Survivor Series is one of WWE’s most long-lasting PPVs, and it’s been host to a plethora of awe-inspiring moments over the years.
As the WWE Universe prepares itself for Survivor Series 2014 on November 23rd, there’s no better time to take a look back through the archives at the Survivor Series of old, in order to recount our favorite memories from the past.
Here are the top 10 greatest WWE Survivor Series moments in history:
10. Team Raw vs. Team SmackDown
Back before the shows were reunited, the first ever RAW vs. SmackDown brand warfare match took place at Survivor Series 2005, bringing an end to an intense rivalry between the opposing teams.
There was no shortage of talent in this match.
With Team Raw boasting Shawn Michaels, Kane, Big Show, Carlito and Chris Masters and Team SmackDown enlisting Batista, JBL, Rey Mysterio, Bobby Lashley and Randy Orton, there was no shortage of talent in this match and it was an excellent conclusion to a lengthy feud between the two brands.
The match itself was filled with the excitement and unpredictability that should feature in a Survivor Series elimination match, with Shawn Michaels eventually left in a 3-on-1 situation. After catching Mysterio mid-air with a perfect Sweet Chin Music before quickly tuning up the band once again for JBL, Michaels was left to go toe-to-toe with Randy Orton. Following a distraction from JBL, Michaels was hit with an RKO and Orton led his team to victory.
However, his celebration was short-lived as The Undertaker made his return, taking on a barrage of Superstars and signalling the beginning of a feud with the Viper.
9. Bret Hart vs. Stone Cold
Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart ranks as one of the most memorable and greatest rivalries in WWE history, and you only need watch their incredible match-up at Survivor Series 1996 to find out why.
Austin was consistently getting more and more fan support for his anti-heroic ways.
Both men brought their A-game in this match, with Austin consistently getting more and more fan support for his anti-heroic ways and Hart gearing up to pass the torch to the Rattlesnake.
Though Austin came out of the match as the loser, the Hitman could only finish him off with a surprise roll-up and as such Stone Cold came out looking incredibly strong. Simply put, this is one of the greatest matches in Survivor Series history.
8. The Rock Debuts
While his haircut and in-ring attire left a lot to be desired, The Rock’s debut at Survivor Series 1996 is still an important moment in wrestling history, marking the first time fans would see “Rocky Maivia” in action.
We can imagine that [The Rock would] cringe if he watched his debut now.
Taking part in an elimination tag match in traditional Survivor Series style, the man who would soon be known as The Rock pinned both Goldust and Crush to secure his team the victory. Following the PPV the fan reaction to Rocky would go on something of a rollercoaster ride, with them filling arenas with a chorus of “Die Rocky Die” (despite him being a babyface) before he made his transition to the cocky, charismatic The Rock, becoming one of the most well-known names in WWE history.
We can imagine that he’d cringe if he watched his debut now, but despite him looking like Rookie of the Year in 1996, this was still a huge milestone in the young third-generation wrestler’s career, and an historic moment for the wrestling business in general.
7. The Undertaker Defeats Hulk Hogan
One year following his debut at the PPV, The Undertaker returned to Survivor Series in 1991 and managed the unthinkable: he defeated the all-powerful Hulk Hogan for the WWF Championship.
Survivor Series is the PPV that contributed the most to The Undertaker’s rising career.
While his victory was awarded to him with more than a little help from Ric Flair, his first WWF title reign would propel the Phenom to a career that would span multiple years and see him win many, many titles. At the time no one would have believed you had you have said that The Undertaker would prove to have a lengthier career than Hogan, but after the dominating rookie successfully defeated the old guard he would never look back.
WrestleMania is the PPV that The Undertaker is most closely associated with, as his recently conquered winning streak made his appearance the highlight of each and every year, though Survivor Series is the PPV that contributed the most to his rising career.
6. The Rock’s Heel Turn
Considering he’s known as “The People’s Champ,” The Rock’s first WWF title win was actually secured due to him turning heel, joining the villainous Corporation headed by Vince McMahon and turning into “The Corporate Champ.”
Fighting his way to the final of the first Deadly Games tournament during the 1998 Survivor Series, which was held in order to name the owner of the then-vacant WWF Championship, The Rock came up against Vince McMahon’s “associate” Mankind. After a heated battle, The Rock applied a Sharpshooter to Mankind before McMahon, replicating the events of the Montreal Screwjob, called for the referee to ring the bell and award Rock the title, despite Mankind not having submitted to the hold.
Vince and Shane McMahon joined The Rock for an in-ring celebration, where it was revealed that they had been in cahoots all along. This set up The Rock for a huge main event match against Stone Cold Steve Austin at WrestleMania XV, and also led to Mankind adopting the role of the ultimate underdog, with him eventually going on to steal away the WWF Championship from The Rock in one of the most memorable RAW moments of all time.
5. Austin is Hit by a Car
The then-WWF turned full soap opera back in 1999 when fans were left to solve a “whodunnit?” mystery, as the PPV’s planned triple-threat match between Steve Austin, The Rock and Triple H was altered on the very same day when Austin was mowed down by a car prior to the main event.
In reality, Stone Cold was taking some time off due to a neck injury, but in kayfabe speculation was rife as to who was behind the incident. Vince McMahon, a suspect himself, headed up an investigation into the matter in which fingers were pointed at Triple H – who Austin was chasing through the arena before he was hit by the car – with The Game denying the allegations.
Austin’s replacement Big Show would go on to win the triple-threat match due to interference from Mr. McMahon, though that wasn’t the main talking point that stemmed from the evening; fans were still guessing who was behind the wheel.
