Survivor Series: Through The Years (Part 2)
by Scrooge McSuck
- Last time we covered the 1987-1992 Survivor Series. If you're not willing to give that a read, it was basically downhill after the inaugural, with a few mediocre shows and a couple of bad ones. Hopefully 1993-1998 will find a little consistency and maybe something memorable, but that likely isn't going to happen.
Survivor Series '93 – November 24th, 1993 (Boston Garden; Boston, MA)
Highs: Technically, the best match on the card featured borrowed talent from Jim Cornette's Smoky Mountain Wrestling, and the WWF fans in Boston that night didn't react well to them. Regardless the reaction, it was a pretty good performance. Bobby Heenan made his last appearance calling a WWF PPV (until a one-match return for WrestleMania X-Seven) and had an amazing performance belittling the Hart Family for the entire half-hour they battled Not Jerry Lawler and his "Knights." Randy Savage being a surprise replacement for Mr. Perfect popped the crowd and had a good show-long storyline trying to get to Crush, who had turned his back on Savage a few weeks before the PPV. Owen Hart and Bret Hart teased tension with Owen blaming Bret for his elimination, the only elimination on the Hart team.
- Razor Ramon, "Macho Man" Randy Savage, Marty Jannetty, and The 1-2-3 Kid def. Irwin R. Schyster, Adam Bomb, Diesel, and "The Model" Rick Martel [Survivors: Jannetty and The Kid] ***
- Bret Hart, Owen Hart, Bruce Hart, and Keith Hart def. Shawn Michaels, The Red Knight, The Blue Knight, and The Black Knight [Survivors: Bret, Bruce, and Keith Hart] *1/2
- The Heavenly Bodies def. The Rock N' Roll Express for the SMW Tag Team Titles ***1/2
- Four Doinks (Mabel, Mo, Butch, and Luke) def. Bam Bam Bigelow, Bastion Booger, Samu, and Fatu [Survivors: MOM and Bushwhackers] -**
- Lex Luger, The Undertaker, Rick and Scott Steiner def. Yokozuna, Ludvig Borga, Crush, and Quebecer Jacques [Survivor: Lex Luger] **
Lows: I don't think I'm allowed to mention anything before the disaster that was the "comedy" match between the Four Doinks and Team Bam Bam. Good comedy works, but this wasn't good, and defied logic, with dumb eliminations, capped off by the entire team of Doink's dogpiling Bigelow for the last elimination. There was also a spot where a Headshrinker literally had a "slipped on a banana peel" finish. The Harts vs. Knights match dragged on and on, thanks to five of the eight workers not being familiar faces to WWF TV, and another (Owen) barely pushed. Cheap eliminations were limited, but were reserved for too many big names, including Razor Ramon, Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, and Yokozuna.
Random Notes and Tidbits: The first and last WWF PPV to be held at the Boston Garden, despite years of regular appearances in the building... Randy Savage's perfect Survivor Series record is spoiled, being the first man eliminated from his team... Jerry Lawler was pulled from the show with less than three weeks notice, accused of statutory rape (the charges were later dropped)... The Knights were Barry Horowitz (Red), Greg Valentine (Blue), and Jeff Gaylord (Black)... All four elimination matches were won by babyfaces, and pulled a "cycle" of survivors (1 match had 1 survivor, 1 had 2, 1 had 3, and 1 had all 4)... Ray Combs did guest ring introductions and announcing for the 2nd time on a WWF PPV (the 1st? WrestleMania VIII)... SMW had a presence on PPV for both the WWF and WCW in 1993, and both times the Heavenly Bodies and Rock N' Roll Express were involved... Billy Gunn def. The Brooklyn Brawler in the Dark Match.
Overall Rating: C+
Even though I enjoyed the show quite a bit, as an impartial judge, it's only slightly better than average, with two good matches, one featuring outside talent, and a bunch of middle of the road work. The 15-minutes of torture that featured MOM and the Bushwhackers didn't help the grade. Even with the so-so rating, it still ranks right ahead of all but the original Survivor Series PPV. Despite the thumbs up rating, if I were to compile a best of list, I don't think anything here would make it, and I would keep the SMW match off because of the poor crowd reception.
