The WWE will present its 27th edition of the Survivor Series this Sunday. Some of pro wrestling’s most memorable moments have taken place on the WWE’s grand November stage. In celebration of 27 years of Survivor Series I present my top 5 memorable moments in WWE Survivor Series history.
5 – The Gobbledy Gooker…Survivor Series 1990. If you ever want to see the epitome of the crazy, corny, character-driven wrestling of the 80s and early 90s, watch the debut of the Gobbledy Gooker.
The Gookler was hyped for weeks on television. Without the advantage of the Internet, nobody was quite sure what to expect. Mean Gene Okerland hosted the segment which featured a large egg and a rabid crowd. Moments later the Gobbledy Gooker “hatched” from the egg and in a rare moment at the time, the WWF was booed out of the building.
4 – Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin…Survivor Series 1996. This is one of my favorite matches of all-time. This match was historic and memorable on a lot of levels. Number one, it was the biggest match in the WWF at the time for the man who would later go on to carry the company to number one. Second, this was the first match back from a lengthy layoff for the WWF’s top gun of the early 1990s. Third, a bad match or bad reaction may have stifled the rise to the top of Stone Cold Steve Austin. Last this was the first in the series that would take the WWF into the Attitude era.
Steve Austin and Bret Hart tore the house down and arguably stole the show. The feud couldn’t have gotten off to a better start. The story on this night ended with Bret getting the win in a close match. Any other feud would have ended there, but as Austin said in promos building up the match, “Bret it will never end.”
The two would go on to steal the show at Wrestlemania 13 and have arguably the greatest Wrestlemania match of all-time. The moment the two locked up , solidified Steve Austin as a money player and a main-event WWE wrestler. This match meant just as much, if not more to Austin’s career as any other that he ever had.
For Bret, the match was equally huge. Bret left the WWF to pursue acting, in the meantime giving Shawn Michaels the ball to carry. Shawn’s success caused bitterness and jealousy in Bret that motivated him to return to the ring. Bret talked a big game coming back and a let down at Survivor Series against Austin would have turned him into more of a laughing-stock than anything else.
The match exceeded expectations and was the start of the Attitude era. The the intense build up in promos between the two going into the match was on another level of anything that the WWF/WWE had going at the time. A forgotten match by many, but one of the most memorable moments in Survivor Series history was the night Bret Hart returned to Madison Square Garden and answered the challenge of Stone Cold Steve Austin.
3 – The Rock wins his first WWF World title…Survivor Series 1998. The Rock was not the movie sensation, crowd favorite, buyrate-busting superstar that he would later be at Survivor Series 98. However, the writing was on the wall and you would have to be ignorant to miss the ascension of the Rock.
The Survivor Series 1998 featured a tournament to fill the vacated WWF title. The tournament was fantastic and every match was filled with crowd heat and emotion. Steve Austin was the runaway favorite to win the tournament, yet the fans would be swerved and the first chapter in history would be written.
The Rock had started as a flop, shoved down the fans throats as a babyface when coming into the WWF. Shortly thereafter, he was repackaged and joined the Nation of Domination. This is where the Rock developed the People’s Elbow, the People’s Eyebrow, and his persona. I remember going to a WWE RAW taping in 1998 where the Rock was wrestling the opening dark match of the night.
The Rock was far from a favorite to win the tournament, but wound up stealing the show. The Rock went through Big Boss Man, Ken Shamrock, the Undertaker, and Mick Foley to win the title. The Rock entered the tournament as a favorite but ended the tournament turning on Foley, joining Vince McMahon’s Corporation, and winning his first WWF title. This was truly a coming out party for the man that would arguably become the WWF’s biggest superstar in history.
2 – Hulk Hogan vs. the Undertaker…Survivor Series 1991. Who would have known that since this match the Undertaker would not only last longer in the WWE than Hogan, but go on to become a true wrestling legend.
This match was the first of many big-time matches for Taker and one of the most anticipated matches of Hogan’s peak as champ. Hogan last beat Sgt. Slaughter for the title but the WWF was starting to change. New wrestlers from the NWA were jumping over including Sid Vicious and Ric Flair, fans were tiring of the corny monsters, and Hogan was without a real threat as champion.
Enter Ric Flair and the Undertaker. By all means, this should have been Flair’s win over Hogan. The match was made and a young, athletic Undertaker was bumping all over the place for the elder statesman. The match was going the Hulkster’s way until Ric Flair made his way down the aisle.
Flair would make his presence known by coming down to ringside and trying to steal Hogan’s belt. Hogan was able to fight him off but also had to contend with Paul Bearer. The two man interference was too much for the Hulkster. Flair wound up tossing a steel-chair inside the ring which would be the deciding factor. Undertaker tombstoned Hogan on top of the steel-chair leading to a 1, 2, 3 and winning his first WWF title.
Today, this wouldn’t be a big deal but back then it was a huge deal whenever the world title changed hands. This was only the second time since the pay-per-view boom that the world title changed hands on a show other than a WrestleMania. This was the first time a non-elimination-style match was held on a Survivor Series. This was Hogan’s third title-loss if you don’t count Andre the Giant’s non-sanctioned win on Saturday Night’s Main Event.
This was one night, one match, and a lot of history. The Undertaker was still a new kid on the block yet the new kid shocked the world by beating Hulk Hogan for the WWF title.
1 – Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart…Survivor Series 1997. Fifteen years later, still one of the most talked about matches, angles, and moments in wrestling history is Hart vs. Michaels from Survivor Series 1997 or what is commonly called the Montreal Screwjob. The match is secondary to the story and tale that this legend has grown into since the bell rang that ended the title reign and WWE career of Bret Hart.
The match had been built up theoretically since Shawn Michaels beat Bret Hart for the WWF title at WrestleMania 12. The backstage heat and animosity between the two had become well known in and out of wrestling circles. The two not only loathed each other, but had a well know fight in the locker room which resulted in Shawn Michaels losing clumps of his hair.
Going into the match Vince asked Bret to drop the title to Shawn. Bret refused to do it because the match was in Canada and he considered it an insult to lose on his home turf. Bret agreed to drop the title but had repeated arguments with Vince over the how, when, and to who he would lose the title to. Bret’s obvious hatred for Shawn influenced his decision making for better or worse.
The match itself was good, not great and a far cry in a good way from their forgotten Survivor Series 1992 main-event. The intensity between the two was very good and the atmosphere took the match to another level. The match ended with the supposed “screw job ending.” Michaels had Hart in a sharpshooter, and the referee signaled for the bell even though it was obvious that Hart didn’t give up. Bret was screwed, Shawn was the champ, and one of the most talked about moments in wrestling folklore was born.