the tag team champions. Then she tells the women the Gunns are what real men look like. She also wants the men to compare her to their fat girlfriends. Next, Sunny unveils a gift for the crowd. Fireworks explode and a giant picture of Sunny unfurls above the ring. Vince and JR think Sunny is conceited. But Mr. Perfect likes it.
Then they show a video package of the WWF superstars touring Cleveland. The Godwinns and The Gunns have a race to the arena. The Gunns use a horse and carriage. But The Godwinns take a train. Next, Jerry Lawler visits the Cleveland Indians’ batting practice. He tries getting players to teach him to throw a spitball. Sandy Alomar Jr. wants to learn the piledriver, but Jerry refuses. Also, the superstars help paint over some graffiti. This includes a new superstar, Mark Henry. Finally, The Undertaker and Paul Bearer give away a free funeral to a fan. (Does Taker have to preside over the services when he redeems that?)
During Bulldog’s entrance for the next match, Dok Hendrix interviews Sid. He asks Sid about the positive reactions from the fans. Sid claims he heard the fans screaming for him for months. (Those are the voices in your head, Sid.) They wanted the man back. He’s here and here to stay! Dok asks if Sid can master the world of The Bulldog. Sid laughs at that. He says something was missing at International Incident. Tonight is Sid’s chance to take one more step before it’s over. The people will stand and tell him he’s the master and ruler of the world. (Sid switched between whispering and shouting. It was amusing. I love crazy Sid promos.)
Sycho Sid vs. The British Bulldog (w/ Clarence Mason)
Notes: Sid is still feuding with Camp Cornette. They announced this bout on RAW. Then Bulldog & Owen attacked Sid during a #1 Contender Battle Royal. They eliminated him. Cornette is absent again. He’s still with Vader. Clarence Mason joins Bulldog like he did with Owen. But Cornette argues with him about it. Meanwhile, Sid talks to himself while walking to the ring. He also fist-bumps the fans.
The Match: Bulldog throws shoulder blocks, but they’re ineffective. Sid answers with clotheslines and a slam, so Bulldog regroups. When he returns, Bulldog locks in some mat holds. But Sid kips up out of a head scissors! (I should say he tried. He almost got it.) Bulldog continues his attack with a stalling suplex and some chinlocks. He also sends Sid to the floor and knocks him off the apron. Davey returns to the chinlock until Sid breaks free. However, Bulldog hits the running powerslam after Sid misses a corner splash. He doesn’t cover because Cornette distracts him. Jim argues with Clarence Mason. He wants to know why Clarence is at ringside. Sid uses the opening to attack. He reverses another running powerslam. Sid then nails a chokeslam and a powerbomb for the win.
Thoughts: This was a fun match. They kept it short and explosive. Both men looked impressive. Bulldog lost because of a distraction. So he didn’t look weak. It also helped the fans were hot for this. They love Sid. Like I said before, Sid is great when motivated.
Winner: Sycho Sid (6:24)
Next, they show a commercial for In Your House: Mind Games. The aliens return. The fan from the previous commercial asks why they’re back. They say they want to observe the WWF’s effect on babes. Then they teleport some women to the guy’s living room. (These commercials are getting weirder.)
Todd interviews Marc Mero and Sable during Goldust’s entrance. He shows footage of Mankind scaring Sable. Marc doesn’t understand Mankind or the head games. But he says it’s time to put up or shut up. He tells Goldust he will be a falling star tonight. That’s all he has to say. Marc leaves after making a weird face at the camera.
Goldust (w/ Marlena) vs. Wildman Marc Mero (w/ Sable)
Notes: The WWF got cold feet about the Marlena/Sable storyline. They switched it to Goldust. Now, they say Goldust is infatuated with Sable. It doesn’t make much sense and muddles the Goldust character. Either way, Mero isn’t happy with Goldust and Marlena. His issues with Goldust include problems with Mankind. Mankind appeared during one of Mero’s matches. He called Sable mommy. (Not everyone is your mommy, Mankind!) He does it again during this match and Sable screams in fear. On a side note, JR says Mero will debut a new move tonight. It’s called The Wild Thing (Shooting Star Press).
