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WWF Survivor Series (11.23.1989) Review

September 12, 2020 | Posted by Adam Nedeff
Survivor Series 1989
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WWF Survivor Series (11.23.1989) Review  

-This is the Coliseum Video version, which opens with a pretty neat montage of the production crew prepping the arena while the fans load in.

-We get an SNME-style open with all the stars rattling off what they’re thankful for this year. Dino Bravo is thankful for having the big Hurthquake on his side.

-Vince McMahon rattles off the entire card at top volume in the most gravelly voice imaginable and it’s the greatest opening to anything they’ve ever done and I feel like a kid again instantly.

-It’s Thanksgiving 1989.

-We’re in Chicago, IL.

-Your hosts are Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse “The Pilgrim” Ventura.

THE DREAM TEAM (Captain Dusty Rhodes, Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake, Red Rooster, Tito Santana)
THE ENFORCERS (Captain Big Boss Man, Bad News Brown, Honky Tonk Man, Rick “The Model” Martel, with Slick & Jimmy Hart)

-Bad News is filling in for Akeem for no readily apparent or explained reason (I think it turned out later that he wasn’t medically cleared). And after last year, you’d think Honky and Jimmy Hart would have clued Boss Man in about why it’s a bad idea to have Bad News on a team.

-Tito & Honky start and Tito gets off to a hot start. Martel tags in and seems to win the battle of the Strike Force. He seems to be winning the psychological battle too, because Tito won’t get rid of the damn tights. Boss Man tags in and Tito armdrags him across the ring and tags in Dusty. Brutus tags in and Boss Man & Honky handle him with double-teaming. Beefcake tags out and Rooster goes to work on Rick Martel. Rooster gets trapped and Boss Man goes to work. Boss Man tries to tag in Bad News Brown and Bad News won’t budge. Told you so, Boss Man. Strike Force explodes again and this time it’s to Tito’s advantage, until Martel sunset-flips him for a three-count to get the first elimination.

-We get a shot of a dedicated Dusty Rhodes fan in a polka-dotted outfit. We’d get to know her a lot better in the next few days. Oh, and Shane McMahon is the outside referee for all the matches tonight, on the subject of people we’d get to know better. Boss Man manhandles the Red Rooster, but Rooster breaks out of a bearhug by biting. Boss Man tags Bad News against his will and Rooster has to slingshot him inside. He attempts a double-team with Boss Man. Boss Man accidentally hits Bad News, and just like last year, that pisses off Bad News enough for him to call it a night and walk out on the match.

-Brutus and Boss Man resume the match and Boss Man and Honky double-team, since that worked for them earlier. Brutus wins a slugfest, then connects with a high knee that dazes Honky just enough for Brutus to get the pin.

-Martel attacks Beefcake and clamps on a chinlock. Brutus fights free but doesn’t tag out, so Martel goes right back to work on him. Referee catches Martel holding the ropes on a pinfall attempt, and when the referee catches him, Martel raises his arms, and Beefcake hooks them to roll him up and eliminate him, leaving the Boss Man at a one-on-three disadvantage.

-Boss Man is just PISSED OFF by that though, so he comes in and murders Rooster to eliminate him immediately.

-Dusty’s in next and they duke it out until Dusty connects with a crossbody and gets the pin. Survivors: Dusty Rhodes and Brutus Beefcake. Post-match, Boss Man goes nutzo with the nightstick, until Brutus’ clippers come to the rescue. 0 for 1. This one had serious pacing problems, with about ten minutes of lag followed by bodies just flying out in the final two minutes.

-Gene Okerlund chats with the King’s Court.

THE 4X4S (Captain Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Rugged Ronnie Garvin, Bret “Hit Man” Hart, Hercules)
THE KING’S COURT (Captain Macho King Randy Savage, Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, Dino Bravo, Canadian Earthquake, with Queen Sherri & Jimmy Hart)
-Earthquake is filling in for the departed Barry Windham, and unlike the last match, they actually bother to explain it a little, with Gorilla implying that Jimmy Hart paid everybody a lot of money to switch teammates at the last minute. 4X4s show solidarity by coming to the ring with 2x4s and then doing precision drill maneuvers with them.

-Captains start and Duggan gets the upper hand. Hercules stupidly gorilla presses Savage into the King’s corner, and Valentine is able to tag in. Bret works the arm, and Duggan helps. Garvin tags in and clamps on a sleeper, but Valentine happens to fall into his own corner, so Dino is able to tag in. Hercules tags in moments later and we have a perfectly color-coordinated battle of strongmen. Earthquake tags in moments later and wastes no time, crashing down on Hercules’ chest as soon as he can to score the first elimination.

