10 Things We Learned From WWE SummerSlam 1993

Lex Luger really did live on the Lex Express!

It's the show with the bus - The Lex Express to be exact. Throughout the summer of 1993, WWE had attempted to turn Lex Luger into the next big All-American superhero in the mould of Hulk Hogan, which would have presumably culminated with Luger mowing down evil Japanese WWE Champion Yokozuna to win the belt for God and country. Instead, fans were left with the most confusing and befuddling pay-per-view ending in WWE's history, at least until Undertaker murdered Paul Bearer at the 2004 Great American Bash.

The 1993 SummerSlam really underscores just how drastically WWE had changed in just a short amount of time. Neither the WWE Champion nor his challenger were on the roster one year earlier, and neither was Bret Hart's opponent for a high-profile match. Additionally, neither the Tag Team Champions nor their challengers were on the roster 365 days previously, and in fact, said challengers were simply part-timers brought in as a favour.

If Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, and The Undertaker weren't hanging around, it would have seen as though WWE's overhaul was complete and total. Nonetheless, this wasn't the WWE that anybody remembered, and trying to wedge Lex Luger into the Hogan template wasn't changing that, bus or no bus.

10. Quite Literally, Almost Everything Had Changed


When you think of the top WWE stars between 1984 and SummerSlam 1993, four particular names come to mind: Hulk Hogan, Macho Man Randy Savage, The Ultimate Warrior, and Bret Hart. They're the only men in that time frame that held the WWE Championship for at least six months in a single reign, and of them, only Hart would wrestle on this show.

SummerSlam 1993 marked the first time that nobody from the Hogan/Savage/Warrior trio wrestled on a particular WWE pay-per-view. Between 1985 and SummerSlam 1993, the only pay-per-views missed by Hogan were the previous year's SummerSlam, as well as the following Survivor Series and Royal Rumble. Savage worked all three of those shows, but SummerSlam would break an eight-year streak of at least one of those aforementioned icons being in a match. Savage *did* appear at SummerSlam, but only as a bystander in conjunction with the main event. In fact, only six men wrestled at both the 1992 and 1993 SummerSlams: Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, Ted DiBiase, IRS, and Tatanka. How's that for change?

9. The Alleged Original Main Event Would've Been Much More Historic


When Bret Hart stood down so that Hulk Hogan could reign supreme at the end of WrestleMania 9, a gracious Hogan reportedly told Hart that he'd be happy to return the favour. The following month, both Hart and Hogan took part in a photo shoot in which both men plugged tug-of-war with the WWE Championship belt. Hart was reportedly told by Vince himself that he would be defeating Hogan come SummerSlam.

Plans changed sometime in early June, as Vince would tell Hart that Hogan was refusing to put him over, which led to the two main eventers having a pair of tense confrontations at both the 1993 King of the Ring, as well as the TV tapings the following day. Whatever the situation was, Hogan dropped the belt to Yokozuna at the pay-per-view, appeared sporadically on house shows thereafter, and left the company by early August.

8. Ted DiBiase Cashed Out


The opening pay-per-view bout at SummerSlam was notable in a handful of ways. For one thing, it marked the first time that SummerSlam kicked off with a singles match instead of a tag team bout. But more importantly, after playing a part in each of the previous five SummerSlams, 1993 would mark Ted DiBiase's final WWE match, as he temporarily left the company after putting over Razor Ramon.

By DiBiase's later admission, he had been dealing with difficulties at home, particularly problems with his marriage that had begun the previous year. DiBiase took a less-demanding schedule working All Japan Pro Wrestling (where he and Stan Hansen won the Tag Team belts just days after SummerSlam), as he would be home more often in between tours, better enabling him to rebuild the pillars of his personal life. Ted would retire several months later due to neck injuries and would return to WWE as both a broadcaster and a manager in 1994.

7. The Tag Team Matches Got Reworked


It was a delight to see Jim Cornette show up on WWE television in the summer of 1993, as with Bobby Heenan retired from the ring, the company was in desperate need of a truly remarkable heel manager. Cornette's entry into the promotion came on the heels of a working agreement between WWE and his Smoky Mountain Wrestling promotion, one that would see some cross-pollination among the locker rooms.

With Cornette came Dr. Tom Prichard and Jimmy Del Ray, The Heavenly Bodies. Originally, the two were supposed to face some babyface duo (Smoking Gunns, Bushwhackers, et al) at SummerSlam in an inter-federation challenge, while Tag Team Champions The Steiner Brothers were to face The Headshrinkers. However, at the time Fatu was dealing with some sort of leg infection that left his SummerSlam status up in the air. The Bodies were then switched in to work with the Steiners, while Fatu did make the show, working a six-man tag.

