Monday, November 5, 2018

The History of WWE Survivor Series, part 2 (1990-1992)

Sadly the WWF followed up its first three good-to-excellent Survivor Series PPVs with three mediocre-to-awful ones.  Here we go with Part 2.....

Survivor Series 1990 - Hartford Civic Center - 11/22/90

Dear God this show sucked.  For the first time (and certainly not the last), the WWF took the amazing Survivor Series concept and diluted it beyond all recognition.  The 4-on-4 format was still in effect from 1989 but they added the wrinkle that the survivors of each match would meet at the end of the show for a "Grand Finale" match.  A very cool idea in theory, but a terrible one in execution.

For one thing it resulted in six elimination matches - far too many for a three-hour PPV.  For another, the company also added a Mystery Egg segment - the climax to a weeks-long series of teasers where at the TV tapings they would show this giant turkey egg in the arena and let everyone know it was due to hatch at the PPV (How did they pinpoint the exact date, might I ask?).  At the Series, the egg hatched, and it was a man in a turkey suit, known as the Gobbledy Gooker.  The Gooker ran down to the ring and danced with Mean Gene Okerlund, and that was it.  That's what this whole angle was built around.  Just a colossal waste of everyone's lives.

Anyway, the show opened (OPENED!!) with the match involving WWF Champion The Ultimate Warrior.  This was the match I was most looking forward to, mind you; the hyped main event, and it went on first.  Warrior captained a team of Kerry Von Erich and the Legion of Doom, against Mr. Perfect (with whom Warrior was NOT feuding at the time) and the three members of Demolition.  Nevermind that Warrior was actually feuding with Randy Savage (who I presume wasn't medically cleared to wrestle, being that the two never fought until the following March), the lineup still looked intriguing.  And then it only went fourteen minutes.  Wait.  Thus far the shortest-ever Survivor Series match was almost 18 minutes, while the others were well over 20.  The MAIN EVENT of this Survivor Series PPV lasted fourteen minutes??  Something ain't right here.  Warrior won, incidentally.

Hmm, which of these four guys doesn't belong?
Incidentally only one of these men is still living.

Next was the Dream Team of Dusty Rhodes, Koko B. Ware, and The Hart Foundation against the Million Dollar Team of Ted Dibiase, Honky Tonk Man, Greg Valentine, and mystery partner Kane the Undertaker (that's right, his first name was originally Kane).  This match was pretty good partly due to the intrigue of Taker's introduction, and partly because of the later stretches of the match when it came down to Bret vs. Dibiase.  Ted won the whole thing.

Third was a match that somehow stole the show (I guess when the show sucks this bad it's not that big a feat), as The Vipers - Jake Roberts, Jimmy Snuka and The Rockers took on The Visionaries - Rick Martel, Warlord, and Power & Glory.  Martel's team accomplished a Survivor Series first by sweeping the entire opposing team for a 4-0 victory.  Despite only four eliminations in this match it actually went longer than anything else on this card and was the best match.

The secondary main event was up next as the HulkaManiacs - Hulk Hogan, Jim Duggan, Big Bossman and Tugboat clashed with The Natural Disasters of Earthquake, Dino Bravo, Haku, and The Barbarian.  This match utterly stunk up the place and Hogan predictably came out on top.

The final regularly scheduled match of the night bafflingly went to The Alliance - Nikolai Volkoff, Tito Santana and The Bushwhackers vs. The Mercenaries - Sgt. Slaughter, Boris Zhukov, and the Orient Express.  Eleven minutes of quick and pointless eliminations, where Tito was the sole survivor.

In the Grand Finale match the trio of Warrior, Hogan and Tito faced an uphill battle against five opponents (Dibiase, Martel, Warlord, Hercules and Paul Roma).  Fortunately the babyfaces made short work of the heels, only losing Tito in the process.  Nine minutes later it was Hogan and Warrior standing tall.  So in the end no heel opponents were elevated for either one of them.  Super.

5-on-3?  Eh, don't worry, Terry and Jim'll have this wrapped up in no time.

