Retro Review: WWE SummerSlam ’88 – The Mega Powers Run Wild, Brother!

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3.9BAD

WWF's late-80s tag team division (and I do include a shockingly cohesive Hogan and Savage duo in that equation) showed up with three memorable performances, propping up an otherwise entirely forgettable, and at times painful, first ever SummerSlam. While historic, this one's better served just checking out the highlights.

  • British Bulldogs vs Fabulous Rougeaus6.5
  • Bad News Brown vs Ken Patera2
  • Junkyard Dog vs. Rick Rude2.5
  • Powers of Pain vs. The Bolsheviks2.5
  • Dino Bravo vs. Don Muraco3.5
  • Demolition vs. The Hart Foundation6
  • Koko vs Big Boss Man2
  • Jake Roberts vs Hercules3.5
  • Mega Powers vs. Mega Bucks6.5
  • User Ratings (10 Votes)7.5

WWE SummerSlam ’88 Review
Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
August 29, 1988

I did a whole series of these Retro Reviews going into Extreme Rules and they were all relatively well-received, so I figured why not go back through the much deeper and more interesting history of the annual SummerSlam pay-per-view. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the first one. Outside of the main event, which is just ingrained into the minds of anybody who grew up watching WWF from this era, I’m basically going into this show blind. Let’s see how it goes!

* * * * *

— Gorilla Monsoon welcomes us to Madison Square Garden and runs through just about every single one of his keywords. The excitement, the pandemonium – it’s a happening! He’s joined by Superstar Billy Graham who says Hulk Hogan is his personal hero.

The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers vs. The British Bulldogs (Davey Boy Smith & Dynamite Kid)

It was all Bulldogs for the first few minutes, as Davey Boy bludgeoned Jacques with a dozen lariats in the corner, and Raymond suffered the same fate and was worked over for quite some time with quick tags. He eventually showed some life with a few great pinning combinations, but Dynamite hit him from behind to save his partner and the two went right back to work on Ray.

Jacques finally succeeded in attacking Davey Boy with a cheap shot on the apron and the Rougeaus went right to work on him. They targeted his knee, stomping away on it in between nasty submission holds, including an Indian Deathlock from Raymond. Davey narrowly stole the match with a surprise small package, but didn’t quite get it and the brothers went right back after him.

Dynamite eventually got the hot tag and started suplexing his opponents left and right. He dropped three or four headbutts on Ray for a nearfall and threw him out to the floor, and an all-out brawl broke out between all four guys. Davey dropped one of them with the running powerslam, but the other quickly broke it up and the Rougeaus double-teamed him with heavy suplexes and put the boots to him in the corner.

The shenanigans continued as Jacques applied an abdominal stretch with leverage from his partner and a handful of tights. Dynamite made the save but with the referee distracted dealing with him, Ray traded places with his brother and maintained the hold. This went on for several minutes with the Rougeaus constantly taking cheap shots and playing the ref, getting all the cheap heat in the world. When Davey Boy finally made the hot tag, the ref was once again distracted and didn’t see it – I thought the crowd was about to storm the ring at that one.

After an eternity Davey Boy finally got a legitimate hot tag and crotched his opponent on the ropes. The Bulldogs went wild with rights and lefts on both guys, before Dynamite got thrown into a diving headbutt. He makes the cover, but the other Rougeau was arguing with the referee, and the bell started ringing. We have a 20-minute time limit draw.

A good old school tag team match with the tried-and-true formula firmly intact. The heels worked a bulk of the action, targeted limbs, did everything to get cheap heat, and the Bulldogs got the crowd behind them for the hot tags. It worked then, it still works now. The pacing was a bit slow at times, but really picked up in all the chaos later on. I’m not a huge fan of the time limit draw here. I can see why they chose to do it, but it made this come across like an early chapter in this story rather than the epic conclusion at SummerSlam. The match was generally enjoyable, but I ultimately left unsatisfied due to the finish. 

Rating: 6.5/10


— Brutus Beefcake was supposed to challenge for the Intercontinental Championship later in the night, but we are shown footage of the “Outlaw” Ron Bass attacking him with the spikes of his cowboy boots, bleeding him badly. We’re told the title will still be on the line later, but the challenger will remain a mystery…

Bad News Brown vs. Ken Patera

I hope you know who Ken Patera is because he didn’t even get an introduction before Brown was all over him with clubbing blows in the ropes. Patera came back with a few clotheslines here and there, but the first few minutes were largely a total one-sided beatdown. Brown looked like a monster choking his opponent in the ropes, not giving a damn about the referee or any of his warnings.

