Since its launch on February 24, 2014, the WWE Network has been adding the back log of Monday Night Raw episodes at an average pace of about 5 episodes per week. In a short 4 months I’ve managed to see over 85 ‘as complete as possible’ episodes of Raw from the beginning: complete with “WWF,” commercials for Slim Jim, and special reports to hype PPV events that were sometimes not found on the original re-releases of these episodes on the old WWEClassics.com / 24/7 Online / WWE Jukebox online service. While the steady pace of Raw episodes being added is moving us closer to the build-up for the 1995 Royal Rumble, the last big show that the build-up has reached is Survivor Series 1994. Let’s go back in time for the (near) 20th Anniversary of the last Survivor Series to actually be “the Thanksgiving tradition” and air on Thanksgiving Eve before the advent of In Your House in 1995 moved every PPV to a Sunday night – well, except Taboo Tuesday, but that’s a subject for a different time.
I feel like that shirt is ripe for making fun of, but if you remove the Survivor Series branding I had a friend with pretty much that same shirt in the mid 90s too. Hell, I had a similar one but in different shades of blue!
We open the show – which Todd Pettengill said on the go home Raw, this is NOT “some rasslin’ PPV” – it’s the World Wrestling Federation bringing you the best in sports entertainment! The New Generation! UN-BE-LIEVABLE! The show opens with teams discussing their strategy, which is notable in that I can actually hear them; the DVD release of this show (which I swear is what this was on the Network too when I first checked way back) had to dub over the show’s Texas theme with music that drowned out the opening completely. Tonight’s announce team – for the first time, last time, and only time on PPV – is Gorilla Monsoon and Vince McMahon. An unusual team for sure, but Jerry Lawler is in action and Randy Savage had left the company a month prior to the PPV.
Randy Savage did a promo on his last ever WWF appearance – a Raw which aired on October 31, 1994 but taped on October 10th – that while in character, seemed to highlight real frustration with the fact he had been permanently assigned to the commentary table and was no longer allowed to compete in the ring.
We open the show with The Bad Guys (Razor Ramon, The British Bulldog, 1-2-3 Kid, and The New Headshrinkers) vs. The Teamsters (Diesel, Shawn Michaels, Owen Hart, Jim Neidhart, and Jeff Jarrett)
This was my favorite match on the show as a youngster in 1994 and I don’t think things have changed much, even though the ending is a total Survivor Series cop-out (spoiler alert) in the vein of the Team Piper vs. Team Flair match in 1991. The first big crowd pop is for Bulldog being tagged in to go toe to toe with “The Rocket King” (Gorilla loves giving guys nicknames that never stick). Bulldog’s flip bump on Owen’s enziguri is always one of the best sells of that move in the WWF. When Davey Boy has the edge on The New Foundation, the crowd certainly treats him like the most popular member of The Bad Guys, acting with complete indifference when he makes the lukewarm tag to Fatu. Razor eventually tags in to a big pop, but it sounds like the Texans were a bit more solidly behind the Bulldog.
Ramon and Jarrett have a bit of a go, which I like as a building block to their feud shortly after this. Razor has already had his problems with Shawn and Diesel dating back to WrestleMania X (actually a bit earlier) and Owen and Neidhart at the 1994 KOTR, making Jarrett the lone Teamster he has no real beef with other than him being heel Superstar.
The Kid gets surprisingly little reaction to getting tagged into the match, and rather quickly finds himself locked in a Double J abdominal stretch. Some heel shenanigans as Jarrett is near the ropes (and his partners) for added leverage until Kid gets out of the hold. This leads to Owen vs. Fatu, which is in no way noteworthy until Fatu starts doing a Fat Man Dance routine to get the upper hand on Owen. A dancing Fatu? Eh, it might catch on.
Not long after we get an Early Bird Appearance from the Rikishi gimmick, Diesel is tagged in and makes quick work of Fatu with a Powerbomb. 123 Kid is next, gets to take some big bumps, and then he’s Jackknife victim #2. Sieonne is in, then out as Powerbomb victim #3. The British Bulldog has no time for this and goes to work on Big Daddy Cool to a big pop before a big boot sends him to the outside where he’s free from having to do a clean job so early into his WWF return but is able to be counted out while fighting with Owen and Double J.
Can The Bad Guy possibly survive a 5-1 mismatch, especially while Diesel’s spirit meter seems to be stuck in SPECIAL? Well, probably not (though he does get a brief offensive flurry), but Shawn Michaels asks to be tagged in for the first time this match and accidentally Superkicks Diesel in the face. This one miscue results in all 5 Teamsters arguing outside while Razor – woozy and sitting on his ass due to taking the Jackknife Powerbomb before this all happened – is declared the winner and sole survivor. Owen yelled, “get back in the ring, we’re going to lose!” and Jarrett and, eventually, Neidhart listened (passing a kid in a sweet Mortal Kombat shirt) but unfortunately for them Earl Hebner had already arbitrarily decided he had reached a 50 count – he would have had to count to 10 for each guy, right? – and the match is already over. It looked to me like Earl just got tired of counting and called for the bell.
