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Leighty’s Retro Review: WWF SummerSlam 1996

September 11, 2023 | Posted by Robert Leighty Jr.
Shawn Michaels Image Credit: WWE/Peacock
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Leighty’s Retro Review: WWF SummerSlam 1996  

-We are nearly done with the year that was in PPV 1996. Next up is WCW Fall Brawl and then I will list my ranking of every WCW/WWE PPV match from the year. Let’s get to it!

-Announce Team: Vince McMahon, Mr. Perfect, and Jim Ross
-Date: Aug 18, 1996
-The Gund Arena, Cleveland, OH
-Attendance: 17,000
-PPV Buys: 157,000

Savio Vega vs. Owen Hart (w/ cast and Slammy)

-JR and Vince are wondering why Owen is still wearing the cast and Perfect is the voice of reason as he notes Owen has continued to work and keeps re-injuring it. Makes perfect sense! The ref warns Owen about using the cast as the crowd starts an “Owen” chant. That makes me smile! Savio goes right after the bad arm, but Owen goes to the eyes. Savio goes back and starts ramming the arm on the top buckle and gets an arm-drag as JR wonders how Owen passed his physical if his arm is broken. The camera cuts backstage as we get picture in picture and see Vader warming up while Cornette offers guidance. This crowd is determined to make Owen the face in this one as they keep chanting his name. Owen goes back to the eyes to stop Savio and hooks a side headlock. Owen gets shoved off and caught with a monkey flip, two arm drags and back into the armbar. Owen gets his foot on the bottom rope, but Savio pulls him back and that seems like a bad job by the ref to allow that. Savio with a roll-up but the kick-out sends him shoulder first into the post. Owen sends Savio into the opposite corner as Perfect gets annoyed by McMahon bringing up Bret Hart’s name at SummerSlam. JR brings up he remembers Bret beating Perfect for the IC Title at SummerSlam and Perfect changes the subject. Owen hooks the arm and works that for a bit as some in the crowd try to rally Savio. Owen with a sweet single arm DDT for two. Man, that ring mic is pretty loud! Savio bites Owen on the back of his thigh which is one way to break a hold I guess. Owen ties Savio up in the ropes and pounds away. He slaps Savio in the face as well, which I mean, Savio just bit him so that seems fair. Clarence Mason walks down the aisle as Savio misses a spinning heel kick. Owen misses one as well and Savio gets a crossbody for two. Owen back with the enziguiri as Savio does a 360 sell and that gets two. Small package from Savio gets two! Owen avoids a charge in the corner and gets a 2 count with his feet on the ropes. Savio with a roll-up for two but Owen is up first and this time hits the spinning heel kick. That also gets two! Owen eats a kick to the face charging in the corner and that leaves both men down. Inverted Atomic Drop followed by a series of clotheslines from Savio. Owen begs off in the corner and Savio responds with chops and the 10 count punch. Heavy clothesline from Savio and he drops the leg after a slam for two. Sidewalk slam gets two! Savio ducks too early and Owen catches him with a neckbreaker. He heads up top and hits the missile dropkick for two. Owen back up, but Savio kicks his leg and Owen lands Slammys first on the top rope. Savio brings Owen down with a belly to back suplex, but his head lands on Owen’s cast on the way down. Owen plays possum and decks Savio with the cast. Savio is out cold, but Owen wants The Sharpshooter because he can and the ref stops it at 13:34.

Winner: Owen Hart via submission at 13:34
-This was a fun match that picked up quite well after a slow start. The hot crowd helped as well, and the finish was pretty creative as Owen smartly used the cast legally and then illegally without the ref seeing it. ***

-Justin Hawk Bradshaw is out to complain to McMahon at the announce table. He tells Vince he is going to send Savio back to The Island where he belongs. He attacks Savio in the aisle and this set up their match at Mind Games the following month (my review of that show is here).

-Todd is in The Boiler Room and goes over the rules of the match. He runs into Mankind who tells us “There is no place like home” and he licks one of the boilers in the room. JR: “Was he licking that thing?” Yes, JR. Yes, he was! I loved early Mankind!