Survivor Series '94 – November 23rd, 1994 (Freeman Coliseum; San Antonio, TX)
Highs: The finish of Bret vs. Backlund for the WWF Title is the pinnacle sleaze-ball moment for Owen Hart, who begged and pleaded with his mother to throw in the towel on behalf of Bret, who spent nearly 10-minutes trapped in the Chicken Wing, only to run away celebrating as soon as the deed was accomplished. The match as a whole might be the most polarizing of the era, with so many either loving or hating it. Diesel got to run wild on a bunch of geeks in the opening match, while Shawn Michaels did very little and got paid more for it. Jerry Lawler made as much chicken salad out of the match with Doink and the midgets, doing every comedy spot in the book, some working, some not. CHUCK NORRIS.
- The Bad Guys (Razor Ramon, The British Bulldog, The 1-2-3 Kid, Fatu, and Sionne) def. The Teamsters (Shawn Michaels, Diesel, Owen Hart, Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart, and Jeff Jarrett) [Survivor: Razor Ramon] ***
- The Royal Family (Jerry "The King" Lawler, Queazy, Sleazy, and Cheezy) def. Clowns R' Us (Doink, Dink, Wink, and Pink) [Survivors: Royal Family] -*
- Submission Match: Bob Backlund def. Bret "Hitman" Hart for the WWF Championship ****
- The Million Dollar Team (Tatanka, Bam Bam Bigelow, King Kong Bundy, Tom Prichard, and Jimmy Delray) def. Guts & Glory (Lex Luger, Mabel, Adam Bomb, Bart and Billy Gunn) [Survivors: Bigelow and Bundy] **
- Casket Match: The Undertaker def. Yokozuna DUD
Lows: The uninspired finish for The Bad Guys vs. The Teamsters. Razor is left in a 5-on-1 predicament and survives. No, he didn't pin or make anyone submit. The entire team was counted out when Diesel was struck by Shawn Michaels' Super-Kick, forcing the rest of the team to aimlessly wander ringside acting like they were trying to break up a fight. The definition of putting someone over by not putting them over anyone. Clowns R' Us vs. The Royal Family as soon as Doink was eliminated. 7-minutes of bad midget wrestling. Lex Luger's comeback is cut short where he stupidly lays around, and Bundy casually splashes him for the sudden finish. IRWIN R. SCHSYER runs in during the Casket Match and nearly costs Undertaker the match. Yes, an I.R.S. push this late in the game.
Random Notes and Tidbits: Razor Ramon, despite being unable to eliminate anyone himself, is the only man to overcome a 5-1 deficit to survive an Elimination Match... Bob Backlund set the record for longest duration between (WWF) World Championship reigns, having lost the belt in December 1983 and winning it in November 1994... The Royal Family is the 4th time an entire team survived (joining the Visionaires in 1990, Team Duggan in 1991, and Four Doinks in 1993)... the '94 Survivor Series marks the last PPV to feature Gorilla Monsoon on commentary... Shawn Michaels worked the show with a broken hand... Diesel went on to win the WWF Championship three days later at Madison Square Garden... Bull Nakano defeated Alundra Blayze for the Women's Title at the Egg Dome three days prior and appeared for a backstage interview, breaking the news... The LAST Survivor Series to be featured on a Wednesday/Thanksgiving Eve.
Overall Rating: C
I swear, I'm not going out of my way of giving EVERY DAMN SURVIVOR SERIES a middle-of-the-road score. There's just so few reasons to say something is better or worse than "decent." I might've gone higher had the show ended on a stronger note. The title switch in the middle of the show is another example of not wanting to end a PPV with a downer ending, and then we had the minimally over Lex Luger choke, followed by another dull Casket Match. If not for the strong performance of the storyline that was played out throughout the WWF Championship Match, this could arguably have been rated the worst Survivor Series thanks to the terrible booking of the opener, weak finish, and the midgets bombing once Lawler had to camp out the remainder of their match.
Survivor Series '95 – November 19th, 1995 (USAir Arena; Landover, MD)
Highs: Bret Hart vs. Diesel ended the show strong, and to this point, is the best match in Survivor Series history. You could probably argue it was Kevin Nash's best match of his career, depending on how much you enjoyed his match with Shawn Michaels at IYH: Good Friends, Better Enemies. As a concept, the Wild Card Match was something fresh and new, and did give us a few decent exchanges where heels and faces had to coexist in a situation outside of a Battle Royal. The Women's Elimination Match, only the second in Survivor Series history at this point, was much needed depth to the undercard. The finale 5 minutes of the Underdogs/Body Donnas match is one of the best in an Elimination Match in quite some time.
