WWF Survivor Series 1993
With a milestone WrestleMania just a few months away, one would think that a November PPV in longtime major market Boston would be a night to remember, But instead this card proved to be forgettable and lacking in top-drawer action. I am, of course, talking about WWF Survivor Series 1993 (then again, I could have been talking about WWE Survivor Series 2013, held on the exact same date in the exact same city 20 years later).
It was a bad time for the WWF to say the very least. All of the key numbers, from PPV buy-rates to live event ticket sales, were down from the Golden Age boom period, and those figures would continue to slide. Meanwhile, the US Federal Government announced during the month of this show (November) that they would indeed bring the WWF to court with regards to the steroid scandal, a development that could have seen the company go into extinction depending on the outcome of the trial. Meanwhile, the WWF’s attempts to promote Lex Luger as the new patriotic babyface headliner were not succeeding, and the product as a whole felt like it needed a reboot. Add to that Jerry Lawler being suspended indefinitely due to a scandal which had an adverse impact on one of the show’s main matches (as I will explain shortly), and it’s safe to say that the WWF had seen better days.
I mention all this because the off-screen happenings were far more eventful than anything that happened on-screen at Survivors 1993, with one or two exceptions. Nevertheless, let’s take a look at why the card is not fondly remembered.
Survivor Series Elimination Match
Razor Ramon, Macho Man Randy Savage, Marty Jannetty & The 123-Kid vs. Irwin R. Schyster, Diesel, Adam Bomb & Rick Martel
The opening match was meant to feature Mr. Perfect on the babyface squad, but for reasons which have never been fully explained, he went on a sabbatical for a few months, and so he was replaced here by the Macho Man; Savage had become only an occasional wrestler by this stage, but he was still a, well, perfect replacement. The bout itself was decent but nothing special, enhanced (I guess) by friction within the heel ranks due to the clash of egos on that side of the ring. Savage pinned Diesel first, a surprise given that Kevin Nash was about to be given the push that would make him a true superstar in 1994. A distraction in the aisle by Crush (who had recently turned heel on Savage) led to Macho Man being rolled up for the pin by IRS. Razor then pinned IRS with the Razor’s Edge, but a briefcase shot by Schyster on the way out led to Razor being counted out, as well as setting up their Intercontinental Title scrap at Royal Rumble 1994. This left the two underdog babyfaces to face the veteran Martel and the fairly fresh monster heel Adam, but they pulled off the upset by taking it in turns to pin their opponents and win the match. This led to a WWF World Tag Team Title reign which lasted all of one week for Jannetty and Kid in January ’94.
Survivor Series Elimination Match
Bret Hart, Owen Hart, Bruce Hart & Keith Hart vs. Shawn Michaels, The Red Knight, The Blue Knight, The Black Knight
Here’s why Jerry Lawler being taken off the card (the correct decision, by the way) adversely impacted the line-up. Lawler had feuded with Bret ever since King Of The Ring, which included regularly insulting the Hart family. Since Lawler was and still is The King, it made sense that he would recruit three Knights (even if they totally did not resemble Knights in their appearance), while Bret looked to his many brothers for support, and he even brought his father Stu to ringside as their cornerman for good measure. But then Jerry got suspended, and in his place was Shawn Michaels (ironically coming back from a suspension of his own). While Michaels opposing Hart as a Survivors team captain sounds awesome, it torpedoed the whole storyline, because Shawn had no real reason to face the Harts (he snuck in a few insults on TV to stir the pot, something Michaels was always good at), and he definitely wasn’t connected in any way to the Knights. If anything, it’d have made more sense to remove The Knights’ hoods and let them wrestle as their more famous names: Greg Valentine (a well-known performer), Barry Horowitz (a longtime loser to be fair) and Jeff Gaylord (who, erm, okay we’ll keep the hoods on the Knights after all). Incidentally, Terry Funk was supposed to be one of the Knights, but he no-showed after supposedly calling the office on the morning of the show and saying “my horse is sick”. Seriously.
The match itself was long and, from an in-ring standpoint, rather dull. It was cool to see the four Hart brothers team together in similar attire (Bret’s legs were rarely on show like they were here), and Shawn had some fun spots with both Bret and Stu, but it lasted nearly half an hour, the fans only knew of three of the right combatants (and even for Owen this was a bigger spot on the card than usual), and without the central figure in the storyline (Lawler), it felt like a territorial exhibition bout had made its way onto a major WWF event. Without question, the best part about all of this was the commentary: Family Feud host Ray Combs was brought back (having made a WrestleMania VIII cameo) and I thought he did a good job, but Bobby Heenan was an absolute scream. He was always entertaining, but here The Brain took it to another level, and besides his iconic Royal Rumble 1992 performance, this was by far his greatest commentary demonstration, which makes it a shame that this was his final WWF PPV appearance (besides his nostalgic return at WrestleMania X-Seven), as he departed for WCW just weeks later.
