As I may have mentioned in my last entry, the highlight of the summer for many wrestling fans is right around the corner. SummerSlam? No. NWA Fanfest.
THIS entry, however, is indeed about that other highlight of the "wrestling summer," that being WWE SummerSlam.
As many of you know, SummerSlam began in 1988 joining WrestleMania and Survivor Series as the third addition to the WWF pay-per-view year. Since then, the event has been positioned as the #2 pay-per-view, just behind WrestleMania, as far as hype and magnitude of the matches.
While the quality of the show, like all events, has varied from year to year, the merchandise centered around SummerSlam has always been highly prized among collectors. That, as usual, is what will be highlighted here.
Being as that the first SummerSlam took place in 1988, the WWF marketing machine was already in full force. While the company was more interested in promoting its individual stars rather than its shows, the first merchandise was largely to confined to the standard fare of the time. Programs, video tapes, and t-shirts featuring Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, and Miss Elizabeth as well as the original, sleek, SummerSlam logo were among the offerings from the first event.
The main event of the show featured Hogan and Savage managed by Elizabeth taking on Ted DiBiase and Andre the Giant. The end of the match features Elizabeth "shockingly" removing her skirt to distract the evil "Mega Bucks" team. After the victory is taken, Hogan picks up the skirt and tosses it into the audience. I'm sure that I'm not the only collector who has wondered over the years just what lucky Madison Square Garden attendee has that skirt hidden away...and hopefully not thrown away!
Slowly, SummerSlam merchandise would become more frequent and the logo would find its way onto a lot of cool items. In 1992, a European company called Merlin produced several series of SummerSlam cards featuring pictures from the '92 edition of the event that emanated from London's Wembley Stadium. Later into the '90s, a number of series of Jakks' action figures would be titled "SummerSlam" and even promotional items such as sunglasses and Slurpee Cups "felt the heat" of SummerSlam.
Programs from SummerSlam events beginning in the mid '90s are rarer due to the majority of them being available solely at the arenas themselves. The 1994 event is known to have had two programs available while SummerSlam 1995 had several items available in the Pittsburgh area. Laminated event posters and promotional cardboard standees, most of which featured the likeness of then-WWF champion Kevin "Diesel" Nash, are known to exist in collections.
WWE paid a particularly nice tribute to the event in 2008 with a DVD anthology release of the first twenty SummerSlam events. While the DVDs were available individually in four sets of five, they were first released all together in an ultra-cool package designed to look like a picnic cooler.
Just last year, WWE returned to their program "roots" with the release of a SummerSlam 2009 program. The program is similar in size and design to other company programs of the past decade, being over sized and printed on thick stock. In addition to being available at the event, the program was sold for a short time through the WWE website store.
In a "sports-entertainment" world where one pay-per-view a month is enough to overwhelm any "universe," it's nice to know that the "Big Four" are still highlighting the calendar, and devoted fans minds, each year.