WRITTEN PODCAST RECAP: Something to Wrestle With on SummerSlam 1996: Inside scoop on the IC title tourney in Rio de Janeiro, HBK-Vader, Vince hates Westminster, Farooq gets a day job, Brock mistakes Bruce for who? (Ep. 59)

Something to Wrestle With – Episode 58

Release Date: August 4, 2017

Recap By: Jeff Rush, Specialist

Release Date: 08/11/17


Top 10 impressions

10. Cornette goes off on Shawn Michaels
9. Vince introduces Shawn Michaels
8. Vince is excited about the idea of Marlena and Sable hooking up
7. Johnny Ace reacts to finding Herb Abrams
6. Ernie Ladd got fired
5. Vince thinks 2 Cold Scorpio is funky
4. Cornette and Vince argue about kayfabe
3. Michael Hayes thinks T.L. Hopper should eat s**t
2. Vince loves Farooq’s majestic contraption
1. Johnny Ace is just a sexy boy

Noteworthy Items
– Bill Irwin was given The Goon gimmick because he played hockey in high school.
– Pat Patterson was just visiting WM XII and ended up booking the main event.
– The location of the fictional 1979 IC title tournament was a rib on Pat Patterson.
– Sweet Tea is WWE’s go to when imitating whiskey on-screen.
– Brock Lesnar confused Bruce and Kevin Kelly for each other for about six months.
– Vince thought no one would recognize (Rikishi) Fatu as the Sultan.
– Bruce hilariously shoots hard on Warrior, breaking down “distrucity.”
– Ron Simmons left wrestling to work for Coca-Cola prior to his WWF run.
– Mark Henry quickly gained heat upon entering WWF for having a big head.
– Vince gave Duke Droese the garbage man gimmick because he thought he looked like one.
– Bruce gives a terrific quote regarding Vince’s disdain for being preempted by USA.
– Bruce and Vince argued over the finish of Undertaker-Mankind.
– Undertaker deferring to the urn is casually called “Shakespearing.”
– Vader’s miscues in the main event were the nail in the coffin for his WWF run.

What happened when SummerSlam 1996 took place at the Gund Arena?

We’re just two shows removed from the Austin 3:16 promo and a month past IYH: International Incident. Bruce says they were just pleased to get through the INY show. The monthly shows that ran between the “big five” PPV’s were cheaper, but as a result, were also seen as lesser shows. Bruce notes that International Incident was the WWF’s first PPV in Vancouver.

Vader pinned Shawn Michaels in a six-man match on the show. This came after months of Vader losing to Michaels at house shows. Conrad mentions this fact after referring to Wrestling Observer reports. This leads to Bruce’s first FDM rant of the show.

Jake Roberts was scheduled to make a radio appearance a few days before IYH, but no-showed. He’d been claiming to be sick in the days leading up to this. This happened at a time when the company was trying to work Jake into creative.

The Undertaker and Mankind had a match on this show that ended with them battling in a boiler room, which would set up an official Boiler Room match at SummerSlam. Bruce thinks this program worked so well because it was like a monster movie.

The next night, WWF ran Raw in the 20,000-seat Key Arena in Seattle. The show would draw less than 7,000. Bruce says the company traditionally never drew well in the Pacific Northwest.

Conrad mentions that Marc Mero pinned the Goon in a match at one of the shows they ran on this swing through the Northwest. This prompts the guys to go a bit in-depth on The Goon gimmick.

From the Observer, Conrad reads that the gimmick is somewhat controversial, as it’s reported to have been originally pitched by Scott D’Amore. He claims to have suggested himself for the part of a wrestling hockey player seven months before veteran wrestler “Wild” Bill Irwin would debut as the Goon.

Bruce knows Scott and flatly denies this claim. He says The Goon came up in a meeting with Bill Irwin, who was actually a hockey player in high school.

Around this time, WWF was considering running with a lesbian angle between Marlena and Sable. Vince got cold feet and pulled the plug.

Pat Patterson made a TV appearance for the first time in a long while. Bruce notes he’d retired in December 1995. He agreed to pay a visit to the company at WrestleMania XII, but Vince ended up convincing him to put together the 60 Minute Iron Man match between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels that main evented.