- The Body Donnas (Skip, Tom Prichard, Rad Radford, and The 1-2-3 Kid) def. The Underdogs (Barry Horowitz, Hakushi, Marty Jannetty, and Bob Holly) [Survivor: 1-2-3 Kid] ***1/4
- Bertha Faye, Aja Kong, Lioness Asuka, and Tomoko Watanabe def. Alundra Blayze, Chaparita Asari, Kyoko Inoue, and Sakie Hasegawa [Survivor: Aja Kong] **1/2
- Goldust def. Bam Bam Bigelow DUD
- The Darkside (The Undertaker, Savio Vega, Henry Godwinn, and Fatu) def. The Royals (King Mabel, Hunter Hearst Helmsley, Jerry Lawler, and Isaac Yankem) [Survivors: The Darkside] *
- Wild Card Match: Shawn Michaels, Sycho Sid, Ahmed Johnson, and The British Bulldog def. Razor Ramon, Dean Douglas, Yokozuna, and Owen Hart [Survivors: Michaels, Ahmed, and Bulldog] **
- Bret "Hitman" Hart def. Diesel for the WWF Championship ****1/2
Lows: As neat of a concept the Wild Card Match was, it under-delivered despite the star power, with even the better workers having an off night (no one expected much from Sid or Ahmed Johnson, the latter of which was one of the weaker performances). Bam Bam Bigelow vs. Goldust was slow, dull, and heatless. The Darkside vs. The Royals was basically a 10-minute match of nothing until the Undertaker, wearing his quasi-Phantom of the Opera mask, steam-rolled the competition.
Random Notes and Tidbits: The first time the Survivor Series was held on a Sunday, a tradition that would continue moving forward... The Wild Card Elimination Match was put together due to a lack of balanced depth on the roster... The Bodydonnas originally had Jean Pierre Lafitte listed as a member (replaced by The 1-2-3 Kid), and Bob Holly replaced Avatar (Al Snow)... The Undertaker's team consists of real-life "Bone Street Krew" members, something casual fans and even some hardcore fans were unaware of... The Darkside become the 5th Survivor Series team to survive without an elimination... Diesel's reign as WWF Champion is cut one week shy of a full calendar year, the longest WWE (World) Championship reign until John Cena over a decade later... Aja Kong is the first person to eliminate the entire opposing team by pin-fall or submission. Undertaker almost accomplished the same feat, except Mabel took the Count-Out to avoid completing the honors.
Overall Rating: B+
The first Survivor Series to standout in a positive way since the first, with a great Main Event and two good Elimination Matches on the undercard. The weak Wild Card Match, featuring all of the top talent not fighting for the WWF Championship, contributed to not giving this a higher rating, with the poor performance from Bigelow/Goldust not being much of a factor, and The Undertaker Show delivered what everyone was probably expecting: a one man wrecking crew biding his time.
Survivor Series '96 – November 17th, 1996 (Madison Square Garden; New York City, NY)
Highs: The focus on the card was the top two singles matches: Shawn defending the WWF Title against former ally (and former enemy... and former bodyguard) Sid, and the return of Bret Hart accepting the challenge of Steve Austin. Even though, on paper, one-star is a big difference, this ended up being Sid's best singles match ever, and there's nothing in competition for that spot. Speaking of Sid/Michaels, watching and listening to the MSG crowd turn on Michaels in favor of "cool heel" Sid (he was a tweener, if not still a full blown babyface) will always be amusing. Bret, despite having worked a very limited schedule since WrestleMania XII, worked a MOTYC with rising star Steve Austin. While Undertaker vs. Mankind was only about average, it's still light-years better than most Undertaker matches from 1992-95.
- Bart Gunn, "Double J" Jesse Jammes, Bob Holly, and Aldo Montoya def. Billy Gunn, Justin "Hawk" Bradshaw, The Sultan, and Salvatore Sincere [Survivor: Bart Gunn] *
- Henry and Phineas Godwinn, Doug Furnas, and Phil LaFon def. The British Bulldog, Owen Hart, Marty Jannetty, and Leif Cassidy [Survivors: Furnas and LaFon] ***
- The Undertaker def. Mankind **1/2
- Marc Mero, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, The Stalker, and Rocky Maivia def. Hunter Hearst Helmsley, Goldust, Crush, and Jerry "The King" Lawler [Survivor: Rocky Maivia] *1/2
- Bret "Hitman" Hart def. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin ****1/2
- Savio Vega, Yokozuna, Flash Funk, and "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka NC Faarooq, Vader, "Diesel", and "Razor Ramon" [No Survivors] DUD
- Sycho Sid def. Shawn Michaels for the WWF Championship ***1/2
Lows: The Elimination Match concept has once again taken a backseat. Despite four matches (including one on the Free For All) scheduled for the show, none of them received very much promotion, and two of them were designed to showcase debuting talent. Team Savio and Team Faarooq featured another rehash of the "everyone gets eliminated" spots, except unlike in 1991 and 1994, NOBODY was allowed to be the survivor, and the whole match ended up being 10-minutes of wasted time unless you were the one fan super-excited for the surprise appearance of Jimmy F'N Snuka in 1996.
