WWF Survivor Series 1990 Review feat. The Hulkamaniacs vs. The Natural Disasters

Logo for WWF Survivor Series 1990
Image Source: WWE
EventSurvivor Series 1990
SeriesSurvivor Series
DateThursday November 22 1990
VenueHartford Civic Center
LocationHartford, Connecticut, USA

WWF Survivor Series 1990

WWF Survivor Series 1990 is one of the most famous Survivors events in WWF/WWE history due to the landmark debut of The Undertaker, which of course led to him entering into an iconic 30-year career in the company. It’s also notable for a debut that was memorable for the wrong reasons, but we’ll come that later.


Survivor Series Elimination Match
The Warriors vs. The Perfect Team

Oh, do I miss the days of each Survivor Series squad having a distinctive name. And in this case, the names couldn’t have been more appropriate. The babyface side saw reigning WWF Champion The Ultimate Warrior (in the opening match, mind) team with The Texas Tornado (Kerry Von Erich, who was occasionally known as The Modern-Day Warrior) and The Legion Of Doom (Hawk and Animal, also known as The Road Warriors). The heel squad was led by reigning Intercontinental Champion Mr. Perfect, hence the team name. His partners were Ax, Smash and Crush of Demolition, making this a rare instance where the entire Demolition trio teamed up in the same bout.

On paper, it’s a vintage showcase of the WWF’s Golden Age, but in practice, it was a bit of a let-down. Demolition had passed their peak and were on a rapid descent down the card, which led to veteran Ax (who himself had suffered health complications that would result in him leaving the WWF shortly after this card) being pinned early by Ultimate Warrior. Though their credibility was taking a nose-dive, Smash and Crush still had enough heat to force a quadruple countout alongside Hawk and Animal in what was a cop-out method of having those participants take a loss of sorts. Facing two-on-one odds, Mr. Perfect surprisingly pinned Texas Tornado (days after he had beaten him to regain the IC Title which he had lost to Tornado at SummerSlam), before succumbing to Warrior to wrap things up in less than 15 minutes. You’ll certainly get a kick out of it, but this could have been so much better.


Survivor Series Elimination Match
The Dream Team vs. The Million Dollar Team

In the weeks preceding Survivor Series, Ted DiBiase had proclaimed that his team, which also included The Honky Tonk Man and Greg Valentine of Rhythm & Blues, would have a mystery opponent (as a replacement, I believe) to round out the numbers against Dusty Rhodes, Koko B. Ware and reigning WWF World Tag Team Champions The Hart Foundation, Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart. On the night, DiBiase made the official announcement, one that has been replayed many times in the past three decades: “From Death Valley, I give you, THE UNDERTAKER!”

With that, we heard the famous organ music for the very first time (minus the soon-to-be legendary “gong”), as The Undertaker emerged from the curtain, aligned with a suddenly-snarling Brother Love. Gorilla Monsoon reacted as if we already knew who Taker was, but both he and co-commentator Rowdy Roddy Piper sold his threat with shock and awe in their voices. Piper: “Look at the size of that hamhawk!” Sure, it doesn’t make sense, but the eerie music, his sheer size, his air of mystery and, above all, his chilling appearance made for a hell of a package. Younger fans at ringside looked scared of this monster, and why wouldn’t they be? The man looked as grim as could be with his soulless expression, akin to a robot from a machine, and the dark eye shadow that only added to the frightening vibes of this character, a total contrast to anyone else in the WWF.


The match itself was one of the best of the evening. Within two minutes, Taker had claimed his first elimination after hitting Koko with the very first Tombstone Piledriver, albeit a slightly different version based on how he held The Bird Man (Monsoon himself seemed to name the move on the spot; to say the name stuck would be an understatement). The Anvil evened things up by pinning Honky, in what was HTM’s final PPV appearance of his original WWF tenure. DiBiase dispatched of The Anvil, before Taker claimed another elimination by pinning Dusty (just think of what a statenment that makes for a newcomer in 1990), before he tried to continue the fight and was counted out. This left DiBiase alone with Bret, who had dedicated the match to his brother Dean, who had only passed away the prior evening. The final section of this bout was awesome and the in-ring highlight of the card, with Ted eventually getting the pin to be the sole Survivor. (I should mention that surviving the contest would lead to participation in the Grand Finale main event, so at this point, both Warrior and DiBiase had made it to the supreme Survivor showdown.)

