Doctor's Orders: The Doc's 25 Favorite Survivor Series Happenings (#11-#15)
By The Doc
Nov 15, 2013 - 12:25:38 PM
QUESTION OF THE DAY: Do you recall your emotional reaction to the Montreal Screwjob, if you saw it live?
Survivor Series was once a favorite PPV amongst avid wrestling fans. I used to look forward to the Fall Classic every year, but it has been a long time since then. The last Survivor Series that I eagerly anticipated was all the way back in 2007. In recent years, it has become just another monthly show - a far cry from the prominent member of the WWE's Big 4. From 2009 to the present, Survivor Series has been almost unrecognizable compared to its past, barely scraping by on its reputation as the 2nd annual PPV ever produced by WWE. However, while I was rummaging through an old collection of items in my parents' attic a few days ago, I stumbled upon an old notebook with my childhood wrestling predictions. Though it was not the first PPV that I ever purchased, the 1996 Survivor Series was the first PPV predictions that I recorded. It brought back fond memories. In hoping that the 2013 Survivor Series will bring back some of the allure of the event's past, I thought I would look back on a few favorite moments. Perhaps it will help us all get into the spirit for a show that was once a calendar-marking occurrence.
(Doc's Note - This is a list of favorites; not a ranking of critical or other kind of success)
The Doc's 25 Favorite Survivor Series Happenings
25- Daniel Bryan makes a fan out of me at Survivor Series 2010
I’d seen Daniel Bryan wrestle before he joined the first cast of WWE NXT in the spring of 2010, but not extensively. His work after he returned at Summerslam that year was my first chance to see him wrestle on a weekly basis. The biggest thing that I look for, in regards to performance, is the caliber of a wrestler’s PPV matches. Starting with his US title win over The Miz in September, Bryan was very impressive, but it was not until he pulled out a really good match against Ted Dibiase at Survivor Series, on virtually zero hype, that I fully bought in. It was that night that I sat down and wrote a column entitled, “OK, I’ll admit it…Daniel Bryan is awesome.” Even though it was the lowest critically rated match of the four PPV bouts that he had from September until the end of 2010, the match with Dibiase gave Bryan my stamp of approval. Not every indie darling can learn the WWE style, for whatever reason. Maybe it’s hubris or perhaps it’s stubbornness, but Bryan certainly did not turn out to be one of those guys. He opted to spend more time in developmental so that he could get the WWE’s style down pat before transferring to the main roster; and it did him a world of good. His routine as a babyface was as repetitive as any other good guy’s move set, but he found the right combination of aesthetically pleasing high-flying mixed with a proficient ground attack to make it work.
It was a match that helped me 100% invest in Bryan’s character and, from then on, I’ve rooted for him to succeed. In the evolution of my wrestling fandom, I’ve discovered that there’s just some moment in time when I either commit to a wrestler or decide to let him/her be someone else’s hopeful for great things. Whether you’re “in the know” or not, I feel like really getting behind certain guys is what makes the product worth watching year round. Bryan won me over with performances against Miz, John Morrison, Dolph Ziggler, and then Dibiase. It has been a pleasure to see what he’s done in the three years since, both in the ring and, particularly, as a personality.
24- Tag Team Survivor Series match in 1988
My #24 Survivor Series item is the awesome tag team traditional elimination match from ’88. The 42-minute classic was the longest match of the Wrestlemania Era until the Ironman match at Wrestlemania XII and featured ten tag teams. The babyface squad featured such legendary teams as The Rockers, The Hart Foundation, and The British Bulldogs, taking on the heel team that included Demolition, The Brainbusters, and The Fabulous Rougeaus, among others. The sheer spectacle of seeing twenty men surround one wrestling ring is reason enough to get excited about this match, but the quality was top notch. This was one of the best matches of the 1980s in the WWE. Keep in mind that there weren’t all that many good matches in the WWE in the 80s, but that is in no way intended to make my compliment backhanded. It was a unique dynamic to see all of those teams competing in the same match and it’s something that I think should be an annual gig. All it takes is one team surviving the wrath of so many others to create a top challenger worthy of a headlining match at Wrestlemania, as proven by the Powers of Pain being the sole survivors en route to a Tag Team Championship match with Demolition at 1989’s Wrestlemania V.
