BANK STATEMENT #8 - WWF July 1992 and the 180 on Creative
Welcome back to the Bank Statement on Hardway HQ! So far, I’ve really touched upon a lot of vintage wrestling topics and laid down a lot of vintage 2000 memories, as well as a couple current topics. But there was something that has intrigued me for a long time that I really wanted to touch upon here. And it started with the rumors of the location of this year’s Summerslam.
With the world opening up again after a 15 month pandemic, WWE has been looking at a special venue for “the biggest party of the Summer”. Although a lot of fans have speculated at Madison Square Garden, which housed the 1988 and 1998 events, others have speculated, due to locations on the WWE 25 City Tour, on Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, NV. That venue houses 72000 maximum capacity, which would be a huge return for fans inside the WWE Universe.
If that winds up being the case, it would be the largest crowd for a Summerslam since London’s Wembley Stadium in 1992, with 80,355.
And that brings me back to my childhood with “The SummerSlam You Thought You'd Never See!”
Summerslam 1992 was, in my opinion, the greatest non-WrestleMania pay-per-view of the 1990s. The large United Kingdom crowd brought the energy, and the action did not disappoint.
The card opened with my favorite tag team Money Incorporated losing to the Legion of Doom in a fun tag team battle. One of the best “heel vs heel” matches ever transpired, as Shawn Michaels and Rick “the Model” Martel went to a double countout, especially after they both ultimately ignored Sensational Sherri’s request to not punch each other in the face. Crush destroyed Repo Man in mere moments in an unofficial “Demolition vs Demolition” match. The Ultimate Warrior defeated “Macho Man” Randy Savage via countout in a match for the WWF championship. And in the main event, the British Bulldog pinned Bret “Hitman” Hart to win the Intercontinental championship in what many consider, myself included, to be the greatest match in Summerslam history.
It was an amazing night in professional wrestling history. It also almost didn’t happen.
According to Bret in his book “HITMAN: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling”, Summerslam was actually between two cities.
“Rumor had it that Vince had big plans for Summerslam 1992. JJ Dillon, Vince’s talent coordinator, whose job was basically doing Vince’s dirty work when it came to fining, firing, and delivering other bad news, let slip that the pay-per-view was possibly going to be either in Washington D.C., or London, England.”
More importantly, Bret wrote about how he was possibly going to drop the Intercontinental championship to Shawn Michaels. That night, he went to Vince McMahon.
“If he still wanted me to drop the belt to Shawn Michaels, I had an idea for that match that I wouldn’t even tell him until he promised me that he’d never use it for anyone else. Vince agreed, so I told him about the concept of a ladder match. The more I told him the more he liked it.”
COULD YOU IMAGINE BRET AND SHAWN IN A LADDER MATCH IN 1992, 18 MONTHS BEFORE RAZOR RAMON AND SHAWN AT WRESTLEMANIA X? Unreal.
Ultimately, Bret then pitched him against Bulldog if they were running London, which did transpire and became, as I alluded to, the greatest Summerslam match in the history of the event. But that Shawn Michaels match and story intrigued me. Were the original storylines heading into the event originally that match?
After a deep dive into the event, not only was that true, but so many other original storylines on Superstars and Wrestling Challenge ultimately did not transpire in London. Why was that? More importantly, what angles were killed?
I, the Bankster, decided to investigate.
Yes, I just gave myself a nickname. It will never happen again.
The “Wrestling With Paul'' YouTube channel has been a revelation in my research on this time period. Month by month, Paul (if that is his real name) has separated WWF storylines month-by-month in compilation from the late-1980s to 1995. A gigantic task put together by an obvious passionate fan.
I actually watched the first few months outside of WrestleMania 8. The storylines being built were actually very different from where Summerslam ended up.
For starters, the red-hot rivalry of “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Ric Flair over the World Wrestling Federation championship was the main focal point on television. After a bloodied “Nature Boy” violently kissed Miss Elizabeth after losing the title at the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis, Savage wanted revenge in the worst way imaginable.
Initially, the Ultimate Warrior and Sid Justice were on the road to fighting each other, but after Sid quit the promotion in the end of April, Papa Shango was inserted to the rivalry, subsequently “cursing” the Warrior and torturing him with black magic, including mysterious ooze from the forehead and abdominal cramps inducing projectile vomiting. Warrior was seemingly looking to “reverse the curse” with the power of the Warrior.
The tag team scene was heating up, as the Beverly Brothers and the Genius kept calling out the Legion of Doom, who reunited at WrestleMania with their manager Paul Ellering and their childhood puppet Rocco, consistently insulting them by referring to them as “the Legion of Sissies”. Meanwhile, the Natural Disasters were still looking for revenge on the Tag Team champions Money Incorporated, especially after the Million Dollar Man paid Jimmy Hart to betray Earthquake and Typhoon in February.
In one of the more unique storylines, the Undertaker was battling the Berzerker back-and-forth. After laying out the Dead Man, the viking attempted to IMPALE him with his sword, narrowly avoiding flesh with the blade down.