WWF Tag Team Titles: Fatal 4-Way: The Smoking Gunns (c) (w/ Sunny) vs. The New Rockers vs. The Body Donnas vs. The Godwinns (w/ Hill Billy Jim and some pigs)

-Skip is sporting a neck brace as we are told he fractured a vertebra in a match at MSG against The Gunns. They go over the rules countless times because this was all new to us who only followed WWF and WCW at the time. Billy and Henry start us out and Henry runs Billy down several times with a shoulder. Vince is still amazed by the quickness of the Godwinns as he continues to back that horse. Henry with a hiptoss and several right hands. He hits a modified Alabama Slam where Bill gets dropped on his face. Zip in with Phineas and Zip gets mowed down with a shoulder. Vince loves the pig farmers! Criss-cross spot and they tag in both Gunns while doing a Fargo Strut to celebrate. The Gunns have to wrestle now as JR notes they have to make contact. That doesn’t happen though as Bart just tags out to Zip. The Outsiders would be taking notes and deliver something more memorable when the same thing happened to them a few months later. Though I guess their match was a Triangle Match and not a Fatal 4-Way. Zip gets tripped up and pinned to eliminate The Body Donnas at 4:00. I mean, Skip had a broken neck so that’s not shocking. Thankfully, he never got in the match. Leif in and it’s weird seeing Al Snow without facial hair. He beats on Henry for a beat and then tags in Marty. He drops Henry with a clothesline and drops a fist to the face. Back to Leif and he throws some kicks and tags in Billy. He gets dropped with a sidewalk slam and The Rockers try to save, but drops elbows on Billy. The two teams argue as The Godwinns watch for a bit before attacking. Marty gets caught with a Slop Drop and The Rockers are gone at 7:20. Bart in and he gets a slam followed by a whip to the corner. Charge catches a boot and Henry delivers a nice clothesline that Bart sells with a 360. Both men are down and Bart is able to cut Henry off from making the tag. Henry fights back, but gets cut off from making the tag again. This match is sucking the life out of this crowd. Billy with the potty mouth as he calls Henry a “big sissy.” No wonder he was picked as a member of DX! The crowd starts chanting and cheering for Sunny as there isn’t much else happening. Henry with an inverted atomic drop, but Bart rakes the face and makes the tag to Billy. He tries a splash in the corner, but gets caught and dropped with a World’s Strongest Slam. The race is on and Phineas gets the kind of warm tag. He runs wild for a bit and gets The Slop Drop on Billy, but the ref is busy with Jim and Sunny. Bart comes off the top with a double axe to the back and puts Billy on top for the pin at 12:18.

Winners and Still WWF Tag Team Champions: The Smoking Gunns via pin at 12:18
-This was rather boring and poor Skip had no reason to be out there, even if he didn’t get involved in the match. The Gunns needed to keep the Titles here until a real threat could be found and that would be Bulldog and Owen. 1/2*

-Sunny gets in the ring, complete with the cameraman making sure to get an up-shot, and cuts a promo on the crowd. She calls out the fat women in the crowd and has a giant poster of herself unveiled. JR: “She missed that much needed trip to the woodshed.”

-Video of the WWF Superstars doing publicity for the show throughout Cleveland. The Godwinns win a race through Cleveland against The Gunns. Jerry Lawler got to hang out with The Cleveland Indians at batting practice and wants to learn how to do the spitball. He also gets to throw out the first pitch,

The British Bulldog vs. Sycho Sid

-Sid returned the previous month and this match makes sense as it plays off the six man tag that closed International Incident (my review here). The crowd really loves Is and it can’t be stated enough that he just had IT. Bulldog tries to run Sid and no dice. Again, and Sid catches Bulldog with a clothesline. Slam from Sid and Bulldog bails to the floor. Back in and Sid with a standing side headlock. Bulldog tries to get a belly to back, but Sid stays low and takes it to the mat. Bulldog gets a head scissors, but Sid is out quickly and gets a slam. He sets too early on a backdrop and Bulldog lands a boot to the chest. Delayed vertical suplex from Bulldog which is rather impressive. Bulldog stomps away and gets a two count. Now Bulldog hooks a chinlock as the announce team discuss who is and isn’t from Cleveland. Clothesline sends Sid over the top to the floor as we go split screen to Cornette watching on a monitor while Vader warms up. Bulldog with another impressive spot as he drops Sid from a suplex onto his stomach on the top rope. SWEET! Sid fires back with chops and gets a splash in the corner to pop the crowd. A second charge misses though and I should mention Clarence Mason is out for The Bulldog now. Bulldog with a powerslam, but no cover as Cornette is out and is yelling at Clarence Mason. That distraction lets Sid get up and he catches Bulldog with a choke slam and then a magnificent powerbomb ends it at 6:25.

