- 2017 marks the 31st annual Survivor Series, and what better time than now to go through history and take a look at the previous 30 shows, in short form, of course. Much like the Royal Rumble, Survivor Series, as a PPV concept, was created to spite Jim Crockett Promotions, and ran opposite their Thanksgiving tradition, Starrcade. Rumor and innuendo has it that Vince McMahon threatened all cable companies that if they chose to carry Starrcade, he would not allow them to have WrestleMania IV. Throughout 1987, the WWF would occasionally book Six-Man Tag Team Elimination matches, so the concept of doing a show based on that gimmick must've been on the mind at some point. Much like I've done with WrestleMania and Royal Rumble, I'm going to run through the card, comment on the pros and cons, and give an overall opinion on every show. No, I will not provide detailed PBP, we already have all 29 shows recapped in the archives for your enjoyment (or torture... I still hate reading stuff I wrote from more than 2-3 years ago, but I've always been critical of myself about everything).
(Note: If you're curious about the non-PPV Elimination matches I've mentioned, here's a few I'm sure are easy to access on the video streaming websites: Ricky Steamboat, Roddy Piper, and JYD vs. Randy Savage, Adrian Adonis, and Harley Race (2/23/87 MSG); Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper, and Billy Jack Haynes vs. Adrian Adonis, Paul Orndorff, and Hercules (3/7/87 Boston); Bruno Sammartino, Jake Roberts, and Tito Santana vs. The Honkytonk Man & The Hart Foundation (8/15/87 Boston).
Lows: There's very little negativity to choose from, at least nothing that truly stands out. I guess the only one that really needs to be mentioned is Hulk Hogan had to come out and chase away Andre the Giant for his pose routine, despite losing the match. It just came across as typical showboating, but we all know Vince loved the "send fans home happy" formula (except in the current era, where heels go over all the time, and faces are made to look stupid). The Women's match wasn't bad, but some of the workers had no business being on PPV, namely Christanello and Marie. As much as I loved the 10-on-10 match, the crowded ring made viewing the action impossible for the first 10-15 minutes without the crane camera, but again, this seems more a negative if you were there live, rather than watching it on television.
Random Notes and Tidbits: The first official exchange with legal participants of a Survivor Series Match was between Brutus Beefcake and Hercules... Jim Duggan kicks off his career of not doing jobs at the Survivor Series. He would compete in five overall, losing in four, and never was pinned or made to submit. Tally #1: Counted-Out... Andre the Giant's next match wouldn't be for the WWF, on December 19th, he worked with Otto Wanz in Bremen, Germany for Wanz's CWA... Ted Dibiase appeared on the show, not as an in-ring participant, but showing off how he spends his Thanksgiving... Don Muraco was a substitute for "Superstar" Billy Graham, who worked a retirement angle at the hands of Reed and the Gang... Coliseum Video butchered the show's run-time to 2-hours, and actually cut the Bulldogs being eliminated from their match... The list of talent not featured on the card is a short one, with notable snubs being George Steele, The Warrior, Billy Jack Haynes, and a still somewhat pushed Koko B. Ware... Boris Zhukov set the original record for quickest elimination, taken out at 1:45 courtesy of Santana's flying forearm.
Overall Rating: A
There's nothing to hate on the show. From start to finish, each match delivered solid work and reasonable booking decisions when it came to eliminations. Despite the lineup of the Main Event, it was well worked and everyone seemed to be going 100 mph, and concluded with the first of I'm sure many underdog comebacks that fell just a bit short. The 10-on-10 match took MOTN honors, and the worst match (the Women) only suffered in the opening minutes, and picked up well when it came down to the Jumping Bomb Angels and Glamour Girls. When 1987 WWF promotes a four-match card and the worst still hits the 3-star range, you know you've got a great night of entertainment to look forward to.
