We tasked our team this week with coming up with their “Favourite Five” Survivor Series Cards and they certainly didn’t disappoint. The following pages showcase the diversity of writing styles that we have at TWM so sit back and relax as the team brings you their Survivor Series Cards.
Survivor Series 1990
Look I’m not suggesting this was one of the best in-ring nights of action in the Survivor Series cannon. Lest we forget, it was also the night that the Gobbledy Gooker made his/its debut (and final appearance) in one of the worst segments you’re ever likely to see. And yet I vividly remember the excitement that the idea of this show put into my young brain when I saw the WWF Magazine cover that had the picture of the “final” winners bout on it and as I read the magazine chronicling the card where the winners of each match were entered into a final battle for survival. It sounded and looked like an awesome concept, even if it’s one that has never been repeated. But hell, I enjoyed it and the sights of The Ultimate Warrior teaming with Legion of Doom and Texas Tornado, the debut of The Undertaker and the ongoing Jake Roberts/Rick Martel storyline had me hooked.
Survivor Series 1992
Although this show only had one Survivor tag team match (and a pretty poor one at that) and a number of daft gimmick bouts, I actually have a sneaking fondness for this show. It has a fast-paced opener between the Headshrinkers and High Energy to kick things off, a super-charged tag team bout between Randy Savage & Mr. Perfect and Ric Flair and Razor Ramon in the middle and ended with a fantastic Bret Hart/Shawn Michaels match over the World Title. And ok, no-one ever wants to see Yokozuna Vs Virgil but as daft as the Nightstick Match pitting The Big Bossman against Nailz and the Coffin match pitting The Undertaker against Kamala were they added excitement to proceedings. The whole show just seemed like something different at the time, even if it was disappointing that the traditional elimination matches were cut adrift.
Survivor Series 1995
There was so much that I enjoyed about this show. The opener pitting The Bodydonnas against The Underdogs effectively highlighted the great under-card wrestlers the WWF had at the time, including two of my personal favourites Skip and Hakushi. This was then followed by the All-Japan Women’s match which gave the likes of Aja Kong and Kyoko Inoue a chance to shine. It led nowhere (and wasn’t a patch on what the women produced on their home territory) but it was a great little match, despite the referee’s best attempts to mess it up. Sure Goldust against Bam Bam Bigelow and the Darkside versus The Royals matches weren’t up to much but the “wildcard” match pitting HBK, Ahmed Johnson, Davey Boy Smith and Sid against Yokozuna, Owen Hart, Razor Ramon and Dean Douglas was a very entertaining affair which made great play of the “mixed” face/heel teams. Things ended on a very high note too with Bret Hart dethroning Diesel in an absorbing match (arguably the best of Nash’s career) including early signs of Attitude with Bret being put through a table and Diesel mouthing obscenities I couldn’t possibly repeat here after his loss. This was just a really well rounded card.
Survivor Series 1996
I will admit to a little bias here as I was in New York on the day of this show and met Sunny in MSG that afternoon whilst undertaking a tour of the famous old building. But this was an outstanding night of WWF action. As one of the few WWF fans at the time who had heard of them, I was delighted to see the debut of Doug Furnas and Phil LaFon and once the dead-weight (hello to you Godwinns) has been ejected from the opener, these two put on a great display opposite Owen Hart & Davey Boy Smith. The Rock, as the laughable Rocky Maivia, made his debut on this night too, with the full backing of the booking squad given his win, and whilst the final of a trio of Survivors matches featured the fake Razor & Diesel and a way too old Jimmy Snuka, it was cool to see Flash “2 Cold Scorpio” Funk unveil some of his trademark aerials in his debut too. What really made the card were three excellent singles matches. The Undertaker and Mankind had a great hard hitting match, Bret Hart returned to the Federation after six months off to have an excellent match with Stone Cold Steve Austin (which whilst not as “dramatic” as their WM XIII encounter, just about shades it as a technical match for me) and in the main event Shawn Michaels carried Sid to his greatest ever bout, despite the New York crowd booing him out of the building. This was one of those rare shows were virtually everything had a point and reason behind it. Great stuff.
