Friday, November 3, 2023

The History of WWE Survivor Series (1997)

November 9th, 1997 - perhaps the most infamous day in wrestling history....

Survivor Series 1997 - Molson Centre - 11/9/97

Speaking of PPVs that are a complete fucking mess, the 1997 Survivor Series suffered from all kinds of problems.  I'm guessing that due to the turmoil and uncertainty surrounding WWF Champion Bret Hart's impending departure from the company (essentially forced by Vince, mind you), there wasn't much time or energy left to focus on the rest of the card.  Bret had initially agreed to stay through November '97 and drop the title before he left, Vince insisted it had to be to Shawn in Montreal, Bret refused, you know the rest.  Anyway there were seven matches on the card, most of which were mediocre or just too rushed and/or chaotic to be very good.

First up was (what a shock) an elimination match consisting of four tag teams.  The New Age Outlaws teamed with The Godwinns to face The Headbangers and The New Blackjacks.  This was watchable and helped get the Outlaws over as the hot new heel team, but otherwise not much going on.

Second was a totally pointless elimination match between Crush's DOA stable and an Apartheid-inspired heel stable, the Truth Commission.  Essentially the whole point of the Commission was to get over a new giant wrestler named Kurrgan, whose career fizzled very quickly but who can be seen in such blockbuster films as 300 and Sherlock Holmes.  Kurrgan basically won the whole 9-minute match by himself.  Welcome to ThrowawayLand.
Third was a somewhat anticipated match between Team USA, consisting of Vader, Goldust, Marc Maro, and newcomer Steve Blackman (subbing for the injured Patriot, without whom this match more or less lost all purpose) and Team Canada, consisting of Englishman Davey Boy Smith, American Jim Neidhart, American Doug Furnas, and sole Canadian Phil Lafon.  The match was fine but just felt very sloppy, and it ended with the guy playing the babyface role, Bulldog, bashing Vader in the head with the ring bell to win the whole thing.  I'm not sure if this was supposed to lead to a Bulldog-Vader feud before they let Davey follow Bret to WCW, but that would've been pretty cool.  Instead this match led to a Vader-Goldust feud which wasn't so great.

The first of three singles matches was next, and while kind of a messy brawl it was pretty well-executed.  Kane made his in-ring debut against Mankind, after having put The Undertaker on the shelf.  Mankind bumped around like a Hardy Boy for Kane, helping build his legend as a killing machine.

I can't see where he's gonna land, but that's gonna hurt.

The one really strong elimination match pitted the Nation of Domination (Faarooq, The Rock, Mustafa and D-Lo Brown) against Ken Shamrock, Ahmed Johnson, and the Legion of Doom.  This was a fine display of power wrestling (aside from one inane elimination where Rocky pinned Ahmed while the referee could clearly see Faarooq holding Ahmed's foot from under the bottom rope), and cemented Rock and Shamrock as rising stars.

In a rematch from SummerSlam '97 where Steve Austin was infamously injured by Owen Hart's errant Tombstone piledriver, the former once again attempted to capture the I-C Title.  After Austin's DL status had been confirmed, a tournament was held for the vacant championship, which Owen won.  This was Austin's comeback match and he unfortunately wasn't quite ready to go, having to drastically alter his wrestling style to include more brawling and less mat wrestling.  This lasted a scant four minutes before Austin recaptured the Title, and was quite forgettable (especially when compared to the near-classic they had over the summer).

The main event was possibly the most famous wrestling match of all-time after Hogan-Andre.  Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels.  The Montreal Screwjob.  Going into this I had expected a 25-30 minute mat classic.  Instead this only went 20 minutes, about half of which was spent brawling outside the ring.  While this fit the nature of their very personal (and real-life) rivalry, it made for a bit of a dull and disappointing marquee matchup, particularly when you consider how good both participants were.  If not for the historical significance of the result, this match would likely be little more than a footnote.

The most historically significant Sharpshooter of all time.

Survivor Series 1997 felt like a very chaotic show with not much in the way of memorable in-ring action.  The outcome of Bret vs. Shawn will always be one of the most important events in wrestling history, and ironically marked the beginning of the WWF's reascension in the Monday Night War.  But as a standalone PPV this wasn't much of a show.

Best Match: Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels - it's far from great, but it's still the best thing on the show.
Worst Match: DOA vs. Truth Commission
What I'd Change: Drop the DOA match, maybe put Austin and Owen in the US vs. Canada match and save Austin's involvement for the end to protect him.  Then Austin wins the whole thing, setting him up for a future I-C shot in December when he's healthier.  Also I'd have much more of the main event take place in the ring, because the crowd brawling thing generally sucks.
Most Disappointing Match: Bret vs. Shawn - I was hoping for something on par with 'Mania 12.
Most Pleasant Surprise: Kane vs. Mankind I guess?
Overall Rating: 4/10
Better than WrestleMania 13 and/or SummerSlam '97? - No, and hell no.

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