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WWF SummerSlam '97: Hart and Soul

by Scrooge McSuck

- Come on, it's been how many years and we still haven't completed the SummerSlam Series? Not even close, either. Oh well, at least with the WWE Network at my disposal, I shouldn't bother with the DVD collection, but I DO have the entire SummerSlam anthology set, so might as well use what my hard earned money went towards.

Let's go back to the Summer of 1997, back when I was a young boy turning into a man. No, I don't care if you want my life story or not, you're getting it, so you might as well sit comfortably and accept it. ANYWAY, the Summer of '97 happened to be one of my several attempts at going cold turkey on wrestling, but parents be damned, they ordered me SummerSlam despite having watched Raw and Nitro a combined once since WrestleMania 13. As much as you could call it overkill, despite watching so little of the product, all the recap videos (and the countdown show) caught me up to speed on pretty much every match and why it was taking place, so kudos to the WWE production crew for attention to detail.

- Originally presented via Pay-Per-View on August 3rd, 1997, from the Continental Airlines Arena (formerly the Meadowlands) in East Ruthorford, NJ, with Vince McMahon, Jim Ross, and Jerry "The King" Lawler at ringside to call the action, unless otherwise noted. Much like 19 of the previous 20 PPV's, the official sponsor is Stridex... damn was WWE in the shitter with their sponsors. Stridex and Super Soakers. RAKING IN THE FUCKIN' MONEY. I'm pleased to inform everyone that Vladimir the Superfan is in the front row.

Steel Cage Match:
Mankind vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley (w/ Chyna):

Color me surprised to find out that Mankind not only turned babyface, but "humanized" himself and also adopted a weird alter-persona known as Dude Love (a hipster doofus that is an alleged chick magnet). Helmsley, on the other hand, won the King of the Ring, and continued the streak of not incorporating the "King" title into his gimmick/character. These two fought in the finals of the Tournament, then went to a No Contest at Canadian Stampede... technically this isn't a rubber match, since Helmsley is 1-0-1, and thus Mankind can only tie the series up. Chyna's excessive interference means she's prohibited from interfering... no, I don't buy it, either.

In a spot that could only work in a (bad) video game, Helmsley goes for the door the second the bell rings. It doesn't work. Mankind pops the crowd with the Cactus Jack "Bang Bang!" after clobberin' Helmsley. He applies the Mandible Claw, but Chyna reaches through the bars to choke out Mankind. Yep, it took a whopping 3-minutes to render the stipulation of the match irrelevent. Less than a minute later, Foley tries climbing out, and Chyna ball shots him. Helmsley climbs up as well, and brings him down with a Super-Plex! Mankind eats cage a few times, but blading was still only an occasional act. Mankind turns the tide, but take a guess who interferes. They trade inverted atomic drops, and Mankind explodes out of the corner with a clothesline. Helmsley with a facebuster, to almost zero crowd reaction. Mankind hangs him up in a contrived spot and comes charging with a headbutt to the chest. The advantage see-saws for a few minutes until Chyna slams the cage door on Mankind's head to prevent his escape. That's a concussion, no doubt about it. She knocks referee Jimmy Korderas out and tosses a hair in the ring. Chyna with another contrived spot, but the crowd pops for her getting knocked to the ground. Mankind with a double-arm DDT to the chair. Chyna blows a spot as Mankind climbs out. He climbs back up, tosses off the mask, tears off his shirt revealing nothing (a painted heart had worn off), and in honor of the Superfly, comes flying off the cage with an elbow. He climbs up again, and despite Chyna's (second, and in this case, correctly timed) attempts at pulling Helmsley out, makes it to the floor for the victory at 16:26. He celebrates his hard earned victory by morphing into Dude Love. **3/4 Good match, but it dragged a bit (a lack of roster depth is a terrible thing), and Chyna's involvement hampered things rather than added to the match.

- Todd Pettengill interviews the Governor of New Jersey. She pretty much did away with taxing pro wrestling, so Vince McMahon celebrated by doing the backstroke in a pile of money he no longer had to fork over to the I.R.S. (and no, I don't mean Mike Rotundo/a). What a wonderful waste of Pay-Per-View time.

- Tiger Ali Singh is in attendance. About a year later, nobody cared. About three years later, bowels were emptied into his turban because wrestlers are surprisingly juvenile, mean-spirited assholes.

