In this project, Liam Byrne aims to watch the full shows on the WWE Network that are available in the ‘Hidden Gems’ section. With more and more coming out each week, it is becoming a rich source of old school wrestling.

Survivor Series Showdown 1993
November 8 & November 10, 1993
Fernwood Resort
Bushkill, Pennsylvania

The Survivor Series Showdown was an event that was designed to promote the upcoming Survivor Series PPV and earn more buys for the show.

Unfortunately, 1993 WWF wasn’t a particularly strong era for the promotion, which is amply highlighted by the quality, or lack thereof, of the show. It didn’t help that what might have been engaging, Bret Hart and the Hart Family’s feud with Jerry Lawler, had seen the King shuffled out for Shawn Michaels in an impromptu feud due to Lawler’s impending legal issues.

The show began by setting up the main event of Yokozuna versus Bret Hart as footage of a Hart match against IRS saw the Hitman win by disqualification after an attack by Mr. Fuji. In terms of opponents, Hart was one of the better ones Yoko could go up against so at least the main event looked good on paper.

Things rapidly took a turn for the worse when the first match began as it saw Doink, very much in the lesser form of the gimmick, taking on Bastion Booger. There was nothing commendable about the match whatsoever and it just served no real purpose, especially as it was ostensibly to build to a Survivor Series match which Doink wasn’t even in (the much-maligned four Doinks taking on Booger, Bam Bam Bigelow and the Headshrinkers).

The match itself was glacial in terms of pace, with several spots that were clearly designed to get at least Vince McMahon laughing such as Booger falling off of Doink’s scooter and Booger getting tripped up in the old schoolboy fashion as Doing kneeled down behind him. When it came for the big comeback by Doink, he just began fighting back – no transition, no anything. The finish somehow made the match even worse as Booger thought he had won as Doink tapped him on the back during the pin, only for the clown to roll Booger up for a three. The ‘laughs’ weren’t quite wrung out of this segment yet, however, as Doink put tabasco sauce on a slice of pizza Booger tried to eat and promptly spat out due to the heat. Just awful.

As this was all about building to the PPV, a lot of segments revolved around setting the scene for the matches to come. Footage of Ludvig Borga pinning Tatanka with one finger prior to Yokozuna banzai dropping the Native American explained the need for the All Americans to draft in the Undertaker as a replacement. The foursome, which also included the Steiners and Lex Luger, joined Raymond Rougeau for an interview which played off of the jingoistic USA versus ‘the foreigners’ storyline which wasn’t great then and feels terribly cliché now.

A short clip with Todd Pettengill explaining how to order a PPV (including a dig about how it was always a Russian girl on the first day of a new job who you spoke to) was followed by footage of Crush turning on Randy Savage. This was one of the highlights of the show as the clip also included Savage jumping Crush a couple of weeks later, a segment in which the Macho Man threw Vince McMahon out of the way in a very early example of a McMahon bump. This explained Savage’s lack of presence on commentary as he served a ban.

Heel foreign sympathizer Crush was arguably the worst variety of Crush, taking a below-average worker and limiting them further by incorporating a move set of almost solely chops and kicks. I had to give it to Virgil, as it was he who made this match at points watchable as he launched himself over the ropes with a plancha and also drilled Crush with a second rope clothesline. Between those two spots, Virgil was also Virgil as he struggled with a roll-up out of the corner after avoiding a charge in an awkward-looking spot. When selling Crush as the grand replacement for Pierre (Luger having taken him out in revenge for Tatanka), having him go almost ten minutes and struggle to put away Virgil probably wasn’t the best idea. A press slam saw Crush dump Virgil throat first on the top rope and set up for the head vice victory in a bad match.

Footage of a countout victory for Razor Ramon over Rick Martel set up some dissension in the ranks of Martel’s Survivor Series team. Having collided with Harvey Wimpleman at ringside in the lead up to the countout, Martel looked to take out his frustrations on the manager, only for Adam Bomb, IRS and Diesel to come down and halt things from escalating any further. Having only seen the PPV before, this basic storytelling leading up to the show at least made the matches seem worthwhile.

A strange segment followed as Reo Rodgers, Bruch Prichard channeling his best Dusty Rhodes impersonation, joined Shawn Michaels ‘outside the Hart family house’. Unsurprisingly, it was all a ruse as Michaels joined ‘Stu’ and ‘Helen’, two people with old people masks on, as a means to run down Bret and Owen, in particular implying that Bret was the golden boy, whilst Owen was overshadowed by his brother. Rodgers himself lasted about two weeks on television, yet the subtle stoking of the flames between the Harts was a nice touch. Of note, this was at the start of Michaels proclaiming himself the real Intercontinental Champion – the belt had been vacated due to Michaels failing a drug test in real life.

At this point, we were 0-2 in terms of in-ring action and things weren’t going to improve when 1993 IRS was next up in the ring. Marty Jannetty was his opponent, but he could do little to work around IRS’ dull offense. Mike Rotunda was once a reasonably engaging wrestler; not at this point in this career. Chinlocks and abdominal stretches with minimal torque or sense of struggle meant that there felt as if there was a lot of time standing around or kneeling down rather than actually wrestling. The best moment of the whole match was IRS hitting the Write Off clothesline, partly due to Jannetty’s wild sell and partly due to the match finally being over.

Before the main event, the Foreign Fanatics get the same opportunity as the All-Americans as they joined Raymond Rougeau for a promo. When comparing the two segments, it was clear how important having someone like Jim Cornette do the heavy lifting mic-wise was, as he made this watchable, as did Johnny Polo when he blew up a bag and crushed it in allusion to Luger’s head. This was only emphasized more by Crush and Borga’s very generic heel comments, but overall it got the job done.

This was also a prelude to the last Survivor Series report with Todd Pettengill, which primarily focused on Doink revealing that he was going to team with three other Doinks to a frustrated Bam Bam Bigelow as the heel stood in the ring. This would end up being the Bushwhackers and Men on a Mission in a match that has gone down in legend as one of the worst in the show’s history.

The bar was set low, but Yokozuna versus Bret Hart was a good main event that was a snapshot of a mobile and motivated Yoko that was sadly all too limited a time period. Hart was the perfect opponent for Yokozuna, hitting quick and often when on offense, yet able to take a beating when needed. There was the odd moment of a USA chant as Hart initially was in control, a chant that was furthered by Bret himself. Effective heeling, including Fuji using the flag and Yoko using a chair shot at ringside with the ref distracted kept the champion on top, whilst the impact on simple moves like a legdrop were just amplified by his sheer bulk.  This also came into play with a vicious belly to belly suplex later on in the match as Hart pretty much jumped into it.

The finish was weak but designed to further the wedge that was coming between Bret and Owen – Hart maneuvered Yokozuna into the sharpshooter, the ref was distracted by Owen coming to ringside, Fuji hit Bret with the salt bucket, Owen whacked Yoko with the same object to cause a disqualification. With two big matches at the PPV, neither man really needed to lose, but that’s why you end up with convoluted finishes such as this one. However, it was a definite high point when compared to what had come before it.

As if to encapsulate everything wrong with this show, Men on a Mission came down to the ring to rap as Vince McMahon screamed ‘GET DOWN’ at Bobby Heenan to truly highlight how white he is. There was nothing wrong with it per se, but it didn’t exactly scream ‘buy the PPV’ to me.

Then again, none of the show did. A hard avoid on this one, with it never even entering ‘so bad it’s good’ territory. It was just bad.