The big cloud hanging over WWE at the time was Hulk Hogan's clumsy appearance on The Arsenio Hall Show, in which his answers to questions about steroid use made him, and professional wrestling, look quite bad. Numbers across the board would begin to dwindle: attendance, ratings, you name it. Fan interest was waning, that halcyon Hulkamania glory was fading like an old pair of jeans.
But Hogan wouldn't be the only star embroiled in some intense controversy. His partner for SummerSlam, The Ultimate Warrior, would soon be out the door, as a result of some of his actions in relation to the event itself. But that's something to cover later on in this list, as we look at the entire portrait of SummerSlam 1991, the good and the bad alike. Enclosed are some anecdotes that perhaps you did not know about the fourth annual August classic.
10. We Learned What Everybody Made
Wrestler salary figures aren't often made available to the public, so it's generally up to us to use our imaginations when considering what wrestlers make. We don't have to wonder about what the performers who worked the 1991 SummerSlam made, however, since the payroll sheet was produced during a 1993 lawsuit filed by The Ultimate Warrior.
Both Hogan and Warrior, along with Randy Savage, topped the salary charts with $75,000 apiece for the event, with Sgt. Slaughter and Miss Elizabeth each netting $50,000. Interestingly, and somewhat humorously, Elizabeth was paid as much as both Legion of Doom members combined ($25,000 apiece) and almost as much as Mr Perfect ($20,000) Bret Hart ($17,500), and Big Boss Man ($15,000) combined, just to take part in a wedding vow renewal inside a wrestling ring. Don't ever let anyone tell you that this isn't an awesome industry.
9. Mr Perfect Is One Tough Dude
Perhaps the most memorable on-camera moment from the 1991 SummerSlam (aside from The Mountie getting humorously booked in a Manhattan prison, despite his screams and resistance) was Bret Hart capturing the IC Championship from Mr Perfect. 'The Hitman's' first piece of singles gold in WWE came at the conclusion of a thrilling see-saw battle between two scientific aces, ending when Hart snared Perfect's legs and flipped him over into The Sharpshooter.
Fans of the time may remember Mr Perfect taking a leave of absence following SummerSlam, spending 15 months as a commentator and pseudo-manager (for the incoming Ric Flair). That's because Perfect was dealing with serious back issues, sidelining him in mid-June 1991. Looking slightly bulkier due to an inability to work out much during the summer months, Perfect carried his end of what many hail as a wrestling classic, doing so through hindering pains.
8. Unknowingly, We Bade Farewell To A Legend
Functionally, Andre the Giant's last hurrah as an in-ring wrestler for WWE came at WrestleMania VI, though he would still maintain an occasional presence on company programming. Due to a run-in with Earthquake in the summer of 1991, Andre would second The Bushwhackers in their match against Earthquake and Typhoon - The Natural Disasters - inside the Garden at SummerSlam.
This would mark Andre's last WWE appearance in the United States. He would go on to corner for Davey Boy Smith on a European tour that October, and those would be his final appearances with WWE overall. It was appropriate that Andre's last WWE appearance stateside came in Madison Square Garden, a building which he helped fill with illustrious history. Just as appropriately, Andre's last appearance on that European tour came in his native France.
7. Whose Big Gold Belt? Ric Flair's Big Gold Belt!
Throughout August 1991, Bobby Heenan made sure we all knew that by God, Ric Flair was on his way. After a series of disagreements with WCW bean counter/fog-brained dips**t Jim Herd, Flair was fired from WCW in early July while still reigning as World Champion. Flair shipped the belt that was still in his possession to WWE, and had a proud Heenan display it on TV like it was his newborn kid.
The people in WCW, especially Herd, didn't have much room to cry foul. In those days, the champion had to put down a deposit on the belt (in Flair's case, $25,000) that would keep him from jumping to another company as the titleholder. Flair demanded his deposit back plus interest, and Herd refused to comply initially. Flair felt justified in letting WWE play around with the belt that he had 'paid for', only sending it back to his ex-employer when they reached a settlement much later.
6. Legion Almost Doomed
A little more than one year after their WWE debut, and Animal and Hawk, The Legion of Doom, achieved what most fans took as inevitable by winning the company's World Tag Team championships. The duo defeated The Nasty Boys at the 1991 SummerSlam in a match with no rules, although one rule broken by Hawk months earlier could've compromised their push.
