Historically Speaking: Only the Strong Survive

“History must be written of, by and for the survivors.” – Anonymous

The Opening Chapter
By the time you read this it will officially be November, the month of Thanksgiving, but more importantly, the month of Survivor Series. The WWE Survivor Series, third only to the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania on sheer mark-out value for yours truly, started out as one of the most unique concepts in wrestling; a card comprised of only elimination-style tag team matches. I’ve always been a mark for any style of multi-man matches or concepts, whether it be battle royals, tournaments, elimination matches, multi-person tags, so the original concept of the Survivor Series was pretty cool for a young kid like me.

They always say that things you loved as a kid stay with you as you grow up, no matter how bad they may have really been in hindsight. And for me Survivor Series ’89 and ’90 were those fondly remembered events, and they still are today; no matter how bad the work-rate was. The idea of the entire WWF roster teaming up together, complete with so-cheesy-they’re-good team names, battling against each other was almost too much for a five or six year old to take. I would be remiss if I forgot to mention Vince McMahon’s over-the-top match announcement style that just made the whole concept even more awesome.

So this week starts off a month-long tribute to the “fall classic,” starting with a look back at the players and stories that made Survivor Series 1989 a true “classic.”

The Dream Team v. The Enforcers
Dusty Rhodes (c), Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake, Tito Santana & Red Rooster v. Big Bossman (c), Rick “The Model” Martel, Bad News Brown & The Honky Tonk Man

In a world ruled by the Ultimate Warrior and Hulk Hogan, perennial main eventer the nation over Dusty Rhodes could only reach #3 baby face status during his time in the WWF. But in a world dominated by Hogan and Warrior my young mind wouldn’t have bought Dusty as any higher than those two, as he did look like someone’s disheveled uncle.

Anyways, this match focused on Rhodes’ run against The Big Bossman, back when he was a mean security guard and would handcuff his jobber opponents and beat them with the ball & chain and the nightstick. Rhodes ended up taking the nightstick as his own and the feud was on. He was seconded by Beefcake, who was having a run against Martel, a guy that was also still feuding with Santana stemming from their WrestleMania V break-up. Honky Tonk Man was on his way down the card after dropping the Intercontinental Title a year earlier and was relegated to jobbing to every new face in the company and returning jobs to everyone who helped but him over earlier; so here he’s paired with Rooster because of a “Pearl Harbor-style” guitar shot, just like every Honky feud started. Bad News was here as a replacement for Akeem, Bossman’s usual running buddy in the Twin Towers, who apparently was out with an injury or something as he was in all the promotional material for the show almost right up until the event. Bad News kept up his loner gimmick by walking out on his team and caused Scott Keith to probably write his best line ever, from his Survivor Series 1989 rant – “But I mean, it makes sense: What self-respecting bad-ass black guy would team with a prison guard and a guy nicknamed ‘Honky’?”

The match ended with Rhodes and Beefcake as survivors as Rhodes was the biggest star in the match and they had to keep Beefcake strong for his upcoming tag team cage match with Hogan against Randy Savage & Zeus.

4 x 4s v. The King’s Court
Hacksaw Jim Duggan (c), Ronnie Garvin, Hercules & Bret Hart v. “Macho King” Randy Savage (c), Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, Dino Bravo & Canadian Earthquake

The main issue leading up to this match was the over who was the WWF’s resident king, as Savage had recently beaten Duggan to be the true “King” of the WWF. During this time period the crown or “King of the WWF” had been passed around like a secondary championship as since 1987 the crown had gone from Harley Race to Haku to Duggan and now to Savage. The secondary issue was between Garvin and Valentine, a story that had been going all through 1989 and saw Garvin “retire” as a wrestler only to come back with stints as a referee and a ring announcer to torment Valentine. Hercules and Bravo also had a minor issue over who was the strongest man in the WWF. Bret was still technically part of the Hart Foundation at this point but he and Neidhart were also working singles at the same time. Earthquake was a last-minute substitution for “Widow Maker” Barry Windham, who was either injured, had already left back for the NWA or simply a booking decision to put the recently debuted big man on PPV. It also should be noted that Jimmy Hart managed Valentine, Bravo and Earthquake so it was a very unified heel team.

The heels dominated this match as Savage, Bravo and Earthquake all came out as survivors. This effectively acted as a blow off for the Savage-Duggan feud and kept Savage big for the upcoming cage match with Zeus against Hogan and Beefcake. This was essentially Earthquake’s debut and was logical to keep him strong considering the big things they had in store for him. I don’t know the reason behind Bravo’s victory, but Valentine was sacrificed due to his feud with Garvin going until Royal Rumble ’90 so this acted as a way to put more heat on their angle. As for the other faces, Hercules was on his way down the card and Hart was still a persona-non-grata at this point.

