Reflections on 1990 Survivor Series

I have a confession about the 1990 Survivor Series. I bought the show, or at least got my parents to buy it for me. I skipped WrestleMania 6 and SummerSlam, so why did I come back? Like many, I wanted to see what was in the giant egg figuring that something built up that much was going to be awesome. So yeah, that’s my story. How about the rest of the 1990 Survivor Series from Hartford, CT?

  • Settle down, Fink
    Settle down, Fink

    The show did a buyrate of around 3% with 13,000 paid in the Hartford Civic Center, which still exists as the XL Center. I saw Pearl Jam there in 2010 and witnessed one of the greatest off-stage things ever at a concert. Someone in the aisle by my seat slipped and spilled two beers. A short time later, another person slipped on that beer and spilled two more beers. Right after that, ANOTHER person slipped on that mess and spilled one beer….and at that point the area was cleaned up.

  • Bruce Prichard did a recent episode of his podcast “Something to Wrestle With” on the topic of this show and it was very insightful. Like how he HATED the final “match of survival”.
  • Farewell, Jesse Ventura. Things haven’t been the same without you.
  • Match #1: The Warriors (Ultimate Warrior, Texas Tornado, Legion of Doom) vs. The Perfect Team (Mr. Perfect, Ax, Smash, Crush)
  • Mr. Fuji and Bobby Heenan are on the heel side as managers and did you know that they had a match in June 1991 at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island? I want to know everything about how this match came to be. They did have a brief row at the 1990 Royal Rumble but that was a long time beforehand. No footage of the match exists.
  • Ultimate Warrior is jerking the curtain here and wears trunks that say “The Only Warrior” on his ass. His teammates Legion of Doom (Road Warriors) and Tornado (“The Modern Day Warrior” Kerry Von Erich) both had warrior monikers.
  • Personally, I never liked Ultimate Warrior that much because he lacked Hogan’s charisma and his promos were nonsensical. Hogan might have been wacky but at least I understood what he meant. Though my favorite Warrior line in a promo is on this show later.
  • The most pathetic thing in the world is Ax running the ropes in this match. He was in rough shape and didn’t even bother slicking his hair. Sad way to see the former Masked Superstar go out in his final WWF match.
  • Typical lame double DQ probably prompted by the match of survival, since they didn’t want Legion of Doom to advance to that match so those two and Smash and Crush are wiped out at one time.
  • Through four editions of Survivor Series, I think Mr. Perfect is the MVP of the four in total despite not being around in 1987. He carried this match, was the star in 1989, and was excellent in 1998.
  • Rare example of WWF doing a WCW thing: Perfect had won back the IC title a week earlier from Texas Tornado but it hadn’t aired on Superstars yet so Von Erich has the belt. But Perfect beats him with a Perfectplex facing a 2 on 1.
  • We only got one year of the Heenan/Perfect combo between 1990/91 and it only makes me wish they had been put together when Perfect came to the WWF in 1988. Skip the Red Rooster angle and put Perfect there at the same time the Brain Busters came in. Imagine a Heenan family of the Busters, Perfect and Rude as the Minnesota boys, King Haku, and Andre. Holy shit.
  • The WrestleFest arcade game came out in June 1991 in North America and if you don’t think that game is awesome, I can’t help you. Perfect was my guy in that game because the Perfectplex was such a great move to use.
  • Warrior kicks out of the Perfectplex but without a Hulk-up of any kind. He does win the match, as expected. But his title reign was on borrowed time.
  • The Million Dollar Team (Ted DiBiase, Honky Tonk Man, Greg Valentine, Undertaker) vs. The Dream Team (Dusty Rhodes, Koko B. Ware, Bret Hart, Jim Neidhart)
  • The Undertaker was not introduced as Kane the Undertaker as he was at the prior TV taping. For the best that they dropped that Kane bit.
  • In publicity shots, Bad News Brown was with DiBiase’s team but he didn’t work at all after Summerslam so that was something planned that never happened.
  • Dusty Rhodes was going with more subtle polka dots, red ones along the hips instead of the garish yellow ones. He was allowed to leave for WCW to become booker there one a few conditions: that he stay through the Royal Rumble, and also put anyone and everyone over on the way out. Like Virgil in 90 seconds.
  • Bret Hart’s brother Dean passed away the day before this show from kidney failure. Bret alludes to this in his book as a “battling death in a strange morality play” because he started the match facing the Undertaker.
  • It was nice of Koko B. Ware to don pink tights to match the Hart Foundation. Ware took the first Tombstone from the Undertaker and it looked like a pretty stiff one. That is confirmed by the story that Ware confronted him in the back after the match about being careless.
  • Dusty is pinned by Taker are he walks the ropes, then gets the boots put to him by Brother Love of all people. Undertaker defends his manager and gets counted out, a convenient way to remove him from the match.
  • Jim Neidhart, tag champion, is pinned with a clothesline, starting a long Survivor Series tradition of pins from ordinary clotheslines. The Anvil had been fired about a month previous, but was brought back almost right away and the tag title change to the Rockers was rescinded.
  • The final two here are Bret Hart and Ted DiBiase, a feud that should have happened but we never got. They tear it up, and Bret breaks out the pescado. This is like Perfect-Snuka from ’89 turned up to 11, in Nigel Tufnel parlance. Four minutes of awesomeness, and Bret even does the goldbricking move that won him the world title against Diesel at the same PPV five years later.
  • I am not a lip reader, but 100% of all viewers know that Bret said “Fuck!” after getting pinned when DiBiase reversed a bodypress.
  • DiBiase would face the Warrior for the WWF title on The Main Event the next night. NBC moved the show from Saturday to Friday and cut it from 90 minutes to an hour.
  • Match #3 The Visionaries (Rick Martel, Warlord, Hercules, Paul Roma) vs. The Vipers (Jake Roberts, Jimmy Snuka, Marty Jannetty, Shawn Michaels)
  • How about that Vipers team….Michaels is the LEAST screwed up of those guys.
  • Rick Martel is already a Hall of Famer per my writings here, and the giant “Yes, I am a model” button only adds to his case. God, I hope they induct him this year. That HOF capsule for him will be such a joy to write.
  • Piper makes multiple references to fighting Snuka and even makes a coconut comment. A tangent about that: The famous Piper’s Pit was filmed in March 1984 but did not air in most of the country until June. (It aired in St. Louis only at first) When it did air, Gene Okerlund appeared beforehand and talked about how reprehensible Piper was for doing what he did, because it toed racial lines.

