What the World Was Watching: Survivor Series 1990

Gorilla Monsoon and Roddy Piper are in the booth and they are live from Hartford, Connecticut.  According to thehistoryofwwe.com, the show drew a crowd of 16,000 fans, 13,000 of whom paid to attend.  The show drew a buyrate of 3.0, with an estimated 400,000 households purchasing the event.  The buyrate was 0.3 less than the previous year, but 15,000 more homes bought the show, once again illustrating the expansion of pay-per-view into American households.

Gene Okerlund interviews the Warriors.  Animal lets the “little warriors” out there know that the team will not let them down.

Opening Contest:  “The Warriors” (The Ultimate Warrior, the Texas Tornado & the Legion of Doom) defeat “The Perfect Team” (Mr. Perfect & Demolition w/Bobby Heenan & Mr. Fuji) when the Ultimate Warrior was the sole survivor after pinning Perfect with a splash at 14:20:

Other Eliminations:  The Warrior pins Ax after a splash at 3:22; The Legion of Doom and Ax & Crush are disqualified for brawling in the ring at 7:43; Perfect pins the Tornado with the Perfectplex at 11:02

Demolition are no longer wearing masks, abandoning that silly idea.  This would be Ax’s last televised match in the WWF as he was unhappy about a road agent job falling through and Demolition’s booking and he is eliminated in short order.  Frequent tags keep the match going, helped by Perfect providing entertaining bumps between brawling sequences.  The WWF’s habit of not top talent job cleanly at Survivor Series rears its ugly head as the Legion of Doom and the remaining Demolition members are disqualified for brawling in the ring after Hawk floors Smash with a flying clothesline.  That leaves Perfect alone, but the former Intercontinental champion eliminates the present one by avoiding a blind charge, taking the Tornado to an exposed turnbuckle, and pinning him with the Perfectplex.  Perfect quickly catches the Warrior with a Perfectplex but the Warrior kicks out.  Perfect scores a few more token near-falls but the Warrior soon feels the spirits and Perfect is eliminated shortly thereafter.  This was a good choice for an opener but the match’s momentum took a hit after the Legion of Doom were disqualified and the Warrior-Perfect showdown was not good.  Rating:  **½

Sean Mooney interviews the Million Dollar Team.  Ted DiBiase says his surprise partner will make a big impact and runs down each Dream Team member, saying Koko B. Ware will be plucked and Dusty Rhodes will be left begging for money.

“The Million Dollar Team” (Ted DiBiase, the Undertaker & Rhythm & Blues w/Virgil, Brother Love & Jimmy Hart) beat “The Dream Team” (Dusty Rhodes, Koko B. Ware & the Hart Foundation) when Ted DiBiase was the sole survivor after pinning Bret Hart after rolling through a body press at 14:00:

Other Eliminations:  The Undertaker pins Ware with a Tombstone piledriver at 1:43; Jim Neidhart pins the Honky Tonk Man after the Anvil Flattener at 4:22; DiBiase pins Neidhart after a clothesline at 5:55; The Undertaker pins Rhodes after a flying double ax handle at 8:31; The Undertaker is counted

The Undertaker was Mark Calaway, a three-year veteran who started his career in World Class, wrestling as Texas Red and being managed by Percival Pringle III.  In 1988, Calaway moved onto Memphis and took on the gimmick of the Master of Pain, a parolee from the U.S. federal system.  He won the USWA Unified Championship from Jerry Lawler in April 1989 and then moved to WCW, where he replaced Sid Vicious in the Skyscrapers tag team with Dan Spivey and was rechristened as “Mean Mark” Callous.  After Spivey left the company in early 1990, Callous broke out as a single and got a push to the United States Championship level, failing to win the title from Lex Luger.  He signed with the WWF in the fall after sensing that he had hit his ceiling in Atlanta.  Sensing that he might be coming out of the giant egg at Survivor Series Calaway was hesitant about what awaited him in the WWF but he was relieved to hear he was getting the Undertaker gimmick that called for him to act like a zombie, show no pain, and dress like an undertaker in old Western films.

Bret Hart’s brother, Dean, passed away the day before this show, something that Piper acknowledges on commentary because Bret dedicated the match to him.  The crowd does not know what to make of the Undertaker at first, but he makes an immediate impression by chokeslamming Bret Hart, easily slamming Jim Neidhart, and eliminating Ware with a nasty Tombstone piledriver.  He also eliminates Rhodes cleanly by flying off the top rope with a flying ax handle.  If not for the Grand Finale, the Undertaker would probably have been among the survivors, but the WWF could not have him lose in his debut show, so when Rhodes attacks Love on the floor, the Undertaker comes to his manager’s aid and gets counted out.  While the Undertaker’s debut gets a lot of attention today, the match is another coming out party for Bret, who gets more ring time than anyone on the team, eliminates Greg Valentine, and goes toe-to-toe with DiBiase at the end.  Bret nearly wins with a few roll ups, including one spot of heel miscommunication, as well as an elbow drop off the second rope but DiBiase rolls through a body press off the ropes and gets the pin.  Between the Undertaker’s debut and Bret’s showing the feud between the team captains was an afterthought, but Rhodes’ beatdown by the Undertaker was another sign that his time in the company was nearing its end.  A hot finish, as well as great booking for the Undertaker’s debut make this match a must-see.  Rating:  ***

Monsoon hypes tomorrow’s night Main Event, where the Ultimate Warrior will defend the WWF Championship against Ted DiBiase.

