Damien Barling: A Look Back at SummerSlam 1997

August 3 marks the 20th anniversary of one the most important PPV’s in WWE history, SummerSlam 1997.

Unlike most big shows, the historical significance of this event doesn’t lie in the event itself. It lies in the aftermath.

Twenty years ago, Bret Hart won the WWE Championship for the 5th time and Shawn Michaels turned heel after a 2 year run as the biggest babyface in the company. The heel turn lead to the formation of Degeneration-X, one of the most significant factions in wrestling history, and, ultimately, to the Montreal Screwjob the preceded Bret Harts unthinkable jump to WCW.

Twenty years ago, Mankind beat Hunter Hearst Helmsley in a cage match that saw Mankind emerge as a star and Helmsley begin the transition to Triple H.

A week after SummerSlam 1997, Rocky Maivia returned from a knee injury turning heel and joining the Nation of Domination. Shortly after, Rocky Maivia become The Rock. I don’t have to tell you what The Rock became.

Twenty years ago, the late Owen Hart dropped Stone Cold Steve Austin on the top his head when an inverted piledriver went wrong. Austin was on the rise and was already the biggest superstar WWE had. The neck injury that came from this event kept Austin out of action for the better part of 6 months (while he still appeared on TV and did his part in multi-person matches) and ultimately lead to his career being cut drastically short, wrestling his last match just 7 years later.

With Austin unable to wrestle, his appearances on TV become a run of stunning authority figures and commentators. Jerry Lawler lead to Jim Ross, then Sgt. Slaughter, then, finally, at the Worlds Most Famous Arena, Stone Cold Steve Austin stunned Vince McMahon. McMahon, for the first time on WWE television, was being acknowledged as the owner of the company. It was that September stunner that was the birth of the feud that kicked off Austins title reign the following year and drove the company to heights it hadn’t seen before.

If you have the WWE Network, this is a fun show to go back and watch.

More from Damien Barling
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