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Looking Back – SummerSlam 1996 Review

SummerSlam 1996

We’re continuing SummerSlam week on Fight Game Blog. Check out our SummerSlam 1996 throwback review.

Today’s throwback review was requested by frequent contributor Alex Goff (@AlexGoff84). Alex and I go back and forth on the show.

(Earlier this week, John LaRocca and I reviewed SummerSlam 1989.)

The Stage

August 18, 1996

Venue: Gund Arena, Cleveland, Ohio
Main Event: Shawn Michaels Vs Vader

This is the first major PPV since WrestleMania XII, in which Shawn Michaels beat Bret Hart for the WWF Championship. Michaels defended the strap against Diesel and the British Bulldog at some In Your House PPVs over the spring and summer. Bret Hart took some time off, partially to see if Michaels could swim as champ.

In January, Big Van Vader, now known here simply as Vader, came into WWE, first to feud with Yokozuna as part of Camp Cornette, and then to feud with Michaels over the strap.

Alex will be AG and I will be GG.

AG: LeBron James would have been 11 at this time, so I wonder if he attended?

GG: Prince James?

AG: This event was brought to us by Stridex. Now Stridex was a painful product, which I am quite confident now was a scam. I think most teenagers have issues with acne, and rubbing a pad with abrasive chemicals I’m not sure helped anyone at any time. I’m sure there are readers with positive Stridex stories, but from me to you, “Screw you Stridex.”

GG: Ahem, I never had issues with acne and never have. I know, I know. I’ll shut up and let Alex drive here.

AG: Jim Ross, Mr. Perfect, and Vince McMahon are calling the action. If you wonder where Dana White and Joe Rogan got their pre-PPV yelling gimmick from, I’m pretty sure it was Vince.

GG: Sadly, the Free-For-All match isn’t on the WWE Network version of this show, but I remember that Stone Cold Steve Austin beat Yokozuna who fell off the rope when it broke. I always thought that was a weird finish.

WWF SummerSlam 1996 – Steve Austin Vs. Yokozuna by Bluthor

Owen Hart Vs Savio Vega

GG: Owen is wearing a cast on his left arm as an ode to the great Cowboy Bob Orton.

AG: When I watch WWE and see recurring heel gimmicks like wearing a cast for too long, I wonder where it comes from in Vince’s mind. Did he have a classmate that wore a cast for an extremely long time, and Vince grew to despise him/her? Someone should ask Vince that question!

GG: Maybe he had friends whose broken bones heeled slowly?

AG: Savio Vega works over the arm, which confuses me. If the arm is hurt, why would good-guy Savio take advantage, and if it isn’t why does it matter?

GG: Maybe Savio couldn’t work the right arm for some reason? I’m asking a lot of questions myself here.

AG: There’s an inset of Vader lifting weights and we are told he is warming up.

GG: He’s doing some bent-over flys, but really, he’s not doing much weight for his strength at all. Scott Steiner would call him fat.

AG: I wouldn’t consider this match great, but these two are wrestling a style that you don’t see in today’s WWE product. Matches looking and feeling different was a good thing and still is. The finish comes when Owen Hart hits Savio with his cast in front of the referee, but the commentators say the ref didn’t see it. I disagree.

GG: The finish was a bit awkward. They actually had a better finish if they’d just gone with what happened right before. Vega had Owen up for a back suplex off the second rope. Owen’s arm was behind Vega’s head when they both hit the mat and he reacted like the back of his head hit the cast. They should’ve just finished the match there.

AG: Justin “Hawk” Bradshaw aka JBL comes out with Dutch Mantell, now known as Zeb Coulter. He mouths off some racist comments to Vince about Puerto Ricans and attacks Savio in the aisle.

Todd Pettengill is backstage in the boiler room, where later, the Undertaker and Mankind will do battle. He interviews Mankind.

GG: This version of Mankind may have been Mick Foley at his weirdest.

AG: Before this run, Mankind was an independent darling who had a run in WCW, but wasn’t given a chance and really shined in WWE. I think Kevin Owens is a poor man’s Mankind.

GG: Owens would take that as a compliment, I’m sure. Though, he does have about 30 more moves than Mick ever did.

The New Rockers Vs The Bodydonnas Vs The Godwinns Vs The Smoking Gunns

GG: I wouldn’t consider this to be the greatest era of tag team wrestling for WWE/WWF. At least Sunny is out with the Gunns.

AG: I don’t think 1996 Sunny gets credit for her ability. She had a presence that you couldn’t teach, but you can tell that she learned how to manage from Jim Cornette.

1996 Sunny

1996 Sunny

GG: I bought 2015 Sunny a drink on WrestleMania weekend. She didn’t have the same presence. And that was probably a bad idea on my end.

