Welcome to November nostalgic nuggets and I’m not the type of asshole that treats Thanksgiving as the bastard step-child of the three BIG holidays skipping it over entirely when Halloween ends and diving balls deep into Christmas. This year, I’ll be serving up several pieces of delightful articles in what I see as essential Thanksgiving traditions, or at least what I’ve experienced anyway, in a nostalgic pie, with the first taste being the all-important WWE SURVIVOR SERIES.
I’ve always enjoyed the atmospheric pleasures of the gluttonous holiday as yours truly grew up in an Italian-American household where food was life and the center of everything. Getting together for these 6-hour long meals was something we looked forward to all year and while waiting for each course like a bunch of fat hobbits anxiously awaiting secondsies and thirdsies, we gathered around old-faithful in my grandparent’s living room (a giant Magnavox TV floor model) and watched the WWE annual Pay Per View event of Survivor Series. This year marks the 35th anniversary of the first-ever battle of survival in the WWE ring so it seems only fitting I focus on the one that started it all, even tho the 1990 SS will forever be the goddamn greatest of all time (umm hello Undertaker debut and Gobbedly Gooker). Not to say the 1987 event didn’t have some exciting moments because it sure as shit did, and a few underrated ones at that. Just a personal preference really.
But first, a little back-story:
With Vince McMahon having the wrestling world under his thumb, remaining independent territories struggled to stay afloat and while moderately successful they remained with loyal fans, it didn’t stop the wrestling mogul from screwing with them to the point of taking every little bit of bread crumbs they could get. Vince started the Survivor Series as an answer to Starrcade- the brain-child of NWA promoter Jim Crockett from 1983-1987 before moving into the WCW and aired on closed-circuit television every Thanksgiving before moving to Pay Per View in 1987. With that being the case, McMahon does what the guy does best and wanted to further his stronghold on the wrestling world by launching his own Pay Per View Event as a giant fuck you to the rest of the already, heavily bruised egos of remaining territory heads. So, the Survivor Series was born out of gluttonous greed and dick-measuring contests.
Ironic seeing as how these are how most Thanksgiving family dinners end up, eh?
Anyways, let’s get down to the glorious matches that came about as a result and begat one of the greatest Thanksgiving traditions.
Team Savage Vs Team Honky
First off, I just want to point out that one of the greatest SS matches ever was spearheaded by Randy Savage with an entire team he had/will have mega beef with. Just goes to show the guy knew who he had great chemistry with, as it’s well-known Savage was a master of organizing a great match for the audiences.
Team Captain Savage paired with Ricky Steamboat, Jim Duggan, Jake Roberts, and Brutas Beefcake to take on his formidable foe at the time The Honkey Tonk Man, who leading up to this match had a pretty great soap-opera-esque type of feud going that involved Honky pushing Elizabeth to the ground and busting Savage over the head with his crap guitar. His team consisted of Harley Race, Ron Bass, Danny Davis, and Hercules.
Jim Duggan and Harley Race were in the middle of a rivalry over the King of the Ring crown, brawled outside the ring, and wound up counted out. Beefcake was eliminated courtesy of a Shake, Rattle and Roll while Team Savage continued to pick apart the Honkey Squad, eliminating Danny Davis, Hercules, and Ron Bass. What’s great about this is that Honky Tonk Man, this smug shit who had claimed to be the greatest Intercontinental Champion of all time, now had three very pissed-off big dudes awaiting their revenge on this guy and this was their time, FINALLY. Honky received quite a berating along with a beating but alas, the coward emerges the current IC champion booked it from the ring and gets intentionally counted out to avoid further embarrassment. Spawning hatred from the fans who already despised this Memphis Shmuck even more than they did before and Survivor Series had its first underrated classic.
Team Moolah VS Team Sherri
Next, we have another severely underrated gem and I’m not talking about strictly confining this to Women’s Wrestling; and that mostly has to do with one of the coolest Tag Team Gals ever in the game: The Jumping Bomb Angels.
Team Sherri Martel, woman’s champion at the time, led the team of Dawn Marie, Donna Christanello with The Glamour Girls Judy Martin and Leilani Kai against Moolah and her clan of Rockin’ Robin (Jake Roberts’ sister for those who don’t know), Velvet McIntire, with Jumping Bomb Angels Itsuki Yamazaki and Noriyo Tateno.
The Japanese power duo of the Bomb Angels were front and center of this match and anyone taking a break because its a “girls’ throw-away match” as some people would refer to the Women’s arena part of WWE of the 80s’, were FOOLS as these ladies did it better than more than half the men on this ticket. Not for nothing but McIntire was fun to watch too with her agility and technical skills.
Christanello was eliminated first by McIntyre with a victory roll with Robin hitting a running crossbody on Marie, pinning her and giving Moolah’s team the advantage of three against five. About this time we see what these Angels can do when Yamazaki bridges out of a pinning attempt from Kai and shortly after reverses it with an unsuccessful pin followed by some flying body scissors that impress even the most unphased of them all Jesse Ventura.
After some back and forth, Sherri comes in with a vengeance and hits Robin with a vertical suplex eliminating her. Then the real action starts with the Glamour Girls hitting a double clothesline on Moolah and Judy Martin, which would ultimately lead to Moolah being pinned and out she goes. McIntyre then takes out Sherri with another victory roll pin. Leilani Kai turns the tables however and takes out McIntyre after an electric chair drop. Now, the Bomb Angels can really shine. Both tag teams come into the match. Yamazaki hits a diving crossbody from the top rope on Kai and pins her with Tateno hitting a flying clothesline on Martin winning the match showing an American crowd what the Japanese culture has to offer and just absolutely pulverizes every lady in that ring as far as showmanship and skill. Team Sherri sucked and never really stood a chance in hell, even without the scripted loss. However, the Angels eventually won the crowd over towards the end and saved this match from being a total wash. It was also the last time we would see a ladies’ match at Survivor Series for a LONG TIME.
