On Thanksgiving Day (November 24) 1988, the (then) WWF presented its second annual Survivor Series PPV. Many things were the same as the previous year’s event, including the commentary team of Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse “The Body” Ventura who are, once again, in the Richfield Coliseum. This time we barely get to hear Ventura make a remark about Cleveland before they throw down to the ring for the first match.
Match 1: Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake, “Jumpin” Jim Brunzell, The Blue Blazer, Sam Houston, and Ultimate Warrior VS Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, “Dangerous” Danny Davis, “Outlaw” Ron Bass, Bad News Brown, and The Honky Tonk Man
This match gets started at a breakneck speed with an almost immediate elimination of Davis via Beefcake’s sleeper hold. The competitors then cycle in and out for a bit, which gives us a chance to see a young Owen Hart (aka The Blue Blazer) work. It’s always fun to see Owen and this is no exception.
Eventually, the heels get the momentum and Bad News beats up on Jumpin Jim until he gets the pin. Houston comes in and tries for a comeback but Brown puts him right down again. He flings him from corner to corner a few times and then tags in Valentine for the double team that Houston ducks so Brown is inadvertently hit. He confronts Valentine, thus bringing all the heels into the ring to argue and after a minute of that Brown decides to take a walk to the locker room. This is extremely on brand for his character so his self-elimination works very well, in this case.
Soon after the drama with Brown, the heels get back to work as Bass goes up on Houston long enough to get the pin. After the elimination, Warrior comes in and hits ever heel in the match with an axe handle fist in order to get the momentum back for the babyfaces. We end up with Blazer and Valentine in the ring, which is a good pairing. They work for a bit as Blazer gets some really good offense in on “The Hammer”. He manages to get Valentine prone on the canvas so he can attempt a move off the tope rope but Honky pushes him off. He lands awkwardly and submits to Valentine’s figure four leg lock.
With the babyfaces down to just two members, Beefcake enters the ring to an initial onslaught of offense by the heels but manages to swing the momentum back to his side. He gets into it with Honky on the outside of the ring, though, and both are counted out. That leaves only Warrior left. So he does what you’d expect. He runs around the ring like a maniac hitting everyone he can until he gets back to back pins and win the match.
Warrior was so over at this time that you couldn’t have had him lose and his work was so bad that he couldn’t be in the ring for long or he’d get exposed, so this was a great match for him but the rest of it felt very rushed. It’s almost like they had gotten cut from 20 minutes down to 15 and had to get rid of some of the things that would have helped it flow better. It’s not an awful match but it’s not very good and Warrior getting confused and pinning the last two guys left in the wrong order during the finish doesn’t help it at all.
Match Grade: C-
Match 2: Demolition, The Conquistadors, The Brain Busters, The Bolsheviks, and The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers VS Powers of Pain, The Young Stallions, The Rockers, The British Bulldogs, and The Hart Foundation
Why the WWF thought it would be a good idea to do another of these 20 man matches after 87’s debacle of a match is beyond me, but here we are. The whole look of this match is off from the start, as there are no neutral corners due to the fact that all four sides of the ring are lined with guys. This makes it incredibly hard to isolate one guy because all he has to do is reach his arm out and there’s someone there to tag. So the basic strategy of a tag match is out the window. Never the less, they had the match and I’m going to review it.
The first five minutes or so is all the guys cycling in and out of the ring. There are some fun spots here but they’re all pretty meaningless, as they either have next to no effect or the guy just tags out after taking a hard hit. Around the six minute mark Bret Hart pins one of the Rougeau Brothers to eliminate them. Arn Anderson, around this same time, delivers a brutal and beautiful spine buster. The match continues to make little to no sense up to and through the twenty minute mark. The Young Stallions are eliminated by the Bolsheviks then The Rockers eliminate The Bolsheviks but it’s neither a highlight nor a lowlight, it’s just something that happens.
A few minutes after the Bolsheviks head to the locker room, the Hart Foundation is eliminated by a controversial pin in which Bret doesn’t hold his bridge high enough on a belly to back and, essentially, pins himself. Shortly after this, The Rockers and The Brain Busters are both disqualified for all four of them being in the ring at the same time and refusing to get out. They then proceed to fight all the way back to the locker room.
