WWF SummerSlam 1995 Review feat. Diesel vs. King Mabel

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WWF SummerSlam 1995

WWF SummerSlam 1995 is mostly remembered for one match, and believe me, it wasn’t Diesel vs. King Mabel. The show featured a Ladder rematch between Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon, and it lived up to all expectations. The rest of the show is hit-and-miss, which wasn’t unusual at this particular time. On a personal note, this was the first ever WWF PPV that I watched live as it was happening, so I’ll always remember this event for that reason. I should also mention that the iconic SummerSlam theme tune had now been abandoned for a piece of music that I can’t even describe, but suffice it to say, I preferred the old track.

123-Kid vs. Hakushi

Opening things, we had the still-over 123-Kid squaring off against Hakushi, who had made a strong impression against Bret Hart back at the first In Your House. Despite Hart being a much bigger name, Kid provided Hakushi with a more compatible opponent for him to tear it up in the ring, and they both delivered in a thrilling match based around aerial offence. The high spots were pretty innovative for the WWF of 1995, and the slightly smarky fans in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania certainly approved of the action. Surprisingly enough, Kid – who was popular enough to warrant an Intercontinental Title reign at this point – took the clean loss via a powerbomb. Hakushi winning in this manner as a heel was surprising, but there was more to it as we would learn later on.

Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. Bob “Spark Plugg” Holly

Next, we had what would prove to be a minor landmark moment in WWF/WWE history, as Triple H made his first appearance on a PPV event for the company, having debuted in the spring. His opponent at SummerSlam 1995 was the fast-fading “Spark Plugg”, who would only truly garner success once he left behind this and other gimmicks to become Hardcore Holly. Still, he was capable in 1995 of having a decent match, and one which allowed Helmsley to gather some momentum while remaining a figure for fans to revile in this simpler New Generation era. Helmsley won with a Pedigree, which I feel he delivered with more effectiveness at that time than he does nowadays.

The Smoking Gunns vs. The Blu Brothers

So far, so good at SummerSlam 1995 then. It was then time for Billy and Bart Gunn to do their best to drag a respectable match out of The Blu Brothers (fittingly wearing blue trunks here), who must have had the weakest push ever for a burly heel tag team; yes, even worse than The Ascension would two decades later. Eli and Jacob barely appeared on PPV and, when they did, they looked awful both from a results and a performance standpoint. This was one of their better showings, though, as The Gunns’ fast-paced offence made this a bearable bout, if not exactly a must-see attraction. The Gunns got the win via their Sidewinder double-team finisher to line themselves up as potential contenders to Owen Hart and Yokozuna, who had captured the WWF Tag Team Titles from Billy and Bart back at WrestleMania XI; strangely, the champs were nowhere to be seen on the second biggest event of 1995.

Barry Horowitz vs. Skip

A few weeks earlier, newcomer Body Donna Skip (accompanied by Sunny) faced Barry Horowitz in a basic enhancement match, only to lose, thus giving longtime jobber Barry his first ever WWF win. Somehow, Horowitz later beat Hakushi after errant Skip interference, which led to this grudge match. Though it sounds like the most unappealing match imaginable for an event the magnitude of SummerSlam, this was decent enough and held the crowd’s attention, partly because it was something fresh. As it turned out, Skip was unable to get his revenge, instead losing again following an accidental flying tackle from the interfering Hakushi, meaning that Horowitz won again. Hakushi would turn babyface as a result (meaning his earlier win made more sense), and formed a short-lived alliance with Barry as both of their pushes would slowly skid to a halt towards the end of the year.

WWF Women’s Championship Match
Alundra Blayze (C) vs. Bertha Faye

The booking of the WWF women’s scene had two pathways: Alundra Blayze would face an opponent and beat her straight away, or she would be pitted against a more fearsome foe and lose, only to later regain the Women’s Title. The latter was the way that the head honchos went at this time, as the colossal Bertha Faye (managed by the slimy Harvey Whippleman) was able to easily overpower and defeat Alundra to win her one and only Women’s Title. Blayze would regain the title two months later on Raw, with Faye disappearing from the WWF shortly afterwards. Actually, the whole women’s division would be gone by the end of 1995, as Blayze decided to do something fairly memorable with her championship, which we’ll discuss in future retro reviews.

Casket Match
The Undertaker vs. Kama

By this point, The Undertaker had been feuding with Ted DiBiase and his Million Dollar Corporation in some form for a full year. One year on from Undertaker facing his doppelganger, he was squaring off against Kama, who had previously melted down the urn into a gold chain. A Casket match was deemed to be the storyline solution, enhanced by the druids starting to appear more regularly on Taker’s behalf. The match itself is okay; these two were and remain real-life friends, which probably made it easier for them to work together, and to make both look good in their respective roles. The noteworthy spot saw both men end up in the casket, which was something unexpected at this time (mind you, this was only the third ever televised Casket match in the WWF). In the end, Taker of course triumphed by Tombstoning Kama, sending him into the big box and retrieving his former urn in the process. This thankfully drew a line under the Taker-DiBiase saga, since The Phenom was merely stumbling from one basic DiBiase-related feud to another at this point. Not that his fortunes improved too greatly in the autumn, though, as I’ll cover when tackling PPVs from that time period.

