The inaugural Survivor Series took place 16 days after I was born, creating an instant personal connection. Growing up, I combed through the sports section of the video store for wrestling PPV’s to rent and  would always gravitate towards the Survivor Series tapes. Numerous eight or 10-man tag team elimination matches guaranteed the number of superstars I’d get to see in action. It was a value thing — more bang for your buck!

This series looking at Survivor Series history is going to be an exploration on the history of the pay-per-view. Things we’ll explore beyond just the matches themselves: who has eliminated the most opponents in a Survivor Series elimination tag team history? Which was Survivor Series was the most successful financially? Who has been the worst Survivor Series teammate?

Join me as I explore WWE’s PPV fourth wheel, the Survivor Series.

WWE Survivor Series 1987
November 26, 1987 (Thanksgiving)
Richfield Coliseum
Richfield, OH
Watch: WWENetwork

The first Survivor Series was held in Richfield, OH. This was WWE’s second PPV in 1987 and it took place eight months after the monumental WrestleMania III PPV. This was Vince McMahon’s first year holding multiple PPV events, and would continue adding shows in 1988 with the debut of “Summer Slam”. The first Survivor Series went head to head with NWA’s Starrcade ’87. Vince McMahon took to the PPV providers and gave them an ultimatum. McMahon threatened any PPV provider that if they aired Starrcade instead of Survivor Series they would not be given the privilege of airing WrestleMania IV the following March. With the success of WrestleMania III the PPV providers had their backs to the wall. In the end only four providers aired Starrcade, all of which were still able to air WrestleMania IV.

This inaugural Survivor Series was built upon the continuation of the historic feud between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant. Hogan and Andre had been kept separated from physical combat for the 8 months after their WrestleMania confrontation leading up to Survivor Series. The concept of Survivor Series was a card of 10 man tag team elimination matches. This was novel in 1987 because, if you watched WWE TV back then, you would only see Superstar vs. jobber matches. You would have to go to house shows, watch WrestleMania or Saturday Night’s Main Event if you wanted to check out matches that were Superstars vs. Superstars. So, to get a PPV with matches that would contain TEN Superstars in the ring at once was exciting.

Jesse “The Snake Skinned Pilgrim” Ventura and Gorilla Monsoon

Howard Finkel introduces the commentators for the evening. Jesse Ventura walks down wearing a snake skin jacket, snake skin pants, and a Pilgrim’s hat. Gorilla is in his usual formal attire, but asks what Jesse is doing. Jesse replies “I’m going to have fun on Thanksgiving! Even if I’m in Cleveland!” Well, Jesse you are in fact not in Cleveland, so you should be safe.

Honky Tonk and the “greatest Survivor Series team ever assembled”

Honky Tonk Man is in the back with Harley Race, Ron Bass, Danny Davis, Hercules, Bobby Heenan and Jimmy Hart. HTM claims this is the great Survivor Series team that has ever been assembled despite this being the first ever Survivor Series event. HTM says they are going to shake, rattle, and roll their competition and if anyone gets in their way they will shove them down. This was in reference to the angle that ran leading up to this match in which HTM shoved Miss Elizabeth down. What a great sleazy, slimy, despicable heel HTM was during his Intercontinental Championship run.

Macho Man’s team makes friends with former enemies

Randy Savage’s team gets to cut their backstage promo. This was a big deal because this was Savage’s first babyface run in the WWE. In fact, Ricky Steamboat was one of his partners for this match 8 months after their epic clash at WrestleMania III. Ricky Steamboat would also be teaming at this event with Jake Roberts who DDT’ed Steamboat on a concrete just a year and a half earlier.

