Top Ten Survivor Series Matches
WWE's Thanksgiving tradition of their annual Survivor Series event is the second longest marquee [...]
WWE's Thanksgiving tradition of their annual Survivor Series event is the second longest marquee pay-per-view right below WrestleMania. This coming Sunday, it'll be the 30th event and its come a long way but has kept the initial concept of the Survivor Series matchups intact. The great fall classic has given us some of professional wrestling's greatest moments and triumphs as well as startling shake-ups and grand debuts.
From its first main event that continued the storyline between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant from WrestleMania III to this Sunday's fantasy warfare bout of Brock Lesnar and Goldberg, there has been more than a handful of memorable matches that have defined the sport of professional wrestling, for better or worse, and have given rise to stars and made legends out of already established players.
Here are our top ten best matches in Survivor Series history. In it, you'll find not just classic Survivor Series team matches, but classic championship rivalries that brought worldwide attention to the WWE and its superstars that set the bar for what the event can bring.
Team Angle vs Team Lesnar
In the apex of their feud, Smackdown's biggest stars Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar went five-on-five and the process of elimination was, in retrospect, unique. See, the two biggest guys in this fight, Angle and Lesnar, were two of the first out of it. At the time, Smackdown General Manager Paul Heyman constructed a battalion of behemoths that consisted of WWE Champion Brock Lesnar, the recently redubbed A-Train, Big Show, and newcomers Nathan Jones and Matt Morgan.
The thing about Lesnar's team was that it was just billed as a team of monsters. Even as Matt Morgan made his debut in the weeks leading to Survivor Series, all Tazz could say about the guy was that he was "huge" and tried to get him over on his size alone. Needless to say, it's probably why we're still not talking about Matt Morgan over ten years later.
Cena and Benoit were the last two men standing, giving their team the victory after Benoit made Lesnar tap. This match was interesting for a few reasons, but mainly it was Cena's official face turn and his grooming to be a main event player and the start of the megapush of Benoit for 2004.prevnext
Rock vs Mankind For The WWE Championship
In the first time the WWE Championship would be decided by a tournament in a decade, the 1998 Survivor Series presented fans with the Deadly Games tournament. After then-WWE Champion Stone Cold Steve Austin was pinned by both Kane and the Undertaker in a triple threat and the subsequent match between the latter ended in a no-contest, the championship was declared vacant and a 16-man tournament was set up.
Ah, wrestling. Overcomplicating things for the sake of dramatics.
In the final match, we saw Mick Foley under his Mankind persona face off against the Rock, who was riding the wave of a killer face turn and getting the crowd behind him so making him WWE Champion was only a matter of time.
What fans didn't expect is how they went about that transition. Rock and Mankind went at it and not in the grapple and submission sort of spectacle. In what would be the precursor to their Royal Rumble rematch, the two combatants tore eachother apart using parts of the ring set up but the finale was the ultimate swerve to fans.
At the end, it seemed that Mankind was going to finally become WWE Champion, but Rock put Foley into the Sharpshooter submission and with Vince McMahon ringside, he called for the bell. An all too familiar experience from the previous Survivor Series (which we'll get into later). The crowd went insane.
The Rock's heel turn worked as a cornerstone of the Corporation, but following WrestleMania XV he found himself the odd man out as Triple H was gaining steam asprevnext
Team Orton vs Team Helmsley
2004 was an interesting transition period for WWE. Brock Lesnar, who the company had bet their future on, left in the spring. John Cena was being molded into a megastar, Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero were finally crowned World Champions, and Randy Orton turned face after Triple H and Evolution turned on their former teammate. In addition to that, Edge had returned from a broken neck surgery and was on his way to entering the world champion circle himself.
So yeah, interesting year.
On Triple H's team, he'd assemble Edge, Batista, and...Gene Snitsky. On Orton's side, there would be Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, and...Maven. So yeah, it sort of balanced itself out. It would be Orton that would continue his Sole Survivor streak but leading his team to victory, but this wouldn't be the match that made him the super face that the top brass in the WWE was hoping for.
