For the last 30 years Survivor Series has become the event of the fall season, as much a Thanksgiving tradition as Grandma’s homemade mashed potatoes! With that in mind Throwback Thursday is going back 20 years to the day to revisit the most controversial Pay-Per-View in World Wrestling Entertainment history: Survivor Series ’97, as seen on the WWE Network.
By now everybody knows about the “Montreal Screwjob” and the palace intrigue surrounding it. Lost in all the hullabaloo over the main event is a Survivor Series card that has been largely forgotten and overlooked. So, rather than focus on the same-old, same-old with Survivor Series ’97, we’re going to look at the rest of the card and see just how good (or bad) it really was.
Survivor Series ’97 would be one of the last “traditional” Survivor Series events for over a decade. Overshadowed by the “Screwjob” this card featured four Survivor Series elimination matches, the much-anticipated in-ring debut of Kane, and two title matches many fans thought they may never see again. On paper Survivor Series ’97 was a stacked card, drawing the highest PPV buyrate of the year for the WWF.
But did it live up to the hype? Let’s hit ‘play’ and find out!
With all previous editions of Monday Night RAW and all prior PPVs currently available on the Network context is no issue here. It should also be pointed out that this is not the live PPV version. Occasional edits and “WWF” muting are still present, especially in the main event.
WWF Survivor Series ’97: Gang Rulz (WATCH)
Date: November 9, 1997 – Location: Molson Centre, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Attendance: 20,593 (event record) – PPV Buys: 0.89 (>320,000 homes)
Commentators: Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler – Interviews: Michael Cole, Kevin Kelly, Dok Hendrix, & Jim Ross
CHAMPIONS AT THE TIME
WWF World Heavyweight Champion: Bret “Hitman” Hart
WWF Intercontinental Champion: Owen Hart
WWF World Tag Team Champions: Legion of Doom (Road Warrior Hawk & Road Warrior Animal)
WWF European Champion: Shawn Michaels
The show opens with a great vignette detailing the history behind the Shawn Michaels/Bret Hart main event. In the arena the pyro goes off, setting fire to the carpet (yay!), before Jim Ross welcomes us to the show. At the desk JR and Lawler talk about how big the main event is and the competitiveness of both Bret Hart and HBK before we visit the Spanish and French announce teams, but the audio’s out so we can’t hear a word they say.
As the Headbangers and Blackjacks make their way out we see footage from three weeks prior of Billy Gunn destroying a boom box over the head of Thrasher.
Road Dogg & Billy Gunn, leading The Godwinns to the ring, come out wearing what’s left of the Blackjack’s hats while Road Dogg cuts a promo about “steers and queers” and says the “Blacktracks and Butt-bangers” are “done for.”
— “4-on-4 Tag Team ‘Survivor Series’ Elimination Match” (WATCH – 4:08)
The Headbangers (Mosh & Thrasher) & The New Blackjacks (Blackjack Windham & Blackjack Bradshaw) vs. The New Age Outlaws (Road Dogg & “Bad Ass” Billy Gunn) & The Godwinns (Henry O. & Phineas I.)
This one starts with the Blackjacks and Godwinns doing some pretty decent work until Bradshaw wraps Henry in the abdominal stretch cradle for the elimination at 3:53. Phineas comes in and the Blackjacks continue to dominate when out of nowhere Phineas hits Windham with a lariat to eliminate Windham at 5:15. Mosh is taken out when Billy Gunn reverses a bulldog into a sort of flapjack for the pin at 8:42. After a decent stretch of action Thrasher eliminates Phineas with the Stage Dive at 12:40 to make it 2-on-2. Bradshaw is all over Road Dogg until Billy Gunn distracts him which allows Road Dogg to school boy Bradshaw at 13:47, leaving Thrasher all alone. Thrasher manages to turn Dogg’s pumphandle slam into a lateral press when Gunn, legal via blind tag, comes off the top with a legdrop to the back of Thrasher’s head for the final elimination at 15:27 to end a solid opener.
