Friday, 28 October 2022

PPV REVIEW: WWF Survivor Series 1997

WWF / WWE - Survivor Series 1997 - Event poster

WWF Survivor Series 1997
Molson Centre, Montreal, Canada

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Survivor Series 1997, a game-changing event which, despite a lackluster undercard, went down as one of the most significant PPVs in pro wrestling history thanks to a little incident known as The Montreal Screwjob. 

Given that my last review of this event was written in 2010 and published a few years later when I started Retro Pro Wrestling, the 25-year anniversary seems like a good time to go back and revisit it all over again.


Besides, I wasn't all that happy with the original Survivor Series '97 review published on this site to begin with. So, without further ado, here's a fresh look at an event that changed the course of the WWF forever.

 



Hart vs. Michaels II: This Time, It's Personal 

Our show tonight began with a dramatic look back at the iron man match between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania 12, followed by sound bites from the two’s scathing, animosity-filled promos in the build-up to their rematch here, a year-and-half later.

It says a lot about the quality of that feud that many of those sound bites have become iconic, as permanently etched in this fan’s mind as Austin’s King of the Ring ‘96 promo or Hulk Hogan declaring a new world order of wrestling at Bash at the Beach that same year.

With the opening video out of the way, Milton Bradley’s Karate Fighters presented the 11th annual Survivor Series before we got pyro galore and sweeping shots of the rabid Montreal crowd.

WWF / WWE - Survivor Series 1997 - Jerry Lawler and Jim Ros called the event


Our announcers, Jim Ross & Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler were as psyched as the fans for tonight’s event as they put over Hart/Michaels II (or III if you count their Survivor Series '92 match) and then sent it to the ring for our opening bout.

Traditional 4 vs. 4 Survivor Series Match
The Headbangers (Mosh & Thrasher) and The New Blackjacks (Windham & Bradshaw) vs. The Godwins (Henry & Phineas Godwin), Road Dogg Jesse James, and Bad Ass Billy Gunn

Road Dogg Jesse James and Bad Ass Billy Gunn weren’t officially the New Age Outlaws yet, but they were solidifying their status as the most villainous heel tandem in the company at the time.

WWF / WWE - Survivor Series 1997 - The Road Dog leads his team into battle

Tonight, the two stayed out of the ring as much as possible as The Godwins and The New Blackjacks kicked things off in a good, old-fashioned hoss battle.

The first I reviewed this match, I wrote it off as boring. Years later, while I’m not claiming it was a workrate classic or anything, I certainly enjoyed it more the second time around.

After Bradshaw and Windham had spent the first minute or so exchanging the advantage with Henry and Phineas Godwin, it was Henry who was the first to be taken out, putting the good guys up 3 to 4.

Phineas soon evened the score, getting revenge for his partner by eliminating Barry Windham.

After Billy Gunn took out Mosh, the other Headbanger, Thrasher, worked over Phineas’ arm for a lengthy stretch of time.

Although it wasn’t the most exciting part of the match, the arm spot wasn’t so bad that it ruined what was an otherwise perfectly acceptable opener.

As it wore to a finish, Thrasher did away with Phineas by jumping off the top rope and crashing on the pig farmer’s chest.

Not long after, Roadie and Bad Ass took out Bradshaw and Thrasher in quick succession to become the sole survivors and further cement their status as the top team in the division.
Your Winners: Road Dogg Jesse James & Bad Ass Billy Gunn

Remember The Truth Commission? They were up next.

Traditional Survivor Series Elimination Match
The Truth Commission (Sniper, Recon, The Interrogator, and The Jackyl) vs. The Disciples of Apocalypse (Crush, Chainz, 8-Ball, and Skull)

The big problem with a match like The Truth Commission vs. DOA was that, once the biker gang stepped off their motorcycles they had nothing interesting to offer, while Jackyl’s gang of paramilitary soldiers were never had anything interesting to offer to begin with.

WWF / WWE - Survivor Series 1997 - The Truth Commission



Thus, after Crush, Chainz (Brian ‘Fake Undertaker’ Lee), and the team of Skull & 8-Ball (The Harris Brothers) got done popping the crowd by riding around on their bikes all that was left was a fairly lifeless match that was 80% clobberin’ and 20% sidewalk slams.

Seriously, I think there were more sidewalk slams in this match than you’d see in the entire body of work of The Big Boss Man.

The Interrogator (Kurrgan) established his dominance early on by taking out Chainz (with a sidewalk slam, obviously), only for the biker boys to get their revenge by eliminating The Jackyl first and then Recon (Bull Buchanan) a few minutes later.