Survivor Series 1998
Another show that eschewed the traditional elimination matches, but boy I do love a good tournament. This one was by no means chock full of five-star classics but the storytelling was superb, specifically the Mankind/Rock double turn that no-one saw coming. It’d probably be “obvious” if done today but the show long story of Mick Foley supposedly being the corporate choice for champion and fan-favourite The Rock having everything obstacle thrown in his way only for that to be turned on its head by Mr. McMahon calling for the bell in an echo of the Montreal Screwjob from the year before was a classic WWF storytelling at it’s peak. It made The Rock, it made Mankind and you can’t say fairer than that can you!
Survivor Series 1988
Talk about non-stop, bell to bell action. The scorching hot 10 team elimination match featuring Demolition, Anderson & Blanchard, The Harts, The Bulldogs & The Rockers would be reason enough to include this gem of a show and that’s before we even get to Jake The Snake’s battle to overcome the odds after his team was decimated by Andre The Giant, Rick Rude & Mr Perfect. Capped off by a super-heated main event which sowed the seeds for the Hogan/Savage dispute and also featured superb work from Ted DiBiase, The Big Bossman and Haku and you’ve got yourself a truly memorable show. Not much more to say really. Possibly the best Survivor Series ever?
Survivor Series 1992
The first time the WWF deviated from the tried and tested tag team elimination match format, actually presenting a damn good wrestling show as a result. Bret and Shawn excelled themselves in the top match but the undercard also saw neat payoffs to several long-running feuds. The advertised main event of Savage & Warrior vs Flair & Razor was scrapped after Warrior’s walk out but ultimately saved from ruin thanks to some truly stellar last minute tinkering in the days before the pay per view. Within the duration of one episode of Prime Time Wrestling, The WWF did a masterful swerve job by having Savage convince Flair’s “Executive Consultant” Mr Perfect that he was being kept on the sidelines so that he wouldn’t pose a threat to The Nature Boy. As the episode progressed, tensions between Perfect, Bobby Heenan and Flair grew to the point that Hennig agreed to be Savage’s partner despite not liking him, in order to “prove a point” to Flair, Ramon and indeed Heenan. All five of these guys, but especially Bobby The Brain, deserved immense credit for building up this brilliant, logical storyline within such a criminally short time span. You just don’t see that kind of thing anymore, sadly.
Survivor Series 1995
What a show this was. From The Fink opening the show proclaiming “Ladies and gentlemen… Mr. Perfect” as Curt Hennig returned to take his seat on commentary, through the super-slick Underdogs opener and a welcome Women’s (not Divas!) division match featuring the AJW gals before the awesome wild-card match saw enemies team up and stable-mates square off as opponents. Headlined by a genuine match of the year candidate which saw Bret Hart break new ground in the WWF by crashing through the commentary table for the first time ever en route to unseating Diesel as WWF Champion, this show definitely marked a turning point in WWF history. Gone were the abundance of pointless characters which were ever-present throughout the early 90’s and replaced by a more grungy, back-to-basics show, at least as much as one could expect back then. Indeed, during the last weeks of 1995 and throughout 1996, we’d see the influx of new, fresh names who became the backbone of The Attitude area.
Survivor Series 2002
Definitely an underrated show this. 2002’s pay per view stands out because in a way it revamped the event thanks to an eclectic array of matches each featuring different concepts yet with the underlying theme still one of “survival”. Opening with a 6-man tag team tables match which a put a quirky new spin on the elimination match format, and followed by an elimination 3-way dance for the tag straps, one got the impression that slightly more thought had gone into the arrangement of the event, rather than just presenting us with the same old card of singles matches with a “traditional” survivors bout thrown in for good measure. This show also marked the debut of what would become one of the WWE’s most popular concept matches, The Elimination Chamber. All this combined to give the show more of an appeal for the first time in years and unquestionably gave it an edge over the other more pedestrian pay per views of 2002 when it came to deciding the card of the year.
Survivor Series 2003
After 2002’s quirky mix of match concepts and ideas, in 2003 we were presented with another classic show yet with a more traditional Survivor Series feel. One of more substance than any other edition between 1997-2001. Opening with a cracking 5-on-5 between Angle and Lesnar’s squads and featuring a second traditional survivors match as Stone Cold Steve Austin and Eric Bischoff sent out their respective five-man teams, to battle on their behalf to determine who survived as the sole GM of Raw, before we were presented with ambulance and buried alive matches, as Kane & The Undertaker each battled male members of the McMahon family in these largely forgotten special stipulation matches, yet once again with the emphasis on “survival”.