A tournament was held to determine a new IC champion, as Ahmed Johnson was out with a ruptured kidney. Pat Patterson was brought in to do commentary for some of the matches, with the idea being he was the very first IC champion. The guys joke about how he won the title in a tournament in Rio de Janeiro. That was the claim the company had made back in 1979 when they created the title. In reality, they just decided Pat was the champion. No tournament was ever held. But then Bruce decides to give us the real scoop:

The tournament site of Rio de Janeiro was decided on by Vince Sr. because he was tickled with the fact that Pat could not pronounce “Rio de Janeiro” with his thick French accent.

Aldo Montoya was working as a protégé of Jake Roberts at this time. Jake was doing his “saved” gimmick and, after a match with Jerry Lawler, Lawler poured a bottle of “Jim Beam” down Montoya’s throat. Conrad asks what they used in place of actual whiskey. Bruce admits the go-to fill in for dark liquor on the set is sweet tea.

Brian Adams was brought back at this point to revive his Crush gimmick.

Triple H signed a new three-year contract. Bruce admits there was some concern that Triple H would jump to WCW to join Hall and Nash. Crazy to think about what could have been:

July 1996: After spending two months in the dog house following the infamous “Curtain Call” at MSG, Paul Levesque has grown frustrated with what he views as unfair treatment and has decided to sign a three-year guaranteed contract with WCW.

October 1996: Repackaged as “Triple 8”, Paul Levesque became the eighth member of the NWO, attacking Dean Malenko after his Cruiserweight title defense over Rey Mysterio Jr. at Halloween Havoc.

August 1997: Harlem Heat defeated Buff Bagwell and Triple 8 (with Vincent) in the opening match of Road Wild.

February 1998: Juventud Guerrera defeated Triple 8 in a Mask vs. Hair match at SuperBrawl VIII in San Francisco.

October 1998: Triple 8 landed awkwardly on a trapdoor that had been set up underneath the ring canvas to enable The Warrior to make a dramatic entrance in the night’s main event. He’s expected to be hospitalized for at least 6 months.

October 1999: After suffering numerous setbacks during his lengthy rehabilitation following his seven-month hospital stay, Paul Levesque, AKA Triple 8, has announced his retirement from professional wrestling.

November 1999: For perhaps the first time in pro wrestling history, a televised wedding went off without a hitch when Stephanie McMahon and Andrew Martin, known as Test, were happily married at the conclusion of Monday Night Raw.

Ok, back to reality…

Kevin Kelly joined the company around this time. Though he joined the three-man booth at one time when Vince took a break from announcing, Bruce says JR was being groomed to replace Vince on commentary, but Kelly never was. They were hoping to give their announcing team a more youthful look. He then adds an amusing anecdote about Brock Lesnar confusing Bruce and Kevin Kelly for about six months in OVW.

We then spend about 15 minutes discussing company financials, bi rates, running house shows, TV deals and general economics. If this is your thing, check out the time stamp to see when you can catch this entire topic.

Herb Abrams passed away around this time due to an apparent drug overdose. He had founded a low-budget wrestling organization called UWF (not that one) in 1989 that, most notably, once filled a 17,000-seat arena with just under 300 people. The details of his death were sorted, and Conrad details them – trashing a hotel room, naked and covered in baby oil, lots of evident drug usage, etc. Sadly, Bruce never met him, so we don’t get much more insight than this.

Jake returned to the fold around this time. Asked about the details of his appearance, Bruce says its just Jake being Jake, and that was always the case with him.

Conrad brings up Clarence Mason. He’s been discussed a bit in the past on this show. Bruce says Clarence took things too seriously and even worked himself into a shoot, offering legal council to some of the wrestlers.

The Iron Sheik was brought in to work with the Sultan, AKA Rikishi Fatu. Bruce says Vince’s vision for the Sultan was as a Middle Eastern “torture expert.” He felt the Iron Sheik would be perfect in the role of his manager. He also felt no one would recognize the Sultan as being Fatu.

