WWF SummerSlam 1994
No, your eyes are not deceiving you when looking at the title: the main event of WWF SummerSlam 1994 was indeed a battle of The Undertakers, culminating a storyline that I personally loved, albeit in a manner that left few fans satisfied. It did have another incredible match on offer, though, so let’s take a trip down memory lane and head back to the summer of ’94.
The Headshrinkers vs. Bam Bam Bigelow & Irwin R. Schyster
The opener was meant to be for the WWF World Tag Team Titles, but instead Samu and Fatu bizarrely lost the belts on a house show the night before to Shawn Michaels and Diesel. Considering that Shawn and Big Daddy Cool hardly defended the gold and would later vacate them, and since those two winning the belts post-SummerSlam would have made more sense for their storyline (more on that later), I cannot fathom why this booking decision was made, as it rendered a fairly important match to suddenly be of no real significance. Making matters worse, the match ended with a disqualification after the involvement of The Headshrinker’s two managers (yes, two managers for a babyface tag team) Captain Lou Albano and Afa, making the whole thing completely pointless. Ultimately, this match mattered less than the brief cameo by Macho Man Randy Savage prior to the contest beginning, which would prove to be Savage’s last ever appearance of any kind on a WWF/WWE PPV event.
WWF Women’s Championship Match
Alundra Blayze (C) vs. Bull Nakano
This feud marked the peak of Alundra Blayze’s WWF tenure. She was up against a fierce and scary-looking Japanese menace who could actually wrestle, and this allowed Blayze to shine as well as the babyface could use her ring knowledge and general skill to overcome the monster. The upshot is a match that hardly had the same impact as modern bouts that triggered the Women’s Revolution, but still acted as evidence that with the right talent involved, the women’s scene was still worth investing in. Luna Vachon’s charge ultimately failed to capture the gold on this night as Blayze won with a German Suplex, but Bull would eventually win the belt in her home country of Japan a few days before Survivor Series 1994.
WWF Intercontinental Championship Match
Diesel (C) vs. Razor Ramon
The Clique were running wild here, brother! Razor had defeated Shawn Michaels in their legendary WrestleMania X Ladder match, only to drop the IC crown to Diesel a few weeks later on Superstars. This was Ramon’s big rematch, and he had Walter Payton of Chicago NFL fame in his corner (this event was being held in Chi-Town, and it was being held specifically in the United Center which had only opened eleven days earlier) to offset the wily Michaels, who of course was representing Diesel. The champion and challenger put together a fun match; Diesel in the WWF is usually only associated with Shawn and Bret Hart when it comes to him having exciting bouts, but Razor was also a great opponent for him. At one point, Payton chased Michaels around the ring, which made the Chicago fans very happy. In the end, Shawn tried to superkick Razor, only to strike Diesel instead, allowing Ramon to make the cover and reclaim the IC belt to a big pop. Diesel wasn’t happy with Michaels afterwards, but their alliance would remain for now (hence why they should have won the Tag Team Titles shortly afterwards as a way to smoothen over their problems). Come Survivor Series, however, that would all change, and in hindsight, the seeds were being sown here for WrestleMania XI.
Tatanka vs. Lex Luger
I feel that the WWF of 1994 gets a bad rap, because they had some brilliant storylines going on throughout the year. One of those included this mid-card gem at SummerSlam 1994: Tatanka, a popular and respected babyface, was accusing Lex Luger of selling out to Ted DiBiase and his Million Dollar Corporation. Luger denied the allegations, but The Million Dollar Man was stirring the pot by coming to ringside during Luger’s matches. The upshot was this clash, as Tatanka wanted to make Lex, erm, pay for his supposed crime, while Lex was hoping to clear his name. This was a decent match, nothing memorable, but respectable nonetheless. As it turned out, another DiBiase appearance with a bag of money in his hand distracted Lex for long enough that Tatanka rolled him up for the pin. Guess what happened next? Yes, Tatanka attacked Lex after the match; it was he, not Luger, who had sold out to DiBiase, and so he turned heel, took the money and joined the Corporation. In 2020, the ending would be obvious at the very beginning, but in 1994, this swerve was quite original, and six-year-old me loved it. Of course, this only marked the beginning of a feud between Tatanka and Luger, though Lex never truly got revenge on the Native American.
Jeff Jarrett vs. Mabel
Before the double main event of SummerSlam 1994, we got a filler bout as Double J took on Mabel of Men On A Mission (I believe that Mo was injured at the time). Say what you will about MOM, but their act (helped by their very enthusiastic rapping manager Oscar) was over at the time, and their cheesy-as-hell theme song got the crowd up on their feet. Mabel’s wrestling couldn’t, though, as Jarrett did his best to work around the sheer girth of Mabel, with little success from an artistic standpoint. He did get the slightly surprising win, though, scoring a slightly fortunate pin to maintain his heel heat, and to demonstrate that country music was superior to rap music (Double J’s gimmick was that he was an aspiring country singer attempting to use the WWF as a springboard to musical stardom in a hilarious yet believable story). Maybe this inspired the Rap Is Crap saga in WCW in 1999, who knows?
WWF Championship Steel Cage Match
Bret Hart (C) vs. Owen Hart
Many people say that this was the best Steel Cage match in WWF/WWE history, and I can’t disagree. Owen had teased turning on Bret back at Survivor Series 1993 before completing the dastardly deed at Royal Rumble 1994. At WrestleMania X, Owen shockingly pinned Bret clean in a classic opener, only for Bret to win the WWF Title for the second time later that night. Owen felt overshadowed again by his bigger brother, but he rebounded by winning the King Of The Ring tournament, and with Bret’s old tag team partner Jim Neidhart now by his side, sharing the belief that Bret was holding his brother down. To settle the quarrel, and with Owen having a logical reason to receive a WWF Championship match, the blue bars of the Steel Cage were brought to Chicago for what would be a truly awesome match.
