On Nov. 20, WWE presents the 30th annual Survivor Series. As we move towards the event, let’s take a look at how the former Thanksgiving tradition has evolved over the years.
It’s 1991 and the Survivor Series presented the Gravest Challenge!
Survivor Series ’91 – November 27, 1991, Joe Luis Arena, Detroit, Michigan
Lots of changes to the Survivor Series in 1991, as the event moves from Thanksgiving Day to Thanksgiving Eve, effectively ceding the holiday to football and turkey-induced comas. And we also get our first one-on-one match at the Survivor Series, a WWF Title match between champion Hulk Hogan and The Undertaker, who had yet to lose at a televised event one year into his tenure in the WWF.
The match kicked off a tumultuous year for the the World Wrestling Federation, which began to shift the focus away from the superhero Hogan and towards smaller athletes at the top of the card. The Undertaker wins his first WWF Title here with help from Ric Flair, loses it the next Tuesday In Texas, at a special pay-per-view, and the title eventually ends up on Flair at the Royal Rumble, after WWF President Jack Tunney holds the belt up because of all the shenanigans.
The title change is also only the second WWF Title change in a pay-per-view that isn’t a WrestleMania, with the first coming at the Royal Rumble earlier that year.
Survivor Series 1991 was a more eventful show as there was a lot of change just starting to hit the WWF. It’s still a fun show, even if some of the matches weren’t really great. The energy in the crowd died after the WWF Title match went on third, with two matches to go, and the card really bogs down at the end.
Best Match: “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase, The Mountie and The Warlord defeated “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, Bret “Hitman” Hart, Virgil and The British Bulldog.
I think with another group of wrestlers, the ending of this match, with 5 of the 6 remaining guys in the match disqualified for wrestling outside the ring, it would have been universally panned. But with Flair, Piper, Hart and DiBiase in the match, it just worked and it was a lot of fun. The match managed to push the idea that Flair was the smartest guy in the match, finding a way to win no matter what, which certainly came into play at the Royal Rumble for the WWF Title in January. It was his first WWF pay-per-view and they managed to make him look like a star, which is not always the case.
Worst Match: “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, Sgt. Slaughter, “El Matador” Tito Santana and “Texas Tornado” Kerry Von Erich defeated The Berserker, Col. Mustafa, Hercules and Skinner.
We get our second clean sweep in Survivor Series history, as a team comprised completely of jobbers to the stars gets completely destroyed. It’s actually shocking that there are two former WWF Champions and two former Intercontinental Champions in the match, because at the end of 1991, no one was taking anyone in this match seriously. It was the shortest elimination match on the show at around 15 minutes and I wouldn’t have minded if it lost another couple of minutes.
A Vicious, Savage Cycle: The final match of the evening – definitely not the main event, which went on third – was supposed to feature a team captained by Sid Justice (better known as Sid Vicious) against Jake “The Snake” Roberts’ team. But Sid got injured and instead of finding a replacement for Sid, the WWF instead filmed an angle with Roberts feeding Randy Savage’s arm to a King Cobra, truly kicking off a feud that started after the end of SummerSlam 1991. Roberts wasn’t allowed to compete at Survivor Series, but they did announce the match would take place This Tuesday in Texas! Without the two original captains, the match was really a mess, with no one really caring about it.
The Beginning of the End: While the Survivor Series was the “end of the beginning” for Savage and Roberts, the partnership between Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty was on its last legs here. Jannetty caused Michaels to be eliminated in the Rockers/Bushwhackers vs. Beverlys/Nastys match, after accidentally hitting the future Heartbreak Kid in the face with an opponents boots while bodyslamming. Michaels, annoyed, bitched out Jannetty before bucking him up and heading to the back and leaving his partner at a 3-on-1 disadvantage.
What made the whole thing worse was the commentary of Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan, who saw Shawn get pinned and then questioned why Michaels was leaving because, as Gorilla put it, he was never eliminated. Jesse Ventura would have called Monsoon on it, but Heenan just acted aloof. They even clipped the three count from the review of the incident, making it even more confusing for anyone not really paying attention.
The Survivor Series Rankings
Two new additions to the Top Ten this time around, including our first one-on-one and title match.
*DISCLAIMER* The Survivor Series Rankings are for discussion purposes only and in no way reflect an official or authoritative list. It is simply my opinion. If you disagree, let me know via email or on Facebook. Match survivors are in bold and new entries to the Top 10 are in italics.
1 – Powers of Pain, The British Bulldogs, The Rockers, The Hart Foundation and The Young Stallions defeated Demolition, The Conquistadors, The Brain Busters, The Bolsheviks and the Fabulous Rougeau Brothers. (1988)
2 – “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase, The Mountie and The Warlord defeated “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, Bret “Hitman” Hart, Virgil and The British Bulldog. (1991)
3 – “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Hulk Hogan, Hillbilly Jim, Koko B. Ware and Hercules defeated King Haku, Akeem, Big Bossman, “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase and The Red Rooster. (1988)
4 – Andre the Giant, King Kong Bundy, One Man Gang, “Ravishing” Rick Rude and “The Natural” Butch Reed defeated Hulk Hogan, Bam Bam Bigelow, Ken Patera, “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff and Don Muraco. (1987)
5 – The Jumping Bomb Angels, Fabulous Moolah, Velvet McIntyre and Rockin’ Robin defeated Sensational Sherri, The Glamour Girls, Donna Christanello and Dawn Marie. (1987)
6 – The Undertaker defeated Hulk Hogan (c) – WWF Title Match (1991)
7 – Ultimate Warrior, Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake, The Blue Blazer, “Jumping” Jim Brunzell and Sam Houston beat The Honky Tonk Man, Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, “Outlaw” Ron Bass, Bad News Brown and “Dangerous” Danny Davis (1988)
8 – “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, Jake “The Snake Roberts, Brutus” The Barber” Beefcake and “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan defeated Hercules, Honky Tonk Man, “Outlaw” Ron Bass, “King” Harley Race and “Dangerous” Danny Davis. (1987)
9 – “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase, The Undertaker, The Honky Tonk Man and Greg “The Hammer” Valentine defeated Dusty Rhodes, The Hart Foundation and Koko B. Ware. (1990)
10 – Ultimate Warrior, The Rockers and Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart defeated Andre the Giant, Arn Anderson, Haku and Bobby “the Brain” Heenan. (1989)
Two men hop up the rankings a bit, but the make-up of the list is the same as last time.
1 – The Ultimate Warrior, Hulk Hogan (tie, 7)
3 – Tito Santana (6)
4 – “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase, Sgt. Slaughter (tie, 5)
6 – Brutus Beefcake, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig (tie, 4)
9 – One Man Gang/Akeem, Big Boss Man, “Ravishing” Rick Rude (tie, 3)
Seventeen wrestlers are tied with 2 eliminations each and 30 are tied with 1 elimination each.