TJR Retro PPV Review: WWE SummerSlam 1997

TJR Wrestling

Since it’s SummerSlam week I figured I would re-post some of my retro SummerSlam reviews. I haven’t reviewed all of them, so the earliest one is 1997. I think the next one will 2011 because I didn’t write full recaps of any previous SummerSlam events.

Here’s the review I wrote from 2008. I’m going to add in new thoughts in blue font after the matches. Here we go.


Every member of the Hart Foundation on this show had a match that involved a stipulation. You’ll read about them as we get to the matches. The main one involved Bret Hart.

Bret was the challenger to the Undertaker’s World Title. He claimed that if he didn’t win the belt he would never wrestle in the United States again, which is something the American fans loved. Being that the show was in New Jersey, it would mean that the already favored Undertaker would be even more beloved by the fans. Meanwhile, Shawn Michaels wasn’t in a match for the show so he asked to be the referee of the match. His wish was granted although he had to agree to a similar fate. If he did anything to cost Hart the match he would not be allowed to wrestle in America either.

The Hart/Michaels issue wasn’t just something for the cameras. There were legit problems there. They had a pull apart fight in the backstage area two months before this show. Michaels threatened to quit the company, but ultimately stayed although he was off TV for a few weeks after it. He also lost the tag belt he held with Steve Austin, who now had Dude Love (aka Mankind) as his championship partner.

There were a lot of questions going into this show about how Michaels and Hart would be able to work together in a major setting like Summerslam. It was the WWF’s second biggest show of the year and a lot of questions, both from a fan perspective and a company one, had to be answered.

(I remember going into it pretty excited because I had no idea what they would do for a finish in the main event after the Hart/Michaels stipulation was announced. I also was really pumped about Steve Austin vs. Owen Hart just because they were two of my favorite performers. I had no idea that it would be the most famous match on the show.)

Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey
August 3, 1997

The video package, in black and white, tells us how Bret Hart, The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels all have their various problems going on with Bret being hated by America, Undertaker being tormented by his past and Michaels having a lot of problems with Hart. Pretty cool video and I’ve always liked the voice guy they used in these days.

Announcers are crazy Vince McMahon, Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler.

(Vince only did commentary on two PPVs after this.)

Steel Cage Match: Hunter Hearst Helmsley w/Chyna vs. Mankind
The only way you can win this match is by exiting the cage through the door or over the top. It should be noted too that the cage is the crappy blue one that they used in the ’90s as opposed to the good silver one that has been used this decade. They wrestled first at King of the Ring two months earlier with HHH winning, then they had a double countout brawl at Canadian Stampede a month earlier so this was the end of that feud. HHH is out first with Mankind out to a good pop second.

Hunter runs for the door immediately, but Mankind holds onto him. He beats Hunter down a bit, then Hunter tries to climb out so Mankind chucks him back into the middle. Mankind tries to put his head up against the cage, but the crappy blue bars leave a lot to be desired in a cage. Running knee in the corner by Mankind followed by his customary pulling piledriver. He puts on the Mandible Claw, but he’s near the cage so Chyna reaches through and chokes him with a belt. Hunter whips him in only to be caught with a clothesline by Mankind. He climbs the cage only for Chyna to climb up and punch him in the balls. Hunter meets him at the top, then suplexes him off the top of the cage to the mat. That’s a nice spot that I guess we can call a super-cage-plex. Hunter’s able to get out, then changes his mind and walks back in to whip Mankind head first into the cage. There’s another hard whip into the cage. After a head ramming into the cage he beats on him in center ring with fists. Six more hard head whips into the cage follow that. Helmsley goes to climb out of the cage (why do people not use the door?), but Mankind climbs up to get him. He gets kicked off by Helmsley. There he comes back up though, bringing Helmsley back down into the ring. Mankind chokes him over the ropes, so Chyna reaches through and gouges his eye. Atomic drop by HHH, then Mankind does one and hits a clothesline. This match is very slow paced at this point with the crowd making little noise. Knee smash by HHH. Mankind suplexes him into the cage so HHH’s legs are at the top of it and then runs the ropes to elbow HHH in the face. Hard whip into the cage by Mankind and then two more just for fun. Like the lunatic he is, Mankind charges in and Helmsley gives him a back body drop into the cage back & leg first. They fight along the top rope, Foley wins it and HHH gets crotched on the top rope. Helmsley’s leg is stuck in the ropes, so Mankind crawls to the door and Chyna whips the door hard right into his ear. He wrote about that in his book. It was as painful as it looked. Then she rammed the ref face first into the steel steps. She tosses a chair into HHH, but his Pedigree attempt is reversed as Mankind slingshots him into the cage where Chyna was hanging around for some reason. She’s down. Mankind drops him with a double arm DDT on the chair. Chyna goes in the ring to try to pull HHH out the door. That doesn’t work and as that’s going on Mankind makes it out of the cage. He’s near the bottom when he chucks off his mask and climbs back up with the crowd going nuts. The fans are chanting “Superfly! Superfly!” because this was around the time when they were talking about Foley’s past where he saw Jimmy Superfly Snuka leap off a cage against Don Muraco and then knew he wanted to be a wrestler after that. He sets his feet on the second rung of the cage, opens his shirt to reveal what was supposed to be a Dude Love heart on his chest and comes off with a sick elbow off the top of the cage! Crowd is going crazy, which was proof that this storyline was working for the guy. He goes for another climb while Chyna tries to pull HHH out on the other side. Mankind touches the ground first. Why wouldn’t she try to stop him when he’s climbing down? Such a question would exude logic, so we’ll pretend like it’s not even asked.
Winner via exiting the cage @ 16:25 – Mankind

