The first batch of WWF/WWE Survivor Series pay per view specials is collected in this great five disc set featuring each one of the special events shown from 1987 through 1991 which are some of the greatest years in the history of the league. Featuring loads of superstar talent from that era, the first ever Survivor Series took place in 1987 after the massive success of the third Wrestlemania proved how much money there was to be made off of the pay per view event. So yeah, in a way, it's a cash in on the success of the more popular Wrestlemania events, but that doesn't mean that these five discs aren't packed to the rafters with some truly classic matches and moments.
Here's a look at the five events contained in this collection:
Survivor Series - 1987:
Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse The Body Venture are the commentators for this first Survivor Series, which took place in Richfield, Ohio on Thanksgiving, November 26, 1987. This event starts off with a bit in which Craig DeGeorge interviews The Honky Tonk Man who is in charge of his team which is comprised of The King Harley Race, Hercules, Danny Davis, Outlaw Ron Bass, and himself. From there, Mean Gene interviews Ricky The Dragon Steamboat, Jake The Snake Roberts, Brutus The Barber Beefcake, Hacksaw Jim Dugan, and their team captain, Randy Macho Man Savage. After the brief interviews, both teams get into the ring and the action begins. It's a really solid match with some of the league's best giving their all and really working the crowd. Honky Tonk Man dominates a few times, beating the tar out of Jake The Snake at one point, and his rivalry with Macho Man, which really was in full swing here after Honky Tonk man knocked down Miss Elizabeth, really comes to a boil when this match finishes up.
From there we get a few more interviews. First DeGeorge interviews Andre The Giant who is the captain of a team made up of Ravishing Rick Rude, King Kong Bundy, The Natural Butch Reed and The One Man Gang. This is to get us pumped for the main event.
The next match pits The Glamour Girls, Dawn Marie, Donna Christanello and Sensational Sherrie against Velvet McIntrye, Rockin' Robin, the Jumping Bomb Angels and The Fabulous Moola. It's not a bad match at all, and the Jumping Bomb Angels really strut their stuff here and dominate the match. Moola proves her metal here as well, looking as tough as she can and bringing some great brawling to an all around strong match that features a lot of great acrobatics and high flying action.
DeGeorge interviews The Bolsheviks, Demolition, The Dream Team, The Islanders and The Hart Foundation before they all get into the ring with The British Bulldogs, The Young Stallions, The Rougeau Brothers, The Killers Bees and Strike Force after they talk with Mean Gene for a bit. With all these contenders involved in this match it's probably no surprise that it goes on for quite a long time but it's a solid elimination match and it's great to see so many of the legendary eighties era WWF tag teams all in one ring together and doing their thing.
A couple of more promo spots - first with Ted DiBiase's Thanksgiving and then an interview with DeGeroge and The Honky Tonk Man - leads up to the main event where Ravishing Rick Rude, King Kong Bundy, The Natural Butch Reed, The One Man Gang and team captain Andre The Giant take on team captain Hulk Hogan, Bam Bam Bigelow, Ken Patera, The Magnificent Don Muraco, and Mr. Wonderful Paul Orndorff. This is the match that everyone was waiting for and it definitely delivers the goods, building to a really satisfying and fairly surprising conclusion as the crowd goes absolutely berserk for the duration.
Survivor Series - 1988:
The 1988 Survivor Series event also took place in Richfield, again on Thanksgiving, November 24, 1988. Monsoon and Ventura are the commentators again and after they introduce the event we kick right into the first elimination match where The Ultimate Warrior, Brutus The Barber Beefcake, Sam Houston, The Blue Blazer and Jumpin' Jim Brunzell take on The Honky Tonk Man, Danny Davis, Greg 'The Hammer' Valentine, Outlaw Ron Bass and Bad News Brown. Dangerous Danny Davis goes out like a chump way too early here but this is another really exciting match, with some great brawling and afew fun moves like The Ghetto Blaster courtesy of Bad News Browns and some fun action from Brutus.
The second match of the night puts Demolition, Los Conquistators, The Brain Busters, The Rougeau Brothers and The Bolsheviks in the ring with their opponents, Powers Of Pain, The Rockers, The British Bulldogs, The Hart Foundation and The Young Stallions. This is a noticeably better and more exciting match than the first one, and it's intense from the start and doesn't let up. The British Bulldogs really bring their best here and it's fun to see the nefarious Mr. Fuji poking around outside the ring where a whole lot of action takes place when The Brain Busters and The Rockers decide to take it all the way back to the locker room.