-Hacksaw can’t get Earthquake off his feet, so Bret schoolboys him. Garvin nearly gets a pin and Earthquake calmly lifts him off and tags out. Valentine goes for the figure four, but Garvin gets away from him. Garvin gets caught in the wrong corner and the King’s Court takes turns beating on him. Garvin makes a tag behind his back and Duggan sneaks in with the three-point stance to get rid of the Hammer.

-Dino steps in manages to trap Hacksaw in the wrong corner, revisiting an effective strategy. Earthquake misses an elbow, allowing Duggan to get the hell out. Dino gets caught in the Garvin Stomp. A pair of tags brings in Bret and Savage, and the crowd goes nuts at the mere prospect of watching these guys wrestle. It tragically doesn’t last long as Savage fears it would be too awesome, and tags in Dino. Yada yada yada, side suplex eliminates Ronnie Garvin. Amazing detail that I didn’t notice the first time I reviewed this, where, after the three count, Randy Savage runs in from the apron and stomps on Garvin just to be a dick, then runs back out.

-Hacksaw and the Hit Man double-team Earthquake to stay alive. Savage tags in and this time the Savage-Hart battle lasts a little while. Savage gets caught in the ropes and Hacksaw takes some free shots at him. Bret keeps the upper hand through most of the battle and Savage has finally had enough and brings Dino back in. Dino neutralizes Bret with a bearhug and Canadian Earthquake heads back in and drops an elbow, but that doesn’t put him away. Saddest moment ever as Duggan actually tries to give Bret a little rub by starting a “Go Bret Go” chant, but the crowd won’t do it.

-Bret avoids a double-team maneuver and Duggan tags in and unloads on Savage. He tags Bret back in, which is a huge mistake because Bret’s still out of it. He misses a corner charge and Savage connects with the flying elbow, and this time it’s Hacksaw who’s down to one against three.

-Hacksaw takes a literal approach to that one, just disregarding tags completely and fighting all three guys at once. He clears the ring to a huge reaction. Duggan fights off Savage and Bravo and the referee has just flat-out forgotten who the legal man should be, letting the heels switch off without reprimand. Duggan won’t say die, and finally Sherri takes things into her own hands and yanks the ropes down to bring Duggan spilling out onto the floor, and he’s eliminated count-out, giving the win to Randy Savage, Dino Bravo, and Canadian Earthquake. 1 for 2. It’s funny, I remember liking the opening match and not really caring for this one, but I actually liked this a LOT more than the opener, with more cohesive team spots and a better pace.

-Sean Mooney talks to the Million Dollar Man, who has already paid his team in advance for the incredible job that they’re about to do in the Hulkamaniacs.

-Gene Okerlund gives us a medical update on Dusty Rhodes. Doctors have diagnosed him with a splotch.

-The Genius reads a poem for us ALL.

THE HULKAMANIACS (Hulk Hogan, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Demolition)
THE MILLION-DOLLAR TEAM (“Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase, Zeus, Powers of Pain, with Virgil and Mr. Fuji)
-Million-Dollar Team won’t let the Hulkamaniacs into the ring until Jake has scared them all off with Damien. A long while back, WWE.com had an interview with Jake where he talked about this show and told a hilarious story about the original plan for that bit. Vince originally called a local zoo for help, and the idea was that the Hulkamaniacs would all retreat to the locker room as if they were just giving up, and then return with a snake so big that it took all four guys to carry it. So the snake arrives backstage and there are three immediately apparent problems: #1, at the waist, it’s as wide as Jake. #2, it’s striking at everybody. #3, the zoo employee in charge of the snake appeared to be terrified of it himself. So they canceled the big surprise and just went with Damien.

-Zeus fights off his own teammates to try to get to Hulk, and everybody keeps them separate. Crowd wants Hulk vs. Zeus though, so they actually start the match that way. Hulk can’t even budge Zeus with a shoulderblock. Hogan thinks “Fuck it” and goes for the eyes, then grounds Zeus with a slam. Powers of Pain offer a little help from the apron, and Zeus strangles Hogan, shoving the referee away to do so, and that gets him disqualified, and the remaining wrestlers have to pull him off Hogan. Hogan is pretty much dead by the time DiBiase finally offers him a bribe to get out of the ring. See…if Zeus had been worth anything as a wrestler, that would have been a great dynamic, the heel that the other heels are terrified of. They have this big invincible monster who actually seems to be a threat to the #1 guy, and he’s more than willing to be a henchman if it means getting his hands on that guy…but at the same time, he has ZERO self-control and he’s not completely there, so any heel that deals with him becomes Dr. Frankenstein and runs the risk of being destroyed by his own monster. It was a brilliant idea, just the wrong guy to try it with.

