Reflections on 1988 Survivor Series

When I was given the opportunity to choose a show for review on The Lapsed Fan Wrestling Podcast, I had a lot to choose from even with all WrestleManias and Starrcades spoken for. I chose the 1988 Survivor Series, a show that I did see live and one that has so many interesting behind the scenes details. It is a show with Hillbilly Jim and Red Rooster in the main event. It is the only time we would see Tully Blanchard wrestle Bret Hart. It was a changing of the guard; Junkyard Dog, Don Muraco, Ken Patera, and the British Bulldogs are all guys who were either gone before this show or immediately afterward. And we see the arrival of The Rockers, The Brain Busters, Mr. Perfect, and Owen Hart as the Blue Blazer. Plus so many random appearances. Let’s dive in.

    • I’d really like to know Vince McMahon’s fetish for the Richfield Coliseum, hosting for the second year in a row. The building also hosted a Saturday Night’s Main Event in October 1986, which I covered here and went into the future of the arena. I think this was an effort to keep Crockett/WCW out of Ohio and giving the area big events was a means to that end.
    • Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse “The Pilgrim” Ventura are the hosts and this is underrated show for them. Lot of gems, stuff I didn’t pick up on as a kid. Like when Jesse makes fun of Gorilla for being old, saying he wrestled Jim Londos, a world champion of the 1930s.
    • Somehow, Honky Tonk Man picks another bad team:
      • Co captain is Ron Bass, who had his one feud with Brutus Beefcake at this point.
      • Danny Davis: he is eliminated via sleeper in about a minute.
      • Greg Valentine: The Hammer almost jumped to the NWA around this time but stayed for a renewed push that never materialized. The feud with Ron Garvin was fun, though.
      • Bad News Brown: Great character development here putting over Bad News as a misanthropic loner, when he walks out on his team.
    • Meanwhile, the Ultimate Warrior has Beefcake as a willing co-captain. No, he did not have to take Ed Leslie hostage like in 1998 WCW. They are joined by three very low level guys:
      • Sam Houston: Who spent a lot of time in the match, and just looked too small at all times during his WWF run.
      • Blue Blazer: The amusing part about his presence was how Ventura kept saying Blazer reminds him of his own work.
      • Jim Brunzell: The Killer Bees were dead, but he was subbing for Don Muraco, who was fired on the European tour for mocking agent Nick Bockwinkel.
    • Loved the sequence to eliminate Blazer, where sneaky Honky Tonk Man pushes him off the ropes, causing Blazer to land on his knees and opening him up for the Valentine figure four.
    • Beefcake and Honky have a double countout, continuing that feud that never got settled. Probably because cutting Honky’s hair would kill the gimmick.
    • Warrior eliminates Valentine and Bass quickly at the end, and he wasn’t in the match all that much. It’s for the best.
    • So much I love about the 10 team tag match, so I’ll start with this: the introduction taking so long that we get almost the entire Demolition theme.
    • Final match in the WWF for the British Bulldogs as a team. They lasted a long time for a good reason: their war with the Rougeaus was at a fever pitch and with Raymond getting pinned early, it got them out of the building quickly. Jacques had thrown a loaded punch at Dynamite, as described in Pat Patterson’s book. Interesting to hear in retrospect that Dynamite got both the WWF and Jacques to pay the dental bill for his lost teeth, so he made money off the deal. Doesn’t seem worth it, though.
    • One team has Shawn Michaels (PPV debut), Bret Hart, and the Bulldogs but the captains are the Warlord and Barbarian. I was into them as babyfaces and nostalgia based memory had them as more over than they actually were.
    • Tully Blanchard is the star of this match: his sequence with Bret Hart which is a singles feud I would loved to see. His stooging when faced with the Warlord and tagging out immediately. And then his sneaky distraction tactic later against the Barbarian. When Arn Anderson hits the big spinebuster, Tully does a fist pump to the crowd.
    • I want to see the camera angle from the cherry picker used more regularly. It was so unique. Of course, I don’t think it’s been used in 28 years, unless they did it in the years I didn’t watch. (2002-2013)
    • The beauty of this was they cut a very fast pace and didn’t eliminate teams too quickly. With that in mind….
    • The Conquistadors: Jose Estrada and Jose Luis Rivera had been around for a very long time, so I imagine this is something of a “thank you” for them. The banter between Gorilla and Jesse on them is funny, with Ventura making fun of Monsoon’s gambling habits. They put them at 40-1 to win it, which probably isn’t high enough. And built into the match is a reason for their survival: they kept getting thrown back to their corner to make improbable tags.
    • Less known is this is also the last time the Young Stallions would team up. The prior year, they had won the match but the two guys hated each other.
    • The Demolition/Powers of Pain double turn was not handled all that well. Complicating things was the fact that the Powers of Pain seemed to be more over in that arena than they usually were. Fuji up on the apron waving his cane for some reason, then Smash falling thru the ropes to be counted out. Little 9 year old me didn’t understand the concept of Fuji being entrenched as the heel, or double turns in general. There was also no build to this at all, it just sort of happened. It was the correct call, though.
    • Warlord and Barbarian help an elderly dude who was slammed on the ground. That makes them heels. No wonder I was confused. I had much to learn.
    • Conquistadors did a helluva job standing around for five minutes letting all that play out.
    • Bad News Brown explains his actions in a promo and demands a title shot because of his undefeated record (on TV). Sean Mooney (in his PPV debut) implies that he’s lying which is pretty funny. Brown took issue with Jack Tunney and actually roughed him up on the Brother Love Show. Really risque stuff, where Brown accuses Elizabeth of “doing favors” for Jack Tunney. This is the actual definition of innuendo, listeners of the Bruce Prichard podcast. Kind of funny that Brown assaults the president and faces no consequences.

