Mike Reviews Every WWF/E Survivor Series Main Event – Part One (1987 to 1992)

Hello You!

Well here we are, it’s back to Reviewing Main Events, starting with one of WWE’s traditional “Big Four” pay per view events of the year in the form of Survivor Series.

The original Survivor Series was created in 1987 as a way for WWE to mess with Jim Crockett Promotions, as they were holding Starrcade on the same day. JCP’s plan was to switch their show to a different timeslot so that fans could buy both events, but Vince McMahon then threatened to withhold WrestleMania IV from the pay per view companies if they showed JCP’s event, which led to a lot them refusing to carry Starrcade as a result.

Despite only existing as a way to mess with another company, WWE decided to keep the event going and it’s still around to this day. The early events started out with just Elimination Tag Team bouts, but as the years wore on they started adding normal match types as well, with the show eventually becoming more of a regular pay per view that had a token Survival match here or there.

This week we’ll be looking at the Main Events from 1987 to 1992

I haven’t done one of these for a while, so I’ll make it clear than I class the “Main Event” as the match that went on last. People get annoyed at that definition sometimes, but my opinion is that the match that closes the show is the most important one due to it being the lasting memory of the event, which makes it a Main Event in my book. If you disagree then fair enough, but I’m afraid that that’s how I’m going to do it.

WWF Survivor Series 1987

Main Event
Team Andre
Andre The Giant, One Man Gang, Butch Reed, Rick Rude and King Kong Bundy w/ Bobby Heenan and Slick
Vs
Team Hogan
Hulk Hogan, Bam Bam Bigelow, Paul Orndorff, Don Muraco and Ken Patera w/ Oliver Humperdink

This one came about due to Andre The Giant getting a super close two count on Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania III, which led to his camp declaring him to be the uncrowned Champion. Thus Andre and Hogan put together teams of five and now they’re going to strive to survive.

Jive Soul Bro has survived on The WWE Network thankfully, although Rick Rude’s stripper theme is sadly dubbed out. Rude gets bumped around early on by the faces and sells it all well, stooging at a high level as always. All the faces look good on offence too and the crowd loves it. Reed gets clobbered too, as the match has a had a frenetic pace thus far. Hogan eventually drops the leg on him and picks up the pin, whilst also probably telling him to stay away from his daughter.

Butch Reed Eliminated by Hulk Hogan (1) – Leg Drop of DOOM™

Andre comes in next and Patera has to go at it with him due to Hogan high fiving him following the previous pin and it thus counting as a tag. Realising this, Andre just tags out again as Patera isn’t worth his time in a nice touch. Gang does a nice bit with Orndorff, as he was a better worker in his prime than people seem to remember sometimes. Rude comes back in to get battered some more, and if this continues they’ll be able to sell him on Brighton Beach with a side of chips! The heels finally manage to work over Patera a bit, with Gang eventually pinning him with a lariat.

Ken Patera Eliminated by One Man Gang (1) – Lariat

We get Hogan and Bigelow doing some tandem offence on Gang and the fans love it. Man, there was money in that Hogan/Bigelow team. Sadly it never paid off with a feud between them. Orndorff gets another flurry on Rude, but this time a Bundy cheap shot allows Rude to get a sneaky roll up with a grab of tights for the three.

Paul Orndorff Eliminated by Rick Rude (1) – School Boy

Rude poses following his pin, which of course allows the faces to clobber him once again and this time he can’t escape his fate as Muraco ends his night.

Rick Rude Eliminated by Don Muraco (1) – Power Slam

The eliminations have been done well here, with nothing egregious or silly with them, and they’ve been spaced out smartly from one another, with them keeping Hogan and Andre apart from one another whilst also allowing Andre to stay on the apron for large periods of time. Speaking of Andre, he cheap shots Muraco and that allows Gang to get the Big Daddy Splash to send him home. He was filling in for an injured Billy Graham I believe, who had been feuding with Reed.

Don Muraco Eliminated by One Man Gang (2) – Splash

Bigelow comes in to take some big impressive bumps from Gang and Bundy, as Andre remains on the apron. This has been put together perfectly, with the opening frenetic pace now slowed down so they can get some heat on Bammer to build up to a Hogan hot tag. Bigelow is really good in that role and the reaction to the hot tag is magnified due to it leading to Hogan and Andre finally going at it. However, Bundy drags Hogan out of the ring and that leads to him getting counted out before the issue with Andre can be settled.