Match #2: The Royal Family (Jerry Lawler, Sleazy, Wheezy, and Cheesy) vs. Clowns Are Us (Doink, Dink, Pink, and Wink). The graphic for Clowns Are Us is terrifying.
I really don’t want to re-watch this in full. I’ve seen it as many times as a person needs to in almost 20 years (which frankly is “zero” but I’ve sadly seen it far more times than that). Thank you, WWE Network chapter skip button… but alas, I still watch some of it to refresh my memory. Here’s what you need to know: they do comedy spots where the clowns succeed and the kings fail, the legitimate funny highlight being Lawler trying to ride up on the shoulders of one of his teammates. Nothing else is worth mentioning.
I also always found it dumb to have Lawler pin Doink right off the bat – Monsoon and Vince seem confused as to how things will continue going – they try to salvage the match technically being a foregone conclusion due to the rules (the midget clowns can’t eliminate Lawler) by saying Lawler, “has eliminated himself,” but come on, the match was over when he beat Doink.
Match #3: Bret Hart vs. Bob Backlund – Submission / Towel Match for the WWF title.
I don’t think I’ve ever watched this match in full since 1994. It’s very long and frankly whenever I try, it’s just never seemed that good as a match; as a story, it’s tremendous. Also my DVD copy gets very choppy during the match and often skips right to the end after about 10 minutes (if it doesn’t just outright cause an error saying “media cannot be read.”) Maybe my internet connection will become choppy to simulate that feeling while watching on the WWEN. Vince notes that 79% of the people that spent money to call a 1-900 number to vote on a inconsequential poll determined that the Crossface Chickenwing was more devastating than the Sharpshooter. Monsoon also refers to Owen as “The Rocket King” again which I appreciate. Unfortunately he never referred to Razor as “The Ladder Man” (another one of his failed attempts at coining a nickname) in the opener.
Lots of matwork, which makes sense based on the entire build-up and layout of the match. It just doesn’t give me a hell of a lot to write about. Coolest spot up to now has been Bret fighting out of an arm wrench by countering into a neckbreaker, but Backlund managed to keep the hold applied all the way through. Bret applies a figure-four which Backlund sells maniacally, before passing out, but Owen turns his back on the situation and refuses to throw in the towel. He eventually crosses his arms, yells “NO!” and completely refuses to acknowledge that Backlund may want to have the towel thrown in. In a nice little twist to the figure-four, Backlund doesn’t quite fight out of it but Bret begins putting himself in discomfort by holding on to the move for so long that after Backlund fights out a bit more, he has to release it and try something else.
In the biggest ‘highspot’ of the match, which is that much more effective since it is one of the first big non-submission moves used, Backlund nails a sweet piledriver on the Hitman. Bob is in firm control after that until he misses a charge and runs shoulder first into the ringpost, but Mr. Backlund quickly regains control with a sleeperhold until Bret slides out of it. With The Hitman back on offense, he nails a piledriver of his own before going into his familiar routine of signature maneuvers, getting the crowd really into the match. Bret locks in the Sharpshooter but after a bit of a chase with the Bulldog, Owen is able to break the hold. This leads to Bulldog chasing Owen again on the outside and running into the ring steps, apparently giving himself a major concussion since he doesn’t move again. Like, he is out cold for the rest of the bout and aftermath. Bret goes to swear at Owen and gets bleeped but his foul mouth allows Backlund to lock in the chicken-wing.
The rest is a defining Owen Hart moment as he feigns concern that this hold will end Bret’s career, breaking down crying until Helen Hart throws in the towel, then runs off triumphant. Owen basically treats ending Bret’s title reign as a personal victory – and would carry the custom pink and black towel as a ‘personal championship’ for a bit after this – despite not winning the match himself. Watching in full, this actually was pretty damn good – slow to start, but it told a good story, and the pacing was very logical; start slow, keep doing submissions, build up to actual moves, ending. Thumbs way up for this match.
Match #4: Guts & Glory (The All-American Made in the USA Lex Luger, Adam Bomb, The Smoking Gunns, and… what’s his name? His name is Mabel, M to the A to the B-E-L) vs. The Million $ Team (Tatanka, Bam Bam Bigelow, King Kong Bundy, and The Heavenly Bodies).
