Tuesday, November 6, 2018

The History of WWE Survivor Series (1993)

After three pretty bad editions of the Thanksgiving Night/Eve Spectacular, things somewhat got back on track in the mid-90s.......


Survivor Series 1993 - Boston Garden - 11/24/93

Well that's more like it.  The '93 Series PPV was something of a return to form after the format had been watered down and then abandoned completely over the three previous years.  This show marks the first time a wrestling PPV had ever been held in Boston, so it has some sentimental value for me.  I was tempted to buy a ticket, but since it was Thanksgiving Eve and I'd have to travel home to the 'burbs anyway, I opted to watch on the tube.

This show not only put the focus back on the elimination matches, but for the first time since 1990 the main event was one of them.  The company made the most of a terribly depleted roster and put on a pretty damn good show, all things considered.  This would sadly be Bobby Heenan's final WWF PPV, as he would soon leave the company and wind up in WCW.


The show kicked off with a bang as the Razor Ramon-led team of Marty Janetty, 1-2-3 Kid, and Randy Savage (subbing for Mr. Perfect) faced IRS, Rick Martel, Adam Bomb, and Diesel.  The midcard crew brought their working shoes and set the bar fairly high.  This match benefited from some unpredictable eliminations, as neither team captain was among the final four participants.  It eventually came down to Janetty/Kid vs. Diesel/Adam Bomb, and the underdog babyfaces pulled out the surprise win to a huge pop.  Helluva nice opening match.

Next up was a bizarre but unexpectedly well-worked match between four Hart Brothers (Bret, Owen, Keith and Bruce) and a team of masked Knights that was supposed to have been led by Jerry Lawler but due to allegations of sexual assault against "The King", Shawn Michaels took his place.  While from a storyline perspective this made zero sense, Michaels' involvement in the match instantly added to its "star rating."  This was a wild, fast-paced match with some great mat wrestling and some spectacular bumping by Shawn, and eventually Michaels ended up alone against all four Harts.  Then suddenly Owen was eliminated after an accidental ring apron collision with Bret, planting the seeds for the wonderful Bret-Owen feud of 1994.  Shawn took a powder a few minutes later, and the remaining three Harts won the match.  I've read a lot of reviews that slag this match off as pointless and boring, but despite only featuring three full-time WWF guys I still thought this was the best match on the card.  I suppose it's kinda hard to go wrong when you have Bret, Shawn and Owen in the same match.

Only three full-time WWF roster members in this match.

The one non-Survivor Series match on the card was a Smoky Mountain Wrestling Tag Team Title match, as the Rock & Roll Express took on the Heavenly Bodies.  Seeing Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson in a WWF ring was pretty surreal, but the match was quite good.  I don't think Boston was the right city for this, as probably few fans in the building knew who these guys were.  Regardless I have no complaints about the match itself.

The one stinker on this card was next, as Team Doink (featuring Men on a Mission and The Bushwhackers in Doink makeup, but no Doink himself) took on Bam Bam Bigelow, Bastion Booger, and the Headshrinkers.  This was purely a comedy match and went mercifully fast.  The Doink team swept, largely using nefarious means which I found irksome.  Pretty superfluous stuff.

The main event had a nice epic feel to it, as The All-Americans - Lex Luger, The Steiner Brothers, and The Undertaker (subbing for an "injured" Tatanka) faced The Foreign Fanatics - Yokozuna, Ludvig Borga, Quebecer Jacques Rougeau, and Crush (subbing for an "injured" Quebecer Pierre).  In the same vein as the late 80s Survivor Series main events, this bout featured hard-hitting power wrestling and some nice strategy (saving Taker and Yokozuna for the later stages of the match for example).  Eventually Taker and Yoko eliminated each other, sparking a new feud between them, and Luger vanquished Borga to become the sole survivor.  Not a technical masterpiece by any means, but this was a worthy Series main event and a lot of fun.

Jacques Rougeau is sadly the only surviving member of his 1993 team.

For the first time since 1989 it seemed like the company was taking the Survivor Series concept seriously again.  Four of the five matches were traditional elimination matches, and three of them were quite good.  There were multiple substitutions, but they pretty much all improved the quality of the matches and a couple of them were clearly planned.  For one year at least, Survivor Series was somewhat back to its old self.

Best Match: Harts vs. Michaels' Knights
Worst Match: Four Doinks vs. Team Bam Bam
What I'd Change: I'd have actually put Doink in the Four Doinks match!
Most Disappointing Match: Nothing really disappointed me as I wasn't expecting to like the Doink-Bigelow match anyway.
Most Pleasant Surprise: Shawn taking Lawler's place.  The addition of Michaels clearly made this match better than it would've otherwise been.
Overall Rating: 7/10
Better than WrestleMania IX and/or SummerSlam '93? - Yes on both.





Survivor Series 1995 - USAir Arena - 11/19/95

To paraphrase Bobby Heenan, comparing Survivor Series '94 to Survivor Series '95 is like comparing horse manure to ice cream.  The 1995 edition was such a monumental improvement it's hard to even consider them as the same type of event.  While the '94 edition felt disorganized and largely inconsequential aside from a few key moments, this show featured multiple strong elimination matches and a big marquee Title match.