Patera just sort of took complete control of the match randomly, and before I knew it was working over Brown with a bear hug, who was selling it like God himself was squeezing the life out of him. Patera continued for far too long with some basic offense building towards an incredibly ugly, botched whip into the corner. Brown sent him into the steel post and hit the Ghetto Blaster to win.

Bad News should have squashed Patera in less than two minutes and saved us all from this needless mess. I’ve got no idea why they needed almost 7 minutes here, or why Patera had such a lengthy run of offense in the last few minutes – let alone a bearhug spot!? I know Bad News was new in the company at the time, and maybe he didn’t want to, or didn’t know to say anything. Maybe Patera thought he was still pushing 300 pounds. I don’t know, but under no circumstances should he have had that much offense in that match. 

Rating: 2/10


Junyard Dog vs. Rick Rude

Rude has his opponent air-brushed onto his tights, because he’s the G.O.A.T. He tried to attack from behind before the match got started, but JYD saw it coming and dumped him on his ass, then dropped a few headbutts to get rolling. Rude bailed outside and got some advice from Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, before going back on offense with heavy knee strikes to the back of the head. He kept dropping them one after another, but JYD refused to stay down much to the delight of the crowd.

Dog tried to rally with big right fists but got caught with boots in the corner, and Rude took him right back to the mat with a side headlock. The charismatic one did a bit too much gyrating however, and JYD nailed him with a headbutt. Heenan got up on the apron and Dog went after him, allowing Rude to do another “Pearl Harbor Job” from behind – god bless you, Gorilla. Jake Roberts came running out of nowhere and attacked Rude, forcing the referee to call the match. Rude is awarded the match via DQ and the Junkyard Dog is not happy about it.

Another rough match. At the very least the natural charisma of both guys made it somewhat watchable. JYD was over and Rude was at his absolute best as a heel here. Unfortunately, they tried to serve too many masters and in promoting Rude’s issues with Jake Roberts, they sort of gave up any chance of trying to have a good SummerSlam match. Not to mention, another non-finish…

Rating: 2.5/10


— Intercontinental Champion Honkey Tonk Man and Jimmy Hart are interviewed backstage. They refuse to hear who the challenger is tonight because HTM is that confident, and wants to be surprised when he goes to the ring tonight. We’ll see how that works out for him…

Powers of Pain (The Barbarian & The Warlord) vs. The Bolsheviks (Boris & Nikolai Volkoff) 

Basic brawling early on. The Bolsheviks dominated after interference from their manager, the legendary Baron Van Raschke. The worked over The Warlord with every cheap play they could think of, including choking him with the tag rope, smashing him into the ring steps, blatant double teams, etc.

When Barbarian tags in his goes wild with big boots and running knees to both opponents. Boris got sent flying out of the ring and the Powers of Pain leveled Volkoff with a double running shoulder tackle. Warlord hit a running powerslam in the middle of the ring, and Barbarian followed with a diving headbutt off the top rope. It’s over.

A quick and simple match. How did the Powers of Pain not get in trouble for having the same exact finishing combination as the British Bulldogs? They couldn’t really do much else, to be fair, and it showed. This was not good, but at least it had an actual finish…

Rating: 2.5/10


— Brother Love does an in-ring segment with Hacksaw Jim Duggan, who the crowd pops big for when he’s revealed as the special guest. Love goes on and on about how he “has no love in his heart” for anything, and claims that Dino Bravo was a real patriot and his people loved him. Duggan freaked out on him for questioning his patriotism, and said they were in a WWF ring not Sunday school. He gave Brother Love to the count of five to leave the ring or be hit with the 2×4 so of course they teased it right up until the last second, and Love nearly peed his pants trying to get out of the ring and escape from Duggan. A classic segment. The crowd loved seeing Hacksaw and reacted well to the whole thing, more or less.

The Honkey Tonk Man (c) vs. ??? for the WWF Intercontinental Championship

The champion did a little dancing and gyrating in the ring with his title, clearly not sweating whoever this mystery opponent is. He even grabbed a microphone and demanded some competition, claiming “I don’t even care who it is!”

The Ultimate Warrior is here! Madison Square Garden has come absolutely unglued! The bell has rung and Warrior hoists up Honkey with a huge military press slam. The running splash connects! 1…2…3! We have a new WWF Intercontinental Champion!