After he was eliminated, The Jackyl immediately hopped over to the announce table and spent the rest of the match on commentary where he denied JR’s accusation of being the WWF’s answer to cult leader David Koresh and consistently promised to tell us the truth without actually saying what that truth was.

The battle continued as a two-on-two affair pitting Crush and whichever Harris Brother hadn’t been eliminated against Sniper and the big man, The Interrogator.

To the surprise of no one, it was the latter who was left standing as the sole survivor after Crush eliminated Sniper but then got himself pinned after -you guessed it— another sidewalk slam.

To be fair, this wasn’t completely horrible, but it certainly wasn’t much fun to watch either.
Your Winner and Sole Survivor: The Interrogator

Post-match, The Jackyl claimed that he had won the Survivor Series and lept into the ring to celebrate with his man Kurrgan.

Shawn Michaels is Gonna Win

Whenever the WWF would poll fans on their predictions for a high-profile match, I can’t help but think of the kid from Summerslam 1992 who proudly declared that the British Bulldog would beat Bret Hart ‘whether he wants to or not.’

Tonight, nobody claimed that The Hitman’s opponent had no choice in winning, but the vast majority of the Montreal fans who featured in this show’s “whose going to win?” segment all seemed to be rooting for the Heartbreak Kid despite Bret apparently being The Canadian Hero.

From there, we went to the America Online room where Stone Cold Steve Austin told interviewer Kevin Kelly that despite being concerned about his neck, he was still going to emerge victorious in his upcoming match with Owen Hart.

Austin was as compelling as ever here and ended his promo by leaning over and staring at a laptop running the WWF America Online chat room with such an exaggerated intensity that it made this fan crack up laughing.

A Word With Team USA

Back in the arena, Jim Ross put over tonight’s sponsors, Milton Bradley Karate Fighters, and took us to a clip of some kind of pre-show party to celebrate that sponsorship.

WWF / WWE - Survivor Series 1997 - Michael Cole interviews Team USA

Or at least something like that. To be honest, I’m not sure quite what the event was that we saw. All I know is that the clip featured an overhead crowd shot, Thrasher ramming some poor dude’s face into a cake, and nothing else.

Then, as we prepared for our next match, JR reminded us that Steve Blackman had debuted on Raw as a fan who just so happened to be a martial arts bad ass.

Blackman had jumped into the ring to save Vader from an attack at the hands of The British Bulldog, Jim Neidhart, and the duo of Doug Furnas & Philip LaFon.

As a ‘fan,’ Blackman had been arrested, but Vader had apparently bailed him out and then petitioned to have him join Team USA for tonight’s next traditional Survivor Series match.

Before we could get to that, however, Blackman, Vader, and their partners Marc Mero and Goldust stood by for a backstage interview with Michael “I’ve Been in this Company Forever” Cole.

Coming off as though he was struggling to remember his lines, Vader did nothing to endear himself to the Montreal faithful by declaring that he and his teammates were sick of "loud-mouthed, trash-talking Canadians telling us what to do.”

For his part, Steve Blackman insisted that despite being new to the WWF, he was plenty experienced in “every form of martial arts known to man” and was thus looking forward to tonight’s big fight.

Offering a retort, well-known Canadian The British Bulldog promised victory for Team Canada while Doug Furnas claimed that he hates America so much he’d moved out of the country.

Traditional 4 vs. 4 Survivor Series Match
Team USA (Vader, Steve Blackman, Goldust, and Marc Mero w/ Sable) vs. Team Canada (The British Bulldog, Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neidhart, Doug Furnas, and Phillip LaFon)

With Goldust slowly transitioning into his Artist Formerly Known As phase and Marc Mero also becoming a heel due to his wife, Sable overshadowing him everywhere they went, Team USA made their way to the ring to the theme that used to belong to The Patriot but which has since become synonymous with Kurt Angle.

WWF / WWE - Survivor Series 1997 - Team Canada vs. Team USA



Once their opponents hit the ring, JR took the time to note that only one man representing Team Canada -Phil LaFon- was actually Canadian, with the rest of his team comprising two Americans and an Englishman.

The match itself wasn’t the most spectacular, but with Vader doing most of the work and his teammates providing some interesting moments, it was nonetheless a fun encounter.

Steve Blackman was the first to go when, apparently unfamiliar with the rules of pro wrestling, he went brawling on the outside with Phil LaFon and didn’t bother to answer the referee’s ten count to get back inside.

