Retro Review

SummerSlam 1988 – Retro Review

Ahead of this weekends SummerSlam, Matthew Roberts goes back 30 years to watch and review the first ever “biggest party of the summer”!

With 2018’s “30th Anniversary” SummerSlam just around the corner, Matthew Roberts hops into the T.W.M (Time Wrestling Machine)  to take a look back at the first ever edition of the Hottest Show of The Summer!

Nostalgia can be a funny thing; rose-tinted glasses can give us a false impression about what we loved in the past. For all the talk of the “good old days” there is really no question that as far as in-ring talent, the 2018 WWE Roster is one of the most stacked in the company’s history. For all it’s faults, people forget that.

So that means that SummerSlam 2018 won’t feature the equivalent likes of Ken Patera Vs Bad News Brown or Koko B. Ware Vs The Big Bossman. It also, hopefully, won’t feature the draw/dq finishes that mar part of the inaugural 1988 version.

Things appear to start so well; you’d expect The British Bulldogs Vs The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers (who had one of the finest entrance themes of the era) to be a solid and entertaining affair and for the most part it is. Playing out in front of a hot crowd doesn’t harm things and the only real thing that lets it down is the time-limit draw finish which, despite the commentators teasing, never does get that “five more minutes”.

Ken Patera and Bad News Brown have no way of following that. Brown has an intensity that isn’t often seen in this era and there’s mild amusement in him beating up Patera but that’s about it. There’s nothing here you really need to see once, never mind twice. The crowd does pick up for Rick Rude Vs The Junkyard Dog but it’s arguably even worse than the match which precedes it. That Rude chooses this match to air another pair of tights with Cheryl Roberts’ (Jake The Snake’s wife) face on them and thus enrages Jake enough to run in for the weak DQ only serves to highlight that the feud/issue for Rude was with Roberts, not the JYD. Maybe in the early days of non-Mania PPV’s, the WWE needed to protect the house show circuit and not give away all the feuds on these shows.

The best thing I can say about the Bolsheviks against The Powers of Pain is that at least it is kept short. It’s not particularly thrilling but at least they all seem to put some effort into it. And I’d rather sit through that match than the interminable Brother Love and Jim Duggan interview that follows it. Still, perhaps that’s preferable to watching 1988 Hacksaw actually wrestle.

Next up is perhaps the most famous squash match of all time. It will take longer to type this sentence and mention the words Honky Tonk Man against The Ultimate Warrior than the actually match lasts. But even after all these years it remains a talked about moment and a wonderful memory. And that pop is one of the loudest in history. Which only makes one assume that Don Muraco and Dino Bravo were sent out next just to give the fans a chance to catch their collective breath. I suppose at least it only lasts about three minutes.

The WWF Tag Team Title match between Demolition and The Hart Foundation is much better. It’s not great, but as a slice of old school tag team action it’s a welcome upswing on this card. Which is a good job as it’s followed by a virtual squash match as Big Boss Man batters Koko B Ware. It’s fine as a squash and a way to build up the Boss Man but if this happened on PPV today there would be riots.

Hercules and Jake Roberts are for some reason given ten minutes to play with and deliver up almost nothing of interest and much like earlier in the evening it doesn’t help that the real issue for Jake is his on-going one with Rick Rude. Which also isn’t helped by the commentators spending 75% of this match talking about Rude.

Finally we get to the main event, pitting the Megapowers duo of Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage against the Megabucks of Ted DiBiase and Andre The Giant. As an aside, thirty years on me and my mates still reference the Megapowers handshake. Jesse Ventura is our guest referee, in order to add at least some doubt to proceedings and it looks as if he might have a hand in proceedings at various points throughout the match but he’s no match for the finish, which sees Miss Elizabeth whip off her skirt to reveal what I suppose are bikini bottoms and the sight of this sends the Megabucks into frozen shocks and DiBiaase is distracted enough to be easy prey for the pin.

SummerSlam 1988 isn’t very good as far as the in-ring product goes. Still as a microcosm of the WWF and what made it tick in the late 80’s you will find some nostalgia entertainment if you were a fan at the time. If you only hopped on board the WWE bandwagon in the Attitude Era or later, you might wonder how anyone enjoyed this stuff back in the day…

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