Random Wrestling Review: WWE Summerslam 1989

Summerslam 89

Jamie Lithgow

With Summerslam around the corner we are naturally in a retro Summerslam kind of mood here on the blog. The others have been casting their eyes over some major milestones in the event’s history, whereas I have been a little more arbitrary in my viewing habits. Under the microscope today is the 1989 edition of the event. Why 1989? Because the day my brother bought this video was the day I was introduced to professional wrestling. Yup, I lost my wrestling virginity to Summerslam ‘89, and like a dirty dog I have revisited it numerous times since! Anyway, that’s enough innuendo; let’s get to the action –

The event is being held at The Meadowlands Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey and our commentators are Tony Schiavone and Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura. I think this was the first of two PPV’s that Schiavone commentated on during his brief time with the company, with second being the 1990 Royal Rumble (also with Ventura). We are greeted by both men as they stand in a typically bad commentating position, as all commentators did during this era. Amusingly Ventura reads Schiavone the riot act, basically accusing him of getting Bobby Heenan removed from commentary and telling him that he won’t stand for that kind of pish! Schiavone shrugs it off and we get our opening Summerslam vignette, comprised of random summery people doing random summery things and random wrestlers doing random wrestling things. Immediately after we’re ready for the first match –

The Brain Busters (with Bobby Heenan) vs. The Hart Foundation
The Tag Team Champions are facing one of the other top teams on a major PPV event yet the titles aren’t on the line? Sounds silly I know, but unlike today’s WWE there is some solid logic and believability behind this decision. You see, this match was signed before the Brain Busters defeated Demolition for the titles, meaning they didn’t have any titles to put on the line when the match was booked. Schiavone and Ventura naturally exchange words over this issue, and again it’s funny stuff.

It’s a solid opening match, both teams are very much over with the crowd and the execution of the moves and sequences is as you would expect from performers as talented and well-seasoned as these. The unfortunate thing for this match is that the outcome is quite predictable for anyone with even a minimal amount of wrestling knowledge. The Harts, as babyfaces, dominate most of the action. The Busters do get a few shots in and even isolate The Anvil for a few minutes, but for the most part The Hart Foundation run the show, which of course means that the heels are going to steal this one. A miscommunication sees The Anvil collide with Blanchard before some other shenanigans distracts the referee. While The Hitman tries to cover Blanchard, Anderson hits a double axe handle from the middle rope and sneaks in for the cover and the win. Anderson even covers his head because Blanchard was the legal man and the ref would have noticed his sudden and drastic hair loss. It’s these little touches that I miss about wrestling today. Today’s heels largely ignore the rules, whereas back in the day the likes of Blanchard and Anderson fully referenced them, before breaking them.

Winners – The Brain Busters
Match Time – 16.23
Match Score – 7/10

Backstage, Mean Gene catches up with ‘The American Dream’ Dusty Rhodes. I must say, the WWE version of Rhodes was unbelievably camp. Why was he dressed like a polka dot clad policeman?!

Dusty Rhodes vs. The Honky Tonk Man (with Jimmy Hart)
This is our comedy match for the evening, although it does last a little too long to maintain its humour for the whole bout. It’s worth mentioning the reaction that Rhodes gets here, it was second only to Hogan, he got some pop. The action starts with some dancing, why not eh? Dusty pretty much has his way with Honky until a shot from Jimmy Hart’s megaphone evens the score. Honky takes advantage by slapping on a sleeper hold for ages; this is what dragged the match down for me. Never fear though, The Dream fights back, the ref takes a bump and Hart accidentally nails Honky with his guitar to allow Rhodes to score the win. After the match Sean Mooney (the legend himself!) catches up with Honky who is so badly concussed that he thinks Jimmy Hart is Priscilla Presley.

Winner – Dusty Rhodes
Match Time – 9.36
Match Score – 4/10

Backstage, mean Gene chats to Demolition and my personal least favourite wrestler from this era, Hacksaw Jim Duggan. According to Smash they have been training for their match against the massive team of Andre Giant and the Twin Towers (Akeem and The Bossman) by throwing cars around the parking lot. I hope everyone in attendance had their car insurance up to date.

