WWE SummerSlam 1996 Review

wwe summerslam 1996 shawn michaels

The ninth WWE SummerSlam event featured a main event that was something of a dream match for a lot of fans of professional wrestling in the 1990s. It was the babyface WWE Champion Shawn Michaels battling against one of the best monster heel main events of that era, Vader.

I was so excited to see that match and while it was good, there were a lot of things that prevented it from being great. Vader was my favorite guy in WCW, so when he got to WWE and was pushed hard in 1996 I was so excited for a match with Shawn, who was my favorite in WWE.

It was also the year where WWE started to turn the corner from a creative standpoint although financially they weren’t doing that great. They did a better job of bringing in talent like Steve Austin, Mankind (Mick Foley) and later in 1996, The Rock debuted. Austin won King of the Ring 1996 two months before this and should have been in a featured match at SummerSlam. Instead, he won the Free For All (the Kickoff Show in that era) over Yokozuna. At least Mankind was booked strong at this event.

SummerSlam 1996 also took place at a time when rivals WCW also had a lot of moment because of Hulk Hogan’s shocking heel turn a few weeks earlier at Bash at the Beach 1996. I think that show seriously hurt this event in terms of the PPV buyrate, which I’ll mention later.

This show was also hurt by the absence of Bret Hart, who took off for about six months due to wanting a break from the road and trying other things.

WWE SummerSlam 1996
August 18, 1996
Gund Arena in Cleveland, Ohio

The opening video focused on the Shawn Michaels/Vader match and The Undertaker/Mankind as well. This was when they started to have more traditional video packages that we have gotten used to.

The pyro went off as Vince McMahon welcomed us to SummerSlam. Vince is joined on commentary by Jim Ross and Mr. Perfect. Vince said “electric” early in the night to describe the atmosphere.

Owen Hart vs. Savio Vega

(Pre-match notes: Owen was the heel that had a cast on his left arm and a Slammy Award in his hand. Vega was the face.)

The story is that Owen has been wearing the cast for too long and that he was using it as a weapon. There was some mat wrestling early on with Vega getting control with an armbar. Jim Cornette was shown helping Vader get ready for the main event with Vince noting that Corny was Owen’s manager that wasn’t at ringside for this match. Vega with arm drags. Vega whipped Owen into the corner, got a two count and Owen shoved him into the ring post to take control. Owen slapped on an armbar for a few minutes. Armbar takedown by Owen for a two count. Another armbar by Owen, so Vega bit his ass to break free. Yes, really. Owen tied Vega’s arm between the ropes and worked on it some more. Vega nailed a hard chop. Clarence Mason made his way down to the ring. Both guys missed spinning heel kicks and Vega got a cross body block for two. Owen hit his enziguri kick that Vince called “what a maneuver” as JR said the name of the move. Inside cradle by Vega for two. Owen got a boot up to the face of Vega and a pin attempt with his feet on the ropes, but the ref saw it and stopped it. Vega got a rollup for two. Owen came back with a spinning heel kick. Vega came back with a kick to the head, atomic drop and two clotheslines. Hard whip into the corner by Vega and a body slam followed by a leg drop got two. Sidewalk slam by Vega earned another two count. Owen came back with a neckbreaker and he went up top for a missile dropkick that got a two count. Owen went up top, Savio went after him and hit a back body drop off the top. Owen managed to hit Vega in the head with the cast on the way down. Owen took the cast off, hit Vega in the head with it then Owen slipped the cast back on. The ref didn’t see Owen hit him with it. Owen applied the Sharpshooter, Savio was out and that was it with Owen getting the win at 13:23.

Winner by submission: Owen Hart

Analysis: *** Good match to put over Owen as a crafty heel. A bit too slow early on with so many armbars by each guy, but it got better by the end. It wasn’t a clean win since Owen used the dreaded cast without the ref seeing it. I like how that was done. Owen was higher up on the totem pole than Savio Vega was, so it was no surprise that Owen got the win.

Post match, Hart celebrated with Clarence Mason by giving him a hug.

Justin Hawk Bradshaw walked out to ringside with Zebekiah. Bradshaw attacked Vega from behind with a clothesline to knock him down.

