As we’re about the celebrate the 30th anniversary of one of WWE’s ‘Big Four’ PPVs, surfing on the wave of nostalgia is interesting because many, many things have happened during this November PPV. Debuts, legendary matches, betrayals, everything a wrestling event can put on its menu. Some of the VultureHound and SteelChair team chose their favourite moments. Here are their choices for the greatest moments of Survivor Series…
Paige Brearley – Survivor Series 2012 The Debut of The SHIELD
There have been many memorable moments in Survivor Series history, but none more impactful in the past few years than the Shield debut. Three unknowns, three men looking to make an impact and boy did they. The Hounds of Justice interfered with the triple-threat match for the WWE Championship, triple powerbombing Ryback through a table. Taking Ryback out of the equation gave CM Punk the opening he needed to secure the victory and keep his year-long reign as champion going. The Shield made a name for themselves on November 18, 2012 and the WWE hasn’t been the same since. Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, and Roman Reigns took their opportunity and ran with it, building the most successful faction the company has seen this millennium.
Chris Banks – Survivor Series 1998 Deadly Game Tournament
On paper, there’s nothing about this that should work: a convoluted, overbooked 14-man tournament show, featuring messy finishes, byes, count-outs, ludicrously short squash matches, eliminated wrestlers being re-inserted into the competition, a throwback to the Montreal Screwjob and Steve Regal in his ‘real man’ gimmick. Amazingly, everything about the Deadly Game tournament at the 1998 Survivor Series comes together in all the right places to create a moment of beauty from a cacophonous mess that could, and should, have been a stinker. It’s all anchored by the fact that the bulk of the matches are well-worked, succinct and with enough surprises to keep the tournament feeling unpredictable. What makes it so great is that all the major players’ characters – Austin, Mankind, The Rock, Mr. McMahon – seem to be crescendoing into a moment of creative perfection.
McMahon, who is desperate to keep Austin from winning, has thrown everything into his path and cleared the road for his corporate pick, Mankind. Brilliantly, Austin is eliminated at the semi-finals stage by Foley who, as Jim Ross points out, is being used as a corporate stooge. The fly in the ointment for Vince is the ascendency of The Rock – he is ludicrously over with the crowd at this point – flying through the tournament seemingly unstoppable as the new people’s champion. The finish, which calls back to the previous year’s controversial result, could have been a tasteless misstep; but the swerve – The Rock turns out to be Vince’s guy all along – is played so expertly, that it feels like a masterstroke.
Amanda Why – Survivor Series 2002 The First-Ever Elimination Chamber Match
Survivor Series 2002 saw the first-ever Elimination Chamber match in WWE. It was created by Triple H, and introduced by Eric Bischoff for the RAW-branded PPV. The six-man match started with four superstars enclosed in ‘bulletproof plexiglass’ pods, and two in the ring. Every five minutes a pod was opened to allow another superstar to enter. Elimination, and ultimately victory, was to be via pinfall or submission. Chris Jericho, Booker T, Kane, and Shawn Michaels were the superstars selected for the pods. Rob Van Dam and Triple H started the match. Triple H walked into the match as champion. He was injured during the match by a botched Five Star Frog Splash from Rob Van Dam, which caused bruising to his oesophagus. It was a brutal match, Triple H was bleeding before the first pod opened, and two of the ‘bulletproof plexiglass’ pods were smashed. At the end, it was a recently returning Shawn Michaels, who walked out with the gold.
Kev Gill – Survivor Series 1990 The Debut of The Undertaker
The Undertaker was the secret weapon for Ted DiBiase’s team at Survivor Series 1990, accompanied to the ring by Brother Love. We have never seen such a dark character amongst the neon spandex we were so at home within WWE. Seriously, this guy looked like a genuine murderer. Those eyes! That stare! A fully grown, moustache-clad gentleman in the audience can be clearly seen filling his pants with fear cakes. Ding! Ding! Ding! The match begins (let’s not beat around the bush!). ‘Taker decks Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart then slams Jim ‘Anvil’ Neidhart, and then old Koko B. Ware takes the first ever Tombstone Piledriver. I felt sorry for Koko, he put all that effort into matching his ring gear with the Hart Foundations’ bright pink attire. Later on, the Phenom is back in the squared circle and Dusty Rhodes receives a rigid beatdown and Bret decides to have a go, quickly getting choked in the corner by the Undertaker; remember that murderous stare I mentioned earlier? Yeah, that! You can’t tame a dead man, which is why (despite his dominance), Taker had his evil, sunken, eyes set on the American Dream, continuing his earlier battering outside the ring only to get himself counted out! It doesn’t matter, Ted’s team won in the end. This was the debut of man who still stands strong this very day; a man who has been buried alive, performed human sacrifices and laid claim to many souls along the way!