The next time that you have an hour to kill, you ought to look this up on YouTube. There are 5 Hall of Fame wrestlers involved, including another three in managers Bobby Heenan, Mr. Fuji, and Jimmy Hart. I’d view it online rather than rent (or buy) the entire event, as it was really the only thing on the second annual card worth viewing. It was just a helluva cool match that you aren’t going to see anywhere else but on the original Survivor Series PPVs before they became just another event and placed so much less emphasis on the elimination tag matches.
23- Team Miz vs. Team Morrison at Survivor Series 2009
This is the type of match that has been missing from the recent Survivor Series events; it’s why the traditional elimination matches can be a major addition to the cards, if handled correctly. If you go back and look at Team Miz, you had four future World Champions on the same team, all during the early stages of their upper mid-card pushes. Even more engaging was the fact that you honestly figured that was going to be the case. Dolph Ziggler was showing off in the IC title division, The Miz broke out as a singles star of the future throughout ’09, Jack Swagger was at the height of his pre-Money in the Bank stature, and Sheamus was merely three weeks away from winning the WWE Championship from John Cena. You also had Drew McIntyre as the fifth member after he had recently been anointed as a future World Champion by Vince McMahon. I liked and still like all five of those guys and thought that each of them benefitted from their roles in this match.
The opposing team of John Morrison, Matt Hardy, Evan Bourne, Shelton Benjamin, and Finlay was a rag tag bunch of variably popular babyfaces, but they were the perfect blend of talents to go up against the heels of the future. There should always be a bout like this at Survivor Series that puts young guys on their way to the top in the spotlight…always. It reminded me of the 1994 match between Razor’s “Bad Guys” and HBK and Diesel’s “Teamsters” in that it showcased those wrestlers that were climbing the ladder of success and were almost to the top in a meaningful way. Then-current main-eventers still got their chance to shine, but the younger guys were given a shot at stealing the show. It’s a shame that more Survivor Series cards didn’t have matches of this nature; it seems like such a no-brainer to me.
I thought it was a great first real look at Sheamus. They made him out to be a dominator, while making Miz look like a cunningly classic antagonist cut from the old school mold and McIntyre appear to be capable of living up to the CEO-imposed expectations of one day winning the World Championship.
22- Big Show’s Big Moment at Survivor Series 1999
I know that I’ve been critical of Big Show in the last year, but that’s only because I feel that he’s old and has been around for too long and that guys like him that are still around with consistency out to move on or be moved on. I have nothing but respect for Show and think him to be arguably the greatest super heavyweight of all-time. By and large, I’ve been a supporter of the guy since his improvement during the latter part of 2002 and the year 2003. Survivor Series, as it would turn out, has been one of the best events for Show as a headliner. Did you know that, of all the major PPVs, the November classic is the one where Show has been featured in the most championship matches? 2012, 2011, 2009, 2002, and 1999 have all featured the World’s Largest Athlete in the title match. In 2002, he defeated Brock Lesnar to win the WWE Championship, retained against Sheamus last year, and unsuccessfully attempted to win the World title in 2009 and 2011.
Show’s shining moment – perhaps the biggest moment of his entire WWE career – came in 1999. He was not originally advertised to be in the championship match. Steve Austin was scheduled to challenge Triple H for the title in a triple threat match also involving The Rock, but Austin was run down by a car to explain his long forthcoming absence due to neck surgery, leaving the third spot in the main-event wide open. Show, who had earlier in the night won a four-on-one elimination match, was inserted in his place. That was the big mystery of the evening and when he came out to face his challengers, the crowd and the announcers were buzzing. It was one of the rare nights when Show’s potential as a dominant force was maximized and he won the title in a match against two of the biggest stars of all-time. Show was often overshadowed in the 90s, both in the WWE and WCW. He took a backseat to the Hogans, Rocks, Austins, Hunters, Foleys, Stings, Goldbergs, and Nashs of the wrestling world, but Survivor Series ’99 was his night and, as Mox said at the end of Varsity Blues, nobody could ever take that away from him.
