With this year’s event just around the corner, Matthew Roberts takes a look at Survivor Series 1990.
The TWM Time Machine couldn’t really send me anywhere else could it, with Survivor Series 2020 being exactly thirty years to the day that one of the all-time legends of the business made his on-screen debut. But enough of the Gobbeldy Gooker. Joking aside this is a card that is perhaps solely remembered in a positive light for the debut of the Undertaker but does it stack up as an event as a whole when looked at in 2020. Well, there’s one way to find out.
We kick off with something that always brings me joy, Vince McMahon announcing the teams that we will see tonight in that over-excited voiceover, erm, the voice of his. Gorilla Monsoon and Roddy Piper are on commentary, the latter cutting a promo on Saddam Hussein for good measure, and we’re onto our opening match as The Perfect Team take on the Warriors. No prizes for guessing who the team captains were. Although the “Warriors” was one of the most fitting names in Survivor Series team history considering they had The Ultimate Warrior, The Road Warriors and the “Modern Day Warrior” Kerry Von Erich. And yes, it still counts even though only the Ultimate version was going by that name here.
It was all about power and brawling in this one. Ax goes early before we get a classic Survivors cluster as The LOD and Smash & Crush all get disqualified. This goes against all the laws of wrestling psychology as it leaves Mr Perfect alone against Warrior and the Texas Tornado. It’s fun to see Mr P doing his “bumping like a madman” thing, mildly surprising that he eliminates Tornado with the Perfectplex and not at all surprising that Warrior kicks out of that move and then hits a splash to become the sole survivor. This also, of course, booked him his spot in the Grand Finale. As a match it was ok, but it furthered the LOD/Demolition thing and gave Mr Perfect a reason to again challenge Tornado for the Intercontinental belt. A belt he’d won off him at a TV taping a few days prior but that would only be aired in December.
The Dream Team of Dusty Rhodes, The Hart Foundation and Koko B.Ware were up next as they tussled with the Million Dollar Team of Ted DiBiase, Rhythm ‘n’ Blues and a mystery man. No, not the Gobbeldy Gooker, but the one and only Undertaker. Right from the start, the first few years of the gimmick were almost all there (and they nailed the music the first time too) although those who remember Taker’s 92-95 ish era of plodding brawls with monsters might be surprised to see how quickly he moves about here. At times he’s too much of a “wrestler” (tagging in and out etc) too. But as debuts go it’s an impressive one. He quickly eliminates Koko B. Ware and later gets rid of Dusty Rhodes too before being counted out to be eliminated. A necessary course of action. The only other real highlights of the match-all centre around Bret Hart, namely his exchanges with DiBiase. Of course, it will always be remembered for Taker’s debut but it was a night that Bret shone as well. DiBiase took it though, and he advanced to the Grand Finale.
Next up was the Vipers, captained by Jake Roberts and including Jimmy Snuka and The Rockers, against the Visionaries, captained by Rick Martel and backed up by Power & Glory and the Warlord. The Model and the Snake are in the midst of a grudge feud as Martel as blinded Roberts (neat looking contact lens showing the effects on Jake) and Power and Glory took the on-screen credit for Shawn Michaels’ knee injury. For the first time ever in Survivor Series history, we got a clean sweep here as ALL the Visionaries survive, although they do not pin Jake, who gets counted out when he chases Martel away after another attempted blinding with “Arrogance”. It’s not a bad match, and the surprise clean sweep keeps things interesting, but it doesn’t really have the cathartic ending it might have done if Jake had at least eliminated one person once he found himself 4 on 1.
There was no real surprise about the next one. With Hulk Hogan leading the Hulkamaniacs of Big Bossman, Jim Duggan and Tugboat, the Grand Finale on the horizon (at this stage, Warrior was looking very lonely) and the people on the Natural Disasters team either being those whose feuds with the Hulkster had either peaked (Earthquake) or those who weren’t really up to a headlining feud with Hogan going forward (Dino Bravo, Haku and The Barbarian) it was only a question of whether Hogan would have other survivors by his side. Some of the participants are protected (Duggan gets DQ’d, Earthquake and Typhoon get counted out) and in the end, Hogan pins Barbarian to become the sole survivor. As Hogan formula goes though, it’s entertaining enough and worked at a fairly fast pace.
After Mean Gene interviews the Macho King in a segment that takes a lot of time not to really go anywhere we get one of the worst Survivor Elimination matches of all times. Though quite what anyone would expect from a match that pits The Alliance quartet of The Bushwhackers, Nikolai Volkoff and Tito Santana against the Mercenaries team of Boris Zhukov, The Orient Express and Sgt. Slaughter is beyond me anyway. Slaughter’s interview on the way to the match is more energetic than anything in the match itself, though no less offensive and the finish seems bad enough when you think it’s a way to give Hogan and Warrior a sacrificial lamb partner for the Grand Finale but when hindsight shows that it was a way to keep Slaughter away from the two main eventers he would fight in World Title matches at the next two PPV’s it’s even worse. To add salt to the wound, it’s not even a well-executed finish.
About the one thing that could possibly sink the card even lower at this point is an interminable segment based around a giant egg, what might hatch out of it and then that being someone dressed in a turkey suit. And that is, of course, exactly what we get. Still, if you in any way watched this show based on the hype for what might be in the egg you probably deserve all you get.
The Grand Finale match, appropriately, ends the evening for us. Despite the odds being against the team of Hogan, Warrior and Tito as they take on five men there is never really any doubt about what’s going to be the result. Santana does get to eliminate Warlord within 30 seconds, which really is baffling considering his previous match was built around showing how dominant Warlord could be, but Tito is gone just over a minute later anyway. Hogan and Warrior run wild and Warrior ends it by pinning Hercules. Just in case you’ve forgotten he’s there and he’s the real star though, Hogan nips in to make his own three count alongside the referee. At least it’s all done and dusted within ten minutes.
Overall it would be hard to be too effusive about the show as a whole. The Grand Finale was such a successful concept that the WWE never used it again, the reveal of the Gobbledy Gooker is one of the worst things the WWE have ever done, even in the name of comedy, and the Alliance Vs the Mercenaries was the worst Survivor match to date in the event’s history. Yet, the opening four matches all have their moments and if you’re down with 1990 WWE (or were watching and enjoying at the time) and can take them for what they are when they offer up some good entertainment. And yes, there is the small matter of the debut of The Undertaker. That’s the match of the night by far (as much thanks to DiBiase and Hart) and it’s fascinating to see where the legend of Taker all began. And although I’d argue anyone who said after seeing this match that we were seeing an all-time legend who would be the focus of a “farewell tribute” at the same show THIRTY years later would be speaking with a LOT of hindsight, it still remains an impressive debut. And the highlight of an up and down, but entertaining enough, show.
Photos courtesy of WWE.com. You can find me on Twitter @IWFICON. Thanks for reading!