Steph Franchomme – Survivor Series 2014 Sting’s Surprise Debut
The Icon waited a long time before coming to the WWE, to the point where people were starting to believe he may never show up. He started with public appearances for the company but the question was when would he make his debut? Team Cena was fighting Team Authority in the main event of the 2014 edition and The Authority would be disbanded if Team Cena won. Big Show turned his back on Cena, leaving Ziggler on his own in front of Kane, Rollins and Harper. After Ziggler eliminated Kane and Harper, Triple H decided to get involved and knock out the referees until the Authority’s friend Scoot Armstrong came. But as Armstrong was about to count Ziggler out, Sting’s music hit. He slowly made his way to the ring, letting the crowd think he would be on Authority’s side. He stared at Triple H, hit the Scorpion Death Lock and gave the win to Ziggler. So unexpected and unbelievable was the moment that is it has become one of the greatest WWE moments of all time.
David Bedwell – Survivor Series 2016 Goldberg vs. Lesnar
If you had told me that Bill Goldberg returning and feuding with Brock Lesnar would be one of the highlights of 2016 then I would have laughed at you. Goldberg’s uninspired WWE run previously left a sour taste in my mouth after following him for years in WCW and being in awe of his star power. Once he finally made it to McMahon Land he felt like a shadow of his former self, having them concentrate on making him a little more human when previously he was a God. That’s not what we wanted. We wanted spears and jackhammers and no questions asked. Thankfully that’s what we got at Survivor Series 2016 in the main event. An incredible build-up led to an unforgettable squash match with Goldberg dominating. Bill would go on to win the Universal Title at FastLane and get the opportunity at one last match vs Lesnar at Wrestlemania 33. A true dream return.
Paige Brearley – Survivor Series 1996 The Rock’s Debut
Every year Survivor Series brings us moments we can look back on to say that’s where it all started; the debut of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is one of those moments. 1996, Madison Square Garden you couldn’t choose a better venue, could you? The Rock has become known as one of the greatest WWE superstars in history, but he began his career as Rocky Maivia. Rocky was on a Survivor Series team with Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts, Marc Mero, and the Stalker against the team of Hunter Hearst Helmsley, Goldust, and Crush; legends all around. The Rock was the rookie of the team, and ended up as the last member of his side in the fight; but has that ever stopped him before? As the last man standing, he defeated two veterans in demanding fashion; you can’t write a debut at MSG better. The Rock started his WWE career out with a bang and has been captivating fans ever since.
Kev Gill – Survivor Series 1990 The Gobbledy Gooker
A nice, light-hearted Survivor Series ‘Easter Egg’ here. No, really, there was a giant egg at the 1990 Survivor Series and ‘Mean’ Gene Okerlund was there to document the hatching. What on earth was about to hatch? Yep; poor old Hector Guererro concealed within a dollar store/Poundland quality turkey outfit. The crowd were much more easily pleased back then, but even they were wetting their pants, laughing. We were treated to a jolly old shindig in the ring between the Gobbledy Gooker and ‘Mean’ Gene; a playful dance which involved ‘Mean’ Gene tripping on the bottom rope during a silly criss-cross spot.
Steph Franchomme – Survivor Series 1997 The Montreal Screwjob
Everybody knows the story, one of the most notorious in wrestling history. In 1997, Bret Hart was leaving WWF to go to WCW and wanted to leave with the championship. But Vince McMahon was afraid to see him leave with the belt, the same way Madusa did a few years before. So Shawn Michaels applied the Sharpshooter, Vince called for the bell to ring and Earl Hebner ended the match. The Molson Centre was in shock; the whole wrestling world was in shock. For those who watched the documentary ‘Wrestling with Shadows’, Hart had some creative control on his last match and decided to leave as the champ, but give back the belt the next day. It took years to finally know the truth, hear both Michaels, Hebner, Triple H and McMahon acknowledge they did what they did. And it also took Hart years to come back to WWE and bury an hatchet that was so deeply hammered into his back.
All pics and videos courtesy of WWE.