Mankind was in the Boiler Room as Todd Pettingill mentioned this is where Mankind’s match with The Undertaker will take place. Mankind licked one of the pipes, which was disgusting. Mankind warned Undertaker not to come in there because what awaits him is a fate worse than death.

Tag Team Championships Fatal 4-Way Elimination Match: Smoking Gunns w/Sunny (Billy & Bart Gunn) The New Rockers (Marty Jannetty & Leif Cassiday) vs. The Bodydonnas (Skip & Zip) vs. The Godwinns w/Hillbilly Jim (Henry O. Godwinn & Phineas I. Godwinn)

(Pre-match notes: Smoking Gunns, New Rockers and Bodydonnas were heels while The Godwinns were faces. Sunny is wearing a black leather bra and a short skirt. In other words, she looked tremendous especially when I was nearly 16 years old watching this for the first time. Sunny in her prime was fantastic.)

Skip had a neckbrace on. Henry worked on Billy with punches and then he did a huge slam that sent Billy face first into the mat. Phineas knocked down Zip with a shoulder tackle. Both guys tagged out and brought both Smoking Gunns in. The Gunns tried to tag out, but the Godwinns dropped down to the floor. Bart tagged Zip back in, so that was a waste of minute for nothing. Zip took care of Billy with several arm drags. Marty tripped Zip and Billy pinned Zip to eliminate him.

Eliminated by pinfall: Bodydonnas

Analysis: Skip had a legit neck injury at the time and didn’t take part in the match.

Cassidy (later known as Al Snow) hit a knee to the back of Henry and tagged in with a clothesline. The New Rockers worked with the Smoking Gunns on Henry with some quick tags between them. Cassidy accidentally knocked down Billy with a punch after Henry moved out of the way. Henry hit a sidewalk slam on Billy. Gunns and Rockers argued, so Godwinns took advantage by cleaning house. Back elbow by Henry. Cassidy rollup on Henry, who powered out and Jannetty was in the ring. Slop Drop (reverse DDT) by Henry on Jannetty for the pin.

Eliminated by pinfall: The New Rockers

Bart slammed Henry and the crowd was dead for this. Henry hit a boot to the face followed by a huge clothesline with Bart doing a flip bump to sell it. Bart was back in control with some knee drops. Billy tagged in to call Henry a “big sissy” as the crowd remained quiet. Atomic drop by Henry on Bart. Billy went for a splash in the corner, but Henry caught him and slammed him down. Hot tag to Phineas against Bart. Phineas cleaned house and Henry hit a clothesline on Bart to send him out of the ring. Bart sent Henry into the steps while the ref was distracted by Jim and Sunny on the floor. Bart jumped off the top rope with a double axe to the back and put Billy on top of Phineas for the win at 12:18.

Eliminated by pinfall: The Godwinns

Winners: The Smoking Gunns

Analysis: * Boring match. The tag division was not very good at this time even though Vinny Mac was trying to push that idea on commentary. The crowd was dead for most of it, which shows how little the fans cared about the tag division at this moment. The four-way format wasn’t very common in this era, so that’s why the eliminations were poor. They have improved the way they did eliminations in the last decade that’s for sure. Sunny’s outfit was definitely the highlight of this match.

Post match, Sunny did a promo with the Smoking Gunns. She said the Smoking Gunns are what real men are supposed to look like. Sunny ripped on the fat, out of shape women, so she had a gift to make the building look better. It was a large picture of Sunny above the ring. That ended it.

Analysis: This was the start of WWE starting to push sex appeal. Sunny was the first woman that was really focused on in that regard. She was a part of SummerSlam a year earlier, but didn’t dress in an outfit that was that revealing.

There was s video about some events that WWE superstars took part in during SummerSlam weekend in Cleveland.

Sycho Sid was interviewed by Dok Hendrik. Sid did one of his rambling promos about how he’s going to take one more step to the top.

Analysis: A few months earlier it was going to be The Ultimate Warrior against Bulldog, but Warrior left WWE again before this show and they brought in Sid.

British Bulldog vs. Sycho Sid

(Pre-match notes: Bulldog was the heel that was usually managed by Jim Cornette, but no Corny at ringside. Sid was the face or at least was cheered like it.)