Randy Savage, Ricky Steamboat, Jake Roberts, Brutus Beefcake, and Jim Duggan w/ Miss Elizabeth vs. Honky Tonk Man, Hercules, Danny Davis, Harley Race, and Ron Bass w/ Bobby Heenan and Jimmy Hart

This match benefited from a hot crowd, but that was due to the level of workers in this match. The majority of the participants in this match are Einstein’s when it comes to working a crowd into frenzy. Really a fun match to watch and great way to kick of the tradition of Survivor Series Elimination matches. ***1/2

Elimination #Wrestler EliminatedEliminated ByTime
1Jim DugganHarley RaceDoublecount out4:32
2Ron BassBrutus Beefcake7:00
3Brutus BeefcakeHonky Tonk Man10:50
4Danny DavisJake Roberts15:10
5HerculesRandy Savage21:06
6Honky Tonk ManCount out23:41
Survivors: Randy Savage, Jake Roberts, and Ricky Steamboat

The BIGGEST survivor series team

Bobby Heenan is backstage with Andre, King Kong Bundy, One Man Gang, Butch Reed, Rick Rude, and Slick. Heenan throws to a clip of WrestleMania III when Andre supposedly had Hulk Hogan’s shoulders pinned to the mat during their match. This was Heenan’s gripe for the last eight months claiming that Andre won the match.

Fabulous Moolah, Rockin’ Robin, Velvet McIntyre, Itsuki Yamazaki, and Noriyo Tateno vs. Sensational Sherri, Leilani Kai, Judy Martin, Donna Christianello, and Dawn Marie w/ Jimmy Hart

The interesting dynamics going into this match are that Moolah was in Leilani Kai’s corner at the first WrestleMania when Kai wrestled Wendi Richter. The following year at WrestleMania 2, Moolah wrestled Velvet McIntyre who would be her partner in this match.

All of the women get the jobber entrance….aka…no entrance as they are all standing in the ring when Howard Finkel is introducing each woman. Finkel introduces the Glamour Girls, Kai and Martin as the WWE Women’s Tag Team champions. They had no titles to prove this claim. Finkel announced Moolah at 160 pounds in which Moolah immediately stared a hole through him. Ventura and Monsoon make a comment that that can’t be accurate. Was this a rib on Moolah? Unfortunately this wasn’t the worst way Moolah’s character was treated (see: Attitude Era). Oh, and in case you were wondering this Dawn Marie is not the same Dawn Marie who became Dawn Marie-Wilson.

Elimination #Wrestler EliminatedEliminated ByTime
1Donna ChristianelloVelvet McIntyre1:57
2Dawn MarieRockin’ Robin4:12
3Rockin’ RobinSensational Sherri6:50
4Fabulous MoolahJudy Martin10:55
5Sensational SherriVelvet McIntyre14:54
6Velvet McIntyreLeilani Kai16:55
7Leilani KaiNoriyo Tetano18:13
8Judy MartinItsuki Yamazaki19:49
Survivors: Noriyo Tetano and Itsuki Yamazaki

This crowd became dead silent for this match proving that the WWE was not invested in women’s wrestling at this time because these women are good workers. You could poll every member of the audience with a lineup of the women in this match and I doubt these fans could name three women in this match.

Despite the dead crowd this match was entertaining from a workrate stand point. The Jumping Bomb Angels are just tremendous workers. The final four survivors were the Jumping Bomb Angels on one side and the Glamour Girls on the other. This was set up to build to their 2 out of 3 falls match at the 1988 Royal Rumble.

Demolition (Ax and Smash), The Hart Foundation (Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart), The Dream Team (Greg Valentine and Dino Bravo), The Islanders (Haku and Tama), and The Bolsheviks (Nikolai Volkoff and Boris Zhukov) w/ Bobby Heenan, Jimmy Hart, Jimmy Valiant, Mr. Fuji, and Slick vs. Strike Force (Tito Santana and Rick Martel), The British Bulldogs (Davey Boy Smith and Dynamite Kid), The Killer Bees (Jim Brunzell and Brian Blair), The Young Stallions (Jim Powers and Paul Roma), The Fabulous Rougeaus (Jacque and Raymond Rougeau)

This was a fun match to watch. The WWE tag team division was thriving in the late 80’s and it was showcased here with 10 established teams that all had their own unique gimmick/look. As the longest match on the card it also happened to be the best match of the night. These 37 minutes go by very fast with the quick tags in and out. The Stampede Wrestling guys (Bulldogs and Hart Foundation) were the standouts with their realistic offense and superb selling. ****