Random Notes and Tidbits: Phil Lafon, Doug Furnas, Rocky Maivia and Flash Funk were all making their in-ring debut for the WWF, and Faarooq debuted his black militant "Nation of Domination" gimmick on the show... Despite being billed as Bret's return to the ring, he did work tours of Germany and Kuwait shortly after WrestleMania, and South Africa in September... The WWF Championship changes hands for the 4th time in 5 defenses in the history of the PPV... Jake Roberts was a late replacement for Mark Henry, and Mr. Perfect no-showed the days leading up to Survivor Series, ending another stint with the company... The 1996 Hall of Fame induction ceremony was held the night before, and would be the last ceremony until 2004 (2004 would be the first to be featured on home video or television)...
Overall Rating: A-
Two top quality matches headlining the show makes this an automatic must watch event. Bret vs. Austin would top their performance here at WrestleMania 13, but that doesn't mean this match isn't worth checking out, either. As mentioned earlier, Sid having far and away his best singles match ever is a must see, too. The PPV opener is a solid Elimination Match, especially when the Godwinns are taken out early, allowing Furnas and Lafon to shine against the Bulldog, Owen, and Leif Cassidy (Al Snow). The only awful match is the non-finish Elimination Match, but it's short enough to not hamper an otherwise great card.
Survivor Series '97 – November 9th, 1997 (Molson Centre; Montreal, Quebec)
Highs: Historically, it's a show everyone remembers, and gave birth to the "Mr. McMahon" character that would haunt WWE television on-and-off for the next two decades. Kane fans can rejoice that Mick Foley went above and beyond in helping put him over, taking big bump after big bump, and most of his offense having little effect. Um... ring introductions were done in French. Wait, that doesn't count for anything. This is a weak show.
- Road Dogg, Billy Gunn, Henry and Phineas Godwinn def. Blackjack Windham, Blackjack Bradshaw, Mosh, and Thrasher [Survivors: New Age Outlaws] -*
- The Interrogator, Rekon, Sniper, and The Jackyl def. Crush, Chainz, 8-Ball, and Skull [Survivor: The Interrogator] -**
- Team Canada (The British Bulldog, Jim Neidhart, Doug Furnas, and Phil LaFon) def. Team USA (Vader, Marc Mero, Goldust, and Steve Blackman) [Survivor: British Bulldog] **1/2
- Kane def. Mankind ***
- Ken Shamrock, Ahmed Johnson, Hawk, and Animal def. Faarooq, The Rock, Kama Mustafa, and D'Lo Brown [Survivor: Ken Shamrock] **1/2
- "Stone Cold" Steve Austin def. Owen Hart for the Intercontinental Title *1/2
- European Champion Shawn Michaels def. Bret "Hitman" Hart for the WWF Championship ***1/4
Lows: Where do I begin? Well, the entire show is tainted by the miserable circumstances that was dubbed "The Montreal Screwjob", a topic that still brings up debate 20-years later with ridiculous conspiracy theories. The lack of depth on the roster is more obvious than ever, with inferior workers filling out the card, including to date, the worst Survivor Seres Match between the Truth Commission and Disciples of Apocalypse. It somehow surpassed the opener, which was also a strong candidate for the "honor." There was a lack of creative finishes in all the elimination matches. Steve Austin was put in a 4-minute nothing match, still recovering from the stinger he received at SummerSlam. The best match on the card was a quasi-squash.
