“There’s something I’ve been wanting to say for a long, long time. And when I’m through telling you, many of you are going to question my loyalty to the World Wrestling Federation, so let’s clear that up right now. I have no loyalty to the World Wrestling Federation”
– Jim Ross, 1996.
When the History of Wrestling team began discussing writing books about wrestling, we had to strike a balance between writing about what we loved and about what would sell. It didn’t take long to settle on the WWF. Almost as soon as we did, the above quote was running through my mind. Yes, the WWF is THE wrestling company and has dominated the wrestling world for my entire life. And yet with the exception of 1996, 2000-01, and a few months here and there, it has never been my favourite wrestling company.
I’ll let you digest that for a moment.
One of these days I’ll compile a list of what I was watching and when. Although to be fair to the WWF, it’s always been on the watch-list, just not always delivering in the action stakes. My favoured companies have generally been a little more intense. NWA, ECW, All-Japan, NOAH, Ring of Honor, PWG. WWF has almost always hovered around as my second choice.
Once we got going the thrill of it all overrode my doubts. Mainly because we started around 1984 and that whole era is really exciting to watch (the ’86/’87 time is just brilliant). It’s not just Hulkamania. Despite that my brain kept saying stuff like “you realise Bushwhackers’ matches are coming” and “one day you’ll have to review a tape so utterly pointless you won’t know how to go about it”. The Bushwhackers matches have been and gone. They were terrible. UK Rampage ’93 I just got drunk for, so problem solved. But then we have Countdown to SummerSlam ’94. If you saw the tape in a shop and knew nothing about it except the title, you’d assume it was a series of matches and vignettes to hype the biggest show of the summer. Maybe it’d be an hour long or 90-minutes and have some decent set-up action. It’d be a little bit pointless, seeing as SummerSlam is the big show, but it’d be an interesting little addition to a tape collection. Maybe you’d even pick it up and maybe you’d even buy it. Then you’d get home and find out it was just the countdown show.
Yeah, the pre-show, the one broadcast on TV, free, ahead of SummerSlam ’94. The 30-minute free TV show that contains nothing but fluff and nonsense and only existed to get people to buy the pay-per-view. They released it as a tape, and charged people money to buy it! I can only assume that exactly zero copies sold, but the tape is out there and it is listed so here’s the review of it. Incidentally I didn’t need to buy the Countdown to SummerSlam ’94 as Silvervision just tacked it onto the SummerSlam ’94 tape release. Who would buy a pre-show? Sure, when they did the Free For All hype show they released the matches as a tape, but this comes from before they had matches on the hype show. This tape is literally just hype for the pay-per-view. With that in mind I’ll be recapping literally everything that happened on the Countdown for SummerSlam ’94, in rigorous (and laborious) detail to ensure that you don’t have to pay money for something broadcast for free.
We open with Gorilla Monsoon showing footage from the WWF Superstars vs. Chicago Media for the charity softball game. Vince McMahon throws out the first pitch. Chicago Media takes a 4-0 lead. Bart Gunn and Shawn Michaels get on base before both of Well Dunn hit RBI singles. Shawn is pitching. Another run mysteriously gets added to the WWF scorecard. They tack this on and don’t even show all the WWF hits? Lazy. Shawn and Diesel bring the high fives whereas the Bushwhackers just mug to the camera. Jeff Jarrett gets a single before a double play goes horribly wrong for the Chicago Media. It’s having to watch all those Cubs games, not to mention the White Sox. Former baseball player Randy Savage hits a 3-run homer. POW! 6-4 WWF. Dink goes to bat and hustles out a single with his little legs. Sparky hits one off the wall and Dink sneaks into third with the Bushwhackers tackling the fielder. Not sure how legal that is. 9-4 WWF. Chicago Media make a comeback to 9-7. Diesel gets the first out in the final innings before an out at home. 1-2-3 Kid catches a pop up fly for the final out. WWF Superstars win! Take that Chicago Media! Humbled on the highly rare WWF Countdown to SummerSlam ’94 tape. This is the most entertaining part of the entire video. It lasts three minutes.