Hawk would fail a drug test in May 1991, earning a 60-day suspension. Given how skittish WWE had grown about drug-related problems by this time, the test failure could've put a big dent in the plans to have Hawk and Animal win the belts. According to Animal, however, once Hawk rejoined him on the road that July, nothing about the drug test was ever brought up again, and the two continued on their path to the gold unabated.
5. The Rulers Of Tag Team Wrestling
They snacked on danger, dined on death, and dominated tag team wrestling for a good many years. Animal and Hawk's victory over the Nasty Boys at SummerSlam 1991 completed a rather impressive hat-trick for the men once known as The Road Warriors, affording them a unique honour that no other team had matched, or will ever match.
With the victory that night, Animal and Hawk became the only tag team to win the WWE, NWA/WCW, and AWA World Tag Team Championships. The two also held the NWA International Tag Team titles that were defended in All Japan Pro Wrestling, and Hawk also held the IWGP Tag Team gold with Kensuke Sasaki (Power Warrior) during he and Animal's split of several years in the nineties. Talk about your gold standards.
4. It's Good To Be The Hero
Back in the days of fewer pay-per-views, you were more likely to see babyfaces win the majority of the matches as a means of appeasing the younger audience (one mantra that Bruce Prichard has repeated was "Hogan must pose"). SummerSlam 1991 was one of those shows where the babyfaces dominated, and it was a night of both blowoffs and cathartic finishes.
Six of the eight matches were won by good guys, including three title changes - the aforementioned Hart over Perfect and LOD over the Nastys, plus Virgil one-upping Ted DiBiase by winning his Million Dollar belt in an absolute thriller (no joke). Additionally, The Big Boss Man defeated The Mountie in a match where the loser had to spend the night in jail (high comedy), and Hogan and Warrior vanquished Sgt. Slaughter's Triangle of Terror. Add the quaint Savage/Liz wedding, and it was a feelgood night all around. Unless you were Warrior...
3. Don't Cross The Boss
During the three-on-two main event Warrior made his exit from ringside, chasing after Slaughter's cronies General Adnan and Colonel Mustafa with a folding chair. For all intents and purposes, Warrior may as well have been bolting from WWE in general. Shortly after arriving backstage, Warrior was handed a note that was penned by Vince McMahon that day, essentially telling Warrior that he was suspended (though it may as well have been a firing).
The previous month, Warrior wrote a letter to McMahon, threatening to no-show SummerSlam if he did not receive due back-pay to the tune of $550,000, as well as a schedule and pay-scale on the level of Hogan. McMahon acquiesced to Warrior's demands, even writing a soothing, friendly response that acknowledged Warrior as a valued star. In reality, Vince was stringing Warrior along to make sure he made the scheduled SummerSlam match, then bluntly axed him when his participation ended.
2. It Was Meant To Be Savage's Last "Main Event"
'Macho Man' Randy Savage retired after losing an appreciable match to The Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VII, and believe it or not, the retirement was intended to stick. Savage had no interest in returning to the ring, a phrase we hear all too often from wrestlers that try to gracefully exit the squared circle, only to return for one reason or another. However, at age 38, Savage was coveting life away from the ring, carrying on in a non-wrestling role while looking to start a family with Elizabeth.
But Macho would be drafted back into action come the SummerSlam aftermath, when Jake Roberts and The Undertaker stormed the wedding reception, after revealing that they'd packed a live cobra into one of the wedding gifts. Vince needed Savage back to fill the Warrior void, and while Savage initially baulked, he reportedly agreed after Vince threatened to take him off of commentary if he did not comply.
1. The Summer Slammed Mania
SummerSlam 1991 could write one of those tawdry letters to adult magazines that begin with the phrase: "I never thought it would happen to me," but the body of the anecdote would be far from luridly torrid. It is, however, a fact that is quite alarming: for the only time in WWE history, a SummerSlam got more buys on pay-per-view than the WrestleMania that took place in the same calendar year.
Damned if anyone could conclusively tell you why, but the 1991 SummerSlam did 405,000 buys to WrestleMania VII's 400,000, a negligible amount but a nonetheless impressive victory. Other years did see some narrow gaps (in 1997, WrestleMania 13 only beat SummerSlam by roughly 2,000 buys in all), but 1991 was the only year in which SummerSlam outdid the preceding WrestleMania.