Survivor Series 1990: The Deadman Cometh

Retro Review: Survivor Series IV

As we continue our Survivor Series ‘Retro-Reviews’ here on Sports Obsessive, the stars have aligned. Today, we will be looking back at Survivor Series 1990, in which WWF saw the debut of a character that would go on to define eras that spanned over multiple decades: The Undertaker.

As you may know, Survivor Series 2020 is just around the corner and WWE have announced that they will be celebrating ‘30 Years of The Undertaker’. So, what better way to get ready to celebrate the illustrious career of ‘The Deadman’, than joining us as we venture back to Survivor Series 1990.

This show took place on November 22nd 1990, LIVE from The Civic Centre in Hartford Connecticut. From the jump, we were welcomed once again by the incredible Gorilla Monsoon, who was joined on commentary by the legendary, Rowdy Roddy Piper. Who better to have on commentary than the incredibly intimidating/enthusiastic ‘Hot Rod!’

WWE Hall of Famer and iconic ring announcer, Howard Finkel jumped on the microphone in front of the capacity crowd and introduced the first team of this opening match to the ring. The cameras then cut to the backstage area very abruptly, where Mean Gene Okerlund was at the ready with The Legion of Doom (Hawk and Animal),  WWF Intercontinental Champion the ‘Texas Tornado’ and the WWF World Champion The Ultimate Warrior. Hawk and Animal were their explosive selves, not sugar coating a single word, simply informing their opponents that they were to be slaughtered. You’ve got to love the passion that LOD brought to the table. Speaking about passion, The Ultimate Warrior got on the microphone next—we all know what a Warrior promo is like!

The Ultimate Warriors vs The Perfect Team

Hawk, Animal, Texas Tornado and Warrior exploded down the aisle and the crowd erupted for ‘Team Warrior’. The opposing team were ‘Team Perfect’, comprised of Mr. Perfect, Ax, Smash and Crush. This traditional Survivor Series elimination match started off with so much excitement! Animal blasted into to ring with a takedown and threw a number of brutal looking punches in the opening minutes. ‘Team Warrior’ did not come to Survivor Series to play games, they came to fight. Team Captain, Ultimate Warrior, had the fans on the feet! He tagged into the match and to Ax’s misfortune, Warrior was fired up and feeding off the fans reactions. Warrior eliminated Ax via pinfall after hitting him with a barrage of shoulder tackles and the signature Big Splash!

‘Team Warrior’ were ploughing through their competition and making it look so easy. The comedic Bobby Heenan, who was ringside for ‘Team Perfect’, was bringing attention to himself outside the ring as the match was going on. All you could hear were the thousands of fans shouting ‘Weasel!’

Back inside the ropes, Animal was battling with Mr. Perfect and Perfect seemed to be in control for a few moments before tagging himself out. Animal leapt from the top rope downwards to his opponent, Smash, ironically smashing with a diving clothesline. Once you see the sheer size of Animal, you don’t want his body flying down at you with that much force. Hawk couldn’t get the pin on Smash, which led to the ring becoming a battlefield. Animal ran in the ring to Hawk’s aid as Demolition had also entered the fray.

The Ultimate Warriors vs The Perfect Team

The two teams just went haywire and brawled it out. Ring announcer Howard Finkel was left with no other option than to announced that both Legion of Doom (Hawk and Animal) and Demolition (Ax, Smash and Crush) has been eliminated from the match! Hawk and Animal still beat the hell out of their opponents until the voluntarily left ringside. So, with these eliminations we were left with two members of ‘Team Warrior (Texas Tornado and Warrior), and Mr. Perfect was left alone with a massive disadvantage. Perfect was begging and pleading to fight Tornado rather than Warrior.

Perfect’s plan to get away from Warrior was far from intelligent, however, as Tornado wasn’t somebody to sleep on.  The two fought it out for a while but Perfect actually managed to hit the ‘Perfect-Plex’ on Tornado for the elimination! Perfect was forced to face his fear next as we were left with Captain vs Captain in what was just the first match of the card! Perfect went on to inflict a massive amount of pain upon Warrior, but Warriors do not give up! Warrior summoned up new energy, as if of out of nowhere, and exploded with a flying shoulder tackle followed by the Big Splash! The WWF World Champion, Ultimate Warrior stood tall, in front of the capacity crowd as the sole survivor of this match.

