Something collecting moth balls on my docket is given new life. I was obsessed with the 80s stuff when The Network first came out and I think I watched Survivor Series 1987 about 8 times in 3 months. Just seeing such a standard WWE gimmick in its primordial form, but also done full tilt was fascinating. But I dreaded reviewing it for the website. It's relatively light on angle advancement and light on context, which you need when you review shows this old. BUT, because some wrestler up in the great beyond loves me, I got my hands on the PRE-SHOW. So you know what that means! Pre-show with the main show bay-bay! As we ask on every NWK Retro Review, does this hold up 25 years later?
Opening video Mean Gene narrates a pitch of the show, bookended by a Hulk Hogan promo and footage of wacky lesser characters hitting their moves. 80s wrestling at its prime.
We get a big dirty recorded-off-the-TV-with-a-VCR jumpcut to
Hacksaw Jim Duggan promo: Jim puts the wrong emphasis on the souinds of the word "Survivor" so he ends up saying "Survive-or". Other than that this is the most basic Duggan promo He also plugs something called Viewers Choice, which I've learned is the Canadian version of the Pay Per View channel Americans of the time might know as "In demand". I feel like the Viewer's Choice logo rips of USDA's Approved symbol quite a bit though.
Gorilla and Monsoon open up: Fantastic. They're on the Prime Time Wrestling set. They tell us how to order, and Bobby Heenan tells us we're counting down to simplify things for the humanoids. Heenan is weirdly subdued, and will be throughout the preshow.
We get the same commercial we got to open.
Bobby and Gorilla throw to....
Wrestlemania 3: WWF Championship Match
Hulk Hogan (c) vs Andre the Giant
Hulk Hogan (c) vs Andre the Giant
This is clipped. We get a primer on why this feud is continuing. The immediate two and a half count, which might be the most brilliant smoke-and-mirrors moment in professional wrestling. Hogan knocking Andre down, and the post match. But I might as well talk about this match now because that's really the only thing I contend with in terms of BRM's review of the show. This is the best professional wrestling match ever done. Everything made sense, An immobile Andre was made to look like the baddest guy on the planet, and the body slam is of course the most iconic moment in wrestling. If you disagree with the following rating I will fight you.
Bobby and Gorilla run down the main event: Good. Heenan big ups Andre, and chastises Hogan, this is where you get the most Heenan/Monsoon chemistry. Also Superstar Graham is announced on Hogan's team but there's no attempt made to correct it which betrays the fact this wasn't done live.
Honky Tonk Man and Jimmy Hart plug viewers choice: Much like the Hacksaw promo it's a bare bones version of a Honky Tonk promo, at least Jimmy's years around music and radio gives him a more organic delivery when they plug Viewer's Choice.
We're back with Gorilla and Heenan now, and they set up the next segment before throwing to.
Finish and post match of the 9/27/1987 SMNE between Savage and Honky: A brilliant simpler time when Honky's corner men stomping Savage could be considered a justifiable finish. Elizabeth gets shoved down trying to save Randy from a guitar shot (the one Savage does end up getting looks horrific, and the guitar looks non-gimmicked), running to the back, and she gets Hulk Hogan who shakes hands with Macho Man after making the save. This is act one of the Mega Powers Storyline. This part was equally awesome.
Macho Man Randy Savage promo: Even Savage can't escape bare bones promo-itis but he makes it seem the most natural so far
Gorilla and Bobby run down the Midcarder Singles Survivor Series Tag Match: bad. It seems like they don't have a ton of material to work with, Bobby threatens Jake not to bring the snake out or he'll spend the evening in the bag himself, Bobby briefly looks off camera, you can tell that in the moment he thought it was a bad line.
Bobby and Gorilla introduce the women's tag, which we throw to.
7/26/87, Houston Texas, in which Sherri wins the title from Moolah: Bad. Not only did the finishing sequence involve Sherri getting kicked out of the ring a bunch and then winning with a rollup, by the time we get to this show, Sherri is a heel and Moolah is a babyface. I would've appreciated an explaination on Sherri's turn more than the title change. It was also here that I noticed that Gorilla says "History has been made!" with every title change, and it occured to me that Vince has spent the prevailing 25 years trying to inorganically produce Gorilla Monsoon.