The 20-Man Tag Team Match
The 20-man tag team was just that: a team of ten tag teams from the federation beating the hell out of each other. The rules for this one were that if one-half of your tag team member is eliminated then his partner is out too. Had this not been instated, this match could have easily gone on for close to two hours. The match itself runs 40 mins long, so instead of boring you with a really long play-by-play, how about some interesting facts about this particular segment instead!
The “Heel Team” was made up of The Bolsheviks, Demolition, The Hart Foundation, The Islanders, and the New Dream Team and each one had a heel manager at ringside. Although I was always one to enjoy Bobby Heenan’s shit-talking, with the addition of Jimmy Hart, Slick, Mr. Fuji, and Johnny V, that’s enough to give anyone a migraine.
Back in the day if you watched any of these on the famed Coliseum Video, you might notice a monumental fuck up during this ticket. Mid-way through the match, the British Bulldogs are eliminated when Haku pins Dynamite Kid following a savage kick. The entire elimination sequence was mistakenly (one has to assume) edited from the VHS of the event. So for those that only got to see the event via VHS, I would imagine a lot of confusion when all of a sudden the Bulldogs disappeared after kicking all the ass with no explanation.
Anyways, the “Face Team” of Strike Force, The British Bulldogs, The Killer Bees (who totally rule), The Young Stallions, and The Fabulous Rougeaus with Killer Bees and Young Stallions beating all the opposing team members and were victorious in survival.
Now here’s a special segment from everyone’s most hated millionaire, Ted Dibiase!
Newcomer to the WWE “The Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase spared no expense promoting his wealth and cringe behavior to the rest of the world shooting him straight up the ranks of most hated heels in a really short amount of time. With the show needing some downtown between the 20-man event and the Main Event of the evening, Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura threw us a video package of the “Million Dollar Wrestling Mogul” in which of all the times he was “thankful” for being able to degrade the common public with a chance of them making a few bucks.
Seen above is a young Rob Van Dam kissing Diabase’s feet, while another shows then unknown, Linda McMahon barking like a dog for some cash.
Even as a young kid, I actually really liked watching Dibiase work the crowd. Everyone thought I was a sociopath for actually digging the guy, I mean hey- the shit he pulled was pretty hilarious, but I was also the kid that laughed hysterically at the live show I attended where The Undertaker who was then a heel, stuffed The Ultimate Warrior in a casket on a Funeral Parlor segment.
Oh well. I’m accepting that I might just be sort of a sociopathic asshole.
The Main Event: Team Hogan VS Team Andre
Here it is- the main event we’ve been waiting for all night ever since that record-breaking crowd event at Wrestlemania III where Hulk Hogan would face Andre the Giant once more.
Hogan’s team of Paul Orndoff, Bam Bam Bigelow, Ken Patera, and Don Muraco were facing a multitude of size and weight against Team Andre who had of course Andre, One Man Gang, King Kong Bundy, Butch Reed, and Rick Rude. Don Muraco, who was Team Face, was actually a last-minute replacement on the team as Superstar Billy Graham was slated to be a part of the ticket. However, Graham was hindered by a real-life hip replacement and was severely limited in his matches. So he was written out of the match and replaced just a few days before with a Butch Reed and One Man Gang assault angle as his injuries were too much for the former champion.
The match itself is fairly standard up until almost half of each team is eliminated giving Andre, One Man Gang, and King Kong Bundy an advantage over Hogan and Bam Bam. However, no one at the time saw this coming, but Hogan got caught being counted out of the ring fighting off Bundy and Gang; leaving Bam Bam Bigelow to take on over 1,200 pounds of meaty wrestlers all on his own.
I gotta say this was one hell of a way to put over Bam Bam as someone to watch in the WWE and it’s well-known to many wrestling aficionados that Andre truly loved the sport and a hell of a guy- doing everything he could to make someone else look great. Andre had not wrestled since the infamous match at Wrestlemania as his health was starting to decline at this point but that didn’t stop him, or anyone else for that matter, from putting on a grand finale.
All for it to be ruined by a dickhead move by the Hulkster.
Don’t get me wrong, I liked Hulk as much as the next gal/guy back in the day but even I thought this was sort of, well, fucked up. Bam Bam SOMEHOW manages to pin both Bundy and Gang (in that order) but is ultimately taken out by Andre, as anyone would be. Bigelow is great but he ain’t Superman. Then, as Andre’s hand is raised as the sole survivor, Hogan comes dashing out from the locker room and beans him with his belt. I’d have to agree with Jessie Ventura on this one, “What a sore loser!”
Sure, I get it. We had to end the program with the soon-to-be-cliche finale of Hogan and his anthem. But damn, that was just so unnecessary and borderline cringe.
Welp, since you’ve made it this far, let us give thanks over a bowl of my Nan’s heart Italian Christmas Soup that we as a collective of our generation, were the first to experience this wild Thanksgiving tradition that went on for many years after, and even today as I must also give thanks to Peacock streaming for allowing us to watch every Survivor Series ever back to back on bust-your-gut Turkey Day to keep that nostalgic tradition alive.