Post match, the Dude Love music that I love so much strikes up and Mankind struts his way around the ring. At the time Dude Love was a tag champion with Steve Austin.

Analysis: *3/4 They really did a poor job of making it seem like an exciting match. It was just spot after spot with little psychology involved. Of course it wasn’t all bad because Mick Foley was really taking off as a babyface character at this point and Hunter would soon become a degenerate. Basically this was a good match in terms of furthering an angle, but as a match it was a bit of a letdown.

(They had better matches three years later, but some of their other matches in 1997 were better too. The match at Canadian Stampede the month before this was definitely better. In terms of the storyline, it was big for Foley because he was going through that babyface turn where he was developing the fun Dude Love character to make him likable. As a match it could have been better.)

They bring out the Governer of New Jersey, Christy Todd Webber, who gets booed by most of the crowd. Basically she allowed this show to take place because the WWF had been out of Jersey for a while due to some tax issues. First time in eight years that there was a PPV in Jersey. They give her a replica title belt as the crowd boos some more. Good times.

(Most politicians get booed at wrestling shows. It’s just how it is.)

Brian Pillman vs. Goldust w/Marlena
If Pillman loses this match he has to wear a dress on Raw the next night. Goldust is the babyface here while Pillman is a part of the heel Hart Foundation group. Just for fun, there’s a mannequin with a dress on it.

Pillman jumps Goldust to start. He whips Goldust in, who comes back with a back elbow off the middle ropes and then unloads a kiss on Pillman. Yes, a kiss. A punch sends Pillman out to the floor. Back in, Pillman whips him in and gets a back elbow. Then he stalks Marlena, which is a bad idea because Goldust clotheslines him on the other side of the ring. Back in, Pillman gets a club to the back, then beats on him with fists. Suplex by Pillman, then he goes up top and Goldust crotches him on the top rope. Marlena blows some smoke into his face. Pillman uses her as a shield, then DDTs Goldust on the floor. He rolls Goldust back in, then hits a clothesline off the top for a couple of two counts. He slows it down with a chinlock. Goldust goes for a pinfall, but Pillman counters with a clothesline for two. Whip in, Goldust gets his own clothesline and then they exchange punches with Goldie winning those. Whip into the ropes, Goldust goes for a bulldog only for Pillman to counter by shoving him off. Shoulderblock by Goldust, who then goes for a sunset flip but that doesn’t work. He didn’t fully get over. Pillman then leans forward so Goldust is fully under him, then Marlena hits Pillman with her purse and that leads to the one, two and three for the Goldust win.
Winner via pinfall @ 7:15 – Goldust

Analysis: 1/2* Poor match. Pillman’s injuries really limited what he could do in the ring. His offense was really weak. Goldust did everything he could to make it work, but it just didn’t work well at all. The crowd was mostly into it even though they recognized the botched finish.

(Sadly, Pillman’s body was breaking down and he passed away two months after this. He was such a good performer when his mind was right and he had developed such a good character, but his body just couldn’t take it anymore.)

