PPV REVIEW: WWF Survivor Series 1989

Rosemont Horizon, Rosemont, Illinois
November 23, 1989

With a revised format that featured teams of four (rather than the five-a-side bouts of previous years), team names and a bolder, brighter look, you'd perhaps expect the 1989 Survivor Series to be the best yet. Instead, what we were presented with on that chilly Thanksgiving night of 1989 was a rather mediocre affair with occasional flashes of brilliance. 

Here's what went down.

This year's show opened with an opening typical of American TV programming in the 1980s in which  viewers were treated to a whirlwind tour of Illinois on a cold and frosty morning before entering the Rosemont Horizon, being taken through hordes of fans (including one slightly scary lady dressed as the Ultimate Warrior) and shown some - admittedly quite interesting footage- of the WWF production crew preparing for the show, all of which set to some crap jazz-pop soundtrack.

Starting the show properly (sort of), a host of WWF Survivor Series cut short promos in which they let us know what they were thankful for on this Thanksgiving night.

Among the many thankful grapplers, we learned that Ted Dibiase was thankful because he was rich and we, apparently, were not, Jake 'The Snake' Roberts was, unsurprisingly, thankful for Damien and the DDT, Demolition were thankful that they didn't have to fight each other, Mr. Perfect was thankful for being, well, absolutely perfect, and Ultimate Warrior was thankful for..erm..some kind of garbled yelling which made no sense what so ever.

WWF / WWE SURVIVOR SERIES 1989 - Gorilla Monsoon & Jesse 'The Body' Ventura
Macho King Randy Savage also gave thanks for something or other, but in all honesty, your reviewer was too distracted by Sensational Queen Sherri adopting Macho King's mannerisms and delivering an 'Ohhh Yeahhh' which sounded far too erotic than it really had any right to be.

More crap 80s music followed as Vince McMahon gave us a run-down of tonight's show before we finally cut to our hosts for the evening, the ever-present and always awesome duo of Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse 'The Body' Ventura.  In a recurring theme of this show, Jesse called Monsoon fat, and we were sent down to Howard Finkle for our opening contest.

4 vs. 4 Survivor Series Elimination MatchThe Enforcers: 

Big Boss Man (team captain), Honky Tonk Man, 'The Model' Rick Martel and Bad News Brown (with Slick and Jimmy Hart)

The Dream Team
'The American Dream' Dusty Rhodes, Brutus 'The Barber' Beefcake, Tito Santana and The Red Rooster

And so for the second year in a row, Brutus Beefcake and The Honky Tonk Man found themselves in opposite corners in an opening Survivor Series match, Brutus making his way to the ring to a theme tune which in this writer's opinion is incredibly underrated when people discuss the best wrestling themes of all time.

As it was, it was former Intercontinental Champion Honky Tonk Man kicking off the action with Tito Santana.

"I tell ya what, this match right here between Honky Tonk Man and Chico could main event anywhere in the country," said Jesse Ventura, lying through his teeth as the two tussled by the ropes.

Honky took down his opponent and brought in Santana's former partner, Rick Martel. With tensions still lingering following the break up of Strike Force, the one-time team-mates went at it in a furious display of wrestling excellence before tagging out to allow bitter rivals The Big Boss Man and Dusty Rhodes the opportunity to batter on one another. Brutus and Honky then entered the fray before Martel and Santana once again took centre stage, The Model rolling up his former team mate for the night's first elimination.

WWF / WWE SURVIVOR SERIES 1989 - Saphire Cheers on Dusty Rhodes
With his team down to three against four, Dusty Rhodes was cheered on from ringside by an as-yet unnamed woman clad in polka dots. Of course, as history would go on to show, she would eventually be by The Dream's side as Saphire. 

Dusty picked up the pace for his team, beating on The Model before a series of tags brought Beefcake and Red Rooster into the action for an entertaining series of exchanges with their opponents.

The Rooster fell victim to a life-draining bear hug from the burly Boss Man, yet fought back with gusto, freeing himself from the hold and shooting Bad News Brown into the ring following a tag from The Boss Man.

Bad News bullied the Rooster as The Body once again made some quip about Monsoon's weight on the commentary then brought Big Boss Man back into the action, holding the Red Rooster in place for the man from Cob County to charge at their victim. To the surprise of nobody besides Jesse Ventura, the Rooster ducked and Bad News was struck by his own teammate.

Taking offence, Bad News Brown shoved his team mate and again stormed off.

"I can't believe this!" cried Jesse Ventura as Bad News was counted out. Really, Jess? Even though he did the exact same thing at last year's Survivor Series?

