The first Survivor Series I remember ordering live was actually the Survivor Series 1991. This kicked off a four year tradition in which WWE did the Survivor Series live on Thanksgiving Eve. Prior to this, Survivor Series was actually held on Thanksgiving Day. Let me tell you, the idea of spending the day with the family, watching the parade in the morning and football during the day all the while eating a great feast and then ending off the day with the Survivor Series sounds incredible. Unfortunately, i was too young to remember that and my family didn’t have cable until 1991 so I only remember having the Survivor Series on Thanksgiving Eve. That being said, being able to prepare for Thanksgiving with some wrestling was still pretty cool and was a reason why I still equate Survivor Series with one of my favorite holidays to this day. I fondly remember my family gathering around the television set watching two teams of five strive to survive and then waking up to watch Santa Claus come into town at the main event of the Macy’s Day Parade the next morning. I suppose WWE moved the event away from Thanksgiving because of how busy people are during the holidays. That being said, having the event centered around Thanksgiving added to the Survivor Series identity. To this day, my father and I will reminisce about those first batch of Survivor Series shows and remember the days when the only turkey that meant something to our family was…the Gobbledy Gooker!
1987-1989: The thing about these shows is that I actually didn’t see them until the early 2000s. There was a local wrestling store that rented out wrestling tapes (like a wrestling blockbuster) and I rented each one from there and loved each one of them. I remember the uniqueness of the two teams made up of five random superstars battling in the ultimate match for survival taking up the entire card and that gimmick match remains one of my favorites to this day. A good survivor series elimination match rivals only the royal rumble as my favorite match to go back and watch if ever I’m bored or have 20 minutes to kill. I just loved all of the unique pairings and the different team names like Rude’s Brood or the Roddy’s Rowdies. The matches that really stood out to me during the first two events, in particular, had to be the tag team survivor series matches. These matches were so cool in that instead of it being five superstars on each team, there were five tag teams on each team (20 men and 10 teams in the match total) . When one guy would be eliminated his entire team would be eliminated and the match would continue until only one team was left standing. It’s incredible to think that there were ten viable teams on the roster and being a fan of tag team wrestling, it’s something I hope to see once again in WWE.
1990- The thing I really liked about this survivor series and for some reason was only done one time was the Ultimate Survival match. Throughout the night there was a series of traditional survivor series matches and then at the end of the night all of winners who were good guys squared off against all of the winners who were bad guys. A really fun idea, that to this day I think this would be a cool concept to bring back for any event. Of course the 1990 show is also remembered most fondly for two debuts, the Undertaker and the Gobbledy Gooker. I remember being petrified of the Undertaker as a child, it was just something I was prepared for at all. As for the Gooker, yes he was silly, but as a four year old, i loved him. I would often hope for the Gooker to make a return and even used my Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat hasbro higure as the gooker from time to time. The Gobbledy Gooker was the only turkey that mattered to my family. In all serious though, as a fan at the time, it had to be a let down.
1991- This was the first Survivor Series to feature a non traditional survivor series match in the form of the World Title Match between Hulk Hogan and The Undertaker. While, in the beginning, I always felt like standard matches had no place on the Survivor Series card, I understood why the change was made. Prior to 1991, the Survivor Series never had any titles on the line. Thus, if you measured shows based on title changes for their level of importance, Survivor Series never really had anything you had to see from that perspective. If you didn’t dig the Survivor Series elimination match concept, chances are you’d skip the show. Thus, adding a good mix was necessary for the long haul and I’m glad WWE has kept the traditional survivor series matches at least to some extent. If there was one other thing I remember about this show was how much as a 5 year old I was excited that they were adding in another show “This Tuesday In Texas” and how annoyed my poor dad was who knew he was about to be suckered out of more money by Vince McMahon. Looking back, I could see where my dad was coming from. The hottest storyline at the time was between Randy Savage and Jake Roberts (remember the snake bite) but they were taken off their teams and the main event here was a throwaway 6 man with the LOD and Bossman against IRS and the Natural Disasters. Savage and Roberts ( a focal point of the build to this show), were held off until This Tuesday In Texas. Even the title change on Survivor Series was done to build up the rematch at This Tuesday In Texas. Of course, five year old me just thought more wrestling and we had to order it but it really leaves a bad taste in my mouth in regards to Survivor Series 1991
1992– Survivor Series 1992 was the year in which they really moved away from the traditional Survivor Series Tag matches to the fact there was only one. In a way it made sense as WWE only had four pay per views a year and so it was as if they were looking for a way to try and put on a third standard supershow like Summerslam and Wrestlemania. The thing that stood out to me here, even at six years old, was how random it was that Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels main evented this show just because it seemed it a little early for Michaels. One other thing I remember at the end was when it randomly started snowing in the arena and Santa came down to celebrate with Bret. Maybe a little hokey but for it’s time it was great. It solidified that Bret was a main eventer for the company because that was stuff you would only see Hogan do in the late 80s, early 90s.
1993– This one is almost certainly just me but go back and start the 1993 survivor series. Although it’s a little hokey, I really liked the Happy Thanksgiving message from the Luger family. Going back to what I said about always thinking about the survivor series as part of a Thanksgiving tradition, I thought this was a nice touch. I would have loved to see some more of the superstars saying what they were thankful for and sending wishes all the while, similar to the start of the Survivor Series 1989. It would have added to the events in a similar way that that the messages from the troops do to those Tribute to the Troops specials that WWE does so well with.
1994- King’s Court Vs. Clowns R Us! Ah, the good old days! Other than that, Owen Hart did the best job ever in being believable during his crying routine during the title match. I remember thinking that the Backlund was actually crazy and really hurting Bret so much that even Owen had a change of heart. Of course in the end it was all an act and I bought it hook line and sinker!
1995- The thing I remember most about this show was just how afraid of the Undertaker I was when he returned at this show with the Phantom of the Opera like mask. I mean look at him above. If you’re telling me you weren’t scared then I’m calling you a liar. Seriously though, I had my father turn off the TV and I listened to the feed over the stereo over the speakers while my dad and (6 year old) sister ran upstairs to watch the match on another television. How embarrassing.
That’s going to do it for the first part of my WWE Survivor Series retrospective, check back here later today when I’ll take you guys back for a trip through the WWE Survivor 1996 which took place right here in New York City. Until then, I’d love to hear some of your early Survivor Series memories.