Post match, Pillman beats up the mannequin and rips up the dress because he had to wear it the next night on Raw. Feel the comedy!

Legion of Doom vs. The Godwinns
The Godwinns (Henry O. aka HOG and Phineas I. aka PIG) are out first. Basically they’re farmers that wear overalls. The video shows us that LOD broke Henry Godwinn’s neck with their doomsday device finisher several months earlier. The Godwinn’s came back with cheap attacks, so that’s how we’ve got this match. Considering the combatants I’m not expecting much in terms of quality.

They brawl to start with Legion of Doom dominating, sending both Godwinns out to the floor. Can’t deny LOD’s popularity because the crowd sure loves ’em. Animal misses a charge on Phineas, so he tags in Henry, they go for a double backdrop but then Animal gets a double clothesline to send them out to the floor. Henry’s in there with Hawk now as he drapes him across the top rope. A legdrop misses, so Hawk follows him out to the floor and whips him headfirst into the steps. He rolls Henry back in, then hits a couple legdrops for two. Henry fights back, then tags in Phineas who hits Hawk with a neckbreaker choke type move. Hawk fights out and each team tags out so it’s Animal up against Henry. Animal works on the arm. Henry whips him in, Phineas knees Animal in the back and then Henry clotheslines him out to the floor. With Animal on the apron, they push him in the back and he goes neck first into the railing. There’s Captain Lou Albano in the crowd! Back in, bodyslam gets two. Tag to Phineas who slows it down again with a long bearhug. Animal tries to fight out, but Henry tags in. He misses a clothesline, then continues to work on Animal. Tag back into Phineas, he goes for something off the middle ropes that Animal is able to counter with a clothesline. He hot tags Hawk while Henry comes in. Powerslam, then punches for both. Whip in, then a clothesline and another clothesline, this time for Phineas. Neckbreaker for Henry, which is an ode to the broken neck idea. Animal takes Phineas out. They whip Henry in then each guy hits a running clothesline in the corner. They go to set up Henry for the Doomsday Device finisher, but Phineas comes in, so Hawk just clotheslines him. Animal picks up Henry for a piledriver, Hawk goes to the middle ropes and they spike him with the piledriver for the pinfall victory.
Winners via pinfall @ 9:51 – Legion of Doom

Analysis: *1/2 It was a formulaic tag match for the most part. LOD started hot, then the Godwinns slowed it down, Hawk got the hot tag and that was the end of the match. Everybody worked hard and the crowd was really into LOD, so what they did clearly worked well.

(Love the Legion of Doom for their look and star power, but their matches in WWE at this point were rarely good. The Godwinns were never that good. I barely remember this match and have no desire to watch again. A Spike Piledriver finish on a guy that broke his neck months earlier? You won’t see that in WWE again.)

There are two Million Dollar Chance finalists standing by with Pettingill as well as Sable and Sunny, who looks so damn hot. Why didn’t they use Sunny more in these days? This is awful, why the hell am I reviewing this? Oh yeah, because Sunny’s there. Basically there’s 100 numbers to pick and only one key to open a case for $1 million. Nobody wins. This took literally 7 minutes to complete. What a time waster.

(I guess it served its purpose in terms of quality Sunny screen time. Fine looking woman…especially in 1997.)

European Title: British Bulldog (c) vs. Ken Shamrock
They show a video of a week earlier on Raw when they had an arm wrestling contest. Bulldog beat the crap out of Shamrock with a chair and then put dog food all over his face. If Bulldog loses then he has to eat the dog food. He’s out first with Shamrock out next to a big pop. Shamrock was still fairly new to in-ring action at this point. He did most of his training for the WWF at the Hart house in Calgary, so I’m sure he was tight with Bulldog at this point.

