The WWE will present its 29th 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 28 years of Survivor Series I present my top 10 memorable moments in WWE Survivor Series history.
10 – Owen screws Bret…Survivor Series 1994. Yes the first time that Bret Hart got screwed at a Survivor Series was not 1997, it was actually three years earlier in 1994. Bret defended the title against former champion Bob Backlund in a submission match with a twist. Playing off of Backlund’s WWF title loss in 1983, the only way it would end is when someone from the other man’s corner threw in the towel.
Bob chose Bret’s dastardly brother Owen Hart as his cornerman, a controversial choice for obvious reasons. Bret chose the British Bulldog to be his cornerman. Owen was truly the MVP of this match. Davey Boy was knocked out after Owen tripped him into the ring steps. Stu and Helen Hart took the towel at that point and became Bret’s cornerman from the front row. At that point, Owen worked over his parents into believing that he was worried about Bret while Bob held him in the crossface chicken wing. Owen got on his knees begging his mother to throw in the towel. Helen fell for it, grabbed the towel from Stu, and threw it in the ring costing her son the WWE world title in one of the most dramatic finishes in Survivor Series history.
9 – Paul Heyman screws Brock Lesnar…Survivor Series 2002. See a theme here? Quite frankly the backstory to this one is probably juicier than the match. However, the match and the result is historic for different reasons and thus it lands on the top ten list.
Brock Lesnar was just coming into his own. He had beaten the Rock at SummerSlam to win the WWE world heavyweight title and had just beaten the Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell match. Lesnar was originally booked to wrestle Hulk Hogan on the show but the match fell apart when Hogan refused to do another job for Lesnar and Vince McMahon didn’t want Lesnar losing…until Plan B came to fruition.
Plan B was Lesnar vs. the Big Show with a twist. Since everyone expected Lesnar to win, Vince booked him to lose. This would be Lesnar’s very first pinfall loss in the WWE and yes, the Big Show got that honor. The finish was Heyman pulling the referee out of the ring as Lesnar was about to get the win. With Lesnar distracted, Show was able to nail him with a chair and chokeslam him for the win and the championship.
8 – The Undertaker Debuts…Survivor Series 1990. At the time, it was no big deal as the Undertaker was seen by casual fans as another goofy monster gimmick while hardcore fans saw him as just another WCW castoff. Yet 25 years later the moment has taken on historic significance as the Undertaker celebrates his 25th anniversary this Sunday night.
Ted Dibiase promised a big surprise at Survivor Series. The Undertaker debuted as the mystery partner of the Million Dollar Team. The Undertaker, managed by Brother Love at the time, and was immediately pushed as something special. The Undertaker eliminated rival team captain Dusty Rhodes during the match. Taker was subsequently counted out while coming to the aid of his manager Brother Love. Nobody had any idea at the time that this match would mark the start of something special.
7 – Sting Debuts in the WWE….Survivor Series 2014. Sting was the one last holdout from WCW to never appear in the WWE. Fans clamored to see Sting in the WWE for the last 20 years yet for personal and business reasons, it never happened. On November 23, 2014 it finally happened.
The long awaited debut came at the conclusion of the Survivor Series 2014 main-event pitting Team Cena against Team Authority when Dolph Ziggler and Seth Rollins were wrestling for the deciding fall. After several near falls by Ziggler were broken up by the Authority, the lights went out and Sting walked out on the ramp. Sting then hit the ring and laid Hunter out with a Scorpion Death Drop. Sting then put Ziggler on top of Rollins and walked out. Ziggler got the three-count and the win for Team Cena and what has to be one of the most exciting WWE matches of 2014. Michael Cole called it the most historic moment in Survivor Series history (ironically the moment was not even acknowledged on RAW when recollecting memorable Survivor Series moments this year).
6 – 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.
The Gooker was played by Hector Guerrero and has been rarely seen since hatching at Survivor Series. While this is anything far from great, to leave this off of a memorable moment list would be ignorant. The Gobbledy Gooker is a Wrestlecrap.com favorite and even made a return at the gimmick battle royal at WrestleMania 17.
5– 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.
4 – The Debut of the Shield…Survivor Series 2012. As good as this Triple Threat match was and it was pretty good, it will be remembered for three guys that weren’t booked in the match. A new era began on November 18, 2012 as Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, and Seth Rollins debuted on the WWE main roster.
The finish of the match came when Ryback was about to pin Cena after giving him Shell Shock and was attacked by Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, and Dean Ambrose dressed in black security outfits. Michael Cole explained that all three men were from the WWE developmental group NXT. Punk then wound up crawling over and covering Cena for the win. While the angle was pretty simple in nature, it would shape the next era of WWE superstars.
Seth Rollins told Chris Jericho last year on the Talk is Jericho podcast that the debut was originally scripted differently. Rollins told Jericho that they were booked to come out with big shields that had the word “Shield” on it and laughed about how corny it would have been. He said it was Vince that stopped the three and questioned why all three couldn’t take Ryback without weapons. Rollins said they ditched the weapons at that point and couldn’t be happier.
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. Eighteen 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.
The short story behind the scenes is that Vince McMahon told Bret Hart several weeks before the match that he would not be honoring his 20-year contract. Vince allowed Bret, who was his WWF Champion at the time to negotiate and sign a deal with WCW.
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.