WINNERS are The Godwinns (Henry O. & Phineas I.) & The New Age Outlaws (Road Dogg & “Bad Ass” Billy Gunn) (Survivors: New Age Outlaws (Billy Gunn & Road Dogg), 15:27)
— “4-on-4 ‘Survivor Series’ Elimination Match” (WATCH – 23:00)
The Truth Commission (The Jackyl, Recon, Sniper, & The Interrogator) vs. The Disciples of Apocalypse (Crush, Chainz, Skull, & 8-Ball)
This one starts as an 8-man brawl until the referees separates them. This match is all about The Interrogator (who is borderline awful), who quickly eliminates Chainz with a sidewalk slam at 1:19. Recon has 8-Ball reeling when Jackyl tags in and promptly gets eliminated by 8-Ball after a spinning sidewalk slam at 2:52, after which Jackyl joins JR and “King” on commentary. In the ring 8-Ball and Skull switch places and Skull takes out Recon with a clothesline at 5:20. After some interference Sniper eliminates Skull with a bulldog at 6:30 to make 2-on-2. The Interrogator, by blind tag, enters the match and hits a sidewalk slam on 8-Ball for the elimination at 8:51. 57-seconds later Crush eliminates Sniper with a tilt-a-whirl slam at 9:48. Immediately The Interrogator steps behind Crush and hits Crush with the 315th sidewalk slam of the match to end it at 10:00. Had it not been based around The Interrogator and so many damned sidewalk slams this may have been a much better match.
WINNERS are The Truth Commission (The Jackyl, Recon, Sniper, & The Interrogator) (Sole Survivor: The Interrogator, 10:00)
A pre-taped segment asking fans who’s going to win the main event, edited to seem 50-50 in support, is shown next, followed by Kevin Kelly (in the America Online room) interviewing Stone Cold Steve Austin. Austin says he’s worried about his neck but that in the WWF it’s “sink or swim—Steve Austin doesn’t sink.”
At ringside JR and “King” show clips of the Milton Bradley dinner held the night prior to the PPV before we see footage from the previous week’s RAW of Vader being saved by Steve Blackman, a “fan”, after “Team Canada” was assaulting Vader following a “dog collar” match with “British Bulldog”. Vader, we’re told, bailed Blackman out of jail and offered him a spot in “Team U.S.A”.
Backstage Michael Cole interviews “Team U.S.A.” about the forthcoming match. Vader says all the team have in common is disliking “big-mouth Canadians trash talking Americans—tellin’ us how to think, tellin’ us what to do, tellin’ us how to act.” Vader says it’s not just “Vader time tonight, it’s America’s time!” Steve Blackman says that he may be new to “WWF wrestling” but “a fight’s a fight.”
With “Team U.S.A.” in the ring we got backstage where Michael Cole is with “Team Canada”. Davey Boy says that they’re in the “Canadian domain” while Doug Furnas says the American WWF fans are all about “drugs, crimes, slime, and now they have their new degenerates.” Furnas says he was proud to be an American but that he’s left America to join Canada.
— “4-on-4 ‘Survivor Series’ Elimination Match” (WATCH – 39:43)
Team U.S.A. (Goldust, “Marvelous” Marc Mero, Vader, & “Lethal Weapon” Steve Blackman) w/Sable vs. Team Canada (“British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, Doug Furnas, & Phil LaFon)
Blackman was returning to the WWF for the first time since 1989 when dysentery and malaria, contracted in South Africa, had Blackman bedridden for nearly 2 years! This is a great, old-school Survivor Series match that the crowd is into from the very beginning. The first few minutes of this one feature some very good action and pacing with everyone getting a chance to get their feet wet.
Eventually Blackman ends up brawling on the outside and being counted out at 5:47. Vader and Neidhart have a fun, stiff exchange that ends when Vader hits a massive splash on “Anvil” for the three count at 7:34. Vader and LaFon brawl until Vader destroys LaFon with a devastating splash for the elimination at 9:10. Doug Furnas and Mero engage in some pretty sloppy work until Furnas rolls out of a Mero sunset flip and jacknifes Mero (with the help from a hand full of tights) for the elimination at 12:00. Vader, the real star of this match, does his best with Furnas and Davey Boy but Goldust refuses to tag in. Vader has enough and slaps Goldust before dragging him in the ring but Goldust walks out istead and is counted out at 16:58. All alone, Vader manages to eliminate Furnas with the Vader Bomb at 17:35 before “Bulldog” gloms Vader in the back of the head with the ring bell for the final elimination at 17:47. This would mark Davey Boy’s last match in the WWF until the September 9, 1999 edition of SmackDown!.
WINNERS are Team Canada (“British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, Doug Furnas, & Phil LaFon) (Sole Survivor: “British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith, 17:47)
Next JR & “King” talk to the winner of the “Super Supper Sweepstakes”, who (with 10 of their friends) gets to have dinner with whichever WWF Superstar they choose. Lawler is shocked when the winner picks Steve Austin for the dinner and not Lawler.