AG: The Donnas would be Tom Pritchard’s highest profile matches, but his work as one half of the Heavenly Bodies was really good. Go out of your way to see that team in Smoky Mountain. Chris Candido never got in the ring as the Donnas are eliminated first. Go out of your way to see Chris Candido in Smoky Mountain as well. He was amazing. Speaking of Smoky Mountain, Al Snow is in the ring.

GG: You mean Leif Cassidy, Alex. Kayfabe!

AG: Snow replaced Eddie Gilbert in a feud against Ricky Morton for that company. He had a friend who later became Kane, but at the time was named Unibomb, which was a takeoff of the Unibomber, a guy who would mail off bombs for many years. I don’t remember if Kane was supposed to be the actual Unibomber, or a fan.

GG: Your Smokey Mountain knowledge is impressive. Cornette and Rick Rubin would be proud.

By the way, how the New Rockers were eliminated was weak. Snow bumped into his partner Jannetty, who was catapulted into the ring and took the Godwinns’ finisher.

AG: The Smoking Gunns retain their titles after interference. Two matches and two finishes where the bad guys win by cheating. A giant Sunny picture falls down from the ceiling and Jim Ross said she needs to take a trip to the woodshed. Now, I’m sure for the right price you could coordinate a deal with Sunny and the woodshed.

GG: 2015 Sunny? Hmmm.

The British Bulldog Vs Sycho Sid

AG: Thinking back to my childhood, it seems like it was common for guys to cut incoherent promos. Sid is cut from that cloth as his backstage interview made zero sense.

GG: Is that your way of saying guys were out of their mind and on stuff in your childhood?

AG: During the match we see Vader backstage punching. I’m of the mindset he’s doing too much before his big match. Calm down big guy!

GG: They’re really selling Vader hard throughout this show. They’ve made several comments that Cornette is absent from ringside for his Camp Cornette guys because he’s focusing on Vader.

AG: Sid wins and Jim Cornette and Clarence Mason fight. I am ready for the next match.

GG: Now Cornette comes out? That’s fishy managing. Poor Bulldog.

Goldust Vs Marc Mero

AG: Goldust is out with Marlena and Sable is out with Marlena.

GG: This might’ve been the most clothes Sable ever wore on WWF TV.

AG: It is interesting to see women who in a few years would be practically nude on every telecast in a couple years rather covered up.

Covered up 1996 Sable

Covered up 1996 Sable

Jim Ross says Mero wants to debut a new move called the Wild Thing. He isn’t sure what it is, but we’ll know it when we see it.

GG: Considering he’s facing Goldust, a Wild Thing finisher sounds quite lewd.

AG: Mero hits a shooting star press and Ross says, “That’s it! That’s the Wild Thing!” It doesn’t lead to the finish and Goldust wins after the curtain call.

GG: So much for the new move. By the way, even though wrestling fans had seen the move before Mero did it, Vince said he had never seen it before and I believe him.

AG: A recap airs of Intercontinental Champion, Ahmed Johnson winning a number one contender’s battle royal. He went into the contest with hurt kidney but competed anyway. He won, but after the bout, he was attacked by Ron Simmons.

GG: You mean Farooq! He and Johnson were booked on this card in a title match, but legit, Johnson couldn’t perform.

Actually, they treated this as much as a shoot (which it was) as 1996 WWF could. Johnson wasn’t listening to doctors and they talked about his prognosis, which was 3-4 months as long as they could stop the internal bleeding. Monsoon stripped Johnson of the strap and booked a match on Raw for the next night.

Sunny and Farooq came out to do an interview and Farooq made a “Sunny days,” comment. I wonder if that one upset Bret?

Jerry Lawler Vs Jake Roberts

AG: This angle was surrounding Jake’s substance abuse and drinking problem.

GG: I think Jericho and Punk did this one better. It was fun to see Mark Henry come out during his initial run with the company.

AG: He is the first person currently wrestling on Raw to be featured on this show.

Lawler comes out first in a Baltimore Raven’s jersey with a bottle of alcohol, attempting to get the crowd angry at him.

GG: Lawler is really laying the jokes in thick on Roberts. They’re definitely stalling for time too.

AG: Jerry continues the theatrics going into the match. I wonder if there is a concern these two won’t have a passable match?

GG: Turn back the clock to 1983, please.

AG: I wonder why no one has taken Stridex yet to the eyes. Possibly the sponsor would get angry, but it would be a believable finish.

GG: Owen’s cast should’ve been made out of Stridex pads.

AG: This match had some terrible moments. Lawler wins after jamming a bottle into Jake’s neck. Lawler pours liquor on Jake post-match, then Mark Henry makes the save.

