Survivor Series ’99

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James Dixon: The last few versions of this show have been pretty monumental. The previous year was the “Deadly Game” tournament to crown a new WWF Champion, which The Rock won after a heel turn and a night where there was next to no wrestling worth shouting home about. The year before was the infamous Montreal Screwjob, about which enough has been written already. 1996 saw Sycho Sid dethrone WWF Champion Shawn Michaels to thunderous applause, while on the undercard Steve Austin and Bret Hart assembled a bona fide classic. 1995 and 1994 both saw title changes too, with Bret Hart winning the title from long time champion Diesel in ’95, having lost it to Bob Backlund in a very long and mostly boring bout in ’94. Plenty to live up to then, and this show will be remembered long into the future too, but for something stupid and idiotic rather than monumental…

 

Survivor Series 2016

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Arnold Furious: The focus of this show is in two places. Firstly the clash of RAW vs. SmackDown, which would have far more appeal if they’d not split the brands only a few months ago. Secondly the ‘fantasy warfare’ of Brock Lesnar against Goldberg. The latter claiming to be competing in his final match. You never say never in wrestling though. We’re in Toronto, Ontario. Hosts are Mauro RanalloJBL,Corey Graves and Byron Saxton. That’s actually a pretty solid team, although a four man booth is extremely excessive. As has been proven on SmackDown where the most dominant voices just take over.

Survivor Series ’96

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Arnold Furious: Fans in the UK often don’t give this show the credit it deserves. I daresay it’s because it aired on a several day delay on the then-new Sky Sports 3, and was VERY heavily edited to fit a 3-hour slot, with the Undertaker-Mankind match getting about 4-minutes and the Bret-Austin match losing 10-15 minutes, with both matches having ad breaks in the middle of them to account for the clipping. The response from fans in Power Slam magazine was overwhelmingly negative, because while Sky had begun showing PPVs live in ’95, this got the shaft because the England cricket team was on tour in Australia and thus needed the all-night slot since it got bigger ratings, and Sky Sports 3 used to close at midnight. But, I love this show. For years I had a copy taped off TV that I played over and over again. I eventually had to buy a copy because I wore it out. Not even from watching the entire show, but rather watching Austin vs. Bret. I watched that match more than any other during this era, including their WrestleMania 13 rematch that other people seem to prefer. When it came to claiming stuff for Volume #4, James tried to barter with me to get Survivor Series ’96, that’s how great this show is. The vibe of the show is that something special is going to happen. Some shows have an atmosphere to them before they even begin. Survivor Series ’96 is one such show.

 

We’re in New York City at Madison Square Garden, the home of professional wrestling. Hosts are Vince McMahon and Jim Ross. The following match is from the pre-show Free For All:

 

Survivor Series ’95

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Arnold Furious: This kicks off a run of shows that I really like. The booking was getting more intelligent, moving forward from show to show and giving people genuine reasons to care about the talent. Coherent booking (or writing, whatever you want to call it) is key to enjoying the WWF’s product. Not every company has problems with incoherent booking as they can generally cover for uneven angles with great matches. Although it’d be fair to say that, in general, the best matches are combined with a good storyline. This PPV is littered with sprouts of recovery. It’s the hope that makes the difference. By this point the WWF was becoming aware of how badly it’d been sucking. It’d take time to adapt to the modern audience and transition into the Attitude era but at least they can’t re-do King of the Ring ’95. That monstrosity is in the books.

We’re in Landover, Maryland. Hosts are Vince McMahon, Jim Ross and a returning Mr. Perfect. He’s been out of the WWF, and wrestling in general, since mid ’94 with his back injury. Hennig won’t compete during this WWF run, but he would become a handy extra member of the commentary team, thus denying Dok Hendrix the opportunity to ruin any more PPV’s.