WWF / WWE SURVIVOR SERIES 1989 - Brutus Beefcake and Rick Martel
Luck began to rapidly run out for The Enforcers, Brutus Beefcake taking out the Honky Tonk Man with a high knee and Rick Martel with a sunset flip in short order, leaving The Big Boss Man alone against three opponents.

Boss Man managed to gain some modicum of revenge by taking out the Red Rooster, but the force of Beefcake and Rhodes was too much for the corrupt law enforcement officer as he fell prey to a crossbody from The Dream to end a wildly entertaining opening contest.
Your Winners and sole survivors: Brutus 'The Barber' Beefcake and Dusty Rhodes

Understandably ticked off at the loss, The Big Boss Man grabbed his nightstick from Slick, battered the victors across the spine with it then proceeded to handcuff Dusty to the ropes and beat the tar out of him until Bruti made the save.

WWF / WWE SURVIVOR SERIES 1989 - The Big Boss Man cuts a promo
Cutting to the back, The Boss Man told Sean Mooney that Rhodes was now his prisoner and that The American Dream got exactly what he deserved.

Holding court with the Macho King
For the first time ever, we were treated to a Survivor Series promo which didn't feature a group of wrestlers apparently high on crack as Macho Man's King's Court stable spoke to Mean Gene Okerlund in a Coliseum Home Video exclusive. Savage, accompanied by Dino Bravo, Earthquake, Greg 'The Hammer' Valentine and Sherri, was confident of victory as he claimed they were about to go out and 'do the thing.'

4 vs. 4 Survivor Series Elimination Match
The King's Court
Macho King Randy Savage, Dino Bravo, Earthquake and Greg 'The Hammer' Valentine (with Jimmy Hart Sensational Queen Sherri)
The 4x4s
'Hacksaw' Jim Duggan, Bret 'The Hitman' Hart, 'Rugged' Ronnie Garvin and Hercules

Just when you think you've seen every ridiculous sight professional wrestling can throw at you, here comes Bret Hart, jogging to the ring with his team mates, 2x4 in hand. Seriously, it was a sight that was comical bordering on absolute lunacy.

With the arrival of the 4x4s, the King's Court scarped from the ring before the referee finally gained control before this above average bout began proper.

Earthquake was the first to score a fall for his team, taking out the mighty Hercules with a big fat splash to put the scores at 4-3 to the villains.

The action battled back and forth, The Hitman assisting Jim Duggan in tripping over the Earthquake before Greg Valentine continued his heated feud with Rugged Ronnie Garvin. Valentine took control, passing his rival among his team mates before The Rugged One made a blind tag to Duggan who promptly sent The Hammer packing with a three-point stance.

WWF / WWE SURVIVOR SERIES 1989 - Bret Hart attempts a pin on Randy Savage
The highlight of the entire match came shortly after as Bret Hart and Randy Savage faced off in a thrilling exchange which made this writer rue the fact that these two never had a program together.

Yet both men eventually tug out to make way for the next elimination as Dino Bravo got rid of Garvin with a swift side-suplex.

Returning to the ring, Bret Hart ultimately fell prey to his larger opponents, playing the proverbial 'babyface in peril' as good as anyone in the business as the remaining three members of The King's Court took it in turns to beat on the future world champion.

After absorbing insane amounts of punishment, Hart eventually made the hot tag to Hacksaw, who charged the ring and pounded on his opponents. After only a few moments of regaining control for his team, Duggan made arguably the dumbest move in the history of pro wrestling by tagging The Hitman back into the action. Charging forward, Bret was quickly taken down by Bravo  before Macho man leapt off the ropes with his famous elbow drop to take The Hitman out of the match.

WWF / WWE SURVIVOR SERIES 1989 - Jimmy hart and Sensational Sherri
Standing tall against three opponents, only the dimwitted Duggan remained for the 4x4s, overcoming the odds to clear the ring of his opponents before outside interference Sherri brought this very entertaining contest to a close with a win for the King's Court via countout.
Your Winners and sole survivors: Randy Savage, Dino Bravo and Earthquake

Predictably, Duggan then grabbed his trusty 2x4 and cleaned house to the delight of the Illinois crowd.

It's all about the money
In another Coliseum Home Video exclusive, Ted Dibiase's Million Dollar Team gave an evil cackle as they vowed to eliminate The Hulkamaniacs in their upcoming match.

Still in the back, Gene Okerlund told us that Dusty Rhodes was currently being checked over by doctors before, back out in the arena, The Genius drew the ire of the crowd with a terrible poem.