Survivors: The Ultimate Warriors

The Million Dollar Team’s Mystery Partner

Who doesn’t love a mystery in professional wrestling? Ted DiBiase had us all wondering what he had up his million-dollar sleeve in 1990 as Sean Mooney conducted a backstage interview. DiBiase was preparing for his match against The Dream Team and was joined by 2 of his teammates—Honky Tonk Man and Greg Valentine. DiBiase promised that he had a ‘very big surprise’ and it was only a matter of time before the identity of the mystery partner was to be revealed.

The Million Dollar Team vs The Dream Team

The Dream Team were comprised of team captain Dusty Rhodes, Koko B. Ware and WWF World Tag Team Champions Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart aka The Hart Foundation. As previously mentioned, The Million Dollar Team were set to reveal their mystery partner for this match. DiBiase, HTM and Valentine made their ways to the ring with such confidence. DiBiase jumped on the mic immediately after entering the ring to introduce the wrestling world to The Undertaker.

The ominous entrance music, composed by the legendary Jim Johnston, played as the 6’10’’ Undertaker walked down the aisle, followed by Brother Love. Roddy Piper (on commentary) could not believe the size of the man that he was watching make his way to the ring. Fans stood in awe, not knowing what/who they were witnessing making his WWF debut. Undertaker eerily continued his walk to the ring, wearing a long trench coat and his now-signature black hat. Undertaker removed his hat and his intensely intimidating glare was visible to his teammates and his opponents.

The Dream Team were debating which member of their team would lock up with Undertaker first. Bret Hart made no bones about it and entered the ring on behalf of his team. Undertaker really stood out in this match and he stood head and shoulders above everybody in terms of his stature. Bret Hart was taken down with a chokehold, Neidhart was taken down with a body-slam and Koko B. Ware suffered the fate of the first Tombstone Piledriver. As much damage as Undertaker was inflicting on his opponents, his facial expression did not change. Undertaker was a different breed of superstar during this era.

Things became less intense but more adrenaline-filled when Valentine tagged into the match and faced off against Bret Hart as the pace of the action picked up. While these wrestlers were getting down to business, I could not help but find my attention drift over to the Undertaker, who was now stood on the apron, still holding that intense glare. Undertaker was not holding on to the ropes or leaning his arms over them. Undertaker’s arms were clamped strongly to his sides, his eyes were on the match, his facial expression remained intense, but he did not move a muscle. There was something so incredibly different about The Undertaker.

Meanwhile, in the ring, the powerhouse that was Jim Neidhart eliminated HTM after dropping him with a power slam. The score was 3-3. DiBiase found redemption against The Million Dollar team by eliminating Neidhart via pinfall after a little distraction from his lackey, Virgil. This match was full of excitement as Dusty Rhodes entered the ring and brought every bit of passion with him. Things were looking good for Rhodes—and then Undertaker was tagged back in. The sense of the arena filling with fear and uncertainty was palpable as Undertaker faced off against ‘The American Dream’.

The Undertaker debuts for WWF at Survivor Series in 1990

Undertaker was extremely powerful with both his physical talent but also the clearly obvious mental anguish that he was putting his opponents through. Nobody knew what Undertaker was thinking. Undertaker, as I mentioned, was 6’10’’ and scaled the turnbuckle as if he was a cruiserweight, leaping down upon Dusty Rhodes with a flying clothesline attack. Rhodes did not see it coming and was eliminated right then and there. Undertaker was certainly making an impression in his World Wrestling Federation debut.

Outside the ring, Undertakers manager, Brother Love was taking a few unnecessary cheap shots on Dusty Rhodes, kicking him when he was down. Eventually, Rhodes made it to his feet and started chasing Brother Love up the aisle. Undertaker caught wind of this and dropped what he was doing in the ring to attend to his manager. As Undertaker was getting closer and closer to Rhodes, you could hear the in-ring referee, Ear Hebner, counting out The Undertaker. On the aisle, the secondary referee, a young Shane McMahon, was trying to take control of the situation and warn Undertaker that he was facing a possible count-out. It was too late. Undertaker was counted out and eliminated from the match. He may have been out of the match but The Undertaker’s WWF debut was a success.