When Conrad asks about exploiting real life terrorist events to create a character, Bruce says wrestling has always played off of real world events in regards to making foreigners heels. They’ve gotten away from it in the modern era, but had they not, Bruce says we’d have a North Korean as a top heel now.

The WWF began to mention Bret Hart by name on television, even though he was not under contract. Bruce says they were hopeful he’d be signed soon and didn’t want to ignore the situation. Conrad mentions that Bret had been featured in a TV series around this time called Sinbad. I was quite intrigued by this news, and did a little research of my own. Sadly, it was not what I was thinking.

Turns out, Bret was starring in The Adventures Of Sinbad

…and not The Sinbad Show

That makes way more sense.

Dave Meltzer reported at the time that Bret Hart was in the most enviable position of any free agent in pro wrestling history. My god, that went sideways.

In an interesting hypothetical, Conrad asks if Vince would’ve gone after Bret as hard as he did had the NWO not been a group, and had Hall and Nash never left the WWF. Bruce feels Bret would not have been quite the priority he was under these circumstances.

The Warrior left the WWF for the final time as a wrestler in the summer of 1996. Bruce has some fun here explaining Warriors made up word, Distrucity, here.

Discussion turns briefly to Buddy Landel. Bruce felt Buddy screwed himself up by running with the Nature Boy moniker, as it drew comparisons to Ric Flair and Landel was not in Flair’s league.

Conrad talks about Ron Simmons leaving wrestling to work at a Coca-Cola factory between his stay in WCW and joining the WWF. Bruce says Ron was looking to get out of the business and this job set him up with health insurance and security. Conrad asks how common that was. Bruce says it depends on the wrestler. There are some that only know wrestling, others have connections to other industries. He also sites the desire by wrestlers to have health insurance. He then equates the wrestling industry to the mafia, saying it’s difficult to ever truly leave.

Next, we touch on the ongoing lawsuit by the WWF against WCW’s usage of Scott Hall and Kevin Nash. Sean Waltman was added to the lawsuit just in time to temporarily block his usage by WCW. Bruce says Waltman was difficult to work with at this point. They were relieved to lose him in one regard, but didn’t want to see him going off to help the competition.

Shawn Michaels and Brian Pillman were paired up for a potential angle at this point, but Bruce says the two were oil and water and they decided not to go in that direction.

Mark Henry had a lot of heat upon entering the company around this time. Bruce says he had a big head thanks to his Olympic background and listing as the “Worlds Strongest Man.”

Conrad brings up the retirement of Duke “The Dumpster” Droese. Bruce says he was a good guy, but was too nice to be in the wrestling business. Vince gave him the gimmick because he felt he looked like a garbage man.

The WWF was hoping to run weekly PPV’s for $9.99. The show’s would be “more raw than Raw.” The way the report that Conrad uses for reference sounds, this was the genesis of Shotgun Saturday Night. Bruce says this was inspired by Saturday Night’s Main Event and takes a shot at Meltzer. Conrad notes that six years later TNA would be using this formula.

Conrad mentions that Raw would be preempted for two weeks so that USA could air tennis. This prompts a fun and interesting quote from Bruce:

“Words cannot begin to describe the hatred for tennis on USA at times. It’s second only to the Westminster Dog Show. It was very irritating, because we were consistently bringing USA the best numbers of anything on their network, but yet we would still be preempted for dogs and tennis.”

We move to the actual SummerSlam PPV. Neither Bruce nor Conrad thought very highly of this show. Bruce often watches back the PPVs they schedule doing an episode about and stops doing what he’s doing to catch every match. He didn’t necessarily stop doing anything while catching up on this one.

Steve Austin pinned Yokozuna on the pre-PPV Free For All. Conrad points out how the narrative is that Austin cut his promo at King Of The Ring and the company strapped a rocket to his ass and off they ran. So why is he working the Free For All just two months later? Bruce says they were biding their time and knew where they were going. Conrad doesn’t quite seem to buy his explanation.

We then talk about a promo shot they aired where the babyfaces and heels were playing volleyball together. Bruce hated it, as did Cornette, but Vince felt everyone knew and didn’t care as long as it was in an advertisement, and not on the actual show.