Lows: 1987 featuring an all-Women's match helped pad the three matches with the male Superstars and limit the use of lower-tier talent. 1988 didn't have the same luxury (the WWF and Moolah were definitely not on good terms at this point), and stretched the roster thin. To fill FIFTY spots on the card, we got stuff like Koko B. Ware and The Red Rooster in the Main Event, as well as dusting off Hillbilly Jim from whatever creek he was napping near. There's also guys like Scott Casey, who was the babyface equivalent of Barry Horowitz, getting on the card and made out like a total geek who was in over his head. To pile on with negativity, the match quality dropped considerably. With only one match exceeding 2-stars. As much as I wanted to like the Roberts underdog story, most of the match is terrible, and at half-an-hour, definitely could've used some time trimming. 1988 also saw an increase in protective finishes, including Bad News (walking out), Beefcake and Honky (counted-out), Rockers and Brain Busters (counted-out), Demolition (counted-out), Jim Duggan (DQ'ed), Andre the Giant (DQ'ed), Big Boss Man (Counted-Out), and Akeem (DQ'ed).
Random Notes and Tidbits: 1988 featured co-captains for the three 5-on-5 elimination matches, reflecting on the rivalries at the time. Co-Captains, although not mentioned specifically, are the first two men on each given team... Coliseum Video butchered the show again, but this time FLIPPED the match order! The 10-on-10 Match was put first, Warrior/Beefcake vs. Honky/Bass and Andre/Bravo vs. Roberts/Duggan teams followed, almost in "highlight" form, cutting all action but eliminations... Scott Casey replaced Brian Blair on Roberts/Duggan's team. Rumors have it that Blair was replacing the JYD, and in the opener, Brunzell replaced Don Muraco, but neither were announced on TV as being part of the show... The Rougeaus early elimination and Bulldogs late elimination (about 30 minutes apart) was a way to get the Rougeaus out of the building. The Bulldogs were finishing up and there was serious heat between Jacques and the Dynamite Kid... Jim Duggan non-job tally #2: Disqualified, leaving his remaining partner in a 4-on-1 pickle. Jim Duggan is a selfish jerk... Danny Davis set the new record for quickest elimination, taking the fall in 77-seconds to Beefcake's sleeper hold.
Overall Rating: C
With as much as I dogged it, you'd think the rating would've been even lower, but with only one "bad" match, I can't rate it much lower. The 10-on-10 Match is another must-see from the Survivor Series archives, and while the overall body of work is nothing special, the Main Event is driven by the Mega Powers storyline, and there's a few decent exchanges in the match when Boss Man and Haku are in the ring. I didn't mention Dibiase because he honestly didn't do much. The opener is nothing special, and Warrior, who only does a couple of things well (press slam and splash people), did neither to overcome a 2-on-1 deficit.
Lows: The most notable part of the show was the hype for a Pay-Per-View a month later... No Holds Barred, The Match/The Movie! What, you thought 1991 was the first time Survivor Series was used to hype another, budget PPV? You weak, pathetic fool! Plenty of poor booking decisions, and a lot of protective finishes. Notables: Bad News Brown (walked out... again), Jim Duggan (Counted-out), Zeus (DQ'ed), The Powers of Pain (DQ'ed), Piper and Rude (Counted-Out), and Andre (Counted-Out). As you noticed, most of the key ones were in more important matches, especially the last match. The Heenan Family is already handicapped, and they booked Andre to be eliminated within seconds, leaving an entire team against what essentially was Haku and Arn Anderson. Speaking of that match, who did Jannetty piss off for him to take a clean pin from HEENAN? Another instance that bugged me was Terry Taylor, a glorified JTTS at this point, working almost the entire opener before his elimination at the 15:00 mark. People didn't pay $19.95 to watch Rhodes and Beefcake camp out on the apron so The Red F'N Rooster could get beat up.
