The Spotlight On The Survivor Series- Pt. 5-2011

I’m going to jump ahead a bit here on the survivor series retrospective and look back at Survivor Series 2011, a show I attended live at Madison Square Garden.  2011 was one of the more interesting times to be a WWE fan.  CM Punk was going through a period of time in which he was the most popular man on the roster following the summer of punk, Daniel Bryan had become world champion for the first time, the Rock had returned to the company and Zack Ryder had an absolute breakout year.  This was also the year that I attended the Royal Rumble, Wrestlemania and the Survivor Series so it was a pretty big year for me as a fan, you could say.

The 2011 Survivor Series was held live from Madison Square Garden and my buddy from work and I were planning on attending the event since the day tickets went on sale which was a first for me as I’m naturally a last minute planner.  I remember on the Friday leading up the Survivor Series there was a huge WWE party in the city, I believe it was in Penn Station.  CM Punk was there for a meet and greet and there was contest running that you could go to the event and win a private bus tour around New York City with Zack Ryder and Jimmy Hart.  My buddy and I were huge Ryder fans as we watched every Z True Long Island Story the day it came out while at work.  Being that our job only had so many employees, however, it was difficult for us both to get the day off together so we agreed to skip the party, though we did spend the day wishing we were there and scouring twitter for updates and photos from the event.

On survivor series Sunday, I remember my girlfriend at the time, begged me not to go.  There was a big time NY Giants game that night and she made up her mind that despite me dropping about $100 on tickets to the event with my friend, she didn’t want me to go to the show.  Though it was a hard decision,  I went to the show and we ended up breaking up two weeks later.

As for the show itself, this was also, to the best of my knowledge the last pay per view to be held at the Garden, to this date and it was a really big deal for us.  There’s something about going a show at MSG that is like none other.  I remember my buddy and I getting there at Penn Station early enough to grab a bite at Roy Rogers and then went down to wait online with the thousands of fans in attendance.  From the second we got there this crowd was all about Zack Ryder.  There were “We Want Ryder” chants in the lobby as many were frustrated that Ryder was not given a US title match against Dolph Ziggler on this show despite both men petitioning for the match on youtube and twitter, and instead John Morrison was given the match on his last night with the company.

In many ways it’s odd the crowd was so into Ryder as this was also the Rock’s first time back in New York and first match back since his return to the company in early 2011.  That said, When Ryder finally did make an appearance to run off Ziggler, this wasn’t only the biggest pop of the nght but the biggest pop I’ve heard in MSG with the exception of John Cena’s Royal Rumble 2008 return.  In fact, after the show when the Rock was making his speech to the live crowd, the Ryder Revolution, was still out in full force as the crowd chanted over the Rock’s speech until the Rock himself had to say “ Hell Yeah love Zack Ryder Woo Woo Woo and all that stuff!” It was probably the pinnacle of Zack Ryder’s career in many ways and it’s a shame he never really took off to the extent, at least that the New York crowd wanted him to on this night.

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Me and my buddy following the Survivor Series 

Follow the show, I remember my buddy and I racing out of the arena, past the idiot fans who were almost arrested for having a hardcore match taking unprotected chair shots to the head with the chair they got from the floor seats of the show, and down the street to a small theater.  We had tickets to a Mick Foley comedy show that were on sale for only $5 the week before.  This was still during the period of time where Mick just wanted to show people what he can do as he was still pretty early into his comedy run.

Mick was really good that night, he’s gotten better since, but with a bunch of diehard WWE fans in attendance following the Surivor Series, he was on fire. I remember there was a small VIP area that had a few Superstars there to watch like Dolph Ziggler and John Morrison.  Unfortunately, in New York City when you’re taking the long island railroad at least on the Port Washington line the trains leaving Penn station run on a schedule of 11:15, 12:15, 1:15 and then 3:15.  Thus, with work the next day, my friend and I agreed that we had to catch the 1:15 train.  What we didn’t think was that Mick would still be on the stage come 1AM.  This led to an embarrassing moment where my buddy and I had to run out of a small theater in an attempt not to be noticed only to have Mick say “Ladies and Gentleman, I’m so bad people are actually running out of the theater. “

When I was getting ready for bed that night, I checked the twitter feeds of some friends I knew were in attendance at the Foley show and at 2:30AM one of my friends tweeted that he was on line waiting to meet Mick.  Two thoughts crossed my mind, 1) Damn I missed a free Mick Foley meet and greet and 2) We probably wouldn’t have gotten out of there in time to catch the 3:14AM train!

All in all though another really fun experience that actually is probably most remembered not only for Ryder’s huge night but also for the first night of CM Punk’s 400+ day title reign.  I’ll end by saying that by reminiscing about this show, above all else, it makes me hope WWE runs the Garden for a pay per view again someday because there really is nothing like it. New York City is a great WWE crowd.

