Reflections on 1989 Survivor Series

I was able to see every WWF PPV live in the calendar year 1989. That’s the 1st PPV Royal Rumble, WrestleMania 5, SummerSlam, and yes, the No Holds Barred: The Match/The Movie show. Oh and this Survivor Series from Chicago, where the only thing people seem to remember is Tully Blanchard being pulled and replaced by Bobby Heenan. Something more must have happened, because I took 2 1/2 pages of notes on this!

  • This show marks a return of Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura. It’s unclear why Tony Schiavone was not on this show; he worked many Starrcades so he didn’t have a problem working Thanksgiving. No answers on that. Feel free to ask Tony if you see him.
  • The show starts with a montage of what WWF superstars are thankful for. Highlights include Ted DiBiase “that I’m rich and you’re not!” and Roddy Piper “I’m glad that I’m not Ricky Rude!” in a mocking tone.
  • Big change this year and they move to 4 on 4 and drop the tag team elimination match. This sucks because tag team guys usually end up doing pathetic jobs in these matches and don’t have any sort of showcase. But having it 4 on 4 is good because you will have fewer crazy substitutions like the previous year. Looking at you, Scott Casey.
  • Match #1 Dream Team (Dusty Rhodes, Brutus Beefcake, Red Rooster, Tito Santana) vs. The Enforcers (Big Bossman, Rick Martel, Honky Tonk Man, Bad News Brown)
  • It was natural that Dusty Rhodes and Big Bossman would feud since Dust gave Ray Traylor his big break as the bodyguard for Jim Cornette and the Midnight Express in Jim Crockett Promotions in 1986.
  • Funny how Dusty and Terry Taylor are together. When Taylor joined JCP after the buyout of the UWF in 1987, Taylor was doing a not flattering impersonation of Dusty at some point and Rhodes saw him doing it. And that is why Taylor left for World Class in early 1988.
  • Brown is filling in for Akeem and spends much of his time stalking the apron and mouthing off to ringside. Just like last year, he gets hit by a teammate by accident so Brown leaves the match. That’s some good character building, I truly BELIEVED the guy was that much of a loner.
  • Rick Martel is very solid in this match; he’s thought of justifiably as the ultimate babyface but he’s got some decent heel offense too. It’s too bad he never really got a shot to be at the IC title level at the very least. He got a pin on Santana via rollup reversal plus a grab of tights, which was their staple finish at house show matches at the time.
  • This is during the “unnamed black woman cheering Dusty” period, who turned into Sapphire. She is seen mouthing off to Slick, and they were familiar with each other from the Central States territory.
  • Beefcake FINALLY gets a pin on Honky Tonk Man after all these years, a feud dating to mid-1987.
  • In this rewatch, I popped huge for Bossman’s side slam on Red Rooster, who was already getting his ass kicked.
  • Dusty gets the win with a surprisingly high crossbody on Bossman, who gets his heat back by cuffing the Dream and beating him withe a nightstick and managing to bust open of Dusty’s many forehead scars.
  • In the back at what appears to be near the curtain, Bossman is with Sean Mooney who calls the former prison guard’s actions “deplorable”. Huh. Interesting choice of words from a 2016 perspective.
  • Match #2 The King’s Court (Randy Savage, Dino Bravo, Greg Valentine, CANADIAN Earthquake) vs. The 4X4s (Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Ron Garvin, Bret Hart, Hercules
  • Monsoon says fans are “literally hanging off the rafters” and that reminds me: Gorilla has some culpability in society’s misuse of the world literally.
  • Quake is filling in for Widow Maker aka Barry Windham, whose life was about to get really fucking weird. His father and brother would do time in jail for possessing $500,000 in counterfeit $20 bills.
  • I decided to rank all 8 guys in terms of being workers at this particular point in time to give one side an edge: 1. Hart 2. Savage 3. Valentine 4. Quake 5. Garvin 6. Duggan 7. Hercules 8. Bravo. You could convince me to swap Garvin and Quake, but Bravo is so much worse than even Hercules, so edge to Hacksaw’s team.