This show was probably the first example I can remember of a wrestling company taking an awesome concept and just shitting all over it.  The drama and epic feel of all the previous Survivor Series matches was removed entirely, and we were left with six matches full of unrealistically quick eliminations with no rhyme or reason to them.  I will never understand putting the Warriors-Perfect Team match on first and not even giving it fifteen minutes.  The Gooker segment is infamous for its stupidity, and I can't imagine this angle being responsible for even one single PPV buy.  True to 1990 form, the Survivor Series that year was crap.

Best Match: Vipers vs. Visionaries
Worst Match: HulkaManiacs vs. Natural Disasters - I hated everything about the Hogan-Earthquake feud.  The Hogan vs. Big Fat Dude concept had been done to death by 1990, besides which Earthquake was pretty awful in the ring.
What I'd Change: There's only so much that can be done with this card, but first, dump the Volkoff-Slaughter match.  It only went eleven minutes and no one cared.  Put Slaughter in one of the other matches since he was apparently so damned important.  Give the extra time to the other bouts, and for the love of Jeebus drop the Gooker nonsense.
Most Disappointing Match: Warriors vs. Perfect Team
Most Pleasant Surprise: The debut of The Undertaker.  I recognized him as "Mean" Mark Callous from WCW but loved the new gimmick and was intrigued by the idea of a monster heel who wasn't a big fat dude.
Overall Rating: 2.5/10 - Garbage show.
Better than WrestleMania VI and/or SummerSlam '90? - I mean they all stunk, but no.

Survivor Series 1991 - Joe Louis Arena - 11/27/91

Wow.  Not only was Survivor Series 1991 not a good PPV, it was little more than a hype show for the newest WWF PPV offering six days later, This Tuesday in Texas.  This was such a cheap-ass bait and switch, and had I actually paid to see this show I'd have been LIVID.  In an odd way this PPV was ahead of its time in that it essentially accomplished the same thing as every PPV in the Vince Russo era - hook the paid viewers into watching an upcoming show.  Just mystifying.

The opener looked fantastic on paper.  Ric Flair, The Mountie, Ted Dibiase, and The Warlord vs. Roddy Piper, Bret Hart, Davey Boy Smith, and Virgil.  This was Ric Flair's first major feud in the WWF, and the heat between him and Piper was fantastic.  Piper had been an announcer for a while and got put on probation for getting physically involved with Flair, to the point that President Jack Tunney threatened suspension if it happened again.  Flair then took advantage, taunting Piper repeatedly and slapping his headset off, hoping to provoke a fight.  Piper snapped, was fired as an announcer and reinstated as a wrestler.

Anyway what a great lineup - Flair, Dibiase, Piper, Bret and Davey Boy all in the same match!  And for about 22 minutes this was a pretty damn good elimination match.  Took its time, didn't rush to get to the end, had all the markings of an epic harkening back to the '87 and '88 shows.  Aaaaaand then a wild brawl broke out where five guys all got disqualified at once, leaving Ric Flair as the sole survivor.  Get the fuck right outta here.  FIVE-MAN DISQUALIFICATION.  This had to be the cheapest and laziest booking of the decade.  There was no discernible reason they couldn't have gone the traditional route, made this a 27-minute match that came down to Flair vs. Piper, and had Flair win using a cheap rollup while hooking the tights.  Then this could've been one of the best WWF matches of the year.  But no.  Let's just toss the whole thing out.  Unbelievable.

Next we had, for the second year in a row, a pointless match involving Sgt. Slaughter, as he led Jim Duggan, Kerry von Erich, and Tito Santana against Col. Mustafa, The Berzerker, Skinner, and Hercules.  Slaughter had finally lost his feud with Hulk Hogan and once again embraced America, turning on his Iraqi sidekicks.  So the guy around whom they had built most of 1991 as a traitorous, flag-burning terrorist-type was now begging the fans to take him back.  This is reason #387 why the US-Iraq angle was a terrible idea: once you have the villain publicly side with a murderous totalitarian with whom America was actually at war, it's a little tough to get the fans back on his side later on.  Not surprisingly this new Slaughter-Sheik feud didn't exactly light up the wrestling world.  Also they had the babyfaces sweep the heels here, immediately negating the novelty of 1990's Visionaries-Vipers sweep.