Winner: Sid via pin at 6:25
-This was fine as they kept it short and hit each other with some impressive power moves. The chinlocks went a little long, but that’s minor. Sid getting the win was the right call as the crowd was way into his return. **

Goldust (w/ Marlena) vs. Marc Mero (w/ Sable)

-WCW MIDCARD EXPLODES! It is interesting that during this time WWF started acquiring WCW’s mid/upper-card stars (Goldust, Mero, HHH, Austin, Foley) while WCW was taking people like Hall, Nash, Syxx, Piper, etc. I guess that is why the WWF won the long game and was able to turn the tide. Mero cuts a promo backstage and we see Mankind stalking Sable on Superstars and calling her mommy. Goldust was also being creepy with Sable around this time as well. JR mentions that Mero has a new move he is looking to try if he can tonight called The Wild Thing. Goldust plays mind games in the corner and then slaps Mero in the face. Lockup and Goldust with a standing side headlock. Mero breaks and gets a series of arm-drags so Goldust bails under the bottom rope in the corner. Goldust goes to the eyes, but misses a clothesline and Mero gets a crossbody for two. Drop toe-hold into an armbar as JR sends well wishes to Ahmed Johnson watching at home. Mero transitions to a hammerlock as Vince notes Ahmed had two different surgeries on his kidney. Perfect wants Vince and JR to worry about the match. “Who cares about Ahmed Johnson?” Goldust drops down and hits the uppercut and sends Mero to the floor with a backdrop. This one is starting kind of clunky for some reason. Nice bump from Mero as he gets knocked off the apron and crashes into the guard rail. Goldust follows him out and drops him throat first on the railing and then fires him back into the ring. Back in the ring Goldust gets a two count off a clothesline as Mankind makes his way to ringside and Sable loses it. She does a great job her of being freaked out by Mankind! More refs head down and Mankind sprints to the back. Perfect: “I think she kind of likes him.” Mero springs off the middle rope in the corner and throws himself at Goldust. Inverted atomic drop followed by a clothesline. Backdrop from Mero followed by a knee-lift as the pace has picked up, but the crowd is still not into this one. Mero smartly goes to the 10 count punch in the corner as that always works. Goldust carries Mero out and they both spill over to the floor. Not sure if Mero was supposed to hang on there. Mero back in and goes a somersault dive to Goldust on the floor. Slingshot leg drop gets two! Mero heads up and debuts The Wild Thing (Shooting Star Press), but it only gets two as Marlena had the ref distracted. Powerslam gets two for Mero as we get several replays of The Wild Thing. Perfect sounded impressed by that move! Goldust gets The Curtain Call out of nowhere for the pin at 11:00.

Winner: Goldust via pin at 11:00
-I was kind of disappointed by this one as it was a little boring and slow to start until Mero’s comeback. The finish then came out of nowhere as well. Also, weird to hype Mero’s new move and then it does not get the win. **

-Goldust stalks Sable after the match and tries to kiss her, but Mero saves. He drops Goldust on his balls on the top rope and sends him to the floor with a dropkick. He gets a running clothesline in the aisle before Goldust makes it to the back.

-To the video as we recap Ahmed Johnson having his real-life kidney issues explained by an attack from Faarooq. It put Ahmed on the shelf and the IC Title was vacated. That sucked for Ahmed as you could see they were getting ready to push him towards the Main Event. Ahmed was even getting a WWF Title Match on RAW due to winning a battle royal. Instead Goldust, Savio, Austin, and Sid will do battle to see who gets the shot (they were the last 4 in the battle royal other than Ahmed).

