As long as there has been a Survivor Series, there have been replacement team members in the elimination matches. When you have eight or ten men booked in the same match, you’re bound to lose one or two to injury or pink slips by the time the pay-per-view rolls around. It’s a staple of the WWF’s annual Survivor Series pay-per-view that’s been around as long as the traditional elimination matches themselves. In fact, you could say it’s been around even longer than the “traditional” elimination matches, because back in the day, when the company actually made elimination matches relevant, the announcers didn’t need to call them “traditional” (read: “obligatory”).
From the time Don Muraco filled in for an aging Superstar Billy Graham in 1987…
…to the time last year when Cesaro pretended to replace an injured Sheamus, immediately swerved John Cena for absolutely no reason, and then Ryback joined for real…
…WWE’s second-stringers have been doing their part to keep the company’s second-oldest pay-per-view puttering along year after year.
But back when the WWF put thought into the Survivor Series teams with creative team names and themes, a last-minute substitute could for one reason or another really stick out like a sore thumb.
Sometimes, the replacement wrestler simply wasn’t in the same league as the rest of the team. In 1988, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Jake Roberts, Tito Santana, Ken Patera, and the Junkyard Dog were to team together until JYD left the company. Duggan’s team replaced him with Brian Blair.
Then Blair quit, so they recruited Sam Casey, a man best known for… well, wrestling on Hacksaw Jim Duggan’s 1988 Survivor Series team.
How obscure a talent was Casey? For starters, his name was Scott Casey, not “Sam Casey,” yet I doubt you even noticed. Hell, that last picture wasn’t even Casey; it was David Sammartino. This is Scott Casey:
The following year, Tully Blanchard was fired from the company, leaving a spot open on the Heenan Family team the night of the pay-per-view.
He might be called “The Brain,” but you’ve really got to question Bobby Heenan’s wisdom in replacing the missing team member with this black winter glove:
Sorry, let me get my facts straight. Okay, Bobby Heenan chose himself as a substitute for the former Horseman, which turned out about as well as expected.
Other times, the substitutions don’t make any kayfabe sense. One such ill-advised substitution at Survivor Series was for that same 1989 event, when Bad News Brown rounded out The Big Bossman’s team of Enforcers, only to bail out on his team the exact same way he did at the previous Survivor Series. Maybe Brown was notoriously unreliable, but the heel team did need a replacement for Akeem, the African Dream.
Speaking of a Caucasian black man, that brings us to Steve here.
See, sometimes, the only member holding the team together went AWOL. Case in point: What do Steve Blackman, Vader, Goldust, and Marc Mero have in common? If you said, “They were all born in the United States,” I would suggest you stop being such a smart-ass.
But in this case, that was the WWF’s exact answer. See, The Patriot, who as you may have guessed had an America-loving gimmick, was scheduled to captain Team USA. However, after a torn biceps, he was replaced by a debuting Steve Blackman and never seen again in the WWF. If it’s any consolation to the Federation, the last-minute switch saved Team USA from doubling as Team WCW 1994.
The only thing red-white-and-blue about the remaining members was Marc Mero’s bandanna, which Davey Boy Smith used as toilet paper shortly into the match.
Backstage, Vader explained that the only common thread the random selection of Team USA members had was that they hated bossy Canadians. So why not just call themselves “Team Not Canada”?
Probably because the other team was one member away from being “Team Not Canada” themselves: Americans Jim Neidhart and Doug Furnas joined the British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith and the team’s sole Canadian, Phil LaFon, who was originally billed as hailing from France. “Oklahoma barbecue with French seasoning” was how Jim Ross described the team of Furnas & LaFon, although the WWF’s merchandising department failed to capitalize on that million-dollar catchphrase.
It’s a real shame that, after booking the five-man Hart Foundation into a Canada vs. USA angle for the better part of 1997, Vince and company couldn’t muster a full-fledged Hart Foundation team come Survivor Series. A number of factors contributed to this missed opportunity, from Brian Pillman’s untimely death (leaving the Hart Foundation a man down) to Owen Hart injuring Steve Austin (necessitating a rematch at Survivor Series) to Bret Hart’s WWF title run (putting him one-on-one against Shawn Michaels in the main event, which, as we all remember, ended in a schmozz).
While we’re on the subject of (inter)national pride, 1993’s Foreign Fanatics originally consisted of the quasi-Japanese Yokozuna, the Hellraiser from Helsinki Ludvig Borga, and the Quebecers.