Conrad then talks about a skit they did where none of the wrestlers would get into the water at a pool party because there was a turd floating in it. T.L. Hopper then jumps in and eats the “turd.” Classic Vince humor.

The first match on the show is Savio Vega vs. Owen Hart. Bruce felt the match was slow and that the outside interference was the most entertaining part.

The ref was referred to as an official instead of referee, so we get into Vince’s preference for certain terms for a bit.

The Smoking Gunns won a four-way tag match. Afterwards, a large poster of Sunny, the Gunns manager at the time, dropped from the ceiling. In a funny spot, Bruce says if this match were held in the Tokyo Dome, it would get 8 and a half stars, to which Conrad deadpan’s “that’s an old joke now.”

Conrad thinks Leif Cassidy’s entrance in this match is the best part. He was teaming with Marty Jannetty as the “New and Improved” Rockers. Bruce says Vince was inspired by products he would see being reintroduced as “new and improved,” even though they weren’t any better than the originals. It’s agreed that this is a pretty good heel tactic.

Sid came out next for his match against Davey Boy Smith. Bruce mentions that Sid may have invented the fist bump as a greeting, as he was using it here with fans on the way to the ring, years before you would see that commonly used. He was also pleasantly surprised by the quality of this match.

Goldust vs. Marc Mero is up next. The most interesting item from this match is the fact that they were trying to get Mero’s new move over. It was called the Wild Thing. Jim Ross mentioned he’d be debuting it prior to the start of the match, yet when it happened, JR referred to it as a shooting star press instead. Bruce feels this was a “JRism” where he wanted fans to know he knew what it was.

Next is Jerry Lawler vs. Jake Roberts. Bruce enjoyed this match even though Meltzer called it a dud. This brings on a rare admonishment of Dave by Conrad, who says Meltzer sometimes lets work rate get in the way of an entertaining story being told. Little by little, over the course of a year, Bruce has been able to take a diehard Dave Meltzer disciple and bring him around to his way of thinking about “dirt sheet” writers. Conrad and Bruce are still ultimately a ways apart, but it’s been fascinating to watch this sort of thing happen.

Vince wanted the WWF to get someone into the 1996 presidential race. Bob Backlund was eager to be that person and got the nod.

Next, we get into the concept of using “the bowels of the building” for a match. The guys discuss Todd Pettengill and his silly, over the top reaction to the setting for the Undertaker vs. Mankind Boiler Room Brawl match. Plumbing is ominous.

Mankind would get the win following Paul Bearer’s heel turn on the Undertaker. The parts of the match filmed backstage were shot the day before. Bruce remembers he was suffering from gout at the time and had to work on his feet a lot during the taping.

Undertaker loved working with Mankind. Bruce says Mankind worked as light as a feather. They talk about how Mick Foley would sacrifice his own body for the sake of making things look good. This includes a sickening back bump he took onto the concrete in this match. You can hear his head bounce off the floor. Bruce says Vince would try to talk Mick out of doing the majority of his bumps, but that Mick would convince Vince they weren’t so bad.

In a segment that dates the PPV, Bruce discusses how, in order for the people sitting up front to watch the action in the back, they had to wheel out small televisions for everyone to watch. This did not help crowd reaction.

Vince separated Paul Bearer and Undertaker in order to give them both “a fresh coat of paint.” Bruce wanted the finish to come when Taker “did the Shakespeare” to Bearer holding the urn, thinking Paul should’ve bashed him right there. Instead, Bearer looked conflicted but didn’t yet pull the trigger on the turn. It would happen several minutes later after additional brawling. Bruce says he and Vince had an argument about the finish that got pretty heated.

As we get into the main event, Bruce impersonates Vince’s over the top introduction of Shawn Michaels. He says he killed it by cutting Michaels music too soon.

