Thursday, November 12, 2015

You Used To Be Sooooo Good: WWE Survivor Series

AND WE'RE BAAAACK!!!  It's been a while folks, but my esteemed Enuffa.com colleague Dan Moore and I are back with a brand new installment of You Used To Be Soooo Good.  You know the drill, we examine something we once loved, explain why it sucks now, and work through our pain.


This here is a REAL logo.

Today we'll be talking about what used to be one of our favorite wrestling PPVs, the Survivor Series.  Debuting in 1987, the Series was built around gigantic team matchups, where two captains would gather their closest allies and wage war on their hated enemies.  It was a pure, uncomplicated format, and it worked beautifully.  But after the first few years the company began to stray from this concept.  Over the past two decades the elimination portion of the shows have been more often than not phoned in, while the focus has been on the regular ol' singles matches.  Thus Survivor Series has mostly devolved into a generic PPV where little of importance takes place.  Dan, what's your take on this once-beloved tradition?


DAN: Ah, the classic Survivor Series. At the time it debuted, it easily shot to the top of the charts as my favorite wrestling event. The idea of the PPV was, in retrospect, so simple, but so awesome. Tag teams made up of five men, with each man pinned (or DQd or counted out) being eliminated from the match, thus creating survivors. The year this show was born, I was heavy into my love of wrasslin'. We were all at my grandmother's house for Thanksgiving and because the show was on Thanksgiving night, my father made me and my brother leave early so we wouldn't miss a second of this brand new wrestling extravaganza. It's truly one of my favorite wrestling memories, and the very first Survivor Series is ingrained in my head as one of the all time great pay-per-views.


JUSTIN: I first heard about Survivor Series at a house show on Halloween night.  My dad and I went to the Worcester Centrum and on the back of the programs was an ad depicting Hulk Hogan's team on one side and Andre the Giant's team on the other.  I said, "What's this about?"  Just below that was an "Also featuring Randy Savage's team facing The Honky Tonk Man's team."  I said, "This sounds most intriguing."  Yes, at age 12 I used the word "intriguing."  I swear.

The original lineup before Billy got hurt.

I sadly didn't get to watch the show on PPV, but I loved the concept.  Elimination matches were pretty rare, mostly taking place on house shows, and the idea of five guys to a team (and then ten in the tag teams bout) was super fun.  When I finally got to watch the show on VHS I was blown away.  From start to finish it was like an All-Star game except it felt like something was really at stake in every match, and each captain had assembled an army to lead into battle.  Survivor Series 1987 & 1988 are two of my all-time faves.


DAN: One of the greatest wrestling memories I have is the sight of the tag team elimination match. The teams, all TWENTY men, were standing on the ring, ready to be tagged in and out. I recall just being amazed at the sheer number of all the wrestlers hanging around the ring. A sea of humanity, all getting ready to beat the tar out of each other. I thought it was so cool.

The elimination matches were the very reason Survivor Series existed, and it stayed that way for the first (I believe?) five PPVs. That is, until the Undertaker beat up golden boy Hogan for the championship in '91. After that, the Survivor Series started to become less...Survivory...and more like every other PPV. The standard 5-on-5 (or 4-on-4) survivor matches started to become scarce. There were a few more years of survivor-heavy matches, but they started to vanish and the very special, very unique Survivor Series concept started to fade away and just become...bleh. And that really got my goat.

Look at that sea of tag team awesomeness

Survivor Series was, along with the Royal Rumble, one of the very special event type PPVs. It had a singular, different concept that made it stand out from the rest of WWF's monthly programs. And that uniqueness made me look forward to it every year. When they started to make it a singles-heavy show, it kinda killed the idea of it. Killed the brand, if you will. No more was this a meeting of all star teams beating each other up. It was now just another show.


JUSTIN: It felt like the company just got really lazy about the concept.  1991 was the first year the show wasn't exclusively comprised of elimination matches, and then in 1992 they abandoned the idea almost entirely.  The '92 show was just a regular PPV.  For most of the 90s and beyond it turned into a watered down version of the Survivor Series, with a mix of elimination matches and regular ones.  Some years it worked (1993 & 1995 are highly recommended if you liked the 1987 edition), and some it didn't (stay far away from the 1999 show).  Vince clearly didn't have much love for the elimination concept after the first few years, and in fact they went seven years with every Survivor Series main evented by a singles match, while the elimination matches were mostly relegated to obligatory filler.