Roddy’s Rowdies v. The Rude Brood
Rowdy Roddy Piper (c), Superfly Jimmy Snuka & The Bushwackers v. Rick Rude (c), Mr. Perfect & The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers

Piper had returned to the WWF at WrestleMania V after his first of many “retirements.” He worked as host for the WWF’s flagship Prime Time Wrestling program along with Rude’s manager Bobby Heenan. This led to a Rude sneak attack on that program and *poof* instant feud. Piper also proved to be a distraction for Rude during his Intercontinental Title match with Ultimate Warrior at SummerSlam ’89, causing him to lose the Championship. As for the others, The Bushwackers battled The Rougeaus at WrestleMania V and would meet again at Royal Rumble ’90 so the two teams were pretty used to each other. Perfect was about to get a huge push and Snuka was a logical first step up the ladder. I would also like note that these were two of the best teams put together ever based on team personalities, as Roddy’s team were all unorthodox brawler types while the heels all had that arrogant, pretty-boy, talented cheaters thing going on.

The booking was pretty straightforward here as the Bushwackers and Rougeaus got eliminated early on to focus on the singles guys. Rude and Piper were both counted-out so that they could continue their run against each other on the house show circuit. Perfect got the sole survivor victory to establish him as a legit top-card threat.

The Hulkamaniacs v. The Million $ Team
Hulk Hogan (c), Jake “The Snake” Roberts & Demolition v. “Million $ Man” Ted DiBiase (c), Zeus & The Powers of Pain

Going in to this Hogan was WWF World Champion and Demolition were the WWF World Tag Team Champions so this was essentially the main event match. Despite Hogan having problems with DiBiase in the past, his real issue here was with Zeus, who had come from Hogan’s movie No Holds Barred to challenge him in the “real world” of pro wrestling. I wish I was making that up. Roberts and DiBiase had the other main issue here that continued to gain in steam over the next few months when Roberts stole the Million $ Championship. Demolition and the Powers had fought the previous year at the Survivor Series and all the way up to WrestleMania V, so this was like part two of their rivalry.

If you didn’t know Hogan was going to survive here then you have no business reading this article, and naturally he was sole survivor. In order to keep the heels strong, they were all disqualified. Zeus was DQ’ed for blatantly choking out Hogan while the Powers were thrown out for double-teaming. Jesse Ventura was glorious on commentary during this match, as he was incredulous that DiBiase’s team were all disqualified for beating up Hogan, and claimed the refs were playing favorites for Hogan. Hogan then pinned to DiBiase to get the solo win, as his team had been eliminated one-by-one earlier by DiBiase and the Powers.

The Ultimate Warriors v. The Heenan Family
Ultimate Warrior (c), Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart & The Rockers v. Andre the Giant (c), Haku, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan & Arn Anderson

I loved the originality in the Warrior’s team name; and I thought Hogan’s team name was egomaniacal. Their opponents were of course all managed by Bobby Heenan, the first time that a manager’s entire stable were all placed together to form a logical team. Warrior and Andre had the main story here as after Warrior had beaten Rick Rude, another of Heenan’s charges, for the Intercontinental Title, Heenan sent his biggest man out to get the Title back. Essentially this was really Operation: Get Warrior Over, as the house show matches between Warrior and Andre that would headline cards were about thirty seconds long with Warrior winning after a few clotheslines and a splash. Andre’s health was deteriorating rapidly at this point and could only be counted on in short bursts. The Rockers and The Brain Busters had been tearing up the undercards with their tag matches at this point so this looked to be their big blow off, but unfortunately Tully Blanchard got fired for a failed drug test either the day of or the day before the show and so Heenan had to be a legit last minute fill in. All the promotional material, even on the day of the show, still advertised Blanchard as participating. There is also speculation as to why this match closed the show as opposed to Hogan’s, with the logic being that this crew would need some time to reorganize the match. This was also Anderson’s last night in the WWF, as he and Blanchard had been planning on going back to the NWA anyways, only now Anderson would be going back solo. On a side note, I always thought Neidhart and Bret Hart should have been switched, as Neidhart would’ve fit in better with the brawling style of Duggan’s team and Bret would’ve meshed better with The Rockers’ style. Plus in hindsight it would’ve been a nice trivia to have Bret and Shawn teaming for their first, and perhaps only, time.

As for the match itself, Andre was eliminated by count-out immediately, proving his deteriorated state. The match continued until it was down to Warrior and Heenan, leading to some quick comedy and a quick victory for the Warrior.

