Historically Speaking: The Fall Classic


“History cannot give us a program for the future, but it can give us a fuller understanding of ourselves, and of our common humanity, so that we can better face the future.” – Robert Penn Warren

The Opening Chapter
This is the one. This the PPV that sent me down to road to be a wrestling fan, probably for life. Survivor Series 1990. I remember watching wrestling before this and renting SummerSlam ’90 when it came out, but this was the one that solidified my love for wrestling. It was a bunch of cool looking characters paired up in with catchy team names. I remember watching Superstars of Wrestling on Saturday mornings after cartoons and just being awestruck at this concept.

Without getting any more nostalgic or rambling anymore, here is a synopsis of the famed PPV that brought us both the Ultimate Survivor match and the Gobbedlygooker.

The Warriors v. The Perfect Team
Ultimate Warrior (c), Kerry Von Erich & The Legion of Doom v. Mr. Perfect & Demolition (Ax, Smash & Crush)
Ultimate Warrior was WWF Champion at this point but was still playing second fiddle to Hulk Hogan and his programs. Warrior had been recently teaming with LOD in a six-man feud against Demolition while the real issue of the match was the Von Erich-Perfect Intercontinental Title rivalry. It should be noted that the Warriors team name is very appropriate as Von Erich’s old moniker was “The Modern-Day Warrior” and LOD was of course also known as The Road Warriors. Conspicuous by his absence on this PPV was “Macho King” Randy Savage, who was relegated to an in interview on the show. He would’ve fit with Perfect’s team as he was about to enter a run versus Warrior and Demolition Ax was on his way out the door anyways.

As for the match, Ax was eliminated quickly, as his health was deteriorating quickly. Soon after the remaining Demos and LOD were all disqualified to put heat on their feud. Perfect then pinned Von Erich and Warrior got the final pin in the match, sending him to the end of the show final match.

The Hulkamaniacs v. The Natural Disasters
Hulk Hogan (c), Tugboat, Big Bossman & Hacksaw Jim Duggan v. Earthquake (c), Dino Bravo, Haku & The Barbarian

Hogan had recently returned from injuries suffered at the hands of Earthquake (read: off filming Suburban Commando) and was looking for revenge. His buddy Tugboat was there to counteract ‘Quake’s buddy Dino Bravo. As for Bossman, he had just embarked on a feud with The Heenan Family after Bobby Heenan and Rick Rude made fun of Bossman’s mamma. Rude was “suspended” for his actions (read: left the company) and Haku stepped into his place. Barbarian was also a part of the Heenan stable and was a logical fourth man. Haku was a much better fit for the brawling, tough-guy team of the Natural Disasters than Rude, who was much too athletic, in-shape and dare I say, good-looking, for the team.

These two teams might have been the most logical and most evenly matched in the PPV history. But because they were all so evenly matched, their slow, plodding, brawling styles didn’t make much for exciting action. The only real issue that was solved in this match was that Bossman got the pin on Haku, effectively eliminating one Heenan client. The match came down to Hogan and Barbarian, and Barbarian got the honors of doing the job, sending Hogan to the finals. Logic said that the final should’ve been Hogan-Earthquake, but their rivalry would continue until Royal Rumble ’91.

The Dream Team v. The Million Dollar Team
Dusty Rhodes (c), Koko B. Ware & The Hart Foundation v. “Million $ Man” Ted DiBiase, Rhythm & Blues and a mystery partner

In the pre-Internet days speculation ran wild on who would be DiBiase’s mystery partner. Common guesses included Savage (he wasn’t booked anyways), Virgil or Dustin Rhodes, who had just recently debuted at the side of his father. I remember many debates held during recess on who would be the mysterious fourth man. But for once a mystery actually paid off, as The Undertaker debuted and became something the WWF hadn’t seen before. He instantly took Andre the Giant’s spot on the roster as the larger-than-life phenom.

