WWF Survivor Series 1987 (11.26.87) review
November 26, 1987
In a dick move, Vince McMahon scheduled the inaugural Survivor Series to run head-to-head with the NWA’s first PPV Starrcade ‘87. This would lead to various petty decisions during 1988, which would affect both parties’ incomes and ultimately force Jim Crockett out of the business. Leading, indirectly, to Ted Turner joining the “wrasslin’ business”, the Monday Night Wars, New World Order, Austin 3:16, DX, Goldberg and everything in between.
We’re in Richfield, Ohio (Cleveland, basically) at the Richfield Coliseum. Hosts are Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura. The Richfield Coliseum is in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by farmland. It was the home of the Cleveland Cavaliers (1974-1994) and various other sports teams until the Cavs moved back into downtown Cleveland at the Fieldhouse. The Richfield Coliseum was demolished in 1999. It played host to Survivor Series on three occasions.
Comms talk about rules, because we’ve never done this before. Ventura stops off to tell us this is the first night Hogan and Andre will share a ring since WM3.
Honky Tonk Man, Harley Race, Hercules, Ron Bass & Danny Davis vs. Randy Savage, Ricky Steamboat, Jake Roberts, Jim Duggan & Brutus Beefcake
Pre-match Honky threatens to give Liz the Shake, Rattle and Roll if she gets in the ring. The dastard!
Randy Savage is over huge now. It’s pretty clear the fans consider him to be one of the top, top guys in the business. Potentially there’s an interesting dynamic with Savage and Steamboat having so much history but it’s not touched on. We don’t start well as it’s Beefcake vs. Herc and Brutus fucks up the lock up. I like the concept of Survivor Series because around this time top guys never took clean jobs. Putting them five on five gave the opportunity for guys to actually lose, without hurting their characters or momentum.
Not that Survivor Series had a lot of clean finishes. A prime example here as Race and Duggan brawl outside and both get counted out. Duggan was terrible in his brief run in the ring and Race was fucked by this point in his career. Bass is next out as Beefcake catches him with a high knee. Given his treatment you’d think Bass was on his way out but he stayed in the company for another 18 months. The match falters somewhat because the heel team is so poor. Honky is arguably their best worker.
Meanwhile, the face team only has one bad worker; Beefcake and they leave him in there for ages before Honky finishes him with Shake, Rattle and Roll. The main story of the match is Savage’s desire to murder Honky and HTM using that against him. Davis struggles to get anything going and he feels completely out of his depth. Jake drills him with the DDT. Faces are up 3-2. From here at least the faces only have good talents to take heat. They go with Jake, probably the worst choice available.
Steamboat gets a hot tag, beats up Herc and sets him up for Savage to beat with the Big Elbow. That felt like a significant pinfall. Having Savage win so cleanly and clearly against Hercules. A showcase of how far Savage is above Herc in the pecking order. Honky attempts to fight 1 on 3, but eventually runs away and takes the count out. I would definitely have jobbed him. Especially as both Jake and Savage wanted revenge on him, and it was a nice easy way to get it without beating HTM for the IC belt. Especially as it was 3 on 1. They could have had him take everyone’s finish and lie down for Savage. It’s only Honky Tonk Man! *** for the first match of its kind. The weak heel team hurt the overall dynamic, but the concept clearly worked.
We get an interview with the heel team in tonight’s main event and Andre quotes from The Princess Bride by telling Hogan he’s “here for your soul”. Neat.
Fabulous Moolah, Rockin’ Robin, Velvet McIntyre & Jumping Bomb Angels vs. Sensational Sherri, Dawn Marie, Donna Christianello & The Glamour Girls
You can tell the WWF doesn’t have a women’s division to speak of and went back to pretending to have one after they signed Sherri from the AWA. The most interesting addition is Jake Roberts’ sister Rockin’ Robin, who they’d try and push for the next couple of years.
They’ve also gone and acquired some Japanese talent for the match; the Jumping Bomb Angels. A mainstay of AJW for the previous couple of years, they went on tour with the WWF in the summer and impressed enough to return here. This is the first time the WWF has really exposed them to a big TV audience. Sherri has new ring gear since switching to the WWF and it’s a nice black and white ensemble. WWF put the belt on her immediately. Who was champion? Moolah. She’s had it basically since the whole Wendi Richter angle tanked.
The crowd are not accustomed to women’s matches and sit on their hands. Velvet gets rid of Donna in the first few minutes. Christianello looked older than dirt here but was only 45. This is her last match before retiring. She didn’t last long! Robin looks very green and only has a handful of matches. She can’t take moves. She telegraphs everything. She gets Dawn Marie with a crossbody. Dawn Marie basically retired after this too.