  • Who wins Canada vs US here? You may not know that Garvin is a Quebecer since he was billed from North Carolina and didn’t talk all that much. Again, going with USA because they do not have Dino Bravo.
  • Ron Garvin working on Thanksgiving in Chicago for the 2nd time in 3 years. Unlike Starrcade 1987, he got cheers this time.
  • Randy Savage didn’t work a lot of tag team matches in the WWF but he is masterful at working the apron with gestures to the crowd, grabbing legs and arms to cheat. I really enjoyed his random kick of Garvin after he had been vanquished.
  • This was during Bret Hart aborted singles push #2 or #3 depending how you’re scoring it. It’s unmistakable how over he is at this point relative to his positioning. Fans were ready for him 2 years before he won a singles title.
  • A feud we should have seen in 1993 or so: heel Randy Savage vs babyface Bret Hart. This match is the only time we ever get that combination. It’s kind of shocking seeing Bret Hart lose cleanly to the flying elbow.
  • Duggan gets counted out so Bravo, Quake and Savage all survive. Best part of the post-match is Savage taking a bump over the top rope and the Macho King crown staying on his head.
  • The Genius reads a poem for some reason. Two nights later, his countout win over Hulk Hogan aired on Saturday Night’s Main Event.
  • Match #3: The Hulkamaniacs (Hulk Hogan, Jake Roberts, Demolition) vs. The Million Dollar Team (Ted DiBiase, Zeus, Powers of Pain)
  • Not the first time Hogan and Ax work side by side in 1989; in the opening scene of No Holds Barred, Bill Eadie plays Jake Bullet, the opponent for Hogan’s Rip character.
  • Some guy holds up a huge NWA sign opposite the hard camera, but try as I might I couldn’t read what it said. Sorry dude, HD wouldn’t come for another 19 years.
  • Zeus gets DQ’d right out of the chute for shoving a ref, but he manages to do that neck twist thing to Hogan before he leaves.
  • Did DiBiase and Savage have some kind of Zeus timeshare agreement? They kind of went back and forth on that.
  • Ax botches positioning because he was supposed to be tripped by Mr. Fuji, so he changes course in a most awkward manner.
  • Smash is wearing a pad over his arm tattoo. I don’t think he always did that, because that mark was how I knew Smash and Repo Man were the same guy. I recall getting a small amount of respect from schoolyard chums for cracking that case in late ’91.
  • A comment on two moves in the DiBiase arsenal:
    • Someone needs to steal and bring back to falling side fist drop.
    • Ted never connected on the blind back elbow off the 2nd rope after about March 1988.
  • Powers of Pain do a fucking spike piledriver on Hogan and I am glad I was sitting down for that, it was totally out of left field. It’s interesting that they do the move associated with the Brain Busters on the Busters’ final night in WWF. Warlord and Barbarian both get DQ’d and now Jesse Ventura is very angry because Hogan has knocked out 3 guys without pinning any of them.
  • Virgil takes a DDT at one point and it’s funny how Ted dumps his bodyguard under the rope like he’s taking out the trash.
  • When the final two are DiBiase and Hogan, I think you know how that ends.
  • They are really doing a hard sell on the No Holds Barred PPV coming up, and Beefcake and Hogan do an interview in the locker room. But Sherri barges in to pave the way for an attack from Savage and Zeus. Not bad stuff here.
  • At least they didn’t make a bigger deal about the next PPV on the current PPV, like with This Tuesday in Texas being plugged at 1991 Survivor Series.
  • Match #4 Rude’s Brood (Rick Rude, Mr. Perfect, Rougeau Brothers) vs. Roddy’s Rowdies (Roddy Piper, Jimmy Snuka, Bushwhackers)
  • Piper teaming with Snuka is almost as weird as Savage and Steamboat in 1987, though 5 1/2 years had passed since the coconut incident.
  • Piper’s whole team is like the Don Owen Pacific Northwest Wrestling All Stars. Piper was a staple in the Portland territory, and Snuka was champion multiple times. And Butch Miller and Luke Williams had a good run there as the Sheepherders. Piper was also the one who gave Williams his hair style.

