Reflections on 1987 Survivor Series

Once upon a time, the Survivor Series carried a lot of cachet. It wasn’t just a place where guys got pinned off regular clotheslines or where Bret got screwed. It was a Thankgiving “tradition” that was actually a giant middle finger to not only Jim Crockett Promotions, but to other remaining territories that ran big shows on the holiday. (The WWF was famous for NOT running shows on those holidays) I sat down earlier this week and watched the 1987 Survivor Series and here are my reflections:

  • I started watching the WWF in early 1988 and like many kids I would go to the local video store and rent any wrestling I could find. It was dominated by the WWF’s Coliseum Video tapes that were mostly compilations, or shows like WrestleManias 1-3. This Survivor Series was actually a tough get, as it was rarely in stock. And this was not an event that they would talk about much later, keeping in line with the late 80s WWF policy of burying history almost as soon as it happens.
  • The production on this show is a bit strange. Everything looks much darker than most of the TV shows, the backstage interview area looked kind of grimy, and they used a graphics font that looked stolen from ESPN of the time. (Pre-Disney ESPN! Those were the days…)
  • Seeing Savage and Steamboat on the same team was quite surreal given that their feud stretched from November 1986 to mid-1987. And they hung out on the apron for a very long time as Jake Roberts was in a chinlock for what seemed like forever.
  • Everyone on Savage’s team except Jim Duggan had a high profile feud with the Honky Tonk Man within a year of this event: Steamboat, Beefcake (WrestleMania 4), and Roberts (WrestleMania 3)
  • Honky’s team is pretty sad:
    • Ron Bass: A guy who was an okay hand in the Florida territory and working around the NWA but never got going in WWF. His only feud of note was with Beefcake in late 1988 and that was it.
    • Danny Davis: Already reduced to a joke by this point for various reasons, such as the fact that he was not at all dynamic and that no one probably wanted to sell to “the guy was was a referee”.
    • King Harley Race: He actually was alright in 1987 working a fun series with Hulk Hogan at Madison Square Garden. His issue was with Duggan and he was out early via double countout.
    • Hercules: He had momentum in 1987 after winning the Billy Jack Haynes feud but that stalled out when Rick Rude joined the Heenan Family, which knocked Hercules down a peg in my opinion. He floated aimlessly until his face turn in 1988 and had the brief run as “the 3rd Megapower” before going back to….floating aimlessly.
  • Fun fact: The opening match is the only one where Honky Tonk Man got a pin on PPV using his finisher. Facing a 3 on 1 at the end, Honky left and took a countout. That was probably done so he could keep his heat, though he had lost non-title matches at shows earlier in the year as I discussed here.
  • There is a women’s match during a brief period when the WWF decided to pay attention to the division again, even having women’s tag team belts.
  • The heel team was led by Sensational Sherri, who had won the women’s title in her debut match from Fabulous Moolah in July at a show in Houston. Sherri was cheered then, but at some point they made her a heel….and Moolah as a face. I need that one explained to me.
  • Most of the women here were not good workers and got eliminated early. If you want to see someone screw up a victory roll, this is your match. To be fair, Velvet McIntyre wasn’t so bad outside of that move.
  • This is a showcase for the Glamour Girls and Jumping Bomb Angels. In 1986, the WWF had brought in the more famous Crush Gals but they were cast aside in all likelihood because of their look being too “butch” for Vince’s liking.
  • The Angels were great here, causing Jesse Ventura to openly mark out for them on commentary. It made me dream of Jesse calling an All Japan Women’s match from like 1995 with Manami Toyota or something. He’d lose his friggin’ mind.
  • Ted DiBiase is not on the card, but they play a long vignette from him in a limousine. The interior of the limo looks pretty crappy, even by 1987 standards. Gordon Gekko had a much better limo in “Wall Street”. He does allude to going for the world title and ponders his next step, which would eventually lead to this.
  • The best Million Dollar Man vignette to me is when he had the kids kicked out of the public pool. You may ask why he would need to use a public pool. THAT’S THE POINT! He’s just being a dick for the sake of being a dick. That’s why it’s so great.
  • I love the 10 team survivor matches from both ’87 and ’88 but the one in 1988 was much better than this one. Too many early eliminations this time, the presence of Dino Bravo and his sucktitude, and some very strange booking.
  • The Young Stallions were being pushed hard here on commentary for their fighting spirit as they kicked out of a lot of pin attempts in this match. This would be before the WWF brass realized that Roma and Powers hated each other so this wouldn’t work.
  • Interesting to see Demolition get DQ’d given where they would be 6 months later. It took them a very long time to get going after their debut in early 1987.
  • Tito Santana gets pinned clean here and I wonder if he was hurt because he was barely in the match. He is the THIRD champion on this show to be pinned cleanly. In fact, this is a strange show because every champion in the company did not emerge as a survivor.
  • Fun sight as the heel tag teams were represented by FIVE managers: Jimmy Hart (Hart Foundation), Bobby Heenan (Islanders), Slick (Bolsheviks), Johnny V (Dream Team), Mr. Fuji (Demolition). I love when the heel managers have to interact with each other.
  • The Islanders were made to look pretty strong here, though their push died with Tama’s firing in mid-1988. And the survivors were the Stallions and the Killer Bees which is beyond puzzling because that went nowhere too.
  • Hulk Hogan’s team was funny because it would be have been a great team in about 1981:
    • Don Muraco: He was filling in for Superstar Billy Graham who had just retired because he was crippled. He was the IC champ in 1981.
    • Ken Patera: Wearing the ugliest elbow brace in history. Why would Patera choose light beige as the color? Why not blue to match his gear, or red for America? Anything else would have been better. Patera was a great worker in the early 80s, but you’d never know looking at him here.
    • Paul Orndorff: Had literally just feuded with Hogan, which wrapped in early 1987. He was like the WWF’s Lex Luger in that he turned heel or face every year. But he was on the way out.
    • Bam Bam Bigelow: I loved the way they debuted him with the managers making a big deal about signing him. Why they had him be a babyface with Oliver Freaking Humperdink is beyond me
  • In one of the promo segments, someone refers to Andre’s team as “One Ton of Determination” which I liked. They were composed of Butch Reed, Rick Rude, One Man Gang, King Kong Bundy and Andre.
  • Andre the Giant’s hair looks weird here because it is so short and he doesn’t have the puffy sideburns we would see later.
  • Fun little tease early since this was the first time Hogan and Andre shared a ring since WrestleMania 3: Hogan pins Butch Reed and turns to celebrate with his team, high fiving Patera. Andre comes in as the next guy but the referee insists that Patera enter for Hulk because the high five was actually a tag. So Andre tags out disgustedly because he only wants Hogan.
  • Hogan is barely in the match before he gets counted out, but probably the strongest anyone has ever been booked in a countout loss. He was detained by the One Man Gang and Bundy, but Hulk slammed both of them on the floor.
  • This left Bigelow to face the three biggest men 1 on 3, a brilliant way to portray the huge Bam Bam as an underdog. He gets pins on Bundy and the Gang before Andre comes in and wastes him.
  • Andre was limited in mobility but I loved the way they used him as a Zach Britton type closer here. Except of course, they actually used him in the big spot.
  • Hogan comes back after the match like a sore loser and hits Andre with the belt so he can pose to end the show. Ventura wants to come out of retirement to take this guy down.

In all, a fun show that I enjoyed quite a bit. There isn’t much history here beyond two things: it was the first version of the Survivor Series and the oddity of every champion in the company losing in one night. But Ventura on commentary is always a good take and the nostalgia value is strong.

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