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Survivor Series 1989 Review

Depending on which side of the isle you sit on in the WWF vs WCW war, the history behind the WWF Pay-Per-View event "Survivor Series" is either considered a dirty trick or just another step in Vince McMahon's plan for domination.  WWF's rival promotion National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) had run a major event called Starrcade on Thanksgiving for nearly a decade before Vince McMahon decided to create Survivor Series.  Vince placed Survivor Series on Thanksgiving Day to compete directly against Starrcade and given the all around success of his major gamble on Wrestlemania, McMahon held all the cards against the cable providers and demanded they decide to either carry his show... or else.  All but a handful of providers chose Survivor Series and the very next year Starrcade was forced to move to December, ending the very quick "Thanksgiving Day War."

As a WCW/NWA fan I've always considered Starrcade a Thanksgiving show, even though it took place in December longer than it occurred on Thanksgiving, but WWF's Survivor Series is the true Thanksgiving show.  From 1987 to 1990, the show took place on Thanksgiving Day.  From 1991 to 1994, the WWF moved it to Thanksgiving Eve before being moved in 1995 to the Sunday before Thanksgiving.  

Ready?  Let's go back 30 years to 1989 and revisit the 3rd annual Survivor Series!

On Thanksgiving Day (November 23rd, 1989) Survivor Series aired on pay-per-view from the historic Rosemont Horizon arena in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois.  This year the Survivor Series was the first in which the teams had names and consisted of only four (instead of five) wrestlers.  In the past the teams were sort of a hodge podge mix of wrestlers but this year most, if not all, were woven together as storyline.  Looking at the list of wrestlers who appeared on this show reads like a who's who of wrestling legends of yesteryear.

Survivor Series '89 VHS Cover
The show opens with Hulk Hogan reminding us that it's Thanksgiving.  He's thankful for being happy and healthy, but more importantly, he's thankful that Hulkamania is still running wild.  "Million Dollar Man" Ted Dibiase is thankful for being richer than all of us.  Jake "The Snake" Roberts is thankful for his pet snake, Damien.   Demolition is happy they don't have to fight each other and Randy Savage says he's thankful he's the only one worthy of being the Macho King (of the Ring).  "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan is thankful for the privilege of living in America.  Dino Bravo is thankful to have Earthquake on his side.  Meanwhile, the great Dusty Rhodes is thankful for his polka dots... yes, really, he said that.  Big Boss Man is thankful for the justice that he dishes out and Brutus the (F'ing) Barber Beefcake is thankful for pro wrestling and cutting and strutting.

Ugh... how long is this opening segment?

Rick Martel is next and he's thankful for his good looks.  He's followed by "Ravishing" Rick Rude who is thankful for having the most ravishing body in the WWF.  Roddy Piper is next and says something that sounds like he's thankful he's not Mickey Rooney.  I honestly listened to Piper 15 times and still have no idea what he said.  Lanny Poffo is next and he's thankful for being the world's smartest man.  Mr. Perfect is thankful for being... perfect.  The Bushwackers are too busy licking each other's faces while Bobby Heenan is thankful for all of the members of his Heenan Family.  The Ultimate Warrior yells gibberish to mercifully bring this segment to an end.

Vince McMahon welcomes us and runs down the card before we go ringside to our announcers Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse The Body Ventura in a ridiculous looking pilgrim costume.

The first match was between The Enforcers (Big Boss Man, Bad News Brown, Rick Martel, and the Honky Tonk Man) and the Dream Team (Dusty Rhodes, Brutus Beefcake, The Red Rooster, and Tito Santana.)

Former tag team partners Rick Martel and Tito Santana started the match off but Martel quickly pinned Tito.  Bad News Brown walked out on his team after arguing with Big Boss Man and was eliminated via count out.  Beefcake pinned Honky Tonk Man with the high-knee (get it?)  Beefcake then pinned Rick Martel with a roll-up, leaving the Enforcers with just the Big Boss Man.  BBM pinned Red Rooster but then Dusty Rhodes pinned Boss Man with a flying crossbody.  Beefcake and Rhodes were the two survivors.  This match also saw the first appearance of Dusty Rhodes' manager/valet Sapphire as she was shown in the crowd cheering on Dusty.

