Today In Wrestling History 8/28: Hulk Hogan Meets Zeus At SummerSlam, Sets Attendance Record, More

* 29 years ago in 1986, the WWF ran a house show at Canadian National Exhibition Stadium in Toronto, Ontario. The card was an attraction as part of the Canadian National Exhibition itself, the biggest annual fair in Canada and the seventh largest in North America. The card, headlined by Hulk Hogan vs. Paul Orndorff, was a sold show, which means it was bought by the fair for a flat fee and the WWF got nothing beyond that.This was not unusual, as the WWF ran a bunch of similar shows back in the day. In this case, they probably regretted it. The stadium had never drawn especially well for wrestling, but thanks to the hot Orndorff-Hogan issue, the card sold out the place with about 64,000 fans (61,170 paid, billed as 74,000 total), the biggest crowd in modern wrestling history up to that point. When it came time for WrestleMania III, Detroit was picked in part because fans in the greater Toronto area would drive down in droves.

Since it was, after all, a house show, albeit a super-sized one, the main event finish was a bit screwy. Orndorff bumped the referee, Bobby Heenan ran in and hit Hogan with a chair, but the referee tapped Orndorff on the shoulder three times when he covered Hogan. It was fairly obviously a disqualification win for Hogan, but the announcement was drawn out live.

Some of the matches aired a few weeks later on Prime Time Wrestling, and an edited home video version (which is on WWE Network in the pay-per-view category) was released as The Big Event. It wasn't until about 25 years later that the whole show aired uncut on WWE's now-defunct Classics on Demand Service.

* 26 years ago in 1989, the WWF ran the second annual SummerSlam live on pay-per-view from the Brendan Byrne Arena (the recently closed Izod Center) in East Eutherford, New Jersey. With two great matches, it's one of the best '80s WWF PPV vents.

That said, the main event was not one of those two great matches. Zeus (actor Tom "Tiny" Lister) made his pro wrestling debut, teaming with Randy Savage is a losing effort against Hulk Hogan and Brutus Beefcake. Lister had played...well, Zeus in Hogan's recently released movie, "No Holds Barred," and the idea was he was too rough on set. So...was he Zeus transported to real life? Had Tiny Lister lost his mind, believing he was Zeus? The storyline was never really clear on that. He was beyond terrible in the ring, but the program worked, and all of his PPV matches drew well.

The match of the night saw The Ultimate Warrior regaining the Intercontinental Championship from Rick Rude. Rude was already Warrior's best opponent, though Randy Savage would eventually catch up to or exceed him in that role. Here, though, he put on the performance of a lifetime. His timing, his bumping, and his pacing were all perfect. Warrior never blew up, and Rude laid out a match that allowed Warrior to look like a competent, versatile pro wrestler with an arsenal of different moves. Even if Randy Savage arguably had better overall matches with Warrior, Rude had a superior innate sense of how to make Warrior and this the match better, if that makes sense.

Newly crowned tag team champions The Brainbusters (Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard) did not have to defend their titles in their bout with The Hart Foundation, as the match "had already been signed" before the title change. That had no bearing on the result, as The Brainbusters retained thanks to Anderson cheap shotting BretHart (who was covering Blanchard) while the referee was distracted. With Anderson and Blanchard being one of the best teams in the business and the Hart Foundation being one of the two best working WWF-associated teams, this was sort of a dream match and delivered a an excellent tag team affair.

The undercard was a mixed bag: While not a five star technical classic, Dusty Rhodes vs. The Honky Tonk Man featured one of the most rewarding moments of the night, as for once. HTM got a taste of his own medicine. He held Rhodes for Jimmy Hart to hit him with a guitar, and Dusty ducked, so "the greatest Intercontinental Champion of all time" finally learned what getting kabonged felt like. That was followed up by an immediate interview where he thought he was Elvis Presley and Jimmy Hart was Priscilla. The six man tag team match where The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers and Rick Martel defeated The Rockers and Tito Santana was no less than very good. With six very good to great workers in the six man format, it was a fast-paced and the crowd was really into both feuds being represented.

Also, this is the show where the SummerSlam sign falls down behind Gene Okerlund and he yells "F--k it!" during a live interview. 'Nuff said.


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