Mr Perfect vs. The Red Rooster
By standards at the time this isn’t a squash, because Rooster did get a little offence in, but by today’s standards this is very much a squash match. It’s actually an odd dynamic because Perfect, the heel, does all the wrestling while Rooster, the babyface, uses the brawling/dirty tactics. This doesn’t escape Ventura either; he brings this to our attention in order to put Mr Perfect over, which is the entire purpose of the match anyway. Perfect puts on a bit of exhibition and wins with his Perfectplex finisher.

Winner – Mr Perfect
Match Time – 3.21
Match Score – 4/10

We head backstage again where Mean Gene is now joined by ‘Ravishing’ Rick Rude and Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan. Nothing too ground breaking here, Rude pouts at the camera while Heenan says that they are not above breaking the rules in Rude’s Intercontinental Title match against The Ultimate Warrior later.

The Rockers & Tito Santana vs. The Fabulous Rougeaus & Rick ‘The Model’ Martel (with Slick & Jimmy Hart)
The first of two six-man tags on the show. The main story leading into this match is still the rivalry between former Strike Force team mates Rick Martel and Tito Santana. Martel is now using his ‘Model’ gimmick while Santana is the same old Tito, or “Chico” if you’re Jesse Ventura. There’s a fast and fairly chaotic start, by standards at the time. All six men are in, then the heels roll out and then they have a stand-off, crazy stuff! Schiavone acknowledges the presence of Jimmy Hart and Slick at ringside and suggests that the numbers are 5 vs. 3 in favour of the heels. Ventura of course has words with him over this, as he does with The Rockers so-called “illegal double teaming”. Unlike the earlier tag match it is the heels that control the pace of this one. The heels take control when Ray Rougeau hits Jannetty with a sobat kick “flush on the jaw”. In reality the blow landed no higher than Jannetty’s chest. Santana does most of the work as he ends up isolated for much of the match before making the hot tag to Michaels. During the chaos that ensues following this mild injection of urgency Martel makes a cover on Marty Jannetty, who wasn’t the legal man, for the win.

Winners – The Fabulous Rougeaus & Rick ‘The Model’ Martel
Match Time – 14.58
Match Score – 6/10

Next we get a recap of the Intercontinental Title situation, featuring footage from The Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania. We then join Mean Gene who is joined by The Ultimate Warrior. He cuts his usual nonsensical and largely incoherent promo about the gods above. This guy was fucking nuts!

Intercontinental Title Match
‘Ravishing’ Rick Rude (c) (with Bobby Heenan) vs. The Ultimate Warrior

Rick Rude Summerslam 89

A less than happy Rick Rude after losing the Intercontinental Title to The Ultimate Warrior

Rude cuts an in-ring promo about being sexier than your average man in order to attract some cheap heat, which he duly receives. The not quite so sexy Warrior makes his entrance, shaking the ropes and generally acting like a complete mentalist. The face painted maniac no-sells Rude’s offence and takes control of the early going. The action soon spills to the outside where, in full view of the referee, Warrior hits Rude with the title belt. Again, this sparks another argument between Ventura and Schiavone, with the latter attempting to justify Warrior’s actions as it happened outside of the ring. Due to his stature and tone it always seems like Ventura wins these arguments regardless of how much sense he actually makes, but this time he actually is 100% correct, why Warrior wasn’t disqualified is beyond me. Schiavone even acknowledges this as he more or less abandons his argument and concedes defeat to ‘The Body’. Getting carried away with his early dominance Warrior decides to scale the top turnbuckle, and unsurprisingly the dazed, but not out, Rude knocks him off, crotching him on the top rope. From here Rude assumes control of the match, utilising a sleeper hold that has the sole purpose of giving each man a breather. Thereafter the highlights include a ref bump and Warrior narrowly avoiding defeat by placing his foot on the bottom rope following a piledriver. Rude is still firmly in control as we head towards the end of the match, which comes in the form of Rowdy Roddy Piper. Rude spots him standing at ring side and decides to strike a few poses, either as an attempt to warn him off or appeal to him, that much is not made clear. Either way the Scotsman responds by mooning the shocked and appalled Rude who is then thrown about by the revitalised Warrior who hits his signature finishing sequence for the win and the Intercontinental Title.