I mean, that was one way to get the newcomer out of there while still looking like a major badass, but you’d think one of his teammates would have sat him down to explain simple things like the count-out rule, right?

Vader soon evened the odds for his team by destroying Jim Neidhart and then got the upper hand moments later by also doing away with LaFon.

Team USA’s run of luck didn’t last long, however, as Marc Mero was taken out by Furnas.

To be honest, I would have eliminated Mero earlier, not because he wasn’t any good, but simply because the crowd were so hot for Sable that they didn’t really care much about anything else until she was gone.

Down to 2 vs. 2, Vader found that his only remaining teammate, Goldust, didn’t really care about much either. Not only had he not yet stepped in the ring, but when Vader actually tried to tag him in, the former Intercontinental Champion refused.

That left The Mastadon to duke it out with Bulldog and Furnas in an impressive display that was exciting to watch before finally forcing Dusty’s kid into the ring.

Wanting no part of Doug and Davey Boy, Goldust merely walked off and got counted out.

Not long after, Vader eliminated Furnas but was then immediately struck with a ring bell by the Bulldog behind the referee’s back and promptly pinned.
Your Winner and Sole Survivor: The British Bulldog

Despite the crowd cheering him hugely for winning whether he wanted to or not, Davey Boy immediately left the ring and stormed straight to the back.


Either that, or there was something going on backstage that he was eager to get back for.

Who knows

Not me, that’s who, but what I do know is that Milton Bradley Karate Fighters got another mention as the PPV sponsors had hosted something called the Survivor Series Super Supper Sweepstakes.

Hmm, I wonder if they were also responsible for the Super Summer Sizzler Spectacular or whatever that show ECW did in ‘93 was called.

Lawler and Ross spoke on the phone to the winner of that sweepstake, a giggly young lady called Jaqueline who, as her prize, got to choose Steve Austin as her dinner date.

Mankind Seeks to Avenge Dude Love’s Demise

From there, we got a video package recapping the arrival of Kane at In Your House 18: Badd Blood, The Undertaker’s refusal to fight his brother, and how that led to Kane annihilating Dude Love.

WWF / WWE - Survivor Series 1997 - Mankind cuts a promo on Kane



The Dude’s demise brought back Mankind to seek revenge for his own alter-ego, and that took us to an excellent backstage promo from Foley in which he likened Kane to a brick wall and vowed to run right into him.

I swear down, Foley in his prime has to be up there as one of the best promos in the business.

Mankind vs. Kane (w/ Paul Bearer)

You also have to give Mick credit for sacrificing himself in order to put Kane over as a truly dominant force in this match.

WWF / WWE - Survivor Series 1997 - Kane gets ready to face Mankind



Though Mankind certainly got his moments to shine here, he was mostly pulverized by The Big Red Machine.

He took a beating, had the ring steps hurled in his face, and was even sent crashing through a table.

Yet as unstoppable as all this made Kane look, it wasn’t enough to put his opponent away until a tombstone piledriver sealed the deal.

All of this played out beneath red lights which, although they were a little distracting, they did add something unique to a match that was otherwise already entertaining.
Your Winner: Kane

Did any of you send your cable bill proving you’d bought Survivor Series 97 so that you could get a free WWF dog tag?

Me neither, but JR told us they had 3,000 of those bad boys to give away, so I hope somebody did.

WWF / WWE - Survivor Series 1997 - Michael Cole interviews Vince McMahon and Sgt. Slaughter



Meanwhile, out in the back, Sgt. Slaughter told Michael Cole that they had extra security in place should anything crazy happen in tonight’s main event.

Cole then turned his attention to Vince McMahon and asked him who would win said main event.

Vince lied and said he had no idea.

What a Rush!

Backstage, Doc Hendrix interviewed Ken Shamrock, The Legion of Doom, and Ahmed Johnson about their upcoming match with the Nation of Domination.

WWF / WWE - Survivor Series 1997 - Doc Hendrix interviews Ken Shamrock, Legion of Doom, and Ahmed Johnson



Shamrock kicked things off by delivering a promo that was all Jeff Farmer levels of bad in which he basically said he and his men were all business.

Fairing a little better on the mic, Hawk gave the usual Road Warrior promo in which he promised that he and Animal would wipe out the “criminal element” from the WWF.

Fortunately, Hendrix was smart enough to keep the microphone away from Ahmed Johnson.