-Hogan tags out to recover and Demolition handles Ted DiBiase. Hogan comes back in and helps triple-team DiBiase, which irks Jesse because the referee was so fast to disqualify Zeus. Gorilla replies with a hilarious line: “I don’t care if you got a Z in the side of your head or not, that’s not legal!”

-Warlord heads in and manages to turn things around for his team. Fuji trips up Ax from the outside and Warlord capitalizes with a quick elbow to eliminate Ax.

-Warlord gets trapped in the wrong corner and the remaining Hulkamaniacs have an easy team with him. Hogan slams him and Jesse speculates that it’s the first time that Warlord has ever been bodyslammed, which is the same thing that Jesse speculated at last year’s Survivor Series when Warlord got bodyslammed. DiBiase applies a chinlock, doing something-or-other to the cervical nervical vertabrae. Smash gets free, but DiBiase makes a tag behind Smash’s back and Barbarian takes Smash’s head off with a top rope clothesline, and now both members of Demolition are gone.

-Jake hauls ass in there and tries the DDT right away, but Barbarian fights him off. DiBiase and the Powers switch off working Jake over, wearing him down while everyone has a chance to stay fresh, and it’s not looking good for the Hulkamaniacs. Piledriver by DiBiase to target the injured neck, and Jake manages to get a foot on the rope to avoid the pin. Barbarian goes for a diving headbutt and misses, and Jake makes the tag. He clears the ring and focuses on Barbarian, but he can’t get the three-count. Warlord has had enough and heads in, and Hulk vs. Both Powers is naturally a pretty even battle. They finally get the upper hand on Hogan and leave him laying with a spike piledriver, but that means that both team members have been in wayyyyyyy longer than the count of five, and the referee disqualifies both Powers of Pain, which gives Jesse a heart attack. “Hogan gets saved AGAIN! Zeus gets disqualified for beating up Hogan and now the Powers of Pain are disqualified because they beat up Hogan too!”

-DiBiase wastes no time and applies the Million Dollar Dream, but Jake breaks the hold with a knee from behind. “How come Roberts wasn’t disqualified?!” Hogan makes the tag and Jake lays a beating on the man who nearly ended his career. Meanwhile, Hogan is nearly-unconscious on the apron, and Jesse voices concern that the referee won’t be able to think of a way to help Hogan. Meanwhile, Virgil suddenly shows up late in the match, provides distraction, and takes a DDT, but mission accomplished, DiBiase is able to execute a sneak attack and eliminates the Snake.

-That leaves DiBiase, Hulk, and the Hulk-shaped sweat stain in the corner. And that naturally doesn’t end well for DiBiase. Big boot, leg drop, Hogan survives. 2 for 3. Good match despite the overwhelming objections of The Body.

-Sean Mooney talks to Randy Savage and Zeus about the upcoming PPV special “No Holds Barred: The Match/The Movie.” Savage declares that the feud will end once and for all after the cage match.

-Gene Okerlund talks to Hulk Hogan and Brutus Beefcake, and Hulk emphasizes that he’s going into the cage to take Zeus out of the WWF for good. Sneak attack cuts the promo short, and it’s intermission time.

-Jesse Ventura (wearing an “Abraxas” t-shirt) says that a huge argument has erupted in the Heenan Family’s locker room. There’s pushings and shovings transpiring.

RODDY’S ROWDIES (Rowdy Roddy Piper, Superfly Jimmy Snuka, Bushwhackers)
RUDE’S BROOD (Ravishing Rick Rude, Mr. Perfect, Fabulous Rougeau Brothers, with The Genius and Jimmy Hart)
-Bobby Heenan isn’t with Rick Rude, lending credence to Jesse’s report. Rougeaus are pretty much finishing up here, as they haven’t even worked a squash match on the syndicated shows since September, and after this it’s one more shot at the Royal Rumble to put over the Bushwhackers and they’re done. The Genius, of course, follows Mr. Perfect to the ring, and Gorilla notes, “I’d never want The Genius walking behind ME.” Speaking of Perfect, I know I’m opening myself up to “Why would you notice?” inquiries, but Perfect has what appears to be a wetfart stain on his tights.

-Snuka and the Bushwhackers get the early advantage with biting. Rougeaus stall a little bit and pay for it, with Snuka sneaking up and laying a beating on Jacques. Superfly splash eliminates him in short order.