Hulk Hogan Eliminated by Count Out

So with Hogan gone we now get the thing this match is probably best known for, as Bigelow has to go 1 on 3 against a trio of gigantic heels after already getting battered for a portion of the match. In a nice touch too, Honky Tonk Man had found himself in the same situation in the opener and had fled because he’s a cowardly heel, but Bigelow is a gutsy face and doesn’t back down. That’s a nice parallel. In another nice touch, they don’t portray Bammer as a super hero either, and instead have the heels slip on banana peels to explain why he’s staying alive in the bout, presenting him as resourceful and resilient rather than dominant and powerful, which makes it all work much better. For instance, Bundy accidentally charges into the corner to knock himself down, which allows Bigelow to get a slingshot splash for the flash pin.

King Kong Bundy Eliminated by Bam Bam Bigelow (1) – Slingshot Splash

Bigelow is gassed from the exertion though and looks completely done, which only serves to make the crowd support him more. It’s such a simple story and they execute it really well. Stuff like this is why I like wrestling to begin with. The next banana peel comes when Gang decides to head up top for a splash, but Bigelow is able to move out of the way and then drapes an arm over Gang for another flash pin, as the crowd goes positively bonkers.

One Man Gang Eliminated by Bam Bam Bigelow (2) – Missed Top Rope Splash

However, we don’t get the fairy tale ending, as Andre proves too much for the exhausted Bigelow and pins him with a double arm suplex. That being said, Bigelow didn’t really need to win at this stage. Andre is clearly being set up for another match with Hogan, so he really needed to win here, whilst Bigelow’s herculean struggle meant there was no shame in his eventual defeat because he had already proved his toughness by managing to get as far as he did to begin with. Again, how they put this match together was perfect.

Bam Bam Bigelow Eliminated by Andre The Giant (1) – Double Arm Suplex

SOLE SURVIVOR: ANDRE THE GIANT
MOST ELIMINATIONS: ONE MAN GANG & BAM BAM BIGELOW (2)
RATING: ****

Great match that kept Andre strong as a contender, found a way for Hogan’s team to lose without Hogan himself actually getting pinned and also made a real star of Bigelow

The only real problem with the match comes next, as Hogan runs down following the decision to attack Andre and pose, which takes away from Andre’s win and makes Hogan look like a spoilt brat. I get the idea of wanting to have Hogan stand tall to send the crowd home happy, so why not send Bundy back down and have him, Heenan and Andre start putting the boots to the exhausted Bigelow? That would actually then give Hogan a real reason for coming down, as he could rescue Bigelow and slam Bundy whilst Heenan pleaded with Andre to leave, thus meaning Andre gets out of there without any real contact with Hogan in order to put more heat on the feud. You then have Hogan and Bammer pose TOGETHER so that Bigelow can get even more of a rub and send the fans home happy in the process.

WWF Survivor Series 1988

Main Event
The Big Boss Man, Akeem, Ted Dibiase, Haku and The Red Rooster w/ Slick, Virgil and Bobby Heenan
Vs
Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Hercules (The Third Mega Power), Koko B. Ware and Hillbilly Jim w/ Elizabeth

Hogan and Savage had formed The Mega Powers team and had been feuding with the team of Boss Man and Akeem, the latter being the former One Man Gang with a much lamer gimmick. Hercules (The Third Mega Power) had gone face when he had refused to be Ted Dibiase’s slave, and had thus been welcomed into The Mega Power Family as a third banana who was way, way, waaaaaaaaay down the pecking order.

Hogan of course gets to come out last for his team to show that he is by far the biggest star, despite the fact that Savage was actually the WWF Champ at the time. Koko has something blurred out on his arse, although I’m not sure what it is. It’s pretty distracting anyway. Savage and Dibiase open with a nice segment, which makes me wish they’d had a proper pay per view Main Event with one another in front of an actual wrestling crowd as opposed to a bunch of bored gamblers in a casino. Everyone gets to come in after to do a bit, with the action being relatively quick paced and generally entertaining. Rooster and Koko are clearly the ham and egg patrol of their respective teams, but they still do a nice little segment together, which leads to Savage sending Rooster back to the chicken coop with the elbow.