Sid with a clothesline early followed by a body slam as Bulldog rolled to the floor. Fans chanted “Sycho Sid” for the big man. Back in the ring, Sid hit another body slam. Bulldog with a boot to the face and a delayed suplex. Clarence Mason was at ringside supporting Bulldog. Headlock by Bulldog. There was some offense for Bulldog as he hit a clothesline on Sid to knock him out of the ring. With Sid on the apron, Bulldog hit another clothesline to knock him down. Bulldog picked Sid up and hit a suplex that sent Sid’s midsection into the top rope for a two count. Sid got some momentum back with a splash in the corner. Bulldog moved out of the way of a charge attempt by Sid. Running Powerslam by Bulldog, which was his finisher. Cornette was at ringside yelling at Mason for trying to steal his clients. Sid avoided another Powerslam and hit a huge Chokeslam. Sid picked up Bulldog and hit a Powerbomb that looked very impressive. Sid covered for the win at 6:24.

Winner by pinfall: Sycho Sid

Analysis: *1/2 Quick match to put over Sid in a big way. Smart move to have Sid in a shorter match since he was a below-average in-ring performer. Sid could get big reactions, though, so that’s what mattered. The story was that Bulldog lost because the guys on the floor distracted him and allowed Sid to make the comeback win.

There was a commercial for In Your House Mind Games from September 1996. That was headlined by Michaels vs. Mankind, which is an awesome match with a crappy finish.

Goldust made his entrance with Marlena with the announcers pushing the story that Goldust was infatuated with Sable.

Marc Mero with Sable was interviewed by Todd Pettengill. A clip aired of Mankind calling Sable “mommy” for some reason. Mero said Goldust will be a falling star.

Vince said that Marc and Sable were “very special people” twice as they made their entrance.

Goldust (w/Marlena) vs. “Wild Man” Marc Mero (w/Sable)

(Pre-match notes: They were both married couples at the time. Both couples ended up getting divorced. Goldust was the heel and Mero was a face. There have been stories told by Steve Austin and Mick Foley about how Vince was so enamored with Marc Mero that he paid him more than he paid Steve and Mick, so Vince tried hard to get Marc over.)

Mero hit a running cross body block early for a two count. Mero slapped on an armbar and sent Goldust into the turnbuckle. Uppercut punch by Goldust followed by a back body drop that sent Mero over the top to the floor. Sable checked on Mero on the floor. With Mero on the apron, Goldust hit him with a forearm to the back that sent Goldust into the barricade at ringside. Goldust continued the attack on the floor before rolling him back in for a two count. Weak clothesline by Goldust got a two count as Mankind made his way down to the ring. Mankind went over to Sable as she started screaming about it. Referees went down to ringside and Mankind left. Goldust slapped on a headlock during that. Knee to the ribs by Goldust got a two count. Mero got some punches to start a comeback followed by an atomic drop and a leaping clothesline. Back body drop by Mero followed by a knee lift. The crowd was dead for most of this with Vince trying to put over how exciting Mero was. They did a spot by the ropes where Mero used his legs to send Goldust over the top to the floor. Mero hit a somersault dive over the top onto Goldust on the floor. That was good. Leg drop over the apron by Mero followed by a body slam. Mero went up top, Marlena was on the apron distracting the ref and Mero hit the Wild Thing Shooting Star Press. That drew a good reaction. The ref was slow to count, so Goldust got his shoulder up. Goldust with a back elbow, but Mero came back with a powerslam for two. Goldust whipped Mero into the corner and picked him up for the Curtain Call slam for the pinfall win at 11:01.

Winner by pinfall: Goldust

Analysis: *1/2 Boring match by two midcard wrestlers that should have been able to have a better match on this stage. The Shooting Star Press by Mero was a fresh move in a WWE match and really stood out as impressive for him. The difference in the match was Marlena’s distraction when Mero had the match won and it led to Goldust getting the victory soon after.

Post match, Goldust creeped up behind Sable in the ring. Sable was freaked out about it. Goldust tried to kiss her, but Mero got back to his feet to break it up with punches. Mero put Goldust groin first onto the top rope and hit a dropkick to knock him out of the ring. Mero hit Goldust with a clothesline while he was out of the ring. Sable was shocked back in the ring and Mero went back in the ring to hug her.

