WWF SummerSlam 1993 Review feat. Yokozuna vs. Lex Luger

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WWF SummerSlam 1993

WWF SummerSlam 1993 was based all around one man: Lex Luger, and his quest to defeat the evil Yokozuna for the good of the United States of America. Did he succeed? Erm, kind of. Allow me to explain, but first, let’s take a look at what else happened at the sixth annual SummerSlam.

Razor Ramon vs. Ted DiBiase

The first match of the show marked the end of an era when it came to the WWF’s dwindling army of heels. Razor Ramon had recently turned babyface and was opposing Ted DiBiase, whose WWF tenure back in 1987. But this would be the swansong for the Million Dollar Man, as he decided that he needed to be off the road after spending so long working under a very tough touring schedule. Though this was far from a great match, it was still fitting for one of the all-time great villains to go out by losing to The Bad Guy, and that Ted did by taking the Razor’s Edge. As it turned out, DiBiase’s in-ring career as a whole would abruptly end within a few months due to a serious injury suffered in Japan, though DiBiase would return to the WWF in numerous roles, most notably a manager, in 1994.

WWF World Tag Team Championship Match
The Steiner Brothers (C) vs. The Heavenly Bodies

This feels very out-of-place on a major WWF card, as it felt like something from WCW or even Smoky Mountain Wrestling. That’s not because of the talents of those involved, but because the styles of each combo clashed with what was deemed to be the norm for WWF wrestling at this point. But times were changing, as evidenced by Jim Cornette coming on board and bringing The Heavenly’s with him to challenge Rick and Scott. This was a well-worked match, but one that probably didn’t achieve the desired crowd enthusiasm. That pretty much sums up the contest, aside from Bobby Heenan being as hilarious as always on commentary, with Vince McMahon trying to defend The Steiners in response. Scott hit the FrankenSteiner to retain the belts, but their reign would end not too long afterwards to The Quebecers on Raw.

WWF Intercontinental Championship Match
Shawn Michaels (C) vs. Mr. Perfect

This should have been the classic match of SummerSlam 1993, but for some reason it was just okay. Shawn has suggested that this was because both succeeded at taking offence rather than dishing it out, while Perfect wasn’t quite his old self following his late 1992 return, with the odd exception (see his match with Bret Hart at King Of The Ring). Or maybe it’s because they simply didn’t mesh on the night, and further rematches might have been superior. Whatever the case, the action was definitely watchable, but it didn’t meet expectations by any stretch of the imagination. It probably didn’t help that we had a screwy countout finish thanks to Diesel’s involvement to keep the IC belt on Shawn. And their assumed rematch(es) never came to pass: Michaels was suspended shortly thereafter (which ultimately triggered the chain of events that resulted in the famous WrestleMania X Ladder match against Razor), while Perfect soon went on one of his numerous sudden absences prior to the next PPV, Survivor Series.

123-Kid vs. Irwin R. Schyster

This was strange booking, because Kid had made his name by upsetting Razor in a timeless Raw moment. He also held a win over Ted DiBiase, IRS’ partner from Money Inc., so this was the chance for Kid to further boost his stock by beating the competent-yet-dull Irwin, right? Erm, not quite: Schyster pinned him clean after he executed the Write Off (tax, Write Off… get it?). I’m not sure what this achieved other than trying to continue flogging the dead horse that was IRS, a character that elicited some boos but was generally viewed as being quite boring. I wasn’t expecting Kid to scale to the top of the WWF ranks, and he had to lose at some point (especially since he was an underdog performer), but would it have really done any harm for Kid to beat the evil tax man here?

Bret Hart vs. Doink

Bret was meant to face Jerry Lawler at SummerSlam 1993, as Jerry had attacked Bret after he won the King Of The Ring tournament and had since insulted his family repeatedly, but The King came out and suggested that he had been injured in a car accident, so Doink would take his place. Occurring just before Doink turned babyface proper, this match allowed the clown to prove that he could actually hold his own against someone of Bret’s stature, even if their match didn’t last too long. Arguably the highlight was Doink hurling water onto Owen Hart and Bruce Hart at ringside, with the latter having not been told that this was going to happen. Bret of course fought back strong and caught Doink in the Sharpshooter, only to be attacked by … a crutch-wielding Jerry Lawler! Yes, The King was lying, and so their planned match would now happen, albeit with Hart having already been weakened by his devious rival.

Bret Hart vs. Jerry Lawler

Though Bret was now at less than 100%, it still seemed unlikely that he wouldn’t valiantly find a way to win, partly because he was the most popular wrestler in the entire WWF at this time, plus Lawler was still a fairly new face to the Federation scene. Jerry used his typical, simple yet effective offence to not only wear down Hart, but to antagonise the crowd in Auburn Hills, Michigan (incidentally, this show actually drew a larger attendance than WrestleMania IX, which is unusual). Jerry even pinned Bret clean with a Piledriver. I’m just kidding: Bret made his second big comeback of the night and eventually trapped Lawler in the Sharpshooter for the submission victory. However, a vengeful Hitman wouldn’t relinquish the hold to the point where the officials actually reversed the decision, giving Lawler the DQ win. Their feud was far from over, and it wasn’t all make-believe either; Bret noted in his autobiography that he caught Lawler hard with his punches and locked in the Sharpshooter super-tight due to some overly stiff blows from Lawler back at KOTR. Incidentally, this is the show that Bret (and most fans) believe he was supposed to face and probably defeat Hulk Hogan, so perhaps he was taking some of his frustration about The Hulkster out on Lawler too.