It did, however, put the idea of Batista as world champion in some people's minds and within two months would win the Royal Rumble on the road to battle Triple H for his World Heavyweight Championship.
Another highlight was definitely seeing Tough Enough winner Maven bust Snitsky open and ole Gene retaliating with a chair shot that slammed the former Hardcore Champion into next year.prevnext
Diesel vs Bret Hart For WWE Championship
It was a clashing of styles with these two future Hall of Famers at the 1995 Survivor Series. Diesel had won the championship in Janurary from Bob Backlund at a House Show in November of the previous year, and held on to it for 358 days, the longest reign of the 90's.
Hart had established himself as the fan favorite for the past three years and guys like Diesel were leading the WWE's New Generation and both men had to prove something. 1995 was one of the worst years business-wise for the company and the two men gave it their all in this no disqualification match to prove why they both belong in the champion circuit. Both men had been considered huge faces by fans and officials, but the last few minutes changed all that.
Hart managed to get a surprising roll-up victory on the seven-footer reclaiming the championship for the third time, but it was Diesel's reaction that took the audience by even more surprise.
After Hart got the pinfall, Diesel went ballistic on the champion powerbombing him a few times and taking his frustrations out on any and all officials that stood in his way trying to stop the bomb drops. It would be Diesel's only WWE Championship reign and he would leave for rival WCW within a matter of months.prevnext
Team DX vs Team Rated-RKO
We've already named this team as one of our best Survivor Series teams of all time, but you have to really watch this match to see how devastating this collective force really was.
At the 2006 Survivor Series, the collective power of the reformed Triple H and Shawn Michaels D-Generation X could not be stopped by Randy Orton, Edge, and their mid-card entourage consisting of Mike Knox, Johnny Nitro, and Gregory Helms.
Jeff Hardy, hot off the heels of his three-year absence from the company made himself known once again and by teaming with his brother Matt, the reunited Hardyz, no longer boys, and CM Punk all stood tall at the end of the match with no eliminations.
It was the third time in WWE history it happened while it consisted of four already well-established stars, it was CM Punk that stole the show throughout the match getting an explosive reaction from the Philly crowd and helped set the tone for his career in the year to follow.
The match highlight for sure was HBK straight up blasting Knox in the face with some Sweet Chin Music to get the first pinfall, but asking Triple H "who was this?" right afterwards.prevnext
Shawn Michaels vs Randy Orton
There's a lot to be said about both of these men's careers at Survivor Series. Orton was the Sole Survivor on his team three years in a row and has been come to known in some circles as Mr. Survivor Series. Michaels has had his share of moments, some more infamous than other, at the fall classic but it's difficult to shrug off his performances at the marquee event. Case in point was this match where he set his sights on Orton's WWE Championship.
Orton had been put on a pedestal as the future of the company and with Michaels being the former cornerstone from the previous decade set the stage for of the best matches out of both of their careers.
To set the stage, Michaels was forbidden in using his trademark Sweet Chin Music against Orton, but HBK and Orton told the story in the ring and even though his best years were behind him, he still had a few more miles to go before his final lap. As the match closed nearer and nearer to the end, you can see Michaels' frustration in him wanting to fire his foot into Orton's smug face several times, but instead, he brought out some old tricks he hasn't used in about a decade.
There was a pause where Michaels heavily considered it, but in that moment the Viper was able to strike an RKO and retained his WWE Championship, but that gave a very disappointed HBK finally the chance to nail the Legend Killer with some Sweet Chin Music to end the night.prevnext
The Montreal Screwjob
There have been more than a dozen WWE specials about this incident, easily thousands of articles, and endless talk about the ins and outs of what transpired at the 1997 Survivor Series so much that it's known by another name: The Montreal Screwjob.
We know the story by heart now: Bret Hart was WWE Champion and was set to jettison to a more lucrative WCW contract. He was slated to keep the championship in his home country, but there was a change in plans that was more of a hit job on the Hitman.
Despite the black cloud that circled both of these men's careers for years to come, the match itself is one of their greatest and the final bow in the Hart/Michaels rivalry. Micheals was nearing his first stint with the company and would go through his first retirement the following March, but the story this match told had fans excited going in and left them devastated going out.