For the third year in a row the advertised main event of Survivor Series did not close the show.  Hulk Hogan defended the WWF Title against The Undertaker.  Now this was a very fresh pairing.  Taker had only been in the company a year and pushing him to a PPV main event was a pretty big deal.  Unfortunately the match was nigh unwatchable.  I'm serious, this is one of the worst main events I've ever seen.  Slow, dull, plodding, and a nightmarish web of no-selling.  Taker's character was portrayed as impervious to pain, and Hogan was famous for his invincible comeback.  The match mercifully ended when Flair slid a chair into the ring and Taker Tombstoned Hogan on it to win the belt.  This development was certainly very cool - the new monster heel winning the Championship.  But I smelled a rat three days later when they announced a rematch at the Tuesday in Texas PPV.  Just super - a six day title reign.  Love when that shit happens.

Wow, Hogan's head is nowhere near that chair.....

Fourth up was another match featuring The Rockers that looked like a throwaway on paper but was actually decent.  The Rockers/Bushwhackers faced The Nasty Boys/Beverly Brothers.  This was obviously just tossed together as a way to get these four teams on the show, but there was some nice drama with the Rockers teasing a breakup and Marty Janetty trying to defy the odds against three opponents.  Better than it should've been.

The last match went from being very intriguing, to potentially even more intriguing, to being an underwhelming free TV match.  Originally the plan was Sid Justice, Big Bossman, and the Legion of Doom vs. Jake Roberts, IRS, and the Natural Disasters.  Sid was legitimately injured and unable to compete, so the company teased reinstating Randy Savage, who had "retired" after losing to Warrior at 'Mania that year, and who was feuding with Jake after the post-wedding angle at SummerSlam.  Instead they opted to keep both Savage and Jake out of the match to gouge viewers into buying the Tuesday in Texas PPV where Savage and Jake would fight one-on-one.  This left the final Survivor Series match as a six-man elimination bout with no real team captains.  It was fine for what it was, but had no business closing a major PPV.  At least the Legion of Doom won the whole thing.

Wait, both teams include The Invisible Man?

Following suit with every other PPV of 1991, the Survivor Series was a thrown-together mess and ended up just an attempt to hook paying customers into shelling out more money for a resolution.  Just awful, awful stuff.

Best Match: Team Flair vs. Team Piper, by default
Worst Match: Team Slaughter vs. Team Mustafa
What I'd Change: How 'bout you use this major PPV event to actually resolve something instead of tacking on another show six days later?  Put Savage and Jake in the final match so it's actually good, make the Flair-Piper match a full deal with three acts instead of tossing everything out halfway through.  Wake Hogan and Taker up so their match isn't snore-inducing.
Most Disappointing Match: Team Flair vs. Team Piper
Most Pleasant Surprise: Team Rockers vs. Team Nasty Boys
Overall Rating: 2/10
Better than WrestleMania VII and/or Summerslam '91? - Nope

Survivor Series 1992 - Richfield Coliseum - 11/25/92

Survivor Series '92, or as I like to call it, Generic Wrestling Show '92, returned to the place where it all started, the Richfield Coliseum.  This was the first Survivor Series after Hulk Hogan's departure and featured a host of brand new main event stars.  The WWF had moved away from the superhuman power wrestlers due to mounting steroid allegations, and focused on smaller grapplers and more athletic action. 

Sadly they also moved away from a Survivor Series format for this installment and it became just another PPV event.

The show opened with the newly-signed Headshrinkers (or Samoan Swat Team as they had been called in WCW) vs. High Energy (Owen Hart and Koko B. Ware, who for some reason both wore Jim Neidhart's old MC Hammer-style pants).  This was a serviceable kickoff tag bout but little more than a showcase for the Wild Samoans: NextGen team.

Next up was The Big Bossman facing Nailz (a "former convict" whom the former prison guard Big Bossman had allegedly mistreated in the clink) in a Nightstick on a Pole match.  Nailz was comically evil and had a digitally enhanced speaking voice to make him sound more monstrous.  This was his final televised WWF match, as he was later fired for physically assaulting Vince McMahon.  Probably not the smartest move to beat up your boss, but then again Steve Austin made a great living that way.

Third was a rematch from WrestleMania VIII between Rick Martel and Tatanka.  Yeah, they were still feuding eight months later.  Nothing memorable here.

