On August 17, John Cena and Brock Lesnar will clash over the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in the 27th main event in SummerSlam history. The match is sure to be one of the most hyped bouts of the year thanks to the tremendous star power involved, but it is not the first to contain performers known in households the world over.
In August 1988, Vince McMahon's wrestling company promoted the very first SummerSlam event, live from the historic Madison Square Garden in New York. The main event would pit the villainous duo of "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase and Andre the Giant against WWE champion "Macho Man" Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan.
Dubbed "The Mega Bucks vs. The Mega Powers," the match was easily one of the biggest tag team matches in wrestling history.
Who would leave the Garden with their arms raised in victory? Would special guest referee, and self-admitted Hogan-hater, Jesse "the Body" Ventura have any effect on the outcome of the contest?
Fans would get their answer in time. But first, let's set the stage for the bout with everything that led to the huge main event.
The September 23, 1987 episode of Saturday Night's Main Event featured a big Intercontinental Championship match between former champion Randy Savage and then-titleholder The Honky Tonk Man. It was the first time that Savage was unquestionably, undeniably a babyface. What happened after the bout would cement him in that role and lead to one of the greatest pairings of all time.
With Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart holding Savage and Honky Tonk Man threatening to bash the charismatic Superstar over the head with a guitar, Miss Elizabeth entered the squared circle in an attempt to prevent the heinous act. Honky Tonk Man, proving himself to be a despicable human being, shoved the beautiful woman to the mat.
She responded by going to the back and recruiting heavyweight champion Hulk Hogan to come to Savage's aid. He did and shortly thereafter, during a backstage interview with Mean Gene Okerlund, the Mega Powers were born.
That partnership would prove vital months later, when Savage met "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase in the finals of the WWE Championship match at WrestleMania IV. With Andre the Giant seconding DiBiase, the numbers game was not in Savage's favor. That all changed when Elizabeth once again called upon Hogan for help.
The Hulkster not only prevented interference from Andre, he blasted DiBiase with a steel chair and ensured that Savage would leave Atlantic City as the new WWE champion.
Hogan, Savage, DiBiase and Andre would remain entangled in a lengthy feud that would stretch throughout the spring and summer. Savage defended his new title against DiBiase and Andre in house show matches across the country while Hogan met Andre in several steel cage bouts on the bigger event cards.
With SummerSlam in its inception, the decision was made to headline the show with a massive tag bout involving the four biggest stars in the sport. The feud would come to a head, it was decided, and it would do so in the most famous arena in the world.
To add intrigue to the bout, Jesse "the Body" Ventura was announced as special guest referee. Having just starred alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in the major motion picture Predator, his involvement in the contest was a way to capitalize on his recent Hollywood exposure.
With so much hype surrounding the match, anticipation was at a fever pitch as the team took to the squared circle for the inaugural SummerSlam main event.
The match itself was a great example of how four veterans of the ring game can keep an audience of rabid fans completely invested in a match.
Hogan and Savage did an excellent job of putting over the offense of the heels and, at the same time, creating sympathy for themselves. The image of Hogan and Savage lying outside the ring while DiBiase and Andre stood tall in the center of the ring was one that stunned audiences at the time. After all, Hogan was immortal, and Savage proved himself to be on his level thanks to his performance at that year's WrestleMania.
The most memorable moment of the entire bout came moments before the finish when Elizabeth climbed on the apron and, with all eyes on her, ripped off her skirt. For the first time in WWE history, a female performer engaged in an act that played up her sex appeal, revealing a pair of satin panties and stunning the heels, the special referee and every fan inside Madison Square Garden.
Outside the ring, cameras caught Hogan and Savage deliver the handshake of doom. Moments later, they dispatched of Andre and DiBiase and reigned supreme to end the show.
It was a great way to cap off an impressive, crowd-pleasing main event.
The success of that match, and the event as a whole, meant McMahon had a new annual event to promote. Today, 27 years later, it remains one of the staples of the WWE pay-per-view calendar.
Hogan and Savage would have a falling out, as one would expect from two Superstars with the egos that they had.
Jealousy over Hogan's relationship with Elizabeth caused Savage to betray his friend, leading to a gigantic WWE Championship clash between the two at Wrestlemania V in 1989.
The match, dubbed "The Mega Powers Explode," was one of the biggest in WWE history to that point. For the first time since WrestleMania III, Hogan was faced with the challenge of a Superstar whom fans perceived to be on his level.
Despite a tremendous effort, Savage could not deny the Hulkster from regaining the title.
Over the years that followed, Hogan and Savage would wrestle one another countless times inside a WWE ring, never really having what one would consider a bad match.
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