On This Day in Wrestling History: Summerslam 1997

Craig Wilson

Summerslam 1997 poster (Image courtesy of Bleacher Report)

Summerslam 1997 poster (Image courtesy of Bleacher Report)

Our Summerslam hype begins in earnest today as I look at Summerslam 1997, the event that took place 16 years ago today. This continues the 1997 timeline that I’m working through as part of my Raw Rewind.

The primary feud going into this was between Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart and WWF Champion The Undertaker leading to their main event – and stipulation heavy – at Summerslam with Shawn Michaels as the special guest referee. Elsewhere, Stone Cold takes on IC Champion Owen Hart, LOD take on The Godwinns and Los Boricuas meet DOA in an 8 man tag.-

The event is being held at Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey with Vince McMahon Jim Ross and Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler on commentary.

Hunter Hearst Helmsley (w/ Chyna) v Mankind in a steel cage match

These guys had been feuding for months and met in the final of that year’s King of the Ring tournament which Triple H won. Chyna had interfered and aided Triple H during much of the feud, hence the steel cage match, not a bad way to kick off a PPV. This was the third cage match in Summerslam history.

Helmsley makes a valiant attempt to escape straight off the bat and this one is underway. We get some Cactus Jack taunts from Foley during this one as the commentators talk up the fact that anything goes in this type of a match.

Despite the structure being in place to prevent interference from Chyna, she is able to climb up the cage and choke Mankind with her belt, momentarily derailing his advantage. She also closes the cage door on him and climbs the cage to prevent him climbing out of the ring. It leads to the great spot of Helmsley superplexing Mankind from the top of the cage back into the ring.

Both guys really sell well in this one making the cage spots look fantastic, particularly when Foley is backdropped into the cage. Chyna slams the cage in Mankind’s face and throws a chair in. Mankind reverses a pedigree attempt and sling shots Helsmley into the cage, knocking Chyna off before dropping Triple H with a double arm DDT onto the chair.

Chyna then tries to pull her man out of the cage but is waved away, clearly she entered the ring too early. Foley climbs over the cage but changes his mind and drops a Cactus Jack elbow from the top of the cage, in homage to Jimmy Snuka.

This time Chyna drags Helmsley out on cue but on the other side of the ring, Mankind drops down to the mat first winning the match.

Winner – Mankind via escaping the cage
Match time – 16.13
Match Score – 5/10, a decent enough opening match.

Todd Pettengill then interviews the governor of New Jersey who is accompanied out by WWF President Gorilla Monsoon and, somewhat randomly, The Headbangers. The reason for this interview is that she got rid of wrestling taxes which brought the WWF back to the state for the first time in 8 years. She is presented with a WWF title and made “honorary World Wrestling Federation champion” by Monsoon. The camera focuses on Tiger Jeet Singh and Tiger Ali Singh in the crowd before clips are shown of the beach party held ahead of this event.

Goldust (w/ Marlena) v Brian Pillman

This is the first match, of many on this card, that has a stipulation. If Pillman loses he will have to wear Marlena’s dress the next night on Raw is War. It’s pretty sad to see Pillman at this stage, a mere two months before his death and it is clear how much he has deteriorated as a wrestler. It’s pretty much punch and kick for the bulk of this one.

Pillman chases Marlena round the ring but is caught with a clothesline and Goldust is in control here. It’s then Pillman’s turn to take control at ringside with a DDT before ramming his opponent face first into Marlena’s director’s chair. Pillman remarkably hits a top rope clothesline which is surprising considering what we known about Pillman’s ankle at this stage.

Goldust botches a sunset flip but Pillman holds onto the ropes until Marlena drills him in the face with her purse and her man gets the win.

Winner – Goldust via pinfall.
Match time – 7.17
Match Score – 3/10, dreadful stuff

The Godwinns v The Legion of Doom

Clips are shown of the feud between the two teams to date that really kicked off when Henry’s neck was broken for real in a Doomsday Device. An average, at best, pop for LOD. It’s a pretty average feud between the two teams to date. It’s not dreadful or anything, just average. Don’t expect too many drop toe holds in this one…

Nothing of any note happens for much of this match. Usual rest holds – including what seemed like the world’s longest bearhug, brawling and clothesline you’d expect from the two teams. Near the end Hawk gets the hot tag and cleans house before a spiked Piledriver on Henry gets the win.