I’m not sure if they were nervous, because society was not PC then. But it really put over Piper as a colossal prick.

  • Hercules and Roma were running hot as Power and Glory at this point and Piper calls them “either the team of the 90s or 2nd runner up”. So they’ll either be #1 or #3. Got it.
  • P&G got screwed by WCW in a very indirect way. The Nasty Boys made a name for themselves by having a great match with the Steiners at Halloween Havoc 1990, but they were not under contract. So Vince swooped in and stole them, and put the tag titles on them at WrestleMania 7. This left Hercules and Roma in an untenable position, losing in less than a minute to Legion of Doom.
  • The Warlord backdrops Michaels so high at one point that 80% of Shawn leaves the screen. One of the highest you were ever see. The Rockers were experts in getting high during this time period.
  • I don’t think Michaels and Martel hit each other in the face, just like Summerslam 1992.
  • Martel pins Snuka with an inside cradle because he’s a master technician.
  • Michaels loses via the Powerplex, the superplex/top rope splash combo from P&G.
  • This is the 2nd time in three years that Jake faced a 4 on 1 situation and he didn’t fare as well this time. He did get a DDT on Warlord but didn’t get a pin and instead chased Martel to the back. The Model did not get counted out despite Undertaker getting eliminated in similar fashion.
  • It is very fitting that Martel’s music plays in the background as Gorilla Monsoon read a promo for the 1991 Royal Rumble, which is Martel’s magnum opus.
  • Match #4: The Hulkamaniacs (Hulk Hogan, Tugboat, Big Bossman, Hacksaw Jim Duggan) vs. The Natural Disasters (Earthquake, Dino Bravo, Haku, Barbarian)
  • Piper on Duggan: “I love this guy!”; they were pretty close all the way up thru their time on Legends House on WWE Network.
  • Funny how Tugboat is facing a team whose name is the name of future tag team of his.
  • Another Prichard gem from that podcast: the WWF would never use a camera angle that would show the top of Hogan’s head.
  • After Haku gets pinned by Bossman, Piper says “There ain’t no whistles, except for that pretty chick down there!” Good thing Gabe Sapolsky isn’t policing harmless speech here and allowed to grandstand as if wrestling fans are delicate snowflakes. (Aside: He was entitled to fire Joey Styles if he wished, but the way he chose to grandstand was so off-putting. It’s fucking wrestling dude, not some safe space. The whole thing was just a vehicle for people who already disliked Joey Styles to pile on.)
  • Very impressive spot when Earthquake catches Bossman coming off the top rope.
  • Piper suggests that Tugboat is being saved for when fewer guys are out there. He ain’t not closer, and if he was it would be like Mitch Williams for the ’93 Phillies in Toronto.
  • Shane McMahon is the outside referee on this night and he’s amusing me by how over-animated and fake he is.
  • Hogan and the Barbarian is the final battle, and ol’ Barbie might have been a decent Hogan opponent for a brief run. Like during 1991 just to take a break from Slaughter. Might have worked if Heenan was still able to manage. Hogan hulks up from the flying clothesline so maybe that killed the program before it could ever begin.
  • There is a platform interview segment with Macho King Randy Savage, who challenges Ultimate Warrior.
  • Would have been nice to see Savage as a heel world champion since every time he won the title it was as a babyface. His only heel run was in the 8 weeks in 1989 after the Megapowers meltdown up to WrestleMania 5. And that was red hot at the box office everywhere. I think by the mid-90s, Savage’s connection with Slim Jim made a heel turn a non-starter.
  • Match #5: The Alliance (Nikolai Volkoff, Tito Santana, Bushwhackers) vs. The Mercenaries (Sgt. Slaughter, Boris Zhukov, Orient Express – Sato and Tanaka version)
  • Okerlund stops Slaughter in the aisle for a very long promo. Emphasis on long. “I Sgt. Slaughter salute one flag. And that flag is the banner of that brave Iraqi nation!” He runs down the troops, President Bush….it goes on a while.
  • The whole point of this was to elevate Slaughter, according to Prichard. However, he added that this match is the shits.
  • Zhukov replaced Akeem, who would have been a rather strange fit in that group.
  • None of the Alliance has a kayfabe hometown in the US.
  • Isn’t it funny how there was an “Alliance” Survivor Series team 11 years ahead of the end of the hideous “invasion” angle?
  • They were clearly screwed on time because this match is rush rush rush. I don’t think there is a single tag made. The Bushwhacker comedy stuff is weird next to the American traitor.
  • All kinds of weird screwups: Sato is pinned but isn’t even the legal man which was glaring, Tanaka stands in the wrong corner for a while waiting for a tag.
  • All of Slaughter’s teammates are gone within two and a half minutes. Then he pins both Bushwhackers and Volkoff in methodical fashion.
  • This allows Tito Santana and Slaughter to have a 4 minute match. At this point, I notice that Danny Davis is the referee; the same Davis who constantly fucked over Tito in 1986-87 during his heel ref angle.
  • Davis is bumped and General Adnan takes the opportunity to come into the ring and stab Tito with the flag. Slaughter with the Camel Clutch and thinks he won, but he was DQ’d.
  • Great gesture to give a win to Tito, the consummate WWF company man for the 1980s. Wouldn’t be the last time he got a surprising win.