      Bad News Brown had such a believable character. Drop him into 1999 and he still works, though the fans might have turned him babyface.

    • Gene Okerlund is asked to carry a segment where Mr. Fuji tries to explain why he turned on Demolition. Because there wasn’t a build, it made little sense. Why not wait for a title match to turn on them, Fuji? Then you’d keep the titles. To cap it all off, a rare occurrence as both Warlord and Barbarian speak. For a guy that size, Warlord has a funny voice.
    • There is only one reason why I like Andre the Giant being a co-captain with Dino Bravo: Andre got to come to the ring to the national anthem of his native country. Not sure why Bravo would use that when he was French Canadian, which is a different thing.
    • Here is a way for WWE to make my money beyond the Network monthly subscription and the occasional NXT show: sell retro Survivor Series t- shirts like Mr. Perfect and Harley Race are wearing. Why is WWE so loath to do retro things? People went nuts for the Gene Okerlund “update desk” thing he did for SummerSlam in 2014.
    • Speaking of Race, did you know he actually turned babyface not long after this? I never knew, because it never aired on TV outside of PRISM in Philadelphia.

      Race would wrap up his run at the Royal Rumble, losing to King Haku where Heenan was playing both sides so clearly they dismissed what happened here.

    • Jake Roberts and Hacksaw Duggan had a very sad team:
      • Scott Casey: a house show opener kind of guy, he was filling in for Brian Blair, who was supposed to be filling in for Junkyard Dog. Dave Meltzer once reported Casey was a gigolo in Las Vegas at one time, which at least makes him somewhat memorable.
      • Tito Santana: Completely lost and without a feud to speak of at this point with Rick Martel sidelined. The WWF put him back with Greg Valentine on house shows after this figuring a revival of the 1984-85 feud wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
      • Ken Patera: His final appearance, and by this time he was at a point where even Gorilla on commentary urged him to retire. That is funny because it was Patera who retired Monsoon in the early 1980s, a stipulation that Gorilla stuck to, with very few exceptions mostly limited to Puerto Rico.
    • Tito Santana trying a sunset flip on Andre the Giant hits me as a comedy spot every time.

17zr2tTito kicking the legs furiously to try and escape is great.

