Survivor Series debuted on Thanksgiving day, 1987. To celebrate 30 years of the annual pay-per-view event, we’ve pulled together a list of the weirdest things said either backstage or on commentary at the inaugural event. You can watch the event on the WWE Network here.
Before we hit the first of what would be every chaotic backstage segment, this column’s two main characters, Jesse “The Body” Ventura and Gorilla Monsoon, are introduced. The commentators prep us for the matches and, considering this is the history-making first-ever Survivor Series, they must go over the “ways of eliminations.”
All of them make sense, of course, but Gorilla’s slight stumble over rule No. 5 adds to the awkwardness of it. He says this rule is “most important” and that the referees can “eliminate, at their discretion, any team member, due to injury.” Sounds fishy to me, you guys.
Before the first match is underway, Ricky Steamboat says they are all here because they are survivors. Hacksaw Jim Duggan bulldozes in with “there will be a Survivor tonight”. Mean Gene is trying his very best to keep it all together but it’s extremely chaotic, save for the moment captured above where everyone is doing their pose at the exact same time before having absolutely piss-poor communication skills, yelling and stumbling all over each other.
Moving on, I don’t wanna spend too much time on Gorilla Monsoon saying “boy does she look exciting and fine and beautiful” about Miss Elizabeth, but I do want to point out the awkward silence that followed it.
While it would have been understandable if the rest of the match proceeded sans commentary following that not great assessment of Randy Savage’s valet, the commentary team cut the silence by attempting to compliment the crowd, the commentary equivalent to “so, how ’bout them INSERT LOCAL SPORTS TEAM HERE.” Jesse has “never heard anything like it” and I feel the same way but about the “exciting and fine and beautiful” part.
The first call of the first match of the first-ever Survivor Series was Gorilla Monsoon’s “Beefer starting off against Herc.” These are silly abbreviations and we know what Monsoon means, plus we can see them on the screen, but it’s hard not to have a smirk at “Beefer” and “Herc.”
Mere seconds before a double countout eliminates Hacksaw Jim Duggan and King Harley Race, Jesse Ventura spoils the spot with a “They better watch that count they are both risking a possible countout.” “Spoil” is a strong word because a lot of this booking is predictable in the rearview mirror, whether you’ve ever seen this match before or not.
“When you close your cool, you lose the match” was said as everyone remaining in the ring was collectively losing their cool. Hercules was flexing, Macho Man was chasing Honky Tonk Man (who was strutting), Jake Roberts and Ricky Steamboat were arguing with a referee, and the only person not losing their cool was the least cool person involved in the match, Dangerous Danny Davis.
Since this was the original Survivor Series, the commentary team had to spend a lot of time hammering home the rules of the match. At one point we heard, “No titles on the line here, Jess”, in reference to Honky Tonk Man’s Intercontinental Championship. Jess replied, “No, definitely not” as if a title being on the line is a completely unreasonable thing.
A little later Honky Tonk eliminated himself via count-out to which we heard “he has no intensions of coming back” — this, of course, was another mini-spoiler, as Honky for sure came back later in the evening.
Backstage after the first match, Slick offers Bobby The Brain a hug because, presumably, one of his wrestlers just lost the match. Since they are both managers, he understands that Heenan needs some support. Meanwhile, everyone is talking at once, as is customary for this particular pay-per-view.
The chaos ends when Andre the Giant says “Stop!” and everyone stops. He then explains how he’s here for one reason and one reason only: for Hulk Hogan’s soul. It’s chilling, it’s terrifying, it’s weird; it’s a backstage promo from the 1980s.
The next match is the women’s Survivor Series match, where Ventura makes a strange point. “You know, Gorilla, you ever think, maybe one of these girls should shave their head? Then they couldn’t get their hair pulled anymore.” Later he makes a stranger point with “You know what I can’t believe Gorilla, now here we are out here, and I’ve got my second No. 1 movie in the whole world, The Running Man, and you have yet to congratulate me”
My favorite line from the whole night was when Ventura gave Jimmy Hart credit for a move one of his wrestlers did. “Oh yeah there’s Jimmy Hart coming out right there. You always know when Jimmy is around, you’ll see a move that he designed.”
In another backstage mess, Strike Force Tito Santana weakly proclaims, “You’re looking at a team and we don’t care which one of us is in there last because this team is gonna win, baby.” This is word salad, at best. Why weren’t these segments scripted?
Later in the tag team match which included approximately 150 wrestlers at the same time, Ventura drops this gem: “You know what would be enjoyable about being in this match; you get to perform in front of all your buddies.” Imagine being a professional wrestler where your job is to win matches and build your way up to a championship, but you stop working hard because what you really want to do is just perform in front of all your buddies.
The best moment of this match was when Ventura accused Monsoon of maybe having a gambling problem. When the momentum was firmly in one team’s corner he dropped, ” … As much as I know how you like to place a bet now and then on a favorite or an underdog.” As someone who can’t wait to legally gamble on professional wrestling, this tickled me.
Jesse “The Body” Ventura and Gorilla Monsoon are calling a match at the new professional wrestling pay-per-view event, Survivor Series.
JESSE THE BODY VENTURA
JESSE THE BODY VENTURA
“While you poor people out there are polishing the few pennies you have left after splurging on Thanksgiving Dinner … ” is how the best holiday-themed heel promo package I’ve ever seen, courtesy of Ted DiBiase, began. What followed was his greatest hits of being a total jerk.
The main event of the night was centered around Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant’s unfinished business. Hogan looked and sounded extremely cuckoo this evening, saying “there’s no insurance policy when you deal with mother nature”, which, you know, is not accurate. Someone tell the Hulkster about staging, too.
Later, in reference to Bam Bam Bigelow, it was “I’ve got the fire, brother. Just in case we have to burn the whole jungle down.” A few minutes later he said “time to burn the building down man.” Hulk Hogan was obsessed with fire tonight, everyone, and when someone who looks like this is obsessed with fire, it’s usually not a good thing.
Andre The Giant went home the winner that evening but, as per tradition back in these days, Hogan returned to send the fans home happy. In response, Ventura dropped the line of the night: “Only in Cleveland would you hear cheers for the loser.”