-Pettengill interviews Faarooq (with Sunny) in the ring to kill some time. I forgot Sunny was his manager and for everyone that crushed Karrion Kross for what he had to wear on his Main Roster debut, check out what poor Ron had to wear here. Faarooq wants to know why he isn’t being handed the IC Title and says The Tournament runs through him.

-Recap of Lawler/Roberts feud that was all about Lawler making fun of Jake being a drunk.

-Mark Henry is brought out fresh off his run at the 96 Olympics and is the newest WWF signing. He joins the commentary team for the next match.

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

-We all know that Lawler loves his Cleveland sports’ teams, but he goes ultra-heel here with the cheap heat as he is sporting a Baltimore Ravens jersey. This was fresh off the original Browns leaving for Baltimore and before the new Browns returned three years later. Lawler cuts a promo longer the match is going to be as he insults as many people as he can. He also breaks out two bottles of Jim Bean for Jake and then takes shots at Jake’s wife. Lawler then turns his attention to Mark Henry and questions where his medals are? “If he won a gold medal he would take it and have it bronzed.” Those 96 Olympics paid off well for the WWF! Jake finally makes his way down to the ring to cut off Lawler’s comedy routine. Lawler has a gift for Jake to get out of the match and it’s a big ass bottle of champagne. Jake pulls out the snake and drapes it on Lawler to pop the crowd. Lawler sells it like death and sprints up aisle. The crowd wants a Burger King chant as JR says Jake is doing all he can and what else do people want him from him. It took a bunch of years, but we all know Jake finally found his help from DDP thankfully. Lawler offers more alcohol, but Jake is fed up and runs Lawler into the stairs. Back in the ring he stomps on Lawler’s crowns, though he tells the ref it was the abdominal area. To the floor where Jake gets a slam and sends Lawler into the ring post. And again! Lawler throws soda into Jake’s face and lands a punch that leaves Jake tied up in the ropes. Lawler grabs a bottle, but Jake gets free and tries a DDT, but Lawler gets a weak backdrop. Jake back with punches and the short arm clothesline. Lawler grabs the ref to block the DDT and then hits Jake in the throat with the bottle of Jim Dean and pulls the tights for the win at 4:08.

Winner: Jerry “The King” Lawler via pin at 4:08
-Awful match as they needed Lawler to cut the promo just to fill time. Depressing ending too as Lawler needed his comeuppance from Jake, but instead they went the MORE HEAT route. DUD

-Lawler dumps one of the bottle down Jake’s mouth, but Henry makes the save before he can do the same with the second bottle. Rumors are Lawler ribbed Jake by using real whiskey instead of tea.

