The Date: 18 November 2001
The Venue: Greensboro Coliseum Complex; Greensboro, North Carolina
The Commentary: Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse “The Body” Ventura
The Referee: Joey Marella
The Stipulation: Ten-man elimination tag team match
The Competitors: Team Hogan (WWF Champion Hulk Hogan, Bam Bam Bigelow, Don “The Rock” Muraco, Ken Patera, and “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff), Team André (André the Giant, “The Natural” Butch Reed, King Kong Bundy, One Man Gang, and “Ravishing” Rick Rude)
Over its many decades as the dominating force in sports entertainment, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) has been known for creating some of the industry’s most successful competitors, changing the face of pay-per-view entertainment, and delivering genre-defining match types and wrestling cards. In 1987, the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, as it was known then) had taken their first step towards global domination with the successful gamble that was WrestleMania, a pay-per-view showcase of their greatest talent that brought the organisation into the mainstream with celebrity cameos. With the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) due to broadcast their Starrcade event over the Thanksgiving weekend, WWF chairman Vince McMahon add the Survivor Series event to the WWF’s calendar and strong-armed many cable companies into showing his event instead of Starrcade or risk losing out on WrestleMania IV. The entire event was comprised of four ten-man elimination tag team matches, with the main event pitting WWF Champion Hulk Hogan and his team against bitter rival André the Giant and his team of bad guys (or “heels”). The motivation behind the two forming teams and squaring off came from André’s heel turn earlier that year, which saw him memorably challenge the Hulkster at WrestleMania III only to be planted with an iconic body slam. Since André was managed by one of wrestling’s greatest heel managers, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, it made sense for him to ally with Heenan’s smorgasbord of man-mountain wrestlers, though Hogan wasn’t short on allies either, with the recently debuting Bam Bam Bigelow and the now-righteous (or “babyface”) Ken Patera joining Hogan’s team to get some payback against Heenan and his goons.
Honestly, I’ve had an on-again, off-again relationship with the Survivor Series over my many years as a wrestling fan. When there’s an actual storyline behind it and the teams make sense, it can be a fun concept but, often, the WWE cobble together teams just because the event is coming up and they even stupidly diluted the concept by having a separate Bragging Rights event that really should’ve just been merged with the traditional Survivor Series card. The WWE fluctuates its focus on tag teams at the best of times and large teams (or “stables”) of wrestlers are difficult to come by in the modern WWE landscape, which can make justifying a ten-man elimination match difficult. However, when it works and is used sparingly, it can be a unique concept and, from what I can tell from my research, it made sense to form these two massive teams and extend the Hogan/André rivalry in a way that both protected the latter, whose health was deteriorating rapidly at this point, and build anticipation for their inevitable rematch for the WWF Championship. The match began with Heenan in the ring giving a special introduction to the “Eighth Wonder of the World”, who lumbered to the ring and greeted his teammates. Jesse Venture raised the question of whether Hulk Hogan could truly trust Paul Orndorff who, until recently had been more of a heel, teasing the potential for dissention within Hogan’s team but, when interviewed by “Mean” Gene Okerlund backstage, Team Hogan seemed incredibly fired up for the match. Each man made his way to the ring to an ever-increasing rapture from the crowd, which exploded into a crescendo as the Hulkster came down the aisle way carrying Ol’ Glory, his focus squarely on André (and playing to the audience).