Weird Viewers choice commercial: The Viewers Choice logo is served on a platter of an oil painting of a family enjoying Thanksgiving. They pitch matches "including the women". Hulk Hogan appears in full car salesmen mode, "Take it form the Hulkster brother"
Gorilla and Bobby Heenan run down the women's tag match : Run down is very generous. Gorilla coldly says that a women's 5-on-5 is "interesting" to him, while Bobby makes a joke about Thanksgiving dishes not being done for 10 households. Weirdly Gorilla's comment struck me as worse and more passive. Also Moolah and Sherri are the only women featured in the graphic. You have 12 minutes and one other match to run down. Give us some flavor to the other 8 women in this match.
Gorilla and Bobby throw next to
1/26/1987 show in which Danny Davis screws The Bulldogs out of the titles: I'm conflicted. On one hand, this is probably the hottest angle they had done with tag teams since Bulldogs beat the Dream Team at Mania II, and it explains the Danny Davis storyline somewhat. But like, nothing about Hart Foundation and current WWF Tag team Champions Strike Force?
Tag Team Survivor Series match rundown: Top Heenan comedy, he calls The Killer Bees "Former Bees or whatever they used to be" and The Rougeau Brothers "The Ragoo Brothers
Hulk Hogan promo: One of his bad ones. He rambles on about survival, but when he works it back around to Wrestlemania 3
Bobby Heenan and Andre the Giant promo: Probably Andre's best heel promo, meanwhile a meh promo from Heenan
The main show
Cold open: We're shown Jesse and Gorilla heading to the commentary table, and they greet us. I much prefer being greeted with a human pitchman than a highly produced video package, as it reminds me of the old NFL broadcasts where you would first be given a rundown of the events by Howard Cosell. Speaking of...
Opening video package: A bunch of midcarders and upper-mid carders hit big moves, we then cut to the Andre/Hogan staredown for the closing shot and the logo.
Gorilla and Jesse explain the Survivor Series concept and run down the card: They do as best they can. Gorilla and Jesse clearly aren't used to pitching a complicated match type like modern wrestling announcers. Jesse trips over his words and Gorilla has to be reminded by Jesse to pitch the main event.
Craig DeGeorge interviews Team Honky Tonk Man: Good. Honky cuts a generic 80s shouty promo while his team hoot and holler behind him. Craig also sells Honky's notion that he'll hit Elizabeth with Shake Rattle and Roll with utter disgust and befuddlement.
We get the entrances for the heels, which is a strange way to deal with it. A midcarder's entrance music will play for 4/5 guys, but the captain gets his own theme. I feel like everyone should come out to the captain's music. Anyway, this throws to.
Mean Gene interviews Team Macho Man: Whereas the heel team was pretending to hoot and holler for the sake of rhubarb and pretending to be crazy, I can see doubtlessly all five men are on some kind of substance. Ricky makes ninja noises, Duggan and Beefcake are bugeyed as usual, Snake appears to be screaming incoherently in some sort of cocaine induced fit, and Macho is well...Macho. The other reason why this promo is infinitely better is because it touches on Dragon and Macho's shared history, as well as the Duggan/Race feud and Macho/Honky.
It was at this point I had to check an original rip of the show to see if we missed anything on commentary, as Steamboat's theme is dubbed over. We didn't. Gorilla and Ventura have no idea how to fill time during elongated entrances
Team Savage (Randy Savage, Ricky Steamboat, Jake Roberts, Brutus Beefcake, and Jim Duggan) vs Team Honky Tonk (Honky Tonk Man, Danny Davis, Ron Bass, Harley Race,, and Hercules (w/ Bobby Heenan and Jimmy Hart
This match serves several purposes. The babyfaces get big moves in, and Honky is a coward. Additionally, the Race/Duggan feud gets a spotlight as both guys get counted out. Beefer eventually gets eliminated, but the three babyfaces motor through the heels, each getting their own comeback until it's down to Honky, and Honky just leaves, teasing a further feud with Macho Man. This was a hell of an opener, and a hell of an on-point way with how to use the concept in its first execution.