Goldust (w/ Marlena) vs. Brian Pillman:

If Goldust wins, then Brian Pillman has to wear a dress until he wins another match (or something equally stupid... Cornette or Russo? Could go either way). It's really sad to watch Pillman gimp around during his last months. The same guy who was flying off the top rope and dazzling fans with high octane moves was now barely able to run the ropes and do more than throw punches and kicks. 17 YEARS later (writing this on August 2nd, 2014!), and I still love Goldust's widescreen entrance. Slugfest to start. Goldust counters an inverted atomic drop with a kiss. Pillman's face and chest is already covered in Goldust's face-paint. Pillman chases Marlena, only to run into a clothesline. Vince McMahon not only refers to Goldust as "Dustin Rhodes", but also calls Dusty Rhodes "legendary" without any snide, back-handed compliments. He must've been having a good day to be so nice. Goldust throws Pillman off the top rope, crotching him across the top rope. Pillman finally takes control after using Marlena as a human shield. Goldust mounts a comeback, complete with the shuck n' jivin' wind up. Pillman counters the bulldog, sending Goldust to the floor. Sunset flip back in is completely blown, so they sloppily scootch to the ropes. Marlena nails Pillman with the loaded purse (and it's revealed to be loaded, too!), and Goldust gets the three count at 7:15. Yes, Pillman ended up wrestling the next few weeks on Raw in a DRESS. 1/2* Just barely a notch above a DUD. Dustin Rhodes was such a frustrating performer, and Pillman was barely the shell of the former 'self that he was. Absolutely little fun in watching this.

The Legion of Doom vs. The Godwinns:

(Hawk & Animal vs. Henry O. & Phineas I.)
Since I last saw the Godwinns in action, they turned heel, and are carrying around the (racist) rebel flag. I guess Henry fractured his neck taking the Doomsday Device, and they used that as motivation for the turn. No more Hillbilly Jim, so they now have generic hillbilly music rather than a horribly dubbed over Hillbilly music to cover up "Don't Go Messin with a Country Boy." All four men brawl at the bell, with the LOD clearing the ring. Animal lands on his feet countering a double back suplex and clears the ring, again, with a double clothesline. Henry pounds away on Hawk as Vince discusses the absence of Hillbilly Jim. Hawk with a snapmare and leg drops for two. Phineas tags in and locks Hawk in a hangman's neckbreaker. That's straight out of WCW Wrestling for the NES. Phineas nails Animal from the apron, and Henry takes him over the top, to the floor, with a clothesline. Fun Fact: Capt. Lou Albano is in the front row... god please, not another return of Captain Lou! Wasn't the comeback with the Headshrinkers in '95 enough?! Animal takes a beating for a few minutes. Phineas jumps off the second rope and eats a clothesline, allowing Hawk to get the hot tag. Powerslam to Henry, followed by a neck breaker for two. Phineas interrupts the Doomsday Device (boo!), but a Spike Piledriver (yay!) finishes Henry's night at 9:51. ** Oddly paced match the first half, but a decent brawl, and way better than I had anticipated. The Godwinns weren't much better as heels, but there seemed to be a bit of motivation.

- Time for more wasting of PPV time, and it's a complete sham: WWF did a campaign that gave fans the chance at winning a MILLION DOLLARS. It was on TV and in all the magazine's, and yep, they actually did trot out two fans who, again, HAD A CHANCE, at winning the cash. They even had Todd Pettengill call people at home, and, well... live PPV is always funny, especially when calling people who didn't order the show (allegedly). Sunny and Sable were trotted out in the skimpiest, sluttiest outfits the WWF were allowed to cram them into, and after 10-minutes, both fans (a creepy pedo-looking dude and a 12 year old dork and possible future victim) failed at picking the lucky number, 3, the number that yours truly had picked watching this unfold, waiting for the next match. In a poor attempt at attention to detail, the "million dollars" was flaunted in a casket, but in some instances, plain white paper could be seen under the handful of dollar bills littering the pile. Can I have my ten minutes back?

- One Night Only! September 20th! The Birmingham NEC! The British Bulldog takes on Shawn Michaels! Oh, and it's not available to the United States. BULLSHIT!