The first real match of the night was next, as Ric Flair and newcomer Razor Ramon took on Randy Savage and new babyface Mr. Perfect.  Perfect had been turned and partnered with Savage after the Ultimate Warrior was fired due to alleged steroid use.  This bout was a lot of fun and while nothing mindblowing, told a good story with Perfect and Savage never quite trusting each other and Bobby Heenan (hilariously) losing his mind on commentary, having recently been dumped by his protege Perfect.  Aside from a lame DQ ending this was solid stuff.

What would you call this team?  Perfect Macho?  Mr. ManFect? 
I got it - Randall Perfo!

A squash match followed, as new monster heel Yokozuna annihilated Virgil.  While this match had no place on a paid wrestling show, it was one of the more entertaining squashes I had ever seen.  I mean Yoko just destroyed him.  I had also never seen Yokozuna's legdrop before and just about pooped when his gigantic thigh engulfed Virgil's face.  Brutal stuff.

The one half-assed attempt at a traditional Survivor Series match was another Two Teams vs. Two Teams elimination bout except that if one member of a tag team got eliminated, they both had to leave.  Money Inc. and the Beverly Brothers faced the Nasty Boys and the Natural Disasters.  Oh joy, two babyface teams I can't stand vs. two heel teams I'm only mildly interested in.  This match was an insufferable bore.  What a sad mockery of a once-great gimmick match.

The penultimate bout was the first-ever variation of a Casket Match (though it was called a Coffin Match this time), as The Undertaker faced Kamala.  The rules were a little different though.  Rather than the object being to stuff the opponent into a coffin, the opponent had to be pinned as normal, and the loser would have to go into the box.  Kinda silly.  The match wasn't much to speak of, but it was all about the spectacle of Taker nailing the coffin shut with someone inside.

To to recap, Survivor Series '92 was 1-7 thus far.

But then the main event saved the whole show.  WWF Champion Bret Hart defended against I-C Champion Shawn Michaels in what was at the time the longest PPV WWF Title match in history.  Heralding a huge stylistic shift in WWF main event wrestling, Bret and Shawn worked a classic no-frills wrestling match for 26 minutes.  These two were very small for WWF main event wrestlers and they set out to prove that you didn't have to be 6'5" and 275 pounds to capture the fans' imagination.  I remember thinking at the time, the WWF has finally caught up to the old NWA in terms of main event match quality.  If Bret-Bulldog at SummerSlam proved Bret deserved to be a top guy, this match proved that he could be THE top guy.  This was one of the best matches of 1992 and still holds up as a great main event.

One of the best WWF PPV main events ever up to that point.

Survivor Series 1992 really had no business being called that, and it showed just how paper thin the roster was becoming.  This was clearly a rebuilding period for the company and they were casting their lot with a new top star and a new philosophy.  The overall card was pretty terrible, but almost saved by a good match and a great one.  The Savage/Perfect tag match was very solid but not terribly important.  Bret vs. Shawn however is essential viewing.  Fortunately the WWF would rediscover the real Survivor Series format in 1993.

Best Match: Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels - just outstanding stuff
Worst Match: Money Inc/Beverly Brothers vs. Nasty Boys/Natural Disasters
What I'd Change: How 'bout an actual Survivor Series lineup guys?  Bret-Shawn is obviously fine as the main event, but the Savage match should've been 4-on-4.  I know the roster was limited but there were still enough guys to assemble three elimination bouts.  Savage/Perfect/Nasty Boys vs. Flair/Razor/Money Inc.; Undertaker/Tatanka/Natural Disasters vs. Kamala/Martel/Headshrinkers; Bossman/Virgil/High Energy vs. Nailz/Yokozuna/Beverly Brothers.  There, done.
Most Disappointing Match: I guess the Taker-Kamala one.  Five minutes?  Really?
Most Pleasant Surprise: The Yokozuna squash I suppose?
Overall Rating: 4.5/10 - This was a two-match show, only one of which was must-see.
Better than WrestleMania VIII and/or Summerslam '92? - You're joking right?

Not as fond a collection of memories.  Sigh....

Part 1                                                                                                                                                Part 3

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