VHS Memoirs Volume 15:Summer Slam 1994

Usually, I try to keep a theme around these editions of “The VHS Memoirs,” a series designed to review some of the classic events that were either originally viewed or released on VCR format. Ironically, I still have a VHS recording of the original broadcast, a tape that had “The Three Stooges” crossed out with the Summer Slam 1994 label on it instead. I’d like to take this time, some 27 years later, to thank my dad for sacrificing the antics of the legendary trio so that young Jim would have a copy of the WWF pay-per-view. However, I should mention that I bought him the entire Three Stooges Anthology on DVD about a decade ago so I’d say it was a fair deal. As mentioned, I try to keep a theme to these editions, such as around the anniversary of an event since it provides a more natural opportunity to review a show, but with the majority of the content on Peacock still as random as WCW booking in 2000, I decided to select Summer Slam 1994 based on the classic Bret/Owen cage match and the Diesel/Razor Ramon IC title bout. As we know, this was also the event that had the infamous fake Undertaker appearance by Brian Lee, who went on to appear for ECW and return to the WWF in the late-90s, but more on that later.

The show opened with The Headshrinkers vs. Bam Bam Bigelow and IRS of Ted Dibiase’s corporation stable. The match was rather brief and ended in a DQ, an aspect of booking that I think rarely works on pay-per-view, but the contest had its moments. Obviously, Fatu, after a few gimmick changes, found his biggest success as Rikishi, but because that run was more successful than the previous stages of his career, it almost seems like the Headshrinkers ability as a team is either often forgotten or just simply overlooked. Fatu and Samu could go bell-to-bell, and the argument could be made that despite the cartoon gimmick of the “New Generation” era, they might’ve been the best in-ring tag team of the early-90s in the WWF. A side note about Bam Bam, for a performer that was as talented as he was in the ring with the look that he had, it’s somewhat puzzling that he didn’t have a bigger run around this time frame. It almost seems like the booking of being in a stable minimized some of the skills that he brought to the table since The Corporation as a faction generally had a rather mediocre run. I think it’s fair to say that Bam Bam could’ve had a main event run before he left for ECW a few years later.

Alundra Blayze defeated Bull Nakano in a really good match to retain the WWF Women’s title and it’s a bout that I would consider a “hidden gem” from a rather cartoonish time period. Watching this bout again, it’s almost disappointing to think what type of run Medusa could’ve had if she worked in a different era. As we know, the WWF, outside of Fabulous Moolah’s reign as women’s champion for a few decades, did basically nothing with the majority of the division throughout most of the 90s. Medusa had some stellar matches during her WWF career, but they were often one-off bouts with those brought in from Japan. Medusa had notable matches, but there wasn’t a regular cast of women wrestlers for her to feud with for the title. Essentially, the WWF had Alundra Blazye, but nobody else to work with her.

As much as her jump is known for its impact in the Monday Night wars, WCW did even less with the women’s division since it was rarely featured on pay-per-view, and her solid matches with Japanese talent again were often lost in the shuffle of Nitro. Despite a different organization, Medusa didn’t have a steady group of opponents to work with in WCW.

Razor Ramon won the IC title from Diesel with Walter Payton at ringside, which was really cool. This match was solid, but still probably not the best Razor/Diesel bout you can find from this time frame, simply because they had several matches against each other during this period. One of the main takeaways here is that when Scott Hall was on, he was as good as anyone, and it’s unfortunate that his problems outside of the ring overshadowed a very accomplished career

Lex Luger vs. Tatanka and Jeff Jarrett vs. Mabel can be included in the same category since they were both five-minute subpar matches. By 1994, most of the shine from the Lex Express push from the prior year had worn off, and Lex went from a main eventer to a mid-card bout on the pay-per-view in the span of just a year. Granted, Lex was put in a tough spot when management tried to shoehorn him as the next Hulk Hogan, but the fact that the mega push didn’t get over left him floundering for the remainder of his WWF tenure. Ironically, this was the contest where Tatanka beat Luger and turned heel to join Ted Dibiase, which was such a tacky stable that it more or less led to the conclusion of Tatanka’s original stint in the company. It’s still puzzling that after such a strong start in the organization, including a lengthy winning streak, that nothing materialized that could push him to being a bigger star. As far as Jarrett/Mabel, watching this match will make you question the decision to have Mabel win the King of The Ring the following year even more than before. Mabel was agile for someone of his size, but he was very sloppy in the ring and it made for some awkward spots that weren’t smooth during the match.

As I said before, the Bret/Owen cage match was the reason I made the selection to watch Summer Slam 1994 for this review, and the bout is really pro wrestling 101 on so many levels. Everything is crisp, everything made sense, and the structure of the match build up the drama. One of the small things from this contest was that at certain points, Owen starts to choke Bret with his own singlet, and I don’t recall anyone else using it. It really made Owen stand out as a vicious heel and added another level of heat to the angle. Obviously, the suplex from the top of the cage is an iconic moment in pro wrestling history, but something else to take notice of as the two fell from the ropes or cage at various points in the match is how the canvas really has next to no give upon impact. The WWF rings were notoriously stiff, supposedly based on the visual presentation for Saturday Night’s Main event as far back as 1985, but it’s puzzling why the canvas remained very stiff for so many years afterwards. From what I’ve heard in interviews, it was actually Mick Foley’s dangerous fall through the ceiling of the cell in 1998 that prompted the company to begin to use rings that had more give when the wrestlers took bumps.

Bret won the bout to retain the title, but was attacked post-match, which I’m guessing is why this match didn’t close the show, but it should’ve been the main event. Granted, I know The Undertaker vs. “The Undertaker” was a major promotional part of the pay-per-view, but even a good match would’ve been difficult to follow the stellar cage match, not to mention a comically terrible imposter Undertaker angle.

Speaking of the main event, Leslie Nielsen was a part of the broadcast with George Kennedy as they searched for The Undertaker. Unfortunately, the story of the missing Undertaker wasn’t quite on the level of the classic Cool Hand Luke. Brian Lee was put in a tough spot because truth be told, nobody can portray the gimmick and make it work the way that Mark Calaway did for over thirty years. Basically, the main event was Brian Lee trying to imitate The Undertaker and the effort was there, but it just didn’t translate, especially for the main event of a pay-per-view. Aside from the in-ring work, the actual angle was flimsy at best because while the top-notch WWF production team had a great video package to summarize how the Bret vs. Owen feud progressed from Survivor Series to the Royal Rumble to Wrestlemania and then to Summer Slam, there was no explanation given about where Dibiase found the imposter Undertaker or any background of it. Was this supposed to be another Undertaker that had similar traits to the original or was the storyline that Dibiase just found a random person and put them in the costume to mock the original Undertaker? The match had no pace and there were points in the bout that dragged. Of course, The Undertaker beat the imposter and the show finished with a baby face victory.

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta
E mail drwrestlingallpro@yahoo.com | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta