WWE – 30 Years Of Summerslam (Cert 15)
3 Discs DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 517 minutes approx.
A lot of things happened in August of 1988 but two are most significant for ol’ MIB. One – at the risk of exposing my age – is that I attended the fateful Monsters of Rock festival at Castle Donington, headlined by Iron Maiden (which also included the tragic death of two fans), and two, the WWF held the inaugural Summerslam PPV event at MSG.
I don’t expect the WWE to celebrate the former so instead we’ll make do with this three-disc DVD set that takes a retrospective look at some of the biggest and best matches from this event’s 30-year history, and some matches that aren’t so great which most of us have forgotten about.
The third of the “Big Four” PPVs (Royal Rumble completes the quartet), Summerslam helped bridge the gap between Wrestlemania in the spring and Survivor Series in the winter, giving the fans another big event to look forward and another avenue for Vince McMahon to stick it to Jim Crockett Promotions (later WCW) whose Great American Bash summer tour was a big money maker.
For this release, three distinct eras are covered one per disc with a different host for each one. The first disc, covering 1988-1998, is presented by the legendary Mean Gene Oakerlund, and if you watch right until after he signs off, you find an amusing riff on his famous faux pas from Summerslam 89, (edited off all home video releases but no doubt on YouTube somewhere).
Mean Gene kicks things off with the celebrated 32-second destruction of the Honky Tonk Man by the Ultimate Warrior for the IC title from the first Summerslam, and then leaps forward to 1990 for the first of three matches featuring Bret “Hitman” Hart. The 2-out-of-3 Falls match pitting the Hart Foundation (R.I.P Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart) vs. Demolition for the WWF Tag Titles is my favourite match of all time for sentimental reasons as it was the first wrestling match I truly marked out for.
Bret vs. Bulldog from 1992 is a predictable choice but you can’t argue with the quality of this classic match, whilst the steel cage match against late brother Owen from 1994 is more memorable for the chaotic aftermath. Up next is the Undertaker vs. Mankind Boiler Room Brawl from 1996 then the set closes with the Triple H vs. Rock IC Title ladder match from 1998.
There certainly seems to be a weird aversion to representing the events which took place during odd numbered years, but this is rectified on the second disc, which is hosted by the insufferable gobshite that is Jonathan Coachman. People are wondering how he got his job back with WWE but I reckon the real question is did he spit or swallow? Thankfully, his links are infrequent and there is also the skip button so all is not lost.
Covering the years 2001-2007 opening disc 2 are two matches from the 2001 event. First is the overlooked and underrated Hardcore Title ladder match from 2001 between Jeff Hardy and Rob Van Dam followed by Stone Cold vs. Kurt Angle for the WWF Title. 2002 is also represented by two matches – the HBK vs. HHH Street Fight and The Rock defending the WWE title against Brock Lesnar. Whatever happened to those guys?
HBK returns for his 2005 comedy turn against apparent reformed racist Hulk Hogan, in which Shawn learned that after agreeing to put Hogan over, the Hulkster wasn’t going to stick around for rematch which Michaels would win, so he sabotaged the match by going over the top with his bumps as revenge. Cena vs. Orton from 2007 wraps this disc up and unfortunately there WAS a rematch of that one – about 1612 if memory serves…
We enter the current era of 2010-2017 with Charly Caruso as our guide, who describes CM Punk – facing Jeff Hardy in a TLC match from 2010 – as a “Mixed Martial Arts standout”. Stay classy Vince! Anyone else remember Chris Jericho vs. Dolph Ziggler from 2012? No, well here is a reminder, along with the moment Vince McSenile killed Daniel Bryan’s original momentum following this WWE Title match against Cena the following year.
Skipping ahead a year we get to revisit the match in which Cena died for our sins at the hands of Lesnar before arriving at the first and only women’s match in this compilation, Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte Flair for the RAW Women’s title from 2016. Finally – and you knew it was coming – Roman Reigns (Boo!) makes an appearance as part of the fatal Four Universal Title match, challenging Lesnar (again) along with Braun Strowman and Samoa Joe last year.
Being honest, with 30 years of matches to choose form there are some weak choices included here yet many of the truly great and classic bouts have been featured on other releases ad infinitum. An example of this is Bret vs. Bulldog. It might be the greatest Summerslam match of all time thus a no brainer inclusion but it’s also a default “go to” match to for any WWE collection, putting the DVD compilers between a rock and a hard place.
It says a lot that there is only one women’s match featured both about how much the refocused division has seen an increase in their PPV presence as well as the quality of the matches from recent years being the most memorable, outside of the Alundra Blayze/Trish vs. Lita eras.
Frankly I would have preferred if this release was given the documentary treatment, a good 90 minutes to allow the wrestlers past and present to discuss their big career moments pertaining to Summerslam, as well as candid, behind the scenes stories of some of the memorable matches and happenings. Surely the Undertaker vs. Underfaker warrants in depth analysis?
19 matches represent 30 Years Of Summerslam, some bona fide classic, some easily forgotten duds. It’s not quite a comprehensive retrospective but for the less fussy fans it will suffice.
German Language Subtitles
Rating – ***
Man In Black