Random Notes and Tidbits: The first Survivor Series to ease up and promote 4-on-4 matches instead of 5-on-5, and the idea of all the tag teams in one match was removed. "Teams of five strive to Survive" is clearly not the tagline anymore... The first Survivor Series where each team had a nickname, typically based on the captain of the team... Dusty Rhodes did the first-ever Survivor Series blade-job to sell a beating from the Boss Man... Shane McMahon made his Pay-Per-View debut as a ringside referee... Jim Duggan's non-job tally #3: Counted-Out to end the match (2 Count-Outs, 1 DQ overall)... Hulkamaniacs vs. Million Dollar Team set the new standard for cheap, with all but one member of a losing team eliminated via Disqualification... "The Canadian" Earthquake replaced "The Widow Maker" (Barry Windham), who no-showed dates and later left to deal with his father and brother going to jail for counterfeiting money... Bad News Brown replaced Akeem, who never really answered why he missed the show. Maybe illness... Bobby Heenan replaced Tully Blanchard, who was fired for failing a drug test, a failure that also cost him a job returning to WCW... Andre The Giant with a NEW record for quickest elimination, counted-out at the 30-second mark, killing the match before it had a chance to really get off the ground.
Overall Rating: D
Not having an extraordinarily bad match saves it from getting an "F", but there's nothing to go out of your way to see, either. A bunch of mediocre matches (at best), a terrible Main Event caliber match in the middle of the show, and a lot of nothing. As background noise, a harmless show with nothing but fluff, but don't beat yourself up if you've never seen it or fell asleep early and woke up late.
Lows: I think I'm obligated to mention the Gobbledy Gooker first, just because it set the standard for terrible gimmicks and ideas in the WWF. There were dumb angles before, and some questionable characters, but this bombed on Pay-Per-View after two months of speculation and hype. Roddy Piper's commentary was atrocious, burying people at random, regardless if they were babyface or heel. The Alliance vs. Mercenaries set the standard for terrible teams, with almost all the participants being on JTTS duty except for the captains, and even then, NIKOLAI VOLKOFF was a captain. More protective finishes than ever! Demolition and LOD were all DQ'ed, The Undertaker Counted-Out, Jake Roberts Counted-Out, Jim Duggan DQ'ed, Earthquake and Tugboat Counted-Out, Sgt. Slaughter DQ'ed, and Rick Martel Counted-Out, not to mention dumb finishes like Jim Neidhart and a Bushwhacker jobbing to clotheslines. Not vicious lariats. Standard, run-of-the-mill, transition moves. The Ultimate Match of Survival was rushed and felt like a TV taping dark match where most of the men involved didn't care to try.
Random Notes and Tidbits: The first, and only, time where the Survivors of each match were brought back for a "Grand Finale Match of Survival", where coincidentally enough, babyfaces fought the heels, and the combined number of participants was 8... Jim Duggan no-job tally #4: Disqualified for using his 2x4 as a weapon, again (Final Results: 2 Count-Out, 2 DQ losses)... The Visionaires were the first full team to survive... The Warlord did his best to try and match Andre's elimination time, clocking in at 28-seconds. For the second time, TITO SANTANA got the honors of embarrassing someone... The original promotional photos had BAD NEWS BROWN teaming with Ted Dibiase and Rhythm & Blues... Boris Zhukov replaced Akeem, who left the company, unhappy with his pay and position in the company... Haku replaced Rick Rude, who left the company over a pay dispute where he felt owed money on shows where he was advertised despite being out with an injury... The Gobbledy Gooker would appear again, at a handful of TV tapings shortly after the PPV, but would disappear until a revival at WrestleMania X-Seven with a brand new costume (I would've burned the damn thing, too).
Overall Rating: D+
Slightly better than the 1989 edition, but still a poor show, especially the second half, where we got three bad matches, and easily the worst Survivor Series Match to date. This show is remembered for two specific reasons, The Undertaker and The Gooker. One ended up being a gimmick that survived the test of time and reinvented itself numerous times over a 25-year run, while the other was a popcorn fart that faded into obscurity for the next decade. The match quality was below average across the board, with only one match that would be considered "good." Shorter matches made the bad stuff more watchable, but that's all I can say about that.
Lows: The Survivor Series turned into nothing more than a commercial for Tuesday in Texas about half-way into the show. Yes, they did start the show hyping the Roberts/Savage match, but once Hogan/Undertaker was in the books, the live action meant nothing with constant shilling for the Pay-Per-View a week later. The opening match, while delivering one of the better performances in recent Survivor Series history, had easily the worst booked finish of any Survivor Series match to date. Team Duggan vs. Team Mustafa was a complete joke of bad workers and heatless heels. Gorilla and Heenan somehow were distracted and missed the big angle between The Rockers, and started speculating stuff that didn't happen, completely warping the storyline from what it was supposed to be presented as. Hogan vs. Undertaker had a strong finish, but was a poor match most of the way, with Hogan's popularity waning with Undertaker getting noticeable face pops despite being positioned purely as a heel.