WWF European Championship Match:
The British Bulldog © vs. Ken Shamrock:

Never mind, where's Sunny and Sable with their tits popping out? Second "gimmick" stipulation for the Hart Foundation: If Davey Boy Smith loses the European Title, he has to eat a can of dog food, set up because he force-fed Shamrock dog foot following an arm-wrestling contest. Slugfest to start, won by Shamrock. Whip and a belly-to-belly suplex sends Bulldog running. Shamrock goes for the ankle, but Bulldog grabs the ropes. He sends Bulldog to the corner one time too many, meeting boot on the third "charge." Bulldog with a delayed suplex, then hooks a chinlock. We're bored, so Lawler asks J.R. what time it is in England (hint: 5 hours later than whatever time it is on the East Coast). Shamrock gets sent to the floor and into the ring steps. They blow a spot on the floor, because it's happening to everyone tonight. Bulldog slaps Shamrock with a handful of dog food, so Shamrock goes fucking nuts. He pounds away on Bulldog and smashes the can over his head for the Disqualification at 7:28. He continues putting the boots to Bulldog, choking him out, and assaulting WWF officials (including a belly-to-belly on Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco... what, you expected Tony Garea to bump for him?). * Mostly punchy-kicky filler, but Shamrock's post-match snapping made for the most iconic visual of his wrestling career, so at least there's some positive to it.

- Todd Pettengill asks Shawn Michaels if he will risk his career by screwing Bret Hart ouf of the WWF Title... I didn't mean for it to come out like that, but I love it, and am going to leave it at that.

Disciples of the Apocolypse vs. Los Boricuas:

For those of you, like me, who don't remember who anyone is on these teams, the D.O.A. consists of Crush (the leader), Chainz (Brian Lee, formerly FakerTaker), and 8-Ball and Skull (formerly the Blu Brothers and Grimm Twins, among other names). Los Boricuas consists of Savio Vega (the leader), Miguel Perez (the human chia-pet), Jesus Castillo (who?), and Jose Estrada Jr. (son of one half of the original Conquistadors... nice pedigree). Did anyone care for this Gang WarZ... ever? Everyone brawls, with DOA clearin the ring. 8-Ball/Skull no-sells Estrada's offense. Skull/8-Ball with a side slam. Mild "shave your back" chant directed towards Perez. The Boricuas continue to get squashed until Savio hits one of the twins with a spinning heel kick. Suddenly, the Nation shows up, consisting of Faarooq, D'Lo Brown, Kama Mustafa, and Ahmed Johnson. I smell a run... wait, AHMED JOHNSON?! What the HELL!? Castillo with an ugly scissors kick on 8-Skull. Seriously, they turned Ahmed heel? The (lack of) heat segment continues, with little of note happening. Chainz gets a frozen tag, and it's a big brawl. Ahmed somehow lays out Chainz with the Pearil River Plunge on the floor, except he completely protected Chainz with his knees. Perez covers for three at 9:07. Felt twice as long. DUD I would dip into the negatives, but my mind was blown seeing that Ahmed Johnson was a member of the Nation, only to break away from them and feud with them AGAIN leading into the Survivor Series. Heatless. Pointless. I guess you could say this match was "DOA." I crack myself up.

WWF Intercontinental Championship Match:
Owen Hart © vs. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin:

Stipulation Number Three for the Hart Foundation: If Steve Austin doesn't win the Title, he has to kiss Owen Hart's ass. At Canadian Stampede, Owen Hart pinned Austin in the 10-Man Tag Team Main Event, and has gloated about it ever since. Simple and effective. Michael Cole tries to pester Austin on his way to the ring, but gets told off for being an annoying dork. Owen attacks the knee before the bell, but Austin fights him off and takes him down with the Thesz Press. Owen takes the chest-first bump to the corner, and Austin throws him around with handfuls of hair. Owen tries his fancy nip-up counter, but Austin thumbs the eyes. He tries to post Owen, but gets rammed face-first, instead. He works the hand, mostly with biting. Remember, if Owen is DQ'ed, Austin still has to "pucker up." Austin with a Stun Gun from out of nowhere, then counters a head scissors with a Powerbomb. Owen tries taking a walk, but Austin runs him down. Owen regains control with a release belly-to-belly suplex, followed by a leg drop for a two count. Elbow from the top rope gets two. Austin foolishly goes for a Sharpshooter, but Owen fights out. Austin rolls through a twisting cross body for two. Owen with a bridging German Suplex for two. Austin fights out of a Camel Clutch, but gets planted with a DDT. They trade sleepers until Austin connects with a jawbuster. Owen with a Russian leg sweep for two. Owen with his feet on the ropes holding a chinlock, but the referee throws them off.

Austin goes for a side slam, but Owen rolls through, turns Austin around, and plants him with a Tombstone Piledriver... except he sits down on his ass with it, rather than drop to his knees, and Austin's head clearly lands unprotected, full force, into the canvas. Owen stalls for time, taunting the crowd as Austin somehow, some way, pulls himself across the ring and weakly school boys Owen for the three count and his first singles Championship at 16:15. I'm not even going to suggest the finish sucked due to the fact the guy should've been able to even MOVE, let alone finish a wrestling match in any capacity. Austin somehow makes it to his feet before being helped back by a pair of referees. *** Finish aside, this was just slightly better than average. The finish and Austin's set of balls to continue kind of elevate the match above where it really stands. They worked strong throughout with decent psychology, but it never got into full gear, possibly because of the injury. One has to wonder how much longer this was meant to go, if not for the botched Piledriver.