When Lex Luger knocked Quebecer Pierre out of action, however, Jim Cornette, Johnny Polo, and Mr. Fuji recruited the meanest foreigner they could find: the big Hawaiian Crush. Of course as you history buffs know, by 1993 Hawaii was one of the fifty United States and had been for decades, but the WWF couldn’t expect its fans to keep up to date on the finer points of geography.
And sure, Hawaii hadn’t been a foreign country since 1893, but what’s a mere century to a wrestling promoter?
The Foreign Fanatics’ opponents had themselves already suffered a loss to their team when Tatanka was put on the shelf by Borga and Yoko. This ruined the perfectly well-themed team of the collegiate All-Americans the Steiner Brothers, the Native American Tatanka, and the American Original Lex Luger.
In Tatanka’s place, the remaining three members recruited The Undertaker, who showed he belonged on the team by modeling this very patriotic trench coat.
Nifty cloak or not, you can’t expect us to believe a wrestler changed his entire attitude just by draping him in an American flag.
The new, patriotic Undertaker soon took to talking about the Founding Fathers, wandering around colonial cemeteries, and showing off the Betsy Ross flag. In other words, he wasn’t fighting for all Americans, just the dead ones. They could have stuck him in the Four Doinks and had him cut promos about Emmett Kelly and Chuckles the Clown.
And speaking of Four Doinks, the Prince of Pranks didn’t even wrestle on his own team that year, as the original Doink Matt Borne had been fired weeks earlier.
This left Men on a Mission and the Bushwhackers to take up the Doink mantle and pretend that the “We Want Doink” chants were meant for them…
…all while the new full-time Doink stayed backstage the whole time.
I might as well have just inducted the whole 1993 Survivor Series, since Doink wasn’t even the first team captain to no-show his match that night. Jerry Lawler, who was engaged in one of the most personal feuds in WWF history at the time with Bret Hart, was all set to lead his three knights into battle against four Hart brothers in the “Family Feud” match.
After months of berating Hart parents Stu & Helen and screwing Bret out of his King of the Ring crown , Lawler was to finally get his comeuppance from Bret and his family. However, some *ahem* legal issues forced Jerry Lawler off the card and put the feud on hold (coming to a head two years later in a “Kiss My Foot Match”).
Thus, instead of Jerry “The King” Lawler and his Knights, we got Shawn Michaels and his… uh, Knights. Not even Sexy Knights, either.
To spark some semblance of a feud between the Harts and Shawn Michaels’s team of mystery men, the Heartbreak Kid poked fun at Stu and Helen in a skit the weekend before the event. A few “old people” masks were apparently enough to drag Bruce and Keith Hart out of retirement.
And while we’re on the subject of lousy replacements, Ray Combs served as master of ceremonies instead of Richard Dawson.
In 1995, with Pierre Ouellet out of the company and missing yet another Survivor Series, the statuesque Bodydonnas team needed a suitable replacement, and boy did they get one in the form of the Dead Body-Donna himself, The Undertaker!
Just kidding. It was the 1-2-3 Kid, whose physique had, admittedly, always set him apart from the whole rest of the roster.
And hey, if “Heavenly Body-Donna” Tom Prichard and “Bodydonna-in-training” Rad Radford could be on the team of supposed Adonises, why not the 123-pound Kid?
On a side note, the opposing team had Bob Holly replace Avatar, who was suffering from the debilitating condition known as “sh***y debut on live television.”
Say what you will about all of the replacement wrestlers, but at least the WWF bothered to put fill in the holes in those elimination matches. That wasn’t the case in 1991, when Sid Justice got injured. The opposing team’s Jake Roberts later sicked a cobra on the retired Macho Man, who had been campaigning for reinstatement, just a week before the event. Hmmm… hot feud, an open slot on the babyface team… are you thinking what I’m thinking? Then you know exactly what the WWF did: they kept Randy Savage off the card and suspended Jake Roberts.
What, was that not what you were thinking? Well it’s what I was thinking. By the way, have we been formally introduced? The name’s Jack Tunney.
This kayfabe suspension led to the first and only three-on-three elimination match at Survivor Series, with LOD and Bossman beating The Natural Disasters and IRS. And it closed the show.
I have no idea why the WWF didn’t just replace Sid. What, was Scott Casey not available that night?
Again, that’s David Sammartino.