WWE returns to Toronto for the annual summer tradition of SummerSlam. Ever since the inaugural event in 1988 that pitted Hulk Hogan and Randy “Macho Man” Savage against Andre The Giant and “Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase, it has been an event fans of sports entertainment see as the summer celebration.
It started at Madison Square Garden which was always considered the Mecca of WWF / WWE. As fans get ready for tonight’s extravaganza, yours truly, Venom gives you a trip down memory lane. Canada has also been an area that has always supported pro wrestling. The industry has also seen its share of moments from Canadian stars shining at the summer event.
In 1991, Bret Hart started off his solo run that led to one of the greatest singles career in the history of WWE. The summer of 1991, however was the year of perfection. Mr. Perfect reigned supreme with his creative matches and athletics to boot as WWE Intercontinental Champion.
With his legendary father, Stu Hart, sitting at ringside, Bret Hart went on to win his first singles title in WWE. Although, “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig was suffering from an injured back, the two men put on a wrestling clinic and one of the first times in history, the crowd started a football like chant with “Let’s Go Bret”.
The championship in those days meant something different than what it is today. Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior were the kings of the Heavyweight championship in WWE, so the smaller and majority of the time more skilled wrestlers all vied for the Intercontinental Champion. So when Bret became the secondary champion of the WWE, it was a huge award and accomplishment. It meant that Bret Hart had truly arrived as a solo superstar.
Bret Hart’s reign as Intercontinental Champion was must see television during those days as he presented a contrast to the champions such as Undertaker and Hulk Hogan. The steroid scandal hit the WWE in 1991 and many of the stars that made the company into a household name, were now on the sidelines waiting for the media backlash to die down.
During this time, stars such as Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, and British Bulldog were starting to stand out because of their awesome matches. The WWE expanded their business into the United Kingdom because of the domestic scene in the United States taking a plunge after the steroid and sex scandal rocked the WWE in 1991.
Originally, SummerSlam ’92 was to be in America, but as fate would have it, Bret Hart ended up headlining the WWE’s second biggest event of the year against his real life brother in law, Davey Boy Smith, The British Bulldog. It turned out to be one of the greatest matches in WWE history in front of one of the biggest crowds to witness a live wrestling event.
Two years later, in the year 1994, Bret Hart would headline SummerSlam once again. This time around however, the WWE Championship was firmly in his possession. He would face another family member in the main event. His younger brother, Owen Hart (who ended up tragically dying in the ring in 1999), was vying to beat his brother for the championship. The match ended with a family reunion to say the least. You should check out the match as it was a wild run of athletics and drama by the end of it.
In 1997, on the cusp of the Attitude Era, Bret Hart was vying for the WWE Championship against The Undertaker. It was a momentous night as he tied Hulk Hogan at the time for the number of championship reigns. However, the big news out of the event was the heel turn by Shawn Michaels on Undertaker.
It was a messy summer in 1997, as the WWE was losing the ratings war against the power packed WCW with the likes of the NWO, Sting, and Four Horsemen. Bret Hart and HBK were embroiled in real life drama and on screen which is another article in itself.
Many critics point to SummerSlam ’97 as the upward turning point that was needed to battle WCW eventually. Although, at the time, this was not as apparent due to Owen Hart breaking the neck of Steve Austin. It would end up shortening the career of one of, if not the greatest runs in WWE history. However, on this night, Bret Hart walked into WWE lore with Hulk Hogan as a 5 Time WWF World Heavyweight Champion.
It is fitting that tonight, seven-time World Wrestling Entertainment women’s champion and WWE Hall of Famer Trish Stratus will have her retirement match in her hometown of Toronto as part of SummerSlam.
Speaking with Toronto Sun, the legendary star stated, “It’s insane,” she said. “It’s gratifying to know that the blood, sweat and tears that we put in during our time made a difference, made an impact, influenced people … left an impression on a whole generation of current crops.”
She will be facing one of the top stars of the current era, in Ric Flair’s daughter, Charlotte Flair. Trish Stratus will no doubt add to the glorious history of Canadian stars representing their country at SummerSlam.
A fantastic moment at SummerSlam 2019, has already occurred from a Canadian perspective. Former WWE Champion, Edge, made a surprise appearance at the event during a segment with Elias. Edge, who attended Humber College, in Toronto, had to retire early due to a neck injury that cut his career short.