In the Raws leading up to the show, it was never adequately explained why DiBiase – who has a 5 man faction – has The Heavenly Bodies on his team. In fact, they even said he spent extra money to have them join the team. It does make some storyline sense if you consider Volkoff is a bum and IRS lost his mind and has begun yelling at caskets and tombstones due to the deceased cheating on their taxes from beyond the grave. Seeing this colourful cast of characters in one match makes me really pine for some Randy Savage commentary. Dr. Tom Pritchard is the first man eliminated after Mabel takes a flying leap off the 2nd turnbuckle, essentially nailing Pritchard with a crossbody that squashes him to the mat. Jimmy Del Ray gives it a go but after being nailed with a Bossman Slam, he tags in Bundy for a colossal match-up. This goes almost nowhere as Bigelow is tagged in. Mabel goes up top (!) but Bigelow tosses him off. Bam Bam heads up top and I assumed he was going to nail Mabel with his flying headbutt, but he actually was waiting for Mabel to get back up so he could attempt a jumping sunset flip. This ends up with Mabel sitting on him, but I guess that was the last of Big Mabel’s energy (and to be fair, he was working hard!) as he falls off without even getting a one count. He ends up outside with Bigelow and gets counted out.
Billy Gunn and The Gigolo go at it (to clarify, I mean, they wrestle in the ring) but it doesn’t take long for that to become Adam Bomb vs. Bigelow (who has apparently been designated the workhorse of the heel team tonight). A nice thing about Survivor Series match-ups is these big guys can hit big spots with a lot of energy knowing they don’t need to conserve energy for a long singles match. Adam Bomb nails Triple B by propelling himself over the top rope into a clothesline, but he ends up getting hit with a bulldog and a moonsault to be sent packing.
Luger tries to get a quick roll-up on Bam Bam to make it 3-3 but cannot get the three count. He does, however, manage to nail Jimmy Graffiti with the running forearm, ending the Heavenly Bodies participation in the match without them doing much interacting with the Smoking Gunns (which was the whole reason IRS and Volkoff were bumped from being in the match to begin with). Tatanka and Bart Gunn have a segment which ends with a really sloppy looking End of the Trail, eliminating Bart from the match. This brings us back to team captains Luger and Tatanka resuming their heated rivalry – a rivalry so heated that Luger so badly wanted to get his hands on Tatanka… that he tags out to Billy pretty quickly (also they were on Raw playing a charity softball game a few weeks prior to this). Luger and Billy do a few more quick tags and work over Tatanka, the heel in peril. Billy gets caught in a powerslam when he tries a leapfrog and Bundy is tagged in. He makes quick work of Billy Gunn, nailing him with an Avalanche and elbow drop, leaving Lex to fend for himself against 3 members of the Million $ Team. But hey, Luger is here for REVENGE for the hell he went through in the summer and I think he can pull it off!
The heels work over Lex, but that’s just to build the suspense. Made in the USA Lex Luger cannot be defeated this easily! Having said that, they sure are milking this heat segment for all it’s worth. But finally – finally – Tatanka gets too cocky and Luger surprises him with a small package! LUGER HAS PINNED TATANKA! With momentum back on Luger’s side… King Kong Bundy drops the big splash on him and pins him, defeating Guts and Glory. The 3 members of the Million Dollar Corporation who aren’t IRS or Nikolai Volkoff lay the boots to Luger until The Smoking Gunns and Adam Bomb run out to make the save, followed by Mabel doing a walk-in to observe the situation. The Heavenly Bodies also return, then everyone leaves.
Luger lies on the mat and is checked on by officials and his friends who couldn’t win the match for him, closing out his PPV year with a tie, a loss, a failure to qualify for the KOTR tournament, a loss, and another loss. 1994 was not Luger’s year.
Before the final match, Bob Backlund rants backstage with the title, saying it’s Sports EDUCATION and he will pasteurize and homogenize morality back into all of us.
Match #5: The Undertaker vs. Yokozuna in a Casket Match with Special Outside Enforcer Chuck Norris.
So, let’s make this match summary short and sweet: It’s boring. Jeff Jarrett challenges Chuck Norris’ authority as special troubleshooting referee and is kicked in the face. Yokozuna gets put in a casket until WrestleMania XI. Nothing to see here (except the previously mentioned Jeff Jarrett being kicked in the face if only for the backwards sell-job he does).
Maybe it’s nostalgia. Maybe I don’t let bad stuff put a dark cloud on the entire show (I know some folks would say if the main event that closes the show is no good, that’s a failure), but almost 20 years later and I still really enjoy this show. I’ve always had a soft spot for the opener, but this was the first time in awhile I’ve seen the other 10 man elimination match in full as that one also seems scratched on my DVD. I’m generally very easy to win over with these matches, and that was no exception – nothing special about it, but well worked and fun to watch. Taking into account the terrible finish of the opener, I think it technically is better than that match… BUT I love the Diesel rampage and as wrestlers go was more a fan of the Superstar in the opener, so I still give it the edge. Lawler/Doink is bad comedy and Taker/Yoko is a rather dull outing, but Backlund/Bret more than makes up for it if you can get yourself into the right frame of mind to enjoy the match.
If you have the WWE Network, give yourself some time to check out some of the Raw episodes building to this show and the show itself. There’s a good chance you’ll enjoy it.