With a different cast, this may be remembered as something of a coming-out party for The Hitman ahead of what would be an amazing singles run. But it is remembered primarily for the debut of Undertaker, who made an immediate impression and hasn’t looked back since. It’s astonishing to think that he has not only been in the company for almost three full decades, but he has been an upper-card or headline performer for the entire run. I loved Stone Cold Steve Austin, but for sheer longevity, his ability to evolve with the times and his plethora of classic matches and iconic moments, Undertaker goes down as the greatest character in wrestling history, and it all began here at Survivor Series 1990. (Incidentally, Taker had actually already wrestled for the company at a Superstars taping as Kane The Undertaker, with that bout being shown at a later date; the first name was soon dropped and used for another highly successful persona.)


Survivor Series Elimination Match
The Vipers vs. The Visionaries

Yes, someone (or some people) were using the Viper nickname long before Randy Orton did, and of course it involved The Snake Man himself, Jake Roberts. Jake teamed here with Superfly Jimmy Snuka and The Rockers combo of Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty against Rick Martel, The Warlord and the Power & Glory team of Hercules and Paul Roma. The Model had blinded Jake a while back on the set of The Brother Love Show; rather than being a complete psycho like Seth Rollins, Martel simply sprayed his Arrogance perfume into Roberts’ retina. Jake responded by wearing a white contact lense which was even scarier to see than Undertaker.

This is a forgotten match from the show, though not the least memorable; that came later. This marked a rare clean sweep for a heel team, as Warlord pinned Jannetty and Martel pinned Snuka, before Shawn (who had recovered remarkably quickly from what was assumed to be a very serious injury that prevented him from actually wrestling at SummerSlam) succumbed to Roma. That left Jake alone with all four bad guys, though he did strike with a DDT before chasing Model away with his pet snake Damien after an attempted Arrogance attack by The Model. This result meant that the entire Visionaries side advanced to the main event; Jake would have to wait until WrestleMania VII to finally get his revenge on Martel in a Blindfold match.

Survivor Series Elimination Match
The Hulkamaniacs vs. The Natural Disasters

This was arguably the true headline attraction due to the presence of Hulk Hogan, who was not the WWF Champion at this stage but who was clearly still the biggest star in the company. Here, he teamed up with The Big Boss Man (one of the few friends that he had on-screen who never stabbed him in the back, though they had feuded in the past), Tugboat (for whom there had been plans for such an attitude adjustment until Sgt. Slaughter replaced him in the eventual America vs. Iraq storyline) and Hacksaw Jim Duggan (who was never a heel in the WWF, which makes me wonder what a Hogan vs. Hacksaw feud might have looked like) to face his main nemesis Earthquake, Dino Bravo, Haku and The Barbarian.

It reads like a mismatch, even when you factor in Earthquake’s gargantuan size, but it proved to be a bit more even than how it first appears. Boss Man dumped Haku out early on, before Duggan was disqualified for the umpteenth time after using his 2×4. Hogan sealed the next elimination by pinning Dino, before Quake surprisingly got rid of Boss Man. Then, the actual future Natural Disasters battled to a double countout, as Tugboat (the future Typhoon) and Earthie collided enough to see both sent packing. That left Barbarian alone with Hogan, but Barbie pulled off the massive upset by cleanly pinning The Hulkster. Just kidding: three punches, a big boot and a Legdrop later, and Hogan had survived for the third straight year. It also meant that Hulk would also be in the main event, where he belonged.


Before the next match, Macho King Randy Savage cut a promo where he vowed to defeat The Ultimate Warrior for the WWF Title; that showdown would eventually happen at WrestleMania VII, but only after Savage had cost Warrior the gold in response to Sir Ultimate Of Warrior turning down his requests for a title shot. It’s strange to think in hindsight that Savage didn’t wrestle here or at Royal Rumble 1991, and he only competed for two minutes at SummerSlam.

