Part One: Summerslam 1990 – The Rockers vs. Power & Glory
This article is the first of a series, Mementos of Wrestling Mastery, in which I will reflect on the vast array of specific moments, matches, and memories that have either played significant role in creating a wrestling-obsessed man or have ultimately helped in keeping me that way for 29 years. This literary venture of retrospection will enlighten younger fans that may be reading, or longtime fans that may have missed a particular event. My goal is to open as many eyes as possible to my best memories of the golden years that I grew up with and have always held in my heart and soul, even after so much time. These reflections will be in no particular order other than I will start as far back as I can remember, roughly working my way to present day and attempting to continue with that timetable. So let’s go back to the beginning…
August, 1990 – North Providence, Rhode Island:
There I sat as a 3-year-old boy in our third floor apartment on Towanda drive just anxiously awaiting the arrival of my Mom’s new boyfriend who was bringing over a tape of the recent WWF pay-per-view, Summerslam 1990. This is the oldest memory that floats around my brain when pertaining to wrestling. The annual summertime spectacular was the first WWF pay-per-view I had ever watched and for whatever reason, because of this memory and the nostalgia it carries, Summerslam has always been my favorite pay-per-view. I can remember my mother’s now ex-husband finally arriving with it so vividly, and I sat there on the floor about three feet away from the television screen jolting frantically with excitement as the VHS tape began to playback right before my youthful eyes!
A double main event: Hulk Hogan vs. Earthquake to settle a massive vendetta, and the Ultimate Warrior defending the WWF Championship against his arch nemesis “Ravishing” Rick Rude inside the confines of a steel cage. Now, if that’s not a lineup that will steal a little boy’s heart, I don’t know what is. These two matches felt exactly the way they should’ve…HUGE! And even now, twenty-six years later, I still pop like a madman for this pay-per-view just like I did when I was a baby duck and only learning that I loved professional wrestling. Man—I watched this show and was in awe, so much that I probably watched it about 100 times in that year. I played that damn tape so many times I’m lucky I didn’t burn the thing out! For me, as a toddler watching wrestling, the first contest on the show was what sucked me in and I’ve never let go of the memory or that little piece of history.
The match was a tag team affair between the well-established fan favorites The Rockers (Shawn Michaels & Marty Jannetty) and an upstart, newly formed team Power & Glory (Hercules & Paul Roma). This probably isn’t the type of match that will go into the treasured bank of classics on the network but it’s definitely resonated with me for twenty-six years. The match was my introduction to wrestling, and I mean that literally. To me, this little ditty encapsulated the purest elements of professional wrestling and aggressively delivered them all in a tight, explosive package that was like a square knockout punch to the side of your head! I didn’t realize any of these things until years later after much reflection and reminiscing.
The very young Shawn Michaels had been nursing a knee injury coming in, and the Power & Glory wasted no time in effectively removing him from the equation as Hercules beat that injured knee with his infamous chain before the bell had even rung. The first two or three minutes of this match were complete chaos as the referee allowed Jannetty to be double teamed in the ring by his adversaries. This evoked significant emotion from the crowd and most people at home. It made fans want The Rockers to win even more because these unjust actions were really making them feel bad from seeing such unfairness transpire, especially me as a three-year-old child. However, the shining spot in the beginning of this match was how good Michaels sold the knee injury as he kept trying to climb into the ring only to have that bad leg attacked every time before he could make it under the ropes.
This thing felt like a real fight as a new team was trying to decimate a younger, but beloved team among the fans. As Michaels screamed in agonizing pain from the floor, some semblance of a match was beginning to form in the ring as the referee was finally taking a bit of control, and so were the Power & Glory. By the time the official started doing his job this had turned into a handicap match, and it didn’t take more than about three minutes for Hercules and Paul Roma to slice through one half of The Rockers like a blistering hot knife through butter! Not only did they quickly stall any momentum that Jannetty was somehow able to create, but they also displayed a fine-tuned arsenal of powerful and athletic tag-team maneuvers with great chemistry. The duo then put him away with a viciously innovative tag-team finisher for its time, the superplex/flying splash combo, which is a move that hasn’t lost its legitimacy or stature over time because it’s just as devastating in 2016 as it was back in 1990!
The victorious team tossed Michaels into the ring hastefully and continued to target his bad knee. This forced a pummeled Jannetty to partially pick himself up from the broken heap he was lying in and crawl over his partner’s battered leg to protect him. At the end of this savvy battle one new team proved their validity as a real threat with true conviction, and a fan-favorite team was ambushed and dismantled! My three-year-old mind was spinning like a tornado trying to comprehend what I just watched, heard and absorbed. I was feeling a little sad and even more angry—I wasn’t totally sure how to deal with my emotions but, from that point on, I was hooked on wrestling!
It’s amazing how much relevance this match still holds: It was superb wrestling psychology; it was excellent heel/face work from each team; it had elements of chaos and confusion although it eventually rounded off into a solid match; but what’s most important was the intensity level of the encounter. There was a strong sense of realism then and it still feels that way now, without a doubt in the world for me. In my mind, this is a well-deserving classic that usually flies under people’s radars. This is one of the best, most efficiently executed quick wrestling matches ever because it was able to tell a compelling story in such a short amount of time and contained many of the key elements of great wrestling, such as in-ring psychology, pure pandemonium, and some strong, solid emotional overtones. I urge EVERYONE to go watch this match and the full pay-per-view if you haven’t already! Summerslam 1990 is my oldest memory of wrestling and a cherished memento that I will always hold with great passion and intensity!
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Until next time, The Gonzo Shark checks out…
“Walk tall, kick ass, learn to speak Arabic, love music and never forget you come from a long line of truth seekers, lovers and warriors.” – Hunter S. Thompson