Before we get to the next match we get a few fun interviews as Sean Mooney interviews Bad News Brown about the first match. After that, Mean Gene Okerlund talks to Powers Of Pain, and then it's back to Mooney for a chat with Andre The Giant, Dino Bravo, The King Harley Race, Mr. Perfect and Ravishing Rick Rude. This contrasts nicely with an interview where Okerlund talks to the Mega Powers team about the main event. None of these are that deep, but they help to get us fired up for the last two matches.
The penultimate event pits Andre The Giant, Dino Bravo, The King Harley Race, Mr. Perfect and Ravishing Rick Rude against Jake The Snake Roberts, Hacksaw Jim Dugan, Ken Patera, El Matador Tito Santana and Scott Casey. This is another good match, with some noticeable tensions between Roberts and Rude really fueling it and providing a lot of good brawling. Jake The Snake is in really great shape here and proves that despite what may have happened to him he definitely was superstar material in his prime.
Last but absolutely not least, we get the final elimination match where Hulk Hogan, Randy Macho Man Savage, Koko B. Ware, Hercules and Hillbilly Jim throw down with bad guys The Big Boss Man, Akeem, The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase, King Haku and The Red Rooster. This is understandably the highlight of the night and the crowd once again goes insane for the Mega Powers. The Big Boss Man's team puts up a good fight and at one point Hogan bites Boss Man before slamming him to the mat. Hogan gets cuffed to the ring and Savage gets beaten on without any hope for help from his teammate, but not surprisingly this gets turned around to a fairly predictable conclusion... until Hogan lifts Miss Elizabeth off the ground and sets into motion a pretty cool rivalry.
Survivor Series - 1989:
Held on Thanksgiving, November 23, 1989 in Rosemont, Illinois, this third Survivor Series event starts off with a fun montage in which all of the wrestlers involved in the event tell us what they're thankful for. Once again, Monsoon and Venture comment, and fans wouldn't have it any other way. The first elimination match pits The Big Boss Man, Bad News Brown, The Model Rick Martel, and The Honky Tonk Man against Dusty Rhodes, Brutus The Barber Beefcake, Tito Santana, and The Red Rooster. This match kicks the event off nicely, it's well paced and it's got some great action in it but the results are fairly predictable. Santana does really well here, using the turnbuckles and the ropes to deliver a lot of good high flying drop kicks and the rivalry between Beefcake and the Honky Tonk Man provides the basis for some good fighting between the two.
Sean Mooney interviews The Big Boss Man and his manager Slick once the match is over and then Mean Gene talks to Randy Savage (now The Macho King), Greg The Hammer Valentine, Dino Bravo and The Earthquake before they get into the ring with Hacksaw Jim Dugan, Bret The Hitman Hart, Ronnie Garvin and Hercules. Hart is at his peak here, really giving 110% percent, while Hacksaw and The Macho King work the crowd as best they can. Savage is also in fine form here, jumping off the ropes a lot and pummeling as many of his opponents as he can. This is a marked improvement over the first match, as it's much more rambunctious and intense and it's fun to see Savage in his lesser known persona here.
From there we see Gene head into the locker room for a talk before we're treated to a poem reading by The Genius. This leads into a match where Ted DiBiase, Powers of Pain and Zues take on Hulk Hogan, Jake The Snake Roberts and Demolition. Hogan is great here as you'd expect, but surprisingly Jake The Snake is almost as good and the Demolition guys provide a whole lot of surprising action and crazy brawling tactics. The Powers Of Pain eventually manage to double team Hogan and give him a piledriver which leads up to a cool surprise ending.
A few more interviews - Sean Mooney talking to Savage and Zeus; Okerlund talking to Hogan and Beefcake; Mooney talking to the Rude Brood; Okerlund talking to Roddy's Rowdies - sets up the penultimate match where Ravishing Rick Rude, Mr. Perfect, The Rougeau Brothers take on Rowdy Roddy Piper, Jimmy Superfly Snuka and The Bushwackers. Absolutely the most bonkers match of the night, this match is not only a highlight of this disc but of this collection in general. The Bushwackers are just off the wall goofy and Piper is in full on ego-mode here, really working the crowd and making his typically grand entrance with the pipe and drum music leading the way. There's a real insanity to this match that makes it an absolute blast to watch, and seeing The Genius run around in a cap and gown is just surreal.
