Retro Recap – Survivor Series 1987

This was the inaugural running of this event, and it’s origin is that basically Vince McMahon did not want NWA promoter Jim Crockett getting a foothold in pay per view, and created an event that ran the same night to force cable companies to choose which one they would carry. You see kids back then carrying multiple live events on pay per view just wasn’t feasible for a lot of cable systems so they had to pick one. The WWF had a proven pay per view product having already run a few shows successfully and this was Crockett’s first run, so for those who had to pick the choice was easy. The hardball tactic cost Crockett a ton of money and put a real damper on what was a really good show in Starrcade 87. Yeah that’s cutthroat but that’s how competition actually works in business. All that being said was this show any good or just a throwaway one to siphon money away from the competition?

The show revolved around the two main angles going on: Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant circling each other for a rematch and the Honky Tonk Man trying to hold on to his Intercontinental Title against the three headed monster challenge of Randy Savage, Ricky Steamboat, and Jake the Snake Roberts. Now instead of showing matches that were taking place at house shows on pay per view they came up with a new format. Elimination tag team matches with each team having five members. With a few exceptions virtually the entire roster was involved in the show, which was a chance for some guys to show out but also led to some desperation to fill out two of the teams (I’ll get to that in a minute). So how did it go? Let’s see:

Randy Savage (captain), Ricky Steamboat, Jake Roberts, Brutus Beefcake, and Hacksaw Duggan vs Honky Tonk Man (captain), King Harley Race, Ron Bass, Hercules, and Danny Davis

Other than the Honky Tonk Man angle there was a feud brewing between Duggan and Race, and that would manifest itself in the form of both men fighting outside the ring and getting counted out for a double elimination. From there Bass and Beefcake would go and then we got to the meat of the match. Jake took a beating for a bit before he got up and hit the DDT on Davis to get him out, then Savage would pin Hercules with his flying elbow to make it three against one. Honky’s three adversaries took turns getting payback on him before he bailed and got counted out to end the match. Very well done match with the right order of elimination, a turn for each guy with a big finisher to hit it, and then the finish lined up perfectly with the cowardly Honk Tonk Man’s character.

The match did everything you needed it to do. It continued both the storylines involved, accented Honky Tonk Man’s character, and gave all the faces a moment to show what they can do. Jake’s elmination of Davis and Savage’s of Hercules were prime examples of this Honky Tonk Man’s teammates were used properly – outside of Race the rest (Bass, Davis, Hercules) were there to put in some token offense and eat pins.

Fabulous Moolah (captain), Rockin Robin, Velvet McIntyre, and the Jumping Bomb Angels vs Sherri Martel (captain), Dawn Marie Johnston, Donna Christianello, and the Glamor Girls

Even having this match on the card made no sense outside of filling space. Why? Because it was totally misrepresenting what the women’s side was like at the time. Fabulous Moolah had all but chased away most of the American women wrestlers with her abusive behavior, and up until a few months prior to this show the whole division was her and like one or two other women. Then she finally lost the women’s title to Sherri Martel in what was a passing of the in ring torch for a bit. And then seemingly at random they introduced women’s tag team titles and put them on the Glamor Girls (Lelani Kai and Judy Martin). And on top of that two of Martel’s team members, Johnston and Christianello, were gone after the show as soon as they arrived.

The match was fine, and was clearly meant to showcase the two tag teams as they were the last members for both orh their teams. The Jumping Bomb Angels were a glimpse of what women’s wrestling could have been a lot earlier in the states if any promoter had just given a damn. But to be honest this match getting a spot on the show was totally misleading; the women deserved it but they also deserved more than the not even token promotion they were getting in the WWF and every other American company.

Strike Force (captains), the British Bulldogs, the Killer Bees, the Rougeau Brothers, and the Young Stallions vs The Hart Foundation (captains), the Islanders, Demolition, Greg Valentine & Dino Bravo, and the Bolsheviks

This match was kinda strange. The ring work was good and all but order of elimination suggested that somebody was taking a nap when it was laid out. The two biggest face teams, the Bulldogs and Strike Force, were both gone by the halfway point in the match leaving the two low/midcard fodder teams the Bees and Stallions to take on three teams, which they did successfully! Demolition, who’d started out as a bit of a joke but were now getting a push, were protected in their elimination with a DQ but the tag team championships Strike Force was pinned clean as a whistle a third of the way in. Just strange.