… and lastly, an honourable mention: Survivor Series 2006
For featuring the best Survivor Series elimination matches of the last ten years, as the fan boy wet-dream team of D-X, CM Punk and The Hardys got a clean sweep over their opposition, with John Cena & The Big Show updating the Hogan/Andre match from 1987’s event by captaining strangely eclectic old-school style teams featuring the likes of Sabu, RVD, Kane, Umaga and Finlay.
5 – Deadly Game (Survivor Series 1998)
I can safely say this one did not make it for the quality of wrestling. Only two matches on the whole card went over 10 minutes from bell-to-bell and one of them was only by 10 seconds. As a rule I’m a wrestling guy. I want to see wrestling and lots of it, the story-lines are secondary too me. Apparently as a child it had no impact on me because I didn’t remember it in the slightest until I was listening to a podcast not too long ago and they were talking about it.
Finding what they said interesting I slapped it in the machine and gave it a watch. By God they had been right. What I saw was a masterpiece of story telling unfold in front of my eyes. They honestly could not have done this tournament any better for that time period. Highly recommend not reading the results and re-watching if you do not recall what happened here. Like I say, you won’t be blown away by the content, but, the pay-per-view length story was just brilliant.
4 – Teams of Five Strive to Survive (Survivor Series 1988)
A card made up of some huge names and some lesser names in term of the WWF scene. Still a solid night of action. I think in all reality I just really love these early cards made up of all Survivor Series matches with often brief moments of match-ups you might not get to see otherwise due to different leveling on the card or varying other reasons. I also tend to remember the earlier cards a lot better than modern ones.
Everyone remembers the one match from this card though. An absolutely fantastic 42 minute contest. Again its’ the twenty-man tag-team Survivor Series match that completely steals the show. It’s got the double turn in it, the Conquistadors pulling out all to stops and turning a few heads in the process. A load of other teams in there too. Arguably the best match to ever take place at this annual event.
3 – The Biggest Event Since Wrestlemania III (Survivor Series 1987)
There was no way this one wasn’t making the list somewhere. It’s the inaugural event. You’ve got a twenty-man tag-team Survivor Series elimination match, with just a whole heap of talent involved in it that goes for nearly forty minutes, pure heaven and often forgotten due to the similar match that took place at the event we just spoke about. Of course I’ve skipped the opening two bouts by jumping to that. They were made up of a mixed bag of talent in a good opener and one of the few Women’s matches in the WWF/E I recall enjoying.
Then last you’ve got the main event used to help the Hogan and Andre feud continue it’s story, yet the thing I remember most from this contest was Bam Bam Bigelow’s epic struggle trying to come back against all the odds to become the sole survivor for the team that had been captained by Hulk Hogan. Without a doubt the big tag-team match was the best of the night, the overall show was just enjoyable though.
2 – The Showstopper Returns (Survivor Series 2002)
I know this isn’t anywhere near the same quality as the first three cards, story wise or really ring wise. It’s on here for one reason and one reason only. The main event. Shawn Michaels had been my hero since the early 1990’s, when he retired in 1998 I was devastated. So, when he came back for one more match at Summerslam of this year and then Triple H took him out, well, damn. Devastation all over again. I popped like a champagne cork when it was announced he’d be in this match.
No part of me believed he was going to win. Every fiber of my being wanted him to win though. When he actually went on to win the match, I was damn near speechless with excitement. At 12 years old I had seen the greatest comeback story I could ever imagine and I was further sold that Shawn Michaels was indeed the Superman I once imagined watching him flying off a ladder at Wrestlemania X. It didn’t matter I knew wrestling was fixed by this point. My excitement and happiness that HBK was back took over and my belief was well and truly suspended, probably one of the last times I can remember ever being that emotionally invested in a match.
1 – It’s Time to Meet Your Maker (Survivor Series 1994)
Okay, I know, now y’all thinking I’ve gone completely mad. Is this the same guy who rambles on about old school wrestling? Like really. Yes, yes it is. What can I say, this is the second Survivor Series I’d have watched as it happened. First you had the Diesel face turn beginnings though where he and Shawn Michaels fall out in the opener. Then you got some seriously old school fun for the kids in the form of midgets, great stuff, I don’t care what anyone says. Midgets equal fun.
