Survivor Series ranks second only to a WrestleMania on the list of longest-running annual PPVs in WWE history.
Over the years, the event has seen its share of good, and even historically important matches. Survivor Series has also, however, played host to its share of lackluster outings. Despite typically being considered one of WWE’s big five events alongside WrestleMania, the Royal Rumble, Summer Slam and Money in the Bank, few would argue that it doesn’t rank at the bottom of the biggest events at this point. This article takes a look back at five Survivor Series matches that impacted WWE history and five that were big disappointments.
10 Changed History: Hulk Hogan’s Team Vs. Andre The Giant’s Team, 1987
The original Survivor Series main event saw marquee stars Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant carried forward their rivalry from WrestleMania 3, surrounded by talent who could help cover their limitations. This was particularly necessary for Andre, who was well past the point he could physically have much of a match without significant smoke and mirrors.
The two big stories coming out of this match were Andre winning to keep him established as a top heel and threat to Hogan’s world title, and the fact that emerging star Bam Bam Bigelow, not Hogan was the last man left on the face team. As such, Andre and Bigelow each enjoyed substantial pushes coming out of the match.
9 Disappointed: The All-Americans Vs. The Foreign Fanatics, 1993
In 1993, WWE went all-in on Lex Luger as the new face of the company. He played an American hero opposite Yokozuna, and after a reasonably successful build to SummerSlam, all indications were Luger would take the title at WrestleMania.
Luger captained a team against Yokozuna and an international contingent at Survivor Series. The storyline grew convoluted as each team kayfabe injured someone from the other, adding American heel Crush to the Foreign Fanatics team, while The Undertaker promptly overshadowed Luger for the All-Americans. The resulting match was lukewarm at best, as The Phenom was mostly be a tool to protect Yokozuna with a double count-out elimination while setting up their own place holder title match for the Royal Rumble.
8 Changed History: John Cena’s Team Vs. The Authority’s Team, 2014
Late 2013 through 2014 saw the reemergence of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon as a heel power couple. The dynamic worked well enough at first with the duo heading up The Authority in a non-wrestling capacity, but the heels in charge dynamic was grating on fans by the fall.
The prospect of John Cena’s team challenging an Authority contingent, with Helmsley and McMahon banished if they lost had some intrigue, but felt like a bit too seismic of a shift to really happen.
This match had its twists and turns like the lightning-quick elimination of Mark Henry and The Big Show turning heel. The biggest twist of all saw Sting make his long-anticipated, surprise debut to counteract Triple H’s interference and help Dolph Ziggler score the final pin over Rollins.
7 Disappointed: Team Raw Vs Team SmackDown, 2017
In a budding tradition, Raw and SmackDown put forth all-star teams to war against one another at Survivor Series 2017. Such matches have tended to be harmless enough fun, with hints of dream matches across brand lines sprinkled throughout.
While the 2017 iteration of this main event had the familiar trappings, it suffered from convoluted booking and over-reliance on stars from the past. The match culminated in Triple H nonsensically hitting the Pedigree on teammate Kurt Angle. Helmsley and Braun Strowman would survive, suggesting such superiority over their SmackDown opponents that they could readily afford to not get along and cost themselves partners.
6 Changed History: WWE Vs. The Alliance, 2001
After WWE bought out WCW, they wasted little time booking an angle with their former competing company and ECW kayfabe joining forces to invade as a unified heel force. The story was widely considered a disappointment.
At Survivor Series, the angle came to a head with the stipulation that the Alliance had to disband if its team lost, thus essentially erasing this angle that had dominated all levels of WWE programming. Surprisingly, WWE did win, not continuing the story they were entrenched in, but rather starting over. In the weeks to follow, Ric Flair debuted, Steve Austin turned face, and WWE was back on its way to better days.
5 Disappointed: The Big Show Vs. Randy Orton, 2013
In Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton, WWE had an organically popular star going after an establishment favorite in a classic underdog wrestling story. The company couldn’t seem to decide, however, if it wanted to crown Bryan then, crown him later, or not crown him at all because he really didn’t fit the mold to be the face of the company.
Amidst all of this, characters like Cody Rhodes, Dolph Ziggler, and The Big Show emerged as other faces defying Orton and The Authority. WWE picked about the most lukewarm choice available in Show to challenge Orton for the WWE Championship at Survivor Series. The resulting match was dull and heatless.
4 Changed History: Bret Hart Vs. Shawn Michaels, 1997
The Montreal Screwjob is on the shortlist of the most famous times when kayfabe and reality came to a head. Bret Hart was on his way to WCW and had to drop the WWE Championship on his way out the door. The key circumstances under which he didn't want to let go of the title were to his real-life professional rival Shawn Michaels and in front of Canadian fans.
While the finish and aftermath of Hart vs. Michaels have taken on a life of their own, the bout itself was a suitably heated climax to their longstanding on-screen feud. The reality side, though, with WWE management and HBK doing business for the Hitman had an indelible impact on blurring storylines with reality, advancing the Mr. McMahon character, and adding extra heat to the budding Attitude Era.
3 Disappointed: The Hart Family Vs. Shawn Michaels And His Knights, 1993
Long before more famous matches between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 12 or Survivor Series 1997, they captained opposing teams at Survivor Series 1993. That Hart would lead a team of his brothers matches up with not only the tradition of the Hart wrestling family, but also embodying the Thanksgiving holiday underpinnings of the annual event.
That Shawn Michaels would captain a crew of masked knights made less sense.
HBK filled in after Jerry Lawler's legal issues meant WWE didn't want to feature him on television. So, the Lawler vs. Hart family rivalry this match was built around was put on hold, with Michaels filling his spot. Despite Michaels's considerable talent, it was difficult for the match to recover from the awkward circumstances.
2 Changed History: The Million Dollar Team Vs. The Dream Team, 1990
The idea of Ted Dibiase and Dusty Rhodes captaining opposing teams sounds appealing in retrospect. That this match would be a bit of a coming-out party for Bret Hart, and he was the last surviving member of the face team, gave the match gains some historical significance. But then there's the matter of a particular debuting talent.
The Undertaker was a surprise member of Dibiase's Million Dollar Team. WWE immediately capitalized on his unique aura as he largely decimated the opposing team. That would prove just the start of three decades in a starring role for WWE.
1 Disappointed: Randy Orton Vs. Wade Barrett, 2010
WWE constructed a unique set of circumstances for the WWE Championship match at Survivor Series 2010. Wade Barrett, in his freshman year with WWE, was an underdog going up against reigning champion Randy Orton. Barrett headed up the Nexus faction, though, which by then included John Cena, who had been forced into the group's servitude. Cena was the guest referee for this match, with a threat of losing his job if he didn't help Barrett win.
Not only was this a lukewarm bout that leaned too heavily on the conflicted referee gimmick, but it ended uneventfully with Orton retaining his title. The match lost all of its teeth and historical significance when WWE waived the consequences for Cena in the aftermath, only for him to go on to decisively vanquish Barrett at the following month's TLC PPV.