WWE SummerSlam 2014: 8 Worst Booking Decisions in PPV's History
WWE SummerSlam has been one of the staples of Vince McMahon's promotion's pay-per-view calendar for nearly three decades, and in that time, it has been home to some outstanding matches and moments.
Who can ever forget the Mega Powers overcoming the Mega Bucks in 1988, Bret Hart beating Mr. Perfect in 1991 and then dropping the same title to British Bulldog a year later at Wembley Stadium, the culmination of the Highway to Hell in 1998 and the rise of Brock Lesnar in 2002?
With many tremendous moments that have occurred at the annual spectacular, there have also been a number of booking decisions that left fans scratching their heads and asking, "What were they thinking?"
Those decisions adversely affected the careers of iconic Superstars such as Ultimate Warrior, Undertaker, Vader and Lex Luger, all of whom would have been far better off with a smarter and more logical booking plan.
With the potential for more illogical and unintelligible booking decisions upcoming on August 17, relive some of the worst in event history!
The Brain Busters Defeat the Hart Foundation (1989)
When it was revealed prior to the SummerSlam '89 opener that WWE Tag Team champions Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson, known collectively as the Brain Busters, would not be defending their titles against the Hart Foundation, many thought this meant Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart would win the match and ignite a rivalry with the former NWA stars.
They would be wrong.
Anderson and Blanchard scored a victory over the popular babyfaces and continued on with a title reign that would last until Demolition knocked them off two months later.
Why would those in power opt to book a championship bout, then go through all of the promotional troubles of switching it to a non-title match just prior to the start of the event when the champions were going to win anyway?
The Hart Foundation had been in plenty of title matches and lost before yet still remained one of the most over teams in wrestling, so it was hardly necessary for them to be protected to that extent. Luckily, the talent of all involved and the quality of the match they crafted was enough to make up for the ridiculous turn of events surrounding the booking of the contest.
Ultimate Warrior vs. Rick Rude Goes on Last (1990)
In 1990, The Ultimate Warrior defeated Hulk Hogan to win the WWE Championship at WrestleMania. It should have been the passing-of-the-torch moment that would help create a new star to carry the company into the next decade. Unfortunately, that was not the case.
As popular as the Warrior was, and as underrated as he was despite garnering a reputation that states otherwise, there was an emotional connection between fans and Hogan that could not be replicated—no matter how hard Vince McMahon and his marketing machine tried.
When Hogan was put out of action following a brutal assault at the hands of the massive Earthquake, fans had a feud they could invest themselves in. They were terribly concerned for the health and well-being of the former champion. Letters and cards flooded WWE headquarters, as questions emerged regarding the iconic performer's future in wrestling.
While all of that was going on, Warrior was stuck defending his title against "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase, Mr. Perfect and Rick Rude in feuds that were clearly seen as secondary to the headline program between Hogan and Earthquake. That resulted in a lackluster title reign for the popular powerhouse.
At SummerSlam, it would become readily apparent which feud fans saw as the most important in WWE.
Hulk Hogan vs. Earthquake drew the loudest reaction of the evening, proving that fans cared far more about the personal vendetta that had intensified between the two wrestlers in the weeks leading up to the show than they did for the ice-cold feud between Warrior and Rude, which had been seen countless times just one year earlier.
The decision to book Warrior and Rude at the top of the card only proved detrimental to the legitimacy of both men as valid main event performers. It exposed that fans cared far less about the issues between Warrior and Rude than they did about those between Hogan and Earthquake and, at the same time, proved that the Hulkster would forever be the top dog in professional wrestling.
Lex Luger Wins by Count-out (1993)
The Lex Express rolled into Detroit in August 1993 for a huge WWE Championship main event pitting "All-American" Lex Luger against behemoth champion and dastardly Japanese villain Yokozuna.