Back inside the ropes, Bret Hart was in the ring and desperate to build some momentum, which he did after eliminating Valentine with a small package pinfall. The match was down to Hart vs DiBiase. The two brawled on the outside and Hart even smashed DiBiase face against the steel steps in pure desperation. If Hart could just get The Sharpshooter, then you know he could win this thing.

However, the evil millionaire had other plans as he used every trick on the book to get one over on Hart. Hart fought back with multiple quick pinfall attempts but DiBiase kicked out at 2.5 every single time. Hart eventually looked like he was on a roll. He ran the ropes and leapt toward DiBiase with a flying cross-body slam, even positioning himself perfectly for the pin. Hart lost his balance, though, and DiBiase used his strength to flip Hart over in a millisecond and steal the pin fall victory.

I know this was 30 years ago…but I’m irate as I watch this. Hart should have won this match but The Million Dollar Team went down as the victors and are forever etched in the history books as the survivors of this historic match.

Survivors: The Million Dollar Team

The Visionaries vs The Vipers

The first thing to take note of with this match was that before either team made their way to the ring, The Vipers were backstage with Mean Gene Okerlund, conducting an interview inside of a walk-in shower for some reason. Mean Gene tried to briefly explain why they were all stood in a shower by saying that is was to make Damien (Jake’s snake) more comfortable. Valid reasoning but still a little odd. The Vipers were led by Jake Roberts, who was joined by Jimmy Snuka, Marty Janetty and Shawn Michaels. The Vipers were taking on The Visionaries, led by Rick Martel and comprised of Power & Glory (Hercules and Paul Roma) and The Warlord.

The Warlord and Marty Janetty started the match off. The story that was told in the opening moments of this match was that The Warlord was the big scary monster and Janetty was the agile underdog that would give the best that he could. Roddy Piper on commentary even subtly referred to The Warlord as ‘The Walrus’—it’s silly but that’s what I like in wrestling and I love Rowdy Roddy Piper. Warlord swatted Janetty away just like a fly on numerous occasion but Janetty was too quick. Janetty slipped and slid past Warlord to get the tag to his teammate, a young wrestler in the early 1990s by the name of Shawn Michaels. Michaels was just as agile as Janetty, if not more so, and Piper was putting The Rockers over so heavily—easily a fan favourite during this era.

Soon enough, the terrifying Jimmy Snuka locked up with Hercules, who was dubbed as ‘The Phenom’. Funnily enough, we saw the debut of The Undertaker, who would later go on to take the name ‘Phenom’ and bring it to new heights. Warlord and Hercules went at it for a few moments until Janetty tagged in. Janetty was hit with a power slam followed by the pin-fall and was the first to be eliminated from this match. Martel soon entered the ring to pick the bones of Michaels, who had been previously battered and bruised. Martel went on to regret everything, however, as Snuka made his way into the ring. Snuka brawled and beat the tar out of Martel for a good 3-4 minutes straight.

The Visionaries vs The Vipers

Martel managed to steal a victory via pin-fall, eliminating Snuka. Martel then fled the ring like a coward as he locked eyes with Roberts. Rick Martel was petrified of Jake Roberts. As the match went on, Hercules got in the ring with Michaels, who was putting on one hell of a show and was giving an early indication of the success that he would go on to achieve. The Visionaries began to wrestle intelligently, employing double team moves and quick tags, basically everything in the tag-team playbook.

Unfortunately for The Vipers, Michaels was eliminated which meant Jake Roberts was left on his lonesome to battle at a disadvantaged 4 on 1. Roberts was clearly exhausted but he wasn’t ready to give up. Roberts found himself in a bear-hug at the hands of Warlord but managed to nail the big guy with his signature DDT, followed by grabbing his snake, Damien, and chasing Rick Martel out of the arena. Jake was obviously counted out, which led to The Visionaries being declared the survivors of the match.

