Survivor Series is one of WWE’s longest enduring PPVs. Along with the Royal Rumble, SummerSlam, and WrestleMania it is considered one of the “Big Four” PPVs. The Thanksgiving/Fall classic has had its share of iconic moments over its near three decades in existence. We’ll look at some of the more iconic “Survivor Series-style” matches as well as a few memorable wins, upsets, and debuts. Some of these are synonymous with Survivor Series; others are so infamous they transcend the event.
Let’s take a look at a few of the most iconic moments from Survivor Series.
Stone Cold Hit By A Car (1999)
A famous moment that I forgot happened at a Survivor Series. But it started a dark and disturbing storyline and was a moment when many felt the Attitude Era “jumped the shark.”
It led to a mystery, and the twist ended up being rather forgettable except a funny line issued by the eventual culprit, Rikishi.
The next moment was ground-breaking at the time!
First “Team Raw vs. Team Smackdown” match (2005)
Even though the two brands co-existed for years prior, the first “Raw vs. Smackdown” Survivor Series match didn’t happen until 2005. What also makes this moment special was who was missing from it. The legendary Eddie Guerrero was expected to be a part of Smackdown, but he tragically passed away weeks before. That left Randy Orton to take his place and then go on to become the Sole Survivor.
Survivor Series was home to many firsts, including the debut of an infamous match known for its pain and misery. Let’s take a look at it.
The first Elimination Chamber Match (2002)
The 2002 Survivor Series didn’t feature a traditional elimination match. Instead, it was the debut of the Elimination Chamber. Supposedly the brain-child of Eric Bischoff, the chain-encased ring would soon become the most violent match in WWE. The inaugural match, for the World Heavyweight Championship, was a murderer’s row of legends: Triple H, Shawn Michaels, RVD, Chris Jericho, Booker T, and Kane. The match was bloody and perfect.
Just as historic was the structure’s debut is what went on inside of it that night.
HBK wins gold (2003)
When Shawn Micheals retired in 1998, we thought it was for good. When he came back in 2002, we thought it was just for a few special appearances. That all changed when his comeback completed itself fully at the 2003 Survivor Series. Michaels defeated a host of foes, including his former best friend Triple H to capture the World Heavyweight Title and make his return to the top complete.
From one big comeback to one big ascension.
Undertaker Defeats Hulk Hogan (1991)
A year after his debut at the 1990 Survivor series, the Undertaker solidified his place as a top guy. The Deadman beat Hulk Hogan (with the help of Ric Flair) to become the WWF champion.
The Undertaker wouldn’t always be triumphant at Survivor Series though, as this next slide shows us.
Kane buries The Undertaker (2003)
Kane would turn on his brother to cost him a match against Mr. McMahon in this buried alive match. This would end ‘Taker’s “American Badass” gimmick, and he would return as the original Deadman at WrestleMania XX the next year.
While Kane buried Undertaker, our next incident was a carefully designed ruse to “bury” a wrestler who was about to leave WWE.
The Montreal Screwjob (1997)
The Monstreal Screwjob is perhaps the most infamous and controversial moment in all of wrestling history. Vince McMahon “screwing” Bret Hart out of the WWF Title and controversially giving it to Shawn Michaels has been the subject of gossip and conspiracy theories for 20 years. The ramifications of this event rippled throughout the business. Many people point to this moment as the beginning of the “Attitude Era” as it eventually gave rise to the evil “Mr. McMahon.” The circumstances surrounding the Screwjob are complicated, and no one’s ever given a full-honest accounting. Jim Cornette’s description of the build-up is, in my opinion, the best view of what was happening and what led to it.
This wasn’t Bret’s first time being thoroughly embarrassed at Survivor Series, though, as we’ll see in the next slide.
Bob Backlund defeats Bret Hart (1994)
There was a time in the early 90’s when Bob Backlund became WWF champion. That travesty and everything else wrong with early-90’s WWF is for another article. Backlund beat Bret when Bret’s distraught mother threw in the towel to stop the chicken-wing Backlund had on her son. Owen, Bret’s brother, convinced her to do it. The two would eventually feud because of the incident.
Unfortunately, a few less-than-stellar moments happened at Survivor Series. Like this next slide.
WWF vs. The Alliance (2001)
The “Invasion” Angle is maligned by most fans as being one of the biggest flops in wrestling history. But I liked it. I think invasion angles are the best of the rarely-used big-time wrestling stunts. What made this event so special was that WWF had positioned themselves as the losers when they had won the Monday Night Wars. As the underdogs, the WWF team fought back, and The Rock (shockingly) became the sole survivor. There ended the angle. Kind of a letdown, yeah?
From one forgettable moment to one the next year that showed the strength of one of the most feared competitors in WWF history.
