Change: A Survivor Series Tradition
Webster’s Dictionary defines the word change as “to make the form, nature, content, future course, etc., of (something) different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone”. Change is a big part of the history of the Survivor Series, you could even say that change and the Survivor Series go hand in hand like peanut butter and jelly. What makes the Survivor Series one of the most interesting event on the calendar year is how rare an entire Survivor Series card stays the same all the way up to the day of the show. So let’s take a trip down memory lane and explore the changes that happened in the history of the Survivor Series.
We start off with the very first one back in 1987 and there were two changes on the card. Randy Savage’s team, which consists of almost all WWE Hall of Famer’s (Brutus Beefcake is the only one on the team not in) had a strong team going up against Honky Tonk Man’s team. One person that was supposed to be on Savage’s team was Junkyard Dog. However, in storyline he stepped down to let his good friend Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat who was coming back after the birth of his son be on the team, Steamboat was one of the survivors in the match. The other change occurred in the main event when Superstar Billy Graham was supposed to be apart of Hulk Hogan’s team to face the team led by Andre the Giant. However, in a match against Butch Reed he would be attacked by Reed, manager Slick and the One Man Gang. Even though Don Muraco would come out to make the save the damage was done and Billy Graham was put out of Survivor Series. Muraco would eventually replace Billy Graham on the team but would be eliminated from the main event match of the first Survivor Series.
One year later, the 1988 Survivor Series might have produced more changes on one show then any other in WWF/E history. Don’t believe me, take a look at this. Don Muraco was originally supposed to be on the team led by Ultimate Warrior but left the WWF shortly before the Survivor Series and was replaced by Jim Brunzell. The other change that happened was with once again Junkyard Dog. He was originally going to be on the team led by Jake Roberts but left the WWF before the show happened. He was then replaced by B. Brian Blair and before you know it, Blair also left the WWF. So who would end up replacing a legend and a tag team specialist? Scott Casey, that’s right folks Scott Casey the well known jobber ended up having his moment in the sun at the Survivor Series.
The 1989 Survivor Series is one of my favorite shows of all time because of the changes that happened days before the show and the actual day of the show. While this is no Wrestlemania III or Super J Cup 1994, this show has a special place in my heart for just the wildness that occurred. Akeem, who one year ago was in the main event of Survivor Series was going to be on The Enforcers captained by Big Boss Man. However, for reasons unknown he was pulled out of the match and was replaced by Bad News Brown who was a rough teammate to work with. Barry Windham was apart of the King’s Court led by Randy Savage, but he ended up getting replaced on the show by the Earthquake who would end up being one of the survivors of the match. Finally, the well known replacement of Tully Blanchard. Blanchard was apart of Heenan’s Family captained by Andre the Giant but was fired the day of the show for failing a drug test. Replacing him was his manager Bobby “The Brain” Heenan who not only ended up scoring a fall in the match but ended up being the last member of the team in the match before being eliminated by Ultimate Warrior.
In 1990, the United States was preparing itself to go to war in Kuwait and the Survivor Series was set to make history for the right reasons and for the wrong reasons. But this article isn’t about the Gobbledy Gooker so don’t worry. Rick Rude was going to be apart of the Natural Disasters team led by Earthquake but two stories would take place one storyline and one in real life. Rick Rude storyline wise was suspended by WWF for making remarks about the Big Boss Man’s mother, but in real life was fired because he wanted a higher pay for working with Ultimate Warrior at Summerslam. Rude would end up being replaced by another Heenan family member in Haku as they would lose to Hulk Hogan’s team. For the second year in a row Akeem was going to be apart of a team this time Sgt. Slaughter’s Mercenaries team and for the second year in a row was replaced, eventually leaving the WWF and was replaced by Boris Zhukov. Then there is the replacement nobody seems to know about. Bad News Brown was originally apart of the Million Dollar Team led by Ted DiBiase but left the WWF before the event happened. He would end up being replaced by a mystery partner and that partner ended up being some guy named The Undertaker. I wonder how Undertaker is doing now?
1991 was the first time Survivor Series took place on Thanksgiving eve and change was still on the main course. Sid Justice was supposed to lead a team to face a team led by Jake Roberts, however weeks before the event Justice would injure his arm and would be out of the Survivor Series. He and his teammates, Big Boss Man and Legion of Doom pushed for Randy Savage to be the fourth member of the team but the weekend before the show he would be bitten by a cobra and thus would not compete. However, because of that action Jake Roberts was also pulled from that match and we ended up with the only three on three Survivor Series elimination match in show history. Jim Duggan had two partners replaced on his team, Ricky Steamboat was originally on the team but left the WWF before the show happened and was replaced by the brand newly christened El Matador Tito Santana. Jim Neidhart was also supposed to be on the team but Ric Flair put him out with a leg injury with the Beverly Brothers finishing the job but he would be replaced by Sgt. Slaughter as the entire team would survive defeating the team led by Col. Mustafa where, one of the original members of the team Big Bully Busick, was replaced by Hercules.