Traditional 4 vs. 4 Survivor Series Match
The Nation of Domination (Farooq, D’Lo Brown, Kama Mustafa, and Rocky Maivia) vs. Ken Shamrock, Ahmed Johnson, and WWF Tag Team Champions The Legion of Doom (Hawk & Animal)

A year on from his debut as a perma-grinned babyface, Rocky Maivia wasn’t yet The Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment, but he was certainly on his way to becoming a heel worth paying attention to and further established himself by eliminating Hawk in the first two minutes of the match.

WWF / WWE - Survivor Series 1997 - They are the nation...of DOMINATION!



Ahmed Johnson then ensured an even playing field by pinning arch-nemesis Farooq, but the Nation leader retaliated by holding Johnson’s legs down while Rocky scored his second elimination on the master of the Pearl River Plunge.

Proving that their never-ending rivalry was far from done, Johnson and Farooq then brawled all the way to the back, ending an exciting first six minutes of the match.

From there, things slowed down considerably and the middle portion of the match seemed to drag on with little in the way of excitement.

It was during this lackluster middle section that Animal took out Kama Mustafa, only to be eliminated himself when Road Dogg and Billy Gunn interfered, blasting the Road Warrior with powder to the eyes and causing him to get counted out.

It was at that point that the match really picked up again. Shamrock snapped, eliminated D’Lo Brown, and then went at it with The Rock in a hot exchange that ended things in fine form.

Shamrock made Rocky tap in the ankle lock to win the match and emerge as the sole survivor.

The opening and closing minutes of this match more than made up for the lag in the middle, ensuring that this was an all-round enjoyable contest.
Your Winner and Sole Survivor: Ken Shamrock

1.55.02 - record attendance.

As Shamrock celebrated his big time win, Jim Ross announced that tonight’s event had set a brand new attendance record.

Prior to the next match, a clip aired to promote the next WWF PPV, D-Generation-X: In Your House 19. That show would see Shamrock capitalize on his big win here, and his overall popularity, by headlining the show as a challenger for the WWF title.

We then took a look back at all the times Stone Cold Steve Austin’s rivalry with Owen Hart, including that awful moment Owen dropped him on his head back at Summerslam ‘97.

The two would meet in a hotly anticipated rematch next.

World Wrestling Federation Intercontinental Championship
WWF Intercontinental Champion Owen Hart (w/ Team Canada) vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin

Damn, I miss Owen Hart.


Wearing his infamous Owen 3:16 t-shirt, the reigning and defending champion was accompanied to the ring by Neidhart, Smith, Furnas, and LaFon, but shortly after Anvil ate a stunner, those guys left and we got a short but explosive one-on-one encounter.

With the cruel Canadians showing their support for their countryman by yelling “break his neck! Break his neck!” Owen first got his ass whooped by Stone Cold but got a modicum of revenge outside the ring.

There, he choked Austin with a cable, and, when the referee threatened to disqualify him, Hart told him to go ahead and even rang the bell for him.

Of course, the official was having none of that, so it was back to the ring where Stone Cold regained the advantage and captured his second Intercontinental championship with an almighty stunner.

That wasn’t a long match. In fact, it was more of a short version of the main event brawls that would eventually become Austin’s trademark than an actual match, but the crowd and the competitors were both on fire and it made for compelling viewing
Your Winner and New WWF Intercontinental Champion: Owen Hart

Before a final look at Hart/Michaels, JR warned us that their match was going to be very personal and, I quote, “very stiff.”

World Wrestling Federation Championship
WWF Champion Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart vs. WWF European Champion Shawn Michaels

And so, five years after they first headlined a Survivor Series and began their journey to becoming bonafide main eventers, Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels would meet one last time in a match that is still talked about today.

WWF / WWE - Survivor Series 1997 - Shawn Michaels puts Bret Hart in a sharpshooter



Adding an extra sense of suspense and drama to an already historic match, both HBK and The Hitman were filmed walking from their respective dressing rooms to the gorilla position with their allies in tow.

Michaels had HHH, Chyna, and Rick Rude with him while Bulldog and Anvil accompanied Hart.

Once both men were in the ring, they wasted no time in going at it, giving us a wild and out-of-control brawl into the stands and up the entranceway for a full solid ten minutes before the bell even rang.

The in-ring action was equally as enthralling, and though the spot where Michaels held Hart on the mat in a front face lock wasn’t the most exciting moment, it was an obvious call back to their Survivor Series ‘92 encounter.

Bret regained the advantage and began working over the European Champion’s legs, softening him up for the inevitable sharpshooter.

Of course, that move was applied, not by the man who had mastered it and made it so famous, but by Shawn himself.

A moment later, the call was made to “ring the f**king bell” and arguably the most controversial moment in WWF history occurred.