The Match: Goldust slaps Mero and hides behind the ref. Mero answers with leapfrogs, arm drags, crossbodies, and mat holds. But Goldust sends Marc out of the ring and onto the rail. He then places Mero in a long chinlock while Mankind stalks Sable. The officials make Mankind leave, so the match continues. Goldust attacks Marc’s midsection until Mero hits a blind dive. Marc rallies with a backdrop and a knee-lift. Then both men tumble over the ropes. Mero nails a somersault plancha and a slingshot leg drop. He follows with The Wild Thing, but Marlena distracts the ref. He only gets a two-count when the ref notices his pin attempt. Next, Mero gives Goldust a powerslam. But Goldust shoves Marc into the corner and nails the Curtain Call for the three-count.
Thoughts: This match was decent, but it didn’t make much sense. Why have Mero debut a new move and not win with it? The fans reacted well to the Wild Thing. It’s not something you saw often in ’96. But then Mero lost cleanly. Marc looked ineffective. Did Vince already lose faith in him?
Winner: Goldust (11:01)
After the match, Goldust harasses Sable. She backs away. Goldust tries kissing her. But Mero attacks. He crotches Goldust on the ropes and knocks him out of the ring. The officials stop the fight, so Goldust leaves.
Next, they show comments from Ahmed Johnson. Kevin Kelly interviews Johnson at his home. He says the mental pain bothers him more than the physical. We see clips of Faarooq attacking and injuring him. They rushed Johnson to the hospital for a ruptured kidney. Gorilla Monsoon vacated the Intercontinental Title. Ahmed understands the decision. He has nothing against Monsoon. Then the doctor says Ahmed can return if the bleeding stops. If it doesn’t, they have to remove the kidney. Ahmed doesn’t care. Nothing will stop him from returning. Todd says they will hold a tournament to crown a new IC champion. But Ahmed has to watch the tourney from his home.
Todd then interviews Faarooq and Sunny. He tries asking a question, but Faarooq interrupts. He asks the questions! Faarooq wants to know why Monsoon isn’t presenting him with the Intercontinental Title. Todd says Gorilla didn’t want the criminal benefiting from the crime. He tells Faarooq Monsoon ordered a tournament to crown a new champion. Faarooq says, “Ordered? What do I look like? A waiter?” He claims he took out Ahmed, so he should be the champion. Faarooq also predicts sunny days ahead for him. (He will have to get in line behind Shawn Michaels and possibly Bret Hart.) Sunny then calls Faarooq her special little modern day gladiator. (Aw, she called him special.) She tells Monsoon to have his tournament. Sunny gets what Sunny wants, and she wants gold. (They aren’t doing Faarooq any favors. Between his outfit and Sunny calling him special, he looks ridiculous. He changes his gimmick in a few months.)
Then they show a recap of the Jake Roberts/Jerry Lawler feud. It jumps back and forth between Jake speaking about his drinking issues and Lawler mocking him. Jake believes in an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Lawler will beg him not to use the snake. Lawler counters with alcoholic jokes. We also see Jerry pouring booze all over Aldo Montoya.
Before the next match, they introduce Olympic power-lifter, Mark Henry. He signed with the WWF and appeared on RAW. Now, he joins the commentary team. (He impressed Vince enough to sign him to a ten-year deal.) Mark even gets fireworks while he waves to the crowd. He then shakes hands with the commentators, except for Mr. Perfect. He calls out Mark for this, so Mark apologizes.
Jerry the King Lawler vs. Jake the Snake Roberts
Notes: They turned Roberts’ drinking issues into a storyline. Lawler mocked him every week until Roberts had enough. Jerry cuts his usual jokes before the match. He even wears a Baltimore Ravens jersey for cheap heat. Henry thinks it’s funny until Lawler makes fun of Mark. Lawler also has a bag with him. It’s a gift for Jake. Jerry calls it Jake’s tag team partners, Jim Beam and Jack Daniels. (Both bottles are Jim Beam.) Jerry tells Jake he will give him a giant bottle of wine if he leaves the snake in his bag. Jake doesn’t take the offer. He pulls out the snake and puts it on Lawler, so Jerry retreats. Lawler returns once the snake is gone, but he won’t enter the ring. Jake goes after him.
The Match: Jake rams Lawler into the steps and slams him on the floor. He also rams Jerry into the post. But Lawler grabs a fan’s drink and throws it in Roberts’ eyes. (Mark Henry shows concern for that fan. What will he do for a drink?) Then Lawler ties Jake in the ropes and grabs the whiskey bottle. Jake kicks him and breaks free. Roberts attempts a DDT, but Jerry backdrops him. But Jake continues his attack with a short-arm clothesline. He goes for another DDT. Lawler grabs referee Harvey Wippleman to stop it. Jerry then grabs the bottle and jams it into Jake’s throat. He pins the injured Roberts for the win.