1995 was not a very successful year for the company, as Diesel failed to draw as WWF Champion and fans instead preferred the athleticism of Bret Hart and hot new babyface star Shawn Michaels.  But several newcomers were added to the roster which freshened up the product, such as Hunter Hearst Helmsley, Ahmed Johnson, Hakushi and Goldust.

The first match featured mostly bottom-level talent but ended up being one of the best on the show.  The Bodydonnas - Skip, Rad Radford, Tom Prichard, and surprise member The 1-2-3 Kid took on The Underdogs - Marty Janetty, Bob Holly, Hakushi, and Barry Horowitz.  These eight guys wrestled like they had something to prove, as the match featured lots of aerial moves and spectacular high spots (for example Janetty's mindblowing top rope powerbomb on Skip).  The Kid stole a victory in the end after his new stablemate Sycho Sid interfered, and this seemed to be the beginning of a nice heel push for Sean Waltman.  However due to some drug issues his career stagnated and he left for WCW several months later.

Next up was a women's match reminiscent of the Team Sherri vs. Team Moolah bout from 1987, featuring several Japanese women wrestlers utilizing intricate, crowd-pleasing movesets previously not seen in the WWF.  The Women's Champion Alundra Blayze captained a team of Kyoko Inoue, Sakie Hasegawa and Chaparita Asari against Bertha Faye's team of Aja Kong, Tomoko Watanabe and Lioness Asuka.  This was a highly entertaining, action-heavy showcase of Japanese-style wrestling that seemed to signal the push of Aja Kong as a major women's star.  Unfortunately Alundra Blayze defected to WCW a month later and the planned Women's Title feud was off.  Still this is easily worth a watch.

The third match for some reason went to a singles bout between Bam Bam Bigelow and newcomer Goldust.  Why this match was considered important enough to warrant a one-on-one showdown I'll never know.  It wasn't even Goldust's debut.  This was middling at best and I'd much rather have seen these two on opposing elimination teams.

The one poorly executed elimination match on the card was The Undertaker's Dark Side - Henry Godwinn, Fatu, and Savio Vega (what a terrible squad of teammates for Taker) vs. King Mabel's Royals - Hunter Hearst Helmsley, Jerry Lawler and Isaac Yankem (hey look at that - Taker vs. Kane!).  This was really little more than a squash, as Taker eliminated Mabel's entire team singlehandedly before Mabel walked away with a countout loss.

How did they abandon this concept after only one year?

Things picked up huge however, as the final elimination bout was a Wild Card Match.  President Gorilla Monsoon announced that the eight wrestlers in this match would be drawn at random to determine the teams.  So babyface Razor Ramon got stuck with heels Owen Hart, Yokozuna, and rival Dean Douglas, against faces Shawn Michaels and Ahmed Johnson, and their heel partners the British Bulldog and Sid.  This made for an extremely exciting, unpredictable dynamic, and the match ran 27 action-packed minutes.  This is still one of the best elimination matches I've ever seen.  Michaels, Bulldog and Ahmed were the survivors, and this match cemented Ahmed as an intended future headliner (which I believe he would've been had he not been so injury-prone).  I was sad not to see the Wild Card concept brought back in subsequent years.

WHAMMO!!

The main event was a rematch between WWF Champion Diesel and Bret Hart, in a No Holds Barred contest.  While fairly slow-paced, this match was realistically brutal and very well-worked.  It featured strong psychology with Bret using any and all available tactics to negate Diesel's size advantage, and portrayed Diesel as somewhat torn between getting the win at all costs or remaining the company's top hero.  After hesitating long enough for Bret to get the pin with a small package, Diesel snapped and became a tweener for several months, rediscovering his killer instinct.  Incidentally the spot where Diesel knocked Bret off the apron and through a ringside table just about made me poop.  At the time I had never seen anything like that.  Anyway, helluva match.
The 1995 Survivor Series was an extremely watchable show that pretty much blew away everything else on the WWF's PPV calendar that year.  While the main event was still a singles match, all the other major feuds were settled within the elimination format, thus making the traditional Survivor Series matches feel important again.  This was the best Survivor Series show since the first two.

Best Match: Wild Card Match
Worst Match: Goldust vs. Bam Bam Bigelow - This isn't even bad per se, it's just not good.
What I'd Change: Put Bam Bam on Taker's team instead of Fatu, put Goldust on Mabel's team instead of Lawler (whose color commentary was missed on this broadcast), have Goldust eliminate two members of Taker's team before getting DQd (thus protecting him) and then have Taker eliminate the rest of his opponents.
Most Disappointing Match: Probably the Taker one.  His team was comprised of wrestlers who didn't fit in with him at all and the match was too one-sided.
Most Pleasant Surprise: The opening contest.  Despite being full of jobbers, these two teams tore it up.
Overall Rating: 8.5/10
Better than WrestleMania XI and/or SummerSlam '95? - You bet your sweet ass it was.



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