There was once a time when World Wrestling Entertainment, formerly the World Wrestling Federation, was responsible for a “Big Four” lineup of pay-per-view events: The Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, Summerslam and the Survivor Series. While WWE now holds monthly pay-per-view cards or “Special Events” for those of you who fork over $9.99 to have access to WWE Network, the Survivor Series remains, on paper, one of the bigger dates on the organization’s yearly calendar of shows.
The original concept of the Survivor Series was for elimination tag-team matches to be featured on or around the American Thanksgiving Day holiday. Those types of matches still occur during the annual pay-per-view, but they are not, in the modern WWE, always the focal point of the shows. It is no longer uncommon for a one-on-one match with the WWE Championship on the line to be the headline contest of a Survivor Series card that is filled with a variety of singles and tag-team showdowns.
The Survivor Series has, over the years, been home to some of the more memorable moments of that WWE year and also in the history of the organization. One of the most poorly booked storylines to ever grace WWE was put out of its misery at a Survivor Series. What is, to this day, the biggest controversy to ever hit North American professional wrestling took place at a Survivor Series, and it is a moment that will be discussed so long as pro wrestling exists on the continent.
Here are the top 10 Survivor Series moments in WWE history.
10. End of “The Alliance”
2001 was supposed to be a dream year for North American pro wrestling. What was WWF at the time legitimately purchased competitors World Championship Wrestling, and members of the WCW roster were merged into the WWF. An easy invasion story to tell involving WCW and eventually Extreme Championship Wrestling athletes “invading” WWF was a bumbling failure from day 1 due to horrendous writing and poor booking. That feud was thankfully put to bed at the 2001 Survivor Series when Team WWF defeated Team Alliance, ending a stretch of time during which the WWF essentially burned money that it should have made after acquiring WCW and ECW.
9. Undertaker Debuts
The television debut of The Undertaker at the 1990 Survivor Series is not, on its own, all that memorable in 2014. It is what ‘Taker achieved in the subsequent 24 years that makes his first TV match one of the top Survivor Series moments to ever occur. Undertaker went on to have tremendous success with WWF/WWE, eventually becoming a WrestleMania mainstay to the point that his match was the uncrowned main event of the company’s biggest show every year. ‘Taker is pro wrestling royalty, a legend of the industry who started his run with the company at a Survivor Series show.
8. Bob Backlund Beats Bret Hart
Brother Bret Hart and Owen Hart were in the midst of a heated feud when Hart defended the WWF Championship against challenger Bob Backlund in a submission match. The older Hart had Davey Boy Smith in his corner, while Owen stood as Backlund’s corner man. Only one of the corner men throwing a towel into the ring could stop the match. Smith was knocked unconscious after suffering an unfortunate fall while chasing Owen outside of the ring, an event that led to Bret being distracted long enough for Backlund to apply his crossface chickenwing finishing hold. Owen, faking concern for his older brother, pleaded with his parents, seated at ringside, to stop the match. The ploy worked, as Helen Hart tossed Bret’s towel into the ring to stop the match and award the title to Backlund.
7. Undertaker Buries Yokozuna
Undertaker and Survivor Series have, as you’ll see, been tied with one another since the character made his TV debut. In a rematch from the Royal Rumble that occurred in January 1994, ‘Taker and Yokozuna met at the ’94 Survivor Series for a second casket match. Chuck Norris – yes, that Chuck Norris – served as a special outside referee to prevent the type of outside interference that helped Yokozuna defeat Undertaker at the Royal Rumble. Norris did his job well, famously planting Jeff Jarrett with a superkick, and Undertaker sealed Yokozuna up in the oversized casket to avenge the earlier defeat.
6. Undertaker Defeats Hulkamania
The wrestling world was changing in the fall of 1991. Hulk Hogan, one of the most beloved characters in the history of his business during the 1980s, was becoming a stale act in the eyes of some, while The Undertaker was on a roll due to classic positive booking of a monster heel. The two met with the WWF Championship on the line at Survivor Series ’91, with Undertaker being a surprise fan favorite among those in attendance. Undertaker would get an assist from Ric Flair, who slipped him a chair on which he planted Hogan with a tombstone that earned The Deadman the title. Wrestling fans would have to wait years for Hogan to truly get his revenge on Flair, and it occurred in WCW and not WWF.
5. The Rock Debuts
Before Dwayne Johnson was “The Rock,” he portrayed a smiling babyface known as Rocky Maivia who made his television debut at the 1996 Survivor Series. That character could not be more different from who became “The most electrifying man in sports entertainment.” The Rock would go through several heel-turns and babyface runs over the years, evolving into pro wrestling’s most popular character and grabbing the eyes of some in Hollywood. Johnson is now an international superstar for his numerous movie rolls, but none of his film successes would have occurred had he not broken into WWF as Rocky Maivia.
4. Rock Turns on the Fans
The Rock was at it again in 1998, but this time in a much different role. Rock was one of 14 wrestlers thrown into a tournament for the WWF title, beginning the night as the biggest star in the company and a fan-favorite. Mankind and The Rock made it all the way through to the final match, with Mankind believing that WWF Chairman Vince McMahon was on his side. That was not the case, however, as McMahon turned on Mankind to help The Rock win the title to the shock of the viewing audience. The Rock and McMahon would go on to feature in heel group The Corporation, with The Rock playing the role of the “Corporate Champion.”
3. Elimination Chamber Debuts
The 2002 Survivor Series was the first time that fans got a look at the Elimination Chamber concept. A combination of Hell In A Cell and War Games, the Elimination Chamber would eventually land a yearly pay-per-view of its own that would occur one month before WrestleMania. In the first battle of its kind that included a cell and wrestlers waiting in pods until their time to enter the ring occurred, Shawn Michaels defeated storyline rival and real life best friend Triple H for the World Heavyweight Championship. Just as remembered as Michaels winning that title are the hideous brown tights that he sported during the contest.
Never again, Shawn.
2. Hart vs. Austin
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin was at the start of what would become a historic run when he and the returning beloved babyface Bret Hart met at Survivor Series 1996. As one would expect considering the combatants involved, Austin and Hart put on a wrestling clinic for over 25 minutes before Hart had his hand raised in victory. The two would continue feuding up through the winter and spring months, and they would meet at WrestleMania the next year for a five-star classic that some wrestling journalists view as one of the greatest overall matches in WWF/WWE history. Austin would, after that encounter, go on to be a babyface and ultimately the biggest draw in North American pro wrestling, while Hart left the company in 1997 after the most controversial finish of a wrestling pay-per-view occurred.
1. Montreal Screwjob
Unless you somehow accidentally made it to this point of the piece, you already know what went down at the 1997 Survivor Series. Bret Hart defended the WWF Championship in his native land of Canada (Montreal, Quebec, Canada to be exact) against real life bitter rival Shawn Michaels, and it was to be Hart’s final match with the company before he headed to WCW. Hart believed he had a deal with WWF Chairman Vince McMahon that would allow him to forfeit the title on his own terms rather than lose it to Michaels in Canada.
That, of course, couldn’t have been further from the truth.
Michaels applied Hart’s Sharpershooter finisher in the middle of the ring late in their battle, and referee Earl Hebner called for the bell on the order of McMahon, who had made his way ringside. Hart, realizing what had happened, flipped out, spitting on McMahon before punching the chairman backstage. The events leading up to as well as the actual Montreal Screwjob can be relieved via Dave Meltzer and The Wrestling Observer.