This Sunday will be the 31st edition of WWE Survivor Series. It was the second WWE pay-per-view event after WrestleMania with the first Survivor Series event taking place on November 26, 1987 in Richfield, Ohio. In the early years of the show, Survivor Series took place either on Thanksgiving night in the United States, which meant a Thursday night in late November or sometimes on Thanksgiving Eve. By the time the 1990s rolled around, it became a Sunday pay-per-view because WWE realized that their fans were used to ordering shows on a Sunday night rather than some other day of the week.
What’s always been unique about Survivor Series is that the cards have been made up of elimination tag matches starting with the first show in 1987 and nearly every year since. I say nearly every year because as you’ll see in this rankings, two of the better shows ever didn’t have a traditional elimination match. These elimination matches started off as 5-on-5 matches, then they became 4-on-4 matches and WWE has gone back to the 5-on-5 format as a regular thing.
Ranking every Survivor Series event isn’t easy, but I feel qualified to do it because I reviewed all of them on my site last year. I’ll let you know the best match and most memorable moment from every show, so if you feel like re-watching something you will know where to look if you don’t have a lot of time.
If I had to rank Survivor Series among WWE’s “big four” I’d put WrestleMania first, SummerSlam second, Royal Rumble and Survivor Series in a distant fourth. It’s just not as appealing as the other three, but there is a nostalgic feeling about it every year, so I’m glad WWE kept it around even though they thought about ditching it in the late 2000s.
Survivor Series is also a show where “legends” like Ludvig Borga and Maven can say they headlined one of WWE’s biggest shows of the year. I wish I was joking. Let’s get to the rankings.
30. Survivor Series 1994
Best Match: The Bad Guys (Razor Ramon, The 1-2-3 Kid, The British Bulldog, Fatu and Sione) vs. The Teamsters (Shawn Michaels, Diesel, Owen Hart, Jim Neidhart and Jeff Jarrett)
Most Memorable Moment: Owen Hart costs Bret Hart the WWE Championship by getting their mother Helen Hart to throw in the towel against Bob Backlund.
Bret Hart losing the WWE title to Bob Backlund in a bad match that went 35 minutes was something that makes me groan to this day. Backlund’s title reign didn’t last long because Diesel won it a few days later, with WWE attempting to turn Diesel face during this show. Jerry Lawler and three little people vs. Doink and three little people is one of the worst matches ever. Painful to watch. The main event saw The Undertaker beat Yokozuna in a Casket Match as revenge for their even worse match at Royal Rumble 1994. It sucked too, as did this show.
29. Survivor Series 1993
Best Match: Team Razor Ramon (Razor Ramon, Randy Savage, Marty Jannetty and 1-2-3 Kid) vs. Team I.R.S. (Irwin R. Schyster, Diesel, Rick Martel and Adam Bomb)
Most Memorable Moment: Owen Hart freaking out after he was the only member of the Hart brothers team to be eliminated, which set off his incredible heel run in 1994.
The main event saw a Lex Luger led “All-Americans” team beat The Foreign Fanatics led by Yokozuna. Ludvig Borga got to main event this show! That’s how bad this was! That match was used to start the Undertaker feud with Yokozuna, which as I mentioned above was not a good thing for us to watch. The only highlight of this show was the start of Owen Hart’s heel turn as the jealous little brother. I was a huge Owen Hart fan and loved seeing him start a feud with brother Bret made me happy. Also noteworthy is Shawn Michaels having to replace Jerry Lawler as captain of the “Knights” team since Lawler was rumored to have raped a young girl. The charges were dropped after the show with the popular theory being that Memphis wrestlers put the girl up to it and it was all made up. The wrestling business is messed up, my friends.
28. Survivor Series 1990
Best Match: The Million Dollar Team (Ted Dibiase, The Undertaker and Rhythm and Blues – Honky Tonk Man and Greg Valentine) vs. The Dream Team (Dusty Rhodes, Koko B. Ware and The Hart Foundation – Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart)
Most Memorable Moment: The debut of The Undertaker. He started at a taping before this, but this was considered the real debut. Who knew that this guy would go on to be one of the biggest names in WWE history over the next 27 years? It’s cool to watch early Undertaker and see how intimidating he was.