21- Team Orton vs. Team Batista at Survivor Series 2008
Timing always seemed to be an issue for the two young guns to come out of Evolution. They were supposed to face off at Wrestlemania 22 for the World Heavyweight Championship in what would’ve been a big moment for Orton’s career, win or lose. Unfortunately, Batista got injured and had to drop the title. Orton was forced to put over Rey Mysterio instead; then got suspended soon after and spent an additional two years trying to reach the top of the mountain again. Batista came back and rounded into form as a performer, adding a huge Wrestlemania match to his resume, but it was not until the fall of 2008 that he crossed paths with Orton in a prominent setting. They did eventually get their main-event feud, but it took place long after Batista was relevant enough as a babyface for it to really have mattered. When it did happen, it was looked at as a boring, repetitious meeting of two already well-established top guys squaring off at a time when the fan base was clamoring for anything new. At the ’08 Survivor Series, though, they each captained traditional elimination tag teams in a match that helped set up their Armageddon match the following month. Batista was working his way through an injury and Orton working his way back from an injury, but it was interesting to see those two poised for a major showdown. Survivor Series was when they seemed at their feuding-character best.
They did a good job keeping Orton and Batista away from each other until the finish, which saw an RKO end the match before they could truly lock horns. If their storyline had reached a more fitting conclusion, then this match might’ve been viewed in the same light as Owen and Bret in ’93 or HBK and Diesel in ‘94 – matches that set the stage for classic rivalries of their respective eras. Instead, it’s often forgotten because Batista’s injury caught up with him. Had he not had to bail out for another major surgery, then perhaps the payoff match would’ve meant more. As it was, I remember Survivor Series ’08 fondly for being the arguable peak of the Batista vs. Orton feud that never truly reached its full potential.
20- Owen gets mad at Bret at Survivor Series 1993
One of my favorite Wrestlemania matches of all-time is the brother vs. brother match to open Mania X between Bret and Owen Hart. My dad and I used to have wrestling matches in the neighborhood pool, dazzling (at least that’s how we remember it) the on-looking ladies (he was divorced) with our spectacular, high flying imitations of “The Rocket” and our technical expertise in honor of “The Hitman.” It was awesome, Intercontinental Champion Bret and goofy tights wearing, “High Energy” days Owen that we mimicked. When the Hart brothers teamed up at Survivor Series in 1993, I looked forward to seeing the famous family do their thing, especially Bret and Owen. To my surprise, Owen was the only Hart brother to get eliminated. To my further surprise, he was violently upset about it. When he yanked Bret off the turnbuckle while he was celebrating and verbally berated him in front of the world, it was a shocking moment to my nine-year old eyes.
At that age, I wondered how Owen could possibly blame Bret for getting pinned. It was, after all, an accident that Owen was thrown into the ropes at the same moment that Bret wandered away from the corner and into his path. Yet, as I grew more fascinated of the human psyche, I saw that Owen had every right to be upset. He was the youngest brother and Survivor Series was supposed to be his showcase – his moment to shine brighter than any other Hart and make a name for himself after years of doing little of importance. Bret, despite all his years of tag team experience, left the confines of the team’s corner into a spot where he was in the line of fire. Accident or not, Owen left Survivor Series without his “moment” – or at least not the one that his character would have initially wanted.
On a serious note, it’s fascinating to note that it was almost the infamous Bruce Hart that was given the “Bret’s brother turns on him” storyline. Luckily, Bret knew that Owen had more talent and could pull off the whiny little brother role to a “T.” If Bret hadn’t had more pull, then Owen really might never have gotten an opportunity show what he could do.
19- Steve Austin vs. Triple H at Survivor Series 2000
Triple H is such a polarizing figure in the IWC that I love writing about him. I don’t think anyone can deny how big a star he was throughout the year 2000. He and Rock actually improved ratings while Stone Cold was out nursing his surgically repaired neck. While Rock became the face of the company, Triple H was the focus of the show. He was the top heel in the business when Austin came back, setting up the perfect segue back into their rivalry that had abruptly ended when Austin had to take off at the end of 1999. Trips was penciled in as the guy who hired the driver of the car that ran down Austin at the previous year’s Survivor Series, so they went ahead and pulled the trigger on a potential Wrestlemania-caliber clash for Survivor Series 2000. One of my long-time IWC member readers recently shared with me how the internet was up-in-arms when Triple H wasn’t given the chance to face Austin for the WWE Championship at Wrestlemania X-Seven. Isn’t that fascinating? That there was actually a day when the IWC loved Triple H and threw a fit when he wasn’t in the Mania main-event and that they chose to rush his feud with Austin to get to Stone Cold-Rock II?