Next we’re off to Leslie Nielson, who pushes Ray Rougeau into the pool. Word-based gags follow. Nielson has his stunt double arrested and promises to get the bottom of the two Undertakers situation.
Live from the United Center, 23,000 in attendance, Todd Pettengill hosts from the rafters and namedrops Leslie Nielson who’s here to solve the mystery of the Undertaker. We are at T-27-minutes until SummerSlam. Todd mentions that Diesel and Shawn Michaels won the tag titles off the Headshrinkers last night, so Diesel has two titles. Pettengill swiftly moves on to the shilling…
The Undertaker vs. The Undertaker SHILL
Todd takes us back seven months to the Royal Rumble, where the Undertaker gets beaten up by ten guys. At least it’s not a parking lot in Syracuse, eh Shawn? Taker lost a casket match to Yokozuna, and nine other guys, before cutting a promo from inside his coffin and ascending to heaven, via Marty Jannetty’s body and some wires. Taker promised not to rest in peace…and then took seven months off. This was Vince’s, frankly ridiculous, solution to giving Undertaker a break from his gruelling road schedule. It must have worked, because Taker’s career has gone on longer than all the other guys on the card who didn’t take seven months off. Todd strolls around telling various crowd members that Ted DiBiase could buy them if he wanted to, which he doesn’t. Todd throws to footage of Ted DiBiase bringing the Undertaker back. His radio mic promptly cuts out, which is the best thing on the entire tape.
Now I welcome you to the SHILL-O-METER, which is the percent of shill to action that occurred during the shill segment. 100% being entirely SHILL, 0% being entirely action.
Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart SHILL
Todd predicts the Hell in a Cell by suggesting the WWF put a lid on the cage to make sure no-one can get in. We head back to Survivor Series where Bret being out of position caused Owen to get eliminated. Then it’s off to the Rumble where an injured Bret selfishly failed to tag his brother and Owen kicked his leg out from under his, uh, leg. Todd puts a weird spin on it where Owen is the bad guy. I’m not seeing it. Off to WrestleMania where Owen pins Bret and Bret wins the title. That’s summed up in ten seconds. Concise! Off to King of the Ring where Owen wins the tournament. We get him saying “King of Harts” THREE TIMES but only the last three seconds of the ‘Mania match… Ok, then. Todd stops off to shill the specially made ringside chairs that cost TWO HUNDRED BUCKS! Vince just squeezed every last penny from those die-hard fans, huh? Off to Bret, who makes a metaphor between Owen in his crib, behind bars, and the cage match, like Uncle Joey in Back to the Future. Rich. Layered. Todd shows us the flat-packed blue-bar cage so we can hear how steely it is. Cagey.
Lex Luger vs. Tatanka SHILL
Todd asks the burning question: does he have VD? Wait… did Lex Luger sell out? There’s a great bit where Tatanka throws a wad of cash at Luger and it bounces off outside the ring. You can see DiBiase SPRINTING over to it to make sure no fan grabs it. Ted had been inserting himself into various Luger matches to allow Lex a series of cheap wins with that loaded forearm. Earlier, Ted DiBiase went into Luger’s dressing room, possibly to bribe him with money. The suspicion is that Luger will finally turn tonight. The WWF instead went ahead and swerved everyone by turning Tatanka instead. It was clever, for five seconds, until everyone realised how much Tatanka sucked as a heel.
Leslie Nielson gets the last word by ordering some hot, tasty Domino’s Pizza. Domino’s Pizza: Delivering SummerSlam. Buy now! When you call, scream “I LOVE TODD PETTENGILL” for a 5% discount. Domino’s Pizza, what you’re supposed to eat while watching SummerSlam. Order now! The Undertaker brings Leslie his delicious Domino’s Pizza but the detective is too busy enjoying the awesome flavour of Domino’s Pizza to notice.
Summary: There is literally no point in buying this tape. Even if you want to tell everyone you own every single WWF tape ever released, no-one is going to check. It’s on the SummerSlam tape anyway! Just forget this one exists and move on with your life. If you do happen to have purchased it you can sell that bad boy to serious collectors for $50-100. Because nobody bought it. Incidentally you all owe me 27-minutes. This review was brought to you by Domino’s Pizza…