Thursday, 31 August 2017

25 Years Since SummerSlam hit the UK - The Show

A tad over 25 years ago, thousands of people were sitting in anticipation at Wembley Stadium for the only major WWF pay-per-view event to ever cross the pond.

With a multitude of media coverage in the build up, tickets bought and transport sorted, it was time for the real event to begin.

The first bell saw a dark six-man-tag match with Hacksaw Jim Duggan teaming up with The Bushwhackers to take on the trio of The Nasty Boys and The Mountie. Despite being a match full of gimmicks that were old hat a t the time, it is obvious looking at a video of this match that the atmosphere was a special one from the word go.

Lee Kimber said: ''When the event actually started and the stadium was filling out, I can honestly say that I’d never experienced anything like it, and if I’m honest nothing since has come close.

''I’d never seen so many people in one place before and they were cheering every last thing that happened in that ring. It was a party atmosphere in the stadium and the footage of the event really doesn’t do justice to how loud the crowd were at times. ''

Alan Dicks said: ''It was loud and it was the first time I had been in a crowd with that amount of people. Everyone was into every match.

A loud USA chant erupted as Duggan and The Bushwhackers picked up a victory, and that was followed by Papa Shango defeating Tito Santana before the real action was to begin.

Vince McMahon and Bobby ''The Brain'' Heenan introduced the PPV action before the Legion of Doom's music hit and they rode out on motorcycles in one of the most memorable moments of the night to take on Money Inc.

Lee Kimber says: ''One of the biggest reactions was for the Legion of Doom. When their music hit and they rode down to the ring on motorcycles the crowd loved it.

Alan Dicks also believes this to be the one of the more memorable moments, stating: ''The LOD entrance stands out, I was at the top of the stairs when they came out on the bikes. ''

After LOD's victory, Nailz beat Virgil, Shawn Michaels and Rick Martel fought to a double countout in a match, The Natural Disasters beat The Beverly Brothers to retain the WWE Tag Team Championships and Crush defeated Repo Man before one of the most hyped up matches of the evening.

Credit - Lee Kimber

It was time for ''Macho Man'' Randy Savage to defend the World Wrestling Federation Championship against The Ultimate Warrior in a rematch of their ''Retirement match'' at WrestleMania VII the year before.

Lee Kimber says: ''I went in with low expectations of Warrior Vs Savage. I had enjoyed their WrestleMania match the previous year but this one seemed to come out of nowhere.

''I wasn’t a fan of Warrior’s matches and I didn’t see how he had earned a title shot. The match exceeded my expectations though and the crowd were certainly hot for it.

Alan Dicks said on the title match: ''I was looking forward to Savage v Warrior the most, Savage is my favourite ever wrestler and I loved their epic match from WrestleMania VII.''

Ollie Clark said: ''Warrior v Savage was good but not a patch on the retirement match from the previous year.

The match may not have been at the level of their WrestleMania bout but it was still worthy of the event. The two had a back and forth match for around 25 minutes before Ric Flair and Mr. Perfect came out to the ring, pretending to be in cahoots with Warrior before attacking him too. After Flair hit Savage with a chair which left him unable to get back into the ring, Warrior won the match by countout before he joined forces with Savage to chase the duo away. It was a bit of a bullshit end to a big title match, but the real main event was still to come.

A short match between The Undertaker and Kamala followed, with a memorable Undertaker entrance on top of a hearse being the highlight as Taker eventually won by disqualification following interference from Kim Chee.

After Tatanka beat The Berzerker in an encounter that never made the US pay-per-view broadcast, it was time for hometown hero ''The British Bulldog'' Davey Boy Smith, accompanied to the ring by British boxing great Lennox Lewis, to take on his brother-in-law Bret ''The Hitman'' Hart for the Intercontinental Championship.

One of the best matches seen in the United Kingdom saw Bulldog win the title in front of his hometown crowd to end the show on a high note.

Speaking of the main event, Lee Kimber said: ''''The Bret vs Bulldog match was the highlight of the night and still holds up as one of the best matches I’ve ever seen.

''The crowd were absolutely rabid for this one and they were split down the middle, with duelling chants for Bulldog and Hitman.

''When Bulldog cradles Bret for the win the place just exploded. I honestly don’t know if you’d got a bigger roar in there when England won the World Cup.

Ollie Clark agreed with his assessment, stating: ''I remember seeing shots on the TV screen during Bulldog v Bret and seeing Diana Hart but the screen was small and I thought it was Jeff Jarrett!

''The biggest reaction of the night was with the Bulldog and Lennox Lewis.

''Bulldog v Bret is probably the best WWF match of all time on UK soil.

Alan Dicks wasn't too pleased about the result as a youngster, saying: ''The Bulldog vs Bret match was really good to watch, I remember getting upset at the result as I was a huge Bret Hart fan.

Looking back on the events 25 years later, all three attendees have fond memories but realise there are many differences between professional wrestling then and the product on screen now.

Lee Kimber said: ''The crowd were great and it was a truly amazing experience, and I’ll always be proud to say I was there in the audience when the British Bulldog beat Bret Hart at Wembley Stadium in one of the greatest matches of all time.

''I watched it back a couple of years ago. On reflection it was not a good card and there were a lot of screwy finishes. It was more cartoony then, but the characters were half of the fun.

''As bad as some of it was though it still holds up against today's supercards and surpasses many of them. That said, the Bret vs Bulldog match still holds its own against anything you’ll see today. It was storytelling at its finest.

I am surprised given how much of a success this one was, but then it’s not all about gate revenues.

''With the core audience in the US you couldn’t run the live event in the UK and delay the US showing until its usual time slot. The results would be online immediately. Mind you with betting odds most of the results are online before an event has even taken place these days so maybe it’s irrelevant now.

''I’m not sure wrestling is popular enough now in the UK to fill Wembley Stadium again, but you’d still draw a healthy crowd.''

Alan Dicks agrees with most of this having watched recently, adding: ''I remember not being able to talk for a couple of days as I had been shouting so much.

''It was an enjoyable show and I got to see most of the big names of the time but it was strange watching without the commentary.

''I've seen it recently and would say it's a one match show with some cool entrances. The in ring work was a lot slower compared to today.

I don't think the show did too well in the US due to time differences but I would have expected other PPV's to have been held over here before now.''

The common theme seems to be that the characters hold up more than the wrestling in hindsight, and Ollie Clark also agrees with his, saying: ''I last watched about 2 years ago - the wrestling these days is better but the characters and storylines were much better in the 80s and 90s.

I'm not really surprised there hasn't been an event since as they made a loss and what with them holding fire on and UK Heavyweight events I don't expect to see another UK PPV this decade unfortunately.

''The UK interest in WWE peaked between 1989 and 1992 alongside the release of the WrestleMania song and Slam Jam.

''But saying that ,I am sure they would have no problem selling out Wembley for another SummerSlam, or a Mania or Rumble.''

Article by Andy Phillips (AndyP_GY)

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