Throwback Thursday: Reminiscing On 1988’s First SummerSlam Ever


With the 30th annual SummerSlam just days away, I am taking this opportunity to relive the initial event. Today I read that the original plan was to bring in Ric Flair as a challenger for Randy Savage. Flair joined the promotion years later, as he was in the National Wrestling Alliance at that time. Today Flair is in critical condition after surgery. His fans have been all over social media, hoping their hero makes a full recovery.

In the past I had read that one idea was to have Hulk Hogan regain his title. This pay-per-view followed WrestleMania IV. We must first go back to that event, because it set up SummerSlam. The storylines and happenings leading up to SummerSlam were quite memorable. That created tremendous anticipation. Randy Savage won a tournament at WrestleMania to become the Undisputed WWF champion. There had been different plans for WrestleMania. In a shoot interview years later Bam Bam Bigelow claimed that he was going to be given the title, but he suffered an injury before WrestleMania. His championship plans were scrapped. Ted DiBiase was going to emerge as the champ, but when Honky Tonk Man refused to lose his Intercontinental Championship against Savage, Randy was given the WWF World Heavyweight Championship to keep him happy. If DiBiase had won, he would have faced Hogan at SummerSlam.

As for Honky, a WrestleMania rematch against Brutus Beefcake had been promoted. However, he jumped Ron Bass at a television taping earlier in August. When I noticed that Beefacke was scheduled for a match to be shown the Saturday morning before SummerSlam, I saw what was going to happen. I told a friend that Bass would get revenge, put Beefcake out of action, and Honky would face a substitute. My prediction for Beefcake’s replacement was also correct, but more on that in a bit. Early SummerSlam events like this one were held on a Monday night. The first one took place on August 29, 1988. Now all major WWF pay-per view cards are held on Sundays.

The Honky Tonk Man came out and did not know who he was facing. At least his character didn’t. Often a match other than the main event would steal the show or at least provide a memory that is discussed for years. Usually it was the Intercontinental Championship bout. As I had predicted, Honky lost his title to a man that had been conveniently left off SummerSlam’s card. The Ultimate Warrior ran out and easily defeated Honky to become champion.

However, the way he did it was impressive and unforgettable. Ring announcer Howard Finkel shrugged his shoulders when announcing who would challenge Honky as Beefcake’s substitute. Suddenly, Warrior’s music started playing. Fans cheered. He destroyed his opponent and won in 31 seconds. Things were different back then. There were no briefcases that symbolized an upcoming title shot. Honky had been the champion for over a year. Warrior’s win ended the longest Intercontinental title reign in WWF history. Honky actually held the belt for 454 days.

Summerslam’s main event was Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage against Andre the Giant and Ted DiBiase. This was billed as The Mega Powers going up against The Mega Bucks. Jesse Ventura was the special referee. As a commentator, Jesse rooted for the heel in just about every match. Also known as the bad guy. In his wrestling career, Jesse’s tactics made him a hated heel. This provided further intrigue. Miss Elizabeth was managing Savage and Hogan. She removed her skirt to distract the bad guys. This allowed Hogan and Savage to prevail. It was much classier than many would think. You can’t really understand without watching it. Again, it was a different time. Wrestling wasn’t so sexual and crazy 30 years ago. The Attitude Era had not yet arrived. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

Follow Joe on Twitter @FootballnHoops

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