Shamrock starts out on fire, hitting a belly to belly suplex. He beats on him all over the ringside area a bit, then they go back in the center and he goes for the ankle lock. Bulldog gets the ropes, then Shamrock pounds on him in the corner and gets a high knee to the face. Bulldog comes back wit ha clothesline, then fists to the back and a headbutt. Delayed suplex by Bulldog gets two. He gets a chinlock to slow it down. Shamrock fights out, then charges in and leaps over top of Bulldog for a sunset flip that gets two. Clothesline by Bulldog, then another chinlock. They grapple in the corner, then Bulldog kicks him low and the ref doesn’t even DQ him for it. I guess he didn’t see it even though he clearly did. Bulldog gets a small package for two. Bulldog slams him shoulder first into the steel post. Hard whip into the steps. He picks up the steps to use them as a weapon only for the ref to stop that. They roll back in the ring, Bulldog punches him some more and goes for another chinlock as Shamrock’s lip starts to bleed. Shamrock tries to fight back, so he Bulldog throws him out to the floor and bodyslams him there. He grabs some dog food, then tosses it into Shamrock’s face and that’s enough for Shamrock to snap. I love when he snaps! So does the crowd. He smacks Bulldog in the back of the head with the dog food container and that gets him disqualified. I guess a dog food can to the back of the head is worse than a blatant low blow.
Winner via disqualification @ 7:29 – British Bulldog

Post match, Shamrock continues to beat on him and even shoves the referee down. He puts on a tight sleeper to choke the Bulldog out. All the refs come in to try to break it up. This was Shamrock’s gimmick. He’s the guy that lost his mind on a regular basis. It takes a couple minutes to pull Shamrock off. There’s a belly to belly for Patterson, then one for Brisco, one for ref Jack Doan and one for ref Mike Chioda. Then he does the patented, “Get out of my way!” yell. Man, I loved Shamrock in these days. The crowd really loved his yelling since it was the era of the babyfaces that had an edge to them.

Analysis: ** It was a decent match with Bulldog on offense for the majority of it. I thought he went for the rest holds way too much although that could have been a sign of Shamrock not having that many matches under his belt at this point. The key thing here was the post match angle, which worked really well. Much like the earlier matches on the show, the angle was much more important than the match.

(Shamrock was still fairly new as an in-ring competitor, but I was always a big fan. He was so intense and brought a lot of credibility to the table as a legit UFC fighter. The refereeing was pretty awful in this match. I do remember that part. Also, Shamrock freaking out after the loss was pretty great. He was so good at doing that.)

Backstage, Todd Pettengill talks to the ref of the main event, Shawn Michaels. He says he’s going to be an impartial, unbiased, fair referee. “Nothing will get past the keen eye of Shawn Michaels,” he says.

Los Boricuas (Savio Vega, Miguel Perez, Jesus Castillo & Jose Estrada) vs. Disciples of Apocalypse (Crush, Chainz, 8-Ball & Skull)
Savio and Crush were in Farooq’s Nation of the Domination, but they ended up getting fired when Faarooq had new members join his group. As a result of that, Savio recruited some Puerto Ricans to be in his croup while Crush got some fellow bikers to join him in DOA. The babyfaces in the match were the DOA because people like bikers apparently. Skull starts out against Estrada, who puts him down with a bulldog and then Skull comes back with a big boot. Tag to 8-Ball, who is his twin brother. Sidewalk slam, here comes Crush with a back elbow and a couple legdrops for two. Perez, aka a very hairy dude, is in next and he falls victim to a tilt-a-whirl slam by Crush. Chainz comes in against Castillo, hitting many elbows and then tags in Skull. He punches, then tags in 8-ball and they drop the guy head first into the turnbuckle. Crowd is pretty quiet for this. There’s Savio Vega coming in to get a cheap shot. The Boricuas beat on him in the corner. Hairy guy works over bald guy, hitting a clothesline and then bringing Savio into the match. Bald guy hits a clothesline on Savio and there’s the Nation walking out through the crowd. That group at this time was Faarooq, Kama, D-Lo Brown and Ahmed Johnson. In the ring, Jesus gets an axe kick on Skull, says Vince. I guess it’s Skull. Savio gets the tag and hits an arm drag, then goes for a chinlock. How do brawlers fight? With chinlocks, apparently. Perez hits a missile dropkick. This is such a disjointed match. People are all over the place. They do a move, then they tag out and quadruple team the guy. The commentary’s hilarious because they don’t know how to explain this mess either. Finally bald guy gets the hot tag to Chainz although nobody really gets excited because it wasn’t a good beatdown. Like idiots, they run at him one at a time and they all go down. Now it breaks down into a fight with all eight guys. The Nation interjects itself and Ahmed hits a Pearl River Plunge on Chainz on the floor. Savio rolls him in while everybody else fights and hairy guy Perez drops an elbow on Chainz for the three count as Chainz kicks out just a hair too late.
Winners via pinfall @ 9:06 – Los Boricuas

Post match, all 12 guys brawl. What, no chinlocks? Then Crush rides his bike around the ring to break up the fight. Oh no, he’s slowly riding a motorcycle around a ring surrounded by 20,000 people! Look out!