This is a true instance of life imitating art. One could only speculate what would have happened if Bret was allowed to leave under the original circumstances and started his career fresh in WCW. Instead, we have this dark mark in professional wrestling, and one of its most biggest moments that fans lived out in real time.
More than a decade later, Hart and Michaels made amends on Monday Night Raw in 2010.prevnext
Team WWF vs Team Alliance
No championships were on the line, instead, the survival of the WWE was absolutely at stake.
At the beginning of the year, WWE had purchased WCW, followed by ECW in the summer and they kept some of their former rival promotions' top prospects and superstars. While the Invasion angle puttered about and booked the Alliance stars as heels, which dampened a lot of potential to what could have been the money-maker to end all money-makers, but fell short in the eight-month buildup.
Shane and Stephanie McMahon pitted the WWE Champion Stone Cold Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, Rob Van Dam, Booker T, and Shane himself against Team WWE's Rock, Big Show, Chris Jericho, Kane, and Undertaker.
When the smoke cleared, it was Austin and Rock as the last men standing to represent their brand and team. The match lasted almost an hour and though it does not have any stand out athletics, the drama that was infused with these superstars and this match was absolute dynamite.
The two biggest megastars of the Attitude Era faced off as they did previously at two WrestleManias, but it was Kurt Angle being an Alliance turncoat and one Rock Bottom to Austin that gave Rock's first victory over Austin as well as the maintaining of the legacy of the WWE to keep going one more day.prevnext
Team Austin vs Team Bischoff
We've already seen Survivor Series 2003 earlier in the countdown, but it's also good to note that the Raw Survivor Series event is also equally impressive.
The then-Raw General Manager Stone Cold Steve Austin was coming back from a self-imposed exile from the company, but ever still popular with the WWE Universe. He assembled a team of Shawn Michaels, the Dudleyz, Booker T, and Intercontinental Champion Rob Van Dam. On the other side was Mark Henry, Christian, Chris Jericho, Scott Steiner, and Randy Orton.
Steiner, RVD, Booker, and Henry were eliminated early on, soon with Christian finishing off the Dudleyz, leaving an extremely bloody Shawn Michaels to fend off at hotter-than-hell Orton, but with Austin distracted and the ref knocked out, a quick run-in by Orton's Evolution partner Batista, HBK was left flatlined.
Orton secured the pin, beginning his streak at Survivor Series, but more importantly Eric Bischoff was in control of Monday Night Raw once again.
The drama behind Michaels being a one-man army was enough to elevate this match to so much more than it ever could have been. The stipulation alone was alright, but we've seen countless matches for control over the years, but Michaels' crimson mask was absolutely insane and you're fearful for him the entire time.prevnext
Strike Force, Young Stallions, Killer Bees, British Bulldogs, and the Fabulous Rougeau Brothers vs The Hart Foundation, Demolition, The Islanders, The New Dream Team, and The Bolsheviks
Sweet Moses that's a lot of people!
Okay, so the original twenty-man elimination contest featured WWE talents at their most innovative. Just look at the talent involved with this matchup: Bret Hart, Dynamite Kid, Davey Boy Smith, Tito Santana, Demolition, Haku...it just doesn't end and there's a lot that went on here. Haku nearly decapitating Dynamite with the savate kick, or Paul Roma saving Jim Powers with a top rope sunset flip on Valentine to eliminate him. This match has literally everything: crisp finishing sequences, top-notch wrestling, good
Sometime during the match Haku nearly takes Dynamite's head off with the savage kick. The hottest tag team at the time the Killer Bees looked tremendous, but it just kept going and going. For nearly forty minutes, the assembled teams gave the Richfield audience something that will be hard to repeat with top-notch performances all around.
It had a solid, crisp finish filled with superb wrestling-chain sequences and surprising swerves that left the fans guessing who would be eliminated next. This helped push the tag team division to its finest era, delivering the pure concept of the Survivor Series match and executing pure wrestling magic.prev