Survivor Series Elimination Match
The Alliance vs. The Mercenaries

This was a really boring and uneventful bout (preceded by a dull Sgt Slaughter promo where he reinforced his anti-American stance), so I’ll rush through it quickly. Tito Santana pinned Boris Zukhov in less than a minute, with Butch of The Bushwhackers and Tito eliminating Orient Express members Sato and Pat Tanaka respectively. Sarge was all alone against four faces with barely two minutes elapsed. Somehow (and during the era when heels were definitely and unanimously booed), Slaughter managed to eliminate Nicholai Volkoff, Bushwhacker Luke and Butch, leaving him alone with the future El Matador. But then Slaughter had to go and get himself disqualified, giving him an excuse to take the loss as Santana survived the final proper elimination bout of the evening. Sarge would be WWF Champion two months later, but while his three eliminations were impressive, his performance was not. It’s debatable as to whether this is the worst Survivors elimination match ever, and while I think the cluster from ’96 involving Yokozuna, Vader and others takes that prize, it’s certainly the least entertaining from the first four years of this PPV event.


Then, we come to the other debut. For weeks, the WWF had hyped up the fact that a giant egg was slowly beginning to crack, and it was strongly implied that it would completely crack right here on Thanksgiving Night. As it turned out, and with impeccable timing, the egg started to break as Mean Gene Okerlund speculated on its contents (Gene wondered if the Playboy Playmate Of The Month was in there; can you imagine that visual in the family-friendly WWF of 1990), and finally, out burst … The Gobbledegooker! The fact that fans booed this costumed creature from the get-go summed it up, and of course he only spoke in gobbledegook, hence the name given by Gene. The WWF’s new mascot then brought Okerlund to the ring, where they danced a bit (with Piper trying his best to laugh). I am not making this up.

If the WWF hadn’t hyped this up as being a big deal, perhaps Gooker would have been accepted more easily by WWF fans. Instead, this being the pay-off to weeks of hype felt like an insult to die-hards, especially since this was the era where genuine surprises were few and far between. Some thought it’d be Ric Flair jumping ship, while others at least expected an actual wrestler. Gobbledegooker was likely entertaining for younger fans, but otherwise he (or it?) is remembered as an all-time terrible WWF character. Hilariously, this was such a stinkbomb that it’s the second most memorable part of the whole evening.


Grand Finale Survivor Series Handicap Elimination Match
The Ultimate Warrior, Hulk Hogan & Tito Santana vs. Ted DiBiase, Rick Martel, The Warlord & Power & Glory

And so we come to the main event. As noted, this brought all of the Survivors from earlier on together in a final bout, just for the hell of it since there were no stakes attached. What makes me laugh here is how kayfabe was observed to the nth degree, because we had eight guys, which in theory means a nice and convenient four-on-four affair. Instead, because three were faces and five were heels, we had a handicap bout. It’s one of those things where you think it makes sense initially, but when you think about it a bit more, it really doesn’t.

Though it felt like Tito was out of his league teaming up with Warrior and Hogan, he did manage to eliminate Warlord, getting some payback from a SummerSlam defeat, before going out courtesy of The Million Dollar Man. Could Ultimate and Hulk survive against four villains? You bet they could (it’d have been more of a shock if they didn’t): Hogan pinned Roma and DiBiase to book-end Martel being counted out, and Warrior pinned Hercules (why didn’t The Million Dollar Man last to the very end?) to seal the win for himself and Hogan, allowing the top two babyfaces to pose together to end the card on a high note. If we had been plotting for a WrestleMania rematch, this could have been step one, with Hulk perhaps giving a glance at Warrior’s WWF Title. But that wasn’t the case, and so these two wouldn’t share screen time again until Warrior came to Hulk’s rescue at WrestleMania VIII. The Grand Finale concept has never been done again since, which is a shame since I think it was a cool way to end the show, especially if something had been awarded to whomever was the last man standing (a World Title shot at a December PPV, for instance).


Overall, WWF Survivor Series 1990 was an interesting and certainly historic show. I personally enjoyed the 1989 version more, admittedly due to the stronger feelings of warm and cosy nostalgia from that particular card, but this event featured a who’s who from the Golden Age, as well as some exciting matches. The booking was a bit iffy in places, but it was forgivable. And of course we had the two debuts of huge contrast: The Gobbledegooker goes down as a classic punchline for the company, but this was more than made up for by The Undertaker, who is perhaps the most beloved and respected performer of all-time. It’s actually fascinating to imagine how different wrestling history would have been if, as Bruce Prichard has stated, Vince McMahon stuck with his original feelings that Mark Calaway wasn’t worth adding to his roster. I bet he’s glad he was persuaded otherwise, right?