Boiler Room Brawl: The Undertaker vs. Mankind

-A precursor to the cinematic wrestling boom we saw during the pandemic. You had this match and the Backlot Brawl from earlier in the year and I would even throw in the King of the Road match WCW had at Uncensored a few years prior. The winner is the first man to get back to the ring and take the urn from Paul Bearer. Later it would be the winner was the first to leave the Boiler Room. To the back where Taker walks down the hallway, pauses and then walks into the Boiler Room and that’s where I’ll start the clock since there is no official bell. The first two minutes or so is Taker just looking around the room for Mankind. While we wait, I’ll mention this match led to my friends and I having a lot of matches in each other’s basements. Mankind sneaks up on Taker from behind and cracks him with a pipe. He breaks a piece of wood off a pallet and hits Taker in the head with that. Taker grabs a nearby garbage can lid and hits Taker in the face a few times. Now Mankind gets decked with a pipe and another lid shot to his head. Taker tries a slam, but Mankind slides out and drops Taker throat first over a saw horse. This has to suck for the people watching in the arena because this was before The TitanTron. They continue to brawl and the feed goes out as Vince notes they are having transmission difficulties. No clue why they threw that in there since it was recorded the day before unless that was there way or making it seem “live.” Mankind drops a garbage can on Taker’s stomach and punches away from there. JR, Vince, and Perfect are laying low on commentary as they just chime in every now and then. Taker makes a comeback, but Mankind turns a wheel to shoot steam in Taker’s face. They continue to brawl down the long corridor of the Boiler Room and in some places it’s dark and hard to see. Taker with a clothesline to a garbage can back in Mankind’s face. Taker throws a wooden pallet at Mankind as they near the back wall. Mankind uses a big ass pipe to hit Taker in the balls and that gets a groan from the crowd. Taker gets sent into the wall and Mankind catches him with the running knee. Now they start brawling back from where they came. Mankind climbs a ladder and jumps off with an elbow onto Taker on the floor. Mankind breaks a piece of wood over Taker’s back and starts dragging along the floor. I am not sure why he is dragging him as the point of the match is to escape and get to Paul Bearer. Some more transmission difficulties and the crowd is pissed. I don’t blame them as putting those in there was a dumb decision, and this one goes for a good bit. It comes back in and goes out again and the crowd is really annoyed. Finally, back with Mankind carrying around a ladder and he sets it against a wall. He climbs, but Taker does the sit-up and dumps over the ladder, which sends Mankind crashing onto a tarp and cardboard box. JR think Mankind ended up in some glass. Make your own AEW All In joke! They near the exit door and Taker sets off a fire extinguisher. He nearly gets out the door, but Mankind goes to the eyes. They fight over control of the door and Mankind slams the door on Taker’s face and escapes first. Mankind gets through the second door and starts stacking things in front to keep Taker at bay, but he doesn’t head out and instead just stands there. Well, that’s not really an advantage. They brawl through the backstage area as the boys start watching and you can see Steve Austin and that’s as close as he got to being on SummerSlam that year (yes, he had a pre-show match against Yokozuna). Mankind throws hot coffee on Taker and then crawls through the entrance way and is the first to be out on the arena floor. Twenty minutes in and the crowd actually has both men fighting in front of them. We see they have TV monitors set around ringside for the fans. Those were like the TVs teacher would roll into class when they didn’t want to teach and just wanted to put on a movie. That happened a lot in my 8th grade history class. I mean, they were history movies, but still. Mankind gets the stump piledriver on the concrete as the mats were rolled back. Taker is still alive and grabs the ankle to cut off Mankind. They brawl on the apron and Mankind takes the Nestea Plunge as he gets snapped backwards. That is always sick! No wonder this man has health issues! The crowd pops as Taker is set to take the urn, but Paul Bearer turns his back and the crowd is stunned. Mankind back in with the mandible claw as Paul Bearer starts laughing. Bearer is ready to give Mankind the urn, but Taker sits up so Mankind goes back to the mandible claw. Bearer then slaps Taker in the face and lays in the boots to many many boos from the crowd. Taker crawls towards Paul Bearer as Mankind continues to stomp him. Bearer cracks Taker in the head with the urn and Mankind takes possession to get the win at 26:25.

Winner: Mankind at 26:25
-The stuff in the boiler room was boring and way too long. I give them credit for trying something different, and they would figure out a way to have this match be decent, but it didn’t work well here. Now the stuff once they started fighting towards the ring and then the few minutes at ringside were solid. The ending was the key as Bearer turning was a smart decision. Taker no longer needed a mouth piece and it added more juice to this feud. **1/4

-Druids head down to the ring and carry Taker off. Anyone every figure out who played the part of the Druids? For some reason I had this idea that this was the way they were writing Taker out of the WWF and he would be showing up in WCW in Oct at Halloween Havoc. I was 15, so that’s my excuse for that call.

-Vader and Cornette cut a promo backstage!

WWF Championship: Shawn Michaels (w/ Jose Lothario) vs. Vader (w / James Cornette)

