Review for WWF Survivor Series 1996, November 17, 1996, Madison Square Garden, New York
This show is very much where the WWF started to turn the corner from the New Generation to the new, edgier product that would slowly morph throughout 1997 into the attitude era. After months of hype Bret Hart had returned and announced he’d be staying in the WWF forever (forever would of course last about 12 months), and would accept the challenge of Stone Cold Steve Austin. In the main event Shawn Michaels would take on Sycho Sid the WWF Title. The midcard Survivor Series matches would feature a lot of debuts, including Rocky Maivia, bad haircut and all.
Hosted by Vince McMahon and Jim Ross (and various guest commentators for the Survivor Series matches)
SURVIVOR SERIES MATCH: Bart Gunn, Jesse Jammes, Aldo Montoya & Bob Holly vs Billy Gunn, Justin Hawk Bradshaw, Salvatore Sincere & The Sultan
I’m doing this from the tagged classics version that contains the free for all, and the only reason I’m including this is to marvel at the sheer amount of dead gimmicks involved here. Jesse Jammes was still doing the country singer gimmick and would become Road Dogg. Bob Holly Nascar driver would become Hardcore Holly. Smoking Gunn Billy Gunn would become Mr Ass. Justin Hawk Bradshaw would end up being repackaged as a New Blackjack, then an Acolyte, and then JBL. The Sultan would become Rikishi. Aldo Montoya would become Justin Credible and have some success in ECW. Bart Gunn and Salvatore Sincere are probably the two who’s gimmicks here were the highest they ever made it on the card. Anyway, the match is about the recently broken up Smoking Gunns. Match drags a little and then goes into super rushed eliminations. It ends up with a brief battle between the Gunns and Bart Gunn is the sole survivor, pinning Billy off a forearm shot at about 10 minutes. Just a PPV warm up match. (**)
Onto the real show now.
SURVIVOR SERIES MATCH: Owen Hart, British Bulldog, Leif Cassidy & Marty Jannetty vs The Godwinns, Doug Furnas & Phil LaFon
LaFon and Jannetty start, and Jannetty parades around and JR accuses him of being a geek. LaFon out wrestles him on the mat to control. Cassidy comes in and LaFon takes him down with a heel hook and Phineas comes in. Leif slams him and trash talks. Owen and Bulldog gets a cheapshot and double team, but Marty misses an elbow. Henry comes in and now Marty hurts his knee and can barely walk, so Henry finishes him with the Slop Drop. Owen comes in quickly and nails Henry with a spinning heel kick to eliminate him. Phineas comes in next and runs wild, but Bulldog slams him and gets rid of him. So now we’ve gotten rid of all the deadweight, thankfully so. Furnas in for the first time, and he quickly grabs a headlock. Whip sequence ends with Furnas missing a dropkick. Leif comes in and nails Furnas with an elbow. Owen with a blind tag, coming off the top rope with a missile dropkick. Furnas counters a suplex with a small package, but Owen quickly kicks out and rushes through him with a clothesline. Owen with a fisherman suplex for 2. Bulldog gets a suplex but prefers to showboat than cover. Leif with a clothesline in the corner. Hot tag (well, cold, there’s not much heat here) to LaFon, he gets a reverse superplex to pop the crowd and eliminate Leif. LaFon with a spinning heel kick on Bulldog for 2. LaFon with a series of knee strikes for 2. Whip to the ropes, and Bulldog presses LaFon into the air and drops him down, face first. Owen tags in, and he takes LaFon over with a belly-to-belly suplex for 2. Owen with a neck breaker, followed by a second rope elbow drop for 2. Owen feeds the foot and hits the enziguri for another 2. Bulldog tags in, and a double clothesline hits. LaFon offers a comeback, but Bulldog goes blatantly low. Owen sends LaFon to the corner, but meets a knee on a charge attempt. Owen takes a shot at Furnas, but a double team on LaFon fails, and LaFon rolls Bulldog up to eliminate him. Bulldog, true sportsman that he is clips the knee on the way out. Owen goes to work on the leg, slapping on an Indian death lock. LaFon comes back with a reverse kick in the style of the enziguri, and finally tags out to Furnas. He lays Owen out with a dropkick for two. Overhead belly-to-belly suplex for 2. Whip to the corner, Owen takes a chest first bump allowing Furnas to finish him off with a release German Suplex at 20:40.