“The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels, as alluded to earlier, was on the road to facing Bret “Hitman” Hart for the Intercontinental championship, and Rick “the Model” Martel wanted a piece of the undefeated Tatanka, going as far as to steal the Native American’s feathers from his tribe in North Carolina. Sgt. Slaughter wanted revenge on the Mountie once the law and order of Canada upgraded his cattle prod to an electrical instrument of destruction and shocked the Hell out of the former WWF champion.
And in the most violent display in recent WWF history, Big Boss Man got destroyed by one of his former convicts in the Cobb County, GA jail, Nailz. The Boss Man got practically eviscerated by the man in the orange jumpsuit, pounded down with his own nightstick.
With all the angles in place, it looked as if the WWF had Summerslam 1992 lined up through the early Summer.
Then, the middle of July changed everything.
On an episode of Wrestling Challenge, “Mean” Gene Okerlund had the Ultimate Warrior on his interview segment as a guest. The Warrior, in the midst of 3 minutes, said that he, because of the Power of his Warriors, has overcome the black magic of Papa Shango.
No blowoff match, no confrontation, nothing. The Power of the Warriors simply helped him overcome the curse of the evil voodoo doctor.
It obviously made sense, since the following episode of WWF Superstars, it was announced that the WWF would run Summerslam in London, England, where the main event would be the Macho Man and the Ultimate Warrior. Over the next few weeks, Ric Flair and his executive consultant Mr. Perfect would say that someone would be joining forces with them in the main event, ultimately (no pun intended) putting a rift between champion and challenger.
It was an interesting, but sharp turn from the original main event creative direction.
Meanwhile, the impending rise to Shawn Michaels becoming Intercontinental champion took a slight detour. As alluded to earlier, with Wembley Stadium getting Summerslam, the WWF creative crew went to the British Bulldog, home country hero, facing off with Bret Hart for the Intercontinental championship. Shawn and Rick Martel went into the aforementioned “heel vs heel” match for Sensational Sherri’s affections. Meanwhile, the story for Tatanka’s tribe feathers was put on hold until Survivor Series in November.
The more interesting turn was the Tag Team championship scene. The Natural Disasters, at a house show in Springfield, MA, won the WWF Tag Team championships from Money Incorporated. Subsequently, the matches for Summerslam were switched, as Ted DiBiase and IRS faced off with the Legion of Doom, while Earthquake and Typhoon battled the Beverly Brothers for the belts. Little “heat” for the angles, but fun matches scheduled nonetheless.
The Mountie and Sgt. Slaughter was quietly written out, while Big Boss Man and Nailz were saved for, similar to Tatanka and Rick Martel, Survivor Series.
Papa Shango was pushed down towards a non-PPV match in Wembley against El Matador, which aired on Prime Time Wrestling the following week. An absolute fall from grace for the man, weeks earlier, groomed for a main event match.
Watching all this footage years later, it’s incredible how amazing Summerslam 1992 turned out. Here is the full results from that event:
DARK MATCH: Hacksaw Jim Duggan and The Bushwhackers (Luke and Butch) defeated The Mountie and The Nasty Boys (Brian Knobbs and Jerry Sags) (with Jimmy Hart)
DARK MATCH: Papa Shango defeated Tito Santana
The Legion of Doom (Hawk and Animal) (with Paul Ellering) defeated Money Inc. (Ted DiBiase and Irwin R. Schyster) (with Jimmy Hart)
Nailz defeated Virgil
Rick Martel vs. Shawn Michaels (with Sensational Sherri) ended in a double countout
WWF Tag Team Championship: The Natural Disasters (Earthquake and Typhoon) (c) defeated The Beverly Brothers (Beau and Blake) (with The Genius)
Crush defeated Repo Man
WWF Championship: The Ultimate Warrior defeated Randy Savage (c) by countout
The Undertaker (with Paul Bearer) defeated Kamala (with Harvey Wippleman and Kim Chee) by disqualification
DARK MATCH: Tatanka defeated The Berzerker (with Mr. Fuji)
WWF Intercontinental Championship: The British Bulldog defeated Bret Hart ©
The card was great and an all-time-classic. But the guts the WWF took to literally change direction a month out creatively is wild. Although the live event tickets were already sold, that risk for pay-per-view buys, especially with the live-to-tape format instead of being directly live, was unreal. Sadly, it showed, as the buys were down from the year before a FULL POINT. (1.5 in 1992, 2.7 in 1991).
But what would’ve happened if the original plans continued on and the original creative continued on? I’m not entirely sure, but what I can say is that I think Savage/Flair 2 had enough steam to sell more PPVs, and the inclusion of the original ladder match would have transcended wrestling instead of 18 months later. The war between Boss Man and Nailz would have built intrigue, and Lord knows what special effects the WWF would have had for the Warrior and Papa Shango.
However, it didn’t, and what we got was exciting wrestling that catapulted Bret Hart to main event status, the British Bulldog as a bonafide European hero, the foundation for the short-lived Ultimate Maniacs, and the last hurrah (at the time) for the Legion of Doom in the WWF.
That is something I can hold my hat to. BANK ON IT. (Should be Bank On THAT, but IT is the gimmick, man.)