Remembering The First Survivor Series 30 Years Ago Tonight


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Yes, Thanksgiving has come and gone. So has this year’s Survivor Series. However, we still have Thanksgiving weekend. Also, the first Survivor Series took place on November 26, 1987. Therefore, I’m not really late. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I did not know it at the time, but traditionally this had been a huge NWA day. They had their annual event, Starrcade. Vince McMahon threatened cable companies. He said that anybody who carried Starrcade wouldn’t be allowed to carry WrestleMania IV. The WWF was coming off a huge event.

WrestleMania III set an indoor attendance record. Most companies chose Survivor Series. At this point cable was not even a given for many households. Wrestling programs and commercials urged fans to call their local cable companies, so kids told their parents to do that. We needed another cable box. It was a whole big thing. The key to this event was promotion. They built it up to be some unique and amazing happening that could not be missed, despite no titles being on the line. Championships were big at that time.

There were not many. The first match was Randy Savage’s team going up against his rival. Honky Tonk Man had recently thrown down Miss Elizabeth in a shocking manner. He followed that up by cracking a guitar over Randy’s head. Savage had a strange group on his side. He teamed up with recent enemy Ricky Steamboat. Macho Man, which was Savage’s nickname, had just become a good guy. Randy also teamed with Jake Roberts, Brutus Beefcake, and Jim Duggan. That would be “The Snake”, “The Barber”, and Hacksaw. Randy would also go on to have big feuds against those three in the years to come. Plus, Steamboat and Roberts were bitter enemies before Jake turned good. At this time there was usually a very clear line between good and bad guys. The match left something to be desired. Honky remained against Savage, Steamboat, and Roberts because Honky’s teammates had all been eliminated. He wasn’t crazy about the 3 on 1 odds, and walked away. This eliminated him. He was counted out. It left a bad taste in my mouth. Cheesy way to start things. Savage, Steamboat, and Roberts survived.

A bout featuring 10 women was next. The Fabulous Moolah had been evil for many years, but she was surprisingly paired with the faces (good). Only this match had people that were not previously promoted. Only captains were given. Sensational Sherri had won the title months earlier. She went against Moolah’s team. Back then they didn’t have many women wrestlers on the roster. Some women in this match had not been actively performing during WWF matches at this point. Since there were some unfamiliar faces that had not been announced, it felt like they just dragged in people off the street to compete. Two members of Moolah’s team won. The Jumping Bomb Angels survived. They would go on to become tag team champs a couple months later.

The WWF had some great tag teams back then. Lots of them. Not just random guys getting paired together. Obviously excluding this match and event. The next contest featured 20 men. Five tag teams on each side. When one member of a tag team lost, his regular partner also had to leave. Strike Force captained one team. The Hart Foundation joined forces with other bad guys on the opposing side. In this match, good guys won. Strike Force, however, did not make it through. The Young Stallions and Killer Bees survived. Paul Roma, Jim Powers, Brian Blair, and Jim Brunzell.

Finally, it was time for the main event. Again, a good guy had unusual partners. Hulk Hogan teamed with Bam Bam Bigelow, Ken Patera, Don Muraco, and Paul Orndorff. Bigelow was a newcomer who later became known as one of the top bad guys. He appeared to be coming in as a bad guy when evil managers were recruiting him, but he spurned them all. Patera, Muraco, and Orndorff were all newly turned faces. They had been some of Hogan’s biggest rivals. Muraco was replacing an injured Superstar Billy Graham.

The opposition was captained by Andre The Giant. He teamed with fellow big man and Heenan family member King Kong Bundy. The One Man Gang, Rick Rude, and Butch Reed rounded out that squad. Heenan managed Rude as well. The others were managed by Slick. Andre and Hulk were legally inside, but Bundy pulled Hogan outside. The Gang and Bundy distracted Hogan long enough to get him counted out and eliminated. This left three big guys against Bam Bam. The Gang would eventually get pinned soon after Bigelow had defeated Bundy, but Bam Bam was tired. He then lost to Andre. Hulk soon returned and attacked Andre, who had been the sole survivor. It was a surprise because back then good guys almost always won big events.

Soon changes were made to the event. No women competing in year two. The third Survivor Series had no match consisting of just tag teams. They were incorporated into different matches, and each bout featured 8 total participants instead of 10. A dark match between Boris Zhukov and Paul Roma started things in 1989, but viewers didn’t know this. 1990 featured an ultimate match with the surviving members of each bout. The Undertaker beat Hulk Hogan in 1991. That was the first Survivor Series title match. The Undertaker had debuted at 1990’s Survivor Series. After years of taking place on Thanksgiving night, the Survivor Series moved to Wednesday in 1991. Thanksgiving Eve. Of course there were only two NFL games on turkey day then. Hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane, and your Thanksgiving!

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