It was a boring show that was headlined by Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior teaming up with Tito Santana in the main event “Grand Finale” after being survivors in their tag match. Basically, it was just to put Hulk and Warrior over three heels. I liked the “Grand Finale” idea, but this was the only year they did it. Other than The Undertaker’s appearance, the second most memorable moment was The Gobbledy Gooker hatching from an egg and dancing with Mean Gene Okerlund. I didn’t say it was the good kind of memorable. What an awful waste of time that was.
27. Survivor Series 1989
Best Match: The Rude Brood (Rick Rude, Mr. Perfect, The Fabulous Rougeaus – Jacques and Raymond Rougeau) vs. Roddy’s Rowdies (Roddy Piper, Jimmy Snuka and The Bushwhackers – Butch and Luke)
Most Memorable Moment: Andre the Giant being eliminated in 27 seconds by countout from an Ultimate Warrior clothesline. He was near the end of his career and life (he died in 1993), so he really couldn’t do much in the match. It was still a shock to see him being eliminated so easily.
They changed the format in 1989 by doing five 4-on-4 tag matches (instead of 5-on-5), with all them going over 20 minutes and the longest one was 27 minutes, which made for a repetitive show. Another notable change was that The Ultimate Warrior got to be in the main event tag match instead of Hulk Hogan, who was the WWE Champion at the time. Also notable is that a 19-year-old Shane McMahon served as a referee named Shane Stevens that was outside the ring during some of the elimination matches.
26. Survivor Series 1991
Best Match: Ric Flair, The Mountie, Ted Dibiase and The Warlord vs. Roddy Piper, Bret Hart, Virgil and Davey Boy Smith
Most Memorable Moment: The Undertaker wins his first WWE Championship over Hulk Hogan thanks to interference from Ric Flair. Terrible match, but a memorable ending with Undertaker hitting a Tombstone on a steel chair (sort of) that was held by Flair. Most people assumed this would eventually lead to Hogan vs. Flair at WrestleMania 8, but that didn’t happen.
The tag match with Flair’s team facing off against Piper’s team was pretty good. Look at all the great talent in that match…plus The Warlord and Virgil! Can’t have all the best guys in one match, I guess. This is the show where Shawn Michaels set up his heel turn on Marty Jannetty to break up the Rockers. Michaels blamed Jannetty for losing and shortly after this, Michaels turned heel in a memorable moment during the Barber Shop talk show with Brutus Beefcake. Boring show otherwise.
25. Survivor Series 1999
Best Match: Too Cool (Brian Christopher and Scotty 2 Hotty) and The Hollys (Hardcore and Crash Holly) vs. Edge and Christian and The Hardy Boyz
Most Memorable Moment: Steve Austin getting run over by a car in the parking lot. Austin was advertised in the main event triple threat, but was taken out by a car in the parking lot. Austin’s neck injury was so bad that he had to have major surgery and missed 11 months of action. In October 2000, Rikishi was revealed as the driver because he did it … FOR DA ROCK!
While 1999 was a very profitable year for WWE with some cool moments, it was not great for having awesome PPVs. Aside from the tag team elimination match that stood out as the best match, this show had some of the worst elimination tag matches ever. The women’s match with Debra, Tori, Fabulous Moolah and Mae Young winning is atrociously bad. Big Show won his first WWE title as a replacement for Austin in the main event triple threat with Triple H and The Rock. Also notable is that this was Kurt Angle’s debut. I was at this show in Detroit and that’s the only thing I want to remember in a positive light.
24. Survivor Series 2010
Best Match: Daniel Bryan vs. Ted Dibiase for the United States Championship
Most Memorable Moment: Randy Orton and John Cena fighting off the Nexus. Cena was “fired” after this show even though he was never actually off TV while he was fired. It was a lame storyline.