From there, check out two more interviews - Mooney discussing the results of the last match with Rude's team and Okerlund chatting to The Ultimate Warrior, Jim The Anvil Neidhart and The Rockers which sets up the final match in which The Ultimate Warrior and his team get in the ring with Andre The Giant, Haku, Arn Anderson and Bobby The Brain Heenan. This is another strong match with a lot of high flying acrobatics and some great moves, most of which come courtesy of The Ultimate Warrior and The Rockers. It goes on maybe a bit longer than it needs to but seeing Heenan get knocked around always makes for a good time, particularly when the Warrior decides to take him down personally.
Survivor Series - 1990:
This fourth Survivor Series event takes place in Hartford, Connecticut and was held on November 22, 1990 and this time Roddy Piper replaces Ventura, commentating alongside Monsoon. It stars off with a bang as Demolition and Mr. Perfect take on The Texas Tornados, The Road Warriors and The Ultimate Warrior. A promo with Okerlund sets the stage before everyone gets in the ring, but once they're there it's a good match with the Warrior dominating for most of the fight. It's interesting to see The Legion Of Doom and Demolition get disqualified at the same time which sets up the ending quite nicely.
After Sean Mooney interviews Ted DiBiase, Rhythm And Blues, and The Undertaker they get into the ring to square off against The American Dream Dusty Rhodes, Koko B. Ware and The Hart Foundation. It's fun seeing a young and tattoo free Undertaker really playing up the horror star angle here, he's able to stay completely stonefaced even when getting punched in the nose by Bret Hart. There's some good out of the ring action where when Rhodes attacks Undertaker's manager and has to pay the price at which point Piper says 'he looks scary, he's big, and he's dumb.'
Okerlund interviews The Vipers - they being Jake The Snake, The Rockers and Jimmy Snuka, briefly before they get into the ring with The Model Rick Martel, Power And Glory and The Warlord. After the last match this one seems fairly flat and uninspired but it does have its moments and Jake The Snack is still in pretty good shape here, taunting his opponents and taking quite a beating more than once.
The next match is pretty impressive as Hulk Hogan teams up with Tugboat, Hacksaw Jim Dugan, and The Big Boss Man to brawl with Earthquake, Dino Bravo, Haku and The Barbarian. Hulk does his usually impressive job of working up the audience and things really start moving a lot faster here. Piper's commentary here is classic, as he not only makes some keen observations about what's happening and who it's happening to but also makes a lot of his amusingly snide remarks. The ending will come as no surprise to anyone here, you can see it coming a mile away, but it's a fun fight.
Things get more interesting after Okerlund interviews Randy Savage, still in Macho King mode here, which leads into a match where the mighty Nikolai Volkoff, Tito Santana and The Bushwackers take on Sgt. Slaughter, Boris Zhukov And The Orient Express. Slaughter's teammates are all wearing camouflage paint on their faces, which tends to make them look pretty ridiculous even by the already ridiculous standards of professional wrestling. Mr. Fuji is his typically devious self outside the ring as is The Iron Sheik who plays a small role in how this all ends.
Sean Mooney interviews Ted DiBiase, we see a strange skit involving 'The Hatching Of The Egg' which introduces Gobbleygooker to the WWF. It's pretty horrible. Then Mooney interviews Hogan, Ultimate Warrior and Tito Santana before they take on Ted DiBiase, The Model Rick Martel, Power And Glory and The Warlord. This was obviously the match that the crowd was waiting for and they're pumped to see Hogan come back for his second match of the night. Hogan and The Warrior have a great chemistry here, as Hogan makes it clear to The Million Dollar man that he cannot be bought. Again, you know who's going to win this bout from the moment it starts but it's fun to watch regardless.
Survivor Series - 1991:
The fifth and final event in this set took place at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan on November 27, 1991 and Bobby Heenan joins Gorilla Monsoon to provide the commentary. It starts off with a fun 'flashback' piece in which Jake The Snake Roberts' venomous pet bites Macho Man Randy Savage. Miss Elizabeth and Rowdy Roddy Piper flip out and scream a lot. This sets the stage for what's to come, and segues into an address from WWF President Jack Tunney where he talks about the incident.