In the ring, it should be no surprise that the Harts dominated the Knights. Owen pinned Black Knight, Bret submitted Red Knight and Owen eliminated Blue Knight, leaving Shawn alone with the Harts. He was greatly ountnumbered but he did capitalise on some miscommunication: he sent Owen into the ropes which knocked Bret to the ringside barrier, and amidst the confusion, Shawn rolled up Owen for the pin. Michaels then high-tailed it (presumably because him scoring another point on Owen was sufficient work for one night when you look at their on- and off-screen rivalry in the years to come), taking the countout loss to give the Harts the win in what seemed to be a totally pointless exercise. However, after the match, Owen was still upset about how things had transpired. He yelled at his own flesh and blood and walked off alone in a huff as fans booed. This would be the beginning of the best storyline of the entire New Generation era, the Bret vs. Owen sibling rivalry. So, while the match was a bit of a disaster when watching it on mute (it’s highly entertaining with The Brain doing this thing), it did at least serve as the platform for a legendary conflict between the two most famous Hart brothers.
SMW Tag Team Championship Match
The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express vs. The Heavenly Bodies
Talk about a random match. A non-WWF match on a WWF PPV in 1993??? Somehow, that’s what we got, thanks to Smoky Mountain Wrestling head honcho Jim Cornette as part of the agreement between his smaller operation and Vince McMahon’s company. At least Jimmy Del Ray and Tom Prichard had become WWF regulars, whereas Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson seemed out of place in this environment despite their great reputations. The match itself was fine, but nobody in the audience cared, and unless they watched SMW, why would they? After interference from Cornette, Prichard pinned Gibson to win the belts, at which point Jimmy must have been ecstatic, even if very few others were. As a bizarre aside, this match also occurred at WCW SuperBrawl III nine months earlier as a result of a separate inter-promotional agreement. That has surely never happened anywhere else before, and probably never will again, unless we see Aleister Black battle Bobby Lashley at AEW’s next PPV or something.
Survivor Series Elimination Match
The Four Doinks vs. Bam Bam Bigelow, Bastion Booger & The Head Shrinkers
Now we come to an infamous match. Doink (now a babyface clown rather than a heel, erm, clown) had previously used a doppelgänger, and here he promised four such characters. As it turned out, they consisted of The Bushwhackers (Luke and Butch) and Men On A Mission (Mabel and Mo) in clown attire, with the real Doink himself absent. What followed was an attempt at kid-friendly comedy, and while five-year-old me enjoyed the spectacle, I can fully understand why people dislike this when
watching it back today, especially when Mo started wandering around the ring on a scooter for no reason (I kid you not). I won’t go into how each of the heels (and what a ragbag motley crew the villain team were) sustained elimination because you would have to see it for yourself to believe it, but either way, all four Doinks survived. Afterwards, a fuming Bigelow and his sidekick Luna Vachon were laughed at on the big screen by the actual Doink, whose lack of involvement meant was never explained. To me, it was harmless fun, but to others, this was the rock bottom moment of a terrible year on Pay-Per-View for the WWF.
Survivor Series Elimination Match
The All-Americans (Lex Luger, The Undertaker & The Steiner Brothers) vs. The Foreign Fanatics (Yokozuna, Crush, Jacques & Ludvig Borga)
Finally, we come to the main event. This played up the idea of America fighting to prove how great it was against the anti-American army (named the Foreign Fanantics here). This was the show which was preceded by The Undertaker (long before he became the American Bad Ass) revealing the US flag on the inside of his coat, which Taker legitimately hated and used excuses akin to “the dog ate my homework” to avoid wearing it again. There were also further line-up changes, as Taker was only in to replace Tatanka, and Crush covered the absent Pierre of the Quebecers. Late substitutions were as much a trademark of Survivor Series during this era as dodgy eliminations and Thanksgiving puns.
Onto the match itself, and besides some occasional bright moments, it was mostly a drag, partly because few cared as there weren’t any stakes whatsoever and the heel line-up was so uninspiring. Ludvig (who the WWF were trying to get over as a top heel, in case you’re still wondering why the company was struggling) pinned Rick Steiner early on, before Randy Savage returned the favour from earlier on by coming out to distract Crush long enough that he was counted out, leading to a brawl in the aisle to further their feud. Lex eliminated Jacques of the Quebecers, and Yokozuna pinned Scott Steiner to even up the odds. Then came the best part of the match as Undertaker and Yokozuna squared off, which included Taker drilling Yoko with a huge running DDT, the first time he used this spot I believe. Fans were on their feet in excitement, so it’s a shame that both were counted out, though this did effectively set up their Casket match at Royal Rumble. This left only Luger and Borga, and it was no surprise that Lex scored the pin to be the sole survivor. I will say that Luger was more athletic here than his presumed predecessor Hulk Hogan ever was in the WWF, but Lex lacked the emotional connection that made fans care for him half as much as they did for Hulk. Santa Claus made another Survivor Series appearance to
celebrate with Luger (since Christmas was in November in the WWF during this era), while Vince McMahon implied that Lex would eventually find a way to earn another World Title opportunity. When he did, he was unsuccessful, and the Lex Express had officially fallen off the road.
As you can see, then, WWF Survivor Series 1993 was a poor PPV production. None of the matches were great (the opener was the best bout and even that was just okay), the main event felt like it had a passé storyline while simultaneously flogging a dead horse of a push, one of the bouts didn’t even relate to the WWF universe, and the product as a whole lacked energy and excitement. We were officially out of the Golden Age, yet remnants of the old days and the old ways still remained. Things would pick up a bit in 1994, but even then, there were plenty of misses alongside the hits. Overall, it’s not exaggerating to say that with the exception of Bobby Heenan’s side-splitting commentary during the second match, there is very little to see from WWF Survivor Series 1993, made worse by it occurring when the WWF still only presented five PPV cards per year.