Don Muraco and Rick Rude started the match for their respective teams, with the two exchanging blows in the corner before Rude took advantage with an eye rake. A boot to the gut cut off Rude’s attack, however, and Rude tagged in Paul Orndorff, who came off the top rope with an elbow strike. A shot to the gut and a knee strike saw Rude on the receiving end of more offense before Orndorff rammed him head-first into Hogan’s boot and tagged in the champion. Hogan planted Rude with a clothesline and then dropped three elbows in quick succession before tagging in Bam Bam Bigelow, slamming Rude and setting him up for a big body splash from Bigelow, which he followed with a military press before tagging in Ken Patera. Although Patera attacked right away, Rude was able to collapse in his corner, finally allowing another heel, Butch Reed, to get in the ring. Reed didn’t fare too well, however, easily being taken down and rolled up into the first pin attempt of the match and falling afoul of a dropkick courtesy of Don Muraco. Orndorff then showed up his teammate by tagging in and delivering two dropkicks of his own and even getting a cheap shot in on King Kong Bundy before dodging a Reed elbow shot in the corner and bringing the Hulkster back into the match for a double clothesline. Hogan then hit the Atomic Leg Drop and Reed was eliminated without even throwing a single punch; Hogan was spared from tangling with André after tagging in Patera during his celebration. Since André only wanted Hogan, though, he immediately tagged in Bundy to face the Olympian.
Patera went on the attack right away, even downing Bundy with a clothesline, but he was too slow to keep the One Man Gang from tagging in to lock up with Orndorff. One Man Gang initially, very briefly, actually got to show some offense but Orndorff fired back with a slew of punches that rocked the big man; a counter in the corner shut Orndorff down, however, and allowed Rude to come back in and start working him over…until Orndorff scored with a clothesline, a body slam, and an elbow drop for a two count. Muraco came back in to hit a stiff clothesline but a thumb to the eye allowed Rude to create some separation and tag in the One Many Gang but Muraco was able to avoid a corner charge, roll over to his corner, and tag in Patera, who survived another eye rake to hit an awkward running crossbody for another near fall. Although Patera hit a running knee to the corner, another thumb to the eye allowed the One Man Gang to put a beating on the Olympian in the heel corner with the assistance of his teammates. A standing front facelock slowed the match to a crawl and then the One Man Gang managed to pin Patera for the three count following an awkward “double clothesline” for an anti-climactic elimination. Hogan immediately went after the One Man Gang, throwing hands, rushing him into a corner, and then bringing in Bam Bam Bigelow for a double Big Boot. Whatever momentum Bam Bam had built up went right out the window, however, when the two big men clumsily bumped heads off a double shoulder block, which saw Rude and Orndorff go at it again. Orndorff panted Rude with a suplex, another elbow drop, and a flapjack before Bundy ran in to interrupt a piledriver attempt; this was enough for Rude to score a roll up with a handful of tights to eliminate Mr. Wonderful from the match.
Rude made the mistake of flexing to rile up the crowd, meaning Muraco planted him with an atomic drop and a clothesline before bringing in Bam Bam to deliver a big side kick. A big suplex set Rude up for a rare running knee strike from Hogan, who then brought Muraco in for a powerslam and that was enough to take Rude out of the match and even the odds at three-on-three. Bundy came in and started beating on Muraco, downing him with a back elbow smash, but he missed a running knee strike; Muraco targeted Bundy’s leg with a series of attacks but Bundy was able to fight him off and bring the One Man Gang back in. The Rock’s attempts to fight off the One Man Gang saw him crushed under the big man’s weight; he was able to kick out at two, however, so the One Man Gang threw him into an inelegant headbutt from André which, when coupled with a body splash, was enough to eliminate the Rock. The One Man Gang switched his focus to Bam Bam Bigelow, crushing his chest when he went for a sunset flip pin and bringing in Bundy to hit a powerful clothesline that turned Bam Bam inside out. Hogan broke up the pin attempt but Bundy stayed in control and brought the One Man Gang back in, who shut down Bam Bam’s counterattack with, what else, but a thumb to the eye before choking him on the ring ropes. Bundy came back in for a knee to the gut and a double axehandle smash before quickly tagging the One Man Gang back in. A back elbow caught Bam Bam right in the eye and Hogan, and the crowd, were absolutely desperate for the big man to make the tag as Bundy came back for some more punishment. Bam Bam managed to avoid the elbow drop, and kick out of a pin attempt, and finally made the tag after rolling to the corner and avoiding a big chop from André. Hogan attacked his rival with a flurry of punches; they exchanged strikes and chops in the corner before Hogan slamming André’s face into the top turnbuckle, but his offense was interrupted when Bundy pulled him from the ring.
