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Case Number 16388: Small Claims Court

Buy WWE: Summerslam: The Complete Anthology, Volume 1 (1988-1992) at Amazon

WWE: Summerslam: The Complete Anthology, Volume 1 (1988-1992)

WWE // 2009 // 825 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis (Retired) // May 16th, 2009

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Editor's Note

Our reviews of WWE: SummerSlam 2008 (published October 10th, 2008), WWE: SummerSlam 2009 (published November 6th, 2009), WWE: SummerSlam 2010 (published November 7th, 2010), WWE: Summerslam 2011 (published October 27th, 2011), WWE: Summerslam: The Complete Anthology, Volume 2 (1993-1997) (published May 16th, 2009), WWE: Summerslam: The Complete Anthology, Volume 3 (1998-2002) (published October 5th, 2009), and WWE: Summerslam: The Complete Anthology, Volume 4 (2003-2007) (published October 15th, 2009) are also available.

The Charge

"Cut the music! What I'd like to have right now is for all you fat, ugly, inner city sweat hogs to keep the noise down while I take my robe off and show the ladies what a real sexy man looks like. Hit the music!"—"Ravishing" Rick Rude.

The Case

WWE, formerly the World Wrestling Federation, took giant steps to popularize professional wrestling in the mid-1980s through their innovation of Closed Circuit broadcasts and, later, Pay-Per-View. Wrestlemania was a massive success, and continued to get larger as the years passed, so Vince McMahon and Company decided to expand their PPV broadcasts with a summer spectacular. Taking place every year approximately six months after their big event, this show would give them the opportunity to finish feuds and start new ones as they hit the downhill slide to the next Wrestlemania. Let's take a look at a year-by-year rundown of the events, starting with the first volume, encompassing the first five events, from 1988 to 1992.

The inaugural Summerslam event features some of the best and worst of the early Pay-Per-View years. Calling the action are Gorilla Monsoon and Superstar Billy Graham, who loves to talk about what he would have done in the ring, an announcing trait that quickly wears thin. Anyway, most of the matches on this show are real dogs. Don Muraco vs. Dino Bravo is the epitome of what was wrong with wrestling in 1988. Honky Tonk Man's Intercontinental Title match against the Ultimate Warrior is famous for its brevity, but it's a travesty of a match that kicks off the abysmal and long championship career of the Warrior. The ridiculously over-hyped main event, in which the MegaPowers, Hulk Hogan and "Macho Man" Randy Savage, collides with the MegaBucks, "Million Dollar Man" Ted Dibiase and Andre the Giant, is a terrible match. Poor Andre can barely move and they cart him out for two more years. The show does have some highlights, however. It opens with the Rougeau Brothers taking on the British Bulldogs in a fast-paced, hard-hitting bout. And the Tag Title match between the Hart Foundation and Demolition is what old-school tag wrestling is all about.

The MegaPowers united last year, but a union of such mega-proportions could never survive. They collided at the following Wrestlemania and now clash once again, this time with tag partners. The Hulkster has brought his old friend Brutus "the Barber" Beefcake and Savage has enlisted Zeus, Hogan's dreaded opponent from No Holds Barred who vowed to take revenge for his onscreen loss in real life. Zeus is familiar with every wrestling move in the book, as long as it takes no skill, which pairs him nicely with Hogan for an abominable main event. This event, in general however, contains better matches than the first. The Hart Foundation against the Brain Busters (the team of Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard, from rival NWA's Four Horseman) is as good a tag match as you'll ever find. The six-man tag match that pits the Rockers and Tito Santana against the Rougeau Brothers and Rick Martel gives us a young Shawn Michaels already displaying some of his legendary skill. The then-WWF fared far better in 89 than in 88, and their shows continued to be inconsistent year to year.

Despite fully having their PPV feet underneath them, this year's Summerslam is a step backward. The only good matches are the Demolition vs. Hart Foundation title match, though we'd already seen in two years ago, and the contest between Dusty Rhodes and Randy Savage. This match is hindered dramatically by its surrounding angle: the betrayal of Dusty by sweet Sapphire, a woman brought in as Dusty's girlfriend but who looks homeless. The in-ring action is still solid, however. The real problem with this event is that the company was in full-on steroid mode, and the resulting juiced-up freaks simply can't move well enough to wrestle.

While America was at war for the first time in Iraq, Vince McMahon was cashing in on jingoistic sentiment back on the home front. Sgt. Slaughter and the Iron Sheik get carted out for one last go-around, though this time as allies. The Sarge had turned coat as an Iraqi sympathizer hell bent on destroying all things American, including Hulkamania! There are some pretty good matches on this card, otherwise, including the classic Intercontinental Title match between Bret Hart and Mr. Perfect. The event also features one of the more uncomfortable moments in Summerslam history with Virgil, Ted Dibiase's servant, breaking free of the Million Dollar Man's chains. 1991's edition of Summerslam, however, was about one thing: the wedding of "Macho Man" Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth, who had long since left Savage for the Hulkster. This "Match Made in Heaven" must have been humiliating for them.

This even is notable as the only major PPV even put on outside of North America. Coming to us from Wembley Stadium in London, England, there is also a strange but understandable match order that, in truth, I wish they'd employ more often. There is no better match on this card than Bret "Hitman" Hart vs. the British Bulldog, even if it is for a second-tier title. Let's face it, Ultimate Warrior vs. Randy Savage or Kamala vs. Undertaker won't sell out Wembley; not like having a countryman in the main event, at least. Otherwise, this is a lackluster show full of aging stars that signals one of the most dire periods for the WWE.

WWE has previously released the entire anthology of Summerslam events, and are now breaking the collection down into more reasonably priced sets so fans of particular eras can choose what they like. It's a good way to go, and old-school fans who left wrestling with the new breed of talent will continue to get a kick out of revisiting their old favorites. While some of the action on these five discs is high quality, much of it is sub-par, far below the level their competition was putting forth. McMahon had national penetration, though, making his wrestlers, lame as some of them were, household names everywhere instead of the particular region that most promotions worked in. The set itself is bare bones, but contains every event in its entirety, including those awful interviews by Lord Alfred Hayes. The image quality is on par with their original broadcasts, and get better as the years go on. Sound is completely clear but, as with the image, it reminds one of the advances in technology over twenty years. There are no extras. I have but one complaint about the collection: the packaging. I am completely in favor of eliminating the wasteful keep cases. This collection, to its credit, is a slim cardboard foldout package with slots for each disc. However, there is no protection for the discs; they slide around fairly freely, virtually guaranteeing damaged discs. Four of the five discs on this collection skipped directly out of the packaging. A little bit of cotton would help and add nothing to the weight or size to boot. Oh, well; can't win 'em all, I guess.

The Verdict

Not a great group of matches, but still not guilty. They'll get better as time goes on.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 85

Perp Profile

Studio: WWE
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 825 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Sports
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• None

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