SummerSlam has long been one of the “Big 4” of WWE Pay per View events. The other 3 being WrestleMania (WWE’s Super Bowl), Survivor Series, and Royal Rumble.
There was more significance to the events that took place at each of the “Big 4” shows. As a fan, you wanted to take part of each event because it would be months before the next event of such magnitude.
The summer of 1992 was a challenging time for WWE.
WWE was coming off the heels of WrestleMania 8, an event that featured Hulk Hogan against Sid Justice and Ric Flair vs Macho Man Randy Savage.
Hulk Hogan left the WWE after being disgraced by the steroid trial. He went on to pursue a career in Hollywood.
Sid Justice had quit the WWE instead of being suspended for failing a drug test (h/t Dave Meltzer).
The Ultimate Warrior had proven to be a one trick pony who was not capable of carrying the load for WWE.
Ric Flair was still with WWE, but he never seemed to click with WWE fans the way he did with NWA/WCW fans.
Macho Man Randy Savage had his last significant match in WWE the night of WrestleMania 8.
The time was right for a new crop of talent to begin their climb to the top of the WWE product.
The two men that showed fans that the old era was dead and a new era was beginning were Bret Hart and The British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith.
That era began August 29th, 1992 at SummerSlam which took place at Wembley Stadium.
If you have seen the match, you don’t need the play by play.
If you haven’t seen the match and have access to WWE Network, I implore you to watch this masterpiece of a professional wrestling match.
In the mid to late 1980s and into the early 1990s, WWE had a very specific formula for television and big events.
There would be an excellent traditional wrestling match in the middle of the card, then the main event would be a slower paced match featuring Hulk Hogan. The main event matches would rely on smoke and mirrors to get the crowd involved as opposed to traditional wrestling that told an exciting story.
A great example of this balance took place at WrestleMania 3. On that night, there was a match between Macho Man Randy Savage and Ricky Steamboat that from a “technical wrestling” standpoint, was the most exciting match of the night. That match would be overshadowed by the slower paced match between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant.
Fans will argue to the death about which style is more entertaining. The memorable moment of Hogan slamming Andre and retaining the WWE Heavyweight Championship or the fast paced, storytelling dramatic match between Savage and Steamboat.
In 1992, the fans were starting to grow tired of the slow prodding, color by numbers matches that main event talent like Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior were putting on.
The match between Bret Hart and Davey Boy Smith changed the WWE landscape at SummerSlam 1992.
That match showed that two wrestlers can have a technical wrestling masterpiece of a match that told a dramatic story, AS WELL AS, being the main event of the show.
Bret Hart would then go on to become the WWE Heavyweight Champion later in 1992. He would continue to display sound and technical wrestling skill, along with excellent story telling in the ring for the rest of 1992 through early 1993.
Bret would then lose the WWE Heavyweight Championship to Yokozuna at WrestleMania 9. Yokozuna would hold the championship for only seconds until a returning Hulk Hogan reclaimed the WWE Heavyweight Championship.
By the time that Hulk Hogan had returned in 1993, the fans quickly grew tired of the same old predictable style of wrestling.
It had become apparent that what Bret Hart and Davey Boy Smith did at SummerSlam 1992 had changed the fans vision of what the WWE could be.
A returning Hulk Hogan was the equal to your toxic ex-girlfriend saying hi to you at the grocery store and it didn’t matter anymore because your new girlfriend opened your eyes to what life COULD be.
The impact of the match between Bret Hart and Davey Boy Smith was felt in the next of the “Big 4” Pay per View events.
Survivor Series 1992 was a match between WWE Heavyweight Champion Bret Hart and WWE Intercontinental Champion Shawn Michaels for the WWE Heavyweight Champion.
Both men, no more than a year ago, were deemed to be “too small” to be featured in a main role of a WWE event.
Bret Hart vs Davey Boy Smith showed the WWE audience that wrestlers like Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, Razor Ramon (Scott Hall), Owen Hart, and others were capable of being in the main event and delivering on excellent matches.
If Bret Hart and Davey Boy Smith didn’t show Vince McMahon that they could carry a Pay per View, then Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon would not have been given opportunities to have major matches at WrestleMania 10 and SummerSlam 1994.
Other wrestlers have taken it to the next level, but without that match, I doubt they would have been given the platform to create magic.
Those two men showed that fast paced, technical wrestling could be a main event style in WWE on August 29th 1992.
The tagline for SummerSlam 1992 was “The SummerSlam You Thought You’d Never See!” That was true at the time, but when the night was over it should have “The SummerSlam You Will Never Forget!”