Ladies and gentlemen, we had all just witnessed The Montreal Screwjob.
Your Winner and New WWF Champion: Shawn Michaels

Post-match, the last live shot of Bret Hart on WWF programming for many years saw a bewildered and enraged Hitman spit in the face of chairman Vince McMahon while Michaels acted equally as surprised and annoyed as he grabbed the title and was rushed to the back by Triple H and Gerald Briscoe.

The camera followed him, zoomed in on the Survivor Series logo, and faded to black as Jim Ross wished us a good night.






Had the show not ended the way it did, Survivor Series 1997 would have probably gone down in history as a largely forgettable show, with only the main event, the IC title match, and arguably the Nation vs. Team Shamrock main event standing out as above average.

Yet that final call to “ring the f**king bell” and that lasting image of The Hitman grozzing right in Vince McMahon’s face would ensure that it didn’t really matter whether the show was any good or not.

Writing this review 25 years after the fact, it’s fair to say that it matters not one jot whether DOA vs. The Truth Commission sucked, or that the red lights in the Kane/Mankind match were distracting. It doesn’t even really matter that the Rock/Shamrock ending was a lot of fun.

All that matters is that Survivor Series ‘97 was an event that altered the course of history, serving as the catalyst for Vince McMahon’s groundbreaking heel turn, Bret Hart’s disappointing WCW run and sad end to his career in WCW and, with the then-new Intercontinental Champion Steve Austin at the helm, the dawning of the WWF’s hottest period of its existence.

Make no mistake about it. The World Wrestling Federation and, indeed, the entire landscape of professional wrestling would never be the same again.



2 comments:

I can't remember if they cheered for Owen or Austin in Canada that night...

It's too bad that I have nothing positive to say about this event, because it pisses me off so much, even 24 years later, that I feel anyone who defends Shawn, H, or Vince needs their faces punched for speaking those opinions to others.

But this is why(detailed explanation ahead).

A] Bret's loss here is something that could have done serious financial damage to the WWF had Canada's fans totally abandoned that company to follow Bret to WCW.

B] Had TSN, who aired Raw in Canada at the time, known more about the wresting business than they did, then TSN would've told Vince to fuck off and start airing Nitro live in Canada as a replacement...likely ending the presence of the WWF on TV here.

C] Vince lost the goodwill of the fans in this country that they wanted to probably kill him, Shawn, and H for ripping us off.

Now, that might've been fine for Vince when it happened, but the Montreal ScrewJob ended up contributing, unwittingly, to a far more tragic scene later on, which would be collateral damage from the ScrewJob.

Without Bret's presence in the company, and with both Davey and Neidhart bailing, it left one other Hart in the WWF at that point....Owen.

And this time, Owen was there without the rest of his family supporting him on TV. No one, as a shoot, liked Owen anymore post-ScrewJob, and he was there to do things on his own, under a dark cloud of suspicion from everyone around him.

We would later see how things turned out for him on May 23, 1999.

The Montreal ScrewJob on Bret eventually cost him his brother's life, because Bret wasn't there to aggressively tell both Vince's to fuck off, and to protect Owen from making that mistake of choosing to go into the rafters.

Owen's death hurt me as a fan to have to hear about, and even over 22 1/2 years later, the news report on that disaster that CBC Newsworld on it that they aired is drilled into my mind. The tribute show later that night will haunt me forever too.

But wait, there's more....

Sadly, in the pro wrestling world, anytime a talent dies in it, there's always a vacuum left behind, in the form of the roster spot that 'needs to be filled'. This was no exception.

Now, who was it that filled Owen's spot on the roster, and took away any and all possible career improvements that Owen could have received?

Paul 'Triple H' Levesque.

And that's something that, after 4 years of thought from the night of Owen's death, made me rage in a horrible way to him, and WWE as a whole.

Paul used Owen's fatal fall to build his rise in WWE. That's the conclusion I drew from what I was seeing. And it made me not even want to watch Raw, and stick only with SmackDown, for the entirety that Paul basically controlled Raw's booking.

It took me 9 years to even want to directly look at his face again, because that's how deeply angry I was at him for that. Even now, it's still not something I want to do.

And yeah, I still hate him for that, because that was unacceptable actions from him. You don't do that.

Post a Comment

Retro Pro Wrestling

New reviews of classic WWF/WWE events recalling every moment from Wrestlemania 1 - 30. You'll also find reviews of WCW, ECW, TNA and the occasional indie event, along with a look at old school magazines, merchandise and more.