With the match dying a death, they bring in the Jumping Bomb Angels and they just kick all kinds of ass. They tag Robin in and Sherri picks her off. 4-3. Robin was so green here. Clearly not TV ready at all but they’ve committed to a division so she’s on PPV. Moolah, who’s supposed to be a babyface, gets clear heel reactions here. Moolah is 64 years old here. SIXTY-FOUR. Moolah gets caught in a double clothesline and is gone. This should have been the changing of the guard, but Moolah stayed in the company, and indeed won the title, into her old age.
The timekeeper fucks up a pinfall by ringing the bell, not realising that Japanese women sometimes bridge out of pins. Velvet catches Sherri with a victory roll to dump her out, and presumably make her #1 contender for the women’s title. Judy Martin sandbags both Bomb Angels during an otherwise solid near falls segment. Velvet tries for another Victory Roll but Kai counters her into a fall-away slam for the pin and we’re into 2 vs 2.
This is where everyone shines as the Jumping Bomb Angels have, in the Glamour Girls, talent that can actually keep up with them. They had a tag match a few days before this that I need to track down. Leilani Kai eats a crossbody to get dumped out. Judy Martin is left 2 on 1. Jimmy Hart gets dropkicked off the apron and takes a sensational bump, where I’m sure he lands on his head. Jumping Bomb Angels secure the win. A good performance from them but chunks of this match sucked. Rockin’ Robin was especially bad. **½
Hart Foundation, Demolition, Islanders, Dream Team (Greg Valentine & Dino Bravo) & Bolsheviks vs. Strike Force, British Bulldogs, Killer Bees, Rougeau Brothers & Young Stallions
Having ten tag teams out here creates a mass of humanity around the ring. The Can-Am Connection turned into Strike Force after Tom Zenk quit earlier in the year. It’s an early WWF career boost for former AWA champion Rick Martel. Volkoff is now teaming with another signing; Boris Zhukov, thanks to Iron Sheik being on the outs.
Santana gets rid of Zhukov about a minute in, because the Bolsheviks are enormous jobbers. Having so many options to tag results in a very fast-paced contest. It’s weird watching a fast-paced WWF match! They didn’t have them. Jacques Rougeau misses a high crossbody and Demolition get rid of him. I keep expecting the Young Stallions to be next out as Powers and Roma both get beaten up, and they were basically jobbers at the time. Demolition batter everyone but that includes the referee and they get disqualified. It’s clear they wanted to protect Demolition and the DQ does that.
Ventura calls Bret great “mechanically” and I know what he means, but does that make sense in a shoot? Ricky Martel is all fired up and he did have great babyface fire but there was always something ‘off’ about him. This is probably his best babyface run, which ended because he turned on his partner. For the heels, Bret Hart is the star. He’s everywhere he needs to be. He blindsides Santana to give Anvil a pin. Strike Force surprisingly eliminated around a third of the way through this contest. I remember being shocked first time around and it still seems bizarre on this viewing.
Despite a yawner segment with the Stallions taking heat, it’s made passable by Bret, the match ticks over at a great pace. Lots of stomping and punching but the quick tags make it feel constantly fresh. Haku kicks out of Davey’s finisher and then thrust kicks Dynamite Kid for three. What a badass!
Young Stallions take another tremendous beating. How are they still in there? Roma catches Valentine with a sunset flip off the top, channelling Ronnie Garvin over in Chicago, and the New Dream Team are done. Another long segment with the Young Stallions follows, and it’s pretty clear the entire match is arranged to get them over. Tama dropkicks Brunzell while he’s carrying Bret but Jumpin’ Jim rolls through it for the pin. The Harts are out. That leaves it as the Bees & Stallions vs. Islanders. Not what you’d expect after seeing the opening teams.
After the Harts are out, we get another six minutes of the Islanders working over Jim Brunzell. It’s uncalled for after an already lengthy contest. Ventura puts over the Islanders, who (after the Stallions) have been involved in a star-making performance. The Killer Bees do “masked confusion” despite neither of them being masked and legal. B. Brian Blair flying in illegally to get the pin. ***½. It was a good match, but I’m still stunned, even after all these years, that they used this as a match to get the Young Stallions over. It’s very un-WWF.
Video Control takes us to Ted DiBiase, who’s spending his Thanksgiving being rich.
They give us a bunch of footage of Ted Dibiase torturing kids by making them do stuff like push-ups and dribbling basketballs and then screwing them out of the cash. It’s so mean. Hey, he didn’t make that much money by just giving it away did he? I would say he embarrassed members of the public, but they embarrassed themselves. Included in the embarrassed kids is one Rob Van Dam, caught kissing Ted DiBiase’s feet after a match. This was ten minutes long and you would never get away with putting out a shitty promo video like this on PPV now. It was so stilted. Luckily, DiBiase was really good in the ring because this stuff? Yeesh. Comms proceed to ramble for another five minutes to kill time. The crowd sound agitated.
Not content with all that bullshit, we get an interview with the Honky Tonk Man to wind up the crowd some more. Honky challenges Hulk Hogan to come and challenge him title vs title. Big words for a guy whose team got embarrassed earlier.
