The month of November brings with it a wide variety of exciting sporting events. In some cases, the World Series wraps up during the first few days of the month. College football seasons get exciting, as National Championship contenders emerge and pretenders to the throne are exposed. The second halves of National Football league campaigns get underway. As Thanksgiving Day approaches, North American professional wrestling fans look forward to the yearly pay-per-view event known as the Survivor Series.
What started out as an annual event that showcased tag-team competition involving up to ten wrestlers has become a standard World Wrestling Entertainment show in that singles matches are, these days, just as common as are the elimination tag-team battles that originally headlined such shows. That is not necessarily a bad thing for WWE fans. Survivor Series has provided those who paid to watch the shows with hours upon hours of entertaining in-ring action, matches that have and will live on long after the closing bell for that contest has sounded.
The Survivor Series will forever be linked with what was the most controversial wrestling moment to hit WWE, a story that made national headlines because of the real life drama surrounding it. What some forget is that the match itself was an incredible watch, and it lives up to expectations nearly two decades after it occurred. This list begins what what would be considered to be a traditional Survivor Series match, a battle that was incredibly one-sided and enjoyable to watch for those who were cheering on the babyfaces.
These are top 10 Survivor Series matches ever.
10. Team DX vs. Team Rated-RKO – Survivor Series 2006
From the moment the Philadelphia audience began chanting CM Punk‘s name with such passion that Triple H had to halt his standard DX ring announcements to acknowledge the crowd, viewers could feel that they were in for some fun. Team DX thoroughly dominated their opponents from an early Shawn Michaels Sweet Chin Music on Mike Knox all the way to Randy Orton being on the receiving end of a match-finishing Pedigree from Triple H, and the good guys finished off their foes for what was the third clean sweep – a 5-0 victory – in Survivor Series history.
9. Team WWF vs. Team Alliance – Survivor Series 2001
This match will forever be remembered for being the necessary conclusion to what was one of the worst-booked storylines to ever occur in WWE. WWE vs. WCW was, in the eyes of journalists and diehard fans, impossible to screw up, and yet Vince McMahon and his writers managed to pull it off in impressive fashion. While the effects of the botched booking are still felt 13 years later, they don’t take away from the fact that this was a fun match. Chris Jericho nearly costing Team WWF after he was eliminated raised eyes that maybe the federation would go for the shock ending, but, as was expected, the WWF and Papa McMahon stood tall when all was said and done.
8. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels vs. John Cena – Survivor Series 2009
The easy booking for this contest would have been to have the DX members double-team Cena until some sort of spat resulted in the two fighting with one another. That did not happen, however, as Michaels hit Triple H with Sweet Chin Music right at the start of the contest. The match was on from there, and the three put together one of the better triple-threat contests that you will see under the WWE format for contests. The Hulk Hogan of his era eventually entered “Super Cena” mode en route to winning the match, but even those who claim themselves to be part of the “Cena Sucks” crowd couldn’t complain with the action that they were provided.
7. Triple H vs. Ric Flair – Survivor Series 2005
The man leading “The Authority” faction in the fall of 2014 took on his idol and pro wrestling royalty in a Last Man Standing match at Survivor Series 2005, and the two did not disappoint fans who attended the show or who paid to watch it on television. Flair took a ton of punishment despite his age and the fact that his best days as an active wrestler were well in the past, and he was turned into a fantastic sympathetic character by continuously getting up to his feet after taking Pedigree finishers. It took a sledgehammer shot from Triple H to finish the job, and The Game had his hand raised after knocking the living legend out with his weapon of choice.
6. Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels – Survivor Series 1992
This will not, of course, be the last time that a match involving these two Hall of Fame wrestlers gets a shout-out in this piece. Hart was, as he would be five years later, the defending WWF Championship heading into this contest. Unlike what would happen in 1997, Hart’s night went to his liking this time around. He and Michaels produced an expected in-ring clinic for over 25 minutes, and the Heartbreak Kid even hit his modified suplex for a near-fall. Hart finished things off when he caught Michaels midair and then applied his Sharpshooter finishing hold for the submission victory.
5. The Rock vs. Mankind – Survivor Series 1998
What was the end of a tournament to crown a new WWF Champion ended up being a rip-off of the events that had occurred in Montreal at the end of the 1997 Survivor Series, but that doesn’t erase that The Rock and Mankind was, as was often the case when the two battled inside of a ring, a brutal encounter. The Rock could not finish off his opponent despite hitting multiple chair shots and his Rock Bottom finisher. Rock would, to the surprise of fans, ultimately lock Mankind into Bret Hart‘s Sharpshooter submission hold, and WWF Chairman Vince McMahon called for the bell to end the match. Rock’s heel turn was complete, The Corporation was formed, and the next chapter of Vince McMahon versus Steve Austin was kicked off.
4. Shawn Michaels vs. Randy Orton – Survivor Series 2007
This WWF Championship match included two interesting stipulations: Michaels was not allowed to utilize his Sweet Chin Music finishing kick without being disqualified, while Orton would forfeit the title to the Heartbreak Kid if he got himself DQ’d. Michaels, unable to deliver his knockout shot, instead went for a variety of submissions that were unsuccessful. Old habits are hard to break, however, and Michaels eventually tuned up the band to strike for his superkick. HBK caught himself at the last second, but that brief hesitation gave Orton just enough time to deliver his RKO finishing maneuver for the victory.
3. Elimination Chamber – Survivor Series 2002
The first ever Elimination Chamber match in WWE history featured Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Rob Van Dam, Booker T, Kane and Chris Jericho battling it out for the World Heavyweight Championship. Michaels, who had returned earlier that year from a long layoff caused by a serious back injury, completed his marvelous comeback by getting his hand raised at the end of this contest after he struck storyline rival and real life best friend Triple H with Sweet Chin Music for the match’s final elimination. Not even an active wrestler at the beginning of the year, Michaels held up the “Big Gold Belt” following the first match of its kind.
2. Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart – Survivor Series 1996
While the New World Order faction was creating buzz and driving ratings for World Championship Wrestling, Hart and Austin were involved in the best man-versus-man feud in North American professional wrestling. Due to the two putting on an all-time classic contest at WrestleMania in the spring of 1997, this is somewhat of the forgotten match in their feud. Their Submission Match at ‘Mania is better, yes, but don’t sleep on this encounter. Everything about it, from the chain wrestling and brawling up through to a clever finish in which Austin cost himself big, makes it worthy of being at No. 2 on any Survivor Series list.
1. Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels – Survivor Series 1997
Ignore the “Montreal Screwjob” finish when reflecting on this match, and instead think about all that occurred leading up to Vince McMahon famously calling for the bell while Michaels had Hart in the Sharpshooter. Word had been leaked that Hart was leaving the company to join World Championship Wrestling, so much so that it had been added to the storyline of the evening. Hart and Michaels, rivals on television and in real life, engaged in a fight that, if you didn’t know better, was real. McMahon, at one point, implored the combatants to stop brawling outside of the ring so that the actual match could start. This was pro wrestling at its finest in that it looked legit and viewers legitimately did not know how the encounter would end.