While the conclusion of this storyline was disappointing – it was revealed that Rikishi of all people was to blame, though Triple H was the mastermind behind the attack – at the time it was the subject of fervent speculation. It also led to one of The Rock’s greatest ever lines, as upon discovering that Rikishi was behind the assault on Austin, he branded the rotund wrestler a “thong-wearing fatty.”
4. The First Elimination Chamber Match
While the Hell in a Cell is widely regarded as the most brutal match type in the WWE, the Elimination Chamber looked like it could adopt that mantle following its debut at the 2002 Survivor Series.
With its caged walls and six “bullet-proof” pods (though those pods have now shattered more times than we can remember), the Elimination Chamber initially pitted Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Rob Van Dam, Chris Jericho, Booker T and Kane against each other for the World Heavyweight Championship.
It’s difficult to top the first time we were introduced to the imposing structure.
What followed was a brutal, incredibly exciting match-up that saw Shawn Michaels lift the title after finally pinning Triple H, with confetti filling Madison Square Garden as the “Heartbreak Kid” celebrated in the ring.
The Elimination Chamber has since become the name of an annual PPV which revolves around a main event that takes place within the cage, and while there have been many more thrilling matched held inside its confines, it’s difficult to top the first time we were introduced to the imposing structure.
3. The Alliance Disbands
The Invasion storyline was very hit and miss. On one hand, it was an historic angle for the pro wrestling business as it saw the WWF, WCW and ECW talent collide for the very first time, with an influx of stars from all three brands appearing under the same roof and battling it out. On the other hand, the WWF failed to get many high-profile names to jump on board, with the likes of Sting and Goldberg choosing to opt out of the storyline.
The angle came to an end at the Survivor Series 2001 in the form of a traditional elimination Survivor Series match, with Team WWF going toe-to-toe with Team Alliance in a “Winner Take All” match.
[The Invasion] storyline brought in a lot of new talent to the WWE, and was one of the most talked about angles in pro wrestling history.
With Team WWF consisting of The Rock, Chris Jericho, Undertaker, Kane and Big Show and Team Alliance featuring the likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, RVD, Booker T and Shane McMahon (there had been a few defectors along the way), everything was in place for the finale of a storyline that had lasted for many months.
In the end Team WWF came out victorious, after Kurt Angle defected back to the WWF and helped The Rock defeat the Alliance’s leader, Stone Cold. On the episode of RAW following the PPV the WCW title would be renamed the World Heavyweight title, Ric Flair would return to the WWE for the first time in just under a decade (announcing himself as co-owner of the company in the process) and Steve Austin would turn face.
While the Invasion storyline was certainly a rocky road for the WWE, it brought in a lot of new talent to the company and was inarguably one of the most talked about angles in pro wrestling history.
2. The Undertaker Debuts
Survivor Series 1990 marked the official debut of one of the most celebrated WWE Superstars ever, as The Undertaker made his way to the ring for the very first time.
Though Undertaker had previously appeared in a WWE ring as ‘Kane the Undertaker’ in a taping of WWF Superstars, the company recognizes Survivor Series 1990 as the beginning of the Phenom’s illustrious career, with him being the mystery partner of “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar team.
The Phenom would go on to forge one of the most successful careers in the business.
After entering the ring shrouded in darkness, The Undertaker proceeded to eliminate Koko B. Ware in under one minute before eliminating Dusty Rhodes. However, his debut will still go down in the history books as a loss, as he was eventually counted out whilst brawling outside of the ring. However, this doesn’t diminish the impact of the first time we laid eyes on the Phenom, who would go onto forge one of the most successful and lengthy careers in the business.
1. The Montreal Screwjob
The events that took place during the 1997 Survivor Series changed the course of history for the WWE, sending an embittered Bret Hart on his way to the WCW, tarnishing Shawn Michaels’ reputation with Canadian fans and, above all else, marking Vince McMahon’s transition into the villainous, ruthless Mr. McMahon character who would prove to be the main antagonist of the company’s ‘Attitude Era.’
The main event of Survivor Series 1997 saw Shawn Michaels go one-on-one with Bret “The Hitman” Hart for the then-WWF Championship, and many (including the man himself) expected Bret Hart to walk out of the match victorious, as he was all set to join the WCW and wanted the PPV to be his successful swansong with the company he helped popularize. However, that was not to be the case.
Vince McMahon was wary of how his company would look if its champion defected to WCW and so, unbeknownst to Bret, put a plan in place to prevent that from happening. Colluding with Shawn Michaels and referee Earl Hebner, McMahon decided to effectively “screw” Bret out of his planned title win, with the aftermath of this plan going down in pro wrestling legend.
During a hard-fought battle, Shawn Michaels locked in a Sharpshooter on Bret, the Hitman’s signature move. As soon as the Sharpshooter was applied, McMahon signaled for Hebner to call an end to the match and announce that Michaels was the winner, despite Bret having not tapped out. Michaels slithered out of the ring (he would say to Bret that he had nothing to do with the decision in the locker room afterwards, though this was later proven to be a lie), while an astonished Bret spat in the face of McMahon, who was standing at ringside, before air-writing the letters “WCW.”
While fans are torn on whether or not it was a justifiable decision for Vince McMahon to make, there’s no denying the huge impact this event had on the future of the business. At the time there were those who were calling for McMahon’s head, but in retrospect it’s arguable that, in the words of Triple H, the Montreal Screwjob really was “best for business.”
All Photos Courtesy of WWE