Today in History: First WWF event outside North America draws massive crowd
I was a huge fan of professional wrestling for as far back as I can remember. The WWF was only on cable television, so I didn't have much access to it until later in life. Back in the 80's this sport was mostly just a North American thing and the decision to host the event in Wembley Stadium in London was kind of a last-minute choice, as the SummerSlam event had originally been scheduled to be held in Washington D.C.
The year was 1992
The poster says the event was on the 31st of August but that was just when it was aired. They couldn't have the event be "live" because that would have put it in the afternoon in the USA (starting at 3PM east coast.) Since there was very little in the way of internet in existence back in 1992, there wasn't much chance of spoilers unless someone really went out of their way to make that happen. I was in high school in '92 and we rarely even used computers for anything back then.
While the main event was actually Randy Savage vs. The Ultimate Warrior (both of which, sadly, are no longer alive) but the "real" main event was Champion Brett Hart vs. The British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith. As one of the only British wrestlers at the time, he was obviously a hometown favorite.
Everyone except small children know that wrestling is fake, but that doesn't change the entertainment aspect of it in mine, and many other people's minds. This was evidenced in the absolutely massive crowd that turned up for the event.
At the time it had the second-highest ever attendance of any WWF (now WWE of course) event at 80,355 and most of the tickets were sold out in less than 5 days. This is a pretty amazing feat if you consider that acquiring tickets to just about anything was considerably more complicated when there was no internet.
Today, it still holds the record for 4th highest attendance of any WWE event. The match between Hart and Smith is rated as the best SummerSlam event of all time and one of the best matches ever overall.
An interesting part of this particular match is that Davey Boy secretly had a bad crack addiction at the time, and revealed to Hart before the match that he had forgotten the entire script. If you look closely in this match you can see Hart is actually talking to Smith during the match to remind him of what is coming up next. Hart basically carried the match and yet it still ended up being incredible. Brett Hart was truly an amazing member of the sport - certainly one of the best ever.
Brett and Davey were real life brother-in-laws at the time and this aspect helped create a pretty intense storyline leading up to SummerSlam.
nice little summary of the match from WWE's official channel
This event marked the beginning of a new, global marketing plan on the part of the management at WWE. Interest in the sport was waning, but the huge numbers (and profits) that were made at Wembley, inspired them to shift their focus to the "rest of the world." A strategy that still exists to this day.
If you have ever been to a WWE event, i would be really interested in hearing about it. I have only ever been to 3 and none of them were big events. None of them were even televised. Maybe that was a good thing because there were none of those annoying signs in the crowds to block my view :P