    It’s weird to even think of Luke having hair. That match took place in 1980.

  • Rude and Perfect together are just so awesome. They do the spot which we would see again in the 1990 Royal Rumble with roles reversed; this time Rude holds the rope down to pull himself up just as Perfect hits the ropes and he goes up and over.
  • No Bobby Heenan here for reasons that will become clear in the next match. But Rude didn’t like having Heenan as a manager, making him an outlier. He felt that the Brain stole his heat. At this time, the “dissension in the Heenan Family” angle was being played up heavily.
  • Jacques Rougeau takes the Superfly splash after only about 4 minutes. This is what I meant by tag team wrestlers having no showcase.
  • Gorilla puts over Mr. Perfect strong and in a way you didn’t hear too often with heels.
  • Piper and Rude’s encounter is all too brief before they each are counted out. I have been informed that their house show matches were excellent. Unfortunately most of the readily available footage is Coliseum Video and not on YouTube.
  • Great three minute sprint between Perfect and Snuka to cap it off, with a bunch of near falls. Snuka puts his head down for a back drop and that is how he is caught in the Perfect Plex. Very very rare for a heel in WWF to go over 100% clean like that, using a finisher.
  • Match #5 The Ultimate Warriors (Ultimate Warrior, Jim Neidhart, The Rockers) vs. Heenan Family (Andre the Giant, Haku, Arn Anderson, Bobby Heenan)
  • There has been no mention at all of Heenan wrestling or of Tully Blanchard not. This was all disguised in the dissention angle.
  • Sad!

    Poor Andre the Giant: gets caught in the ring at the bell, gets sent out on his face to the outside and gets counted out in no time. He’s wearing the sad blue singlet that indicates to me that the end is near. And he was doing 30 second job losses to the Warrior on house shows at this point, which made me feel bad at the time and pissed off a lot of fans too, but having main events that short.

  • Warrior like Hogan got a huge break here with Heenan in for Tully, and Andre out so soon. Ventura didn’t complain about that as much.
  • I always enjoy Arn Anderson matches, but putting him with Haku raises the badass meter.
  • Really bizarre sequence: Marty Jannetty takes Haku’s finisher, the big thrust kick. He kicks out, so Haku tags Bobby the Brain who drops a knee….and gets the pin. Wonder who Marty pissed off, or more accurately, what he did this time.
  • Ultimate Warrior doing bear hug spots is like one pile of shit breeding with another pile of shit.
  • Warrior makes up for that by doing a friggin’ Rocket Launcher with Shawn Michaels…but Arn Anderson kicks out. He jobbed to the Midnight Express right before coming to WWF, and he ain’t jobbing to one of their moves on the way out.
  • Always thought it was funny that Heenan has the mini-Andre the Giant singlet, black edition.
  • For a guy leaving the company, Arn Anderson got to stay in for a while probably because Vince McMahon did like him a lot.
  • Big spinebuster on Michaels and I admit to popping huge for that move. Again.
  • After Arn gets pinned (which Heenan did not see), the Brain begs Arn to come back to save him. On consecutive cross corner whips, Heenan channels both Harley Race and Ric Flair with the flops.

Summary: So I guess some things happened, but nothing of consequence. They set up a future PPV match that isn’t even on WWE Network. The Heenan Family angle progressed, a little. The most interesting thing is probably how Warrior was positioned to end the show, not Hogan. A chilling vision of things to come.

Three stars: 1. Mr. Perfect 2. Randy Savage 3. Arn Anderson (he had to carry a lot)

Next time: The 1990 Survivor Series, or That Show I Bought Because I Wanted To See What Was In The Egg

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