 

Survivor Series ’94

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Arnold Furious: The worst thing about watching tapes from 1994 is Todd Pettengill riding horses to the ring on the pre-show. I hate him SO much. I know he’s a shill man and its his job to be all excited and irritating, and he’s not even the worse guy the WWF hired for the gig, but he paved the way for all these other scum that have done the job as irritatingly since. Basically; fuck Todd Pettengill. Fuck him in both ears. To their credit the WWF show footage from waaaaay back in 1983 to preview the Backlund title shot. It is a good story: Backlund never lost the title, Arnold Skaaland threw the towel in. This PPV match comes about thanks to Bret’s outstanding abilities. Bob got a shot at the Hitman and lost, blaming a slow count on a cheeky roll up, and Backlund turned heel. Bret made him look awesome. My favourite part of the pre-show is Todd’s assertion that the WWF “doesn’t do PPV’s all the time”. Give it six months, mate. By this PPV they’d got the pre-show down, with the video packages, the interviews and such. It works. Interestingly enough this is the first PPV to have Spanish commentary recorded.

 

Hosts are Vince McMahon and Gorilla Monsoon, dressed as cowboys because we’re in San Antonio, Texas. Pity Vince insists on doing PBP as Gorilla is way better at it.

 

Survivor Series ’93

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Arnold Furious: 1993 was not a good year for the WWF. Business was down, talent was leaving for pastures new and Hulkamania was dead. Increasingly the WWF were relying on strong foreign markets and tours. The final nail in the WWF’s coffin, or so some thought, was Vince McMahon’s indictment on steroid distribution charges by the federal government, shortly before this show. To say his mind wasn’t on the product would be an understatement. If WCW had been as strong in 1993 as they were in the years to follow then maybe the WWF would have been run into the ground before 1994 came into view. Luckily for the WWF, 1994 is the year where the WWF shows signs of improvement, putting on one of its greatest WrestleManias.

 

Coming into this show alone, the company had a multitude of problems. Shawn Michaels had been taken off TV amid rumours of him testing positive for steroids, a major issue at the time, and was rumoured to have quit the company entirely to talk to WCW. Worried that one of their champions would show up in WCW with the belt, the WWF ran a hurried battle royal/final match, crowning Razor Ramon as the new IC champion. Things took a turn for the weird as Shawn returned to the fold to replace another problem in Jerry Lawler. The King of Memphis had been battling Bret Hart for months but was accused of statutory rape and removed from TV. Shawn returned to take Lawler’s place in the hopes that the fans wouldn’t notice. Booking on the fly isn’t easy. Given a long term solution, they worked towards a match between Michaels and Razor at WrestleMania. Another issue stemmed from Mr. Perfect’s sudden second retirement with back injuries. Randy Savage, himself feuding with the freshly turned Crush, was hurriedly inserted into the opening match in place of Hennig.

 

24th November 1993. We’re in Boston, Massachusetts. Hosts are Vince McMahon and a departing Bobby Heenan in his final WWF PPV.

Survivor Series ’92

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Arnold Furious: The WWF’s 1992 state of constant flux had been in operation since SummerSlam, and they’d changed all their champions, with the WWF title having changed hands twice. First Ric Flair unseated Randy Savage as and then Vince McMahon panicked, and did a quickie belt change to Bret Hart on a house show. Bret had earned his shot to carry the company and the title change reflected the way the WWF was having to change, as it moved away from musclemen and towards workhorses. Two other top contenders, The Ultimate Warrior and former IC champ The British Bulldog, were both dumped because of steroid allegations. Bulldog’s IC title went to Shawn Michaels, another hard-working and talented midcarder. Because the WWF was running out of stars, they pitched these two workrate freaks against each other to main event Survivor Series. The steroid scandal had certainly shook up the WWF landscape. The tag titles also switched, not that anyone cared by this point, and Money Inc were the new incumbents. Essentially it was the best solution to a poor division and a placeholder until the WWF signed another team. That team was The Steiner Brothers. This show has several instances of the WWF trying to revive the tag division so that The Steiners couldn’t just walk into a title shot. We’re in Richfield, Ohio. Hosts are Vince McMahon and Bobby Heenan.