In the match he dominated the faces and made quick work of Ware and Rhodes. He was counted out while beating up Rhodes, effectively eliminating him without getting pinned or losing his heat. The final fall of the match came down to Bret Hart and Ted DiBiase. Bret’s brother Dean had just died the day before and so his little match with DiBiase was a tribute to him. Unfortunately this wouldn’t be the only time Bret would have a tribute match for a brother. But because of their differing placements on the card, it was obvious that DiBiase would go over.

The Alliance v. The Mercanaries
Nikolai Volkoff (c), Tito Santana & The Bushwackers v. Sgt. Slaughter (c), Boris Zhukov & The Orient Express

This is the match where the jobbers would go to die. This would be the definition of the “bathroom break” match. Volkoff and Zhukov had recently split up their low-card Bolsheviks team and were constantly feuding. Volkoff also had an issue with Slaughter, as Sarge had become an American turncoat while the Russian Nikolai had just embraced America. In fact, Zhukov wasn’t originally booked for the team, but was inserted when Akeem left the WWF to reprise his One Man Gang character in the NWA. The Bushwackers and The Express were the obligatory jobber teams in the WWF at the time, and Santana was on his way down the card until he was repackaged later on as El Matador.

The match barely lasted ten minutes. Zhukov and both Express members were eliminated in about a minute and a half. Slaughter then came in to eliminate both Bushwackers and Volkoff, leaving Santana and Slaughter, the only two with any semblance of overness. Santana ended up getting a cheap DQ win when Slaughter’s manager General Adnan interfered. The fact that the face couldn’t get a clean win showed the plans in store for both men.

The Vipers v. The Visionaries
Jake “The Snake” Roberts (c), Superfly Jimmy Snuka & The Rockers v. Rick Martel (c), The Warlord and Power & Glory

The main story here was that Roberts was blinded weeks earlier by Martel’s cologne “Arrogance” and just only received some of his eyesight back. Shawn Michaels had his knee hurt by Power & Glory before SummerSlam and so this was his big return as well. The Warlord was getting a mid-card push, and after he beat Santana at SummerSlam the next stepping-stone up the face ladder was Snuka. The Visionaries team took their name as a way to mock Roberts’ lack of eyesight. And the fact there were all current or former clients of Slick they were a logical pairing.

The match had an uncharacteristic ending, as being this was the big return for both Roberts and Michaels it seemed like a perfect time for the faces to get some retribution, but it was not to be. One-by-one The Vipers were eliminated, leaving The Visionaries to be the first team to have all members survive. The Rockers would get their revenge on house shows and Roberts would eventually win out over Martel at WrestleMania VII.

The Ultimate Survivor Match
Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior & Tito Santana v. Ted DiBiase, Rick Martel, Warlord and Power & Glory

The order of the matches throughout the night went Warriors-Perfect Team, Dream Team-Million $ Team, Vipers-Visionaries, Hulkamaniacs-Disasters and Alliance-Mercanaries, so throughout the night the hype and suspense built on what the teams would look like for the Ultimate Survivor match, as all the winning faces and heels would be paired together in a main event elimination match. So going into Hogan’s match it was Warrior against five heels. Having Hogan and then Santana win helped build the underdog aspect of the face team. But with Hogan and Warrior on one side it was actually the heels that were the underdogs.

The match saw Warlord and Santana get eliminated in like a minute, leaving it two-on-four. It didn’t take long for the two super powers to mow through the bad guys. Within ten minutes Warrior pinned Hercules of Power & Glory to secure the win for him and Hogan, who then posed and preened and tried to out-hog the spotlight. In hindsight this was probably the start of the build-up to Hogan-Warrior 2 for WrestleMania VII, but the real world and the first Iraq war intervened and the powers-that-be thought that Hogan-Slaughter would be a much better idea.

The Perspective
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that this pay per view also featured the debut and subsequent departure of the Gobbledy Gooker. Apparently those same powers-that-be that thought Hogan-Slaughter would draw also thought that this giant turkey thing would draw as well. Gorilla Monsoon & Roddy Piper on commentary had the most fun of anyone in the building while watching this debacle go down. I won’t waste any more time on it; go to WrestleCrap to truly appreciate its awfulness.

