From punch-ups outside Wembley to last-minute dash to find Undertaker a hearse – 30 years on from WWE SummerSlam 92
IT’S 30 years since SummerSlam ’92 took place at Wembley Stadium. Held on August 29, 1992 and attended by 80,000 fans, it’s the biggest wrestling event in the history of the UK.
SummerSlam ‘92 – now re-released for a special anniversary DVD and Blu-ray – was headlined by ‘The British Bulldog’ Davey Boy Smith vs Bret Hart for the Intercontinental Championship.
Also on the show, ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage defended the WWE title against Ultimate Warrior, and Undertaker battled Kamala.
WWE returns to the UK this week for its first British stadium in 30 years – Clash at the Castle. It has a lot to live up to. SummerSlam ’92 remains the stuff of WWE legend.
But what was going on behind the scenes at SummerSlam ’92? Martin Goldsmith – the man who promoted the epic show and WWE’s early UK tours – explains how it happened. Here are seven behind-the-scenes stories.
It could have happened at another UK stadium
SummerSlam ’92 was tentatively scheduled for Washington DC, with Bret Hart set to defend his IC title against Shawn Michaels in WWE’s first ever ladder match.
The intense popularity of WWE in the UK persuaded then Chairman Vince McMahon to hold the event here instead. But it wasn’t necessarily going to be Wembley.
Goldsmith said: “Vince wanted to do a massive event here, whether it was Manchester, Birmingham, or London.
“SummerSlam that year hadn’t been set up so we were told to search for the best venue for that weekend – the traditional weekend for SummerSlam. The first call we made was to Wembley. We did try other grounds but they weren’t available.”
Wembley was apparently cynical at first – but sold a whopping 60,000 tickets on the first day.
The Legion of Doom vs. Brent Council
The pay-per-view opened with an iconic moment, as the Legion of Doom – Hawk and Animal – raced down to the ring on motorcycles.
But it almost never happened. It wasn’t their opponents, Money Inc, that almost stopped the LOD, but red tape.
Goldsmith said: “Their job was to come to the ring on their bikes. They said: ‘We’ll do it, no problem!’ We told them: ‘Hang on a minute, you can’t just do that. You’ve got to get permission from the local authority.’
“They said, ‘What the f*** are you talking about?’”
“We had to get permission from Brent, in case the worst thing happened and Hawk and Animal flew off the bikes and into the ring.
“Until the afternoon before the event the answer was ‘no, you can’t do this’. Anyway, they did!”
As wrestling legend goes, Hawk was so intoxicated that day, it was a miracle he could ride the motorbike and wrestle the match.
Finding the Undertaker’s hearse
Getting permission from Brent Council was one thing. But there was another iconic entrance at SummerSlam ’92 that also proved challenging – the legendary Undertaker arriving at Wembley Stadium on the back of a hearse.
It was the first time the Undertaker’s entrance had been reimagined as a bone-chilling spectacle. But ‘Taker couldn’t bring his own hearse all the way from Death Valley.
Goldsmith said: “Where in the hell do you find a hearse? We had a girl whose job was to try and get all these requests together. She spent hours and days trying to get it.
“Eventually she found it from a local funeral company. Again, they had to go through Brent Council, who weren’t happy to approve it.
“As you can imagine, it’s not the normal request they get.”
Battle of the bootleggers
Inside the ring, the biggest fight was between the British Bulldog and Bret Hart. But there was another fight outside of the stadium – against bootleggers of unofficial merchandise and illegal touts.
There was big money to be made at SummerSlam. WWE made an incredible £1.3million in merchandise sales – a record number at the time.
Goldsmith recalls large numbers of Del Boy-like traders who had to be removed from Wembley by bailiff-style heavies that afternoon.
He said: “There’s always going to be problems in the streets, with traders who set up stalls selling unlicensed products and problems with ticket touts.
“We had the local trading authority employed, plus our own security people to make sure the streets were clean before the event. One or two managed to get away with it. But most of it was taken away. There were a few fisticuffs – a few fights!”
The main event was high pressure
Bret Hart later described how the British Bulldog forgot what he was supposed to do once he got inside the ring – the effects of an alleged week-long drugs binge.
British Bulldog’s daughter, Georgia Smith, tells a different story. She recalls the Bulldog being laid out in bed with a painful staph infection in his knee.
Bulldog hurt his knee wrestling jobber Mike Sharpe and had to rest it for five weeks – in case the injury worsened and ruined the SummerSlam main event.
Making it to Wembley, Bulldog was feeling the pressure of the main event – it would be the biggest match of both his career and in British wrestling history.
Georgia said: “I remember my brother and I were fighting on the bed in the hotel, and my dad was like ‘Shut up!’ We were like ‘Ok, we have to be quiet now…’ He was so stressed about the next day.”
The Bulldog’s family were in the Royal Box
For Davey Boy Smith’s family, SummerSlam ’92 was a huge day – watching the Bulldog finally capture the Intercontinental Championship in front of 80,000 fans.
Georgia said: “I remember seeing Undertaker and Paul Bearer at catering, and Sensational Sherri and all these people. I’d seen them before but it was different this time. You could feel the buzz in the air.”
The Smith family got the royal treatment – but could barely make out what was happening in the ring.
Georgia said: “They looked like Polly Pockets – like little toys.
“The stadium was humongous. Me, my brother, and my dad’s family were in the Royal Box seats, which was like the nosebleeds – I guess it’s where the queen sat and watched the events in those days. I couldn’t really pinpoint what was going on.”
They only knew that the Bulldog had beaten Bret from the sudden roar of the crowd.
Georgia said: “To this day, it’s like the biggest WWE reaction of all time.”
The Bushwhackers go out for dinner
Through promoting SummerSlam and other successful UK shows, Martin Goldsmith became friendly with WWE superstars.
Hacksaw Jim Duggan attended his son’s bar mitzvah as a special guest. Goldsmith laughed: “He spent most of the time chatting up the women!”
On another occasion, Goldsmith persuaded shopping channel QVC, then relatively new to UK viewers, to allow the Bushwhackers on ad host a shopping segment,
Goldsmith said: “They did two hours and it was a massive hit. I think they did £100,000, which was completely unheard of.”
To celebrate, Goldsmith took them out to dinner – somewhere that the Bushwhackers could create a buzz.
Goldsmith said: “I booked a very exclusive restaurant in Knightsbridge. It was the best – full of people who had no idea what the World Wrestling Federation was.
“We walked in and the Bushwhackers were still wearing their army outfits. As they walked in, the whole place looked up and nearly dropped their knives and forks. The Bushwhackers couldn’t give a f****.
“What was funny was all the waiters and chefs knew exactly who they were and came out for autographs. It was absolutely hysterical. I’m sure the restaurant has never forgotten.”