First half dragged a bit, but after the Godwinns were out of the match it was awesome, despite the lack of crowd heat. Good debut for Furnas and LaFon, too bad they never connected with the WWF crowds. (***1/2)
Mankind vs The Undertaker
Paul Bearer is locked in a cage and if Undertaker wins he gets 5 minutes alone with him, I guess Jim Cornette booked his one. Undertaker descends with bat wings and a new look after being buried alive the month before, thankfully the end of the purple era. Taker beats on Mankind and works on the arm with a cross armbreaker, which was weird to see back then since Taker was only ever known to do punching, kicking, a few power moves and zombie situps. Taker beats on him outside and works over the hand, but Mankind comes back with a Cactus clothesline and tries to run into the crowd. Backdrop back to ringside, but Mankind goes low and hits a senton off the apron. Back in, Mankind with the running knee in the corner, but Taker pounds him down again. Mankind with a vicious piledriver, but Taker blocks the Mandible Claw and sends him outside. Taker keeps working on the hand and gets the ropewalk, but Mankind puts him down with a neckbreaker and goes up. Taker wakes up from that as well and goes for the chokeslam, but gets caught in the Mandible Claw. Taker escapes with the chokeslam, but charges and hits the floor, so Mankind hurls himself off the apron and misses. Back in, Taker gets a backdrop suplex. Mankind uses a foreign object and lays Taker out with it. He works him over with it, but Taker tombstones him to finish at 14:50. Taker’s 5 minutes alone with Paul Bearer don’t quite work out (who’d have guessed that?) as the Executioner runs in.
Great psychology with Undertaker going for Mankinds hand to neutralize the mandible claw, which was originally introduced by Shawn Michaels but made even more sense here since it had brought about Takers downfall in prior matches. Good match and a great way to introduce the “new” Undertaker who was going to do some more actual wrestling, though not to the level of some of their other matches. (***1/4)
SURVIVOR SERIES MATCH: Marc Mero, Rocky Maivia, Stalker Barry Windham & Jake The Snake Roberts vs Crush, Jerry Lawler, Hunter Hearst Helmsley & Goldust
Sunny joins us for commentary and as much as I liked her as a manager (at times), she was every bit as atrocious on commentary. Her and JR go at it and she just self-promotes and ignores the match despite not actually managing anyone at the time (did she even have anything to do until they put her with the LOD at WM14?), though she does put Rocky over. A few minutes pass by before this gets going with Mero and Goldust. Eventually Rocky comes in and quickly gets beat up by Lawler, but he comes back with his goofy Rocky Johnson comeback. We get out first Helmsley v Rocky showdown. Rocky plays face-in-peril for a bit, but gets the hot tag to Jake. Hunter blocks the DDT and now the heels beat on Jake for a while, but a DDT finishes Lawler at 10:00. Goldust with the chinlock, but Windham comes in with a floatover suplex for 2. Crush comes in with a kidney shot and Goldust finishes him. Mero in and Helmsley works him over. A series of dull near falls follow and we liven things up with an abdominal stretch that goes on forever. Sable tries to get the crowd going but they don’t care. Sunset flip finally breaks it. Hunter tosses him and Mero comes back in with a moonsault to eliminate Hunter. Mero dives onto Crush and misses, and Crush pins him. Jake comes in and gets heart-punched to send him home. So, Rocky is alone now and he’s actually getting over with the crowd (that wouldn’t last long). Goldust and Crush work him over for a bit, but he takes both out with a body press. Goldust goes low to slow things down, but Crush accidentally hits Goldust with the Heart Punch. Body press eliminates Crush. Then Rocky hits a shoulder breaker to finish Goldust off at 23:44.
The sole purpose of this match was to make Rocky the new sensation, mission accomplished, though it would be short lived. The ending was good but the rest was dreadfully dull and pretty inexcusable. (*1/2)
Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart vs Stone Cold Steve Austin
Austin gets a healthy pop and you can see the superstar really start to form here. Austin gets in Brets face and delivers some sign language and a slugfest gets us going. Bret goes for a hammerlock. Austin counters but Bret escapes and reapplies it. Legdrop to the arm and get works on an armbar. Austin with a drop toe hold and front facelock. Bret slips free almost instantly, and goes back to the armbar. Whip to the ropes, and this time Austin opts for an elbow to the side of the face, followed by a series of elbows across the head. Bret comes back with a snap mare and goes back to work on the arm. A criss cross ends up with Austin dropping Bret with a stun gun. He works over the neck and slingshots him. A pair of knees gets 2 and he goes back to the chinlock. Bret breaks free with right and it turns into a slugfest. Austin wins that one. Whip to the corner is reversed and Bret lays him out with a clothesline. Inverted atomic drop and he comes off the ropes with another clothesline. First to the midsection gets 2. Russian leg sweep for 2 more. Austin reverses a bulldog and launches Bret into the turnbuckle sternum first. They battle over a suplex. Bret counters, dropping Austin face first then drops an elbow for 2. Backbreaker attempt but Austin rakes the eyes. Austin tosses Bret and goes out after him with an axehandle. They brawl outside and Austin rams him into the ringpost back first. Austin trash talks allowing Bret to come back and take over. Bret tosses him back in but Austin rolls out on the other side. Bret follows but Austin leg sweeps him and slingshots him onto the Spanish table. Austin slams Bret across the table, then comes off the apron with an elbow across the chest. Austin brings Bret back in with a suplex and comes off the second rope with an elbow drop for 2. Austin with another elbow across the chest for a 2. Whip to the corner is followed by choking. Austin uses an abdominal stretch and cheats. Another slugfest follows but Bret wins this one, and hits a stun gun of his own. Piledriver for another two count. Bret with the side back breaker on the second attempt. He climbs to the top rope, but Austin recovers in time to crotch him. Superplex attempt but Bret hooks the legs for 2. Austin hits a stunner out of nowhere, but he pulls Bret away from the ropes and it only gets 2. Desperation pin to follow is no good either. Austin slaps on a Texas Cloverleaf, but Bret is able to crawl his way to the ropes. Whip to the corner and Bret slides rib first into the post. That gets 2 and Austin goes for a bow and arrow. Bret escapes and goes to the sharpshooter but Austin makes the ropes. Sleeper is reversed into a jawbreaker. Austin goes for the million dollar dream, but Bret kicks off the turnbuckle and Austin pins himself at 28:36.