The in-ring action on this card was pretty much atrocious, with Bret and DiBiase’s brief exchange the only good thing workrate wise. But I look back on this card fondly, with memories of simpler times, both in my life and in wrestling. I really, really wish that WWE would go back to a whole card of elimination matches; it would help separate Survivor Series from the other run-of-the-mill monthly pay per views that come down the line. Plus it would be worth it just to hear McMahon bring back his over-the-top announcing style as he announces team names like The Extremists versus The Palace of Wisdom or The Unholy Alliance versus The Playmakers.

For this week the vault is closed

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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 best part of TNA this week hands down was Kurt Angle’s interrogation of Jay Lethal. Angle getting caught up in Lethal’s story about Macho versus Warrior at WrestleMania VII was great, as were the references to “Snake” Roberts and Wahoo McDaniels. Plus it looks like Lethal found his Miss Elizabeth in So Cal Val.

I barely remember SmackDown! at all. But seriously, Mick Foley go away. You’ve wrecked your legacy much worse than Ric Flair could ever dream of.

RAW definitely brought the entertainment this week. “Get your hands back on the table” was one of the greatest lines JR has ever said. The Stone Cold-Santino bit felt flat in my opinion. I was expecting a better build-up to the Stunner. And as for the beer bash? Been there, saw that, had the t-shirt. The Moolah tribute video was amazing though; I got chills watching it.

ECW kind of looked like Velocity this week. And what was with the main event starting at 10 pm? Isn’t the show done at 10 pm?

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.

1975 – Nick Bockwinkel defeated Verne Gagne for the AWA Heavyweight title
1975 – Tony Parisi & Louis Cerdan defeated Blackjack Lanza & Blackjack Mulligan for the WWWF Tag Team title
1980 – Tony Garea & Rick Martel defeated The Samoans for the WWWF Tag Team title
1993 – Brian Christopher & Jeff Jarrett defeated Rex Hargrove & Koko B. Ware for the USWA Tag Team title
1999 – The New Age Outlaws defeated Mankind & Al Snow for the WWF Tag Team title
1999 – Scott Hall defeated Bret Hart, Sid Vicious & Goldberg for the WCW US Heavyweight title
2003 – Jerry Lawler defeated Al Snow for the Jersey All Pro Heavyweight Title

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.

THE greatest professional wrestler autobiography ever written this side of Mick Foley’s first one. Chris Jericho’s A Lion’s Tale: Around the World in Spandex was the funniest, most entertaining book I have read in years, wrestling or not. The tone and style of the book was easy to follow and very conversational. It really felt like Jericho was writing it himself word for word. His stories are absolutely hilarious. From his initial meetings with Sika, Dynamite Kid and Koko B. Ware to chasing after the Four Horsemen in their limo, I knew this would be good.

He goes into great detail about every country or territory he worked in and gives good road stories all along the way. Apparently not does he hate Mil Mascaras (who seems to be hated by virtually every American and Canadian wrestler) but he doesn’t care much for Vampiro either. There were many, many times I heartily laughed out loud while reading this book but his bit about the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express being on the same level as God to the southern fans of Smokey Mountain Wrestling had me in tears. Another good story is when he talks about how Eddie Guerrero had quit drinking but he, Chavo, Jr. and Dean Malenko made up for Eddie’s lack of drinking by being hammered around him while at ZZ Top concert.

Pick this book up immediately. It is amazing, funny, heart-warming, charming, etc. Who knew Dean Malenko and Lance Storm were so funny?

Mark was a columnist for Pulse Wrestling for over four years, evolving from his original “Historically Speaking” commentary-style column into the Monday morning powerhouse known as “This Week in ‘E.” He also contributes to other ventures, outside of IP, most notably as the National Pro Wrestling Examiner for Examiner.com and a contributor for The Wrestling Press. Follow me on Twitter here.