After some more cycling in and out, Davey-Boy manages to get one of the Conquistadors on the ropes and hits him with a beautiful running power slam, his finisher, but pulls him up on the 2-count. The Conquistadors then continue to be beaten up and get out of trouble by escaping overly confident babyfaces, who fail to go for the pin. I’m not a fan of this tactic because it makes your babyfaces look like morons and, not to mention, it’s a heel move not to go for easy pins.
Before too long the Bulldogs are eliminated by Demolition. During the struggle to gain control of the last stage of the match Mr. Fuji (Demolition’s manager) gets up on the ring apron and pulls the rope down so that Smash goes tumbling to the floor. Demolition is then counted out but the match is an afterthought, at this point. Fuji has just double-crossed his tag team so Axe slams Fuji outside the ring and in the confusion of the Powers of Pain helping Fuji get back up they, too, get counted out. The Conquistadors win the match. Demolition then come back out and beat up the Powers of Pain.
It took 45 minutes to get to the end. Don’t get me wrong though, I love the finish to this match. Heel manager double-crosses his team to turn a, formally, babyface team into heels and thus making the most dominate heel team in the company babyfaces. It’s a great double switch and although the audience in attendance seems a little confused, I bought it. The trouble here, is the waist deep swamp of molasses we had to wade through to get there. There’s so much talent in this match, so it’s extremely disappointing. If it wasn’t for the finish, getting to see The Rockers and Brain Busters go at it a bit, and Tully’s great “chickensh*t” heel work, this match would be a complete dud. It’s still a dud though.
Match Grade: D-
After the tag team match, they do a few interviews/promos. First, we get an interview with Bad News Brown where he claims that he’s the top guy to challenge for the world’s title. Sean Mooney, and myself, doesn’t really buy this claim but Brown seems quite convinced.
Next they do an interview with Fuji and Powers of Pain in which Fuji says that Demolition had gotten big heads and stopped listening to him, so now he and Powers of Pain are going to make them pay. Mean Gene asks how the Powers can trust Fuji to which they don’t really answer and then Gene says that he doesn’t trust him at all. Not a great promo but Gene saying he doesn’t trust Fuji is funnier than it should be.
Finally, they do a promo interview with the Mega-Powers team where Hogan overshadows Savage, the WWF Champion, during the whole promo. You can see Hogan making sure he’s the top guy even if he isn’t the champ.
Match 3: “Hacksaw” Jim Dugan, Scott Casey, Ken Patera, Tito Santana, and Jake “The Snake” Roberts VS Dino Bravo, “Ravishing” Rick Rude, Harley Race, Mr. Perfect, and Andre the Giant
Trigger Warning: Ventura refers to Tito as “Chico” pretty much the whole time he’s in the match. It was uncomfortable to hear, so if you think it’ll bother you then maybe mute the commentary during this one. That being said, there are times in this match where the back and forth between Gorilla and Ventura is more entertaining than what’s going on in the ring so you’ll have to make that call for yourself.
The crowd here is super hot for Jake, as he makes his way to the ring. There’s also a ton of foam 2x4’s in the audience, so the babyfaces are super over here. At the start of the match everyone does the usual cycling in and out with the babyfaces mostly getting the better of the heels until Rude pins Patera, to put the Heels firmly on top. Bravo then pins Casey, in short order, to give the heels the five to three advantage.
Dugan comes in and starts on a nice comeback only to have it snuffed out by interference from Andre. His efforts are not wasted though as Tito and Bravo fight from even ground for a good bit. They have some nice exchanges but Tito ends up on top. Race gets tagged in, only to eat Tito’s gorgeous flying forearm and be pinned. Unfortunately, for Tito, Andre comes in next and just destroys his to get the pin, and put the heels back on top.
So, Dugan and Jake are the only ones left on their team, and it looks dire for them until Andre gets tied up in the ropes. The two take turns hitting him while his team struggles to get the giant free. When they do free him up, Andre tags in Rude, who gets the control so that the heels can work over Jake, while Dugan must stand in the corner and watch. Andre is vicious during his exchanges with Jake. Eventually, Jake manages to get a good comeback going only to be prevented from delivering his DDT by a well timed clothesline, courtesy of Rude.
Jake does manage to fall the right way in order to tag in Dugan who is hitting everyone and looking great until Bravo’s manager holds his leg on a move, which sends Dugan into a fit. He grabs his 2x4, brings it into the ring, and is swiftly disqualified. Jake is now alone against everyone except Race. This part of the match goes on a little too long but Jake does, finally, pin Rude. Then Andre comes in and just chokes the crap out of Jake. He chokes him so much that he gets disqualified but the damage was enough for the remaining two guys to pin Jake and get the win.
