A friendly reminder: because the current product is so boring and terrible, I decided to use the wonderful WWE Network (cost unknown) to take a peek into history. I started back with the 1993 Royal Rumble, the first pay-per-view after Monday Night Raw began airing and decided I would keep going, picking up WCW’s pay-per-views right after Monday Nitro debuts. We’re to the fall/winter of 1993 and what used to be my favorite yearly event: Survivor Series.
Worst: Meet the Lugers
I get that they’re trying to make Luger a top face at this point, but having his family awkwardly smile and read cue cards is not gonna make that happen. It just comes off sounding like your standard Lex Luger promo.
Worst: Stop screaming, Vince McMahon
My God, every opening is the same: WELCOME TO THIS PLACE IN THIS BUILDING FOR THIS EVENT EVENT NAMEEEEEEEE.
Vince McMahon feels like he has to scream everything over and over at the top of his lungs and it make me want to turn it off before anything else has happened. In concentrated doses, Vince yelling like a loud asshole is fine, but when he’s supposed to be your babyface commentator, maybe give it a rest.
Best: 1990s WWF epitomized in one team
The opening match is a Survivor Series, four-on-four match and the first four guys out of the locker room are Diesel, Atom Bomb, Irwin R. Scheister and Rick “the model” Martel. When you hear people complain that the 1990s were nothing but cartoonish gimmicks instead of real people, you need look no further than this team.
Don’t get me wrong, Diesel would become basically a normal person by the end of his run, but everyone else was a specific, loony character and couldn’t be themselves because back then, being yourself was stupid and boring, apparently.
Subliminal best for “Team Personal Problems” featuring Marty Jannetty, Scott Hall, 1-2-3 Kid and Macho Man Randy Savage. Somehow, Savage screwed up the least of those four and yet is the only one who is dead. Life is weird.
Worst: The Match
On paper, this is a fine match. There are quite a few decent performers in that group and they put on a decent match, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that there’s no gravity or importance to this. It’s just eight guys having a match and being happy they’re on the card.
I feel like, after having done a few of these through 1993, the general product of the WWF in 1993 was one of general apathy. There was little in the way of creative, the matches all felt the same regardless of the performers and there was no sense of concern or a desire to actually put on a product.
It should tell you something when the commentators spend the entire match cracking jokes (Heenan) or scolding the one making the jokes (McMahon). Even they know this is boring and terrible.
Best: The undisputed Intercontinental Championship
This is the beginning of what wound up being one of the best feuds of 1994. Michaels was briefly suspended for violating the new steroid policy and was stripped of the IC title (I believe the reason they gave is that he hadn’t defended the belt in a certain amount of days) and Razor Ramon won the vacated title. So Michaels re-appears on television and wears his own IC title belt, claiming he’d never really lost it.
Of course, this would go on to be a months-long feud, featuring the greatest ladder match ever at Wrestlemania X. More importantly than that, you can really see Shawn coming into his own as a heel. He’s smarmy, he’s arrogant and him saying that he’d bury his parents alive if they looked like Helen and Stu Hart killed me for some morbid reason.
Though, tonight, instead of beginning the feud with Razor formally, he’d have to fill in during the Bret Hart vs Jerry Lawler Survivor Series style match as Lawler was going through some things at that time. “Some things” being that he was indicted after being accused of raping and sodomizing a teenage girl, who did eventually admit it was a made-up story. So Shawn was thrown in randomly to just kind of be there while the Bret vs Owen feud got kicked off.
Worst: This is a celebrity?
The big guest of the night is none other than “Family Feud” host Ray Combs. That’s not a joke and I don’t have anything to really follow that up with. He stands around doing his Family Feud shtick, making terrible jokes and basically calling Shawn Michaels an asshole without really calling him an asshole.
This was during a time where the WWF had a huge hard-on for anyone who was on television, thinking that automatically made them a celebrity. As Michaels is on the outside doing his thing with the Hart family in the crowd, Combs annoying yells “Shawn! Shawn!” over and over for what feels like a thousand minutes. Naturally, the product would improve greatly when they focused more on making the in-ring product better and not making crappy game show hosts guest announcers.
Best: everything about this picture
Firstly, Keith Hart looks like a 1920s strongman here with his mustache and singlet. I feel like he should randomly bust out power squats and bring ridiculously-sized weights with him to the ring.
Secondly, that is either the nerdiest kid of the 1990s or Rick Moranis got way smaller. I’d like to believe it was the latter; a “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” accident that came to life.
Best: Finally, an entertaining match
As mentioned above, this was supposed to be the culmination of the Bret Hart/Jerry Lawler feud, but Michaels filled in for Lawler, leading his Knights (masked versions of Jeff Gaylord, Greg Valentine and Barry Horowitz) to the ring to have an infinitely better match than Lawler ever could.