There was a video about Intercontinental Champion Ahmed Johnson suffering a ruptured kidney in late July and then won a battle royal to earn a shot at the Intercontinental Title. A week later, Ahmed was rushed to the hospital to treat the kidney and the surgery was a success. That led to WWF President Gorilla Monsoon saying that the IC Title was vacant. Ahmed said he’ll do whatever it takes to get back.

Analysis: Johnson returned to action later in the year.

Faarooq walked out with his manager Sunny for an interview with Todd Pettengill. That was Ron Simmons with the silly blue helmet on his head.

Faarooq (Asad) wondered where Gorilla Monsoon was to hand him the IC Title. Faarooq said that he should be the IC Champion and there shouldn’t be a tournament. Sunny said that Faarooq is what a real man is all about and he is her special modern-day gladiator. Sunny said that they can have that tournament, but she thinks that Faarooq will be the next IC Champion.

Analysis: It was just a basic promo to fill some time to tell the story about the IC Title situation. The tournament was won by Marc Mero. If you’re wondering, the “Asad” name was dropped from the Faarooq name.

A video package aired about Jake Roberts’ feud with Jerry Lawler, which was built around Lawler mocking Roberts for being a recovering alcoholic.

There was an introduction for Mark Henry, who had just represented the United States at the Olympics. He was billed as the “World’s Strongest Man” like he has been known for most of his career. Henry went to the ring and then joined commentary.

Analysis: It’s over 20 years later and Henry is still a part of WWE although he’s not an active competitor anymore.

Jerry Lawler brought down a bag to the ring. He gave it to the referee of the match, who was Harvey Wippleman. Lawler wore a Baltimore Ravens jersey of QB Vinny Testaverde to get some heat. Lawler is actually a Cleveland sports fan, but it was a good way to get heat. Lawler brought out some Jim Beam and Jack Daniels whiskey saying that they are for Roberts. Lawler ripped on how ugly Jake’s wife was. Lawler mocked Henry for not winning any medals at the Olympics. Lawler’s standup act was finally interrupted by the entrance of Roberts. Lawler had his bag with him with the snake in it.

Roberts was in the ring. Lawler told him to hold it because nobody said it was “last call.” Lawler said he doesn’t like what Roberts has in his bag, but he has something that Roberts will like. Lawler opened his bag and took out a huge bottle of booze. Roberts opened up his bag and took out the snake. Roberts put the snake on Lawler’s head. Lawler ran away. The crowd loved that angle.

Analysis: Fun angle before the match to humiliate Lawler. If it ended there without a match that would have been great.

Roberts put the snake back in the bag and Lawler slowly went back into the ring. Lawler left the ring again, so Roberts went after him.

Jake “The Snake” Roberts vs. Jerry “The King” Lawler

(Pre-match notes: Roberts was the face and Lawler was the heel.)

Roberts started off in control with punches and a kick to the groin when the ref was looking away. Roberts with a body slam on Lawler on the floor. Roberts sent Lawler into the ring post. Lawler grabbed some drink from the fan and tossed it into Jake’s face. Roberts hit his short arm clothesline. Lawler had brought one of the liquor bottles in the ring. Lawler grabbed the ref to avoid the DDT. Lawler had the whiskey bottle and hit Roberts in the throat with it. Lawler covered, pulled the tights and covered to win at 4:07.

Winner by pinfall: Jerry Lawler

Analysis: -* Bad match that was designed to get Lawler a lot of heat. The story carried it and the match was poor.

Post match, Lawler said that Roberts’ throat was dry and that he needed another drink. Lawler poured some of the booze on Roberts’ face. Vince said this is no time for humor. Lawler grabbed the second bottle of booze and Henry got up to stop Lawler from pouring it on Roberts. Lawler backed away to end the segment. JR said that was not an athletic contest and that it was a humiliation. That’s one way of putting it accurately.

Analysis: There was a brief feud between Henry and Lawler, but it really didn’t go very far or produce anything interesting.

