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SummerSlam – 1997

With the 30th installment of The Biggest Party of the Summer just around the corner, join us as we take a look back at the history of SummerSlam. The ups, the downs, the moments, the stars, and possibly the most famous injury in wrestling history!

SummerSlam 1997

Continental Airlines Arena

East Rutherford, New Jersey

MAIN EVENT

The Undertaker vs Bret “The Hitman” Hart for the WWF Championship

Special Guest Referee – Shawn Michaels

You know, I think that The Undertaker has a lot in common with the San Antonio Spurs. Over the span of nearly 20 years, the Spurs have consistently been towards the top of the NBA. In the age of free-agency and players wanting to form “superteams” San Antonio always finds themselves being chased in the playoffs.

But when you talk about top stars in the league, it takes a little while to get to the Spurs. The immediate reactions are LeBron, Steph, Harden, Westbrook and so forth. Comparatively, when talking about top stars in a certain era, the names you immediately hear are Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H, John Cena and so forth. It seems like that is how it was for most of The Undertaker’s career, and this match is a microcosm of that.

The Dead Man came into SummerSlam as the WWF Champion after winning the title for the second time at that year’s WrestleMania. However, in the build for the main event, he seemed like an afterthought. Everyone wanted to talk about whether or not Shawn Michaels were screw over Bret Hart (pause for laughter). He would actually do the opposite inadvertently as a chair shot meant for Hart knocked Taker out and The Hitman held the WWF Title for the fifth time. The fallout would give us the first Hell in a Cell and arguably the biggest moment in wrestling history at that year’s Survivor Series – and it all started at SummerSlam.

TME TO GRAB SOME SNACKS

This was one of the SummerSlam’s that didn’t really have any downtime. All of the matches could easily hold your attention. Though there was a segment where the Governor of New Jersey was presented a title belt for removing the taxes that kept the WWF out of The Garden State for years. It was a nice gesture, but hey, you need to grab a beer, don’t you ?

GLIMPSE INTO THE FUTURE

In the heart of the genesis of his popularity, Stone Cold Steve Austin was set to challenge Owen Hart for the Intercontinental Championship with an added stipulation that if Austin lost, he would have to kiss Owen’s ass…literally. The match was as entertaining as expected and went off without a hitch…that is until Owen went for a tombstone and landed on his butt instead of his knees which drove Austin to mat head first and gave us an image that still makes me cringe a bit.

Austin could barely move but was able to crawl over and “roll up” Hart for a pin so that he wouldn’t have to live up to the stipulations. You could immediately tell that Austin was in bad shape, only we wouldn’t know just how much until later. The glimpse into the future? Well think about it – we would only get a couple more years of The In-Ring Rattlesnake. Imagine what it would have been like if Austin could go longer.

MATCH OF THE NIGHT

You have to be a special match to get that Match of the Night nod on this card…two Hall of Famers inside the 15-foot high steel cage (the good ol blue bar cage nonetheless) will do it. It also proved to be a big transitional match for the company as we got Hunter Hearst Helmsley as he was transitioning into Triple H against Mankind who was transitioning into the loveable Mick Foley type character that we all know and love today. Do I need to describe the match itself? It was Triple H and Mick Foley in a cage – you know what they can do!

OTHER TOP MATCHES

Ken Shamrock vs The British Bulldog for the European Championship

Goldust vs Brian Pillman with the loser having to wear a dress

Legion of Doom vs The Godwins

OVERALL

Top to bottom this was one of the most solid cards of the summer spectacular. Some of the undercard matches could have been a little bit better but that is just stretching for criticism. The most exciting part of it is that it all ended up being just the start of some of the biggest stories that WWF has put together.

OVERALL SCORE – 8.5/10

 

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