WWF Championship Match:
The Undertaker © vs. Bret "Hitman" Hart:

Final Doofy "Give-Away-The-Finish" of the Night™: If Bret Hart doesn't win the WWF Title, he is no longer allowed to wrestle in the United States. Shawn Michaels is YOUR Special Referee, and he too, will not wrestle in the United States, if he in any way screws Bret Hart and cost him the match. Undertaker might as well lay the belt down and walk away, he has ZERO chance of going over, even in the eyes of a mark. Bret attacks before the bell (a trend all night long), but 'Taker quickly no-sells and pummels him in the corner. They take it to the floor, with 'Taker wrapping his own arm around the post. Bret gets caught coming off the apron and meets the post, as well. 'Taker continues to punish the lower back and connects with a back breaker for two. 'Taker wears down Bret with a bearhug, but still can't land the elbow. Bret ducks under a boot and kicks away at the left knee of the Champion. Hart pounds the leg a bit before slapping on a Figure-Four. Suddenly, Paul Bearer makes his way to ringside, who has been claiming the Undertaker's "Brother" "Cain" is still alive. 'Taker fights free and takes a shot at Bearer, but Bret remains in control and slaps the Figure-Four on with Taker's legs wrapped around the post! Here comes Owen Hart and Brian Pillman... because? Bret keeps working on the knee and hooks a leg scissors in the center of the ring. 'Taker fights free with well-placed legs to the face. 'Taker stumbles to the floor, taking shots at Owen and Pillman until Shawn ejects them.

'Taker with the Chokeslam (HUGE POP), but Shawn is out of position, and 'Taker is PISSED. Bret with a school boy for a two count! Bret regains momentum, sending 'Taker's back into the post. Back in the ring, Bret comes off the ropes with a double axehandle. Bret with a back breaker for two. Snap suplex and second rope elbow (with double middle fingers to the crowd) gets two. DDT gets two. 'Taker from out of nowhere drops Bret face-first onto the turnbuckle. Bret wins a slugfest and takes him down with a Russian Leg Sweep. Bret goes for the Sharpshooter, but 'Taker grabs him by the throat and fights back to his feet. Bret kicks out the leg to counter another Chokeslam. 'Taker fights from his knees with a flurry of rights and lefts. Whip and 'Taker comes off the ropes with the flying clothesline. 'Taker with a big boot and leg drop for two. He brings Bret back in from the apron with a Chokeslam, but it only gets two. 'Taker tries going "old school", but Bret crotches him across the buckle. He climbs up as well, and takes the Deadman over with a Super-Plex! Bret slaps on the Sharpshooter, but 'Taker kicks Bret out with enough force to send him clear across the ring, and to the floor. Bret escapes the Tombstone and actually uses the post for a modified Sharpshooter. 'Taker kicks him off again, this time right on top of Michaels. NOT THE KNEE! Bret with a chair shot to the head (unprotected), but it only gets two! Shawn sees the chair and gets in Bret's face about it, leading to Bret screaming "Fuck You" ast him and spitting the nastiest loogy in his face. Shawn winds up with the chair, but accidentally blasts the Undertaker, and is forced to count three, giving Bret the victory and his (at the time) record breaking 5th WWF Championship at 28:08! **** This was lightyears better than their last one-on-one encounter on PPV (Rumble '96). The slowdown of the leg work never really hindered the match, they worked a steady pace considering the length of time the match was given (possibly to cover the previous match going short), and they worked hard from bell to bell. Only complaints I really have was the pointless involvement of Paul Bearer and the Hart Foundation members.

Final Thoughts: Other than an outstanding Main Event that somehow produced two better Main Events at the following In Your House PPV's, this show is known for the Steve Austin injury and not much else. The undercard was actually loaded with matches that had a purpose, but unfortunately, nothing really stood out, either at the time or in hindsight. Mankind and Helmsley didn't really find their groove together for a few more years, the Gang Warz was a colossal waste of time, Ken Shamrock just wasn't good enough in the ring or on the microphone to warrant the hype he received, and the over-booked nonsense with goofy stipulations got way out of control. It's not an "awful" show, just not worth sitting through. Mild Recommendation to Avoid.

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