When Austin faced Trips, it was always a flat out brawl. Trips brought some ring generalship to the bouts, but it was mostly an Attitude era-specific, knockdown, drag out fight. While it isn’t my favorite match of all-time, by any means, I thoroughly enjoy going back to watch it from time to time, especially when you put it into the context of the other two matches that they had in high profile situations at No Mercy ’99 and then at No Way Out ’01. This Survivor Series match sandwiched in between those two matches provides such a transition from one part of the feud to the other. I enjoy watching it with the mindset that Triple H badly wanted Austin’s spot as the top guy in the company and actually got it roughly a year and change later. When he came back from his own devastating injury, he completely overshadowed Austin from then on, just as Austin coming back in late 2000 forced Trips to take a backseat.
18- Rude’s Brood vs. Roddy’s Rowdies at Survivor Series 1989
One of my favorite matches of 1989 was a steel cage match at MSG between Rick Rude and Roddy Piper. If you haven’t seen it, you should check it out with the mindset that it took place back in the late 1980s WWE and, as such, should not be mistaken with some bloody, crazy brawl like you’d see in the NWA or the WWE Attitude era. Piper and Rude were feuding after Summerslam, which saw Ravishing Rick lose the Intercontinental title and blame Roddy for the loss. I’m a big mark for Rude, so when I watched this PPV for the first time since my initial viewing as a kid, I thoroughly enjoyed the mixture of personalities. Rude’s team featured the still undefeated Mr. Perfect and the fabulously underrated Rougeau Brothers, while Piper’s squad consisted of Jimmy Snuka and the Bushwhackers.
If you will, imagine that you were just a little fella watching this for the first time. This match was a blast! Whenever I watch a PPV from the 80s, I like to try to put myself in the frame of mind that I was in upon first viewing. It’s challenging, but it enhances the experience of mixing the smarkish tendencies to be harshly critical with the twinkle in the eye of a child completely buying into kayfabe. Rude, thus, becomes a mixture of one of the great heels of our time and a big, stupid, doo doo head. Piper, a Hall of Famer and one of the top 10-20 superstars of all-time, morphs into this heroic hot head making it “neat” to wear a kilt and play the bagpipes (I still never learned to embrace that part of my Scottish heritage). The Bushwhackers are no longer goofy, moronic caricatures of their far better Sheepherder NWA personas and instead are a fun loving couple of New Zealanders who were awesome on that episode of Family Matters. You get the idea…
I’m a sucker for the traditional Survivor Series match and you’ll see plenty more of them on this countdown, but this one’s a favorite. I could sit down and watch this tomorrow and be perfectly content with the entertainment factor. I once ranked it the 19th best match in Survivor Series history (that was prior to the 2010 version, but I can only think of one match in the last two years that would alter my ranking, so I’d now put it at #20).
17- Batista vs. Undertaker: Hell in a Cell at Survivor Series 2007
As a fan of nearly thirty years with a (much appreciated) outlet to write about wrestling and interact with its fanbase, I have been asked numerous questions, among which has been my thoughts on the most surprised I had ever been by the quality of a series of matches. Almost without fail, my answer to that question has been “Undertaker vs. Batista in 2007.” There have been others in the running, but I do not think that any of them had to withstand the environment that modern times have created. Since the turn of the century, the internet has become such a huge source of information for sports fans of all types. By 2007, the microscope on pro wrestlers in the WWE was as finely calibrated as it had ever been before. Batista had been blasted repeatedly over his failure to produce critically appreciated matches. Like it or not, one of the greatest influences that the internet has had on wrestling is that it has demanded that wrestlers be held accountable for their abilities (or lack thereof) in the ring. I think that anti-IWC pundits tend to underrate how important it is for a match to achieve in the critical arena. Sure, there are other important factors in wrestling, but performance matters. If a guy like Batista repeatedly failed to deliver matches expected of someone in his spot, then it would affect viewership. He had the gift – the “it” factor – necessary to draw people toward the conclusions of his stories, but he had (as of Wrestlemania 23) really struggled to execute the dramatic payoffs necessary to keep the people coming back.
