With 2018’s version just around the corner, Matthew Roberts takes another trip in the TWM Time Machine; this time he’s going back to 1995 for some Survivor Series action…
I’ve always been a “traditionalist” when it comes to Survivor Series. The Thanksgiving tradition should mainly be about the actual survivor matches. I like the current Raw Vs Smackdown vibe and am glad the WWE didn’t, as they once threatened, jettison the PPV altogether. By 1995 the pure ethos of Survivor Series had already gone, as singles and title matches were regular additions to the card since 1991. But at least 1995’s card did feature 4 traditional matches on the show.
The opener was one such match as The Underdogs (Marty Jannetty, Hakushi, Barry Horowitz and Bob Holly) battled the BodyDonnas (Skip, Rad Radford, Dr. Tom Prichard and 1-2-3 Kid). As an aside, Al “Avatar” Snow was originally slated to be on the Underdogs but the gimmick bombed so badly he was shunted aside.
It seems like a rag-tag collection of performers and the newly turned heel 1-2-3 Kid was perhaps the obvious favourite to win. Indeed his former best friend Razor Ramon makes a pre-match appearance in an attempt to get his hands on the Kid, pretty much signalling who this match was being built around. That said, for an undercard match in 1995’s WWE this has a good share of talent, and at the very least hasn’t got any of the lumbering muscleheads who could sometimes make WWE pay-per-views a tough watch in this era. Most get their little chance in the spotlight in the early going, with Hakushi seemingly the crowd favourite; his exchanges with the Kid are probably the highlights of the match. But any match in 1995 WWE where we get top rope hurricanrana’s, Northern Lights Suplexes and powebomms off the top rope is alright by me. Yes the ending, where Sid comes out to help kid become the Sole Survivor, is a little bit anti-climatic and as said before it was obvious before the bell who was winning but there’s a lot of effort in this one and it’s a perfectly entertaining start to the show.
I doubt many people other than me in 1995 were looking forward to the Women’s Survivors match that pitted Alundra Blayze, Kyoko Inoue, Sakie Hasegawa and Chaparita Asari against Bertha Faye, Aja Kong, Tomoko Wantanabe and Lioness Asuka (obviously not the Asuka running around the WWE in 2018). And whilst it was nowhere near what the Japanese talent could have produced in their own backyard, it was entertaining enough. The main problem was the rapid fire eliminations in a match that went ten minutes. Five minutes in, four people have already been eliminated. As the WWE had actual booking plans in these days that went beyond the next episode of Raw this match builds up to Alundra Blayze and Aja Kong, with the intention of a feud in the months to come. Those paying attention, or with good memories, will realise that a few weeks later Blayze was back as Madusa in WCW throwing the WWE Women’s belt in the trash so that obviously never transpired, but Kong was the sole survivor here, lastly pinning Blayze. There’s too much going on in too little time here to make this a must watch, and there are a number of awkward miscues that hurt the match too, but at the time it was a refreshing change of pace on WWE TV.
Goldust makes his “big four” PPV debut next in a plodding, and frankly boring, match opposite Bam Bam Bigelow. Three quarters of it’s eight minute run time feels like it’s Goldie putting a chin lock on Bigelow. Even this early on the heat is there for Goldust, but this match is not at all one worth seeing.
If a match with 1995’s version of The Undertaker, teaming with Savio Vega, Fatu and Henry Godwin, to take on the Royals of Mabel, Jerry Lawler, Isaac Yankem and Hunter-Hearst Helmsley sounds like your idea of a good time I feel sorry for you. That it gives us fifteen minutes for Taker to clean house and The Darkside survive completely as a team just seems like a waste. If there was one match that could have been done and dusted in five minutes its this one. For curiosity value it’s interesting to see Kane and Triple H team up in earlier guises but again it’s not a match I could recommend.
The “Wild Card” match is a much better watch. The idea was that the teams were drawn at random (sort of) so friends were opposing friends whilst teaming with enemies. Thus we got Team Michaels (Shawn Michaels, Ahmed Johnson, British Bulldog & Sycho Sid) against Team Yokozuna (Yokozuna, Owen Hart, Dean Douglas & Razor Ramon). They are given nearly thirty minutes to play with and they use it well. And as we start off with Shawn Michaels going up against Owen Hart that’s pretty cool too. Dean Douglas is perhaps naturally the obvious one to get eliminated first (after being hit by his own partner Razor) and there’s some double fun as firstly Owen and Davey have a battle before they tag in Shawn and Razor and they do the same. Shawn ends up inadvertently superkicking Sid whilst Davey Boy Smith breaks up the subsequent pinfall attempt by Razor in a fun spot too. The only real downtime in the match is when Yokozuna tags in and slows everything down to a snails pace. In the end, HBK makes Yoko eat some Sweet Chin Music and he survives along with Ahmed Johnson and Davey Boy. A really fun match.
And so it’s onto the main event as Champion for a year Diesel defends against Bret Hart. Even Kevin Nash would admit that Bret brought the best out of him in the ring (or if you want to put it a different way, carried him to some of his best matches). The two had previously met in surprisingly good matches at King of the Ring 1994 and earlier in the year at Royal Rumble 1995 but this was a cut above even those two. It’s up there with Nash’s clash with Shawn Michaels at Good Friends, Better Enemies the following year as the best ever of his career.
As ever it is the story of Bret’s technical skills against the power of Diesel, but this time there is an added aggression from Bret, as if the previous two matches against the same opponent have taught him what he needs to do to take the win this time. It’s easy to mock the modern-day Bret for some of his outbursts but by god, in his prime he was one hell of a worker. The match itself is perhaps most remembered now for two things; Nash putting Bret through a table at ringside after knocking him off the ring apron (and as blase as you might be about those type of things in 2018, they simply didn’t do that in mid-90’s WWE) and Nash’s “f**king motherf**ker” retort after a possum playing Hart subsequently rolled him up for the victory. But the match itself is well worth watching again and is stands up as a great piece of sports-entertainment storytelling to this day.
If 1995 doesn’t get much love from long-term fans it can be understandable. The WWE was not in great shape. But even in their darkest hours the WWE can deliver and Survivor Series 1995 did deliver. And whilst it drags at times, the good action on show more than makes up for that.