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SLAM! Wrestling Editorial: The rise and fall of Survivor Series
By JOHN POWELL -- SLAM! Wrestling

WWF has a history of setting themselves apart from the rest, harnessing the attention of their audience through very creative means. Recognizing that the casual wrestling fan makes up a large portion of their viewership, the WWF has taken its cue from Hollywood, devoting more of its production time to developing complex storylines than the scripting of the matches themselves. Their product is a polished one, delivering high stakes drama filled with soap opera-ish mystery, sex appeal and scandal.

Back in the day, the Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, SummerSlam and the Survivor Series were the only WWF pay-per-views offered and because of that, they played out as epic events. With the flooding of the pay-per-view market during the later part of the '90s, the quality of the wrestling broadcasts have hit an all-time low and certainly don't come close to making the impact they once did on fans. Putting on one every month doesn't leave much room for the creativity or intricate planning that took place during the '80s. Hot-shot, last minute feuds are the norm as bookers find any excuse (a minor altercation in the locker room to spilling hot coffee on someone) to work their talent into the show.

Like the Royal Rumble, Survivor Series was a high-point of the year for wrestling fans. Unpredictable to a certain extent, the show re-instilled the fictitious notion that pro wrestling was pure athletic competition. For one night, fans got to see brief match-ups which normally wouldn't have occurred due to backstage politics. The uniquely thrilling Survivor Series has fallen victim to the pay-per-view gluttony. The team versus team, elimination tag team concept turned into just another wrestling broadcast with more and more routine matches taking prominence. The Survivor Series matches used as a quick and easy way of penciling the miscellaneous, undercard grapplers in.

The focus is gone as is the thrill. This decrease has culminated in only one Survivor Series type match on this year's card. It is doubtful the WWF will ever return to the format which had even veteran wrestling fans who had seen it all guessing at the outcomes. So, in case any of you will be trucking down to your local video store to make it a true Survivor Series weekend around your neck of the woods, here's a brief guide on the best and worst of the fading spectacular.

Survivor Series 1

Year: 1987.
Main Event: Hulk Hogan, Don Muraco, Paul Orndorff, Ken Patera and Bam Bam Bigelow versus Andre The Giant, One Man Gang, King Kong Bundy, Butch Reed and Rick Rude.
Rating: Excellent.

The very first Survivor Series was at the height of the Hulk Hogan - Andre The Giant feud and both had some heavyweight hombres backing them up. It is a wonder the ring could support the tonnage that had amassed there. A rookie Bam Bam Bigelow, Don Muraco, Paul Orndorff and Ken Patera joined Hogan in colliding with Andre, King Kong Bundy, The One Man Gang, Butch Reed and Rick Rude. Andre won out but it was Bam Bam Bigelow who impressed many with his size and speed. Honky Tonk Man shocked the wrestling world by walking out on the opening match after the other members of his team were booted and he was left to face Randy Savage, Jake Roberts and Ricky Steamboat alone. Today, fans would blow a gasket at such a conclusion. Back then it furthered Honky's heel persona. A well-rounded card barring the women's bout.

Survivor Series 2

Year: 1988.
Main Event: The Mega Powers (Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage), Hercules, Koko B. Ware and Hillbilly Jim versus Ted Dibiase, The Big Boss Man, Akeem, Terry Taylor and Haku.
Rating: Poor.

The rift between the Mega Powers begins here eventually leading to a WrestleMania 5 main event pitting them against one another. The opening bout incorporating all of the WWF's tag teams at the time is a 40-minute barn burner. The rest stink worse than Bushwacker Luke's breath. Hogan's team is especially weak so you just know it will be the Mega Powers standing against unbeatable odds. Speaking of beatings, The Hulkster serves some hard time as the Big Boss Man handcuffs him to the ring and pummels Hogan within an inch of his measly life. Hogan can't seem to keep his hands to himself hoisting Elizabeth high into the air on his shoulders. Macho seethes as only Macho Man can.

Survivor Series 3

Year: 1989.
Main Event: Andre The Giant, Bobby Heenan, Arn Anderson and Haku versus The Ultimate Warrior, Jim Neidhart and The Rockers.
Rating: Poor.

Thought last year's was a stinker? You ain't seen nothing yet. Basically, the entire pay-per-view's purpose is to sell the cruddy and trite No Holds Barred pay-per-view in which Hogan and Beefcake took on Savage and Zeus in a steel cage. Yes, the Mega Powers are still imploding. Not that anyone cared by this point. The worst moment of the show had to be when Hacksaw Jim Duggan's team all came out marching in single file around the ring like soldiers and holding planks of wood in the place of rifles. The Ultimate Warrior gets his hands on the meddling Bobby Heenan, The Big Boss Man touches off a feud with Dusty Rhodes and Roddy Piper teams up with former arch-nemesis Jimmy Snuka. "Rugged" Ronnie Garvin's stomp back then was what Scotty Too Hotty's Worm is today. Stick a fork in this one. It was done well before it ever went to air.

Survivor Series 4

Survivor Series 4 Year: 1990.
Main Event: A final match of survival.
Rating: Excellent.

1990 saw a welcome twist thrown into the works. The Survivor matches would go on as planned except all the winners were gathered in a grand finale match of survival at the end of the evening. The bookers really outdid themselves formulating teams that were both very evenly matched and diverse in their talents. Okay. You've got me. Tito Santana, Nikolai Volkoff and The Bushwackers against Sergeant Slaughter, Boris Zukhov and The Orient Express wasn't exactly a blockbuster. Survivor Series 1990 saw the debut of The Undertaker (accompanied by Brother Love not Paul Bearer) as Ted Dibiase's mystery team member. He was called Kane: The Undertaker and so is his current flame-throwing WWF superstar "brother" but far be it for us to butcher WWF continuity. Forget we even mentioned it. With their team members eliminated, Bret Hart and Ted Dibiase put on a wild singles match that's worth the rental fee alone for true wrestling enthusiasts.