6. "Not Laying Down" Pays Off


The title is quite misleading - although then-IC Champion Shawn Michaels would develop a penchant for doing less jobs than a lazy contractor, there was likely no refusal to lose in this instance. At the 1993 SummerSlam, Michaels defeated Mr. Perfect by countout in a somewhat-disappointing match, given that WWE quite literally hyped the match in advance as the Greatest Intercontinental Title Match of All Time.

Where the match is notable is that it marked the first time that the IC title did not change hands at SummerSlam. The first five August spectaculars would become notable for a babyface star of some renown capturing the gold, be it Ultimate Warrior in a 30-second squash of the Honky Tonk Man, or Bret Hart scoring his first landmark victory as a singles star in WWE when he tapped Perfect to The Sharpshooter. But here, the heel got the spoils in a match that failed to live up to its ambitious promotion.

5. SummerSlam Came Early In Memphis


The Bret Hart/Jerry Lawler feud that cut a torrent through WWE in 1993 wasn't confined to just the sports entertainment giant. The Hitman, along with still-babyface brother Owen, made some appearances in Lawler's USWA promotion, feuding with The King, as well as Jeff Jarrett. The night before SummerSlam, Hart and Lawler actually faced off in a cage match before 2100 fans at the Mid-South Coliseum, with Hart as the heel and Lawler as the revered local hero.

Lawler won the match after botched interference from Giant Gonzalez, who also made appearances in USWA at the time. The post-match melee saw both Harts and Gonzalez tear Lawler and Jarrett apart, with Hart trapping Lawler in a lengthy Sharpshooter, as Gonzalez fought off any referee that tried to intervene. But Hart still had one more notable Sharpshooter to dole out that weekend...

4. Revenge Can Be Painful


At the 1993 King of the Ring, during Hart's coronation, The Hitman was attacked by a disgusted Lawler who slammed the wooden throne down on Hart with such force that he caused him a legitimate rib injury. Two months later at SummerSlam, when Bret had Doink the Clown (wrestling in Lawler's stead) trapped in The Sharpshooter, Lawler took a crutch and broke it over Bret's head with such force that the upper half of it slammed hard into Bret's face. Hart was still annoyed about the earlier careless act, and was downright livid after Lawler's roughness here.

But Bret would get his revenge: when Hart trapped Lawler in The Sharpshooter and refused to let go (per the storyline), he cinched the hold up tight in an attempt to legitimately hurt Lawler. For three and a half minutes, Hart hyperextended Lawler's knees and kinked his lower back with genuine pressure, while Lawler writhes on the canvas in overt pain, as opposed to a more showman-like manner of selling. Hart recalled Lawler was unable to walk once back in the locker room, resorting to crawling around painfully.

3. Farewell To A Familiar Voice


Ted DiBiase wasn't the only longtime WWE notable to depart from the company after SummerSlam. The event also marked the final appearance of Mean Gene Okerlund before he joined WCW that fall. Okerlund's near 10-year run with WWE came to an end after he reportedly baulked at the terms of a new WWE deal, which would've entailed him moving to Connecticut full time.

Okerlund's replacement made his debut on the show, a squeaky-voiced individual by the name of Joe Fowler. Fowler was ill-fit for the job (as Jim Cornette rasped at him at one point: "I'll tell ya the biggest surprise: your employment!") and did not last long with the company whatsoever. Okerlund, meanwhile, would stick with WCW until the bitter end in 2001, rejoining WWE on a part-time basis after its closure.

2. Luger Really Did Drive Around On That Damn Bus


After Lex Luger Bodyslammed Yokozuna at the Independence Day challenge, he was whisked off on a coast-to-coast campaign in order to drum up fan support, similar to a politician stumping for votes. But this was no part-time endeavour: Luger legitimately did not wrestle for about six or seven weeks, whilst driving around the country on the Lex Express.

Luger's rigorous schedule included multiple autograph sessions per day, along with radio and TV appearances. The minimal downtime he received while on tour was used for going to the gym and getting a good night's rest. Otherwise, he was busy taking the Hulk Hogan Accelerated Main Eventer course. From the time Luger finished up a house show loop the week after the bodyslam challenge, he would not wrestle another match until the week before SummerSlam.

1. The Mother Of All Swerves


The big stipulation for the Luger-Yoko title match was that if Luger did not win the belt, then he was screwed, because it was his only shot at the gold. Well, you'd think he'd win the belt with a decree like that in place, right? Luger did win, but via countout, which made the balloons-and-confetti celebration look mighty stupid, because while he may have won the match, he didn't win the championship.

According to Jim Cornette, Vince wanted to hold off on Luger winning the belt until WrestleMania, because he felt that Luger needed to be built up more. That was all well and good, but that "only title shot" stipulation was maddening for fans who could not believe that WWE would book the ending the way that they did. WWE could always find a way to get out of that hemmed-in corner (winning the Royal Rumble match made sense), but long before WrestleMania, Luger's momentum would fizzle.

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10 Things We Learned From WWE SummerSlam 1994

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.