Batista vs. Undertaker at Mania 23 stole the show. Reviewing for LOP at the time, I was blown away. Anyone that read my Wrestlemania 23 Report back then should have been able to notice the shock and awe jumping off their computer screens. To prove it was not a one-time thing, they knocked another out of the park at Backlash, topped Backlash at Cyber Sunday, and then capped off their memorable rivalry with a great Hell in a Cell match that transitioned Taker from one Wrestlemania feud that I love to another (against Edge). The Survivor Series Hell in a Cell did well to equal the quality established throughout the Taker-Batista series and, though it is probably my least favorite bout of the four, it remains quite memorable as the last Survivor Series main-event that I was truly excited to see.
16- Triple H vs. Ric Flair in a Last Man Standing match at Survivor Series 2005
For those of you that grew up watching wrestling from the Attitude Era to near the end of last decade, I wonder if you appreciated getting to watch Ric Flair wrestle in WWE from 2002 to 2008? I hope that you did not just see “an old guy wrestling” and wish that he would retire. If you did not get to see Flair wrestle in his prime, then surely you must have heard about him when you became a fan. He might very well be the most revered grappler amongst his peers in modern wrestling lore. Perhaps you watched him mix it up well into his late fifties and did not understand how such a person – with all his internet-age, well-known faults – could garner that brand of respect. However, I really hope you got something out of watching arguably the greatest ever do his thing. It was honestly true what so many pundits suggested: he really was, even in his late fifties, better than 90+% of the WWE roster throughout his 2002-2008 run. Personally, it was a real treat to see Flair mix it up with greats like HBK, Taker, and Triple H.
Other than his match with HBK at Wrestlemania 24, I preferred no other twilight-of-Flair’s-career match than the Last Man Standing battle between the Nature Boy and Triple H in 2005. Overall, I really enjoyed that year’s Survivor Series. Along with the main-event elimination match, Flair vs. HHH took the event’s quality to a very high level. I thoroughly enjoyed their entire feud, frankly, dating back to the tease (and subsequent match) on Raw in May 2003 for the World Heavyweight Championship and the full-fledged “Trips turns on Naitch” story told on Raw’s Homecoming (return to USA Network) over two years later in October 2005. There is just something about student vs. mentor matches that captivates my imagination. If you have a mentor or have mentored someone, it is a pleasure to work with your teacher or protégé; a real honor. When I watch Triple H and Flair work together, I always think of what a thrill it must have been for them both. Trips idolized Flair and Flair, in turn, was incredibly touched that the man he felt was the greatest in the world at the time continually pumped him up and reminded him of what he meant to the business.
The Last Man Standing match was not the best version of that gimmick, but it stands the test of time as a helluva fight if you can suspend your disbelief.
15- CM Punk steals the show from Cena and Rock at Survivor Series 2011
The year that I reached my boiling point with Survivor Series was 2011. I was incredibly pumped to see The Rock and John Cena be “forced to team together” as that year’s event poster seemed to suggest, but was quite disappointed when the WWE could only muster up a half-hearted storyline where Cena asked for Rock’s help for no particular reason to help him slay a two-headed dragon (in Miz and R-Truth) that he had defeated by himself in a handicap match in the build-up. I thought a Survivor Series Elimination match as the main-event, featuring Rock and Cena, was ripe for the booking. Instead, we got what we got. So, thank God for CM Punk, who was booked on the same night to regain the WWE Championship and begin his incredible 434 day run as the titleholder.
I love hot crowds. New York audiences may have their quirky nuances that I am not overly fond of (Chicago owns NYC right now), but they produce some crazy wrestling fans for Madison Square Garden shows. They brought the goods for CM Punk vs. Alberto Del Rio that night. Punk brought out Howard Finkel to be his personal ring announcer, countering Ricardo Rodriguez. For me, The Fink is always good for a mark out moment, especially on a night like that when I was not expecting him. Then, from bell-to-bell, Punk and Del Rio produced an excellent 17-minute bout full of drama and befitting a title change of what turned out to be historic magnitude. All due respect to Del Rio’s performance, but the omission of his name from the title/subject heading above boiled down to the MSG crowd going bananas for CM Punk on a night that belonged to the Best in the World. I have stated this numerous times over the last two years, but CM Punk is one of the primary reasons that I tune in for Monday Night Raw every week of the year. Before the “Pipe Bomb,” I had actually transitioned to taping Raw and watching it whenever I felt like it (outside of Wrestlemania season, of course). After it, I have been glued to my TV every Monday night (some more than others, of course). Del Rio gave us the performance that I’ve come to expect of him, but that was CM Punk’s showstealing match. The Rock and John Cena did their thing minutes later, but it really didn’t matter….the most memorable moment of that show was not the teaming of the back-to-back Wrestlemania main-eventers or the Rock’s first in-ring action in 7 ½ years, but CM Punk’s title victory.