The 4x4's
The King's Court (Randy Savage, Earthquake, Dino Bravo, and Greg Valentine) took on the 4x4's (Jim Duggan, Bret Hart, Ronnie Garven, and Hercules) next.  Earthquake pinned Hercules with the Splash.  Duggan eliminated Greg Valentine using his three-point stance charging clothesline into a pin.  Dino Bravo would eliminate Ronnie Garven following a side slam.  Bret Hart had a quick appearance when he was eliminated by King's Court team captain Randy Savage.  Duggan, the sole wrestler left on the 4x4's, was distracted by Savage's manager Queen Sherri and was counted out after he chased her away.  King's Court won the second match of the night and Savage, Earthquake, and Dino Bravo were the survivors.  After the match Duggan attacked the trio with his 2x4.

The third Survivor Series match could easily be considered the Main Event of the night even though it was right before intermission.  The Hulkamaniacs (Hogan, Demolition Ax and Smash, and Jake Roberts) went up against the Million Dollar Team (Ted DiBiase, Powers of Pain Warlord and Barbarian, and Zeus.)  Likely to hide his lack of in ring talent, Zeus was the first out just minutes in when he shoved the referee and was disqualified.  Warlord pinned Demolition Ax after Mr. Fuji interfered.  Demolition Smash tried to take revenge but was pinned by the Barbarian.  Warlord and Barbarian double-teamed Hogan and exceeded the five count getting themselves both eliminated leaving Ted DiBiase alone.  Roberts had DiBiase on the ropes until Virgil created a distraction allowing DiBiase to illegally use the ropes for a pin victory.  Hogan hits the big boot and leg drop and wins the match as the sole survivor for his team.

The next match was between The Rude Brood (Rick Rude, Mr. Perfect, and The Fabulous Rougeaus (Jacques and Raymond) and Roddy's Rowdies (Roddy Piper, Jimmy Snuka, and The Bushwhackers Butch and Luke.)  Snuka eliminates Jacques.  Piper knocks out Raymond with a piledriver.  Mr. Perfect pins Bushwhacker Butch.  Rude gets rid of Luke.  Down to 2 on 2 now, but Piper and Rude are counted out as they brawl on the outside.  Mr. Perfect nails the Perfect-Plex on Snuka to win the match and become the sole survivor!

The fifth and final match saw the Ultimate Warriors (The Ultimate Warrior, The Rockers Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty, and Jim Neidhart) do battle with The Heenan Family (Andre the Giant, Haku, Arn Anderson, and Bobby Heenan)  Arn Anderson's BrainBuster tag team partner Tully Blanchard was fired the day of the Pay-Per-View for failing a drug test and Heenan filled in last minute.  Neidhart jump started the match attacking Heenan before The Ultimate Warrior made his entrance.  Andre the Giant began clearing house against the babyfaces (good guys) and Ultimate Warrior sprinted out of the locker room and knocked Andre out of the ring with a series of clotheslines.  Andre, who at this time was really in severe pain and could barely move, was eliminated from the match in just 26 seconds.  Haku eliminated Neidhart shortly after.  Bobby Heenan eliminated Marty Jannetty.  Shawn Michaels then pinned Haku but was eliminated himself later on when Arn Anderson his signature Spinebuster.  Ultimate Warrior began a come-back; quickly pinning Anderson and eventually Bobby Heenan to win the match as the sole survivor.  A blown up and exhausted Warrior posed with the Intercontinental Championship to close out the show.

So, what happened next in the WWF?

The Ultimate Warrior's win at the end of the show, despite Hogan's match being treated as the Main Event earlier in the night, was designed to give the event a Warrior-focused ending.  Warrior's biggest match of his career would occur a few months later at Wrestlemania VI in which he defeated Hulk Hogan for the WWF World Heavyweight Championship.

As I mentioned earlier, Andre's quick elimination was designed to prolong his career.  The effects of his real-life gigantism were taking their toll and he was used mostly as a character in promos.  He was teamed with Haku going forward as The Colossal Connection so that the younger Haku could carry the load of actual in-ring wrestling for Andrea.

The match featuring Hulk Hogan and Zeus was the set up for a special show next month in December called "No Holds Barred: the Match vs The Movie."  Zeus (Tiny Lister,) who previously tagged with Randy Savage at Summerslam 89, was once again paired with Savage in a losing effort to the reunited Hulk Hogan and Brutus Beefcake in a steel cage match.

So, there you have it.  Starrcade was presented as an athletic competition while the WWF had larger than life colorful characters featured in fun storylines and had much better production values.  Starrcade featured some of my favorite childhood wrestlers, but, in looking back to review both of these shows I'd have to admit Survivor Series 1989 was a much better show.

Be sure to check out my recent article on NWA/WCW's Starrcade of 1989 to compare the two shows!  Click HERE to do so.