1992 had only one elimination match where the Bushwhackers were going to team up with the Natural Disasters to face the Beverly Brothers and Money Inc. However, the Nasty Boys ended up getting dumped by manager Jimmy Hart and the Bushwhackers stepped aside to let the Nasty Boys get some revenge on their former manager. Ultimate Warrior was supposed to team up with Randy Savage to take on Ric Flair and Razor Ramon, but was fired weeks before the show and Savage ended up picking Mr. Perfect as his partner for the tag match. Believe it or not one whole match got dumped from this Survivor Series as British Bulldog was supposed to defend the Intercontinental title against the Mountie. However, on a Saturday Night’s Main Event he would lose the title to Shawn Michaels and then left the WWF before the show happened so one whole match was taken off the show.
Another interesting Survivor Series was in 1993 for many reasons. Mr. Perfect was originally going to team up with Razor Ramon in a Survivor Series elimination match but had to pull out because of a back injury. He would be replaced by Randy Savage who helped the team out in winning the match. A big change happened just mere weeks before the show as Jerry Lawler had to pull out for legal reasons as he was supposed to face Bret Hart and his family in an elimination match. Lawler was replaced by Shawn Michaels as he led the Knights into battle before ultimately being beaten. The main event had two changes to the respective teams. Tatanka was put out of the main event by Yokozuna and Ludvig Borga but would be replaced by the Undertaker. Then just a few weeks later, Pierre of the Quebecers was knocked out both metaphorically and literally of the main event by Lex Luger and his steel plate. Pierre would be replaced on the team by Crush.
The first Survivor Series where no changes happened was in 1994 which happened to be the last Survivor Series on Thanksgiving eve. But the changes came back in 1995 in only one match, where Bob Holly replaced Avatar on the team led by Barry Horowitz and Jean-Pierre Lafitte was replaced by the 1-2-3 Kid on Skip’s team. The Kid would be the sole survivor of the match. 1996 had only one replacement in any of the elimination matches as Jake Roberts replaced Barry Windham on a team led by Marc Mero. In 1997 again only one replacement was made as The Patriot who was on Team USA left WWF before the show and was replaced by Steve Blackman. 1998 was the first Survivor Series where no traditional elimination matches happened but instead was replaced by a tournament to crown a new WWF champion. In 1999 the main event of the show was changed when Stone Cold Steve Austin was run over by a car an hour before the main event. He would be replaced by Big Show who would end up defeating Triple H and the Rock in a triple threat match to become the new WWF champion.
The 2000 Survivor Series saw no changes but 2001 had some changes to their card. Vince McMahon was originally apart of the Team WWF in the main event to face the Alliance, however pulled himself out of the match and selected Big Show to take his spot on the team in which the WWF would win. Tajiri and X-Pac were going to have a match to unify the WWF Light Heavyweight title and the WCW Cruiserweight title but that match never happened as X-Pac was injured and couldn’t compete. The Light Heavyweight title was retired quietly in the night and Tajiri would lose to William Regal. Finally, Test would replace Scotty 2 Hotty in a battle royal where the winner could not be fired and Test ended up winning the battle royal.
2002 and 2003 didn’t have any changes but 2004 had only one change to the card as Rey Mysterio, who was scheduled to team with Eddie Guerrero in a traditional Survivor Series match was put in a fatal four way for the Cruiserweight title. John Cena would end up taking his spot in the match and would be one of the survivors of the match. 2005 tragically had one change to it’s card as Eddie Guerrero was supposed to be on Team Smackdown to face Team Raw but two weeks before the show passed away and was replaced on the team by Randy Orton. 2006 had one change to it’s card as well with Roddy Piper, who was supposed to be on the legends team to face Spirit Squad was replaced by Ron Simmons due to health reasons. In 2007, Matt Hardy was supposed to be Triple H’s team to face a team led by Umaga but due to injuries could not compete and we had the only four on five elimination match in Survivor Series history. 2008 was controversial as Jeff Hardy was supposed to be in a triple threat match for the WWE Championship against Triple H and Kozlov but the day of the show a story was done that Jeff Hardy couldn’t compete and was covered by TMZ. It would start off as Triple H and Kozlov but during the match, Edge would be placed in and a triple threat match would take place with Edge winning the title.
2009-2011 saw no changes to the card but in 2012 a change was made to one of the big matches. CM Punk was originally scheduled to be in a traditional Survivor Series match leading a team against a team led by Mick Foley who picked his team. Punk however would end up defending the WWE Championship in a triple threat match and was replaced in the elimination match by Dolph Ziggler, meanwhile Ryback who was also in the match was replaced by The Miz via fan voting. No changes were made in 2013 but the 2014 event saw changes to the main event of one of the biggest matches in the shows history. John Cena would lead a team to face the Authority in a traditional Survivor Series match but as Cena would select partners, men such as Jack Swagger and Sheamus would be put out of action. Meanwhile, Randy Orton who was a member of team Authority was kicked out of the team and thus didn’t compete in the main event.
Seth Rollins was scheduled to defend the WWE Championship in 2015 but during a tour of Europe would end up injuring his knee and would have to surrender the title and would miss time, with a tournament taking place to crown a new WWE Champion. 2016 had no changes and this year the tradition of changes continues. With wrestlers being replaced in matches because they won a title or due to injury has made this upcoming Survivor Series one that could be for the ages.
Change is a scary thing, nobody can be prepared for it and nobody ever likes change. But when it comes to the Survivor Series, change is as welcomed to the party as your best friend is. Change will always be apart of the Survivor Series and will never leave the final major show of the year. Change, for a lack of better word, is good.