The Perspective
When you look from top to bottom the forty men compiled here made up quite an impressive roster, even if not all of them were utilized in their best ways. The teams also showed how the WWF viewed their talent on the pecking order as the captains were essentially viewed as the top guys on the roster, both on the heel and face side. The results also showed who were in line for pushes as relative new guys like Hennig and Earthquake were primed for top spots. The roster was quite stacked at this time period as a lot of low carders and jobbers like The Bolsheviks, The Genius, Tugboat, Koko B. Ware, Hillbilly Jim, Al Perez, Barry Horowitz, Paul Roma and The Brooklyn Brawler were all left off the card yet were featured on television and in WWF Magazine leading up to the show.

As an interesting side note, this card took place during the WWF’s insane three-cities-a-day touring schedule, running “A” shows with Hogan on top, “B” shows with Andre-Warrior and then “C” shows with either Bossman-Rhodes or Roberts-DiBiase headlining. I still have some old souvenir programs from late ’89 in early ’90 of my cousin’s and the latter Rhodes and Roberts matches were the headliners. I guess that Sioux City, Iowa, was on the “C” show market. Who knew?

For this week the vault is closed

Linked to the Pulse
David B. talks about Jack and Charlie. I don’t remember The Quebeers being that involved in this feud. I guess I learn something new every day.

Jonathan Kirschner has a quite entertaining interview with indy sensation Chuck Taylor.

Blatt talks ECW and gives five stars to the epic main event battle royal. Click and find out to see if I’m lying or not.

Recent History
This is the section where I can ramble through my thoughts on this past week in wrestling, whether it be the television shows, pay per views, or any news that came out. Kinda like Vh1’s “Best Week Ever,” but this should be less annoying hopefully.

The TNA World Title match angle was stupid and leads to an even stupider match. That’s twice now that Sting was won the big belt at Bound For Glory and lost it almost immediately after winning it. I also fell asleep during Eric Young – James Storm. Either wrestling isn’t that exciting recently or I’m getting narcolepsy.

I don’t get Jaime Noble’s new angle on SmackDown! Why is he angry over fighting top stars like Undertaker, Great Khali & Batista? Shouldn’t he be relishing the chance to fight top guys? That shot Matt Hardy got in the tag match was pretty gruesome though.

Didn’t see Cyber Sunday but I went 5-0 on Roundtable picks so yea for me.

I was perversely entertained by the Divas battle royal on RAW; usually I just kind of ignore WWE women’s wrestling but this the good kind of camp. Victoria’s sumo mannerisms were beyond awesome. I’m actually looking forward to the Santino-Stone Cold altercation. Santino officially won me over this week with the “Tom Hanks with the AIDS” line. Again I ask, is this best we could find for Harry Smith to do? DX and Stone Cold on RAW must be sweeps month in 1999.

The Monster’s Mash wasn’t nearly as gloriously awesome bad that I hoped for, and I had Mark Henry fourth in the winner’s pool. Would it have been too hard to get Kevin Thorn, Boogeyman, Undertaker and Umaga in there to really make it a Monster’s Mash? The Tom E. Dangerously get-up was absolutely outstanding. Tazz and Joey playing it straight “trying to figure out” who he was impersonating made the shtick that much better.

This Day in History
I figured if we are talking history around here we should pay homage to what has happened on this very day in the years gone by. It will either make you long for the old days or be happy for what we have now.

1981 – Ted DiBiase defeated Paul Orndorff for the Mid-South North American Heavyweight title
1989 – Rick & Scott Steiner defeated Jimmy Garvin & Michael Hayes for the NWA World Tag Team title
1993 – Rex Hargroge & Koko B. Ware defeated Moondog Spike & Mike Anthony for the USWA Tag Team title
1998 – ECW November to Remember was held at the UNO Lakefront Arena, New Orleans, LA
1998 – Masato Tanaka & Balls Mahoney defeated the Dudley Boys for the ECW Tag title

1946 – Bobby “The Brain” Heenan was born
1985 – Rick McGraw died of a heart attack at 30

The Assignment
It’s important to know your history to know where you have come from and where you are going. Back when Nova was in charge of the WWE developmental system he implemented mandatory history assignments for the students of the developmental territories so they would know pro wrestling’s history and they would learn just how many moves Nova created and apparently the best ways to get on-line prescriptions. I feel Nova had a great idea there and every week I will assign a book or DVD for you to check out and learn from. They are not only educational but very entertaining.

Come back next weekend for my thoughts on Chris Jericho’s book. I’m over half done with the book and it hasn’t disappointed yet.

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