Brock F5s Big Show (2002)
There was a time when it was impossible to pick up the Big Show. Now it seems to happen quite often. Back in 2002, WWE was building Brock Lesnar to be the grandest monster of them all. What better way to do than by destroying The Giant?
From a gigantic slam, we move onto a gigantic egg. LITERALLY.
The Gobbledy Gooker Hatches (1990)
Early-90’s WWF, man. There was a giant egg at the 1990 Survivor Series. A person (Hector Guerrero) dressed as a giant turkey. Mean Gene did his best to sell this moment. The crowd hated it. WWE now says it is one of their biggest “flops, ” but at the time, they seemed to put a lot of serious thought and planning into it…
From one terrible debut to one amazing rise of a legend.
Ric Flair Becomes The “Sole Survivor” (1991)
Ric Flair arriving in the WWF in 1991 was a big deal. His arrival at the 1991 Royal Rumble began a run of Flair’s dominance in the company. He wrestled Randy Savage at WrestleMania and won the Royal Rumble. He also won a Survivor Series match pretty much single-handedly.
This next slide, believe it or not, is an even more improbable win.
Kofi Kingston Wins (2009)
Believe it or not, there was a time when Kofi Kingston was on the cusp of being a major singles star. That came to a beginning and end with his feud with Randy Orton. While Kofi is primarily known as a tag specialist, in 2009 he was a plucky upstart taking on the Apex Predator, Randy Orton. Part of that was Kofi and a squad taking on a team of Orton and friends at Survivor Series. Kofi got the upset win in amazing fashion!
The Rock and Cena Team Up (2011)
Another unlikely moment was the Rock and John Cena teaming up at Survivor Series. The two were in a year-long feud building towards their “Once In A Lifetime” match at WrestleMania 28. Along the way, The Miz and R-Truth interfered and forced the two rivals to team together for one night only. The moment wouldn’t last, as after their victory the Rock Rock Bottom’d Cena.
The Rock would have several iconic Survivor Series moments. Like the one that turned him into a hated villain.
The Rock Becomes the Corporate Champion (1998)
The Rock was “The People’s Champion,” but in 1998, he turned corporate and dark.
The night featured a tournament for the vacant WWF title. The finals pitted The Rock against his long-time nemesis Mankind. The Great One turned his back on the people and joined up with the Corporation, thus securing the victory and becoming “The Corporate Champion.”
But this next slide shows us a happier, younger, fresh-faced Rocky.
The Rock’s Debut (1996)
Early on in The Rock’s career, people know he had “IT.” He was going to be the next big star. Vince knew it. That’s why Rocky Maiavia had his debut at the 1996 Survivor Series. The smiling babyface was a far cry from what he would become, and the fans initially hated him. Here’s Rock remembering his debut years later.
There have been a lot of iconic debuts at Survivor Series. The Rock wasn’t the first. This next star’s debut started maybe the greatest career in wrestling history.
Undertaker Debuts (1990)
The early 90’s were a dark time for WWF and frankly for wrestling in general. Both WCW and WWF were convinced that gimmicky characters were the way to get a new audience. That’s the idea that gave us the Undertaker. Little did we know that what started that day would start a 20-plus reign of terror by one of the most dominant and commanding competitors in wrestling history.
But of course, this wasn’t the end of the Undertaker’s signature Survivor Series moments. This next slide recalls a time when Undertaker was at his most frightening.
The Undertaker Returns (2005)
I mean, shouldn’t the Undertaker be called “Mr. Survivor Series”? He’s on this list so much. What made this return so special was that it happened via FLAMING CASKET. He returned to get his revenge on young punk Randy Orton. Orton a few months prior dispatched of the Deadman via flaming casket.
From a flaming return to a fiery debut. This next Survivor Series moment was the biggest to hit the series in the last decade.
The Shield Debuts (2012)
Hard to think of a faction of wrestlers that have been more successful together and apart than The Shield. Reigns, Rollins, and Ambrose have all won gold and been main event players since they made their crashing debut in 2012. The Hounds of Justice destroyed the entire roster and instantly changed the face of WWE.
From one surprise debut to the next. This one also blinded-sided the WWE Universe, but this time it involved a legend.
Sting Comes to WWE (2014)
“I never thought I’d see this” is a phrase often abused in wrestling. But in this case, I think it fits. No one ever thought Sting would be in WWE. After WCW collapsed, Sting decided to move to TNA instead of his long-time heated rival. As his career wound down, fans made peace with the idea that we’d never see The Icon in WWE. That dream came true at Survivor Series 2014 when Sting made the save for Team Cena. He cemented his legend and earned himself a Wrestlemania match against Triple H in the process. Like a lot of other moments on our list, the crowd reaction is what made it extra special. Not only is this an iconic Survivor Series moment it is an iconic WRESTLING moment.
Did we miss anything? Share your thoughts and your favorite Survivor Series moments in the comments below!