Bret Hart vs. Isaac Yankem, DDS

Here’s a unique footnote: on the same night that Triple H made his first WWF PPV appearance, the future Kane also debuted on a major stage for the company. But he wasn’t The Big Red Machine here; instead, he was Jerry Lawler’s evil dentist, who targeted Bret Hart as retribution for Hart previously beating The King in a Kiss My Foot match at King Of The Ring (the story was that the after-effects of Lawler kissing both Bret’s foot and his own foot caused dental issues). The match itself wasn’t particularly good, as Yankem/Kane wasn’t quite ready for a spot like this, and it felt like a pointless diversion for The Hitman, who had seemingly and finally moved on from Lawler permanently after KOTR. It also had a disputed finish, as Yankem hung Bret in the ring ropes which allowed him and Lawler to assault a trapped Bret for the DQ ending. Bret would settle this feud some time later on Raw in a Steel Cage match, but the evil dentist wouldn’t last on the roster for more than a few months, having disappeared completely by the spring of 1996. Of course, he would return. Lawler, meanwhile, abandoned his commentary position for the night after this big schmozz, leaving Dok Hendrix to announce alongside Vince McMahon for the rest of the evening. Doot, doot, doot.

WWF Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match
Shawn Michaels (C) vs. Razor Ramon

Now, we come to the highlight of SummerSlam 1995 by a mile, if not the year for the WWF. Originally, Shawn was going to defend his newly-won IC Title against Psycho Sid, only for on-screen President Gorilla Monsoon to start in his new role with a bang by instead changing it to a Ladder rematch against Razor Ramon. The two men had delivered an absolute classic at WrestleMania X; were they capable of doing so again here at SummerSlam? Granted, Shawn was amongst the best in the world at this time, but he was now a babyface, and his heel shenanigans contributed to the success of the first match, plus sequels rarely outshine the originals. But, as you have probably gathered, they did indeed succeed at their task.

This is one of those matches where it’s best for you to simply watch it and enjoy it for yourself, so I’ll keep things brief and simply say that they pulled out all the stops, becoming even more creative with the ladder than they had done back in March 1994. In fact, they even introduced a second ladder as a cool way of being able to add even more spots now that two sets of rungs were in play. At one point, Shawn took a ladder-assisted Razor’s Edge to the canvas, while Michaels also superkicked Razor off another ladder. The finish was a bit botched, as it took Shawn more than one attempt to pull down the IC crown after a failed jump. Nevertheless, he still retained, and he did so in another tremendous match that was just as good as, if not better than, the first Ladder match that these two had. If you only decide to watch one bout from this card, it has to be this showdown.

Afterwards, Shawn and Razor sportingly shook hands, with Michaels having boosted his stock even further en route to the very top of the WWF. It’s safe to say that Michaels vs. Sid wouldn’t have been quite as exciting, though they did meet a few weeks later on Raw (as a side note, the man that Shawn dethroned, Jeff Jarrett, was meant to face The Roadie at this show, but both had walked out after Double J’s loss to Michaels at In Your House 2). Backstage, though, Ramon’s night wasn’t over: he cornered Dean Douglas, a smarmy classroom nerd who was grading the efforts of various wrestlers in a heel-favouring manner, only to draw Razor’s ire and end up taking a shot from The Bad Guy to set up a feud that benefitted neither man.

WWF Championship Match
Diesel (C) vs. King Mabel

The main event of SummerSlam 1995 saw Big Daddy Cool defend his WWF Title against the former Men On A Mission member. If that sounds like a disaster waiting to happen … well, it was. Mabel had been fast-tracked to the top heel role, but nobody bought into him as a challenger despite his size, and it was a tall order for Diesel to do anything with him, though Kevin Nash did pull off a top rope dive to the floor on the King, a spot that very few modern fans would associate with him. A few days beforehand, The British Bulldog had turned heel on Diesel, but while he was in the building, he stayed away from this match. The same cannot be said of Lex Luger, who came down after a ref bump to try and avert interference from Sir Mo (bear with me here). Diesel struck Lex, thinking that the other Allied Power would also turn heel, but Luger composed himself and took out Mo. This allowed Diesel to hit a shoulder tackle for the win (there was no chance of Diesel hitting Mabel with a Jackknife Powerbomb). This wasn’t good; in fact, it was pretty rotten. Still, it’s memorable for two reasons: Mabel injuring Diesel for real by sitting on his back during the match (Diesel was furious; to say that Mabel’s descent began at that moment would be an understatement), and Luger making his final televised WWF appearance, as it was only eight nights later when he jumped to WCW on the first Monday Nitro in a historic fashion.

WWF SummerSlam 1995 is remembered for one thing only: the Ladder rematch between Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon. The rest of the show isn’t as bad as it might initially seem, though, and if anything, the first half of the event is better than the second, despite the increased star power later on. Many deem 1995 to be a poor year in the WWF and I don’t disagree, but there were still some worthwhile PPV events, and SummerSlam 1995 was definitely one of them (if you ignore Diesel vs. King Mabel, that is).