I’m not going to rate a 30-second match, but this is one of the all-time great moments in SummerSlam history. There were few wrestlers hated more in ’88 than Honkey Tonk Man, and after Brutus got taken out of the title match The Garden wanted to see the champion get his ass kicked. The reaction for Warrior and the even bigger reaction for him winning the title, finally dethroning HTM’s reign of terror – classic 80s WWF. 


Dino Bravo vs. Don Muraco

Bobby Heenan joined commentary to yell over the entire match and talk trash with Superstar Billy Graham.

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Muraco impressed early with some big body slams and an armdrag sending Bravo bailing to the outside. They locked up again and Rock hit him with more armdrags and a powerslam, before working his opponent over in the corner with big shoulder thrusts and kicks.

Bravo just sort of took over at one point and started teeing off with heavy right hands. He hit a body slam of his own before completely whiffing a running elbow drop. Rock threw him with a big back body drop and kicked Frenchy in the gut for good measure. Bravo took advantage of the distraction to hit a sidewalk slam to win.

You know I didn’t hate this… It certainly wasn’t a great match, and objectively perhaps it wasn’t even a good one, but I enjoyed watching two brutes throw each other around while Bobby Heenan and Superstar Graham screamed at each other on commentary. If you’re looking for anything beyond that, you’ve come to the wrong place. 

Rating: 3.5/10


Demolition (Ax & Smash) (c) vs. The Hart Foundation (Bret Hart & Jim Neidhart) for the WWF World Tag Team Championships

Bret came out of the gate swinging with wild rights and lefts, before sending Smash flying with armdrags. Neidhart hit a double axhandle from the top rope and went at him with mounted punches, until Ax attacked him from behind to save his partner. Demolition works him over a bit with quick tags until Bret came back in and dropkicked both opponents.

Things were going well for the Foundation until Jimmy Hart distracted the referee, and Mr. Fuji delivered a can shot to Bret’s back. That’s right – two managers for the heel champions here! This time when Demolition took control, they stayed in control, grinding away at Bret’s bad arm and shoulder with every move and submission. Constant interference from the managers. At one point they even threw Bret shoulder-first into the ring post. He managed to finally get the hot tag, but the ref had his hands full again and missed it.

Hart did eventually get a proper hot tag tag and Neidhart cleaned house with big dropkicks and shoulder tackles. He did a plancha to the floor taking out both champions, for easily the biggest pop of the night so far. He hits the running powerslam on Ax for two-and-a-half, but Smash made the save and put the boots to the big man. This turned into a wild brawl, and Neidhart finally got his hands on Mr. Fuji. In all the chaos Jimmy Hart blasted Bret with his microphone, allowing the champions to cover him to retain.

Finally, another good match! They’re really making us work for our enjoyment on this PPV but the tag team division is at least going out of its way to provide some totally serviceable matches. The crowd was so into the Hart Foundation here. I thought it was the right moment to do the title change, and I stand by that thinking with the MSG crowd being as hot for them as they were, but I guess WWF didn’t share that sentiment at the time. 

Rating: 6/10


Koko B. Ware vs. Big Boss Man

The Boss Man had Slick in his corner who took a few blatant cheap shots before the match began, allowing the big guy to throw Koko around the ring like a ragdoll. Koko fought back and trapped his opponent in the ropes, firing off with big right hams to the side of the head. Boss Man responded with a running headbutt and was in control just like that, following with a huge splash in the corner. He hit a clothesline and went for the cover, but refused to end the match and picked Koko back up instead.

B. Ware eventually surprised his opponent with a flipping kick to the jaw, but Boss Man didn’t stay down long and dropped his full weight on the back of his head in the ropes. Boss Man went to the top rope and proceeded to hit one of the worst diving splashes of all time, landing on his feet/knees, Koko rolled out of the way, and Boss Man proceeded to immediately get up and no-sell it like it never happened. Good lord. Koko rallied back with shoulder tackles and a big running crossbody for a close call, but Boss Man flattened him with the sidewalk slam to put us all out of our misery.

There were flashes of an okay match hidden in there somewhere, but overall this was just…. yeah, not good at all. Everyone loves Koko but even his natural babyface fire and endless bounty of charisma wasn’t enough to save us from a bad Boss Man performance, and a poorly laid out match. 6 minutes that felt like 15 minutes.