Ludvig Borga vs. Marty Jannetty

For the cool-down match, we had the WWF’s latest attempt to build up a potential main event heel. That they were trying to achieve this with Ludvig Borga meant that their good intentions were unlikely to succeed: other than being Finnish, Borga had nothing to distinguish himself as either a character or a wrestler, and while Marty Jannetty was still talented enough to have a good match with much of the WWF roster, there was only so much he could do with Ludvig, who won via a Torture Rack. Borga would confront Lex Luger backstage after the show, as revealed on the following week’s television programmes, to set up a feud. Yeah, there’s a reason why many don’t look back fondly on the WWF of 1993, and worse was to come.

Rest In Peace Match
The Undertaker vs. Giant Gonzales

That’s because Giant Gonzales was now in action, and he was at SummerSlam 1993 to conclude his feud with The Undertaker, which had begun back at Royal Rumble. This match was fought under Rest In Peace rules, essentially meaning a Street Fight with a fancy, Undertaker-themed name. There was a greater chance of Vince giving the WWF Title to Barry Horowitz than for Gonzales to win this match, since by this point, it was clear that he wasn’t very good in the ring (Yokozuna was large in a different way, but he was agile and had some eye-catching moves, whereas Gonzales … had a bunch of glued-on bum fluff). It sounds strange, but his biggest problem was also the thing that got him hired in the first place: his sheer size, which meant that other than Taker, he couldn’t have a believable feud with anyone else even if he was skilled in the squared circle. Taker ticked those boxes, though, and having waited seven months for revenge on the eight-foot Argentinian, he finally exacted it with several clotheslines to get the pin. If you thought that Taker was going to hit a Tombstone Piledriver, then you’d be disappointed; Taker is strong, but he’s not that strong. This more or less marked the end of Gonzales in the WWF, barring a brief babyface turn (which came right afterwards when Giant split from Harvey Whippleman, who chastised him for losing here).

The Smoking Gunns & Tatanka vs. Bam Bam Bigelow & The Headshrinkers

This was a filler six-man tag match, though it did allow Billy and Bart to continue establishing themselves as an important part of the WWF scene. Tatanka was still undefeated at this point, while Bigelow was bouncing around without a particularly clear direction for his character. As for Samu and Fatu, they could take some bumps and hit some high-impact moves, which justified their spot on the WWF roster at this point. Tatanka pinned Samu to claim the victory for his side, and to keep his undefeated streak alive for a little bit longer, though he would have a loss on his record by the time of his next PPV appearance at Royal Rumble 1994.

WWF Championship Match
Yokozuna (C) vs. Lex Luger

Let’s go back to how this came about. Yokozuna had regained the WWF Title from Hulk Hogan at King Of The Ring, and on July 4 (Independence Day, remember), Yoko was aboard the USS Intrepid for a bodyslam challenge. Several wrestlers and sports stars tried and failed, only for Lex Luger – who had been the Narcissist and a heel up to this point – to show up like something out of Top Gun, emerging from a helicopter in an America-themed shirt, and when he entered the ring, he bodyslammed the gargantuan WWF Champion to a massive cheer. That earned him this opportunity, and to help build him up, the WWF had Luger go out on the road in his Lex Express coach, heading across the United States to basically say “hey kids, I’m better in the ring and a nicer human being than Hulk Hogan ever was!” Whatever your thoughts on Luger’s push, this definitely helped to create a big-match atmosphere here at SummerSlam, and the song used for a music video of his journey – I’ll Be Your Hero – sums up 1993 WWF better than anything. Even if you don’t watch anything from this event, at least give that tune a listen.

As for the SummerSlam 1993 main event itself: it was fairly good. Luger is a bit underrated as a wrestler in my opinion, and in 1993, he definitely offered more than Hogan normally would. Yoko, meanwhile, now had both Mr. Fuji and Cornette by his side, which added to his box of tricks to circumvent the limitations caused by his weight, though as stated earlier, he could still demonstrate impressive athleticism for a man of his size. Since Yoko had only just won his second WWF Title after the WrestleMania IX “incident”, and with the other potential heel WWF Champions on the roster amounting to Ludvig Borga, Bam Bam Bigelow and Jerry Lawler, a title change seemed unlikely, but the WWF had built this up in such a way that Lex needed to get a big moment. He sort of achieved that when he struck Zuna with a forearm (Lex had a metal plate in his arm by this point) that led to the champion being counted out, and Lex winning the match. He celebrated afterwards with The Steiners, Tatanka and Macho Man Randy Savage as balloons were lowered and everybody celebrated being American, by golly!

The only thing was, Lex hadn’t won the WWF Title. It’s hard to envision Roman Reigns celebrating if he only beat Braun Strowman by countout in a Universal Title match in 2020, never mind treating the occasion as cause for a big party. But fans were a little more naive in 1993, and if nothing else, Luger had still won the match. Hence Vince on commentary discussing the stipulation of Luger not getting a rematch if he didn’t win the WWF Title, and how fan demand might cause on-screen President Jack Tunney to be swayed otherwise. As it turned out, Lex never did win the WWF Championship, though he finally earned – and controversially lost – an eventual rematch at WrestleMania X, with Bret Hart swooping in to instead dethrone the Banzai Dropper.

WWF SummerSlam 1993 happened towards the end of an important transitional stage for the company. The Golden Age was definitely over, and the WWF was removing the final traces of the “good old days” at this time (Bobby Heenan would even be gone by the end of 1993) in favour of what would eventually be titled the New Generation. Therefore, from a historical perspective, this is fairly notable. As a standalone show, though, it’s also fairly unmemorable, with the best matches only being adequate, and with a few dodgy finishes (including the main event), as well as some awful action in one or two bouts. Check out SummerSlam 1993 for the Lex Express video montage, Bret’s double-shot and Bobby Heenan’s hilarious commentary, but nothing else will leave a lasting impression.