Winners – LOD via pinfall.
Match Time – 9.15
Match Score – 3/10, as bad as you’d probably expect.

It’s time for the million dollar challenge as Todd Pettingill is joined by Sunny and Sable as a WWF fan tries to win $1m.

WWF European Title match

WWF European Champion The British Bulldog v Ken Shamrock

Another match, another stipulation; if the Bulldog doesn’t win here he has to eat a tin of dog food. Brawling to start before a sideheadlock from the Bulldog gives both guys a very early rest here. We are shown the can of dog food at ringside just to show, clearly, that there is indeed a can of dog food.

‘The World’s Most Dangerous Man’ gets a nearfall with a sunset flip before it’s back to the side headlock. Shamrock is bleeding from the mouth and things get worse as he takes a low blow and a series of clubbing blows to the face before a roll-up gives the European champion a nearfall.

Again we’re treated to another sideheadlock before Shamrock is thrown into the ringpost and falls to the outside. Shamrock refuses to cooperate with a suplex attempt on the outside so Bulldog hurls him back into the ring.

Just as I wonder what percentage of this match has been made up of sideheadlocks, Bulldog locks in another. Shamrock is tossed to the outside and Bulldog wipes dog food on Shamrock’s face causing him to snap.

Shamrock pounds away on the European champion at ringside and smacks him over the head with the can of dog food prompting a DQ. Shamrock continues to pound away on The Bulldog and tosses the referee to the side before chocking Bulldog in the middle of the ring until various officials hit the ring to break things up. Patterson, Brisco and several officials then receive belly-to-belly suplexes.

Winners – The Bulldog via DQ
Match Time – 7.29
Match Score – 4/10, a pretty poor encounter but it does succeed in getting Shamrock super over with the crowd by the end.

Todd is backstage with Shawn Michaels who states that he has no problem with Bret Hart and will be an impartial referee… Clips then air of what lead up to the 8 man tag match between DOA and Los Boricuas

Disciples of Apocalypse (Crush, Chainz, Skull & 8 Ball) v Los Boricuas (Savio Vega, Miguel Pérez, Jr., Jose Estrada, Jr. & Jesús Castillo)

Ah the Gang Warz, how the WWF loved this stuff. We didn’t, though. Los Boricuas are made up of four good enough in-ring performers whilst DOA are four big brawlers. Pretty standard uninteresting stuff to start this one off as various Los Boricuas brawl with various members of DOA.

After a few minutes of this, The Nation of Domination (Farooq, Kama, D’Lo and Ahmed Johnson) make their way through the crowd to watch this one from ringside. It’s really difficult to remain interested in this one as nothing much seems to happen.

Near the end Chainz gets the tag and cleans house until all 8 men enter the ring starting a brawl and the Nation get involved. Chainz takes a Pearl River Plunge on the concrete at ringside and is pinned by Perez for the win. Post-match, all three stables brawl.

Winner – Los Boricuas
Match Time – 9.08
Match Score – 3/10, rubbish.

We see footage of Owen pinning Stone Cold at Canadian Stampede as he says he’s going to do it again with his IC title on the line.

WWF Intercontinental Title match

WWF Intercontinental Champion Owen Hart v Stone Cold Steve Austin

The stipulation for this one is that if Austin can’t defeat Owen then he has to kiss the champion’s backside. Michael Cole tries to catch up with Stone Cold as he makes his way to the ring but is turned away by the challenger. An enormous pop for Austin as he makes his way to the ring.

This is the match that changed everything. It’s so noticeable the difference between how Austin moved at this point and afterewards. Owen goes for Austin’s injured knee straight off but Austin is soon in control with a Lou Thesz press before beating on the champion.