Red Rooster Eliminated by Randy Savage (1) – Macho Flying Elbow Drop

Haku gets to do a decent little bit with Hogan, which he of course comes out on the losing end of, but gets the better of Hercules (The Third Mega Power) and tags out to Akeem. Akeem and Hillbilly Jim do a less than stellar little bit and that ends with Akeem depriving the jug band of its chief washboard player by crushing Jimbo with the Big Daddy Splash for three.

Hillbilly Jim Eliminated by Akeem (1) – Splash

It’ll shock no one to learn that I preferred the One Man Gang gimmick to the Akeem one. The faces tee off on the giant Easter Egg for a bit, but he doesn’t bump and gets the better of Koko, before bringing in Big Boss Man to get the pin. Yeah, the visual image of the guy dressed as a law enforcer battering an African American hasn’t particularly aged well for obvious reasons.

Koko B. Ware Eliminated by Big Boss Man (1) – Boss Man Slam

So this leaves the Three Mega Powers against the four heels, with Boss Man and Akeem still refusing to bump, even though neither of them is really big enough to justify it, especially against an absolute unit like Hogan was at the time. I’ve just realised that Dibiase, Akeem and Boss Man all held the top belt in Mid-South/UWF at various different points, and Rooster was even the TV Champ back in his Terry Taylor days. This match is like a Louisiana reunion or something! Talking of Mid-South/UWF alum, Hercules (The Third Mega Power) finally gets to do a bit with Dibiase and it has some good heat from the crowd, so this angle must have been over. Hercules (The Third Mega Power) has it all well in hand, but Virgil trips him and Dibiase gets a cheeky roll up for three.

Hercules (The Third Mega Power) Eliminated by Ted Dibiase (1) – Roll Up

So now it’s the two remaining Mega Powers against the four heels, but just as I write that, Dibiase gets distracted by a Herc and Virgil brawl on the floor, which allows Savage to get a cheeky roll up of his own to send Dibiase back to his Seasonal Residence.

Ted Dibiase Eliminated by Randy Savage (2) – Roll Up

I’ll be honest, this hasn’t been bad but I was digging the 87 match considerably more. The crowd heat hasn’t been as good as that match and nor has the action been as entertaining. We get a long nerve punch from Haku on Hogan, which is the rest hold I have always hated the most, but Boss Man makes the mistake of heading up and misses a splash (Although it was a total Big Daddy “land on your feet first before falling down” effort) and that leads to a Savage hot tag, which doesn’t last long as Boss Man cuts him off. Slick tries to abduct Elizabeth, which leads to Hogan heading out to rescue her. Boss Man and Akeem attack him during his rescue attempt though, and that leads to Boss Man getting counted out.

Big Boss Man Eliminated by Count Out

However, the heels managed to handcuff Hogan outside the ring during that and Boss Man adds an attack with his nightstick for good measure. Akeem and Boss Man then head in to beat down Savage, which leads to Akeem getting DQ’ed.

Akeem Eliminated by Disqualification

So yeah, we’re only two events in and they’re already indulging in the “avoid having the top stars actually get pinned” trope, which was something they’d continue to return to when they didn’t want someone doing a job. Savage is now hurt in the ring whilst Hogan is handcuffed outside, which means we have now reached;

Yes, that. Haku works over Savage in the ring whilst Hogan is trapped outside and can’t get onto the apron to make the tag. However, Slick turns out to be an idiot as he decides to stay at ringside to taunt Hogan, which of course leads to him getting bumped and Elizabeth stealing the keys. Thus Hogan gets unlocked from the cuffs and is able to make the hot tag and finish off Haku with the usual.