We’re not done yet either. Skipping match three for a second, you have the alright fourth match and finally a Casket Match with Chuck Norris as an enforcer. Not a great contest, but it was damn fun as a child. Back to the third match. A real emotional ride with family involvement and Bob Backlund snapping. Just a really enjoyable card that as a child was exactly what I needed to draw me into wrestling further than I already was.
Well, this is a fairly predictable list of Survivor Series ppvs you might say. And I have no problem with that. This is not my favourite of the gimmick ppvs and of the old ‘big four’ is the weakest, in my view. That said, it is home to one of wrestling’s most important angles (if you can call it that) – the Montreal Screwjob – and was the debut ppv for The Undertaker, one of wrestling’s most important performers. So, clearly I don’t know what I’m talking about.
My list is in chronological order. I’ve chosen not to rank this list because it is clear, even to the most casual of wrestling fans, that some of these events were better in terms of quality of wrestling, angles, build and feel than others, but I’m only arguing why I prefer these five, not why they might be ‘the best’ or better than any others.
Survivor Series 1990
This may have been the first WWF VHS that I owned. I remember watching it over and over, particularly the main event. But it wasn’t what I thought wrestling was and it confused me for a while. Men eliminated others in mass 4-on-4 teams was odd and nobody seemed to be defending titles. But being confused is part of life and the more confused I get, the more enlightened I feel.
This Survivor Series saw the on-screen WWF debut of The Undertaker, who went on to become WWF Champion at the next ppv, a year later. He scared the hell out of me then and did for at least another six months – his ability to absorb pain looked so real. Surely he was being hurt by all these moves so even if he was acting, he was still in pain, right? It blew my tiny mind. It was also the debut of the Gobbledy Gooker and his appearance highlights that this ppv was originally a Thanksgiving event that was all about the pomp and ceremony that comes with it. Sgt. Slaughter – who had been using an Iraqi sympathiser heel gimmick – cut a promo where he insulted servicemen stationed in Iraq for Thanksgiving during Operation Desert Shield. Even to English fans who were as young as I was, this was like stabbing the baby Jesus doll in the nativity play in the eyes with pins.
At this point, one of my heroes, Randy Savage, was the ‘Macho King’. A gimmick that I hated. I was going to love him; I just didn’t know it yet. Savage was interviewed by Gene Okerlund, and issued a challenge to the Ultimate Warrior for the WWF Championship. This was the set up for a fantastic feud and match.
I also remember the commentary – Monsoon and Piper were good together but it made me love wrestling even more when I discovered Bobby Heenan the following year.
Survivor Series 1997
I don’t really feel qualified to write about Survivor Series 1997. Nor do I want to add to the millions of column inches that are already in existence with the story of the ppv in my words. It seems utterly facile for me to discuss it and fairly pointless. Sorry.
What I will say, though, is that Bret losing, and his not expecting to, was nuts. Watching it, one assumed that it was a work, just a very good one, at first. Then you had that wonderful feeling that wrestling gives you sometimes when you feel like you may be witnessing something off script, something real. The more Bret stomped around the ring, the more he looked disgusted, the more you realised that he was serious. His spit in Vince’s face looked like a work, his facials looked worked, Jim Neidhart’s kind arm around his waist looks like acting but then Hart writes ‘WCW’ in the air and you realise it’s authentic. So, why leave the cameras running to film it all? It was a huge minefield that I didn’t get but I loved it all the more for being so.
This was the most important moment in WWE history happened at Survivor Series 1997 and that’s all you need to know.
Survivor Series 2001
There’s a lot to love about this ppv. It had a consistent theme – matches had tangible results, they meant something. Vince is tremendous throughout, the card top to bottom is great, JR and Paul Heyman on commentary are a fantastic duo (even though they clearly hate each other) and this is a ppv still within reach of fantastic era for this company.
There are few better than Jim Ross and he and Heyman are such fun to listen to as we’re taken through the show. It is before the days of the three different announce teams representing each ‘brand’ and so Heyman and Ross bicker like siblings – my favourite line from Heyman is when he points out that if WCW were to take control Ross would be out of a job, “wouldn’t this be like the third time you’ve been fired?” Ross just carries on calling the action. But later Ross retorts to a quip about Stacey Keibler with, “you’re a very lonely man, aren’t you?” Its wonderful stuff.