Analysis: 1/4* What an ugly match. I really should give it a DUD, but I’m giving it a quarter star because I am amazed at how much body hair Miguel Perez has. It’s really a sickening amount. There was no psychology, high spots or anything really of note here. I guess it was done to put over Ahmed’s heel turn as part of the Nation because his move led to the finish, but even that was done poorly. Just a mess, really.

(I have no memory of this and am fine with that. I trust my review that it was f’n terrible. Also the fact that I gave 1/4* due to Miguel’s body hair shows that I don’t always treat my star ratings seriously.)

We get a video package hyping up the Owen Hart/Steve Austin match for the Intercontinental Title. This was built up from the previous month when Owen pinned Austin in the ten man main event at Canadian Stampede. The stipulation is that if Austin can’t win the title then he has to kiss Owen’s ass.

Intercontinental Title: Owen Hart (c) vs. Steve Austin
Owen’s out first to a lot of boos. Backstage, Michael Cole tries to interview Austin, but that doesn’t work and Austin emerges to a massive ovation from the crowd. Clearly the biggest of the night so far.

Austin goes for his four turnbuckle pose, but Owen cuts him off after the second one and goes after his chronically injured left knee. Austin comes back with a Thesz Press, then a cross corner whip and Owen takes a Bret Hart-like chest bump into the turnbuckle. Austin grabs Hart by the hair a few times, then goes for this splash on the back on the middle rope. Hart moves, so Austin decks him for two. Austin works on his left arm a bit. Austin drops him with a hammerlock suplex, then works on the arm some more with an armbar. Owen shoots him in, then this a back elbow to send Austin to the floor. Austin goes to crotch him on the ring post, but Owen pulls back and Austin goes headfirst into the post. Hart slams his hand into the ring steps, then bites it because he’s hungry I guess. Then we find out he’s trying to break the middle finger that Austin likes to salute people with. He ties Austin up in the ropes, then pulls on the fingers some more. Austin gets out of that and drops Hart neck first with a stun gun. Hart goes for a hurricanrana that Austin counters with a powerbomb. Clothesline sends Hart out. Owen leaves, so Austin chases him up the aisle and hits him in the back of the head. He rolls him back in and Owen hits a lightning quick belly to belly followed by a neckbreaker. Legdrop gets two. Bodyslam for Owen, then he goes up top and hits a top rope elbow for two. Owen works on him with a neck vice as JR mentions Austin has had neck problems in his career. Those are some prophetic words. Owen whips him in, but Austin comes back with a hard clothesline and goes for a Sharpshooter that Owen powers out of.

There’s a clothesline for Owen followed by a legdrop on the back of the neck. Hart whips him in, Austin counters and Owen springboards off the middle rope with a crossbody. Austin rolls over top for a near two, then Owen comes back with a bridging German Suplex that gets him a near two. Great nearfalls. Camel Clutch by Hart as the story of Austin’s neck continues. Austin fights out of that, whips him in and Owen hits a nice looking DDT for two. Whip in, Owen gets a shoulderblock, then Austin grabs a sleeper, so Owen gets one of his own and Austin drops down with a jawbreaker to get out of that. He climbs the middle rope, but Owen counters with a punch to the gut. Neckbreaker by Hart gets two. Hart wraps him up in a body scissors while putting pressure on the neck of Austin, then puts his feet up on the middle rope for some leverage. It takes Earl Hebner a good minute or so to realize it. Hart argues with him, so Austin punches him, then whips him in. He goes for a backbreaker that Owen counters into a Tombstone Piledriver…and that’s the one move that would change Steve Austin’s career since Owen hit it improperly. More on that in a bit. Owen looked to cover, but clearly Austin was telling him he was hurt, so Owen stalled by walking around the ring, berating the crowd. “I’m afraid Austin is hurt and hurt badly,” says Vince. Damn right he’s afraid because Austin was his meal ticket. Owen starts a Canada chant to delay things. Somehow, Austin crawls over to Hart, gently rolls him up, Owen lays flat on his back and the ref counts the pinfall for Austin even though he’s clearly, legitimately hurt.
Winner via pinfall @ 16:15 and NEW Intercontinental Champion – Steve Austin

They had to do the pinfall because the stipulation was that if he lost he would have kissed Owen’s ass, so it was something they had to do. Post match, the refs try to help Austin out of the ring, but he barely lets them do anything. He finally raises the belt as the refs do help him out. They should have had medical personnel out there immediately, which I guess they didn’t do to protect Austin’s character. Still, I think a man’s health is a LOT more important.