A great vignette of Kane’s debut at last month’s Badd Blodd: In Your House PPV and the history of the Mankind/Kane rivalry airs next, after which Jim Ross interviews Mankind from ringside (with Mankind in the back). Mankind says it won’t be a “wrestling match” but “Mankind against a brick wall” and that he’s “gonna get a head start, Jimmy, and I’m gonna launch myself into that brick wall. And when it does not fall,” Mankind says, “I’ll get up and do it over and over again.” Mankind says that when the wall falls it will leave nothing between himself and Paul Bearer, who called Mankind a “pebble”.
— “Grudge Match” (WATCH – 1:06:59)
Mankind vs. Kane w/Paul Bearer
Though this marked the in-ring debut of the “Kane” character, this was Glenn Jacobs first WWF TV match since the 1997 Royal Rumble, where he worked as “fake Diesel”. This one starts on the floor before the bell sounds with Kane tossing Mankind’s head against the ring steps. Kane’s red lighting blankets the arena for the entirety of this war, which features some very good work from both men and some amazing spots, including Kane tossing the ring steps into Mankind’s face and Kane chokeslamming Mankind from the ring apron through the Spanish announce table. Mankind survives the chokeslam through the table to deliver a crushing DDT on the aisle before hitting the trademark diving elbow from the apron. Kane retaliates by slamming Mankind off from the the second rope to the floor, a bump that still hurts to watch. Mankind pulls himself in the ring, crawls to Kane, and pulls himself up before Kane ends the match with a tombstone piledriver at 9:30. An excellent debut match that is just as fun today as it was then.
WINNER is Kane w/Paul Bearer (Pin, 9:30)
We get a promo for the free “WWF dog tag” giveaway to PPV subscribers before going backstage where Michael Cole is standing with Vince McMahon and WWF Commissioner Sgt. Slaughter. Cole notes the tension in the air and Slaughter reassures Cole that extra security on hand. Vince says it’s important that fans get to see the Bret Hart/Shawn Michaels, which Vince says was supposed “to have happened on a number of occasions and did not for a number of reasons.” Cole then asks Vince who’s going to win the main event… Vince looks to be lost for words and then says, with a smirk, “I don’t know.”
With the Nation of Domination already in the ring we cut to the back where Dok Hendrix is standing with the L.O.D., Ken Shamrock, and Ahmed Johnson. Shamrock says he’s there to take care of business while Road Warrior Hawk says they are the “sergeants of arms” in the WWF and they plan on taking out the Nation and leaving them “in a pool of your own blood.”
— “4-on-4 ‘Survivor Series’ Elimination Match” (WATCH – 1:27:43)
The Nation of Domination (Faarooq, Rocky Maivia, D’Lo Brown, & Kama Mustafa) vs. “The World’s Most Dangerous Man” Ken Shamrock, Ahmed Johnson, & WWF World Tag Team Champions The Road Warriors (Road Warrior Hawk & Road Warrior Animal)
This is another match the crowd is super hot for. Hawk plays the immovable force with D’Lo but quickly falls prey to the Rock Bottom from Maivia and is out at 2:17. Ahmed Johnson eliminates Faarooq after reversing the Dominator into the Pearl River Plunge at 4:41. Faarooq won’t leave ringside, however, and moments later trips Ahmed Johnson and holds Johnson’s legs while Maivia makes the pin at 6:20. We get some decent work between Kama and Animal that comes to an end after Animal dropkicks Kama into Rocky and school boys Kama for the elimination at 10:54. Eventually Bill Gunn and Road Dogg, both in face paint (with Road Dogg wearing the L.O.D. shoulder pads), come to the ring. This brings Animal to the floor where Road Dogg throws powder in Animal’s eyes leading to Animal being counted out at 15:01, leaving Shamrock to fend for himself. Shamrock fights off a double team, sends Rocky over the top, and taps D’Lo in the ankle lock at 17:11. Maivia hits Shamrock with a chair and puts the boots to Shamrock before Shamrock makes his comeback, hits the hurricanrana, and submits Rocky with the ankle lock at 20:35 to win the match.
WINNERS are Ahmed Johnson, “The World’s Most Dangerous Man” Ken Shamrock, & WWF World Tag Team Champions The Road Warriors (Road Warrior Hawk & Road Warrior Animal) (Sole Survivor: “World’s Most Dangerous Man” Ken Shamrock, 20:35)
Next up is a promo for the D-Generation X: In Your House PPV for December before we get an excellent vignette detailing the fight and courageousness of Stone Cold Steve Austin and the story of the Austin/Owen Hart feud.