Edge wrestles a good match against Test as does Christian against Al Snow in the opener while there’s a fantastic cage match to unify the tag titles between The Hardy’s and The Dudley’s – “D’Von? Get the tables!”
There’s never been a better collection of WWE Superstars in a Survivor Series main event in history, in my view: The Rock, The Undertaker, Kane, Chris Jericho, The Big Show, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Rob Van Dam, Booker T, Kurt Angle and Shane McMahon. There aren’t many missing from that list. And it isn’t just a case of ‘if we all turn up, this will be good’. The main event delivers in many ways, wrestling included.
It was also a big night for Trish Stratus as she won a Six Pack Challenge to win her very first Women’s Championship and started on the road to being a legitimate wrestling superstar. It was a merciful end to the sometimes embarrassing and confusing WCW-ECW invasion storyline. Just one closing thought (and this makes me shudder): listening to Steph on this show, it’s clear that her normal speaking voice has dropped about an octave. Now, why is that…?
Survivor Series 2002
With not a bad match on the card, a hot New York crowd, the debut of the Elimination Chamber and Michaels’ return, this ppv is tremendous. It is fun from the outset but gets better and more intense as it progresses.
The opener sets the tone. Hardy, Bully and Spike put on a great demonstration of how tables ought to be used for the crowd against 3-Minute Warning and Rico. They kill themselves in some really crazy spots, presumably knowing full-well that they really needed to go some if they were to be remembered on this show.
The top three matches on the card are all very strong. The first sees Angle, the Guerreros, Mysterio, Edge and Benoit all in the ring together. It’s not just a great technical display, they really put on a good show too.
Big Show and Lesnar is a good short bout. I love how, even then, Lesnar made matches seem important and real. He works such a monster style that suits Big Show perfectly but still manages to German suplex and belly-to-belly the giant. When he F5’s him, it looks incredible: this man is ridiculously strong. The Heyman turn is no doubt about to be repeated in the next six months but can be forgiven.
They’re followed by the debut of the chamber which is nothing short of awesome, if, like Shawn’s neat bobbed haircut, completely brutal. RVD and Triple H take way too many bumps, Shawn is awesome and it lives up to all the hype because the components make it so.
Survivor Series 2007
I like this ppv for so many reasons. Just under six months after the Benoit tragedy, the WWE’s luck was not in. The roster dwindled as Bobby Lashley, who Vince was big on, and many others were injured. A shopping list of wrestlers had to miss the month of September for violating the company’s Wellness Policy after their names were uncovered in the media-wide steroid scandal. But, actually many looked the healthiest they had done in a long time: Orton and Ken Kennedy look really skinny around this time and yet they don’t now – just saying. Then in early October when John Cena was injured and had to vacate the WWE Championship after a 12-month title reign, it was time to panic. Or was it?
This ppv centred around the few top stars they had left on the active roster. Triple H and one of the main beneficiaries of this talent drought, Jeff Hardy, were the men to carry the load for traditional elimination bout for the evening and pad out the show’s mid-card. Yet it was the two main-event title bouts that raised this show above mediocrity and into something extraordinary.
Batista and Undertaker were amidst an excellent set of matches in 2007. At Mania, WWE discovered that the man to bring out the best in Batista was Taker and they milked it. Throughout 2007, they had a string of top-draw matches and by this point they were two apiece making this the blow off to settle it. Of course the absent centre was Edge, who made his return from injury (no doubt ahead of schedule) in the Cell dressed as a cameraman. Undertaker’s facials are brilliant when he realises what has happened.
Shawn Michaels, often the saviour of Survivor Series was called upon to save the day. Michaels had been off since May after Randy Orton had storyline injured him. Michaels sold so well in this matches and he had returned in October looking for revenge. The stip where Michaels couldn’t use his superkick was fun and Michaels explored it fully – the slightest wiggle of his left hip and Randy hit the deck or cowered, it’s beautiful.
The Survivor Series PPV has always been known as the multi-team showcase that pits your favourite WWE superstars either against each other or together as a team. TWM has already given you some takes on the ultimate dream teams and now it is time for the top 5 Survivor Series events overall.