4 vs. 4 Survivor Series Elimination Match
The Million Dollar Team:
'The Million Dollar Man' Ted Dibiase, Zeus and The Powers of Pain (with Mr. Fuji)
The Hulkamaniacs
WWF Champion Hulk Hogan, Jake 'The Snake' Roberts and WWF Tag Team Champions Demolition

WWF / WWE SURVIVOR SERIES 1989 - The Million Dollar Team
Making their entrance first, the Million Dollar Team initially refused to allow their opponents into the ring until Jake unleashed his snake (no jokes, please) to clear the ring, allowing the heroes to climb between the ropes and stare down their rivals as Hogan's music played for what seemed like an eternity. If you'd only tuned in at this point, you'd be entirely forgiven for thinking the Hulkamaniac's had already won the match.

Alas, it wasn't so, and we began officially with the intimidating Zeus stood centre stage, calling out the WWF Champion.

Intending to start the bout for his team, Jake gave Zeus his wish and tug in the Hulkster for a dramatic confrontation which resulted in the monstrous Zeus choking out his rival and abusing the official, who ultimately disqualified him and sent him packing.

"I don't care if you do have a Z on the side of your head, that's not legal!"  cried Gorilla Monsoon in arguably one of the most bizarre lines ever uttered on a wrestling broadcast. 

Both teams traded the advantage in a decent, slow-paced exchange before Dibiase's men evened the scores thanks to outside shenanigans from Mr. Fuji, allowing the Warlord to drop a heavy elbow onto Ax and eliminate him from the contest.

WWF / WWE SURVIVOR SERIES 1989 - Hulk Hogan and Zeus square off

Hogan re-entered the ring and took it to the Warlord, tagging in Roberts for more of the same. Smash then tug in, hoping to extract some revenge for his defeated partner by going after Warlord, but he too was eventually eliminated following a rumble with The Million Dollar Man. Dibiase made a blind-tag to Barbarian, who drilled Smash with a flying clothesline for a three count.

The match, which could have -arguably should have- been the main event of the show continued with some hard offence from both sides until Roberts was isolated from Hogan and beat to a pulp by the remaining villains.

Roberts eventually made the hot tag, allowing Hogan to storm the ring and take the fight to his opponents.

Yet while the Million Dollar Team were relying on, you know, beating up their opponents and pinning them to get ahead, The Hulkamniacs ultimately depended on the referee's call to gain any revenge. The Powers of Pain were eventually disqualified for double-teaming  (a tactic every team in every match before and after this one employed without the same results) following a vicious spike piledriver on The Hulkster.

"This makes me sick!" cried Ventura, outraged that the only way the heels could be eliminated was thanks to disqualifications.

Dibiase took advantage of a weary Hogan, applying a Million Dollar Dream which was eventually broken by the champion for another tag to Jake. Roberts gained control of the match and set Dibiase up for his patented DDT, only for Virgil to run to the ring.

To the delight of the audience, Jake drilled the bodyguard with a DDT, only for Dibiase to drop an elbow on his foe and eliminate him from the action with a ropes-assisted pin.

As the drama wore on, it was down to Dibiase and Hogan to wrap things up with a fun display which again proved why this gripping match could have easily headlined the show.

Before too long, Hogan hit the Leg Drop of Doom to secure the win for his side.
Your Winner and sole survivor: Hulk Hogan

WWF / WWE SURVIVOR SERIES 1989 - Hulk Hogan and Brutus Beefcake
Out in the back, Randy Savage and Zeus hyped their upcoming steel cage match against Hulk Hogan and Brutus Beefcake at December's No Holds Barred event. In retort, Beefcake and a sweat-drenched Hogan told Gene Okerlund that said match was going to be wild. Sensational Sherri then confronted the heroes, throwing powder in their eyes which allowed Savage and Zeus to beat down on their enemies until a throng of wrestlers came to the rescue.

For reasons which were never explained, Brutus wore entirely different wrestling attire than he had in his earlier match.

Cameras returned to Monsoon and Ventura, the latter claiming that there was dissension in the ranks of the Heenan family, a clear cover-up for what would transpire in tonight's main event.

Our next Coliseum Home Video exclusive saw Ravishing Rick Rude's Rude Brood vow to triumph over Roddy's Rowdies. 

Speaking of whom, the out of control babyface team, featuring Rowdy Roddy Piper, Jimmy 'Superfly' Snuka and The Bushwhackers were shown heading to the ring and being more than slightly unhinged.

 4 vs. 4 Survivor Series Elimination Match
Rude's Brood
'Ravishing' Rick Rude, Mr. Perfect and The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers
(with Jimmy Hart and The Genius)
Roddy's Rowdies
'Rowdy' Roddy Piper, Jimmy 'Superfly' Snuka and The Bushwhackers
WWF / WWE SURVIVOR SERIES 1989 - Ravishing Rick Rude

Literally every time this writer sees Rude in his tights (which in this match bore the faces of the Brood on the front with the Rowdies on the back below a gravestone), I can't help but wonder 'what ever happened to all those awesome tights? And can I buy an original pair?"