Inspired by Luger's monumental bodyslam of the massive Superstar on July 4 on board the USS Intrepid, the match was the most hyped of the summer, one that was hotly anticipated by the WWE faithful. Vince McMahon's marketing machine was in full force, pushing Luger as the savior of his floundering promotion. He represented the red, white and blue of the United States and very much resembled a poor man's Hulk Hogan.
The overwhelming favorite to beat Yokozuna and hoist the WWE title high in the air to close out SummerSlam, Luger was generating a great deal of buzz entering the second-most important show of the year.
Unfortunately, McMahon and his booking team failed to capitalize on that buzz, opting to stay the course rather than striking while the proverbial iron was hot. Luger defeated Yokozuna by count-out, celebrating the win like an idiot rather than being upset about the fact that he had not wrestled the championship away from the talented big man.
The decision to have Luger celebrate is even more curious considering the fact that it was made very clear that SummerSlam was to be his only opportunity at the title. Why would he be so happy about missing out on the opportunity to win the top prize in the industry?
The booking of the match nearly destroyed all of the momentum that Luger had amassed over the summer months. Sure, he remained a headliner for McMahon, but the disappointment that accompanied the outcome of the SummerSlam match did irreparable damage to the man so many expected to become the top star in professional wrestling.
The Undertaker vs. the Underfaker (1994)
The Undertaker wrestled the Undertaker in the main event of SummerSlam 1994.
Let that digest for a moment.
Sorry about the aftertaste.
In January 1994, Undertaker lost a Casket match to Yokozuna, who retained his WWE Championship with the assistance of 10 other Superstars. After the match, Undertaker ascended to the heavens in one of the most unbelievable scenes in WWE.
The Phenom would spend the next seven months on hiatus. Realizing that he would return in August at SummerSlam, plans were put into place for an angle that would capitalize on the supernatural element surrounding the character. Men, women and children began reporting sightings of the Dead Man, and Leslie Nielsen, the legendary actor and star of the Naked Gun franchise, was hired to investigate.
Ted DiBiase revealed that he had not only found Undertaker, but he had also bought the former WWE champion. He reintroduced the world to his newest purchase, but something seemed a bit off. He was shorter than normal, and the tattoos did not match the ones he had prior to his disappearance. Paul Bearer, manager of the real Undertaker, confirmed suspicions by pointing out the (obvious) inauthentic Phenom.
The match that ensued at SummerSlam between Undertaker and his doppelganger was not only one of the most surreal in WWE history, it was one of the most ridiculous. What may have felt like a fun novelty act at the time now stands out as one of those instances in which fans become ashamed to tout their support of the sport.
The real Undertaker won, sent the faker away in a casket and all was right with WWE. That is, if you forget that the same people who booked the match were still in power.
Vader Wins, Then Wins Again, Then Loses (1996)
Vader's WWE debut in 1996 was met with great hope that the big man would be the monstrous villain that so many enjoyed in WCW. He was a hybrid performer, a man capable of delivering bone-crushing hits while simultaneously keeping up with any and all competition thanks to speed and agility no typically associated with guys of his size.
When it was announced that he would face Shawn Michaels for the WWE title at SummerSlam, expectations were understandably high. Two of the best workers of that era, they had demonstrated some tremendous chemistry with each another in the few tag matches they had competed in.
Michaels was the face of the company, the WWE champion, but it was Vader who was the favorite to emerge as the new titleholder and the villain that the next six months would be booked around. Unfortunately for the Coloradoan, politics would play a major factor in the outcome of the August 18 championship bout.
Vader defeated Michaels, but not in a way that would benefit him or earn him the WWE Championship.
The first win was reached by count-out. A second Vader victory was achieved by disqualification when Michaels used villainous manager Jim Cornette's tennis racket against his own client. In both instances, Cornette ordered the match restarted so that Vader could win the title.
The third time would not be the charm for Vader, who lost the match and any shot he had at realistically remaining in the title picture.