A video package aired about the Mankind feud with Undertaker that started five months earlier with Mankind attacking Undertaker at various moments.

Paul Bearer made his entrance. He brought out the urn. The winner of this match has to retrieve the urn at ringside.

Boiler Room Brawl: Mankind vs. The Undertaker

(Pre-match notes: Mankind was the heel and Undertaker was the face.)

The Undertaker was shown approaching the boiler room. Undertaker slowly looked around for Mankind in the boiler room. After a few minutes, Mankind was shown walking up from behind and he hit in him the back with some pipe. Mankind attacked with a piece of wood. Undertaker came back by hitting him with a trash can lid and Mankind hit some neckbreaker like move on some wood. Mankind shoved him into some steel pipes that were there. Mankind attacked with a trash can to the back. Undertaker found some metal pole to attack with, but Mankind avoided a big shot from it. Mankind sprayed some sort of gas onto him. Mankind tried another trash can attack, but Taker got it from him and Taker hit him in the back with the trash can. Taker hit him in the head with a wooden pallet. Mankind came back with some sort of metal pipe and hit him in the groin two times with it. Mankind whipped him into a steel door followed by a running knee attack on Taker against the door. Mankind climbed a ladder that was in there and dropped an elbow on Taker. Mankind had some piece of wood and hit Taker in the back with it. They ended up brawling on the floor as some technical difficulties took place and the crowd was booing in the arena. Mankind sent up a ladder against a wall, he climbed up the ladder and Taker sat up. Taker pulled the ladder over leading to Mankind landing on some conveniently placed boxes. Taker shoved him back first into the wall. Taker was nearly out the door, so Mankind hit him in the knee with a chain. Taker decked him with a punch and a stomp. They fought by the exit door. Taker sprayed him with a fire extinguisher to the face. Taker was out the door, but Mankind brought him back in. Mankind shut the door on him. Mankind put objects against the door to try to keep Undertaker from following him. Taker managed to knock him down. They went through the backstage area on their way to the ring with other wrestlers there. Stone Cold and Bradshaw were together back there. Mankind shoved objects in Taker’s way and was ahead of him. Mankind had a tray of hot coffee and threw it onto Taker. Mankind entered the arena.

Analysis: That was all pre-taped the night before on Saturday, which was a smart way to film it the way they wanted to make it look live.

They were in the arena with Undertaker hitting a clothesline and 2×4 wood shot to the back of Mankind. They went brawling towards the ring. Bearer was in the ring holding the urn. Mankind ripped apart part of the mat outside the ring and tossed Undertaker into the steps. The mat was exposed at ringside as Mankind hit a pulling piledriver on the floor. Mankind crawled into the ring. Taker came back with punches. They brawled on the ring apron with Taker sending him off the apron leading to a hard bump on the back from Mankind. That looked nasty and sounded terrible too. Mankind took the craziest bumps like that. Taker went in the ring, went to one knee in front of Bearer and Bearer didn’t give him the urn. Mankind back in the ring and he applied the Mandible Claw in the throat of Undertaker. Bearer was laughing about it as Mankind took down Undertaker. Bearer shined the urn, Mankind wanted it and Undertaker sat up, so Mankind applied the Mandible Claw again. Mankind held Undertaker and Bearer slapped him repeatedly. Undertaker crawled towards Bearer, so Bearer hit him in the head with the urn. Mankind was given the urn by Bearer and Bearer hugged him. Mankind wins at 26:40.

Winner: Mankind

Analysis: ***1/2 Really good match that helped to set something of a standard in terms of the WWE hardcore match style in the years to come. It was also a historically important story because it was the heel turn of Paul Bearer that shocked the world at the time. I didn’t think that was going to happen, so when it did that’s what people really got out of this match. Don’t discredit the work in the match, though. They had a very physical brawl and it was a long match that went nearly 30 minutes. That’s not easy to do. Some of it was a bit boring, but I liked it because it put over how personal of a rivalry this was and the ending with the Bearer turn was a huge moment as I mentioned.

Post match, Mankind and Bearer walked away together looking happy about what they did. It was the end of Bearer’s friendship with Undertaker after six years together.

The Undertaker was taken away by druids to end the story for this night.