Analysis: ***1/2 The match was tremendous up until the unfortunate accident that would take place. They really did a good job of telling a story in the match with Owen working over the neck while Austin kept on fighting as best he could. It really got over their characters with Owen being the technical wrestler while Austin was the brawler that never quit. There probably was another 5 minutes or so that was going to take place in the match that obviously didn’t happen, but what they did was still very good. Also, have to credit both guys for doing a good job coming up with a finish after Austin’s injury because they were really in a tough spot.

Back to the piledriver that caused the injury, here’s what happened. Instead of dropping onto his knees when he delivered the move (like the Undertaker does in order to protect the guy you’re holding), Owen dropped to his ass and that led to Austin’s head slipping between his legs. That left Austin’s head unprotected since it slipped between Hart’s highs. That’s what compressed his spine and injured his neck. Here’s a GIF of the move in question to give you an idea of what I’m talking about.

In Austin’s book he talks about how before the match they went over how it would go and for that spot Austin insisted he drop to his knees for it. Owen simply told him he’d do it although he never said he’d do it on his knees. Austin felt safe enough with Owen to trust him because of his rep as a great worker, as well as Austin’s respect for the Hart family. Plus he knew Owen was a ribber, so he figured he was just joking. He felt like there was no reason not to Owen in that situation. Can’t say I blame Austin for that. Apparently the story was for Owen to continue to work on the neck, hence JR mentioning the sore neck earlier, and then Austin would end up winning with a Stunner out of nowhere. That way they put over the strength of that move. Even though Austin did eventually go on to become one of the biggest stars ever, his career was shortened because of this move. That’s why this was a very historic match.

(It makes me sad thinking about this is and watching the clip of it again. Owen shouldn’t have dropped to his ass to do the move. I’m not sure why they would even do the spot when it was The Undertaker’s finish. If that move didn’t happen, Austin probably could have worked well past 2003. I remember at the time thinking that Austin was going to be out for years because it was obvious it was bad. Vince being all somber on commentary made me think it too. Austin wrestling three months later wasn’t smart, but they needed him and he waned to be out there because his career was going so well. I just hate that this spot took place.)

World Heavyweight Title: The Undertaker (c) vs. Bret Hart – Special Ref: Shawn Michaels
If Bret lost, he could never wrestle in America again. If Shawn somehow screwed him over in the match then he could never wrestle in America again. If Undertaker lost…well then he lost the belt. Simple, yes? I think with stipulations like that the outcome was a bit obvious, but the question was how would they reach that point? This was a huge match at the time. Bret’s out first to huge boos. He asks for the Canadian anthem to play and as a Canadian I stand to listen to it. Okay, not really, but I would if I was at the building. Shawn’s out next to a big babyface pop. Undertaker’s out last. Entrances alone take over eight minutes. The match would have plenty of time, though, don’t you worry. Prior to the match, Michaels checks the boots of each guy, then holds the belt up high over his head.

