Few things are more important for a wrestling event than setting the right tone, right off the bat. It creates an atmosphere that will be carried over throughout the evening, both with the live crowd and with the audience at home.
The WWF/E has always been on another level when it comes to production and promotion and one of their strongest tools is their opening video packages to introduce each big show. While the style and presentation has changed dramatically over the years with an unlimited production budget, I still really enjoy watching some of the older, simpler introductions. The following is a list of my top 5 favourite Summerslam opening videos from “the good old days”.
#5. Summerslam 1996 – The Monsters
While this event itself isn’t exactly the most memorable, the opening video package of Summerslam ’96 really does a great job of painting a dark and eerie picture of the night to come by focusing on “the monsters” – the deranged Mankind and the brutal Vader and their respective matches against The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels.
This is a pretty drastic shift from previous years where the focus of Summerslam was sunshine and heat, with this entire package done in black and white with ominous background music along with the narrator reminding us how “good doesn’t always triumph over evil” and “sometimes the horror lives on”. This ended up being a huge hint of Paul Bearer’s shocking turn on The Undertaker later in the evening and was also a slight taste of the Attitude Era, long before the Attitude Era was even a thing.
#4. Summerslam 1993 – The Lex Express
In case you were living in a cave and had never seen or heard of this event or any of the fallout for that matter, you’d probably think the opening of this show as well as the red, white, and blue theme essentially gave away the ending of the Yokozuna/Lex Luger match for the World Wrestling Federation Championship. But you’d be wrong.
During the summer of 1993, Vince McMahon attempted to repackage Lex Luger into an American hero to fill the void left by Hulk Hogan earlier in the year. Luger spent the months leading up to Summerslam travelling across the country in a bus adorned with the stars and stripes, dubbed the “Lex Express”. And I know what you’re going to ask and the answer is of course ICOPRO is painted on the side.
Summerslam 1993 opens with shots of Luger meeting people all across America and then pulling up to the venue with Stars and Stripes Forever playing in the background. They then cut to the inside of the building with the classic Summerslam theme (the one used from 1990 to 1994) with Vince McMahon’s over the top voice perfectly introducing the night as he growls “the Lex Express has stopped in suburban Detroit. The Lex Express has stopped in Auburn Hills. The Lex Express has stopped at the Palace. The Lex Express has stopped at Summerslaaaam.” Incredible.
As a side note, I may be in the minority but I really enjoyed this event. And while I won’t get into it, how do you have that kind of ending to a match when the opening has the Star Spangled Banner sung by THE Aaron Neville?!
#3. Summerslam 1989 – Waterskiing and Ice Cream
This is one of the most 80s things you’ll ever see and I mean that in the best way possible as this particular opening fits the times perfectly, and really goes to show how much the product has changed over the last 30 years.
“Away. We. Go!” shouts announcer Tony Schiavone as we’re treated to a spectacular video package of wrestling highlights and summertime activities – a sports entertainment potpourri, if you will. “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka splashes his opponent from the top rope, and then we see a couple jumping into a swimming pool. Then we see the “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase synching in a Million Dollar Dream paired with a cyclist racing down the highway, because who doesn’t love choking someone out and then going for a bike ride? Next up is the Hart Foundation delivering a Hart Attack along with a lady with a stylish bowl haircut driving a convertible. And it goes on from there. It’s so ridiculous yet I love it so, so much.
#2. Summerslam 1997 – If Life Were Fair
There’s no swimming pools or convertibles here. Set in an ominous black and white like the year before, this intro summarizes Bret Hart’s turn into a “fallen idol” and “America’s public enemy number one” and sets the stage for his quest to take the World Wrestling Federation Championship from The Undertaker, with bitter rival (both onscreen and backstage) Shawn Michaels as special referee.
Beautiful in its simplicity, the opening of the 1997 edition of Summerslam is incredibly effective in painting a picture of the landscape of the WWF at the time. “Is it fair?” asks the narrator as he lists the number of scenarios that led us to the main event. And although we had already waved goodbye to the squeaky-clean product of the 1980s and early 90s, the summer of 1997 officially shut the door on the New WWF Generation once and for all. No longer was it a given that the audience could expect the hero to prevail. “Life isn’t fair…but who ever said it would be?” is the last thing we hear before the start of the show.
#1. Summerslam 1991 – Nuptials and Napalm
If you haven’t seen it, stop whatever it is you’re doing right now (after reading this post of course) and put on Summerslam 1991. A stacked card from top to bottom, this, in my opinion anyway, is one of the best all around Summerslams the WWF/E has ever given us.
The main event match would see Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior take on Sgt. Slaughter, General Adnan and Colonel Mustafa, while, in a very unique twist, the wedding of “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth would close the show, which is something we hadn’t seen before or since at a major pay per view.
The opening video package, voiced over by none other than Vince McMahon, is the stuff of legend and is the reason I chose this as my number one Summerslam introduction of all time. After cordially inviting us to the Macho Man/Elizabeth wedding dubbed as the “Match Made In Heaven”, his next sentence – and I mean this without an ounce of hyperbole – is the greatest thing I have ever heard in my entire life:
“And then nuptials turn to napaaaaaalm in a Match Made in Heeeeeellllllllllll.” I still get a sore throat from listening to him almost cough up a lung saying it, but this is just classic Vince McMahon. And if there’s anything more romantic than getting married in the middle of Madison Square Garden during Summerslam, I don’t want to know about it.