14- The Hulkamaniacs vs. The Million Dollar Team at Survivor Series 1989
Narrowing down the greatest main-event heel moment of all-time would be no easy task, but I will readily throw one out there that I think would be at the very top of the list: Ted Dibiase buying the WWE Championship. The audacity of a man to think that his millions could actually sway the ultimate force of good in WWE’s history into giving up his coveted symbol of right over wrong. The Million Dollar Man was such an awesome idea and, for years after his attempts to turn Hulkamania into a sellout, it afforded Dibiase the opportunity to be a huge star. By 1989, Dibiase and Hogan had been feuding off-and-on for two years. It was in late 1987 that The Million Dollar Man made his initial offer to purchase the title from Hulk. Their rivalry had been featured on the highest rated pro wrestling show in TV history in February of 1988, spawning the title tournament for Wrestlemania IV and the main-event of the first Summerslam – and the main-event of the second Survivor Series. At the third annual Survivor Series, they were again set on a collision course.
For my personal tastes, Survivor Series 1989 was one of the best editions of the PPV. Spanning the card, you had a laundry list of Hall of Famers (and future Hall of Famers) featured on the teams. Between the already discussed Rude Brood vs. Roddy’s Rowdies match, the Ultimate Warriors vs. Bobby Heenan’s Family, The Dream Team (captained by Dusty Rhodes) vs. The Enforcers, and Macho King’s Court vs. The 4X4’s, and Dibiase and Hogan’s battling squads, it was difficult to peg an actual main-event. Of the fifty wrestlers on the card, I count that nearly half are already in the Hall or for whom strong cases can be made that they eventually will be. It was a stacked card, to say the least.
My favorite of the lot was the renewal of the rivalry between Hogan and Dibiase. Hogan’s team featured Demolition and Jake Roberts; Dibiase’s The Powers of Pain and Zeus. Recall that Zeus was Tony Lister, the actor who had portrayed the Greek God-named character in the “classic” movie, No Holds Barred, with whom Hogan had feuded throughout the summer of 1989 leading to the Summerslam main-event. The Powers of Pain vs. Demolition had been a major feud for the World Tag Team Championships for a year, with an elusive double turn (of the face/heel dynamic) along the way. Roberts was ratcheting up the intensity of his own feud with The Million Dollar Man after returning from a Dibiase-inflicted injury that put him on the shelf for much of 1989. So, there was a lot of memorable history at play in the match. I’d call it one of the forgotten classics in Survivor Series history.
13- The Montreal Screwjob at Survivor Series 1997
There is a part of me that wishes I would have seen this happen last year instead of when I was just 13 years old. I had no knowledge of the wrestling business back then, so I was watching it happen wearing my total mark glasses. Yet, there is another part of me that feels that seeing the Screwjob take place at the age that I did has allowed me a unique perspective on the overall happenings of that famous Montreal night.
Back in 1997, I was a huge Shawn Michaels fan…and a huge Bret Hart fan. Though the face and heel dynamics fluctuated for both of them throughout the year, I rooted for their success. I cheered in my room when HBK “accidentally” nailed Undertaker with a steel chair, allowing Bret to win the WWE Championship at Summerslam. I was rabid in my desire to see a clearly changing Hitman mercilessly lock Steve Austin in the Sharpshooter at Wrestlemania 13. I was disheartened to see Michaels forced into “retirement” and equally as elated when he magically came back a few months later. I loved DX. I was in awe of the first Hell in a Cell. I enjoyed the Hart Foundation’s reunion. Undeniably, to that point in my fandom, HBK and Bret were my two favorite wrestlers of all-time. Though the conversation in my mind has gotten a little more crowded as 16 years have passed, they still remain on that pedestal.
