Former AWA Tag Team Champion Jim Brunzell was a recent guest of The Pancakes & Powerslams Show to discuss the very first Survivor Series PPV in 1987, among other topics. At the inaugural Survivor Series, Brunzell & B. Brian Blair, known as The Killer Bees, won a 20-Team Elimination Match, surviving along with The Young Stallions. Brunzell revealed that he and Blair were originally supposed to be the sole survivors of the match, but a last-minute decision was made for them to share the spotlight with Paul Roma & Jim Powers. Brunzell admitted that he felt snubbed by this decision.
Brunzell also believed that Vince McMahon acquired talent from WWE’s biggest competitors, AWA & NWA, in order to dilute the competition, much like today. Despite multiple promises, The Killer Bees never acquired The WWE Tag Team Titles.
“Vince had a way, outside of huge people like Hulk [Hogan], he had his own idea on who he wanted to create, [and who] he wanted to make a superstar,” said Brunzell. “And if you didn’t conform to exactly what he wanted to do, you just sort of fell by the wayside.
“I’ll give you an example of that. The Ultimate Warrior, Jim Hellwig, came in as a bodybuilder. I don’t think he made any dents wrestling anywhere, [but] Vince liked his persona, big bodybuilder, sort of reckless in the ring, and all of a sudden, he was the heir apparent. God rest his soul, but he was not very skilled and talented in the ring in terms of psychology, ring savvy, or anything.”
He added that Vince “wanted to create his own people,” but it has resulted in him being a billionaire, “and he’ll tell you that, too.”
Regarding pay in The 1980s, Brunzell discussed the top and mid-card pay. I once had a former guest on the show that said the lower end of main roster pay is around $100,000, but a large chunk of that is spent on travel, lodging, food & medical expenses. Brunzell commented on the pay in The 1980s, as seen below:
“I averaged about 95 to about 110 [thousand],” said Brunzell. “But we were sort of in the middle… but the pay-scale, you had no idea what you were making. Nobody knew. If you happened to be on the undercard with Hulk Hogan, it was gonna be a guaranteed sellout.”
Brunzell also added that a typical amount of earnings for wrestlers was about $2,500 – $3,500 a week, not including big PPVs such as WrestleMania & Survivor Series. He also stated that names such as Hulk Hogan & Andre The Giant were at the higher end, with Randy Savage making main-event earnings “towards the end.”