— WWF Intercontinental Championship – “Grudge Match” (WATCH – 1:55:52)
Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Owen Hart(c) w/Davey Boy Smith, Jim Neidhart, Doug Furnas, & Phil LaFon
The crowd is super hot for this one. It’s a stare down to start things, as in an old spaghetti western, until “Anvil” attempts to ambush Austin. Austin takes “Anvil” out with a Stunner before Owen climbs in the ring and gloms Austin from behind to start the match. A “break his neck” chant breaks out as Owen and Austin duke it out. Owen, the favorite in Canada, works the match as an old-school heel, practically begging the referee to disqualify him when he wraps a cord around Austin’s neck. The fight continues until Owen goes for the piledriver, as he did at SummerSlam ’97, when Austin blocks the move, pokes Owen in the eyes, and hits the stunner for the win, and the Intercontinental title, at 4:03. This ended Owen Hart’s second and final Intercontinental title reign at 35-days and marked Stone Cold Steve Austin’s second and final Intercontinental title win. After the match Furnas and LaFon try to attack Austin and are both taken out with Stunners too!
WINNER and NEW WWF Intercontinental Champion, Stone Cold Steve Austin (Pin, 4:03)
Next is the very first “WWF Attitude” promo (one of the company’s greatest ever) to air on PPV followed by the very same HBK/Bret vignette that opened the PPV.
After the promo we see Triple H, flanked by Rick Rude and Chyna, knock on Michaels’ “dressing room” door. Michaels emerges and we follow HBK clear through the arena to Gorilla position. (If you look closely you can see Davey Boy come in early to prepare for Bret’s ring walk.) Michaels walks to the ring alone and proceeds to dry hump the Canadian flag in mid-ring or, as Bret wrote in book, to “f*** it hard”.
Backstage we see WWF Champion Bret Hart, followed by Davey Boy, Neidhart, and Bret’s son Blade, make their way to the ring. Like HBK, we follow Bret through the hallways of the arena to Gorilla position. The crowd is at a fever pitch as Bret comes to the ring. “It has been a long journey for the ‘Hitman”,” Jim Ross says. “This match was a long journey in itself. Took 18-months to get it done, and the smart money is that you will never, ever see it again.”
— WWF World Heavyweight Championship – “Champion vs. Champion Grudge Match” (WATCH – 2:11:17)
WWF European Champion Shawn Michaels vs. Bret “Hitman” Hart(c)
Though the fight starts in the ring, the bell never sounds and the first 7:37 of this one is nothing short of a street fight. Bret and Michaels brawl in and out of the ring, through and around the crowd, and up and down the aisle in one the the most personal brawls in WWF/E history that, despite the outcome, fit the angle perfectly. Vince McMahon’s presence begins to be felt as the two brawl around the entrance tunnel, with Vince pleading with Bret to get the match in the ring. Once back to the ring the bell sounds and one of the most anticipated WWF title matches of all-time is officially under way. The match, like the brawl before hand, is a wild, chaotic scene with HBK in control in the early portion until Bret reverses an HBK crossbody block from the top. Bret works on HBK’s knees and looks to be setting Michaels up for the Sharpshooter when HBK pulls the referee in front of him as Bret lunges from the top and all three go down. HBK rakes Bret’s eyes and attempts to apply the Sharpshooter when the referee quickly calls for the bell, giving Shawn Michaels the win via submission at 12:19, though no such thing had happened.
WINNER and NEW WWF World Heavyweight Champion, WWF European Champion Shawn Michaels (Submission, 12:19)
“What happened?” JR asks. “What happened?” Then, “Bret Hart gave up to the Sharpshooter.” Bret spits in Vince’s right eye as Michaels grabs his title belts. With Triple H in toe HBK briefly taunts the incensed Montreal crowd before disappearing to the back as the PPV suddenly goes dark.
For my money this event was the true start of the “Attitude Era” in the WWF. Had the “Montreal Screwjob” not overshadowed everything before it there is no doubt in my mind that Survivor Series ’97 would be considered one of the all-time great Survivor Series events.
With only one bad match (Truth Commission/D.O.A.) Survivor Series ’97 perfectly balanced tradition with evolution and delivered a great night of action all around.
If you’re already subscribed to the WWE Network you can experience Survivor Series ’97 for the very first time or relive it all over again! And, as always, let us know your thoughts in the comments.
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Thanks for reading – until next week, see ya at ringside!
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