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17th Aug 2016

Love and glory in the squared circle: Reliving SummerSlam 1992


It was a mix of WWE’s over-the-top pageantry with a slightly naff English charm, giving the whole thing the texture of a deluxe edition of “It’s A Knockout”.

To date, SummerSlam 1992 is the first and only “major” WWE pay-per-view event to be hosted outside North America, and it is a beautiful unicorn of a television show. A mix of live action stunt work, soap opera-style acting and some of the worst British ribbing you will ever see.

It all opens with a shot of traditional British icons – Westminster, some black cabs and red telephones boxes. Landed gentry types playing trumpets. At one point, noted heel commentator Bobby “The Brain” Heenan gets a plastic crown and calls himself “Sir Bobby – King of England”.

“Henry VIII would be rolling in his grave if he could see this. Nonetheless, the only thing royal about you is you’re a royal pain,” Vince McMahon shoots back.


Bobby vs. Vince

Consult the minds of Reddit’s esteemed “Squared Circle” page and they will tell you SummerSlam ’92 came from Vince McMahon trying to cash in on the rise of wrestling in the UK and Europe. Redditor bwainright said, “WW(F)E had been having occasional UK tours around that time and had started a strong partnership with British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) at the very end of the ’80s, so demand in the UK was growing.”

Vince McMahon had a punt on taking one of his major shows overseas and ended up setting the fourth largest attendance record in WWE history: 80,355 packed out Wembley Stadium to watch their favourites do battle. Between ticket prices and merchandise sales, the WWE reportedly made over $3,650,000 in revenue.

And yet, SummerSlam ‘92 is very much not a “good” event. At least not in the classic sense. Like many things we remember fondly from the early nineties, it’s a bit all over the place.

Too lacking in polish to be good, yet too camp to not be rendered invalid, SummerSlam ‘92 is WWE at its most quixotic – the US and the UK colliding in a mix of the Good, the Bad & the Weird.

Let’s have a deep dive.


The Weird  – Macho Man (c) vs The Ultimate Warrior for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship

Macho Man Randy Savage is one of the best to ever do it.

The Ultimate Warrior had his flaws, but was deemed to be Hulk Hogan’s successor after The Hulk departed for pastures new. This match was very much supposed to be a Big Deal.

Despite all that, the build for this match mostly concerned itself with the wildcard – Mr. Perfect. Throughout the entire PPV, questions are asked as to which man Perfect will back. Ric Flair teases it. Bobby The Brain teases it, but when the match begins, Mr. Perfect is nowhere to be seen.

By 1992, the Ultimate Warrior wasn’t quite the draw he used to be. This was a smaller Warrior who wrestled in a flesh-coloured “skin suit” – there was a rumour that the original Warrior died and this one had taken his place.

Nevertheless, if there’s one thing the Warrior could do, it was send the crowd into a frenzy. Randy makes his trademark entrance, all Pomp & Circumstance and brilliance, and the two get into it.

Macho vs. Warrior

What we get is a weird cartoony scuffle, something resembling the preamble you find outside your local nightclub on a Saturday night. Two creatine-addled, wardrobe-shaped men colliding into each other repeatedly. Warrior was notorious for his limited ring skills and propensity to botch (mess up), but Macho Man’s meticulous nature allows him to cover up his opponent’s shortcomings.

Mr Perfect

By the time Mr. Perfect does make an appearance – glistening and flawless as ever – it’s to declare himself to neither camp. Perfect works with Ric Flair to disrupt both Macho Man and the Ultimate Warrior, sweeping legs, delivering haymakers and distracting referees.

Before long, Flair grabs a steel chair during one of the Warrior’s trademark power ups and slams into the back of the face-painted hero. Savage has a chance to capitalise, but also ends up on the wrong side of Ric Flair’s chair. The competitors find themselves on the wrong side of a double countout and are left to rally against a Perfect and Savage onslaught.

The match ends with the pair walking out of the ring together, but the match is bit of an anti-climax; a fight for the biggest accolade in the WWE ended via countout. That wasn’t good enough to close out the programme.


The Bad – Undertaker vs Kamala

Standing at 6 ft 8, The Undertaker suffered much in his early career from being matched up with other giant men. While it’s nice to think of his Wrestlemania streak as a constant stream of Icon vs. Icon matches, the series only reached goodness after his seventh win. Too often bookers put The Undertaker with large, supernatural men, and fans suffered from slow, lumbering matches.

This time The Undertaker found himself with the very big and somewhat racially insensitive character of Kamala. Fresh from the bush of Uganda and billed as “coming from the dark continent of Africa”, watching back now, Kamala was a character who very much made you go: “Oh.”


Undertaker’s wrestling wasn’t quite there yet, but he’s already showing flashes of the phenomenon he’ll become.

Coming down in a hearse lead by Paul Bearer, he looks every bit a legend in the making. When he gets in the ring, the speed at which he moves is remarkable. Like watching videos of Alan Shearer before his knee injury, looking at early Undertaker matches, you’re astonished by his movement around the ring.

The Undertaker

At the matches onset Vince says, “You won’t see a great deal of scientific display of skills in this match up” and he’s not kidding. What follows is four minutes of chops and slaps as a clunky Kamala tries to chop down The Undertaker.

The Undertaker has none of it, hitting all of his future classics. Old schools, corner batterings, chokeslams, it’s all there. Things get so bad that Kamala’s manager, the pith helmet-wearing (we told you it was colonial) Kim attacks the Deadman, ending the bout in a DQ.

Kamala continues to attack The Undertaker after the bell, hitting a few frog splashes as he looks to underline his hatred for the man.

Cue Taker springing up.

Undertaker Spring
Even when WWE is bad, it’s still interesting to watch.