The Spotlight on the Survivor Series Pt. 4- 2002

2002 has to be the most under rated year for WWE, you had the debuts of John Cena, Randy Orton and Brock Lesnar, you had the in ring returns of Hulk Hogan and Shawn Michaels and you had one of the most impressive mid cards ever to take place in the WWE. 2002 was also a year in which I attended my first live WWE pay per view when a buddy and myself went to the SummerSlam 2002 at the Nassau Colliseum (which you can read my recap of in the August archives) I’d say it was the year that I also got really into live pay per views because to me there was nothing like a live pay per view. It was just such a great atmosphere. Thus, when I turned 16 that October I was pleasantly surprised when my parents got me two tickets to the 2002 Survivor Series! This would be my first pay per view ever to come live from Madison Square Garden and to say I was excited was the ultimate understatement. The only question left was who I would take with me to the show. I was heavily involved in my own basement wrestling federation (sad I know) at the time and I already had a blast at SummerSlam with my buddy jimmy but I was suddenly now torn over a few buddies who wanted to come with. After much deliberation, I asked my father to come with me. My father’s interest in wrestling had started to wane but he had taken me to my very first wrestling show at Madison Square Garden so I thought he’d be the perfect person to attend my first pay per view at the garden with.

What was also cool about that birthday was that I had also got an autograph ticket from my family to meet Shawn Michaels in Howard Beach at Video Game Central the night before the Survivor Series. This time my mom was coming with as Shawn was always her favorite wrestler. This was Shawn’s first title match since his return to WWE at summerslam of that year and, to me anyway, he was the focal point of that event. It was crazy to have Shawn at this autograph signing only 30 minutes from my house and was one of the truly starstruck moments of my life. I remember it was pouring rain and blistering cold out in the November New York weather. Despite this and despite my mother just getting out of surgery, my mother stayed on that line with me and my buddy for three hours to meet Shawn.  Ever the professional, I distinctly remember Shawn telling me after I wished him luck, “Thanks bud, many think I’m nuts to compete in such a big match and honestly I don’t know how many more of these I have in me.”  He went on to wrestle for another 7+ years.

As for the event itself, I remember that this was the first show I had attended at the Garden since 9/11 the year before and the security was insane.  I had to remove my hat, people were being asked randomly to remove their shoes and my dad was asked to remove his cell phone and flip it open (remember flip phones?) for some reason.  It took forever to file into the Garden that night, but once we finally did get in, it was sure worth it. The guys at Busted Open Radio (which airs 2-4pm Monday, Tuesday and Friday on Sirius/XM 92) actually did a live tweeting of this show last year and it reminded me of what a great show this was, despite the fact that there weren’t any traditional survivor series matches on the show.

From the beginning, the crowd was in an absolute frenzy as Jeff Hardy did one of his famous swanton bombs off the rafters through a table and then later in the same match the Dudleys reunited to great fanfare.

One of the other big things about this show was the debut of Big Poppa Pump Scott Steiner who debuted for the company that night following the expiring of his contract from WCW (18 months after WCW closed it’s doors I might add).  I know that Scott’s WWE career as Big Poppa Pump didn’t really go anywhere but go back and watch this debut, he was over huge.  Surrounding that debut was also a lot of fun I remember going nuts because I was a huge Matt Hardy fan (always one of my favorites to this day) and I also loved the RNN News skits which featured Randy Orton promoting his return, he was so good even at 22 years old.

From here ya can’t talk about this show without talking about the Smackdown Six.  This was the peak of the smackdown six,to me, which featured Kurt Angle, Rey Mysterio, Edge, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero and Chavo Guerrero.  This, in my opinion was the peak of the WWE midcard in any era and it breaks my heart to think two of the six have tragically passed and 5 of the 6 have mostly retired at this point.

If there was one man in WWE in 2002 that defined the year, it’d perhaps be the same man who’s synonymous with WWE in 2015…Brock Lesnar.  I remember the Garden crowd being so into Brock and at the time he was the WWE champion and still undefeated.  This obviously was the night in which he lost due to Paul Heyman turning on Brock.  That turn stunned the crowd and I remember after Brock hit the F5 people started celebrating thinking it was over only to have Paul yank the referee. To this day, it still amazes me whenever Brock lifts the Big Show with such ease.

In the end, I remember being really excited for the Elimination Chamber as it was the first Chamber match in history on this show and look at the six men in the match.  A who’s who of hall of fame level talent in Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Chris Jericho, Kane, Booker T and RVD.  This was the match in which RVD landed a five star frog splash and crushed Triple H’s larynx.  I also remember, other than Shawn, Booker T may have been the most over man in the match.  My father and I had a great time doing the “5 Time!” routine in the crowd with our entire section.  In the end, Shawn Michaels (proving to me he was in fact playing me the night before, which I couldn’t be happier about) won what would end up being his final world title in WWE.  As the confetti rained down on Shawn it was probably the best live moment for me as a fan until I was live for Wrestlemania 30.

All in all just a great and enjoyable show from top to bottom that more than holds up today as so much happened on that show it’s unbelievable to even think.  The show for me is memorable as it was the last show I attended live with my dad who’s interest in the product had really fell off then so it was the end of a 16 year era but what a finale we had.  That’s gonna do it for my journey through Survivor Series 2002, next up we’ll time travel nine years in looking back at survivor series 2011.