Bret takes the belt from Shawn and hits Undertaker in the back with it. I guess it’s not a DQ because the match had yet to start. Now the bell rings. Undertaker overpowers Bret into the corner, throwing a lot of fists. Whip in, clothesline by Undertaker as Bret bails to the floor and eats some steel railing for his troubles. Then some ring post. Michaels tells him to get back in the ring, but he ignores that and misses a clothesline on Bret around the post. Hart tosses him hard into the steps. Hart jumps on him on the floor, Taker catches him and rams him twice into the post. Michaels keeps telling him to get back in the ring or there will be a disqualification. Back in the ring, Undertaker gets a backbreaker for two. Now he puts Bret in a bearhug. Hart bites his way out of it, then gets booted in the face. Elbow misses by Undertaker. Big boot misses, then Hart kicks away at the knees. He works over the left knee some more by smashing his ass against the point of the knee. He kicks at the back of the knee, then works over it some more in usual fashion. Hart puts him in the figure four leglock in the middle of the ring. There’s Paul Bearer walking down the aisle. This was during the days when he was claiming the Undertaker’s brother (Kane) was still alive. After about a minute or so, Undertaker turns it over to get out of the hold. Undertaker smashes the knee of Hart into the mat, then goes outside the ring to punch Paul Bearer in the head. That allows Hart to chase him out to the floor and clip the back of his knee. Other refs come out to send Bearer back to the dressing room. Hart positions Undertaker in the corner for my favorite move, the figure four leglock around the ringpost. Love that. Michaels counts to four, so he breaks it. They argue a bit. In the ring, Hart works over the knee some more as Brian Pillman and Owen Hart walk down the aisle. Michaels warns them. Hart pulls Taker to the corner and wraps his knee around the ringpost. Michaels warns him to keep it in the ring as the announcers talk about how good a job he’s doing. Hart slows it down some more with a leg grapevine on the mat. Undertaker breaks it by using his healthier right leg to pound Hart in the chest. He flips over the top rope and pounds Owen and Pillman on the floor. Michaels sends them to the back. Back in the ring, Bret charges in and Undertaker hits a chokeslam. Michaels is looking up the aisle, so he never sees it the Undertaker pinning Hart for a good five seconds. Undertaker grabs Michaels, which allows Hart to roll up Taker for a close two count thanks to some pulling of the tights. Undertaker clotheslines Hart while Taker stalks Michaels some more and hilariously Michaels climbs the middle rope to talk eye to eye to Undertaker. Hart yanks Undertaker out to the floor, then rams his lower back into side of the ring apron. Then he picks up Undertaker to slam him back first into the post. Michaels warns him some more.

Hart rolls Undertaker back in, then hits a double axe to the back. He works on the lower back some more with headbutts, then a backbreaker for two. Suplex by Hart, then the diving elbow off the middle rope after giving people the middle finger. That was great. Yes, I’m biased. That gets two. DDT gets two. Undertaker blocks a headbutt, then drops Hart face first into the top turnbuckle for two. That slows Hart down only for a bit as he gets more headbutts to the spine, then the Russian legsweep. A couple of legdrops follow that as the crowd yells some more at Bret. Hart steps through his legs for the Sharpshooter, but Undertake counters by grabbing the throat and buries a knee to the ribs. Punches in the corner, then a hard whip and Bret gets his knees up to block a charge. While on his knees, Undertaker punches Bret in the ribs to send him down. After a whip into the ropes, Undertaker hits his awesome looking high clothesline. There’s the patented sternum bump in the corner by Hart, which gets two for Undertaker. Whip into the ropes, Undertaker hits a big boot and a legdrop that gets two. That was the Hogan sequence right there. Hart’s on the apron, Undertaker picks him up and chokeslams him into the ring. He’s slow to cover, so Hart’s able to kick out just before three. Hart counters the old school clothesline by kicking the top turnbuckle, then he climbs up for a superplex. Undertake slipped, but Hart tries again and hits it. That was impressive looking. Hart hooks the legs and puts on the Sharpshooter although Undertaker is pretty close to the ropes. Somehow JR says it’s right in the middle of the ring, but it’s really not. After about 15 seconds, Undertaker pushed Hart off of him, sending Hart all the way to the floor. JR goes nuts saying nobody ever broke the Sharpshooter, which is probably wrong. Undertaker gets a clothesline, then tries for a Tombstone that Bret is able to fight out of. He yanks Undertaker around the post, puts on what looks like a Sharpshooter using the pole and Undertaker pushes him off right into Michaels on the floor. Shawn grabs at his knee, which allows Hart to grab a steel chair and drill Undertaker in the head with it while HBK is out on the floor. In Michaels’ first match as a ref, he apparently became both deaf and blind. After a good twenty seconds, Michaels comes in to count the pinfall that gets two. Hart argues with him, then kicks at Taker and Michaels sees the chair. He yells at Bret about it, asking him why there’s a chair. Bret peaks back, Undertaker stands up and that’s the cue for Bret to spit on Michaels. In his book Hart said he told Shawn he’d spit on his chest, but most of it hit him on the face because he says he was tired. I’m guessing it was probably not an accident. Speaking of accidents, Michaels swings the chair at Hart, who then ducks and the sickening chair shot absolutely destroys Undertaker right in the head. I’m talking top of the head as hard as I’ve ever seen a chair swung! Damn! It was sick then and it’s sick today. Crowd is going nuts. Hart quickly rolls Undertaker over for the cover and Shawn has to due to the stipulation so he counts the fall 1…2…3. Bret Hart is the new champion.
Winner via pinfall @ 28:09 and NEW World Heavyweight Champion – Bret Hart

Michaels quickly bails to the floor after it’s over, pissed off about what happened. The crowd is buzzing, booing the hell out of Hart and tossing garbage into the ring. Undertaker stumbles his way up the aisle while Hart poses with the title he won for the fifth time.