The Harts dominate as there is literally only one marketable face on the other side and this match instead becomes a focal starting point for the Hart vs Hart feud. Bret has a knee injury and can’t tag out, which plays an important part later on. Owen is battling Michaels, who is the last one of his team remaining, when he runs into Bret who is standing on the ring apron. This leads to Owen getting distracted and Michaels pinning him. Michaels eventually bails on the match, resulting in a win for the Hart family. The tension, however, begins when Owen returns to the ring to yell at Bret, blaming him for the elimination.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Bret Hart was the best performer of his generation at making you sympathize with him. He took a beating like no other and sold injuries better than anyone ever could. You genuinely felt worried for him at the time because it seemed like his knee was legitimately injured and, on top of that, he has to deal with his little brother blaming him for everything.
Supplemental best for Helen Hart noticing the camera is on her and making the worst crying face of all-time.
Best: An announce team switch
It’s almost like they knew I hated the commentary with all my heart, so in the middle of the broadcast, they switch over to Jim Ross and Gorilla Monsoon so Vince and Heenan can do WWF radio. Oh, you’re going to switch from a mailing-it-in Bobby Heenan and screamy screamerson Vince McMahon to the greatest television announcer of all-time and the always wonderful Gorilla Monsoon? Well, I suppose if we have to.
Best: Smokey Mountain Wrestling
In the middle of the show, we get a little introduction to Jim Cornette’s wrestling promotion, Smokey Mountain Wrestling. Vince McMahon made a habit starting around here of partnering up with smaller companies in a cross-promotional effort, continuing the trend with the NWA in the mid-90s and ECW as the decade wore on.
A little disclaimer: I grew up a WWF kid. I was very barely aware of anything outside of the WWF, so I had not been exposed to the Rock n’ Roll Express until much later on in life. I know they were huge in the south and in the NWA scene, so this is going to be kind of a “duh” moment to anyone who grew up watching them.
Having said that, they are pretty goddamn awesome for this period of time. Like a heavier-set, uber-mulleted Rockers, they implemented fantastic tag team moves into their matches and that’s awesome because it’s pretty much the whole point of tag team wrestling. Not only that, but they and the Heavenly Bodies brought out stuff in this match that you really didn’t see in the WWF scene. It was refreshing, a break from all the formulaic matches that permeated WWF cards until this point.
Many kudos to Vince McMahon for having the foresight to bring something different and interesting (and most importantly, not his) into the mix when he probably didn’t have to.
Worst: And this follows it
We’re right back to the cartoonish, horribly boring WWF matches we all know and are marginally content with. Bam Bam Bigelow, the Headshrinkers and Bastion Booger vis Doink the Clown, Men on a Mission and the Bushwhackers in Doink makeup. Because one face version of Doink the Clown wasn’t bad enough, now we have several of them. Though I have to admit, it’s a bit jarring seeing Viscera back during his Mabel days only being happy, dancing around and wearing clown makeup.
This is the worst match on the card by a mile and a half, filled with rank wrestling and even ranker gimmicks. Bastion Booger was a thing that actually happened and you just know Vince loved the hell out of that. “Boogers, damnit! It’s hilarious!”
This is exactly what I looked like during the entirety of this match:
It’s times like this that I really question the “genius” of Vince McMahon. Poor Bam Bam for having to lower himself to this crap.
Worst: This feels like a really half-assed main event
We come to the main event of the evening, a Survivor Series match featuring the All-Americans, Lex Luger, the Undertaker and the Steiner Brothers, facing off against the Foreign Fanatics of Yokozuna, Ludvig Borga (who is basically Team Iceland from the Mighty Ducks 2 as a wrestling villain), Crush and Quebecer Jacques.
First of all, supplementary best to a Johnny Polo appearance. As most of you know, Polo was played by the Scott Levy, better known as Raven. Johnny Polo was literally a guy walking around in polo gear, an obnoxious rich guy hanging out with the Quebecers for some reason or another.
Second of all, I love how the bad guys are bad because they’re all foreigners. Sure, some of them are arrogant, but basically their gimmicks are “not from here”, so they’re automatically bad guys because ‘MURICA, yeah! Also, Undertaker being on the All-American team even though his gimmick is a dead guy. Was he possibly an American Badass before he became a zombie?
The match itself was really, really average. Rick Steiner is eliminated when Borga fails to catch him coming off the top rope and instead just rolls him over to get the three. You can instantly see what the spot was supposed to be and instead of making it cool, they just kind of roll with it to get Rick out. It makes Steiner look awful and Vince spends ten minutes trying to insist Rick is hurt.
This match really only accomplished two worthwhile things: setting the stage for the Undertaker vs Yokozuna feud that would see Undertaker “die” and resurrected again at Summerslam 1994 and the continued push of Lex Luger as American hero. That’s about it. The rest of the match was just patiently waiting to get to the end so they could do what they needed to in order to advance the important plot points. You can see more of this tactic in today’s WWE, where they just tread water until they can get to the important bits. Great way to end a show.