Great finish to that match.

  • Gobbledy Gooker segment
  • Gene Okerlund makes a mistake here before the egg hatches, suggesting the Playmate of the Month. That got everyone’s hopes up.
  • Piper tries like hell to get this over, but there is nothing he could do.
  • I am not automatically opposed to all stupid stuff like this: I didn’t hate the Hogan vs Giant monster truck battle at Halloween Havoc 1995.
  • Prichard revealed that Gooker (played by Hector Guerrero) was supposed to perform higher spots like moonsaults but was uncomfortable doing it with the costume on, so he settled for doing tumbles. Okerlund does one too, but it doesn’t really help. It just prolonged the agony.
  • The idea was to make Gooker a mascot a la the San Diego Chicken, something you could send to events make money on. Yeah, in theory.
  • Hogan, Warrior, Tito promo
  • And now it is time for my favorite Ultimate Warrior promo ever.

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  • Warrior refers to “Hulkamania, Warrior Wildness, and ‘Arriba-derci'”. ARRIBA-DERCI! That is by far the most clever thing the Ultimate Warrior ever said. I love that so so much.
  • Match #6: Tito Santana, Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior vs. Ted DiBiase, Rick Martel, Warlord, Hercules, Paul Roma
  • Everything is in a rush. The Network run time on this show is a mere 2 hours 24 minutes so I don’t know if they had a curfew or what. With that in mind, Warlord gets pinned by Tito inside a minute. Nice to see Santana get his heat back from the 1990 Summerslam loss.
  • Hogan murders the Powerplex, no selling the move. Really pisses me off. Not saying he should have done a clean job…do the move to Tito.
  • DiBiase insinuated that he paid off his teammates to do a good job in a pre-match promo, which made it funnier when Martel decided he had enough and just left.
    • DiBiase got ripped off a LOT by people in the WWF. Let us count the ways:
      • Paid Heenan $1 million for Andre. Didn’t get to keep belt, sold Andre back for 10 cents on the dollar
      • Paid Slick (presumably) for #30 at 1989 Rumble, loses anyway.
      • Paid Heenan for Hercules services, ended up with nothing.
      • Paid Slick for Bossman to get the Million Dollar Belt back from Jake Roberts, got nothing for it.
    • I should note he did get value from Repo Man for helping to repossess the Million Dollar Belt in late 1991.
  • Interesting to see Warrior put Hercules away to end the match as it was his first high profile feud. They had a lousy match at Wrestlemania 4.

Summary: This is a show that people really seem to love, so it’s always the guilty pleasure of WWF fans of the era. As for me, I prefer 1988 and 1991 much more than this. There’s a very good reason why they never did the match of survival final ever again: it just didn’t work and seemed totally anticlimactic.

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