Bruce says the match itself was very good. The big miscue spot where Vader didn’t move and Michaels kicked him and yelled at him to move came from Michaels’ immaturity at the time. Bruce adds that Vader was supposed to kick out during the second finish, but didn’t. This pissed Shawn off again. Bruce says in Vader’s defense that he too was frustrated. He says Vader is a perfectionist and was probably worried about screwing things up and missed various queues. He says the two just didn’t click (pun not intended). The original plan was to have Vader beat Shawn for the title at Survivor Series and then have Shawn win it back at the Royal Rumble. Following this match, they moved Sid into Vader’s role.

Bruce feels, in hindsight, that this was the nail in the coffin for Vader’s WWF run. He felt Vader had his working shoes on for the first half of the match and, overall, was great if you take out the two big miscues. Bruce adds that it’s plausible that Vader simply didn’t hear Michaels. He says the reality, though, was that Shawn was “king s**t”, and the company had Sid lying in wait.

Conrad asks if any other top guys over time would have reacted the way Michaels did in this match. Hogan, Bret, Cena? Bruce says yes to Bret, but that Hogan would not. He’s seen Cena get pissed off, maybe not to the same magnitude of Shawn here, but definitely to an extent.

Perhaps in an effort to end the show on a positive note, Conrad points out that at the Raw tapings the following night, The Rock debuted as Flex Cavana in his first WWF match.

Bruce finishes up talking about Shane McMahon’s wedding, which would take place a month later. He recalls that Shane’s mother-in-law was being carried around overhead in a chair and was dropped. He also fondly recalls hanging out and eating sushi with Freddy Blassie and his wife.

Rating: At this point, I’m not sure how much these guys have left to discuss regarding the summer of 1996. Granted, you can get a few hours of gold out of pretty much any subject Bruce and Conrad want to get into, but we’ve tackled the mid-90s pretty hard here, and now that includes PPV’s from both June and August 1996. While it was cool to scrape up some info on the “I don’t know when we’ll talk about them again” class, including T.L Hopper, Duke Droese, Todd Pettengill, and Aldo Montoya, you get the feeling Bruce has said all he’s excited about saying when it comes to this specific point in WWF/E’s history. However, it’s like I always say, these guys can turn most any subject into gold, and whether it was catching anecdotes about the IC tournament in Rio de Janeiro or perspective on wrestlers perusing a life outside of the business, Something To Wrestle is always up for turning a routine fly into a ground rule double. As you’re getting pumped for SummerSlam season, I’d say this episode is definitely worth the listen and will even provide the occasional home run. 8/10

7:10: In Your House 9: International Incident
18:00: The Goon
19:50: Lesbian angle
27:00: Pat Patterson
35:50: Financials
51:40: Herb Abrams
55:40: Cornette and Michaels
59:20: Clarence Mason
1:01:00: The Sultan
1:04:50: Bret Hart returning
1:08:19: D-I-S-T-R-U-C-I-T-Y
1:10:35: Flash Funk
1:12:00: Ron Simmons works for Coca-Cola
1:14:03: Razor/Diesel lawsuit
1:20:51: Michaels/Pillman
1:21:50: Mark Henry
1:39:36: Savio vs. Owen
1:42:00: David and Goliath-style hype
1:44:30: Four-way tag match
1:50:00: Community participation
1:52:17: Sycho Sid vs. Davey Boy Smith
1:53:45: Goldust vs. Marc Mero
1:58:05: Jerry Lawler vs. Jake Roberts
2:02:25: Bob Backlund for President
2:03:30: Boiler Room Brawl concept
2:07:45: Undertaker vs. Mankind
2:21:09: Michaels vs. Vader
2:40:37: Twitter questions

About Jeff: 

Jeff Rush is a life-long fan of professional wrestling. He’s attended the last match of both Andre the Giant and Stone Cold Steve Austin’s careers and two of the three matches of the Rock-Austin WrestleMania trilogy. As a child, he was once yelled at by John Tenta for sitting too close to him on a bench at Hershey Park. Jeff listens to way too many wrestling podcasts and watches way too much WWE Network. He also catches as much indie wrestling as he can when it comes through his home of New York City. Follow along @jefflikesstuff

For more, check out last week’s recap of Something to Wrestle With on Paul Heyman’s run in WWE. 

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