Thoughts: The pre-match antics were amusing. The storytelling was fine. But the match itself wasn’t interesting. Not much happened. I’m glad they kept it short, but it wasn’t good.
Winner: Jerry Lawler (4:07)
Jake has trouble breathing. He tries telling Harvey what happened, but he can’t speak. Lawler grabs a mic. He says Jake’s throat is dry. He needs a drink. Jerry opens the bottle and pours alcohol on Jake. Vince calls it raw booze. (Is Vince used to cooked booze? Also, I should point out the backstory on this moment. Roberts says Lawler was supposed to use fake alcohol. He used real whiskey. Jake was pissed.) Mark Henry has enough. He stops Lawler and sends him running. (He also spills alcohol all over the floor and fans in the process.) Mark then helps Jake to the back. Meanwhile, Vince spots Bob Backlund campaigning in the crowd.
Todd narrates a video about the Boiler Room Brawl. He speaks about the unpredictable relationship between Taker and Mankind. It was forged in fate. Both men dwell in darkness, but one represents the light. Mankind has a dangerous craving to destroy The Undertaker. Taker felt the paralyzing effect of the Mandible Claw. Now, their rage transcends titles. It can only be confined in the bowels of the arena. The disfigured Mankind thrives on pain. But how much pain can these superstars endure?
Boiler Room Brawl: Mankind vs. The Undertaker (w/ Paul Bearer)
Notes: This match begins in the boiler room. The goal is to fight your way out and reach the ring. You win by claiming the urn from Paul Bearer. Paul enters the arena to The Undertaker’s music. He stands in the ring while Taker enters the boiler room. They filmed the first portion of the match a day earlier. They use static and technical difficulties to hide the edits. The bout also has minimal commentary, which hurts it. The fans in the arena watch on the big screens. They set up old CRT TVs beside the ring for the front row.
The Match: Taker wanders in the dark until Mankind attacks with a pipe. Both men hit each other with things! (Todd was right.) Mankind uses pipes, chunks of wood, and trash cans. They also ram each other into the equipment and tanks. Mankind even releases a steam valve in Taker’s face. He then drags Taker after hitting him in the crotch with a pipe. Mankind sets up a ladder for an elbow drop. Taker sits up and dumps him. The ladder catches a pipe, so Mankind falls short. (He damaged his sciatic nerve in the fall.) They finally fight into the hallway. Wrestlers watch the melee. Mankind hits Taker with carts and throws hot coffee on him. Then Mankind reaches the arena first and waits for Taker.
They fight to the ring and knock over a TV. Mankind exposes the concrete and nails a pulling piledriver. However, Taker stops him on the apron and pulls Mankind into a back bump on the floor! Taker enters the ring and reaches for the urn. But Paul Bearer turns around and refuses to relinquish it. This allows Mankind to put the Mandible Claw on Taker. Paul Bearer laughs and shines up the urn for Mankind. But Taker fights back. Mankind then holds Taker while Paul Bearer slaps and kicks him. It shocks the commentators. A confused Undertaker crawls towards Paul Bearer. But then…
Bearer clocks Taker in the head with the urn. He then turns to Mankind and hands him the urn for the victory.
Thoughts: I liked the storytelling and the shocking turn. The action was unique. There were some brutal bumps. But the match itself dragged. The first portion was slow and the lack of commentary didn’t help. It was a tough watch. The closing moments almost turned it around, but it wasn’t enough. I wanted to like this, but I couldn’t fully enjoy it. (I also want to point out an injury Taker received. He cut his elbow in the boiler room. The dust and grime caused a staph infection. He nearly lost his arm. This match almost ended his career.)
Winner: Mankind (26:40)
Mankind clutches the urn while Paul Bearer hugs him. The two then leave together. Paul Bearer laughs. He looks at the camera and says, “I’m Paul Bearer and you’re not!” (He’s not wrong. Thank goodness.) Taker lies motionless. His gong sounds and the lights turn out. Druids start chanting. They walk to the ring and carry Taker’s limp body out of the arena. JR says the seemingly unbreakable bond was not only broken but destroyed.