Andre the Giant, King Kong Bundy, Rick Rude, One Man Gang & Butch Reed vs. Hulk Hogan, Paul Orndorff, Bam Bam Bigelow, Don Muraco & Ken Patera
The WWF changed a lot in 1987. From additions like Butch Reed, Bigelow, Rick Rude and the Gang to the alignments on both sides. Especially Don Muraco being a babyface. I don’t think that ever worked for me, although Fuji Vice was awesome. Plus, how on earth does Hogan trust Orndorff enough to team with him again after their 1986 feud?
The crowd are fired up to see Hogan vs. Andre again. While Andre took a clean job at WrestleMania III, he’s still Andre the Giant. He’s only wrestled once since then, a dark match tag against Hogan & Patera in April. The inclusion of guys like Bigelow and Rude freshen up the main event scene here. Rude is a particular boon as he’s willing to take a bunch of bumps for everyone. Hogan’s team makes an incredible series of tags and batter the heels. Hogan and Orndorff even double clothesline Reed ahead of a Hogan legdrop to get him gone.
Hogan high fives Kenny Patera to celebrate and that’s a tag. Hogan’s incredulous look of ‘I didn’t mean that’ is just ridiculous. It doesn’t even go anywhere. What was the point? This match feels nicely balanced with big stars on either side. The trouble with the heels is only Rude wants to take spots. So, he takes all the spots!
The crowd is electric for this, by the way, as they bite on everything. Ken Patera is the first babyface out, which is no big loss. Gang gets rid of him. As with earlier, Hogan immediately jumps in to save the day himself. Bigelow gets a hot tag just after that and the reaction for him is huge. Orndorff is getting huge reactions too until Rude rolls him up for the elimination. This was pretty shocking to me first time around but considering he basically retired after this, it’s probably not that big of a shock with the benefit of hindsight. Losing Orndorff when he was at his peak here is a real bummer for Vince though. Orndorff had proven to be a consistent, popular top card draw. Losing him so soon after Roddy Piper had to sting. No wonder they try so hard to make new stars on this show.
Muraco powerslamming Rude to eliminate him marks the end of the really fun part of the match. It leaves Hogan, Bigelow and Muraco vs. Bundy, Gang and Andre. Three largely immobile guys on the heel side and a lot of time left. The opening 11 minutes are fire! Gang splashes Muraco and he’s out, thanks to an Andre assist. We’re only halfway through here.
Luckily Bigelow is out here to sell for the big dudes but the pace goes right out of the match. All the fire and excitement of Orndorff and Rude is just gone. To pick it up they finally go for Hogan vs. Andre. Bundy drags Hogan out to the floor for a fight, but Hogan is legal, so he gets counted out. It’s his own fault because he wanted to slam Bundy. Hogan won’t leave so the referees tell him to fuck off or they’ll award the match to Andre.
Now, this is the true star-making turn. Bigelow, like Honky Tonk Man earlier, is 1 on 3. Unlike that yellow coward Honky, he stays and fights. Bundy gets dumped thanks to a slingshot splash. Next up is One Man Gang as Bigelow works his way up the Mount Rushmore of heel giants. Gang misses off the top and Bigelow pins him too. The crowd are all fired up at the prospect of Bigelow causing a huge upset. Of course, if you job Andre out to Bigelow, he’s done as a top guy. Is it worth it? Vince clearly thought not. Andre finishes with a belly to belly and stands tall to end the show. Or he would if Hogan hadn’t been such an asshole and run down to hit Andre with the title belt. “This is a disgrace” yells Ventura. He’s not wrong. Hogan was unbearable. ***¾. This started out in fantastic fashion but decisions were made and I don’t agree with a lot of them. At least they booked Bigelow strong and made a star here.
Survivor Series rapidly became about getting over new talent. Here you’ve got the Jumping Bomb Angels, Young Stallions, Rick Rude and Bam Bam Bigelow. Survivor Series was a fresh concept, executed really well first time out. If you can overlook deficiencies in the women’s match it’s 4/4 as a show. All killer, no filler. The tag match and the main event are both strong and Survivor Series has to be a contender for the best show of 1987. My only real complaint is that nothing stuck here and is super memorable like WrestleMania III.
Andre getting one over on Hogan was replicated with his 1988 title victory. Bigelow never stuck as a main event and indeed was gone from the WWF by the summer. Young Stallions didn’t pan out. The Jumping Bomb Angels didn’t stay in America. Nothing stuck but they were trying exciting new things and that alone is worth checking out. The show felt fresh and exciting, and a vibrant Cleveland audience lapped everything up.
As for the NWA, whose biggest show of the year Starrcade ‘87 went head to head with this, they were blown out of the water here. The WWF went from being a big bully, buying out the NWA’s stars to being creatively better than the NWA and more exciting. I blame Dusty Rhodes and his booking, which had gotten stale and predictably bad by the end of 1987. Not only was Survivor Series the better show but it did twice the buyrate of Starrcade. A massive all-around win for Titan.