Analysis: ***1/4 I think if this match was 20 minutes instead of nearly 30 it would have been better in terms of quality because there were times when it seemed to drag on. My guess is that they were supposed to go five minutes less, but had to go longer because the Hart/Austin match ended earlier than expected. Anyway, I really thought Bret was tremendous in this one as he was all year, really. He did all the heel tricks you could do like cheap attacks, blatant cheating and then outsmarting the stupid babyface, two in fact, in the end. Undertaker did his job well too although he was the one on the defensive for much of it, so a lot of his offense wasn’t even present in the match. The story was great, though. Even though it’s not a four star match it really was one of the best angles the company did that year and it would lead to even greater things in the future that we’ll cover in the next few PPVs.

(I remember it being too long. Since the angle was so strong for the match, they didn’t really need to go almost 30 minutes. I thought the finish was great. Hart accidentally being helped by Michaels was a great story and then it led to an awesome feud with Undertaker that produced one of my favorite matches ever – Hell in a Cell at Badd Blood in October 1997. There are better Bret/Undertaker matches out there, but this one is still pretty good.)

Post match, the other Hart Foundation members come into the ring to celebrate with Hart. I remember celebrating myself during this. It really was a great America vs. the World angle and a lot of people I watched wrestling with in those days (other Canadians) were really happy about this. The show ends with the Hart Foundation members walking up the aisle to the jeers of the crowd.

(Good memories. There was a packed house because WWE was really starting to get momentum with this Hart Foundation angle and everybody was celebrating. Even though I liked Shawn more than Bret, I always loved Bret too especially during his great run in 1997.)

Final Thoughts

This is a memorable show for a couple of reasons. First off, the result of the main event would set off a chain of events that would dominate the company for the rest of 1997 and produce some very awesome matches along the way. I think the Hart/Undertaker match was one of the better main event matches that the WWF had in 1997, so from that respect you have to say it was a match worthy of being in a Summerslam main event.

The second thing, and probably more important than the first, was the injury to Austin. Obviously it was of great concern to management because Austin was the guy they were going to build around going forward. By the end of the show they didn’t know how severe the injury was, just that it was something major. He would end up being out of the ring for three months, which probably wasn’t enough time for him to heal up. It was also change the way he worked. In this match alone you’ll notice he took a lot of head bumps like DDTs, neckbreakers and moves that like. In the years that followed he rarely took bumps that compromised his head/neck area, which is certainly understandable. He would wrestle a full schedule for two years after this before having major neck surgery that gave him another couple of years in the ring before he had to call it quits. Who knows what would have happened if Hart protected him better while doing the move.

The third thing that sticks out for me was the growing popularity of Mankind aka Mick Foley. He was really starting to show the personality that would make him a huge star in the years that followed and that’s what won him the adulation of the fans. Plus, I did like the Mankind/Helmsley series of matches for the most part. They would have better ones in the future, of course.

The rest of the show was largely forgettable although it was better than WrestleMania earlier in the year, so that’s saying something at least.

Three Stars of the Night
1. Bret Hart – In his book he claims he hurt his groin during the match pretty badly. All the more reason for him to be honored as the top star because he worked amazingly well for somebody that had a painful injury occur during the match.

2. Steve Austin – If Owen didn’t botch the piledriver he’d be here too. I love that match. Too bad it ended so abruptly. I wish we could have seen it go the extra five minutes to make it a classic.

3. Mankind – He’s here for the cage dive that can’t be easy for a 300 pound man and of course the Dude Love dance. I love that song.

(I probably should have put Undertaker here too. He did well.)

5.5 out of 10 – Right around average. The main event was very historic and is one of those matches I’d recommend you seeing if you haven’t done so already (it is on YouTube if you search well enough). Also, the Hart/Austin match was looking like a classic up until the neck injury that again is something you should see. The rest of the card was okay although the eight man tag was downright awful.