Jake wasn’t bothered; he’d scared the crap out of Martel. It was still a good night for Jake Roberts.

Survivors: The Visionaries

Natural Disasters vs The Hulkamanaics

So, here we go. It’s 1990 and Hulkamania was still running wild as Hogan led his ‘Hulkamanaics’ into yet another historic battle at the Survivor Series. Hogan had enlisted the assistance of Jim Duggan, Big Boss Man and Tugboat as they were set to clash against the heels aka the Natural Disasters.

Duggan kicked things off against Natural Disaster member Haku and set the crowd alight. Duggan’s reputation and name value in this era is never to be forgotten—he kicked ass. This match started off strong with The Hulkamanaics eliminating Haku fairly swiftly (which is a statement in and of itself). Duggan continued the momentum as best he could until he was in the ring trying to chop down the big man, Earthquake. The dastardly Jimmy Hart caught Duggan’s attention on the outside of the ring, which led to a cat and mouse chase between the two as Duggan ran right back into the ring with his 4×4 in hand and clobbered Earthquake, thus being eliminated. Duggan may have been a great wrestler but he often let his emotions get the better of him.

Both teams had lost a member at this point so they were on an even playing field. The man that the majority of the audience paid to see, Hulk Hogan, finally entered the ring and body-slammed Earthquake in a moment’s notice. Hogan followed up as Dino Bravo entered the ring and Hogan smartly eliminated Bravo in seconds with a small package pinfall—not something you’d expect to see from The Hulkster. Boss Man decided to get himself involved in the match but he really shouldn’t have. Boss Man found himself being eliminated which left Hogan and Tugboat to defend themselves against the remaining members of The Natural Disasters.

Things got a little crazy after this and it became somewhat difficult to determine who were the legal men in the match as Tugboat, Hogan and Earthquake were all scrambling on the outside. Luckily for me, Howard Finkel cleared things up when he announced that Tugboat and Earthquake had both been counted out!

Natural Disasters vs The Hulkamanaics at Survivor Series 1990

Hogan was left alone against The Barbarian. The two fought it out for a few moments with the fresh Barbarian taking the lead. Eventually, both men had the exact same idea at the exact same time which resulted in a double-clothesline, levelling both men.

You’d be right at this point if you were thinking that it’s only a matter of time before Hogan lost his s*** and started to ‘Hulk-Up’. Barbarian hit a diving clothesline off the top rope, knocking Hogan to the mat andleaving you thinking what was about to happen. It was show-time: the spot light was on Hogan as he straightened his back while still on his knees and looked around frantically for encouragement from the fans as he viscously shook his clenched fists and his head as if he was trying to shake off some bad memories. This was Hogan’s time to shine. Hogan didn’t feel a single punch that Barbarian threw, and then came the iconic sequence. Hogan blocked the punch with his left arm, threw a couple a right hands himself, followed by the Irish whip into the Big-Boot, wham, bam, thank you ma’am! Hogan hit the Leg-Drop, One-Two-Three, and this one was in the books. Hulkamania was alive and well and continued to run wild.

Survivors: The Hulkamanaics

The Alliance vs The Mercenaries

This was an interesting match. Sgt. Slaughter led The Mercenaries (Sato, Tatanka & Boris Zhukov) into battle against The Alliance (The Bushwhackers, Nikolai Volkoff & Tito Santana). Sgt, Slaughter was quite Anti-America during this time and I’m going to kill the vibe right now but this match was not entertaining in the slightest. Zhukov was eliminated within possibleythe first 120 seconds of the match by Tito Santana.

The best thing about this match for me was the fact that The Bushwhackers were in the match. They were so lively and energetic and brought that energy to what was such an underwhelming match. Sato was the next to be eliminated. Slaughter and Volkoff went toe to toe for a period of time in which Slaughter was the centre of attention. Volkoff didn’t get an ounce a defence in against Slaughter, who was methodically breaking down his opponent before he eliminated Volkoff via pin fall.