The first match of the night puts Nature Boy Ric Flair, Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase, The Mountie And The Warlord against Bret Hart, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Virgil and The British Bulldog. You can tell immediately that Piper wants Flair here, he makes it very clear as soon as it starts. As such, he dominates the match for the most part though at one point Ted DiBiase beats him up pretty harshly until the crowd's chanting of 'Roddy-Roddy-Roddy' gets him back into the swing of things. It's a pretty insane match that leads up to a controversial call on the part of the referee which Piper completely ignores in order to take on his grudge with Flair.
After Okerlund interviews Macho Man about his bout with Roberts, which leads into the next match where Sgt. Slaughter, Hacksaw Jim Dugan, Texas Tornado and Tito Santana take on Colonel Mustafa, The Berzerker, Hercules and Skinner. This is a fairly mediocre match that goes on longer than it probably really needed to. After this, we get a few more segments, the first of which is Okerlund interviewing Jake The Snake to get his side of the story about the issue with Savage. This leads into another flashback where we see The Undertaker assault Hulk Hogan while he's trash talking Ric Flair in the Funeral Parlor. This leads into the next match, which is not an elimination match at all but a WWF Championship Match between Hogan and The Undertaker. Hogan knocks over the coffin before the match starts to make his intentions clear, as this match gets started. The Undertaker chocks Hogan and tries to get him to submit, but there's no way that this match is going to end that soon. It's a great match that has a truly surprising and shocking finish.
Okerlund interviews Roddy Piper next, before Sean Mooney talks to Ric Flair (Wooo!) and Mr. Perfect about the results of the earlier match. Then it's back to Okerlund who interviews The Natural Disasters, I.R.S. and Jimmy Hart. Mooney then interviews The Legion Of Doom and The Big Boss Man before handing the microphone back to Okerlund who talks to Jack Tunney. This segues into the match where The Beverly Brothers and The Nasty Boys take on The Rocks and The Bushwackers. This is an entertaining enough match that moves along at a good pace but the crowd just doesn't seem all that into it and that does take away from it a bit.
The main event of the night is up next, as The Legion Of Doom and The Big Boss Man take on The Natural Disasters and I.R.S.. This is a fine match but it's not really main event material and in hindsight, it's surprising that this event didn't end with the match between Hogan and The Undertaker. Regardless, it's a fun fight with I.R.S. using his typically sneaky tactics on The Big Boss Man a few times, even going so far as to beat him with his briefcase. There's some good action that takes place on the floor and which gets the crowd more into things. Before the night ends, Okerlund interviews The Undertaker and Paul Bearer.
All of the material in this collection is presented fullframe, which is how the matches would have been originally shown, so the format is fitting. Colors are nice and natural and there are no problems with print damage, dirt or debris. Skin tones look good and there are no problems with mpeg compression or edge enhancement. Obviously this isn't going to look as good as some of the wrestling DVDs that contain newer material but for a bunch of matches averaging twenty years old, they look just fine.
The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track is of decent enough quality, though there isn't really all that much to it in terms of channel separation, nor does there need to be. You can hear the interviews and narration on the feature just fine and there is no audible hiss or distortion outside of some of the older archival clips used in the documentary. The matches vary in quality here, just as they do where the video is concerned, meaning that the older ones don't sound quite as clean as the newer ones but there's nothing here to be concerned about, it all sounds fine.
As far as the extras go, well, you get some... menu screens and match selection options. That's it.
A Note On The Packaging: It stinks. The discs fit inside a digipack case but aren't put on plastic rims, they're instead put inside the cardboard itself. This makes the discs very easy to scratch and it also means that the whole thing is made out of cardboard. When my set arrived for review, it was almost completely flat, instead of rectangular like it should have been.
There's a lot of great material; to be found here, and each one of the five events in this collection is worth seeing, even if the fifth event is the weakest of the batch. It's a shame that WWE Home Video didn't put any effort whatsoever into the extras, as it would have been great to hear from the wrestlers that were involved in so many of these classic bouts, but aside from that there isn't too much to complain about here and the Survivor Series Anthology Volume One comes highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.