Craig DeGeorge interviews Team Andre: Great! Bobby rants about the WM3 controversy as only he can. Andre cuts a short promo,, and then Slick cuts a shouty promo, Heenan rants again, and Andre cuts a promo like a movie monster
Team Moolah (The Fabulous Moolah, The Jumping Bomb Angels (Itsuki Yamazaki and Noriyo Tateno), Rockin' Robin and Velvet McIntyre) vs Team Sherri (Dawn Marie, Donna Christanello, The Glamour Girls (Leilani Kai and Judy Martin) and Sensational Sherri )(with Jimmy Hart)
For the first elimination (Donna Christanello) there's a lot of frantic motion on both teams. Lots of people going for tags immediately after missed moves, lots of immediate bringing your opponent to your corner, which made it feel like a team sport. Then, when Dawn Marie gets eliminated, there's a lot of attempts at heelery but the babyfaces fight back and eliminate Dawn. Robin gets eliminated, but in between then before and for a bit after, this match is a showcase for the Jumping Bomb Angel who not only do the people love but make the Golden Girls look really good. A wacky double clotheslne eliminates Moolah. The heels take control but Velvet gets a crazy impressive Big Swing on Sherri and eliminates her with a Victory Roll. This is huge for Velvet having pinned the Ladies Champion. Velvet teases another Victory Roll after more Bomb Angel on Glamour Girl awesomeness, but get hit with a slingshot off falling back move, which is one hell of a bump for 1987 for the elimination. It's down to Bomb Angels and the Glamour Girls. The Glamour Girls attempt to cheat but get thwarted and Lelani gets eliminated. Jimmy takes a horrific looking dropkick bump off the apron where he appears to land on his head with no way to brace himself (a replay makes this bump look much safer), and the Angels win
While this was a better match than the previous in the technical sense, it also had the added flair of a storyline in the home stretch
Craig DeGeorge interviews The Hart Foundation et al: Crazy. 10 people, not including DeGeorge and Heenan, are talking while the aforementioned are talking, so everyone is yelling. It's such a disorganized set up that the camera struggles to find Anvil until about half way through his promo. Jimmy comes in and screams incoherently, and apparently The Bolsheviks are out with Slick ready to sing already. If the promo before the match is this disorganized, I fear for the match itself
Weirdly, all the heels sans Bolsheviks come out to the Demolition theme. We then cut to.
Mean Gene interviews Strike Force et al: It's not as much of a wash of noise as the heels, and someone has the bright idea to start up one of those team "hoo hoo hoo" pump up chants, so it sounds more natural. Santana and Martel cut barely-telligible promos. Gene makes a point about total unity on the babyface side, but Strike Force gets their own entrance, while everyone else comes out to Rule Britannia
The British Bulldogs (Davey Boy Smith and Dynamite Kid), The Killer Bees (B. Brian Blair and Jim Brunzell), The Fabulous Rougeaus (Jacques Rougeau and Raymond Rougeau), Strike Force (Rick Martel and Tito Santana), The Young Stallions (Jim Powers and Paul Roma) defeated The Bolsheviks (Boris Zhukov and Nikolai Volkoff), Demolition (Ax and Smash), The Dream Team (Dino Bravo and Greg Valentine), The Hart Foundation (Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart) and The Islanders (Haku and Tama) (with Bobby Heenan, Mr. Fuji, Jimmy Hart, Johnny Valiant and Slick)
The following contest is FORTY MINUTES LONG. And this is with the "one elimination per tag team" rule. Fucking kill me. Boris takes a forearm from Tito for an immediate elimination. I think the appeal of this match is SUPPOSED to be to see tag team moves from guys you wouldn't normally see team. The crowd pops huge when we get Roma and one of the Rougeaus doing a wishbone split on someone and a crazy shoulder breaker/axe handle on Roma, which he kicks out of immediately . But, what this is is a flurry of basic moves and a tag, rinse and repeat. It certainly picks up in ferocity with each elimination, but the formula remains. Also, at the very beginning of the match, they keep cutting to wide shots in which you can't see the two legal men because there are so many bodies on the apron. People are kicking out of piledrivers, and big moves, and Strike Force gets eliminated way too early, as do the Bulldogs. in fact The Young Stallions, the jobber babyface tag team, and the Killer Bees, a midcard babyface tag team, are the survivors, and that's because The Bees did the dumb masked finish. This advanced no feuds, and knocked down everyone who got eliminated a peg. This is a failure that did have some fun parts
Ted Dibiase video package: He's riding around in a limo, being rich and cool, in his office, and getting served a fancy dinner. Each transition leads to Ted narrating one of the times he made people do things for money (including making a young Linda McMahon get on all fours and bark like a dog, (which, if the character is based off of Vince, is A LOT to unpack). This was awesome, because it's The Million Dollar Man, but totally a waste of time.