Austin is able to pick up a couple of quick nearfalls before working on the arm. Owen then takes the fight to Austin’s hand by stomping and biting on his fingers. A hurricanrana is countered with a powerbomb and Hart is clotheslined to the outside where he makes his way to the back in order to get counted out. Stone Cold chases after him and drops him with a clothesline.

Hart fights back and lands a top rope elbow drop. He then works on the neck before countering an Austin Sharpshooter attempt and continuing to work on the neck. The IC Champion hits a great looking German suplex for a two and clamps on a Camel Clutch.

Stone Cold counters a sleeper with a jaw jacker but is caught coming off the top rope and Hart hits a Russian legsweep. It’s slow down time as Hart applies a sideheadlock that he uses to draw heel heat by using the ropes.

And here it comes… Hart counters a Piledriver attempt and drops Austin on his neck and you can see the concern on his face and with Hebner. Stalling tactics as Hart announces that Austin is going to kiss his ass and then chants “Canada” as the commentators wonder if Austin is seriously injured. Miraculously, Austin is able to roll up Hart for the victory.

Winner and new Intercontinental Champion – Stone Cold Steve Austin
Match Time – 16.16
Match Score – 7/10, a very good match despite the ending.

A video promo airs showing what lead up to the main event between The Undertaker and Bret Hart.

WWF Title match

WWF Champion The Undertaker v Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart with Shawn Michaels as special guest referee

Here are the stipulations: If Bret loses, he can’t ever wrestle in the US again. If Shawn doesn’t call this one right down the middle then he can’t ever wrestle in the US again.

They brawl to start with The Undertaker pounding away in the corner and casting HBK a dirty look when he tries to break things up. They take the battle to the outside where Hart is thrown into the guardrail before being charged into the ring post.

HBK again attempts to get between them but is once again thrown a dirty look. Hart is tossed into the ring and the champion gets a nearfall with a backbreaker. The crowd is really quiet for the early stages of this one.

The Hitman is finally able to mount some offence as he kicks away on Undertaker’s leg. Hart applies a figure four leglock just as Paul Bearer wanders down to ringside. The Undertaker eventually reverses the hold and begins working on Bret’s knee, then rolls out of the ring and pounds on his former manager. That allows Bret the opportunity to cheapshot Undertaker and further work on the knee and he applies the ringpost figure-four.

Bret’s Hart Foundation comrades Owen Hart and Brian Pillman now make their way down to ringside to offer moral support. Bret continues working on the knee. Don’t get me wrong, the ring psychology here is fantastic but this isn’t half a boring match.

The Undertaker then temporarily subdues Hart and then takes care of the cheerleaders on the outside. Back in the ring, Taker hits the chokeslam, but Michaels is busy with the Hart Foundation. Undertaker is noticeably angered by this and chokes out Michaels, allowing Bret to get a cradle for two.

The two then fight on the outside the ring some more before Bret and Shawn exchange more words. Bret then hits his trademark five moves – backbreaker, vertical suplex, elbowdrop, Russian legsweep and Sharpshooter. The Champion is able to block a Sharpshooter attempt and nails his flying clothesline then a chokeslam from the apron into the ring for two.

Attempt at the Heat Seeking Missile, but Bret drops him on the top rope then superplexes him and applies the Sharpshooter in the middle. Undertaker powers out and sends Bret through the ropes and to the outside. Tombstone time, but Bret wriggles free and does a form of the Sharpshooter around the ringpost.

Michaels gets knocked down in the escape and Bret brings a chair in and knocks Taker out but only gets a two. Bret and Shawn argue this point. Shawn sees the chair and the pair continue to argue. Bret responds by spitting on Shawn, who swings the chair but misses Hart and decks the Undertaker, and is forced to count the winning pin by Bret for his fifth WWF title.

Winner and new WWF Champion Bret Hart
Match Time – 28.19
Match Score – 6/10, a slow build-up but a hot ending.

Overall Thoughts
A pretty rubbish Summerslam which highlights just how light the WWF roster was for talent at the time. A mild recommendation based on the Owen Hart and Stone Cold match which was the stand out match of the night despite the botched ending and the main event had a hot ending.

Overall score – 2/10

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