Okerlund interviews the Vipers, who are in the locker room shower.  Jake Roberts puts over his team as a collection of survivors.

“The Visionaries” (Rick Martel, the Warlord & Power & Glory w/Slick) defeat “The Vipers” (Jake Roberts, Jimmy Snuka & the Rockers) when “The Visionaries” survive after Roberts gets counted out at 18:05:

Other Eliminations:  The Warlord pins Marty Jannetty after a powerslam at 5:17; Martel pins Snuka after rolling through a reverse flying body press off the second rope and holding onto the tights at 9:42; Paul Roma pins Shawn Michaels after the Powerplex at 15:18

The crowd is dead for much of the match, which is unfortunate because the in-ring work is good.  The Vipers try to use some of their agility throughout to keep the more powerful Visionaries off balance but this keeps backfiring as Jannetty’s flying body press is intercepted by the Warlord and he is eliminated with a powerslam.  Minutes later, Snuka’s attempt at a body press sees Martel roll through and eliminate him.  Michaels dominates Roma, but a blind tag to Hercules lets the big man destroy Michaels for a while before the Powerplex sends him to the showers.  And even though Roberts is not a high-flyer he has a significant handicap with his vision.  Roberts blasts the Warlord with a DDT but Power & Glory distract the referee.  Martel tries use Arrogance against Roberts, but Roberts turns his head and gets Damien.  Roberts chases Martel to the locker room but that gets him counted out and all of the Visionaries make it to the Grand Finale.  Seeing all the heels win depressed the crowd but the heels executed a perfect gameplan to get a clean sweep.  There just was not a lot to keep the crowd invested after Hercules started to beat down Michaels thirteen minutes in.  This was also the first time in Survivor Series history that an entire team survived.  Rating:  **¼

Sean Mooney interviews the Hulkamaniacs.  Hulk Hogan puts over his teammates and the team dedicate the match to all the men and women of the armed forces over in the Middle East.  They also volunteer to help out against Iraq.

“The Hulkamaniacs” (Hulk Hogan, the Big Bossman, Hacksaw Jim Duggan & Tugboat) defeat “The Natural Disasters” (Earthquake, Dino Bravo, Haku & the Barbarian w/Jimmy Hart & Bobby Heenan) when Hogan was the sole survivor after pinning the Barbarian after a leg drop at 14:49:

Other Eliminations:  The Bossman pins Haku after the Bossman Slam at 3:15; Duggan gets disqualified for using a 2×4 on Earthquake at 6:11; Hogan pins Bravo with a small package at 7:58; Earthquake pins the Bossman after two elbow drops at 9:08; Tugboat and Earthquake get counted out at 11:32

Heenan, who took a beating from the Warrior in the opener, takes another early on when the Bossman rams him into the turnbuckles.  Hart has a better approach, pulling down the top rope to send Duggan to the floor and then getting Duggan so riled up he brings a 2×4 into the ring and uses it to get disqualified.  Due to the accelerated nature of the show, Hogan does not build up his slam of Earthquake, doing it shortly after they start fighting in the ring following Duggan’s elimination.  Curiously, when Hogan tries it later, he fails, an inversion of his usual formula.  He also shocks fans by pinning Bravo with a small package, earning high marks from Piper on commentary.  Tugboat is such an afterthought as the action comes and goes that Monsoon forgets he has not been eliminated.  When the big man finally tags in, he does not last long, fighting with Earthquake on the floor until both of them get counted out.  And that spot is a mess as Earthquake quits interacting with Tugboat to ram Hogan into the ring post, so Tugboat could have made it back into the ring if he cared.  Seeing the Barbarian square off with Hogan at the end is refreshing, but it ends predictably as Hogan kicks out of the flying clothesline shortly after two, hulks up, and hits the leg drop to make the Grand Finale.  Afterward, Hogan follows the babyface trope of the night by beating up Heenan, with Heenan taking a corner bump over the top rope and to the floor.  This was a decent elimination match but nothing in it really stood out.  Rating:  **

Okerlund interviews Randy Savage, who is carried out on his throne by some WWF officials who strain to get him to the interview platform.  Savage says he is going to take the WWF Championship from the Ultimate Warrior, who he says is a chicken for doing nothing when Sensational Sherri slapped him.  Since he is on the sidelines tonight Savage says that he does not see anything special in the Warrior, arguing that he might retire once he wins the WWF title again.

Okerlund interviews the Mercenaries in the aisle, all of whom are wearing camouflage face paint.  Sergeant Slaughter says it is despicable to salute the American flag and he prefers to salute the Iraqi flag.  He also makes fun of the dinner American soldiers were served for Thanksgiving before closing with a hyping of the Iraqi Army.  Slaughter’s promo was good but it took too long.