Survivor Series ’91

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Arnold Furious:

Roddy Piper & Bret Hart & Virgil & The British Bulldog vs. Ric Flair & Ted DiBiase & The Mountie & The Warlord
When Flair entered the WWF he made challenges to pretty much all of their top guys and first in line was Roddy Piper. He’d just about recovered from his motorcycle injuries and was capable enough to get a decent run under his belt in early 1992. There are a few intertwining feuds in this one. Unfortunately Bret and The Mountie was one of them, although Bret’s future and most important IC title matches would be against his teammates. Apart from Virgil. A few interesting additions at ringside: Mr. Perfect has now become Flair’s advisor seeing as he’s out injured. Also Harvey Wippleman has made his WWF debut as a manager. Originally put with Big Bully Busick, he’d go onto manage his friend Sid at ‘Mania. Wippleman was a great heel, all bravado and a great booming manly voice but a toothpick by WWF standards. He looks like a hipster and he’s managing Warlord, of all people. Survivor Series would have been perfect for the Four Horsemen. Flair takes every opportunity to cheat in this match. Ted gets himself isolated and the crowd pop Virgil more than the other faces and yet he’s by far the worst worker on his team. Ted and Bret do the best wrestling stuff, as you’d expect. Bret against Flair isn’t quite as good due to a lack of familiarity. Flair isn’t used to working a guy who’ll stay on him; he expects to get distance for his bumps. His work with Davey Boy is better. Flair could have given Bulldog the old “Sting treatment” and made him a legit main eventer. Easy. This was Davey at the peak of his powers too. Dominant against smaller men but fast paced and exciting against big men like Warlord. Mountie brings a few dubious looking bumps for Davey. Ted blows a clothesline sell for him too. Kinda weird. Running powerslam should finish Mountie but Flair sneaks in blind and nails Bulldog in the back of the head for the opening pin. Sadly the pace dies off a bit with Davey’s elimination. Mountie brings more weird looking back bumps. I’m wondering if he was carrying an injury at that point. Flair has to painfully walk Virgil through his trademark spots. Eventually he just tags out; Virgil is a lost cause. Hitman lays out Warlord in the midst of a chaotic brawl and Piper gets the pin. 3-on-3 now. The heels work over Virgil, which is a mistake because his selling blows. Piper gets a hot tag and everyone piles in a bigger brawl. Flair takes his bump over the top but everyone else refuses to leave the ring and we get a LAME DQ finish where everyone in the ring gets disqualified. As Flair wasn’t in the ring he wins. Hot opener with an awful finish that no one in their right mind would book. It just totally deflates the crowd after all that hard work. The show goes completely down the toilet at this point.
Final Rating: ***½

Survivor Series 2000

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Arnold Furious: For all my praise of 2000, and the booking, it does suffer from a sour aftertaste where the storylines went somewhat off the rails toward year’s end. This is mainly because of a change in creative where the outgoing Chris Kreski, blaming stress and overwork, was replaced by in-house ideas person Stephanie McMahon. While I’m writing this I can actually hear your collective groan while reading it in the future. That’s how powerful it is, people. Steph’s ideas mostly circulated around love triangles and world famous wrestlers being infatuated with her and her family. The booking on this show is so irritating it may be a rough ride for both me, the viewer, and you, the reader, as we both have to tolerate a series of half-baked ideas and booking disasters. Oh, and Triple H is the centre of the wrestling universe. But you knew that already.

 

We’re in Tampa, Florida. The opening PPV plug, normally a collection of snippets, promos and shills, is a Triple H promo and that’s it. That about sums up Steph’s creative focus. Hosts are Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler.

Survivor Series ’90

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Arnold Furious: Towards the end of 1990 the WWF was reaching a creative low point. A lot of what they were doing wasn’t working. The Warrior’s title run was officially a failure, Demolition had been revamped and lost their edge, Jesse Ventura had gone, ditto Bad News Brown and Rick Rude, and Randy Savage had completely lost his mojo. It was one disappointment after another. However, this show would mark the debut of former WCW midcarder Mark Callaway. Dubbed ‘Mean Mark’ in WCW, he’d been able to show off some of his considerable skill-set, but the character was shallow. Vince McMahon gave him a new gimmick and debuted him as a mystery partner. Survivor Series 1990, for all its horrible, gaping flaws, would witness the debut of The Undertaker.