The Bushwhackers made it back into the match and Slaughter eliminated Luke with ease, soon doing the same thing with Luke. Tito Santana was left against Slaughter and this match couldn’t end quick enough for those watching it.

The match eventually appeared to be approaching its end as Slaughter’s manager, General Adnan, rolled into the ring when the referee was down and was out to attack the already downed Tito Santana. Slaughter locked in the Camel Clutch immediately in order to take advantage and the referee even called to make a decision. However, The Fink jumped on the microphone to announce that Sgt. Slaughter had bee disqualified, giving Santana the victory! The good guys won in the end but my god was that a difficult match to watch,

Survivors: The Alliance

History Hatches at Survivor Series 1990

I really wish that the last match was an exciting one, it would make this so much easier. Mean Gene was on the stage towards the side of the arena right next to the egg. You know what I’m talking about. Gene was teasing that the egg was going to hatch and it began to crack as he spoke. Gene tried to make it interesting by asking ‘Is it a dinosaur, a rabbit, balloons or is it the play-mate of the month’, but as much as Gene tried, this segment was clearly going in one direction.

History Hatches at Survivor Series 1990

Gene shouted, ‘stand back’ as the egg was clearly cracking and ready to hatch. Roddy Piper straight up lied as he said ‘I love it!’ over commentary as The Gobbledy-Gooker emerged from the cracked egg shell. The World Wrestling Federation had literally hatched an egg on live television, in what had to be one of the most disappointing segments in the company’s history. Instead of giving us an amazing memory that we would cherish for years and years, WWF gave us a 6ft turkey. The crowd echoed with thunderous boo’s throughout the arena. What were the big-heads backstage thinking?

We need to remember that this PPV gave us The Undertaker.

Winner of this segment: Absolutely No One

The Grande Finale

The Grande Finale of Survivor Series 1990 featured the Survivors of the evening’s matches splitting into face and heel teams, as the team of Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior and Tito Santana took on the team of Hercules, Paul Roma, Rick Martel, Warlord and Ted DiBiase. That’s right, three on five, with a group of wrestlers who had already participated in matches throughout the night.

As negative as I may have been about the Sgt Slaughter match and the Gobbledy Gooker, this match more than made up for that. From the offset, DiBiase was on fire and even eliminated Santana, giving his team even more of an advantage in what was already a handicap match. The team of Herc, Roma, Martel, Warlord and DiBiase really dominated the match as they had their eyes locked on standing tall as the survivors in this main event. Employee of the month, Hogan was selling like there was no tomorrow before ‘Hulking Up’ for the second time in the same night, Soon enough, the WWF Champion, Warrior, entered the match and obliterated anybody in his way. Hogan and Warrior may have been at a clear numbers disadvantage but at the end of the day, they were Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior; need I say more?

Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior stand tall in 1990

The match approached its end as Hogan was pulling out all the stops against DiBiase and Hercules. Hogan hit his signature Big-Boot/Leg-Drop sequence, which eliminated DiBiase. Hogan then shared the glory as he tagged in Warrior, to destroy Hercules, who was left all alone. Warrior cleared house and finished off with his signature Big-Splash, winning the match and standing tall at the end of this historic event.

Survivors: Hulk Hogan, Tito Santana and The Ultimate Warrior

Final Thoughts

Well, this show had some ups and downs, but thankfully more peaks than troughs. From the first bell to last, the action was packed, the surprises were plentiful and the passion was infinite. The Ultimate Warrior started off the show alongside The Legion of Doom and ended the show alongside The Hulkster. We had the debut of the most iconic wrestling character in history, The Undertaker. Survivor Series 1990 marked the debut of The Deadman and now, in just one week, Survivor Series 2020 will mark the end of The Undertaker’s illustrious 30-year career. Jake Roberts proved he was worth more than his weight in gold as he led The Vipers into battle against The Million Dollar Team. This show may have originally aired three decades ago but it still stands today as an entertaining event that you can go back and watch time and time again.

You might also enjoy:

The Night The Survivor Series Was Born

The Mega Powers Stand Tall at Survivor Series 1988

Retro Review: Survivor Series 1989

Written by James Corcoran

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