Analysis: There wasn’t a long absence for Undertaker even with the druids showing up to take him away. He was back on TV the next night.

Vader and Jim Cornette were interviewed by Dok Hendrix backstage. Cornette did a great promo about how Vader is going to beat Michaels to win the WWE Title while Vader made angry faces.

Analysis: Vader had a lot of credibility going into this match. He was a former WCW World Champion from earlier in the decade and was booked like an unbeatable monster during his first year in WWE leading up to this match.

Shawn Michaels, the WWE Champion, made his entrance with manager/mentor Jose Lothario. Huge pop for Michaels.

WWE Championship: Shawn Michaels (w/Jose Lothario) vs. Vader (w/Jim Cornette)

(Pre-match notes: Michaels was the face champion and Vader was the heel challenger.)

Vader punched him down early and hit a clothesline. Michaels came back with a dropkick that knocked him down. They did a spot where Michaels ducked as they were running towards the ropes, so Vader went over the top to the floor. Michaels with a baseball slide dropkick followed by a dive over the top onto Vader. Michaels sent Vader back in the ring and hit a double ax. Michaels hit a hurricanrana on Vader, which isn’t easy to do on a big guy like Vader, so credit Vader for doing it too. Michaels was on his shoulders and flipped over to send Vader over the top to the floor. Michaels went for an attack on the floor, but Vader caught him and hit a Powerbomb on the floor. After a lot of selling of that move, Vader carried Michaels back into the ring. Vader overpowered Michaels with punches in the corner and a suplex. Vader with two hard whips into the corner as Michaels bumped over the top to the floor. Back in the ring, Vader hit a back body drop as Cornette told him to stay on him. Michaels tried a comeback, but Vader stopped his momentum with a clothesline. Michaels was sent over the top, but he did the skin the cat move to get back, which led to Vader grabbing him and tossing him across the ring. Great power counter by Vader. Michaels powered out of a headlock with a knee to the gut, clothesline that had no effect and Vader stepped on his chest. Vader went for a splash, but Michaels got his knee up to the groin of Vader. Running clothesline by Michaels knocked down Vader to earn a good pop. Michaels up top, he jumps, lands on his feet, Vader doesn’t move and Shawn yells “MOVE!” at him. Shawn yells at him again and stomps on his head. Vader was supposed to move for that sport, but he must have forgotten. Michaels could have handled it in a better way. They did a spot by the ropes where Michaels ran the ropes, Vader caught him and they went tumbling over the top to the floor. Vader whipped Michaels back first into the side of the ring and dropped him throat first onto the barricade. Vader rolled into the ring as the ref counted Michaels out.

Vader was announced as the winner by countout. Cornette grabbed the microphone. Cornette said they don’t want it like that. Cornette told Michaels if he had guts he should get back in the ring to fight again. Michaels nearly left, but then he went back into the ring to restart the match.

Vader nailed Michaels with a punch on the floor. Cornette hit Michaels in the back with a tennis racket while the ref tried to keep Lothario back. Back in the ring, Vader with a corner splash followed by a belly-to-bely suplex for two. Michaels came back with punches and running forearm leading to the kip up as the crowd went wild. Michaels up top and he hit a lefty elbow drop off the top. The ref looked at Vader, so Cornette grabbed Shawn’s leg. Cornette threw the tennis racket in the ring. The ref tried to get Cornette down, so Shawn grabbed the racket and hit Vader with. Referee Earl Hebner saw that and called for the disqualification. Michaels hit Cornette with the racket too. Vader grabbed a steel chair, but other refs and officials went into the ring.

Cornette did another promo saying that it’s not going to end with Michaels getting himself disqualified on purpose. Cornette said if Shawn has any guts then they should get the match started again. WWF President Gorilla Monsoon was in there and he restarted the match.