“The Alliance” (Nikolai Volkoff, Tito Santana & the Bushwhackers) beat “The Mercenaries” (Sergeant Slaughter, Boris Zhukov & the Orient Express w/General Adnan & Mr. Fuji) when Santana was the sole survivor after Slaughter was disqualified for Adnan’s interference at 10:41:

Other Eliminations:  Santana pins Zhukov after the flying forearm in 47 seconds; Butch pins Sato after the Battering Ram at 1:46; Santana pins Tanaka after the flying forearm at 2:10; Slaughter pins Volkoff with an elbow drop at 5:25; Slaughter pins Luke after a stomachbreaker at 6:29; Slaughter pins Butch with a loaded clothesline at 6:55

Slaughter’s team is trash, exposed by how they are quickly eliminated in turn.  There is a nice tease with the booking because the Grand Finale is going to be babyface vs. heels so it seems like the Alliance might sweep to give the babyfaces an edge in that match.  However, Slaughter knuckles down and squashes Volkoff, kicks out of a Bushwhacker double clothesline, and then eliminates each Bushwhacker in turn.  Slaughter dominates Santana in a revival of their match from the “Survivor Series Showdown” special and there is a ref bump.  Santana hits the flying forearm and produces a double KO.  Despite there being a second referee on the outside, Adnan thinks he can get away with climbing into the ring and hitting Santana with the Iraqi flag, resulting in Slaughter’s disqualification.  Easily the worst match of the night, but it is great that Santana gets to move on to the Grand Finale and the crowd gives him a nice pop for winning.  This also killed whatever was left of the babyface Volkoff push as this would be his last appearance in the company until the 1992 Royal Rumble.  Rating:  ½*

Mooney interviews the heel team for the Grand Finale, made up of Ted DiBiase and the Visionaries.  Martel puts over the team’s vision and money, while DiBiase plays up possible dissension between Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior.

After weeks of wondering what is in the egg, it finally hatches.  It reveals the Gobbledy Gooker, a wrestling turkey mascot with Hector Guerrero, a veteran from Jim Crockett Promotions and the AWA, in the costume.  Fans hate the reveal, treating it with silence and then boos.  Okerlund tries to make the most of it by making jokes and dancing with the Gooker but it cannot mask the fact that this was one of the most disappointing reveals in the history of professional wrestling.

Mooney interviews Hulk Hogan, the Ultimate Warrior, and Tito Santana.  Santana is the odd man out on this team but Hogan and the Warrior make him feel welcome.  Hogan dubs him “the Arriba Man” and talks about how he and Santana go way back to the early days of the WWF.  The Warrior also puts over Santana’s power of “Arribaderche” on the same level of Hulkamania and “Warrior Wildness.”

Grand Finale Match of Survival:  Hulk Hogan, the Ultimate Warrior & Tito Santana defeat Ted DiBiase, Rick Martel, the Warlord & Power & Glory (w/Virgil & Slick) when Hogan and the Warriors are the survivors after the Warrior pins Hercules with a splash at 9:08:

Other Eliminations:  Santana pins the Warlord with the flying forearm in 27 seconds; DiBiase pins Santana with a stun gun at 1:51; Hogan eliminates Paul Roma with the Axe Bomber at 5:27; Martel gets counted out at 7:18; Hogan pins DiBiase with a leg drop at 8:38

Piper immediately buries the Grand Finale idea, saying that he does not really care who wins because everyone is a survivor.  He and Monsoon put over Santana’s personal qualities, putting him over as a team player, the likely reason Santana got to appear in this match.  The crowd is burned out, though, barely reacting when Santana blasts the Warlord in the early going and eliminates him.  DiBiase is able to get rid of Santana but after that the heels cannot get rid of Hogan and the Warrior.  The closest they get is when Power & Glory give Hogan the Powerplex, but Hogan hulks up quickly after two and eliminates Roma with the Ax Bomber.  After that, Martel calls it quits after taking an Ax Bomber of his own, DiBiase eats a leg drop, and Hercules soon falls victim to the Warrior’s finishing routine.  All of this felt like the end of a television taping where the WWF would put on a marquee match and it would be a three-minute blitz to send the crowd home happy.  Rating:  *

After the match, the Warrior and Hogan toss Slick over the top rope and celebrate together in the ring.

The Last Word:  The Grand Finale concept sounded good on paper but it messed with the booking because the Visionaries victory was muted, Randy Savage had to be taken off the card so as not to job to either Hulk Hogan or the Ultimate Warrior, and other acts like the Undertaker had to be eliminated in weak ways to keep them from the same fate.  It probably would have been better to run it as a battle royal, but the crowd was ready to go home by the time the bell rang and the show was starting to overstay its welcome.  Another strange piece of the booking is that the WWF wanted people to watch The Main Event the next night but why would fans think Ted DiBiase was a threat to the Warrior when they had Hogan steamroll him for a third straight Survivor Series in the main event?  Overall, this was an average show but the opener and the Dream Team vs. Million Dollar Team matches were fun snapshots of wrestling from this period if nothing else.

Up Next:  The Main Event for November 23!