As soon as the match is over, while the heels are congratulating themselves by the side of the ring, Jake slinks out and grabs Damien (his snake). He lets the snake drape over the top rope and down by Andre’s neck which scares the bejeebus out of the giant and sends him, and his team, running for the back. Jake then takes a moment to pose in the ring with Damien, while his music plays.
This is a very okay match. There’re no real glaring problems with it but it’s not super entertaining.
Match Grade: C
Main Event: Big Boss Man, Akeem, “Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase, Haku, and The Red Rooster VS “Macho Man” Randy Savage (WWF Champion), Hercules, Koko B. Ware, Hillbilly Jim, and Hulk Hogan.
Trigger Warning: In this match there’s a rather problematic storyline/commentary issue. The storyline involves Hercules, who Heenan was managing but ‘sold’ to Dibiase to be his ‘slave’. I know that Dibiase is a heel but the idea of a ‘slavery’ storyline just feels off. It doesn’t help that Ventura is defending Dibiase and the nature of the idea during the match. I understand that it’s a heel commentator’s job to defend the despicable actions of his heel wrestling counterparts but it really is cringe worthy. Just be aware that it’s going to come up in this match.
The first thing I noticed in this match is that although Savage is the champ, Hogan gets the biggest pop from the crowd during the entrances. Following this, the match starts with Dibiase running way from Hercules and immediately tagging out. The Heels gain the momentum early but Hogan turns that around as soon as he gets in against Rooster. Poor Rooster never stood a chance and is beat down by Hogan who tags in Savage for the flying elbow and the pin. Heenan, Rooster’s manager, then berates him and sends him to the back.
They cycle in and out for a bit until Akeem (fka One Man Gang) comes in and pins Hillbilly Jim. Then the babyfaces proceed to work Akeem over with everything they have, but the big man just will not go down. It’s during one of Koko’s assaults that Akeem manages to tag in Boss Man who makes short work of the high flyer to eliminate him as well. Hogan, who Boss Man has feuded with, comes in and turns the momentum again just beating Boss Man down and eventually slamming him to the mat. Hogan goes for a big move off the ropes but ends up on the bad end of a beautiful spine buster. Boss Man tags out as the heels go to work beating up on Hogan.
Hogan is looking pretty worse for wear when Dibiase comes in, but soon swings the momentum back onto his side in order to tag in Hercules and let him face off with Dibiase. Hercules just destroys Dibiase up one side and down the other until Virgil interferes, which allows Dibiase to roll him up for the pin. Dibiase then proceeds to taunt Hercules as he leaves. This leaves the door open for Savage to sneak up behind him and get the roll up to eliminate Dibiase.
It’s not long until we get Boss Man and Hogan in the ring again but this time Boss Man gets up on Hogan quick. He works him over until he feels he has him down enough to do a big move off the top rope. As the big man comes off the top, Hogan moves, and tags Savage in. Unfortunately, Savage is tripped by Slick on the outside and goes down. Slick then attacks Miss Elizabeth only to bait in Hogan for an attack, from behind, and handcuffs him to the bottom ring rope. Boss Man gets counted out but continues to beat Hogan with his nightstick. Akeem manages to get himself disqualified as well, so it’s only Savage and Hogan against Haku. However, Savage has no one to tag, since his partner is handcuffed to the rope in a neutral corner, and is barely hanging on. A miscommunication sees Haku nail Slick who is knocked out on the floor. Elizabeth gets the keys, frees Hogan, and he tags in to get the win. Elizabeth gives him a big hug which makes Savage visibly upset. As they celebrate the victory you can see the crumbling of the Mega-Powers coming.
I go back and forth on this one. It has its moments and is an entertaining match but there are so many moving parts, especially during the finish. Once you remember what the finish is it drags but if you haven’t seen it before or don’t remember, like I didn’t the first time I watched it for this review, it’s really good. Overall it’s probably the only match on this PPV that’s worth going out of your way to check out.
Match Grade: B-
I watched this PPV so you don’t have to. I would not recommend it at all, unless you just really want to sit through some mediocre matches that take way too long. The Main Event is the only saving grace and it’s not really much of one.
Overall Grade: D