-The crowd is pretty pumped for this one! Lockup to start and Vader starts unloading with right hands. He works the ribs with some body shots and takes Shawn’s head off with a clothesline to a big pop. Shawn catches a boot and gets a leg trip. He lands a basement dropkick and starts firing off kicks to the head. He drops down and throws some punches that land. Shawn lands a kidney punch, but one shot from Vader ends that rally. Vader looks to send Shawn to the floor, but Shawn puts on the brakes and Vader spills through the ropes. Baseball slide from Shawn and then a beautiful dive that easily clears the top and lands on Vader. That looked great! Back in the ring Shawn comes off the top with a double axe and gets a rana. Shawn leaps on Vader’s shoulders and sends Vader over the top to the floor, and then skins the cat back in the ring. Cool! Slingshot rana is caught and Vader powerbombs Shawn on the floor. Sucks to be Shawn! Vader slaps Shawn in the face a bit and heads back into the ring as the ref starts his count. Vader heads out and carries Shawn on his shoulders up the steps and dumps him back into the ring. Shawn gets caught in the corner and as JR notes that’s a bad place. Headshots and body shots wreck Shawn and Vader then follows with a suplex. Shawn gets tossed from one corner to another and bounces around like a pinball. Backdrop from Vader and he is feeling it right now. He looks for a belly to back, but Shawn punches to block. He then flips out of another attempt and throws some rights, but Vader casually goes to the eyes. Vader misses a splash in the corner, but just levels Shawn with a clothesline that had the crowd grimacing. Shawn escapes another suplex and skins the cat again. Vader catches him this time and just disposes of Shawn across the ring as he lands on his face. Perfect is enjoying this ass beating! Vince is basically writing a eulogy for Shawn’s WWF Title reign as Vader hooks a submission. Shawn escapes and tries a clothesline. No dice! Shawn tries to slide under and Vader just steps on his chest. Vader gets caught with a knee to the balls and now Vader gets dropped with a clothesline. Shawn comes off the top with a stomp as it seems Vader wasn’t where he was supposed to be. You can see Shawn yell at Vader. Shawn gets a crossbody that sends both men to the floor and Shawn pushes away at the camera as he is annoyed right now. Vader sends Shawn into the apron and then gets a gorilla press slam on the guardrail and Shawn is counted out at around 13:50.

-Cornette bitches about the count-out decision and tells Shawn to get back in the ring if he has any guts. Patterson is out and tries to convince Shawn to leave, but Shawn is ready to throw down again. The match starts proper at 15:37 with Vader punching Shawn in the face. Vader also throws a shot a Jose which gets the ref away so Cornette can smack Shawn with the tennis racket. Back in the ring and Vader gets a splash in the corner and then a sweet belly to belly suplex for two. Shawn is great at getting his ass kicked by monsters! Shawn fights out off a powerbomb and lands the flying forearm. Kip up and Perfect is pissed! Shawn drops the top rope elbow and he tunes up the band. Cornette gets involved so Shawn gets the racket and blasts Vader to cause a DQ at 17:47. Cornette gets abused with the racket as well.

-Officials and refs fill the ring as Cornette calls Shawn a coward for getting disqualified on purpose. He throws out the challenge for Shawn to start the match again. Gorilla Monsoon is out and he restarts the match at 19:20. Shawn doesn’t wait this time and lands another forearm. He drops another elbow from the top rope and Sweet Chin Music connects as Vader kind of kicks out. That looked awkward! Now the ref gets bumped because we need more overbooking! Vader with the powerbomb and Shawn is dead, but there is no ref. A second one gets there a few seconds later and Shawn is out at two. That would be three visual wins for Vader in this one! Vader Bomb, but Cornette tells Vader to head all the way up. Moonsault misses as Shawn rolls out of the way! Now Shawn crawls to the top and gets a moonsault press for the pin at 22:20.

Winner and Still WWF Champion: Shawn Michaels via pin at 22:20
-As the story goes, Shawn was to lose the Title to Vader here and threw a fit backstage leading to what we got. Vader got two technical wins and a visual pin, but Shawn retains in the end and does it without getting the pin off SCM. I believe the plan was Vader wins it here and loses to Bret, who loses back to Vader and then back to Shawn who eventually returns the job to Bret at WrestleMania. Instead Vader gets nothing and Sid gets a couple Title reigns and Austin gets pushed up the card. As for the match it was great and would have been epic without the stops and starts. Shawn is great in this type of match as he can take a beating and we know Vader can supply a beating that looks killer. Outside of Final Four in Feb this was Vader’s last shot at the Main Event scene in the WWF which is crazy to think about. He just fell out of favor so quickly. ****

-Thanks for reading!

The final score: review Not So Good
The 411
This was like a lot of PPVs in 1996 for The WWF in that Shawn Michaels tried all he could to save things in the Main Event. Some like the Boiler Room Brawl more than me, so that would help this show greatly. Shawn/Vader is great and I enjoyed Owen/Savio but that middle portion is not good and rather boring. Shawn couldn't save this one!