Despite being one of the classic “Big Four” Pay Per Views, Survivor Series doesn’t really match up to the other three when it comes to quantity of great matches. There have definitely been some excellent bouts at the annual November event over the years, but it’s always been the weakest of the four overall in my opinion. I’d never want WWE to scrap it of course, but it’s also hardly an event I look forward to like I do the Royal Rumble, WrestleMania and Summer Slam.
I think it’s telling that, with one exception, all of the matches I picked here were singles bouts as opposed to the elimination survival bouts that gave this event its name in the first place. Again, it’s not like there haven’t been good survival matches either, but I do think a lot of the reason why this event survived through the years is because they downplayed the concept of the survival match and kind of just made them normal events with a token elimination bout here or there.
As always, this is just my own personal picks and it isn’t supposed to be some sort of objective list or anything. If I leave out a match that you think warrants inclusion then please feel free to put it down in the comments section below. As with previous lists, I’ll be listing the matches in chronological order.
So without further to do, let’s get to it!
Survivor Series 1988
Demolition, Los Conquistadors, The Bolsheviks, The Brain Busters and The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers Vs The Powers of Pain, The Young Stallions, The Hart Foundation, The Rockers and The British Bulldogs
This match not only features some of the very best tag teams of all time, but also features a very memorable and important storyline twist in its conclusion with Mr. Fuji leaving the side of Demolition to join up with the Powers of Pain. This angle turned both teams and allowed the fans to finally start cheering for Demolition, who had been getting more over as each month of their record breaking title reign rolled on. Their reign was so epic in fact that it took nearly two decades for another team to break it!
The great double turn isn’t the only reason this is a memorable match however. Having so many great workers in one match means the action is consistently top notch, with my personal pick for Man of the Match going to Tully Blanchard, who is wildly entertaining as he stooges for all the babyfaces. The story of jobber team Los Conquistadors getting all the way to the final two is pretty great as well, which only makes the subsequent cheating of Fuji and the Powers even more detestable as it denies the fairy-tale ending.
Survivor Series 1995
No Holds Barred
Diesel Vs Bret Hart
Following two inconclusive Pay Per View battles at King of the Ring 94 and Royal Rumble 95 respectively, a No DQ gimmick was added to this match to ensure we’d finally get a clear cut winner. Both men make good use of the stipulation, with Diesel slowly morphing back into his old heel persona whilst Bret goes all out to win by attacking his bigger opponent’s legs with weaponry. It’s also a history making bout as it presents the debut of the “Spanish Announce Table Bump” spot, which is something that would go on to be used in many more WWF/E main events over the following years.
What I like about this match is how, despite being babyfaces, both men are fully prepared to go to any length in order to get their hand raised, even if it means indulging the dark arts to do so. I also like how it’s a brief moment of mercy from Diesel following Bret’s tumble through the table that spells his undoing, as it allows The Hitman to deliver a cheeky inside cradle to get an unfathomable flash pin fall win. This is made even better by Diesel being a sore loser and destroying Bret after the fact, symbolically killing his lame babyface character in the process.
Quite a lot of people point to Kevin Nash’s battle with Shawn Michaels at “Good Friends, Bitter Enemies” as being his best ever singles match, but I definitely think this match should also be in the discussion. It’s worked differently to the Shawn match in that that one was based more around Shawn taking an horrific beat down before making the superman comeback, whereas this match is based more around Bret matching Diesel throughout before getting creamed in the closing section, but both matches are great and well worth a watch.
Survivor Series 1996
Stone Cold Steve Austin Vs Bret Hart
I’ve always liked both the pre match video package and interviews before this one, as they are great at getting over the idea of the young and angry Austin being the biggest challenge the now veteran Bret could face. This is then paid off in the match, as Bret gets the better of things in the excellent early technical battle, only for Austin to splat him with a Stun Gun and turn the match into a fight.
Jim Ross is really good on commentary when it comes getting over the holds and psychology, especially when Bret kicks out of the Stunner and he explains it was because Austin took a moment to drag The Hitman away from the ropes rather than going for the cover as soon as the move was delivered. The crowd are with the match throughout, at times being utterly engrossed by the wrestling, and get really into things as the match builds.
It’s a great clash of styles, as Austin’s viciousness is matched by Bret’s resourcefulness, which ends up getting paid off at the end when Bret is able to counter the Million Dollar Dream into a pinning predicament to snatch another win from a match he was on the way to losing. The finish itself is brilliant, as it provides a clean finish whilst also putting both men over in the process. I genuinely believe that this is one of the greatest matches of all time and is as close to “must-see” as any WWF/E match I can think of.
Survivor Series 1997
Bret Hart Vs Shawn Michaels
This match is rightly remembered for its controversial ending, but what a lot of people forget is how great a brawl this match was before the chicanery kicked in at the end. If you look past the controversy and watch this simply as a feud ending match, it delivers everything you would want from a climactic battle between two hated enemies.