GG: Henry talks about his first match ever, which was with Lawler, on Chris Jericho’s podcast. Alex hates Jericho, by the way.

The Undertaker Vs Mankind

AG: Paul Bearer is in the ring and the two men will fight out of the boiler room to Paul and gain possession of the urn. They’re really going for a horror movie dynamic with this match and on a wrestling show it seems out of place.

GG: I never liked matches like this. I even found the famous Halftime Heat match boring. I like my wrestling in a ring and stuff like this, which is to try to make it look more realistic, just makes it look terribly hokey.

AG: Mankind hits Taker with tubes, pipes, and wood – all things I think you’d find in a boiler room. Mankind makes pig sounds and the commentators are silent. I want to take a nap during this match, but I will fight that urge.

GG: It’s so weird because when they were in the boiler room, there was no commentary. But once they made their way to the ring, the announcers called it like a regular match.

AG: Whoever came up with the idea for the “camera” to have transmission problems… I hope they are not in wrestling anymore!

GG: Do cameras have trouble shooting in a boiler room? Is it too hot?

AG: In the time before giant video screens, as the men fought to the ring, we see the fans in attendance were treated to watch the match on a television set up on all four sides of the ring.

GG: It’s a TV business, brother!

AG: The Undertaker makes it to the ring first and asks Paul for the urn. Paul turns his back on Undertaker and Mankind applies to mandible claw. Paul hands Mankind the urn and the match is over, then both men jump Undertaker. Undertaker still looks for Paul and the urn, then wham, Paul hits Taker with the urn. Druids come and pick up Undertaker.

GG: And then silence and a hushed crowd. It’s amazing how many times they could go to the well with that one.

Vader Vs Shawn Michaels

AG: During Shawn’s entrance a woman crosses the barricade to hug Shawn. I wonder what ever happened to that woman. I think WWE should do a network special on those who jump the barricades, and what happened to them after.

GG: They think he’s cute, they know he’s sexy…

AG: Vince keeps talking about the championship win being Michaels’ boyhood dream, but it’s also what will later cause him to lose his smile.

GG: I thought having to lose matches caused him to lose his smile?

AG: What I learned from that is not to accomplish boyhood dreams. You were a kid back then, what did you know?

GG: After learning about how you could lose your smile, I never wanted to be champion.

AG: The start of this match looks real clunky – nothing like the matches Vader had with Sting a few years earlier that were amazing. Vader bumps a lot at the start, seems like that would want to build up to it and also Vader gets up really slow.

GG: On paper, this was a match you’d salivate over; a true dream match. But in reality, it wasn’t all that good. Vader was possibly still injured from earlier in the year and he simply didn’t look in great shape. Plus, with Shawn as the babyface champ, he had to sell for a different kind of offense.

AG: Since, the G1 just ended, let’s play a little game.

GG: I like how this match is so disappointing that we’re playing games while watching!

AG: Was Vader in a G1!

GG: I’m going to guess yes.

AG: Actually, Vader is the only man on this card to have ever competed in a G1 Climax. When I was a kid, I remember the Champion’s Carnival being a big deal as well. But man, has that thing fallen off.

Shawn kept making Vader take moves that would have him fall over the ropes.

GG: Vader was so huge too. What a dick!

AG: Vader wins by countout!

GG: Or so we think…

AG: Jim Cornette protests and has the match is restarted.

GG: He should’ve protested Vader having to take bumps over the top rope.

AG: Michaels punches Vader during a power bomb set up. Then he hits Jim Cornette who loses his tennis racket. Michaels then he attacks Vader with the racket. The match ends in a DQ with Vader winning again.
Vader wins by DQ and the fans go home happy!

GG: But wait. Vader is a fighting heel. And he’s here to win the title!

AG: Cornette begs to have the match started again. And he succeeds. Cornette has a lot of power.

GG: Momma Cornette’s baby boy!

AG: Michaels hits the superkick and Vader kicks out at two. Michaels gets whipped into the ropes and the ref goes down. Vader hits a Vaderbomb and covers Michaels as we now have another ref in the ring. This match is really over booked.

GG: I was wondering when you were going to bring that up. That’s the other problem with the match. Not only was it not as good as it should’ve been, part of that was because it was so terribly overbooked.

AG: Shawn moves out of the way from Vader’s moonsault, but then hits his own moonsault for the pin.

GG: So Vader’s up two falls to one you’re saying?

AG: Nope. Shawn gets the pinfall and retains the championship!

GG: Where’s Cornette’s power now?

AG: Was SummerSlam 96 worth it?

GG: I’m going to guess not.

AG: No, this show wasn’t very good.

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