10 Things We Learned From WWE SummerSlam 1990

The British Bulldog could have played a huge role in the event...

While SummerSlam 1990 isn't exactly considered one of the greater shows in WWE history, it does hold a special place in this writer's heart. I was a mere six years old when my father took my brother, our lifelong friend, his buddy from work, and myself to see SummerSlam live and in person, just 40 minutes away in the heart of south Philadelphia. Getting to sit on my dad's shoulders while Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior vanquished the evils that stood in their respective ways is a memory I've never forgotten, not even 28 years later.

Certainly, it was an eventful show, with two title changes, an injury angle based around a legitimate injury, a heel turn from an unlikely individual, and the return of Hulk Hogan. And Hogan's return was more than welcome, as Warrior's reign as WWE Champion wasn't exactly setting the box office on fire. Some have noted that a lack of strong challengers for Warrior was partially his undoing, but alas.

The double main event of Hogan vs. Earthquake and Warrior vs. Rick Rude would cap off what had been a mostly-uneven night of action, but that hardly mattered to a certain six-year-old fan. He didn't know what cynicism was just yet. Here's what we would ultimately learn from that SummerSlam from the City of Brotherly Love

10. There Are Some People Roddy Piper Just Can't Replace


The commentary team for SummerSlam 1990 was the rather eclectic duo of Vince McMahon and 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper. Vince hadn't called a pay-per-view since WrestleMania 2 (the 1988 Royal Rumble doesn't exactly count), while Piper had never donned a headset for a pay-per-view before. As it turns out, he was drafted to the show on fairly short notice.

Jesse 'The Body' Ventura, who had called every pay-per-view for the company sans two-thirds of WrestleMania 2, as well as SummerSlam 1988, left WWE in the weeks prior to SummerSlam. He and McMahon had had a dispute over Ventura authorized use of his name and likeness for a non-WWE video game. Ventura chose to leave the company following the squabble, and Piper took over the role of inactive wrestler with oodles of charisma and credible mainstream popularity that commentates next to Vinnie Mac. Sadly, while Piper's energy and promos are second to none, his commentary wasn't a high mark of his career, paling mightily to Ventura's authoritative gravitas.

9. Some Handicap Matches Are More Dramatic Than Others


The opening match of the 1990 SummerSlam saw Power and Glory (Hercules and Paul Roma) annihilate The Rockers. Shawn Michaels was attacked pre-match and had his knee violently whipped by Hercules' steel chain. Marty Jannetty had to go it alone for the six-minute match duration, creating some exciting hope spots before getting unceremoniously cut off in short order. Power and Glory's nifty-looking PowerPlex (a finisher that needs to come back full time) would polish Jannetty off.

The reason for Michaels' spending the match writhing on the floor stemmed from a legitimate, real-life knee injury. About three weeks before the pay-per-view, Michaels had blown out his ACL and torn his meniscus during a house show match in Augusta, GA. Jannetty would work singles bouts for the next six weeks prior to Michaels' return to action.

8. WWE Had To Act Quick To Replace Brutus Beefcake


The original IC Title match for SummerSlam 1990 would've seen Mr Perfect defend the gold against nemesis of many months Brutus 'The Barber' Beefcake. Beefcake, as noted recently in our list of unusual injuries, was catastrophically injured in a parasailing accident on Independence Day 1990 and would miss more than two years of action. His replacement was a relative newcomer to WWE, but a familiar face to wrestling fans nonetheless: 'The Texas Tornado' Kerry Von Erich.

Because of WWE's then-penchant for taping their television shows many weeks in advance, WWE had a very small window to get Von Erich ready to replace Beefcake as Perfect's challenger. Just 12 days after Beefcake's accident, Von Erich debuted at the Superstars tapings in Omaha, NE, winning a pair of matches while also issuing a direct challenge to Perfect at the same tapings. The episode where Von Erich made the challenge aired just two weeks before SummerSlam, which by 1990 standards was cutting it close.

7. Von Erich Was Not The First Choice


Von Erich had enough notoriety to be a credible 'surprise' challenger to Perfect's gold in Beefcake's stead, but he wasn't the first choice for the spot. When trying to fill The Barber's void on extremely short notice, WWE turned to another notable figure, this one a former WWE titlist that hadn't been seen in a company ring in two years.

If WWE had their way, Perfect would've been challenged by 'The British Bulldog' Davey Boy Smith. The Bulldog left the company alongside Dynamite Kid in November 1988 and had reportedly been looking to return for some time. The only hold-up was a visa issue, which couldn't be worked out in time, though Smith would make his return to the company later in 1990. Some sources also claim that Bam Bam Bigelow was under consideration for a sudden return, though he wouldn't return to the WWE fold until late 1992.

6. The Injury Bug Knew No Limits


Between Michaels' shredded knee and the horrific damage done to Beefcake, SummerSlam 1990 looked like one of those UFC pay-per-views that see a million training-related injuries compromise the main card. Another match that needed to be amended due to injury issues was Tito Santana's match with former Strike Force teammate Rick Martel.