The two brawled at ringside, with Hogan slamming both Bundy and the One Man Gang on the outside, but he took so long messing about with the two that he got counted out! The crowd was incensed as Hogan was forced from the ring, leaving Bam Bam all alone in a three-on-one situation, much to Hogan’s disgust. Showing no fear, Bam Bam went right for Bundy, planting him with a clothesline and scoring a two count off an elbow drop and a falling headbutt. After dodging a Bundy charge in the corner, Bam Bam finally eliminated the big man with an impressive slingshot splash from the ring apron but he was too fatigued to fend off the One Man Gang, who immediately choked and beat him on the ropes. Still, Bam Bam easily kicked out of a clothesline (that looked to give the One Man Gang a heart attack) and had the wherewithal to dodge a splash off the top rope. This one mistake cost the One Man Gang and meant the match boiled down to Bam Bam and the lumbering André, who wasted no time smacking Bam Bam around with big chops and headbutts. Bam Bam used the ropes and his comparative quickness to avoid André’s plodding attacks but a missed splash in the corner saw him taking some shoulder blocks to the spine and being easily pinned following a half-underhook, facelock slam…suplex…thing. As André was announced the winner, Hogan stormed the ring and attacked the Giant with the WWF Championship, stealing the spotlight and entertaining the raucous crowd with his trademark flexing while André seethed on the outside. I don’t really like to rag on this era of wrestling too much; things were obviously very different back then, but this was a bit of a let-down considering some of the star power and storylines featured in it. Obviously, André couldn’t really do a lot and needed to be protected but we barely got to see him and Hogan go at it again, much less really see the Giant in any kind of action. It works on the one hand to show him as this unbeatable “final boss” but…we know he can be beaten as we saw Hogan pin him at WrestleMania III so I think I would’ve preferred to see him and Hogan as the final two and them brawl to a double count out. Interestingly, this ended up primarily being a showcase for Bam Bam; he was the last man on Team Hogan and impressed the most with his athleticism for such a big man but, on the flip side, there was way too much boring, plodding offense from the One Man Gang and King Kong Bundy was barely a factor in it as well. As a first go-around for the concept, the WWF definitely put some of their biggest names into it but it’s clear a lot of them were limited in their mobility and having Hogan get counted out only to run in for the cheap heat at the end made this a pretty mediocre affair.
Naturally, the issues between Hulk Hogan and André the Giant continued to be a focal point of the WWF’s programming; André joined forces with “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase and the two continued to harass Hogan until he agreed to another championship match at The Main Event. This time, André came out on top, though he immediately sold the belt to DiBiase at it was subsequently held up for grabs in a tournament at WrestleMania IV. Don Muraco, Butch Reed, the One Man Gang, Bam Bam Bigelow, and Rick Rude all made it onto the WrestleMania IV card as well, participating in the same tournament, but they would all fall short. Even Hogan and André lost the chance to regain the belt thanks to a double disqualification, so the vacant belt went to “Macho Man” Randy Savage for the first time after he defeated DiBiase in the main event. As for the Survivor Series, the event continued to be an annual part of the WWF/WWE calendar, with multi-man and woman matches taking place regularly every year. The event would be shaken up somewhat by being used as the staging ground for the final clash between the WWF and the alliance of World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) and also saw the first appearance of the Elimination Chamber match and clashes between the WWE’s flagship shows, Raw and SmackDown!
Could Be Better
What did you think to the inaugural Survivor Series match? Were you excited to see Hulk Hogan and André the Giant across the ring from each other and thus disappointed that they barely interacted in the match? Who was the stand-out performer for you in this clash? Do you think André winning was the right decision? Were you also annoyed that Hogan got counted out? Which Survivor Series match or event is your favourite? How was your Thanksgiving this year? Whatever your thoughts on Survivor Series, feel free to leave them below or drop a comment on my social media.