As a 13 year old, seeing your two favorites go against each other was both difficult and awesome, but to see what happened when the final bell rang…ladies and gentlemen, as I live and breathe, I cannot tell you difficult it is to describe what was going through my mind when “Bret got screwed.” Confused was certainly an apt piece of the description. For those of you that saw it at a similar age, do you remember what it felt like to see that? To see Bret, especially if he was one your heroes growing up as he was for me in the early 1990s, spit on Vince McMahon, destroy the ringside area set, and write in the air with big, bold letters “W-C-W” was probably the most confused that I have ever been as a fan for nearly thirty years.
So, it’s not a favorite moment. I chose the unlucky 13th spot for a reason. I hated that moment, despite all the while being completely fascinated by it. It took Bret away from WWE. I discuss this topic heavily in the Bret Hart chapter of my book, but I have a hard time NOT reflecting on the Screwjob through the eyes of a thirteen year old. That event changed wrestling forever and changed a lot of peoples’ lives.
12- Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels at Survivor Series 1992
It was in 1992 that Bret Hart became my favorite wrestler. I watched as he dazzled the audience with what, in my opinion, was the best one year stretch of matches in the modern era, up to that point in the WWE. He knocked one out of the park at Summerslam ’91, followed with a forgotten classic (perhaps because it wasn’t epic) at Wrestlemania VIII, and then put together a truly epic match with British Bulldog at Summerslam ’92. The NWA/WCW had routinely featured excellent stretches of critically acclaimed matches, but it was a rarity in the WWE. The Hitman brought the term “workrate” into the WWE lexicon. Shawn Michaels was coming on strong as Bret’s successor to the “face of the IC title division” role that Hart left behind when he became WWE Champion in September ’92.
In one of the very few Champion vs. Champion matches in WWE PPV history, Hart and Michaels engaged in a borderline classic at the ’92 Survivor Series. It was, interestingly, Bret’s first big PPV title defense. I use the word “interestingly” because of the history that they would go onto have. At the time, Michaels seemed like an odd choice to help a brand new champion succeed at the highest level. The WWE had established veterans in main-event positions such as Randy Savage, Ric Flair, and Mr. Perfect who all could have provided Bret a more dramatic first opponent at the top of the card. I guess they were just going for fresh all around that night.
The match does not stand the test of time, in my opinion. It was a very good encounter, but there was not much of a story behind it and the bout predominantly took the form of a mat wrestling showcase. Though it has been a few years since I last watched it, I found myself relating it to the Bret vs. Bob Backlund match that drew a lot of mixed opinions two years later. It was pretty slowly paced, but it did not have the feud behind it nor the antics of another wrestler on the outside to up its entertainment factor. Subsequently, I am fond of the first major HBK vs. Bret singles match, but I prefer that it live on in my memories. It is not a match that I would happily pop into the DVD player on a random Sunday.
11- Hogan and Andre continue their rivalry at Survivor Series 1987
Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant is arguably the most iconic rivalry in the history of professional wrestling. No other feud can claim to have drawn a record television rating good for 33 million viewers or to have packed 93,173 into the Pontiac Silverdome for an unbelievable 10.2 buyrate. Those numbers will, in combination, never be touched. It was never about a catch-as-catch-can classic, but about captivating imaginations. In that regard, Hogan-Andre will always overshadow every other Hogan feud and every other rivalry in history, if you ask me. They were able to parlay their wildly successful story into not just the blueprint Wrestlemania, but also the debuts of two other yearly PPVs.
Survivor Series came about in 1987, in part to capitalize on Hogan-Andre. The wrestling watching world grew exponentially as a result of Wrestlemania III’s WWE Championship match and that viewership clamored for more Hulk-Andre. The WWE obliged in the form of a unique concept pitting teams of wrestlers against each other in elimination tag matches. It was, in a word, “cool.” Team Hogan vs. Team Andre popped a 7.0 buyrate (completely obliterating that year’s NWA Starrcade figure and all but wrapping up the supposed competition between the two top North American wrestling companies). They kept the story going through the spring and into the summer of 1988, eventually adding Summerslam to the list of yearly PPVs.
As was the case with the first few Survivor Series cards, with a stacked roster came several stacked teams chock full of Hall of Fame talent.
The Hulk Hogan vs. Andre rivalry essentially built the WWE into what we know today. In reflecting back on Survivor Series history, the original version featuring Hogan and Andre’s star-studded teams was a major happening in modern pro wrestling lore that should not be forgotten.