Thursday, November 2, 2023

The History of WWE Survivor Series (1995)

Another return to form for Survivor Series as the November tradition moves to Sunday night...

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.


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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