Haku Eliminated by Hulk Hogan (1) – Leg drop of DOOM™

SURVIVORS: HULK HOGAN & RANDY SAVAGE
MOST ELIMINATIONS: RANDY SAVAGE (2)
RATING: **1/2

This one just never really got going for me and wasn’t as good as the Main Event from 1987

WWF Survivor Series 1989

Main Event
The Heenan Family: Andre The Giant, Haku, Arn Anderson and Bobby Heenan
Vs
The Ultimate Warriors: Ultimate Warrior, Jim Neidhart, Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty

Heenan is filling in for Tully Blanchard, who had given notice but then failed a drug test, which meant WCW decided to take an offer off the table and leave him in the wilderness. Arn had given notice also and was off to WCW in time for Starrcade. The fight starts up before Warrior even makes his entrance, but he eventually sprints down and clotheslines Andre over the top rope to the floor to cause him to be counted out.

Andre The Giant Eliminated by Count Out

Things settle down a bit now, with Neidhart getting isolated in the heel corner. He fights back and slugs down Arn, but he then turns around into a kick from Haku to send him to the showers.

Jim Neidhart Eliminated by Haku (1) – Thrust Kick

The Rockers work over Haku with their usual tag stuff and it’s good. Warrior comes in and briefly ends up in the heel corner before tagging out to Marty. Heenan comes in for a quick attack on Marty before quickly bailing again in a funny bit. Haku and Arn beat down Marty and then bring in Heenan again, who gets a quick stomp and pins Marty to eliminate him in the most cowardly way possible.

Marty Jannetty Eliminated by Bobby Heenan (1) – Stomp

Warrior and Shawn are left as a team then, and that’s an interesting little historical curiosity. I think they were due to team at some point in 1996 before Warrior flaked out. They work well enough as a team actually, though they obviously aren’t as smooth as Shawn and Marty. Warrior and Shawn manage to get the Rocket Launcher on Haku and that’s enough to send him home for the night.

Haku Eliminated by Shawn Michaels (1) – Rocket Launcher

Heenan now actually has to wrestle a bit more due to the numbers on his team depleting and he actually teases diving out of the ring onto Shawn before thinking better of it. Shawn goes for a sunset flip on Arn, which causes Arn to…err…Aloha-Arn to block it. This is unsuccessful and Shawn completes the move for two. Arn and Bobby have a dispute because of this, with Arn thinking Bobby should have helped him. Arm and Shawn continue their nice little segment, with Arn eventually catching Shawn with a lovely looking spinebuster to pin him.

Shawn Michaels Eliminated by Arn Anderson (1) – Spinebuster

Warrior charges in to attack Arn, but Arn sends him outside to put a stop to that. Arn works over Warrior for a bit, with Heenan getting the odd cheap shot in. Eventually though Warrior is able to throw Arn into Heenan and then splashes him to eliminate him.

Arn Anderson Eliminated by Ultimate Warrior (1) – Splash

Heenan tries to flee but Warrior isn’t going to let him get away easy and throws him back inside to pinball him around before splashing him for the pin.

Bobby Heenan Eliminated by Ultimate Warrior (2) – Splash

SOLE SURVIVOR: THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR
MOST ELIMINATIONS: THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR (2)
RATING: ***

This featured some good wrestling and some fun heel antics from Heenan, so I enjoyed it. You could see that they were trying to show that Warrior was a star on the level of Hogan here by having him close the show.

Warrior clotheslines Heenan in the aisle once the match is over, which is kind of mean spirited actually.

WWF Survivor Series 1990

Main Event
Ultimate Survival Bout
Ted Dibiase, Rick Martel, The Warlord, Hercules and Paul Roma w/ Virgil and Slick
Vs
Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior and Tito Santana

The deal here is that they had Survival matches throughout the night and the survivors are now teaming up for one last match. It was never really explained why the faces and heels all got grouped together and they could have probably done something fun with a mishmash of heels and faces being forced to team together, but I guess that might have threatened to be interesting or something and thus they didn’t do it. Tito seems out of place on the face team, but he gets given a token elimination on Warlord of all people. Wow, I did not see that one happening. Warrior didn’t even acknowledge Tito in the babyface’s pre-match promo outside of a throwaway line!

The Warlord Eliminated by Tito Santana (1) – Flying Forearm

Hercules has gone from being buddies with Hogan and Savage to palling around with everyone’s least favourite Horsemen, which is one heck of a drop in friendship circles. Tito has shot his one shot with that forearm though, which leads to the heels working him over and Dibiase sending him on the first train back to Mexico. You know, they could have maybe elevated Tito a bit there rather than giving him a fluke pin and then just pinning him like a geek. We didn’t even get to see him do a segment with Martel. I mean, COME ON, that’s an easy crowd pop and they didn’t even go for it!