How did the ring hold up?

The booking for this match would probably get trashed today. The popular favorites out early and the two surviving teams getting zero follow up as far as any kind of push? Oh yeah. Also seeing ten tag teams who got regular action is like night and day compared to 2020, even though there really weren’t any storylines going on within that division. Regular, recurring matches with some history behind them? Yes? Actual feuds at the moment, not really. It did seem like they just wanted to do a well worked match to entertain with worrying about what came out of it. On that point they succeeded.

Interlude….

We get a taped vignette from newly arrived Ted ‘the Million Dollar Man’ DiBiase, where he basically monologues over a highlight reel of all the skits he’s been in to set up his arrival. This stuff was so good and yet it gets me a little irritated because in 2020 there’s almost no way that so called smart fans would accept this kind of packaging for a well known wrestler who was considered a top 5 worker in the country. The Million Dollar Man is one of the best wrestling characters ever created and in 2020 there would be an angry mob going all caps on Twitter every Monday upset that he isn’t getting to show what he can do in the ring. DiBiase never had an all time great match in the WWF but he’s one of their most fondly remembered performers. That should tell you something if your paying attention.

Hulk Hogan, Bam Bam Bigelow, Don Muraco, Ken Patera, and Paul Orndorff vs Andre the Giant, King Kong Bundy, One Man Gang, Rick Rude, and Butch Reed

To call this the big boy match would be totally appropriate as everyone in here was either a muscle guy or a behemoth. Seriously Orndorff and Reed were the little guys and they were both around 240-ish. You’d be hard pressed to find ten guys this big in any company right now. (And of course after I typed that I rattled off a dozen guys in WWE now who would have fit in here fine. But my point stands regardless because you had three guys who were well over 400 pounds here (Gang, Andre, and Bundy).

Where’s the beef? Right here

The story leading up to the match was the rivalry between Hogan and Andre. The two had met at WrestleMania III but that one was so tight that a rematch was definitely warranted, doubly so with the hook that Andre’s early pin attempt of Hogan was close enough to getting three to suggest that maybe he did actually win it. After losing that match Andre went away and didn’t surface until it was time to hype this one; that was as much because he just couldn’t go like that any more than any booking decision. And that bring us here.

The story of the match itself was pretty simple. Both teams had guys who were there to be whittled away to bring us to the one on one between the two captains. And that’s exactly how it went for the first two thirds of it, until we got down to Hogan and Bigelow on one side vs Andre, Bundy, and Gang on the other. Until then Hogan and Andre hadn’t touched each other, so the anticipation had built all the way up. Bigelow was taking a beating and finally tags in Hogan to give us what we’d been waiting the whole match for. And for a few minutes the rematch is on, but then…..swerve! Hogan gets pulled outside by Bundy and Gang and gets held up long enough by them to get counted out and eliminated.

That was a brilliant way to give us a taste without spoiling the big meal that would come in February. And then it took us to the final act, the Last Stand of Bam Bam Bigelow. Bam Bam was already worn out but was stuck with Andre, Bundy, and Gang on the other side. He powered through Bundy with what energy he had left then survived an assault from Gang to get it down to one on one vs Andre before getting dispatched. And thus a familiar beat for this event, one guy or gal being left to fight many, was entrenched albeit playing out two different ways on the show. Honky Tonk Man bailing out of that situation in the opener made Bam Bam staying and fighting that much sweeter.

The post match stuff was good, too. It started with a ‘Hogan must pose!’ moment where Hulk came back and ran Andre out the ring then posed for the crowd. It could have been ridiculous but given how Hogan got screwed in his elimination it was allowable. But Bobby Heenan’s post match interview was outstanding, one where he demonstrated his sheer contempt for Hogan while showing pure glee at finally getting one up on him and got the ball rolling for the big rematch between Hogan and Andre.

Final Verdict

Very good show. The ring work was good all around but the storytelling during the matches was excellent. If you’re in a rush, watch the opener and main event but the tag team match and the DiBiase segment are worth your time, too. The The women’s match was fine but a bit irritating given that there was little done before or after to match what they got to do here. It’s also a rare show for that era where the heels were victorious in a pay per view main event – we wouldn’t see that again until the 1992 Royal Rumble. I definitely recommend this one.

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