That somewhat disturbing and entirely irrelevant thought aside, here we have a match which started badly and ended in a flurry of awesome.

The early part of the battle was played mostly for laughs, the good guys each taking it in turns to bite down on various parts of Mr. Perfect's body before The Rougeaus were eliminated in rapid order thanks to a swift splash from Snuka to Jacques and a piledriver to Raymond courtesy of Mr. Piper.

Outnumbered against four savage opponents, Rude and Perfect retaliated with aggression and took both Bushwhackers out of the equation almost as quickly as the Rougeaus had been eliminated.

It was at this point, with the numbers down to two on two, that the contest really picked up and developed into an entertaining affair.

Following some see-saw action, heated adversaries Rude and Piper finally went at it in the middle of the ring in a maelstrom of fists, both men tumbling through the middle rope and continuing to brawl up the isle  leading to a double countout which left only Superfly and Perfect alone to represent their teams.

Perfect then proceeded to lead his foe through a beautiful, short wrestling match before putting him out of his misery with a smooth Perfect Plex.
Your winner and sole survivor: Mr. Perfect
WWF / WWE SURVIVOR SERIES 1989 - The Ultimate Warrior's team

Heading to the back, Perfect joined his fallen team mates in backstage celebration as they gave an interview to Sean Mooney.

Then, proving that drug-induced promos were still very much a Survivor Series tradition, a whacked out Ultimate Warriors team in which, obviously high on speed or something like that, Jim Neidhart, The Rockers and the Intercontinental Champion himself laughed and gurned and talked the kind of absolute gibberish which one assumes roughly translated as 'We're going to win the match.'
4 vs. 4 Survivor Series Elimination Match
The Heenan Family:
Andre The Giant, Arn Anderson, Haku and Bobby 'The Brain Heenan
The Ultimate Warriors
WWF Intercontinental Champion The Ultimate Warrior, Jim 'The Anvil Neidhart and The Rockers

And so we reach our main event, the only bout on the card not to feature Jimmy Hart at ringside.

Remember that cover-up we talked about earlier? Yeah, well apparently Anderson's Brainbusters team mate, Tully Blanchard was fired that very afternoon, leaving the Heenan team a man down and prompting 'The Brain' himself to don his wrestling gear and participate in the match.

With the bad guys already in the ring, Neidhart and The Rockers charged to the ring and took the fight to their opponents but they quickly outnumbered by Heenan's men, and it was only with the arrival of the Warrior that they were able to gain control.

As the bell rang to officially start the match, Andre was clotheslined to the outside and counted out in the matter of seconds.

For all intents and purposes then, we basically had Michaels, Jannety, Neidhart and the Warrior against the two-man troupe of Arn Anderson and Haku.

To give the heel team their credit, they did fair pretty well, taking out Neidhart after just a few minutes before the compelling action saw Marty Jannety pummelled by Haku and pinned by none other than Bobby Heenan following a big knee drop.

In a main event which was far better than it had any right to be given that two of the stars involved were Warrior and Heenan, it was unsurprisingly up to Anderson, Haku and Michaels to deliver most of the entertainment, each man putting on a fine display which had the crowds roaring in excitement before Michaels drilled Haku with a flying crossbody for the three count.

WWF / WWE SURVIVOR SERIES 1989 - Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan
With Bobby Heenan in the cowering in the corner then, it was up to Arn Anderson to make his final WWF PPV appearance by taking on Michaels and Warrior almost entirely alone.

Another exciting exchange between Anderson and Michaels followed, the action moving swift and intense and seeing a visibly terrified Heenan teasing some kind of top-rope move onto Michaels on the outside. Alas, we never did get to see Superfly Bobby Heenan, instead baring witness to Anderson planting the future Heartbreak Kid with a spinebuster for the pin.

Warrior stormed the ring, pummelling on Anderson and battering him around the ring, hurling him into the ropes and sending Heenan crashing to the outside. With The Brain dazed and confused, Warrior eliminated Anderson before stalking Heenan into the ring.

As the Illinois crowd went wild, Warrior made light work of The Brain to win the match.
Your Winner and sole survivor: The Ultimate Warrior

'For Jesse 'The Turkey' Ventura, I'm Gorilla Monsoon' yelled Monsoon as the 1989 Survivor Series came to a close.  Though on first glance this didn't seem like much of a show at all, repeat viewing reveals it to be a thoroughly entertaining show. If you're looking for five-star wrestling classics, move along, there's nothing to see here, but if you want to see the biggest stars of the 80s collide in enjoyable wrestling matches, here's the one to check out.

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  1. Wouldn't it be Beefcake and Honky for the third year in a row, not second?

  2. The Hogan vs DiBiase match should have gone on last.