Martel had been out of action since late June with an unspecified injury, and would not return to the ring until October. That didn't stop WWE from advertising Martel up until the week before SummerSlam, only announcing The Warlord as his replacement the week of the event. The kayfabe reason given for Martel's absence was that he was attending a fashion show in Paris. Well, he was 'The Model' after all.

5. A Future Main Eventer's Costume Would See A Noticeable Change


Arguably the best match of SummerSlam 1990 saw The Hart Foundation win the WWE Tag Team Championships for the second time, beating Demolition V2 (Smash and Crush) in a 2-Out-Of-3 Falls match. The finish was especially notable, as the new-to-the-fold Legion of Doom rushed the ring in the final stages to pull an interfering Ax out from under the ring, allowing the Harts to take down Crush during the confusion.

Just as noticeable as the Harts' victory was their flashy new ring attire, pink and black army-style jackets with tasseled shoulder fringe. Bret Hart was already identifiable by his mirrored sunglasses, but on this night, he and Jim Neidhart debuted the ring jackets as a nice visual extra. Hart would eventually upgrade to leather, particularly as he rose up the singles ranks toward the main event, but from this point on, jackets would be a vital part of 'The Hitman' ensemble.

4. An On-Screen Split Was Hard On One Half Of It


In a bit of a disappointing throwaway match, 'Macho Man' Randy Savage dispatched enemy Dusty Rhodes in a little more than two minutes. The match itself was merely window-dressing for Rhodes' new angle, in which Ted DiBiase had lured Rhodes' lively sidekick Sapphire into his fold with lavish gifts, all on an evil whim. A heartbroken Rhodes jobbed out to Savage in a matter of minutes while DiBiase, Sapphire, and Virgil drove off into the night.

As it turned out, it was Sapphire herself that took the split hard. According to Sensational Sherri in an interview years later, Sapphire legitimately admired Rhodes as a man and performer, to the point where when she was informed that they were being split, she broke down crying. Sapphire wouldn't be long for WWE after that, while Rhodes and Dibiase's feud continued until Dusty's exit from the company the following January.

3. The Show Marked The End Of Bad News


One of the more absurd matches of the 1990 SummerSlam featured Jake 'The Snake' Roberts against Bad News Brown. To counteract Roberts' python Damian, Brown brought out a giant covered crate that reportedly contained 200 pounds of hungry sewer rats, straight from Harlem. The rats never came into play, and would soon be a forgotten property in WWE canon, just like Bad News himself.

Brown left the company right after SummerSlam, ending a two-and-a-half year term with the promotion. Reportedly, one of the big sticking points on Brown's behalf is that Vince McMahon reneged on a promise to make Brown the first African-American WWE Champion. In a rather twisted footnote, Brown was replaced by Akeem in house show matches against Roberts for the weeks after his exit. The matches were billed as Harlem Street Fights in accordance with Brown's persona, and subbing Akeem in was...well, let's just say somebody in Stamford has quite a sense of humour.

2. Hulkamania Was In Action For The First Time In A While


For most Hulk fans, Hogan's win over Mr Perfect on the 28 April edition of Saturday Night's Main Event would have to tide them over until SummerSlam. Those in the New York market witnessed Hogan defeat Earthquake on the MSG Network two nights after the Perfect match, and that would be *their* last dose of Hulkamania until the August pay-per-view. SummerSlam would mark Hogan's first televised match in four months.

Hogan was written out for the summer following a storyline attack by Earthquake that aired in late May 1990. Many have noted that his absence, along with Warrior's general inability to connect with crowds the way that Hogan had, contributed to the downfall of Warrior as a viable World Champion in the eyes of the office. As of SummerSlam, Hogan was back full time, and that was good news for just about everybody in WWE (sans Earthquake, who earned some gnarly welts on his back, courtesy of Hogan beating him with an unconventional-looking chair).

1. Rick Rude Didn't Much Care For His Payoff


The Steel Cage Match pitting WWE Champion Ultimate Warrior against Ravishing Rick Rude was a suitable, enjoyable conclusion to an eventful SummerSlam. Although Rude took a decisive loss, few would have figured that the match would be Rude's last notable appearance with the company before his sudden exit that October.

Rude was reportedly furious over his payoff for the match, believing he should've earned more for carrying Warrior not just at SummerSlam, but in their house show matches throughout the summer. But what really led to Rude's exit was his annoyance that WWE continued to advertise Rude's name for house shows in the fall, knowing that he would be unable to attend due to a legitimate injury. When WWE baulked at Rude's demand to pay him for the use of his name in advertising, Rude quit, and would show up in WCW one year later.

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Justin Henry

Written by Justin Henry

In addition to writing lists and commentaries for Cultaholic, Justin is also a features writer and interviewer for Fighting Spirit Magazine, and is co-author of the WWE-related book Titan Screwed: Lost Smiles, Stunners, and Screwjobs.