Survivor Series is the second longest running pay-per-view in the history of the company. Started with an event in Richfield, Ohio back on Thanksgiving night of 1987, the first event was developed to give the writer's another excuse to piggyback off the success of WrestleMania III, where Hulk Hogan faced off against Andre the Giant.
The two though would not go at it one-on-one, but instead were the captains of their teams, with four other warriors fighting it out for the chance to be one of the survivors on the winning team.
That was a long time ago and a lot about the Survivor Series event has changed. From the Thanksgiving night show being scrapped in favor of the now normal Sunday night PPV to the old school 5-on-5 matches, for the most part, being a thing of the past.
The 5-on-5 matches were good in their time, as it gave the WWE a chance to showcase a lot of wrestlers all at once. On the first two Survivor Series cards, there was a tag team Survivor match in which ten teams did battle, meaning there was a whopping 20 men around the ring at the start of the match.
Over the course of the last 27 Survivor Series events, there’s been a number of memorable matches. Being contested as long as it has, the event has gone through all phases of the development of the company, from the great times of the late 80’s, to the downtrend of the 90’s, to the famous “Attitude Era” of the late 90’s and then the 2000’s, a time where tickets to most WWE events are hard to find.
Today we take a look at the 20 matches that have defined the second longest running event in WWE history, an event that has just about seen it all. Agree or disagree, sit back and relive the “Top 20 Matches in WWE Survivor Series History.”
20 Tag Team Survivor Series Match - 1988
Ten tag teams were involved in this encounter, with some of the greatest tag teams in WWE history in the ring at the same time. The Hart Foundation, British Bulldogs, The Brain Busters, The Fabulous Rougeaus, The Rockers, Powers of Pain and Demolition were seven of the teams involved. The match included a major swerve, as the fan favorite Powers of Pain won when hated Demolition manager, Mr.Fuji, turned on his team and joined the faces, immediately turning them heel. An interesting twist on an entertaining, but lengthy, match.
19 CM Punk vs Alberto Del Rio, WWE Title Match - 2011
Though this wasn't the main event, as a tag team of John Cena and The Rock always takes center stage, this was an exciting match between two talented guys. Del Rio as champion just never seemed to work for the company, so the company took the belt off him to give it to Punk, who won the match via his Anaconda Vice. Punk would go on a historic run that lasted 434 days, until he lost his belt at the 2013 Royal Rumble to The Rock.
18 Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior and Tito Santana vs Ted DiBiase, Rick Martel, The Warlord, Hercules and Paul Roma - 1990
Known as the “Grand Finale” match, it was three on five with our heroes (Hogan, Warrior and Santana) overcoming incredible odds to beat the bad guys with Hogan and Warrior taking home the win. Santana was eliminated 1:50 into the match, only 90 seconds after he eliminated The Warlord, meaning Hogan and Warrior were 2 against 4 for the majority of the time. It was a rather hokey main event, as it was just a way to get Hogan and Warrior on the same team in the ring, with both of them taking home the win.
17 Team Smackdown vs Team RAW - 2005
Not many remember anything about this match other than the ending, which saw Randy Orton get the final pin on Shawn Michaels. After the win, the lights hit, and Druids came out with a casket, which had a returning Undertaker in it, who then attacked his enemy at the time in Orton, setting up a feud between the two.
16 The Rock’s Debut Match - 1996
Upon first glimpse of Dwayne Johnson in the ring, no one would ever think he would become an icon in the world of pro wrestling and a major movie star, but he did just that. His start was in a four-on-four Survivor Series match at the event in 1996. He was a surprise entrant, and won the match on a shoulderbreaker, pinning Goldust. Little did fans know the man they were seeing would go on to be the biggest star in the industry.
15 Vince McMahon vs The Undertaker, Buried Alive Match - 2003
There’s something special about a ‘Buried Alive’ match and anytime you have “Mr.McMahon” in the ring, anything can happen. It wasn’t an epic by any means, but for nearly 12 minutes Taker controlled most of the match. That was until, with the help of Kane on top of the makeshift grave site, McMahon was able to get the win, setting up yet another feud between the ‘Brothers of Destruction.’
14 Diesel vs Bret Hart, WWE Title Match - 1995
This was a no disqualification match for the strap that saw two legendary guys go at it for a solid 25 minutes. Hart won the match, and the belt, away from Diesel with a small package after Diesel tried to give him a Jackknife Powerbomb. He would go on to stay the champ until dropping the belt after a 60-minute ‘Iron Man’ match with Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XII.
13 Bret Hart vs Bob Backlund, WWE Title Match - 1994
This was a submission match that could only by ended if the wrestler's cornerman threw in the towel. This match had great drama due to the family involvement of the Hart Family. Led by Owen, who was jealous of his brother Bret, the brother was able to convince his mother, Helen, to throw in the towel while Backlund held the chicken-wing crossface, costing Bret the championship. The match led to a great feud between brothers Bret and Owen.
12 John Cena vs Triple H vs Shawn Michaels, WWE Title Match - 2009
The match started with Triple H and Shawn Michaels on the same side as D-Generation X, but took a solid left turn when Michaels decked Triple H with a sweet chin music. This was a solid main event match for Cena’s WWE Title, as the three superstars went back and forth for 21 plus minutes before Cena was able to put an attitude adjustment on Triple H to gain the win and keep the title. If only Triple H and Michaels had worked together...