Dok is backstage with Vader and Jim Cornette. He calls what happened shocking. Will Vader shock the world and defeat Shawn Michaels? Cornette says they proved a lot of things over the last two months. They proved Vader can beat Shawn. Jim says when Vader gets his hands around Shawn’s throat, Shawn will sound like Peter Frampton’s electronic kazoo. (That sounds amusing. Now, I want to see that.) Jim then promises it will be a bad ride and they will come out on top. Vader makes funny faces while Dok says we will find out if it’s Vader time.
WWF Title Match: Shawn Michaels (c) (w/ Jose Lothario) vs. Vader (w/ Jim Cornette)
Notes: Vader taunts the crowd while the commentators speculate about the match. Vader even throws around the ring steps. JR thinks Shawn needs to use his cardio health to his advantage. The longer it goes, the more it favors Shawn. On the other hand, Mr. Perfect predicts doom for Michaels. During Shawn’s entrance, a female fan jumps the rail and kisses Shawn. Vince says, “Where’s security? He’s going to need it.” JR then calls Vader a manster. He explains that means half man/half monster. (Vince gets a new idea for a gimmick.)
The Match: Vader throws punches and clotheslines. Shawn responds with a leg sweep and sends Vader to the floor. He then nails a baseball slide and dives onto Vader. (They use that clip in video packages for years.) Shawn continues with hurricanranas until Vader catches him. He powerbombs Shawn on the floor and carries him into the ring. Vader then whips Shawn into the corners. He wears him down with strikes and holds. Shawn finally rallies by raising his knee into Vader’s crotch. Then Shawn tries a flying elbow. (Vader was supposed to move. He doesn’t, so Shawn screams, “MOVE! MOVE!” He also kicks him in the head.) Next, they tumble to the floor and Shawn shoves a cameraman in frustration. Vader grabs Shawn and press slams him onto the rail. This causes Michaels to get counted out.
Cornette says they don’t want to win that way. They want the title. Shawn agrees to restart the contest. Cornette interferes. It allows Vader to nail an avalanche splash and a belly-to-belly. Shawn rallies with a forearm and a flying elbow. But Cornette grabs Michaels when he tries Sweet Chin Music. Shawn counters by hitting both Vader and Cornette with the racket. This causes a DQ. Cornette accuses Shawn of getting disqualified on purpose. He dares him to restart again. Shawn and Gorilla Monsoon both agree.
Shawn avoids a sunset flip and uses another forearm and a flying elbow. He then lands Sweet Chin Music. But Vader kicks out at two! Then Vader shoves Shawn into the ref and gives Michaels a powerbomb. Another official arrives, but Shawn kicks out of the pin. Vader then tries a Vader Bomb. Cornette tells him to do a moonsault instead. He misses. Shawn climbs the turnbuckles and does his own moonsault for the win.
Thoughts: I enjoyed this. It was slightly overbooked, but that’s fine. The action was good, and I liked the storytelling. Cornette was great in his performance. However, Shawn’s hissy fit nearly ruined this. It was unprofessional. What’s worse is this was supposed to be a series of matches. The original plan was for Vader to win the title. Shawn would regain it at the Royal Rumble in San Antonio. Shawn vetoed that idea because he hated working with Vader. He thought Vader worked too stiff. Shawn also had heat with Cornette because of behind-the-scenes issues.
Winner: Shawn Michaels (22:58)
Cornette is frustrated, but the officials prevent Vader from attacking. Mr. Perfect threatens to knock out Michaels himself. Vader and Cornette leave, so Shawn celebrates while Vince says goodnight.
Owen/Savio was solid.
Sid/Bulldog was fun.
I enjoyed the main event, despite Shawn’s tantrum.
Mankind’s character work.
There was some good storytelling in the show.
The tag title match was dull.
Shawn’s hissy fit.
The sparse commentary in the Boiler Room Brawl.
Performer of the Night:
I’m giving it to Mankind. The Boiler Room Brawl disappointed me, but I admire the bumps he took. He put himself through hell to entertain people.
This show is hit and miss. On paper, it looks like a good card. In practice it fell a little flat. There was some great character and story work. There were also memorable moments. However, it was slightly disappointing. The undercard was kind of weak, especially the tag team division. This is still very much a company trying to find its way. Their progress is one step forward and two steps back.
Thank you for reading. My next review is WCW’s Fall Brawl ’96. Look for it next Sunday!
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