The booking was undoubtedly executed the way it was to help Vader save face. After all, he could make the argument that he had defeated the champion twice prior to being pinned, thus potentially earning himself another shot at the title.
Instead, it came across as a big man who was unable to pin or make the much smaller champion submit and was only able to beat him by count-out or disqualification. Add to it the fact that Vader and Cornette looked incredibly idiotic in giving Michaels three chances to beat the Mastodon.
Mankind Wins the WWE Championship (1999)
If the booking heading into SummerSlam 1999 indicated anything, it was that Triple H would finally ascend to the top of WWE by capturing his first WWE Championship. The Game had become the centerpiece of the top storylines and was clearly a heel Vince McMahon believed was strong enough that he could book his promotion around.
The match between Triple H and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin for the title at SummerSlam, a match that would be refereed by Minnesota Governor and former WWE Superstar Jesse Ventura, was to be one of the most hyped bouts in all of 1999. When Mankind was added to make it a Triple Threat match, most expected that it was merely a way to add more star power and make Triple H's impending victory that much more impressive.
Then Mankind won the match and the title, shocking the wrestling world. He stood tall, his arm raised in victory by Ventura to end the show, leaving many wondering why so much time and energy was put into Triple H in the weeks leading in to the extravaganza.
Sure, he won the title the next night on Raw, but even though there were more eyes on his title win compared to SummerSlam, it still felt incredibly anticlimactic.
Luckily for all involved, Triple H recovered nicely.
He is doing quite well for himself today.
Goldberg Loses (2003)
Goldberg's arrival in WWE in the spring of 2003 was one of the most anticipated moments in wrestling history. It would surely set up several dream matches and result in a megastar push that the former WCW champion could only dream of.
WWE never seemed fully behind the Atlanta native, regardless of how much the company was paying him or how receptive the audience was to him. He was a WCW creation and would need to be humbled before succeeding in McMahon land.
At SummerSlam, he was part of the Elimination Chamber match for the World Heavyweight Championship and was the odds-on favorite to leave with the gold. After all, Triple H was injured and none of the other competitors were in the position to carry the title the way Goldberg was.
Despite a severe groin injury, Triple H blasted his top contender with a sledgehammer and scored the win. After the match, his Evolution teammates left the beastly competitor bloodied and handcuffed to the cage.
Any momentum Goldberg had heading into the show was gone. He would win the title a month later at Unforgiven, but the fan response there indicated that the company had clearly missed the boat with its highly paid Superstar.
Goldberg would never achieve the level of success in WWE that so many had hoped for him, and a great deal of that traces back to the major booking misstep that the company made on that fateful August night.
John Cena Conquers the Nexus (2010)
In June 2010, the Superstars who had competed in WWE NXT Season One made their main-roster debuts, banding together to assault John Cena and leave an arena full of WWE employees lying motionless to close out a memorable episode of Raw.
The ring was torn apart, the announce table left in shambles and fans' jaws dropped as Wade Barrett, David Otunga, Heath Slater, Justin Gabriel, Michael Tarver, Skip Sheffield, Darren Young and Daniel Bryan calmly walked away from the scene of their despicable actions.
Over the next two months, they reigned over WWE, unleashing their brand of terror on the company's top stars. It was the biggest push of bright young stars fans had seen in quite some time, seemingly ensuring that the future had arrived.
At SummerSlam, the Nexus—the title given to the faction—took on John Cena, John Morrison, R-Truth, Bret Hart, Edge, Chris Jericho and the returning Daniel Bryan in a huge 14-Man Tag Team Elimination match.
It was believed that the heels would win the match, continuing their rise up the ranks in WWE. That was not to be the case.
Cena channeled the inner Superman that so many have criticized him for in the past and eliminated the remaining competitors, finishing with Barrett.
It was a triumphant moment for the top babyface in the company but one, according to the story being told, that came several months too early. The unstoppable force that was the Nexus had been vanquished and so, too, had been any legitimacy it had prior to the huge main event.