Bret v Bulldog

The Good – Bret Hart (c) vs British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith for the Intercontinental Championship

1992 saw the WWE at an interesting crossroad: Hulk Hogan had departed for Hollywood to make some films, his successor The Ultimate Warrior wasn’t *quite* there, and the more talented smaller wrestlers like Ric Flair and Mr. Perfect weren’t getting the main event rub.

What they did have though, was a 6ft 1 Canadian wrestler that went by the name of Bret “The Hitman” Hart…

Dubbed “The Excellence of Execution”, Bret was perhaps the best wrestler in the WWE at the time. An exquisite mat technician, Bret could put together wrestling combinations the likes of which we’d never seen before.

Frequently referring to himself as “The Best There Is, The Best There Was, And The Best There Ever Will Be”, at SummerSlam ’92 the grizzled Canadian found himself facing his brother-in-law, British Bulldog.

Bulldog was an early ’90s phenomenon: cartoon muscles and goofy day-glo cornrows. Hart conversely looked like something from an action film – sweet shades, leather jacket. Hart was a cool dude who dropped one-liners.

Kind of.

Bret Hart

“I think this big dream of his is gonna turn into a nightmare. And tomorrow morning when he wakes up, he’s gonna feel like he woke up in the dungeon of Windsor Castle,” says the Hitman in a prematch promo.

The match itself would be littered with the same odd British references. At one part Brett elbows Bulldog in the face and Bobby remarks, “Ooh, right in the fish and chips”. Even Razor Ruddock gets a shout out during the fisticuffs.

Family tension is a constant through line in the match. Diana Hart Smith, Brett’s sister and Bulldog’s wife, cuts one of the most vulnerable and tender promos you’ll ever watch. If you didn’t know she was from a wrestling family, you’d think she didn’t know WWE was pre-determined.

Diana Hart Smith

“To be be quite frank I’m not concerned with who wins. I love Brett and I love Davey… the bond that we have is greater than anything. It’s more valuable than anything and nothing to me can replace that, not even the Intercontinental belt.”

That the match would constantly cut to Diana throughout the bout only added to the intrigue. This felt more than a regular fight.

Lennox Lewis

Lennox Lewis comes out with the British Bulldog, waving the Union Jack as Rule Britannia blasts over the tannoy and 80,000 UK wrestling fans cheer for their homegrown hero. Eighty thousand. Eighty thousand men women and children see the then European, British and Commonwealth Heavyweight boxing champion, but shift their focus to the “fake” fighter in Bulldog.

By the time Bret Hart comes the reception is spilt. Sometimes in wrestling a character comes along who will split the crowd, someone who wins over the younger fans but draws boos from the savvier, behind-the-scenes watchers. This was different. This was a crowd completely at odds with itself. To this day Bret is considered one of the world’s greatest wrestlers, but the UK had to put their love for him on ice. This was a rare moment for a British wrestler and they were going to use it.

Both Bret and Davey Boy are tag team partners at Stampede wrestlers in Canada, and their chemistry shines through in this bout. What strikes you most about this is the speed and smoothness of all the moves. After the shambling efforts of Kamala and the stop-start affair of Macho Man-Warrior, this is like going through a time leap.

Both men were wrestling five years ahead of the competition, exchanging moves and holds with the sort of seamlessness only the very best are capable of. Despite both men’s size, either fighter is capable of picking the other up like they are made of air. It’s fighting via ballet.

About two-thirds into the fight Bret snaps a sleeper hold on Bulldog and the crowd is sent into pandemonium. One arm falls, and then another… and then LIFE. Bulldog powers through, carrying Bret on his back and slamming him into the corner, powered by British pride.

Then comes… what looks a like a botch. Bulldog gets Hart into a body press and awkwardly drops him crotch first into the middle rope.

Bret Shish Kebab


“Shish kebab, anyone?” remarks Bobby.

Heading into the final straight and it looks like Bulldog has the upper hand. He whips Brett into the corner post chest first and goes for another pin. Two count. Cue a cartoony taunt and then POWERSLAM.

The crowd goes wild… but another two count. Bret by this part so exhausted he falls out of the ring. Commentary has to do the heavy lifting as both men take a breather.

“I don’t believe anyone kicks out of that. What has British Bulldog got to do to win the championship?” asks Vince.

“He can’t beat Bret Hart. He can’t beat the Hitman,” replies Bobby.

“You may have a point there”

“Of course I have a point there. I’m the King of England.” 

Bret has time for one final German suplex, but after a counter, Bulldog takes him to the top rope and lands a superplex.

One…two… Oh, you can’t believe it. Brett refuses to go down.

Then a double clothesline. And Bret manipulates the mat to lock in his finisher, THE SHARPSHOOTER.

Bulldog *just* about gets to the ropes, and then the camera cuts to Diana off her feet, tears in her eyes.

This has to end. It will end. Brett goes for a sunset flip but it doesn’t come off. Bulldog hooks him.

One.. two..  THREE.

Hall of Fame announcer Howard Finkel makes the call to a rabid 80,000.

“Ladies and Gentleman… the winner of this bout… AND NEEEEEWWWWW… Intercontinental Champion… The Britiiiiissssh Buuuulllllldog”.

Bret v Bulldog


“And he did it in his own backyard…. That’s the belt, stupid, put it on. You won it”, for Bobby always had a way of bringing you back to reality. 

After a half moment, Diana joins her boys in the ring, reconciling the pair after a titanic battle.

Hart Family reunites


Well said Vince. We’ll leave it there. Please bring SummerSlam back to the UK.

Feature image illustration by Dan Evans. All other images via WWE.

WWE Summerslam is live on the WWE Network on 21 August.

This article originally appeared on