DAN: I mean, the show was called SURVIVOR SERIES. And they stopped having survivors? It was really strange, and honestly put me off from getting into the show when they made those changes. It was a Thanksgiving tradition, watching teams of dudes thump on each other for hours on end until, much like the Highlander, there could be only one (Yeah, I know, there wasn't always one survivor, but my metaphor doesn't work if you're gonna make me use accuracy). To simply change the concept of the PPV made little sense to me.

It was a PPV created to highlight tag team matches and huge, drawn out feuds. Now, the survivor matches they have seem to be "Hey, what groups of guys aren't doing anything right now? Ok, make them a team and GET IT ON!". There's no real stories behind the survivor matches anymore. I mean, the first three years were essentially one long Hogan story arc, from fighting with Andre, to being friends with Macho Man and then taking out the puppet master of all of it, The Million Dollar Man. Now its legit "We're throwing mid-carders in a match for no reason."


JUSTIN: And now there's some years (like 2013), where the one good elimination match OPENS THE SHOW.  Would you have the Rumble match go on first?  No.  So why isn't a Survivor Series match always at least the second-most important match on the PPV?  It was also sad when they changed the date from Thanksgiving night (which was a huge wrestling night dating back to Starrcade and earlier), to the night before (when most people are out getting hammered with their high school buddies) to just some Sunday in November.  It was like "Oh. I guess this is just another show now."

The one good Survivor Series match in 2013

In 2010 Vince announced on an investors call that he was discontinuing the event and would replace it with something else, due to low buyrates.  Fortunately cooler heads prevailed, but I remember thinking what a betrayal that was.  The company's most fun concept PPV (and second-oldest one) was on the chopping block, meanwhile they continued to water down the Hell in a Cell and Elimination Chamber matches by making them annual traditions instead of basing them on blood feuds.


DAN: Ugh, those Hell in a Cell and Elimination Chamber PPVs piss me off too. It's shoehorning feuds into BLOOD FEUDS!

But that's neither here nor there. I would really like to see WWE bring back the old Survivor Series concept. Start building up feuds that make sense. Give me a story that I like and want to see come to a head in an elimination-style match-up. Like the good old days. These complaints aside, they are doing a decent job of it this year with the Wyatts vs. the Brothers of Destruction buildup. That story is satisfactory and makes sense. But that also looks to be the only elimination match they have planned so far. So we may end up, again, with a buncha dudes that have no beef with each other just fighting. And that's a shame. The Survivor Series used to be a highlight of the PPV calendar. It's now, sadly, an afterthought.


JUSTIN: And the jury's still out on that Wyatts-Takers match - I've read rumors they might make it a 4-on-2 affair, or worse Taker & Kane vs. Two Wyatts, which would piss me off to no end.  Yeah, let's not use this as an opportunity to give two younger guys a high-profile moment.  Nah, a regular tag match it is.  I'm sure that'll work out great for Bray when he inevitably comes up short again.  Christ!

I'd love to see them resurrect the Tag Teams elimination match, as they have a deeper tag division than they have in decades.  You could have The New Day, Sheamus/Barrett, Los Matadores (once they're repackaged), and The Ascension  vs. The Usos, Lucha Dragons, Prime Time Players and the Dudley Boyz.  How awesome would that be?

This WWE Title tourney kinda threw a wrench into any concept-heavy lineup anyway, but yeah I don't think they were planning more than one or two elimination matches.  It's really sad how far this PPV has fallen, to the point that the elimination matches are now taking place on RAW and Smackdown three weeks before the PPV.  When a free TV match upstages the whole PPV event, you've put on a pretty shitty PPV.

So this is it, huh folks?

DANAnd that's the problem. The PPV doesn't feel special anymore. They load it up with singles matches and retreads of contests we've seen umpteen times on Raw and Smackdown. If they would bring it back to the old school Survivor Series, and make the matches the culmination of, ya know LOGICAL STORYTELLING, they could once again make this a special event.  And maybe make it the appointment pay per view it once was. 


Well that about wraps up this edition of YUTBSG.  We hope you've enjoyed our usual ranting about how much better things were when we were kids.  Join us again next time, here at Enuffa.com

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