11 The Mega Powers Team vs The Twin Towers Team - 1988
The second annual event saw Hulk Hogan and Randy “Macho Man” Savage team up with three other stars to take on the Twin Towers (Akeem and Big Bossman) and three other heels in the main event. Hogan and Savage were the sole survivors, but what will be remembered the most is the pat on Miss Elizabeth’s backside post-match by Hogan that Savage was not too happy about, eventually leading to their feud the following spring.
10 Bret Hart vs Shawn Michaels, WWE Title Match - 1992
Anytime Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels took to the mat it was magic, and while this was well before their 1997 tussle that became known as the “Montreal Screwjob,” it was still a great match. What's crazy is that these two legends weren't even featured on the promotional poster as a tag team match of The Macho Man and Ultimate Warrior vs Raazor Ramon and Ric Flair was deemed as the main event. Second om the poster was a nightstick match between Big Boss Man and Nailz. Yes, a nightstick match... This awesome title match went 26 plus minutes and Hart won by applying the sharpshooter for the win.
9 The Rock and John Cena vs The Miz and R-Truth - 2011
This was a match remembered for the return of The Rock to active competition for the company after being gone for seven years. The match was all about him, despite being teamed with John Cena. He was smooth in the ring, and eventually got the pin in a match that showed that after all the years away, he still had it. After the match ended, he Rock Bottomed his partner, Cena, setting up their match at WrestleMania.
8 CM Punk vs Ryback vs John Cena, WWE Title Match - 2012
Survivor Series seems like an awesome place for debuts, as yet another entry involves an important debut in wrestling history. This match was part of Punk’s long historic title reign, but the match is mostly remembered for the debut of three wrestlers known as “The Shield.” The three took out Ryback, throwing him through a table to allow Punk to get the win, and starting a run for The Shield that would last for a long time. Believe in The Shield.
7 Batista vs The Undertaker, Hell in a Cell for the World Heavyweight Title - 2007
The Batista-Undertaker feud had gone back and forth since it started that year at WrestleMania 23. Batista would get some revenge on Taker in this ‘Hell in a Cell’ match, unknowingly getting help from Edge, who dressed as a camera man, took out Taker to allow Batista to get the pin, keeping the title off The Deadman. The three would eventually enter a feud, with Edge winning the belt at Armageddon in a triple threat match.
6 First Ever Elimination Chamber Match - 2002
Not much was known about the now famous ‘Elimination Chamber’ that debuted in the 2002 Survivor Series, but it was a massive structure that saw six WWE superstars battle it out. The match, for those who don't know, starts with two combatants, with a new entrant coming in every five minutes. This match lasted close to 40 minutes, with Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Chris Jericho, Kane, RVD, and Booker T going to war. This match would end with Michaels pinning Triple H to win the World Heavyweight Championship.
5 Hulk Hogan vs The Undertaker, WWE Title Match - 1991
At the time of this victory, THe Undertaker became the youngest champion in WWE History. He was later passed by Yokozuna and then Randy Orton, but on this day, he got some help from Ric Flair to land the title over Hogan. The win was bittersweet, as Taker got to hold the title for just six days, as the company threw together an odd Tuesday PPV the following week in which Hogan got his revenge and the belt back. It was the first of many titles victories for The Deadman.
4 Team WWE vs The Alliance - 2001
A match for ‘control’ of the company, the superstars of the WWE took on the heel team of the ‘Alliance,’ with the two captains of the five man teams being The Rock for WWE and Steve Austin for The Alliance. The match ended with Kurt Angle turning his back on his team of The Alliance and helping the WWE to victory by knocking out Stone Cold with the championship belt, giving Vince McMahon back the control of the company.
3 The Rock vs Mankind Final for the Vacant WWE Title - 1998
The match was the final in the ‘Deadly Games’ tournament for the vacant WWE Title, and saw Mankind and The Rock do battle. The end saw an ultimate curveball, as Vince McMahon called for the bell with The Rock having a sharpshooter on Mankind, creating a swerve as The Rock turned on the fans and joined the heel ‘Corporation’ led by the sinister Vince McMahon. This was obviously a clever nod by the WWE to the events of the Montreal Screwjob.
2 Hogan’s Team vs Andre’s Team - 1987
A match with WWE Hall of Fame wrestlers all over the ring, it focused on the Hogan-Andre feud that started at WrestleMania III. Hogan was eliminated via count-out, thanks to King Kong Bundy and One Mang Gang, and while Andre eventually won by pinning Bam Bam Bigelow, Hogan sent the fans home happy, coming out and attacking Andre, then doing his posedown to his theme “Real American.”
1 Shawn Michaels vs Bret Hart, WWE Title Match - 1997
Say the name “Montreal Screwjob” to any wrestling fan and they will know exactly the match you are talking about. Michaels and Hart did battle in not only the top Survivor Series match in history, but probably one of the most memorable matches of all time, because of the way it changed the history of the business. It spawned a whole new character in the evil “Mr.McMahon,” ended the Hart era in the company for a long time, and gave the title back to Michaels under extreme circumstances.
The story of the match was pretty simple. Hart, on his way out of the WWE, asked to not drop the title in Montreal. McMahon, afraid Hart would take the title to WCW, ordered referee Earl Hebner to call for a quick submission when Michaels reversed the famous Hart sharp-shooter. Chaos ensued in the ring and then backstage as Hart punched McMahon, leaving a real-life bruise near his eye. Michaels, for years, claimed he knew nothing about the finish, then in 2003 changed his tune to admit he was in on it. At the end of the day, it was a great match with an ending that no one would ever forget.