Winner, and new Intercontinental Champion – The Ultimate Warrior
Match Time – 16.02
Match Score – 7/10

We head backstage again, where Mean Gene is about to earn his night’s pay. First he is joined by Mr Perfect, who cuts a promo about being perfect. Next in is Roddy Piper, who appears to be completely fucked and clutching a drink of some sort, what a hero! He’s followed by Ron Garvin, who is wearing a tuxedo, we’ll find out why a little later. Finally Rick Rude and Bobby Heenan barge in. Both men are in a rage over Piper’s actions, in fact Rude’s moustache is absolutely furious. It’s a surprise they didn’t bump into Piper actually, he was literally standing on the same spot barely 60 seconds prior to them. From Mean Gene’s marathon interview segment we head to a video package hyping the main event, which is still a few matches away.

Demolition & King Duggan vs. The Twin Towers & Andre The Giant (with Slick & Bobby Heenan)
The second six-man tag of the night and it is the definition of card filler. It’s a bit of a shame given that Andre is involved, Demolition are only a few weeks removed from their record Tag Title reign and The Big Bossman had been serving as Hulk Hogan’s TV feud leading into the event. It’s a relatively short, linear match with the good guys starting well until Andre tags in and dominates Axe. Soon after this the action breaks down and Duggan clobbers Akeem with his 2×4, allowing Smash to make the cover for the good guys. That’s right, another case of the good guys cheating, Ventura is not happy.

Winners – Demolition and King Duggan
Match Time – 7.23
Match Score – 3/10

A gap between matches? You guessed it, we’re heading backstage to join Mean Gene again. This time he’s joined by The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase, who cuts a slightly racist promo on his opponent for the night Superfly Jimmy Snuka.

We’ve got a special guest ring announcer for the next match, it’s the sharply dressed ‘Rugged’ Ronnie Garvin…

Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine (with Jimmy Hart) vs. Hercules
Hercules gets a good introduction, but what about Garvin’s nemesis? That’s right, Ronnie rips the pish right out of Valentine, leaving the shin-guard wearing mullet man furious. The actual match is quite quick, with Hercules getting the better of the action. However Valentine shows the sharper ring sense by using the ropes for extra leverage to get the pinfall over the mythical muscle man. Garvin, with his keen eye for detail, spotted Valentine’s shady tactics and announces Hercules as the winner by DQ. ‘The Hammer’ is not best pleased and gives Garvin a smack, who retaliates and it all kicks off. If you want to see the fruits of this little altercation then check out their match at the 1990 Royal Rumble. Craig has written about their hard-hitting match here.

Winner, despite what Garvin says – Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine
Match Time – 3.08
Match Score – 4/10

Backstage, again, and Macho Man, Sensational Sherri and Zeus cut a weird promo while standing around a cauldron.

‘The Million Dollar Man’ Ted DiBiase (with Virgil) vs. Superfly Jimmy Snuka
Millionaire Ted cuts a promo in the ring and brags about ending Jake The Snake’s career, which of course he didn’t. When the action begins it is Superfly Jim who takes charge. It’s fairly standard stuff, then DiBiase takes charge. Ultimately Virgil distracts Snuka who leaves the ring to chase him, only to get counted out. It’s a cheap finish, but don’t worry, we still get to see the move we all want to see. Snuka isolates Virgil in the ring and hits the Superfly Splash.

Winner – ‘The Million Dollar Man’ Ted DiBiase
Match Time – 6.27
Match Score – 4/10

For the umpteenth and final time we head backstage to see who Mean Gene has found. Have you figured out who we’ve not heard from yet? That’s right, it’s the Hulkster! Oh, and Beefcake too. His promo sounds rather heelish as he brags about his arms (of course), his motorbike, having Miss Elizabeth on the back of said bike (I hope she was wearing a helmet) and then claims to have parted the Hudson River, like Moses parting the Red Sea. What a complete and utter twat!

Back in the ring The Genius recites a poem about the forthcoming main event. There are question marks over its rhyming and some of the grammar is terrible. What kind of genius is this guy?!