Vader missed a sitting splash. Michaels decked him with a forearm to the face. Michaels up top and he hit another lefty elbow drop. Michaels hit the Sweet Chin Music superkick for two as Vader kicked out. The thing about that as Vader didn’t get his shoulder up in time, so it was really a three count, but ref Hebner stopped the count. Vader shoved Michaels into Hebner, who bumped to the floor. Vader hit a Powerbomb. The ref was out on the floor, but ref Mike Chioda went in there to count a two count. Two great nearfalls in a row. Vader set up Michaels towards the ropes, climbed the ropes and Cornette told him to go to the top rope. Vader went for a moonsault, but Michaels moved out of the way. Michaels went up top, hit a moonsault onto a standing Vader and covered Vader for the one…two…and three. Vader kicked out right after the three count. It went 22:58.

Winner by pinfall: Shawn Michaels

Analysis: ****1/4 It was a very good match even with the false finishes. If they had a better finish maybe we would be talking about this as one of the best SummerSlam matches ever, but it’s still an awesome match. I liked the spots late in the match where Michaels hit a superkick and Vader kicked out (sort of) because that wasn’t done that often. Michaels also managed to kick out of the Powerbomb as well. Easy story to tell with the overpowering heel in Vader and Michaels as the sympathetic face. Listen to the crowd. They got into it from the beginning and it didn’t stop 25 minutes later. It’s too bad that Shawn didn’t like working with Vader because they could have had more classic matches together since it’s an easy story to tell with a great big man and an athletic smaller wrestler. This should have led to another major PPV match between them, but that’s not what happened.

Bonus Analysis: I listened to the end of Bruce Prichard’s podcast about SummerSlam 1996 and he said that there wasn’t supposed to be a title change like most people thought. The plan was to have some kind of controversial finish in this match and then Vader would win the title at Survivor Series 1996 followed by Michaels getting it back at Royal Rumble 1997, but that didn’t happen. Vader was replaced in that spot with Sid because Michaels didn’t like working with Vader (due to Vader hitting Shawn a bit too hard, I guess) and Michaels was in a position where he got what he wanted. Vader was never booked as a consistent main eventer in WWE again.

Post match, officials went into the ring to get Vader out of there to prevent a further attack.

Michaels celebrated with the WWE Title to end the show as Vince signed off.

The show had a runtime of 2:50:53.


– The last two matches really saved this show from being a stinker. It’s still just an average show overall, but the main event is a fun match even though there were several false finishes.

– I enjoyed the Bearer turn to help Mankind win. If you watched the show live back in 1996 then you would remember how big of a moment it was when Bearer turned on Undertaker. If you never saw it live then you may think it’s just another heel turn, but it was pretty significant since they had six years of history together.

– I think keeping Steve Austin off the main PPV show was a massive booking disaster because of how hot he was that summer. This is two months after he won King of the Ring with the amazing “Austin 3:16” promo and he’s not in a featured match? Lame. Plus, his presence would have helped the undercard because they could have used a better match that Austin could have provided. He was only on the pre-show at this event.

– Lawler vs. Roberts was worse than I remembered. It also took up way too much with all of the pre and post-match talking. Roberts ended up out of the company soon after because his drinking problems resurfaced.

– The show was a major failure in terms of PPV buyrates with 157,000 buys, which was the lowest PPV buys in SummerSlam history. Part of the reason is that WCW was really hot at the time and they were doing PPVs too, so their success definitely hurt WWE. What’s incredible about the numbers is that two years later WWE did 700,000 buys with Austin vs. Undertaker in the main event, so it shows how much better the company was doing with over four times as many buys just two years later.

Show rating (out of 10): 6.5

It’s a tough show to rate because there’s some bad stuff on here. However, the two heavily promoted matches were by far the best two parts of the show (Michaels/Vader and Mankind/Undertaker) and they were both great matches. Plus, the drama of Bearer turning on Undertaker was a huge thing when it happened. When the two biggest matches deliver quality performances then that helps the overall show.


  1. Shawn Michaels
  2. Vader
  3. The Undertaker
  4. Mankind
  5. Paul Bearer


Best Match: Shawn Michaels vs. Vader (****1/4)

Worst Match: Jerry Lawler vs. Jake Roberts (-*)

Most Memorable Moment: Bearer turning heel on Undertaker was most memorable because they were together for six years. It was a huge moment when Bearer went against Taker.


That’s all for me. Check out the full list of my WWE PPV Review archive right here. Thanks for reading.

My contact info is below.

John Canton


Twitter @johnreport