  • When Duggan gets DQ’d for using a 2X4, he yells “aw shit!” so loudly that it is bleeped on the Network.
  • Jake the Snake is a master of psychology even if he’s not the greatest wrestler, so his work in a 1 on 4 spot was pretty good, trying to stay in his own corner, etc. This was effectively the blowoff to the Rick Rude feud, as he gets a pin with a DDT.
  • Andre the Giant does his Mariano Rivera closer routine again, as he comes in and just chokes Jake for about a minute only breaking the hold for a beat every 5 seconds. He even bites him, getting across the fact that he is PISSED. Eventually he says “screw it” and just gets DQ’d. Mr. Perfect, ever a dick, comes in and pins Jake, hooking the leg and everything.
  • The team promo for what I call Team Mid-South/UWF (Akeem, Bossman, DiBiase, and Rooster all worked there) is fun.
    • Slick using the word “exact-a-tiggly”.
    • DiBiase again ignoring the Constitution of the United States to assert that Hercules is his slave.
    • Akeem: “Yo brotha, it’s called Survivah Series….and you looking at survivors. Hahaha! That’s the line.
    • “Can the Red Rooster talk?” asks Okerlund. It’s so funny how dead set they were on burying him.
    • Bossman just screaming and kind of ruining the jovial mood.
  • Not to be outdone, the Megapowers team cut their own crazy promo earlier in the show.
    • They have the same chain connecting them all.
    • Koko B. Ware: “How can we lose with the stuff we gonna use, TONIGHT!”
    • Hillbilly Jim: “gonna feel the heat from this ol’ kitchen tonight” This is Jim’s only PPV appearance that wasn’t a WrestleMania, since the ’88 Royal Rumble aired on USA Network.
    • Hercules was made the “3rd Megapower” in a Brother Love Show segment. Jeez, they really were pumping that Brother Love segment in the fall of 1988. Hercules manages to reference Guns ‘N Roses (“welcome to the jungle Million Dollar Man!”) and the Rolling Stones (“you don’t get what you want, you get what you need!”)
    • Hogan talks about seances and shit. Though he refers to Hercules as the strongest man in the world, putting his teammate over himself.
  • Hogan of course comes out last to his own music, which Savage gets his music for the rest of the team. But Savage has to wear Hogan’s colors.
  • “Hulkster and the Rooster!” – One of my favorite Gorilla lines as Rooster gets slaughtered.
  • The back of Koko’s tights say “WWF” and it is blurred out.
  • Jesse: I’m surprised Hogan didn’t cheap shot the Rooster, he’s got the chance! <pause> I would!
    Gorilla: I know you would.
    Jesse: So would you!
    Gorilla: No I wouldn’t, Jess.
    Jesse (exasperated): Oh, Gorilla! I don’t see no halo over your head!
  • Heenan screams at Rooster for losing, and that’s the beginning of the end for that pairing. Probably the biggest Bobby Heenan failure in the WWF for his entire run. Even the Brain once said the whole Brooklyn Brawler business was just nonsense.
  • DiBiase gets pinned via distraction rollup, like its a 2015 episode of RAW. Though it made some sense within the narrative of the evening, as Jesse points out that guys keep getting distracted through celebrating when they get a pin and are open to attack.
  • The Twin Towers were protected here with DQ/countout losses, which left Haku to face Hogan and Savage 1 on 2, but with Hogan handcuffed to the rope on the outside to I suppose give the illusion of overcoming the odds. Their mistake was cuffing Hogan to the rope, which allowed him mobility to knock down Heenan later. Should have done it to the turnbuckle.
  • Haku gets a lot of shine as the last heel in the match (just like last year!), so apparently he wasn’t being punished yet for the incident that summer in Baltimore where he bit a man’s nose. He got probation a week later on those charges.
  • The logic of Slick being kept around is fuzzy. Jesse says it is because he has the keys to the cuffs. Meanwhile, Savage keeps trying to tag Hogan and doesn’t know where he is. Slick makes the error of holding Savage, who gets out of the way of Haku’s thrust kick. This allows someone to get the keys.
  • Gorilla: Look at Elizabeth, going in his pocket!
    Jesse: She’s going after his wallet!
    Gorilla: She is not!
    Jesse: She’s trying to pickpocket Slick!
  • Ipso facto, Hogan is free and Haku is put away quickly after Savage tags the Hulk.
  • But the money is in the celebration, when this happened.
    17scrpWith each time Hogan did stuff like that, it got less and less subtle. At SummerSlam, Savage gave him a quick look. This is a much more angry look, and he points the finger later.

Summary: It’s clear I like this show, since I went longer than I anticipated. It flies by as it is only four matches, and is 2 hours 30 minutes.

For audio of me discussing this show, see the Lapsed Fan episode #100, where I appear at the 2 hour 14 minute mark for about 15 minutes.

Next time in this series: Survivor Series 1989. Did anything actually happen?

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