Survivor Series 5

Survivor Series 5 Year: 1991.
Main Event: Hulk Hogan versus The Undertaker.
Rating: Average.

The Survivor Series matches took a backseat to Hogan's title defence against The Undertaker in what was hailed at the time as The Gravest Challenge. This is Ric Flair's first Survivor Series pay-per-view. The Nature Boy makes a serious impact on Hogan and the broadcast as a whole cutting some killer promos as well as causing WWF President Jack Tunney to work overtime. Survivor Series 5 paved the way for the abysmal Tuesday Night In Texas pay-per-view that had nothing going for it other than the Hogan - Undertaker rematch. The break-up of The Rockers begins here. Oh, how many tears I shed over that one.

Survivor Series 6

Survivor Series 5 Year: 1992.
Main Event: Bret Hart versus Shawn Michaels.
Rating: Average.

It's all downhill from here as this is the first Survivor Series card that doesn't carry on with the established theme. Michaels and Hart is the highlight foreshadowing their classic WrestleMania Iron Man match-up. Law man Boss Man cuffed jail bird Nailz (Remember that guy?) in a leisurely-paced nightstick match while The Undertaker fought the ever-spry Kamala in clunker of a casket match. Mr. Perfect turned face to sub for The Ultimate Warrior in his tag match with MachoMan against Razor Ramon and Ric Flair. Santa Claus himself makes a special guest appearance following the Hart - Michaels contest as fake snow falls from the rafters. Oh, brother.

Survivor Series 7

Year: 1993.
Main Event: Yokozuna, Jacques Rougeau, Crush and Ludvig Borga versus The Undertaker, Lex Luger and The Steiner Brothers.
Rating: Poor.

The WWF is slipping fast. You've got Bastion Booger, recipient of the worst gimmick of all time, running around in diapers. You've got the meaningless Smoky Mountain Wrestling tag straps up for grabs in the WWF. You've got that annoying Doink and 1-2-3 Kid pestering the hell out of everyone. All the WWF needs to totally wipe out its fan base is a dentist wrestler, aerobic instructor grapplers, a sanitation worker wrestler and a hog farmer. I hear Ludvig Borga T-shirts are selling for a mint on Ebay.

Survivor Series 8

Year: 1994.
Main Event: The Undertaker versus Yokozuna.
Rating: Poor.

Razor Ramon, Shawn Michaels and Diesel are ruling the roost and things couldn't be much worse for the WWF if they put an NFL football player with no ring skills whatsoever in the WrestleMania main event. Desperately trying anything to rebuild their dwindling viewership the WWF goes for shock value having Bret Hart lose the WWF World Heavyweight Title to...Bob Backlund, of all people. Chuck Norris kung fus some heels attempting to interfere in the otherwise lifeless casket match between The Undertaker and Yokozuna. As Edge and Christian would say, casket matches rule! The WWF at its lowest until...

Survivor Series 9

Year: 1995.
Main Event: Bret Hart versus Diesel.
Rating: Poor.

Hart carries Kevin Nash. The Clique is still running strong. The WWF still stinks. The Sycho Sid, British Bulldog, Ahmed Johnson and Shawn Michaels versus Owen Hart, Razor Ramon, Yokozuna and Dean Douglas Survivor Series bout is the only other noteworthy match worth taking in. You can fast-forward the rest. Barry Horowitz on pay-per-view? In its rebuilding stage, the WWF is really scrapping the bottom of the barrel.

Survivor Series 10

Year: 1996.
Main Event: Psycho Sid versus Shawn Michaels.
Rating: Good.

Back on track, the WWF is slowly building a refreshing and highly successful formula. Three Survivor Series matches find their way onto the broadcast as well as an Undertaker - Mankind meeting. Sycho Sid and Michaels work hard and do well.

Survivor Series 11

Year: 1997
Main Event: Bret Hart versus Shawn Michaels.
Rating: Average.

An infamous night in pro wrestling history that won't be forgotten by Canadian fans for some time to come. In what I called "the biggest screw-job ever", Bret Hart is swerved by WWF owner, Vince McMahon, live on pay-per-view. With Hart heading to WCW, McMahon calls for the bell before The Hitman ever submitted to Michaels' Sharpshooter. A real backstage brawl erupts with Hart punching out McMahon. The fallout is talked about and analyzed to this very day.

For a full review, click here.

Survivor Series 12

Year: 1998
Main Event: Finals of the Deadly Game tournament.
Rating: Excellent.

In a clever move, the WWF opts for a tournament to crown a new WWF World Heavyweight Champion. Like WrestleMania 4 before it, the unpredictable nature of the proceedings shake things up for the fans. Plenty of twists and turns for everyone.

For a full review, click here.

Survivor Series 13

Year: 1999
Main Event: The Big Show versus The Rock versus Triple H.
Rating: Poor.

Vince Russo and Ed Ferrera's departure for WCW results in a period of monotonous and sloppy booking before the WWF bounces back with a vengeance.

For a full review, click here.


Editor's note

We had so many responses to last week's Mat Matters column by John F. Molinaro, entitled Chyna is out of line, we're going to run a bunch of letters as a separate story.

Past editorials




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