Tito Santana Eliminated by Ted Dibiase (1) – Stun Gun

Hogan and Dibiase get a chance to do their usual “you’d think this would be better considering their combined in-ring ability and star power” exchange with one another, which leads to the heels ganging up on Hogan for a bit. Hogan sells it all well of course, but the crowd feels pretty subdued all considering. Hercules and Roma make the mistake of hitting their tandem finisher on Hogan though, which of course leads to Hogan popping up to pin Roma. Never hit Hulk Hogan with your finisher!!!

Paul Roman Eliminated by Hulk Hogan (1) – Axe Bomber

Warrior and Hogan take it in turns to batter Martel for a bit, with him bumping and selling for it well, and eventually he runs to the back for the count out. Seriously, they couldn’t have the freakin’ Model eat a pin when he was in there with the WWF Champion and Hulk Hogan?!?! I mean, he was in a firmly mid-card feud with Jake Roberts at the time, you weren’t going to kill house shows by having him get splashed or leg dropped by one of the two top guys in the whole company. They had TITO SAN-F’ING-TANA pin WARLORD, yet the most mid-card mid-carder gimmick that ever mid-carded couldn’t look at the lights for three seconds?!?!?!

Rick Martel Eliminated by Count Out

So now it’s 2 on 2, as the crowd rightly boos that Martel elimination, but not in a “gah, the heel got away. I’ll pay to see someone kill him” kind of way but rather a “we feel insulted that you couldn’t give us a proper finish” sort of way. Dibiase and Hogan go at it again, and again its fine but they just don’t have that special chemistry together. Amazingly, they let Rick Martel run away but they actually make sure to have Dibiase get pinned, as Hogan crushes him with the usual so he can hit the showers.

Ted Dibiase Eliminated by Hulk Hogan (2) – Leg drop of DOOM™

Hogan helpfully slams Herc and Warrior mops up to give the faces the win.

Hercules Eliminated by The Ultimate Warrior (1) – Splash

SURVIVORS: HULK HOGAN & THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR
MOST ELIMINATIONS: HULK HOGAN (2)
RATING: *1/2

This very much felt like the “let’s just get this over with” match that you’d get after a Raw or Smackdown taping, where the guys go and muck about for 5 minutes until taking it home. It certainly didn’t feel like a pay per view calibre Main Event

WWF Survivor Series 1991

Main Event
Typhoon, Earthquake and IRS
Vs
Hawk, Animal and Big Boss Man

Jake Roberts and Sid Justice were supposed to be in this match on the heel and face side respectively, but Jake then decided to have a cobra bite Savage and was taken out of the match as a result. Of course most of the hype for this show was around Hulk Hogan taking on The Undertaker, but that happened in the middle of the show so they could stick something less depressing on at the end of the show to send people home happy, because the WWF used to care about that. IRS Vs Boss Man is the most “let’s beat the queues for hot dogs” feud from 1991 that I could possibly think of. TND Vs LOD is at least the clear top two teams on each side of the heel/face divide though, and you could feasibly Main Event with it.

Boss Man is moving here to be fair, and shines well on IRS to try and get the people to care, but they want Quake and Animal in there. The two comply and actually have an okay little segment that the crowd digs. Everyone is working hard here actually, and the crowd is into the faces doing moves and controlling things, but it’s not really pay per view Main Event heat, and the commentary team seems to care more about hyping the Tuesday in Texas pay per view than discussing the match taking place in the ring. Eventually the referee gets distracted by Quake and LOD arguing outside the ring, which allows Typhoon to sneak IRS his briefcase so he can hit Boss Man with it for three.

Big Boss Man Eliminated by IRS (1) – Illegal Weapon Shot

Make sure to rush out and buy a ticket for the next house show so that you can see Boss Man get revenge on the fifth match of the card in a 15 minute snoozer. You like chin locks? Well then that match will be your boogieman! The crowd does now chant for LOD seeing as they are at a disadvantage. The heels work Animal over, with Typhoon stupidly sending him towards the ropes nearest to his own corner, meaning that Hawk has to look like an absolute plum for not tagging himself in when he clearly can. Hawk does get a tag soon after and the heels try the briefcase trick again, but this time IRS accidentally clocks Typhoon and Hawk gets the pin.