Elimination #Wrestler EliminatedEliminated ByTime
1Boris Zhukov(The Bolsheviks)Tito Santana1:42
2Jacque Rougeau(Fabulous Rougeaus)Ax5:47
4Tito Santana(Strike Force)Jim Neidhart12:05
5Dynamite Kid(The British Bulldogs)Haku19:57
6Greg Valentine(The Dream Team)Paul Roma23:37
7Bret Hart(The Hart Foundation)Jim Brunzell30:33
8Tama(The Islanders)Brian Blair37:14
Survivors: Killers Bees and Young Stallions

Million Dollar man makes kids cry

Jesse Ventura is curious how Ted Dibiase spends his Thanksgiving. This leads to a number of classic vignettes with Dibiase. Dibiase does everything from kicking a basketball out from under a kid at the 14th bounce after offering him $300 if he could bounce the ball 15 times to paying off a public swimming pool employee to get some private swimming in. Fun fact: A young Rob Van Dam kisses MDM’s foot in one of the vignettes and makes his WWE PPV debut.

Andre the Giant, Rick Rude, King Kong Bundy, Butch Reed, and One Man Gang w/ Bobby Heenan and Slick vs. Hulk Hogan, Bam Bam Bigelow, Ken Patera, Paul Orndorff, and Don Muraco w/ Oliver Humperdink

This match took place during Hogan’s first WWE Title reign and at the absolute peak of him being the most popular pro wrestler on Earth. The fans were worked into frenzy during Hogan’s entrance when he was merely in the same ring as Andre the Giant. This match was the typical late 1980’s WWE main event. Not strong on work rate, but had the pomp and circumstance to get the fans worked up. If you like #HOSSfights then this match had plenty of that as well.  ***1/4

After the match Hogan came down to the ring to fight the sole survivor, Andre the Giant. Hogan posed in the ring of the crowd in celebration of….who knows, but he sent the fans home happy.

Elimination #Wrestler EliminatedEliminated ByTime
1Butch ReedHulk Hogan2:58
2Ken PateraOne Man Gang7:58
3Paul OrndorffRick Rude9:39
4Rick RudeDon Muraco10:28
5Don MuracoOne Man Gang12:35
6Hulk HoganCount out16:18
7King Kong BundyBam Bam Bigelow18:08
8One Man GangBam Bam Bigelow21:10
9Bam Bam BigelowAndre the Giant22:14
Survivor: Andre the Giant

Fun Survivor Series Facts:

  • This was one of three Survivor Series PPV’s to take place at the Richfield Coliseum (1988 and 1992)
  • The Richfield Coliseum closed 7 years later in 1994 and was demolished 12 years later in 1999.
  • The total combined weight of Andre’s team was 1,942 lbs. Just 58 pounds short of a ton!
  • Survivor Series finished out with a total of 325,000 PPV buys and beat out Starrcade head-to-head, which finished with a mere 20,000 PPV buys.
  • “Superstar” Billy Graham was supposed to be on Hogan’s team for this event, but was replaced by Don Muraco after Graham retired due to mounting injuries, including have his hip replaced. This would have marked the first and only time Hogan and Graham participated in the same match as each other.
  • Smash was the first person in Survivor Series history to be eliminated via disqualification

Fun Survivor Series Stats (these are ongoing stats that will be updated as these events are reviewed):

  • There was a tie for wrestlers with most eliminations after this event as Velvet McIntyre and Bam Bam Bigelow each eliminated two of their opponents
  • Boris Zhukov has the record to this point for least amount of time in a Survivor Series Elimination match when he was eliminated in a mere 1 minute and 42 seconds
  • Jim Brunzell, Brian Blair, Jim Powers, and Paul Roma are tied for the most accumulative time in Survivor Series match history with 37 minutes and 14 seconds

November 1987 in history:

  • The #1 Song on the Billboard charts was “Mony Mony” by Billy Idol
  • The #1 Movie at the box office was “The Running Man” starring WWE Hall of Famer Arnold Schwarzenegger and also featured Jesse Ventura
  • Three-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada was born just 18 days before this event
  • Andre Dawson became the first baseball player to win a league MVP while playing for the last place ball club just eight days before this event.