The commentators recap the show so far: This is great and reminds me of pro sports
Craig DeGeorge interviews Honky Tonk Man and Jimmy Hart at the podium: Bad. He cuts a delusional heel promo against Hogan and Savage. Jimmy doesn't help matters.
Bobby Heenan's guys and Slick's guys get separate entrances, and Andre gets an entrance to himself. Bobby introduces Andre in a way in which I'm sure a young Paul Heyman was taking notes. This throws to
Mean Gene interview with Team Hogan: They're all screaming until Hogan cuts a promo and they all shut up. Hogan cuts a promo about animals and insurance policy Hogan calls Bam Bam "The Fire Brother" in case he needs to "burn the whole jungle down". All the other guys cut generic shouty eighties promos
André the Giant, Butch Reed, King Kong Bundy, One Man Gang and Rick Rude (with Bobby Heenan and Slick) defeated Bam Bam Bigelow, Don Muraco, Hulk Hogan, Ken Patera and Paul Orndorff (with Oliver Humperdink)[/center]
Hogan makes his entrance with the American flag for some reason. Maybe this is where he got the idea that Ohio is the Heartland of America brother?
This like an amalgamation of the non tag team division matches we've seen tonight. The opening bit is very much like the opener in which the babyfaces run roughshot forever (poor Butch Reed gets eliminated here). Once it settles down, it's very similar to the female match in that each elimination has its own story. That is, until we get down to Bam Bam/Hogan vs Andre/Gang/Bundy. They tease Hogan vs Andre and they get a comically bad brawling spot that for some reason the crowd LOVES. Gotta love the 80s. man. Hogan brawls with the other two big guys and then gets counted out , leaving Bam Bam by himself. This is a GREAT subversion of expectations, and watching Bigelow bump for the other two big guys shows you how revolutionairy a big man he was. He beats Gang and Bundy...but then Andre comes in and kills him too quickly. You get the vibe that this entire match concept was to give Andre a win, while giving Hogan a loss in the same match independent of Andre, while keeping the match fresh.
Post match: Hulk Hogan runs back out and hits Andre with the belt, then poses forever. I liked the brawl aspect of it, as you rarely ever saw weapons introduced in Hogan vs Andre, and, say what you will about Hogan posing forever, but if it makes the crowd happy why not deliver it?
Andre the Giant and Bobby Heenan get interviewed: Heenan is elated because the records show that Andre beat Hulk Hogan, and Hogan can have Andre anytime....if the title is on the line. Andre mumbles through a promo, but Heenan's promo is a classic example of how a delusional heel can work and not come off like a buffoon. The only thing I didn't like about it is that Hogan is still posing, so we get Real American playing over Bobby talking
Hogan poses some more to see us out.
I would say that the women's tag is the only thing worth going out of your way to see, but if you want to see an oft neglected piece of the Hogan/Andre feud, watch the main event as well.
Also, while watching the main event it occurred to me that the Survivor Series format only works with very specific feuds in mind, and really shouldn't be a yearly pay per view, but that's only my opinion.