The Spotlight On The Survivor Series- Pt. 1- The Early Years 1987-1995

It’s hard to believe it but we are just a little over two weeks away from the WWE Survivor Series.  It was announced yesterday that this year’s Survivor Series will feature a tournament to crown a brand new WWE World Heavyweight champion following Seth Rollins’ injury this past week.  However, before we get to this year’s event, I thought that with Survivor Series coming up I thought it might be fun to take a look back at some of my more memorable Survivor Series moments throughout the years.  Now, I’m not going to break down every Survivor Series in full detail, but I will touch on each event and I will spend a bit more time on the events that took place nearby in my neck of the woods (New York) or that I attended live.  I’m going to do one of these each day of the week and I’m also going to thrown in some different types of Survivor Series history countdowns throughout the next two weeks.  Hopefully, these will get you guys prepared for the big shows.  Without further ado, let me kick off this series with a look back at some of my memories from the early survivor series events.

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!

Memories

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.

The Spotlight On The Survivor Series Pt. 2- 1996

This was the first Survivor Series to hit my local area of New York City was Survivor Series 1996.  This was a pretty memorable Survivor Series for a few reasons as it featured a really memorable debut, a great comeback, a breakout performance for one of the WWE’s biggest stars in history and the first time I noticed the live crowd noticeably booing the babyface champion.

The first thing I really remember about this event was that they had all of the matches listed in WWF Magazine prior to announcing them on television. I thought this was pretty cool and if you think about it, WWF magazine came out about a month before the pay per view and you were getting the entire Survivor Series card and then you consider that going into the final episode of  Monday Night Raw before Survivor Series next week we still don’t have many matches officially announced for the show.

I distinctly remember that a mystery man was named for team Yokozuna and that there were also a few guys making their debuts on the show. In the opening tag team elimination match Doug Furnas and Phil Lafon would be joining the Godwins to fill out there Survivor Series team. Later in the show, Flash Funk would be debuting and joining Team Yokozuna and then a newcomer by the name of Rocky Miavia would be debuting and joining Team Marc Mero. I thought it was pretty interesting and a cool idea to introduce new superstars to the WWF scene by doing so at each one of the traditional survivor series matches that night.

It’s interesting to note that the night before this show, there was a hall of fame induction ceremony in which “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka was inducted. He’d go on to be that mystery tag team partner for team Yokozuna and I remember it being a really big deal as obviously Snuka had a long standing history in Madison Square Garden. With that whole match being centered around the return of Jimmy Snuka, I remember this really overshadowing the debut of Flash Funk. Flash ended up being Too Cold Scorpio from ECW and almost to a T had the character of Brodus Clay about 16 years before the Funkasaurus shook his romp for the WWE universe.

As far as the other two debuts, Furnas and Lafon were pushed huge in the opening match of the night, becoming to sole survivors of the night and defeating Owen Hart and The Britsh Bulldog along the way. Unfortunately, nothing really became of Furnas & Lafon in the WWF.

The final debut was Rocky Miavia and to this day I think it was one of the best debuts in the history of WWE. Rocky got a huge push during his first night with the company as he overcame the odds to be the sole survivor for his team. He was built up as a huge star which was a little weird because I recall no videos or anything promoting the guy prior to his debut but still once he came through the curtain you knew he would be a big star. Obviously most of you know by now, he went on to become The Rock!

From there the show, from the poster above, was built around two big matches which first featured Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. the returning Bret Hart. This was Bret’s return to WWE after 8 months following his loss of the WWF world title to Shawn Michaels in the Iron Man Match of Wrestlemania 12. The match was so good but is often overlooked because of how much more emotional the match five months later between the two was at Wrestlemania 13.

Yet in the end the part for me as a kid that I remembered most was when the MSG crowd turned on Shawn Michaels in unison. I should point out that at 10 years old, I never was able to notice when certain crowds began turning on Hulk Hogan in the later days of Hulkamania running mild in the early 1990s WWF. Thus for me, at 10 years old, and a huge Shawn Michaels fan at that, I was completely confused when Shawn came down the aisle with his mentor Jose Lothario and was booed out of the building for the remainder of the night. Understand that this wasn’t like the WWE of today where on any given night John Cena can be booed out of the building, this was still during a time period where good guys were cheered and bad guys were booed, at least in the WWF. Instead, Psycho Sid (who in fairness broke character to my seven year old sister and explained he really wasn’t so bad, after she cried hysterically at one of his signings out of fear, and then hooked my family up with wrestling tickets for that night so he always had fans in my house) was cheered the entire night as if he was the conquering hero despite being one of the biggest heels in the company. It’s really a sight to be seen if you go back and watch this show especially if you put it in the context of that time in WWE.

Psycho Sid with my sister circa mid 1996

 That concludes my look back at the Survivor Series 1996 which was really a historic show in many ways when you think about it. Overall a fun show that really introduced me to what a fun show a raucous NYC crowd could be. Watching from home that night I wished I was there live to be a part of the crazy MSG crowd, but I would have to wait six years for that..