Bret and Shawn tear the ringside area apart, fight in the crowd and even head down to the entrance aisle, where Bret sends Shawn into the wall of the entrance area, causing him to slump down in an iconic image. All throughout this feels like a fight between two men who utterly detest each other (Probably because they actually did) and it makes the match an engrossing spectacle as consequence.
If they’d been able to give this a satisfying clean finish then it would probably be considered one of the best matches in the company’s history, as opposed to simply being one of the most notorious. The intensity and the work rate is there, but sadly the controversial nature of how the match ended overtakes everything else about it. Still definitely a great match though and well worth a watch if you’ve just seen the clips of the finish and never the actual match itself.
Survivor Series 2007
The Super Kick is banned and the DQ rule is waived
Shawn Michaels Vs Randy Orton
Shawn Michaels was the first ever victim of the Orton Punk Kick and this was the final blow off to Michaels’ quest for revenge. Orton had arranged for the stipulations with heel general manager William Regal after he’d tasted Sweet Chin Music on numerous occasions. Having his finisher taken away from him means that Michaels has to try and find another way of winning, which leads to him stealing a bunch of famous finishing holds, such as the cross face and the ankle lock, to try and put Orton away.
This is a match where less really is more, as it’s all about timing and selling from both men rather than an exhibition of moves. Michaels works a cravat in the early stages for instance, and he gets more out of one hold than most other men could get out of twenty as he tenaciously hangs on whilst Orton tries to break free. Both men sell the others attacks perfectly, and the match builds to a crescendo with Michaels busting out all the moves he knows to try and find a way to win without his usual finisher.
Taking someone’s finisher away from them usually leads to an interesting match because the wrestler has to amend their style in some way to make up for the fact that they can’t go through their usual routine. Michaels sells this excellently by hitting his elbow from the top but then not knowing what to do with himself, as he’d usually be tuning up the band for the Super Kick but isn’t allowed to do so here. This ultimately plays into the finish, as Michaels goes for the Super Kick out of instinct and just able to stop himself, only for Orton to use that momentary pause to pounce with the RKO for the win.
Shawn Michaels really did a lot for Orton during this period by having a string of good matches with him and decisively putting him over clean here. This title run from Orton was one of the better ones from this era, and the work Michaels did to establish him as the champion went a long way to making the reign successful. Considering Orton hadn’t been champion since 2004, he needed a bit of help to make his first reign as a heel stick, and thanks to Michaels’ performances it really did.
Survivor Series 2007
Hell in a Cell
The Undertaker Vs Batista
This was the final blow off to the epic Undertaker Vs Batista feud of 2007, which saw them split a victory each whilst also going to two draws. As with all the other matches between them, they go all out to destroy one another here and hold nothing back, despite them both being babyfaces. The match is mostly based around Undertaker bloodying and pummelling Batista until The Animal finally mounts a comeback and starts taking Taker apart in the closing stages.
Despite Batista’s gutsy effort however, Undertaker is soon back on top of things and looks to have it won with a vicious looking Tombstone on the ring steps, only for Edge to appear as if by magic to cost him the bout. Normally I would hate such a cheap finish, but the fact that Edge disguises himself as a cameraman before revealing himself makes it a top notch swerve. I honestly did not see that one coming and it remains one of my favourite sneak attacks of all time. It also laid the groundwork for the excellent Edge Vs Taker match at WrestleMania XXIV, so it had a clear purpose.
Team Honky Tonk Vs Team Savage (Survivor Series 1987), Shawn Michaels Vs Bret Hart (Survivor Series 1992), Team IRS Vs Team Razor (Survivor Series 1993), Team Douglas Vs Team Michaels (Survivor Series 1995), Stone Cold Steve Austin Vs Mankind (Survivor Series 1998), Team Alliance Vs Team WWF (Survivor Series 2001), Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle Vs Rey Mysterio and Edge Vs Los Guerrero’s (Survivor Series 2002), Team Austin Vs Team Bischoff (Survivor Series 2003), Ric Flair Vs Triple H (Survivor Series 2005), Alberto Del Rio Vs CM Punk (Survivor Series 2011), Brock Lesnar Vs Goldberg (Survivor Series 2016) and AJ Styles Vs Brock Lesnar (Survivor Series 2017)
I also write for the website Gaming Respawn, where I look at Retro Wrestling and Video Games. You can access my archives by clicking right HERE
And whilst you’re here, why not take a goosey gander at other great content on the Blog of Doom?
Head Honcho Scott Keith has re-posted his review of last years Survivor Series in preparation for this years event. You can read what he thought by clicking right HERE
Thomas Hall has continued his adventure into 2004 era Smackdown, and you can read his recap of the show from the 17th of June by clicking right HERE
And finally, you can read Brian Bayless’ recap of Primetime Wrestling from 28th of September 1992 (We can’t be far off Mr. Perfects awesome babyface turn now?) by clicking right HERE
Thanks fore reading and take care till next time