Hulk Hogan & Brutus ‘The Barber’ Beefcake (with Miss Elizabeth) vs. ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage & Zeus (with Sensational Sherri)

Zeus WWE Tiny Lister

Zeus may only know one move, but what a move!

It’s main event time, well almost anyway. The introductions take ages, and then Miss Elizabeth gets her own introduction to drag things out yet further. When the match finally starts Zeus no-sells Hogan’s offense, probably because he’s an actor by trade and can’t sell. The Human Wrecking Machine takes control by unleashing his deadly arsenal of moves. Well, not really. You know how Dean Malenko was ‘The Man of a Thousand Holds’? Well Zeus was the man of one hold, namely the bear hug. What’s worse is that from a bear hug the pace of the match actually slows down as the dreaded sleeper hold is wheeled out yet again, and by the babyfaces no less! So far the main event has consisted of Zeus no-selling and a bunch of rest holds. Finally something of note happens when Beefcake gets nailed with Sherri’s purse; yep, it’s handbags at dawn! Macho Man attempts a cover on Beefcake but Hogan heelishly yanks him out of the ring. This wasn’t the normal interrupting the count type of save, Hogan actually yanked Savage out of the ring. Somehow the action slows down even more when Zeus introduces a new move, the choke hold! Thankfully (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) Beefcake makes the hot tag to Hogan who comes in and manages to rock The Human Wrecking Machine for the first time, causing him to, rather protractedly, go down to one knee. Somewhat unexpectedly Sensational Sherri falls into the ring; apparently Liz tipped her over the ropes while she was on the apron. Hogan, like a true heel, then grabs her purse and gives Zeus a smack with it, before hitting his big boot and leg drop for the three count.

Winners – Hulk Hogan & Brutus ‘The Barber’ Beefcake
Match Time – 15.04
Match Score- 4/10

Post-match Hogan threatens to hit Sherri, clenched fist and all, before opting to deliver an abdominal drop. He then grabs The Barber’s sheers and threatens to stab Zeus and Savage. All this is happening as Liz and Beefcake chop off Sherri’s pony tail. I’m all for the heels getting their comeuppance, but I’ve always thought that Hogan and co. overstepped the mark here. Of course Ventura kicks off about Hogan’s actions on commentary, by which time Schiavone has given up trying to present an alternate view. The show ends with the babyfaces posing in the ring for ages.

Overall Thoughts
I obviously hold this event in high regard because it was my first, but it’s still not bad. By no means is it a must-see, but it’s worth a look if you like piecing together your wrestling history. The opening tag match between The Hart Foundation and Brainbusters is really good, although would have been better had the titles been up for grabs. The Intercontinental Title match is certainly worth a look, Rude does a great job of carrying Warrior to a fine performance. The six-man tag involving The Rockers, Santana, Martel and The Rougeaus is a relatively fast paced match that still holds up. The main event is what it is, the crowd are into it and everyone has an opinion, one way or the other, about Hogan, so that’s worth a look too. The rest is just card filler, of variable quality.

Overall score – 6/10

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4 thoughts on “Random Wrestling Review: WWE Summerslam 1989

  1. It appears that the recording you have doesn’t include what I would call on the of the greatest wrestling bloopers of all time. During the live PPV, when Mean Gene originally interviewed Rude and Heenan, and SummerSlam sign fell off the wall on camera, causing Okerlund to drop an F-bomb (I wrote about this a while back and it’s one of my most popular posts: http://tinyurl.com/27mn5ep ). For those of us who saw the show live, the Rude vs. Warrior match was the real main event.

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    • Like a puzzle, all the pieces have fallen into place. I have seen footage of Mean Gene enthusiastically expressing his surprise at the set falling apart, what I didn’t store in my memory was what event it was from. The version of Summerslam 89 I know is the home video version, which is obviously well edited. I shall indeed check out your post, thanks for the heads up.

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  2. Pingback: This Week in Wrestling | Ring the Damn Bell

  3. Pingback: The real main event of SummerSlam ’89: Rick Rude vs. Ultimate Warrior | Boston Garden Balcony

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