-Rude tries to take care of Snuka himself and just winds up headbutted out of the ring and onto the apron. Perfect tags in and gets whipped into the ropes while Rude uses the ropes to help himself get back to his feet, so Perfect tumbles over and hits the floor. This triggers an argument on the heel side, and they wind up getting noggin-knocked. Snuka and the Whackers take turns laying a beating on Perfect. Piper finally tags in and eats a savate kick from Raymond, but he counters a backdrop into a piledriver to eliminate Raymond.

-Perfect goes right to work, targeting Piper’s neck. Piper hangs in there and is able to make the tag, and the Bushwhackers handle Perfect. Piper, having made a recovery, tags back in and fires punches at Perfect, taunting Rude by swiveling his hips between punches. Butch heads back in and bites Perfect, but pauses to celebrate and Perfect sneaks up and pins him.

-Perfect fights off Luke and Rude tags in and heads up top, but Luke sees him coming and blocks it. Rude sticks with what he knows and hits the Rude Awakening, and that gets rid of Luke.

-Snuka and Perfect duke it out and Perfect gets the upper hand. The Brood manages to cut the ring in half pretty nicely. Hot tag to Piper, and he and Rude wind up brawling their way right out of the ring and both of them get counted out.

-That leaves Perfect and Snuka, and things go Snuka’s way until Perfect rolls through a flying bodypress and turns it into a roll-up for the win. 3 for 4. Another one that I liked a lot more than I remembered liking it.

ULTIMATE WARRIORS (Captain Ultimate Warrior, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, Rockers)
HEENAN’S FAMILY (Captain Andre the Giant, Haku, Arn Anderson, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan)
-Heenan is suddenly an active member of the team and they’re not even acknowledging the name of the person he’s replacing.

-Heenan’s Family attacks before the opponents have all made it into the ring, and Warrior blitzes in there and wipes out Andre with a series of clotheslines, getting the Giant counted out immediately. So immediately, in fact, that The Fink announces the elimination while the referee is still counting.

-Anvil falls victim to a sneak attack by Haku and Heenan chokes away with the tag rope. Anvil gets distracted by Arn Anderson but falls victim to a kick to the back of the head from Haku, getting knocked out and eliminated.

-Haku deals with the Rockers. Haku and Arn work together as a tag team, because they really don’t have a choice, and they do a pretty decent job. Marty misses a charge and Heenan finally tags in. He gives Marty one shot, Marty fires back, and Heenan immediately tags out.

JESSE: He did the damage and got out!
GORILLA: What damage?!
JESSE: Kicked him in the nuts.

-Heenan tags back in as soon as Marty gets the wind knocked out of him again, and totally pisses off the crowd by getting the pin and eliminating him.

-Haku lays a beating on Shawn. Arn doesn’t fare as well and gets his face ground into the mat. Blinded, he walks into the wrong corner, and Warrior unloads. Warrior rocket launches Shawn onto Arn for the two-count. Haku tags in and walks into a crossbody for the three-count.

-Arn throws Shawn out to the floor and Heenan does a great bit, teasing going to the top rope slowly, losing his nerve, and then climbing down slowly. Arn and Heenan get into an argument over Heenan refusing to tag in. Heenan does so reluctantly, takes a punch, and tags right back out. Arn catches Shawn in a spinebuster, and that eliminates him. Pretty amazing that they would let Arn go over anybody when he’s leaving the company. And it’s not like Arn is the kind of guy who would go on an ego trip if they made him look bad. On the flipside, I know Shawn wasn’t SHAWN yet, but he totally would have been in the right to say, “Woah, it’s this guy’s last night in the company, I’m not laying down clean for him,” but he didn’t, so that’s a nice show of respect to Arn, I think.

-Warrior gets beaten down by Arn and rammed into the corner. Warrior shoves Arn into the Brain, knocking him off the apron. He follows with a gorilla press and a slam, and Arn Anderson is eliminated.

-That leaves Warrior vs. Bobby Heenan, which is nowhere near a fair fight. Warrior has fun chasing him around just for the hell of it. Heenan bumps like a pinball, including an impressive sell of an Irish whip where he essentially powerbombs himself with the turnbuckles. Heenan tries to leave early, but Warrior won’t let him. Flying tackle and a splash finally put the Brain out of his misery. 4 for 5. The Heenan Family’s collapse gave them a nice guideline to work with through the entire match.

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
The drawback of the early Survivor Series is that they're mostly inconsequential in terms of history. Every angle they have going on would turn out exactly the same way if this show never happened. So for history, it's an easy skip. But it totally makes up for that in terms of being a FUN, energetic three hours of WWF wrestling.

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Survivor Series, Adam Nedeff