Yeah, the finish was recycled from WrestleMania VIII but who cares? It was a great finish and made these two look even, with Bret being the wily veteran and Austin making an error. This match is amazing, it built slowly but very well and was entertaining throughout. It felt like a fight and was intense all the way through. Austin hung move to move with Bret and came out of this looking like a huge star. (*****)
SURVIVOR SERIES MATCH: Faarooq, Vader, Fake Razor and Fake Diesel vs Flash Funk, Savio Vega, Yokozuna & ???
Oh, god. This match. The famous mystery partner of doom is Jimmy Snuka! Yes, it’s a rule; If the mystery partner isn’t promoted ahead of show time, it’s not worth promoting. We’ve got the Fake Diesel and Fake Razor debacle on full display. This is Yokozuna’s last appearance and he is disgustingly fat here, I mean he must have well over 700 pounds (Cornette on commentary: he’s bigger than a mobile home!), I’d be surprised if he made it to the ring without blowing up, he can’t even stand on the apron without falling backwards so he has to keep a foot on the ring step. We’re set for a real train wreck here. At least Flash Funk is debuting, and Faarooq is debuting his Nation of Domination, complete with PG13. Vader and Flash Funk start and they do some good stuff and then everything goes to shit, and there’s not much worth recapping. Eventually Big Red Daddy Dentist eliminates Savio with a Jacknife. A Second ref comes down and probably told them to go home and end this abortion because immediately after Snuka eliminates Fake Razor with a splash and everyone runs in with chairs for the DQ at 9:44. Well, that’s a thing that happened.
Lamest ending ever, yes, a Survivor Series match actually got thrown out. Everything that was wrong with the WWF was on display here, but hey, at least it mostly all got contained within one match – positives. Tempted to give negative stars to this but I’ll be generous. (DUD)
WWF TITLE MATCH: Shawn Michaels vs Sycho Sid
The male portion of crowd boos the hell of Shawn, and Sid is the overwhelming fan favorite. Sid pounds away to start. Whip to the ropes, Shawn slides through the legs and comes back with a body press for 2. Michaels with a side headlock and takeover. Sid counters with a head scissors, but Shawn nips up to escape and offers a few slaps. Sid with the headlock, Shawn with a head scissors, and Sid nips up and bitch slaps Shawn this time. Whip to the ropes, Sid goes for a powerbomb, but Shawn bails. Back in the ring, Shawn clips the knee and goes to work on the left leg, and the crowd boo the shit out of him. Shawn continues on the leg but Sid kicks him off into the ring post. Sid kicks away but misses a charge and Shawn comes back with a dropkick. More legwork follows but Sid sends him outside to huge a pop. Sid press slams him on the security rail. Back in, that gets 2. Whip to the ropes and Shawn catches a backdrop. Whip to the corner, Shawn lands on the apron and hangs Sid across the top rope. Shawn to the top, but Sid catches him and slams him down into a back breaker for a 2. Shawn comes back and slams Sid. To the middle rope but he gets a caught with a boot. Sid with a Cobra Clutch. Shawn fights out of it but misses a Sweet Chin Music, and gets planted with a chokeslam. Crowd loves it but Sid doesn’t cover and plays to the crowd, signalling for a powerbomb. Shawn cradles him for 2. Sid gets a powerslam for 2. Off the ropes Shawn hits a diving forearm. Nip up but Sid levels him for 2. Sid steals a cameramans camera and Jose Lothario gets nailed with it, the crowd cheers that while he has a heart attack at ringside. Shawn hits Sweet Chin Music, but goes to check on his dying father figure manager, whatever. Ref gets bumped. Sid goes out after Shawn and hits him in the back with the camera. Back in, and the powerbomb ends Shawn at 20:00 much to the delight of the crowd.
This match has always been a guilty pleasure of mine, just for the crowd reactions. Match itself is great, though. Sid was never much good but he had his working boots on and Shawn did a hell of a job carrying him to his best match ever. The fake heart attack angle was pretty tacky and stupid and no one bought it anyway. I always found it funny that the crowd cheered that. (****)
Great show, aside from a couple of elimination match stinkers, albeit one of which is somewhat redeemed by the debut of The Rock, and the other does hold an element of train wreck appeal. Two classics and two in the very good range makes this the best show on 1996 with no real competition (probably the best Survivor Series ever as well). Thumbs way up.