Typhoon Eliminated by Hawk (1) – Accidental Weapon Shot

Quake is angry at IRS and decides to take a walk, leaving IRS on his own. That’s just like a Voltorb using destruct because it can’t be arsed to keep fighting. Quake is even wearing red!

Earthquake Eliminated by Count Out

So IRS has no chance on his own against the Tag Champs and they finish him off after allowing him to work some token heat on Hawk. I honestly would have just taken it straight home as soon as Quake walked, as a lone heel working heat in a handicap match situation is just weird. IRS and Hawk also have zero chemistry and botched things more than once. They at least don’t go with a lame count out finish and have IRS eat a pin, as he should in this scenario.

IRS Eliminated by Animal (1) – Top Rope Clothesline

SURVIVORS: HAWK & ANIMAL
MOST ELIMINATIONS: IRS, HAWK & ANIMAL (1)
RATING: **

This wasn’t bad but it also wasn’t especially good either. Most of the wrestlers were trying at least, but this was a mid-card match in a Main Event slot, and it showed

WWF Survivor Series 1992

Main Event
WWF Title
Champ: Bret Hart Vs Shawn Michaels

Earl Hebner is the referee here, which would carry a different connotation a few years later. The story here was that Bret had defeated Ric Flair out of the blue when the WWF decided to move the belt onto someone new, and he was due to defend the Title against Shawn Michaels at this event. In the meantime Shawn had won the IC Title from Davey Boy Smith, making this a Champion Vs Champion bout. Only Bret’s belt is on the line though. Marty Jannetty had recently returned to the company and accidentally hit Sherri with a mirror, which is why Shawn is on his own here.

We get some good technical grappling and counter wrestling in the early stages, with Shawn pulling hair and the like to show that he’s going to be playing heel. I like this more than the face vs face match they had in 96 actually, as Shawn plays up to his heel role and then sells for Bret, making it a more interesting good Vs evil story rather than what they went with in 96. There are a number of spots designed around Bret getting the better of Shawn in the early stages, with Shawn getting increasingly frustrated. The crowd isn’t making a lot of noise, but it feels like they are paying attention and watching intently.

Shawn catches Bret with a Stun Gun to finally get a foothold and then starts working some heat. Bret sells that well and Shawn shows off some good heat charisma. This has been a technically good match, but it hasn’t been anything more thus far. It feels like there’s another gear they can kick into that haven’t got to yet. Bret gets the odd hope spot here and there to show he’s still in the match and the crowd is with him when he does. Athletically the action is very good actually, with the execution and timing being what you’d want it to be and both men delivering the required selling and bumps.

Bret eventually manages to catapult Shawn into the corner for a double down and then makes the comeback, with Shawn pin-balling around to make him look good. It should shock no one to learn that Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels are good wrestlers who know what to do in order to have a good match. We get the big superplex from Bret, but he sells for a bit before making the cover, which allows Shawn to kick out at two. I love that as it makes the move look extra devastating because even Bret was hurt by it, but by waiting to make the pin it protects the move as it suggests it might have been enough if he’d pinned Shawn right away.

Both men trade pin fall attempts, and the near falls are executed well, with both men selling the frustration over not being able to win. Shawn manages to connect with the Sweet Chin Music, but goes for the Tear Drop back suplex as that was his actually his finish at the time. Bret fights it off at first, but Shawn keeps going for it and gets it on a second attempt for two. I thought that kick out would get a bigger pop to be honest. Bret tangles himself up in the ropes in classic Spider-Bret fashion, but he manages to catch Shawn in The Sharpshooter for the submission victory.

WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: BRET HART
RATING: ***1/4

A good match that just never felt like it kicked into the higher gear it was capable of. It was still fun though and I enjoyed it.

In Conclusion

1987’s match was the highlight for me. Well worth a watch if you’ve never seen it. You can see why they kept the format going forward after watching it to be honest, as it showed how effective it could be when done right.