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10 Things We Learned From WWE Survivor Series 1990

Everybody meet The Undertaker & Gobbledy Gooker...

It was the best of debuts; it was the worst of debuts. Survivor Series 1990 has become synonymous with the arrivals of two men who could not have been more diametrically opposed in terms of how their personas would be historically viewed. One became an irreplaceable fixture with WWE, headlining dozens upon dozens of pay-per-views and winning multiple World titles, while the other was relegated to laughingstock status, a failed idea for whom WrestleCrap has named its "worst of the year" award after.

The Undertaker was everything that the Gobbledy Gooker was not, and it didn't long for the disparity between the two arrivals to make itself crystal clear. Funny thing is, the mutant egg that was to have eventually hatched the Gooker would receive more hype, promotion, and speculation than that of Ted DiBiase's mystery partner. That's like giving an extensive ad campaign to a compost heap while soft-launching a new Marvel Comics feature film.

Aside from those two vastly-different debuts, the 1990 Survivor Series was marked by the return of Hulk Hogan to the main event fold, a nudge toward singles greatness for Bret Hart, and a strong performance from Sgt. Slaughter to get him ready for a questionable main event push. The last Thanksgiving night Survivor Series would firmly shape the WWE of 1991.

10. A Common Bond


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In the era of Survivor Series teams being labelled with special names that reference the captain, there have been instances of said name not exactly fitting the teammates. Was Rick Martel truly an "Enforcer"? Was Paul Roma a "Visionary"? Has anyone ever looked at Pat Tanaka as a "Mercenary"? You could make the same joke about athletes in team sports - it's not like Carson Wentz is an *actual* eagle, after all.

But Ultimate Warrior's team, appropriately named The Warriors, was a rare instance of a moniker perfectly fitting the entire quartet. All three of his partners went by some form of "Warrior" in their career. Animal and Hawk, The Legion of Doom, are obviously otherwise known as The Road Warriors, while "The Texas Tornado" Kerry Von Erich was better known in his earlier days as "The Modern Day Warrior", a line from his classic theme song of "Tom Sawyer" by Rush. So yes, Warriors all.

9. The Real Champion


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Not often you see both the WWE World and Intercontinental Champions leading off a pay-per-view, but such was the case at Survivor Series 1990. Warrior toted his WWE belt to the ring, while Von Erich brought out the IC strap for their battle with Mr. Perfect's "Perfect Team", consisting of Perfect and all three Demolition members. Thing was, Von Erich wasn't actually the IC champ - Perfect was.

So why did Von Erich have the belt? Three days before Survivor Series, at the Superstars tapings in Rochester, NY, Perfect defeated Von Erich (with an assist from Ted DiBiase) to regain the belt. However, because of WWE's practice of taping their TV shows well in advance, the title switch would not air until 15 December 1990, three weeks following Survivor Series. Following company tradition, Von Erich continued to be billed as the IC Champ until the title change aired - which included being introduced as champion at Survivor Series.

8. A Legendary Duo Demolished


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The first man to be pinned on the pay-per-view was Demolition Ax, who succumbed to a pinfall at the hands of Warrior barely three minutes into the opening bout. The match would prove to be the last in WWE for the real-life Bill Eadie, who left the promotion pretty much immediately after.

The writing had been on the wall for some time, as Ax had been functionally replaced by the much younger Crush in Demolition as the spring of 1990 turned to summer. While some stories had claimed that Vince was phasing Ax out due to heart problems, Eadie confirmed that an allergic reaction to shellfish earlier that year led to WWE bringing Crush in, while Ax awaited medical clearance. Eadie (42 at the time) was to have transitioned into a backstage role, but when that fell through, he left WWE after this pay-per-view.

7. What Could Have Been?


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It's hard to imagine Undertaker debuting in any other manner than having Ted DiBiase evilly rasping his name in a special ring introduction. Yet, if original plans had gone through, Mark Calaway *would* have needed another entry point into the living rooms of WWE fans across the world, because Dibiase's Million Dollar Team didn't have room for a mystery partner at first.

WWE staged a Survivor Series photo shoot some time in the late summer of 1990 (likely even before SummerSlam), and a few years back, the photo of DiBiase's original team surfaced. It was him, Honky Tonk Man, Greg Valentine...and Bad News Brown. Brown disappeared from WWE after SummerSlam after falling out with the company, so the photo probably had to be taken before the August PPV. When Brown left, that opened up a spot, and...well, the rest is history.

6. Not The First Brush With The Dark Side


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So Undertaker looked up to snuff in his first TV appearance, overpowering everybody on Dusty Rhodes' Dream Team. He eliminated Koko B Ware with a Tombstone in about 90 seconds, and would later polish Rhodes himself off. Quite a first impression was made by the former Mean Mark Callous, as Vince just had to know he was money right from the start.