Random Notes and Tidbits: The first Survivor Series to be held on Thanksgiving Eve... The Undertaker vs. Hulk Hogan is not only the first non-Elimination Match in Survivor Series history, but also the Main Event, with the Elimination matches, for the first time, playing second fiddle... Tito Santana replaced "The Dragon", Sgt. Slaughter replaced Jim Neidhart (storyline purposes), and Hercules replaced Big Bully Busick in the cluster-pluck that was Team Duggan vs. Team Mustafa... Sid Justice and Jake Roberts were originally captains on opposing teams, but Sid tore a bicep and Roberts was pulled in anticipation to sell This Tuesday in Texas... For the second year in a row, Savage appeared at the Survivor Series to do a live interview... Also for the second year in a row, an entire team survived (Team Duggan)... The Coliseum Video box incorrectly lists The Barbarian as a member of Col. Mustafa's team... The Undertaker held ill-will towards Hogan for years for being accused of not protecting him on the Tombstone on the chair spot... WWF Magazine created a fake spot in the opener, describing Ted Dibiase's elimination at the hands of Roddy Piper. He, along with Mountie, Piper, Bret, and Virgil, were all DQ'ed at the end.
Overall Rating: C-
I wanted to score this a bit lower, but two matches were better than average, and another just on the border. Except for the opening match cluster-mess, the protective finishes weren't nearly as bad as it became in the last couple of years. Still, the sour taste of selling another Pay-Per-View throughout the more expensive Pay-Per-View is hard to ignore, and did I mention the stupid, stupid, stupid finish to the opening match?
Lows: If you're a fan of the Elimination concept, then this show does nothing for you except for one watered down version. Minus the top two matches, most of the matches are either bad or completely forgettable. The Big Boss Man's victory over Nailz wasn't just a bad match, but marked the beginning of the end for the Boss Man's run with the company, as he was quietly pushed down the card. While I enjoyed the Tag Team Main Event, I couldn't help but question going with a B.S. finish, marking the third straight PPV where one of the advertised headliners ended with a less than satisfying result.
Random Notes and Tidbits: Clearly, the entire concept of Elimination Matches was thrown out the window, except for one match which basically came down to a 2-out-of-3 Falls scenario rather than a more traditional Survivor Series format. With a thinner roster comprised of gimmicks and untested talent, it was the right move... The Ultimate Warrior was originally scheduled to be Randy Savage's partner (The Ultimate Maniacs!), but was officially let go about 2-weeks before the show, although rumblings where made sooner... The British Bulldog was scheduled to defend the IC Title to the Mountie, but both were gone before the PPV, with Bulldog fired along with Warrior and dropped the title to Shawn at the last episode of SNME for 13 years... Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart was originally booked with neither man holding a Championship... The Bushwhackers "stepped aside" for the Nasty Boys to be the partners of The Natural Disasters... First PPV appearance of Doink, trolling the audience during Tatanka vs. Martel... 1st of 2 appearances made by Santa Claus.
Overall Rating: C
These Survivor Series PPV's aren't getting glowing ratings from me, are they? I guess being middle of the road is better than a near-flop. As mentioned earlier, the strength of the show lies in two matches, and one of them has a crummy finish. Is Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels THAT good? Yes, especially when you remember the era we're in, and we're only a year removed epic Main Event matches like Hulk Hogan and Undertaker setting records for worst PPV title matches. I dogged on the undercard, and with good reason. Sometimes I'll say an undercard is quiet fluff, but there's some bad stuff here: The 8-Man Tag, Taker vs. Kamala, Boss Man vs. Nailz, and Tatanka vs. Martel all fall flat.
- Part 2 picks up with Survivor Series 1993-1998, covering the entire run of the "New Generation" and the beginning of the Attitude Era.