Survivor Series 1998
Survivor’s 1998 was built around a one night tournament to crown a new WWE Champion in what was built up as “The Deadly Games” tournament. That night the finals came down to Mick “Mankind” Foley and someone you may have heard of named The Rock. The story leading up to The Rock making his way to the final is that Vince Mcmahon was seemingly doing all he could to prevent this as he didn’t want the brash “People’s Champion” to become WWE Champion. However the end result was the tried and tested wrestling booking method of a swerve – as The Rock held Mankind in the sharpshooter Vince Mcmahon called for the bell just like he did the previous year with Bret Hart only this time in story line fashion to crown The Rock as the new face of the company and this was done in a spectacular heel turn. The heel turn was the best thing for The Rock and his series of match with Mankind over the next few months were some of the most hard hitting bouts to ever be seen in the entire industry and remains one of my personal favourite rivalries to this day.
Survivor Series 2000
The Millennium edition of Survivor Series was special to me due to another personal favourite rivalry that took place on the annual November show. Stone Cold Steve Austin returned from a one year lay off after the effects of his at that time near career-ending neck injury to take on Triple H. Triple H was revealed as the supposed “mastermind” behind the plot to run over Austin with a car at the previous year’s show, the angle of which was designed to write Steve Austin out of storylines for the time being. Given how hot Triple H became during the year 2000 whilst Stone Cold was away it was inevitable the two would meet in the ring and the match became more known as another storyline arch than a bout in and of itself. Triple H whilst inside a car was picked up on a pitchfork by Steve Austin and was dumped from about 30 feet in the air. Given that wrestling has always been known for pushing the boundaries and wacky angles, this was another one that at the time fitted perfectly into the story that was being told.
Survivor Series 2001
Some will scoff at the 2001 edition of Survivor’s being on any “best of” list but I must confess that even though the Invasion storyline overall was a disaster and the elimination match that saw The Rock pin Steve Austin for the WWE (then WWF) to survive was rather rushed, I can’t help but feel a great deal of joy and nostalgia when I watch not just that match back but the whole event. I’ll admit to absolutely loving the pre-match video for the main event and it remains one of my favourites to this day.
Not only that but historically you can point to this event as arguably the birth place of the Hall of Fame career of one Trish Stratus as that is where she won the WWE Women’s title for the first time and went on to improve dramatically in the ring and remains one of WWE’s best Diva’s ever.
Survivor Series 2002
This list may not be in chronological order but I have no problems in saying that Survivor Series 2002 is my favourite of all time and highly under-rated too if you ask me. Featuring a fantastic array of bouts I’m astonished to this day it doesn’t get more praise from fans. The first ever Elimination Chamber was undoubtedly the highlight of the show no doubt but there was also Brock Lesnar vs The Big Show, Jamie Noble vs Billy Kidman, Jeff Hardy teaming with Spike and Bubba Ray Dudley vs 3 Minute Warning as a strong undercard. Sure you can point to the Lesnar-Show match as being rather brief but given Lesnar’s rib injury at the time that was necessary. However when Brock picked The Big Show up for the F-5 for the first time the New York City crowd exploded. That’s not to out-do the incredibly emotional end to the evening that was Shawn Michaels becoming the World Heavyweight Champion for the first time since his infamous back injury. The 2002 edition of Survivor Series was a fantastic entry into WWE’s calendar for 2002 which was one of the best year’s the Stamford based grap-group has ever seen on ppv.
Survivor Series 2003
In the modern era of professional wrestling building for the biggest show of the year hasn’t always been the runaway priority that it often times should be. However the 2003 edition of Survivor’s was a prime example of how you build to the biggest show of the year. By the end of the show you knew (as much as you can know in wrestling circles anyway) at least two of the main matches for Wrestlemania – The Undertaker vs Kane and Brock Lesnar vs Goldberg. How did you know? Simple, WWE planted the seeds for both bouts during a promo between Brock and Goldberg and Kane helping Vince Mcmahon defeat The Undertaker in a not often seen Buried Alive match. For me personally the buried alive bout was what stole the show as the match itself is one not all that often viewed and Vince Mcmahon took a tremendous beating and displayed he is more than willing to take one for the team.