Rating: 2/10


Jake Roberts vs. Hercules

Jake came out with his burlap sack and went for the snake right away, but Hercules blasted him from behind and put him in a side headlock. From that point on it was just a complete one-sided assault in favor of Hercules, who stayed on him for about five straight minutes with clubbing blows, knees to the back, big elbow drops, etc. Your basic strongman offense, with a few armdrags thrown in. Roberts at one point tried to free himself and got the crowd behind him, but Herc just nailed him in the back of the head and sent him to the floor.

Jake got hung up in the ropes but managed to flip his opponent to the floor. Hercules tried to put him back in a side headlock but got caught with a stunner, and Roberts began teeing off with rights and lefts. Hercules again slowed him down with a beer hug, and went right back to work. Eventually Jake caught him with an elbow and reversed a suplex, hitting the DDT out of nowhere to win. Hercules gets covered with Damien the giant ass snake after the match.

Nothing spectacular here, but I thought Hercules actually looked pretty good. Jake sold his ass off and tried to put the guy over as much as possible. They probably didn’t need a full 10 minutes to work, and could have fit what they had planned out in about half as much time, but compared to some other things on this card, they had a passable match. 

Rating: 3.5/10


“Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase & Andre the Giant (w/ Bobby Heenan) vs. “Macho Man” Randy Savage & Hulk Hogan (w/ Miss Elizabeth)

The crowd went absolutely nuts at the sound of the Macho Man’s “Pomp & Circumstance”, and the two icons entered together in matching red and gold ring gear, led to the ring by the gorgeous Miss Elizabeth. Jesse “The Body” Ventura came down as the special guest referee, and wasted no time getting in Hogan’s face.

Andre attacked from behind to get the main event started. DiBiase tagged himself in and demanded Hogan, trying to poke him in the eyes, but got his butt kicked all around the ring much to the delight of everyone in attendance. Savage tagged in and went wild on him with stiff right hands, and the Mega Powers took turns just beating him silly from post-to-post. Savage delivered a diving ax handle from the top rope, and Hogan followed with a big boot. Lots of impressive, cohesive offense from the babyfaces early on.

Hogan started firing off with rapid elbow drops on the mat, but Andre had enough and came in illegally to break it up. From there things slowed down quite a bit for several minutes, with the Giant working a side headlock mixed in with some basic powerhouse offense. The crowd got more and more behind Hogan, intensifying as Heenan interfered on the floor, and Andre at one point used his singlet to choke out his opponent in all the chaos.

Eventually the Macho Man made the hot tag and went nuts on DiBiase with the fans behind him. He hit a big back body drop and snapped his neck over the top rope, then delivered another diving double ax handle from on high. Savage shot off the ropes for a flying crossbody and got two, but Andre once again came in illegally and started pummeling him in the corner with shoulder thrusts and a giant splash.Ventura is useless as a ref as he’s clearly been paid off here by DiBiase and his cronies.

Things completely broke down as Andre beat up both babyfaces and threw them over the ropes. Ventura began a fast count on the outside, so MIss Elizabeth climbed up on the apron and started arguing with Heenan, Jimmy Hart, Ventura – everyone. She ripped off the bottom of her golden dress and stood on the apron in scandalous bright red tights, distracting everyone in the world as the crowd hooted and hollered. Hogan and Savage came from behind and cleaned house, working together to topple Andre. DiBiase took a body slam, the diving elbow drop from Savage, and the big leg drop from Hogan, and that’s all she wrote.

This was probably the best thing on the entire show. A very classic Hogan/Savage era main event match in every sense. It had all the beats from Hogan & Andre’s long and game-changing rivalry, a throwback to the WrestleMania IV main event between Savage and DiBiase, and with Ventura essentially bought and paid for, the deck was stacked against the babyfaces. The crowd was hot for the Mega Powers, who I can’t praise enough for having the chemistry of a veteran tag team in the ring together. I’ll even give credit to Hogan here, who actually worked at a pretty crisp and deliberate pace, especially early on. If you’re going to show anybody one match that incapsulates all of the most important aspects of WWF in the late 80s, this one’s got a little bit of everything. 

Rating: 6.5/10


Final Thoughts

WWF’s late-80s tag team division (and I do include a shockingly cohesive Hogan and Savage duo in that equation) showed up with three memorable performances, propping up an otherwise entirely forgettable, and at times painful, first ever SummerSlam. While historic, this one’s better served just checking out the highlights.