To add to the family drama at SummerSlam 1994, many of the Hart brothers and in-laws, including a returning British Bulldog and the Hart parents Stu and Helen, were sat at ringside to watch Bret and Owen put on a tremendous battle. They eschewed massive high spots for high spots’ sake; when they did big moves, such as Bret’s huge suplex off the bars onto Owen, there was a reason to explain why such moments would occur, rather than one following the other up and waiting before hitting a bonkers move just for the crowd pop. Indeed, this was very well-worked, mixing technical wrestling with straight-up fighting in a very believable manner, especially considering that this was a family feud. They also received plenty of time; too much time as it turned out, which I’ll get to shortly. With over half an hour gone, it seemed like Owen was going to win on numerous occasions, but after the Hitman trapped the Rocket’s leg between one of the cage holes, Bret made his escape first by climbing out, thus retaining his title in dramatic fashion. Everybody talks about their WrestleMania X clash, but not enough people bring up this outstanding contest.
After the match, though, Jim Neidhart clotheslined Bulldog over the barricade and threw Bret back into the cage, padlocking the door so that he and Owen could beat down Bret alone. The other Hart brothers tried and failed to get into the ring, and it was a pretty wild scene as Bret was at the mercy of his brother and brother-in-law, while his relatives were doing everything possible to come to his rescue. Eventually, the padlock was snapped off, and the heels ran away like thieves in the night. The storyline wasn’t over, not by a long shot, and with Bulldog now back in the WWF after being away for nearly two years, Bret had some back-up to ward off Owen and The Anvil. Damn good stuff here, but it wasn’t the last match at SummerSlam 1994.
The Undertaker vs. The Undertaker
That privilege went to the culmination of The Undertaker’s storyline. At Royal Rumble, with the help of many villains, Yokozuna beat The Undertaker in a Casket match, and Taker “ascended to heaven” (seriously). He then left WWF television, but over time, there would be reported sightings of him in random places, and in the pre-Twitter days, nobody could provide any real proof of these mysterious appearances. As spring turned to summer, on the set of The Heartbreak Hotel talk show, Ted DiBiase (who had first introduced Undi’ back at Survivor Series 1990) brought back The Undertaker … or so we thought. It became clear after a few weeks that this Taker was in fact a fraud!
Paul Bearer started to pop up again on television, cutting some ludicrously hammy promos that almost make me cry with laughter when rewatching them today. Nevertheless, he made his point that this Taker was motivated by money and not the urn, and therefore he was a fake. Bearer promised to bring the real Undertaker to SummerSlam to take down his doppelganger. In the meantime, Leslie Neilsen of Naked Gun fame was tasked with trying to solve the Undertaker mystery himself. As a huge Naked Gun fame, I loved this side-angle, and though the WWF segments couldn’t compare to the antics of Lieutenant Frank Dreben, these brief and harmless moments were still amusing, and only made this feel like an even bigger storyline.
On the night of SummerSlam 1994, DiBiase’s Taker came out to the typical old-school music, and wearing the black and grey. Bearer then came out alone before raising a larger urn, which shone a spotlight through the darkness of the arena. This triggered the arrival/return of the real Undertaker, now with a slightly remixed entrance theme and donning black and purple attire. The match itself was not too dissimilar to Taker’s later meetings with Kane, but with the duplicate move sets emphasised even further. They essentially traded the same moves at a deliberately slow pace for around ten minutes, and fan enthusiasm dwindled as it went on, partly because some may have wondered which Taker was which, despite the clashing colours. Underfaker did hit a Tombstone, but Undertaker kicked out (work with me here). The genuine Taker then hit not one, not two, but three Tombstones to win the match. The fake Taker was sent away in a Casket, which reincarnated him to be Chainz of DOA fame a few years later in a precursor to Broken Matt Hardy’s River Of Reincarnation. Seriously, though, Taker had settled his quarrel, and in kayfabe land, Yokozuna was absent because he was hiding from The Dead Man, but their rivalry would be decided in a Casket rematch at the next PPV, Survivor Series. Meanwhile, Leslie Neilsen and his buddy George Kennedy (playing Captain Ed Hocken) found a briefcase, which they deemed to now symbolise “case closed”, meaning their work was done. Ignore the haters, I enjoyed this.
As for the match itself? It wasn’t great, was it? But who honestly expected this to be a classic bout? This was a unique situation (I was going to call it a one-off, but then Kane went and had a match with an imposter at Vengeance 2006) and something totally different in the WWF of 1994. Plus, it allowed for Undertaker to return in a memorable and meaningful fashion. Granted, it’s not an exciting bout, but it is bearable in my opinion, and it had the desired outcome to a fun and unusual storyline. I wouldn’t necessarily call this a big success, but I did get a kick out of it as a young WWF fan, and that’s what the company were hoping for (well, I mean the entire fanbase rather than just me, but you get the point).
Looking back, WWF SummerSlam 1994 is a pretty underrated show. The Steel Cage match is fantastic, there are a couple of good matches further down the card, and there are some vintage storylines throughout the evening, as well as an IC Title change for good measure. The WWF had finally moved on from the Hulkamania era, though there were some dark times to come from a quality standpoint on-screen. Still, I enjoyed SummerSlam 1994, in particular for some intriguing plotlines and for Bret vs. Owen inside the dreaded Steel Cage.