Random Notes and Tidbits: Kane made his in-ring debut, five weeks after his first appearance at IYH: Badd Blood... Glen Jacobs worked his third consecutive Survivor Series' under three different gimmicks: Isaac Yankem in '95, "Diesel" in '96, and Kane in '97... For the second year in a row, Bradshaw was eliminated by Jesse Jammes, and under controversial circumstances... The Intercontinental Title is defended for the first time in Survivor Series history... The WWF Championship changes hands for the 5th time in 6 defenses in the history of the PPV... For the second time in Survivor Series history, Bret Hart defended the title against Shawn Michaels, who was a reigning Champion that didn't have his title on the line... Bret Hart's final WWF appearance (not counting the Hall of Fame induction) for over 12 years... Team Canada featured an American from Oklahoma, an American billed from Reno, NV, and the BRITISH Bulldog... Steve Blackman, making his in-ring debut, replaced The Patriot on "Team USA."
Overall Rating: D-
A miserable show with miserable booking, miserable wrestling, and a miserable ending. If not for a couple of decent matches, this would be a solid F. If you really are fascinated by the Screwjob, watch Wrestling with Shadows or subscribe to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and check the archives for the issues covering, in great detail, the entire saga between Bret Hart and the WWF, leading up to and following the Survivor Series.
Survivor Seres '98: Deadly Games – November 15th, 1998 (Kiel Center; St. Louis, MO)
Highs: Probably the pinnacle of Vince Russo's "swerve heavy" booking style, with a show-long storyline centered around Vince McMahon trying to screw over Steve Austin, screw over The Rock, and give Mankind as much assistance possible on the path to the WWF Championship, only to reveal that The Rock is the REAL Corporate Champion and Mankind was just a pawn for reasons unknown. Vince Russo has seriously found work for the next twenty years based on a format like this, except he was never able to repeat the success, or come anywhere close to it, again. Vince McMahon's over-the-top introduction, with prepared cards, just for the appearance of DUANE GILL is glorious.
- Scorpio & Bob Holly def. Droz and Animal
- Val Venis def. Tiger Ali Singh
- Gangrel def. Steve Blackman
- Mankind def. Duane Gill DUD
- Al Snow def. Jeff Jarrett *1/4
- "Stone Cold" Steve Austin def. The Big Boss Man ½*
- X-Pac DCO Steven Regal *1/2
- Ken Shamrock def. Goldust ¾*
- The Rock def. The Big Boss Man DUD
- The Undertaker def. Kane ½*
- Mankind def. Al Snow **
- The Rock def. Ken Shamrock **1/2
- Sable def. Jacqueline for the Women's Championship ½*
- Mankind def. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin ***
- The Rock def. The Undertaker *
- The New Age Outlaws defended the Tag Team Titles against The Headbangers and D'Lo Brown & Mark Henry *1/2
- The Rock def. Mankind in the Finals of the WWF Championship Tournament **3/4
Lows: Since we're deep in the heart of the Attitude Era, that means wrestling takes a backseat to the storytelling. Looking at the roster, this is probably the BEST collection of talent on one WWF PPV since WrestleMania XIV, but most matches were considerably rushed, others were just bad, and some were a combination of both. The Tag Title Match was a chore to sit through, and despite being short, Sable vs. Jacqueline for the revived Women's Title is a joke, considering it's a division of quite literally TWO people.
Random Notes and Tidbits: The second time the Survivor Series strayed away from the Elimination Tag Team Match concept, but kept a "Survivor" theme with the Deadly Games Tournament... Like WrestleMania IV, the tournament consisted of 6 1st round matches, with the two previous Champions getting a Bye into the Quarter-Finals and scheduled to face each other... The Women and Tag Team Championships are defended for the first time in Survivor Series history... The WWF Championship obviously found a new home, the 6th time in 7 opportunities, and 5th year in a row... Triple H listed to participate was always intended as a bait-and-switch, as he was still recovering from knee surgery... If you were to count the pre-show matches, this would surpass WrestleMania IV for most matches televised at any given PPV (17).
Overall Rating: B
If you're looking at the snowflakes, then look at the rating, please understand this is the one time, the ABSOLUTE ONLY TIME, I will say "storytelling" means more than "good wrestling", especially when only two matches could generously be called good. The show-long storyline centered around the Deadly Games tournament, and the roles played by Austin, Mankind, The Rock, and Vince McMahon, is one of the few times where not only was Russo's booking entertaining, but made sense. If you're looking for good wrestling, this isn't the show for you.
Coming up next time... We continue with more from the Attitude Era, the Invasion of "WCW" and "ECW", and the first Brand Extension (That means we will cover years 1999 through 2004).
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