Not to diminish the story any, but for accuracy's sake, Survivor Series 1990 wasn't actually the site of Undertaker's first WWE match. We turn back once more to that set of TV tapings in Rochester from three days before the pay-per-view for this factoid. That night, Undertaker wrestled twice, defeating Jim McPherson in a dark match, before squashing longtime preliminary wrestler Mario Mancini in a little more than one minute. That match would air the same day as the aforementioned Perfect/Tornado title switch, on 15 December 1990. But still, those two matches just slightly predate the Survivor Series "debut".

5. Nary A Scratch


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If you're like me, you at least roll your eyes whenever a commentator today gets a fact wrong, especially when it feels like a convenient white-washing of history to fit a desired narrative ("Triple H has never beaten Undertaker before!"). Check out Survivor Series 2006 sometime, when all five Team DX members survive their match, and Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler have to act like it's the first clean sweep in event history. In fact, it was the *sixth* time a whole team had survived.

The *actual* first time that a whole team survived was here in 1990, when Rick Martel's Visionaries team (which also included The Warlord, Hercules, and Paul Roma) beat out Jake Roberts' Vipers group, with all four men coming through in tact. And as a footnote, Lawler was actually part of an entire team surviving once (1994, with The Royal Family), but that's something I'd wanna forget, too.

4. A Rude Exodus


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More Survivor Series means more substitutions in the elimination matches, as it seems WWE house-cleaning comes calling every autumn or so. This time, it's Ravishing Rick Rude that has to get subbed out. Rude, who had just headlined SummerSlam 1990 against Warrior, would be replaced on Earthquake's Natural Disasters foursome by Rude's fellow Heenan Family ally, Haku.

Rude legitimately quit the company in October 1990, after a dispute over the use of his name to promote live event appearances while he was injured. Rude felt he should have been paid for the use of his name (when he wasn't going to be wrestling), while WWE felt he should've at least made the towns if he wanted to be paid for those cards. The storyline explanation for Rude's sudden disappearance was an indefinite suspension for derogatory remarks he'd made about Big Boss Man's mother. Had this been Lucha Underground, they would've written Rude out by having Boss Man kill him with his bare hands, I'd wager.

3. (African) Dream No More


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Our third and final substitution from the 1990 Survivor Series doesn't have as intriguing a backstory as Rick Rude's swift exit, nor does it present the paradigm shift that was Bad News Brown's void being filled by a seminal figure like the debuting Undertaker. Instead, it's simply an ongoing wrestler being replaced by another wrestler was on his way out too.

Akeem the African Dream was originally slated to compete on Sgt. Slaughter's Mercenaries squad, but would leave the company in early October. His replacement was Boris Zhukov, who would be eliminated by Tito Santana less than one minute into the match. Zhukov would actually finish up with the company at the end of the weekend, losing a pair of matches to Tugboat on house shows, including one at Madison Square Garden.

2. Rotten Egg


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Ohh, the f**king Gobbledy Gooker. The idea was pretty well doomed from its conception, but damn it, they rolled with it anyway. Bruce Prichard said that Vince wanted a mascot akin to The San Diego Chicken to keep kids entertained at house shows, but this was, ahem, a different sort of "foul". And the experience wasn't any better for poor Hector Guerrero inside the costume.

For one thing, Guerrero had to hide within the egg's platform for several hours before and during the show, while dressed in the overheated costume, waiting for his "hatching". He claimed to have only a small fan to keep him cool while he remained stuck in the small space. Additionally, the costume was a dud, as Guerrero could barely see out of it. The usually-acrobatic Guerrero could only do simple rolls inside the costume, due to the restrictions of the outfit's material. And the fans booed the whole thing out of the building anyway, so it was a total loss.

1. Not So Grand


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For the only time in the event's history, Survivor Series featured a special "Grand Finale Match of Survival", and it was a unique concept. All of the earlier survivors would be put into new teams (faces vs. heels) and have another match to determine the event's truest survivors. The rushed spectacle felt like one of those battle royals they tack on at the end of house shows when a big name no-shows.

WWE also seemed to contradict earlier advertising for this special match, as they talked of there being only one ultimate survivor, so you'd think the "Grand Finale" would be some sort of battle royal. Bruce Prichard said this was a switch late in the process, and WWE ended up with two ultimate survivors: Hogan and Warrior. Perhaps WWE just didn't want to have either main event superhero come up short that night?

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10 Things We Learned From WWE Survivor Series 1991

Justin Henry

Written by Justin Henry

In addition to writing lists and commentaries for Cultaholic, Justin is also a features writer and interviewer for Fighting Spirit Magazine, and is co-author of the WWE-related book Titan Screwed: Lost Smiles, Stunners, and Screwjobs.