There was only one traditional elimination match on the show and it was just average. Bryan’s win over Dibiase as the opener was during a time when Bryan was winning people over with his great matches. I’ll always remember this because Kaval won NXT season two, got a chance to have a title match against any champion and he chose the Intercontinental title! What an idiot. Kaval lost to Dolph Ziggler on the show and didn’t make much progress in WWE. This show was incredibly boring with Randy Orton vs. a “rookie” Wade Barrett in the main event with Cena as the referee.
23. Survivor Series 1997
Best Match: Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart for the WWE Championship
Most Memorable Moment: The Interrogator as the sole survivor for his team! Umm, not exactly. The Montreal Screwjob, ladies and gentlemen.
Michaels vs. Hart is one of the most famous matches ever, so that’s what people remember from this show. The match was solid for about 13 minutes leading up to the finish, but it’s the ending that people will always talk about. Other than that, Steve Austin returning after three months from a serious injury to beat Owen Hart was a highlight even though Austin was limited because he was hurt. Kane also had his first PPV match (as Kane at least) when he beat Mankind, who bumped his ass off to make him look great.
22. Survivor Series 2006
Best Match: Team Cena: John Cena, Rob Van Dam, Sabu, Bobby Lashley and Kane vs. Team Big Show: Big Show, MVP, Test, Umaga and Finlay
Most Memorable Moment: There’s not really a positive moment that stands out. What I remember most is that Lita retired at this show and was humiliated after the match by Cryme Tyme selling her some of her items in a “Ho Sale” due to her heel character reputation. A segment like that would never make it on WWE TV today.
There were three elimination tags all won by the face team including a legends team of Dusty Rhodes, Ric Flair, Ron Simmons and Sgt. Slaughter beating the Spirit Squad. Cool moment as Team DX had all five guys (Triple H, Shawn Michaels, CM Punk, Jeff and Matt Hardy) survive the match with the crowd chanting “CM Punk” a lot. The main event saw Batista beat “King” Booker T for the World Heavyweight Championship in a boring match. They got into a legit fight (won by Booker according to most people) several months before this while taping a SummerSlam commercial.
21. Survivor Series 2013
Best Match: Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns, (Antonio) Cesaro and Jack Swagger vs. Rey Mysterio, Goldust, Cody Rhodes, Jimmy and Jey Uso
Most Memorable Moment: Roman Reigns eliminating three guys and winning for his team.
This is the show where it became obvious that Roman Reigns was going to get a monster face push. The Shield were still heels, but they were getting cheered more. Reigns was booked as a monster that eliminated three guys and was the sole survivor in the match. Another good match was CM Punk and Daniel Bryan teaming up (as the unofficial “Internet Darlings”) to beat Luke Harper and Erick Rowan of the Wyatt Family. The main event is one of worst PPV main events this decade with heel Randy Orton beating Big Show to retain the WWE Championship. All I remember about Big Show in that era is that he was booked to cry a lot.
20. Survivor Series 1987
Best Match: Team Strike Force vs. Team Hart Foundation in a 10 on 10 Elimination Match
Most Memorable Moment: Hulk Hogan getting eliminated by countout. Hogan was the WWE Champion and booked strong all the time, so seeing him fail to win a match was so rare that it stands out to me.
In terms of match quality there are probably better shows that I’ve already covered, but this one holds a special place in my heart since it was the first Survivor Series. I watched it on VHS repeatedly when I was about seven years old. It really made me love Randy Savage because of his work as a face in the opening tag. The 10-on-10 tag match is unique because they went nearly 40 minutes and it’s quite a sight to see so many guys on the apron like that on both sides. Plus, there were so many great teams during that era. The main event was fun, with Andre the Giant as the sole survivor leading a team against Hulk Hogan.
19. Survivor Series 2004
Best Match: Team Orton (Randy Orton, Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho and Maven) vs. Team Triple H (Triple H, Batista, Gene Snitsky and Edge w/Ric Flair)
Most Memorable Moment: Randy Orton hitting two RKOs in under two minutes to Triple H and Edge. Orton was left alone against two top heels, yet managed to win.
There were some entertaining matches here with a fun main event elimination tag that put over Randy Orton as a face, which was an experiment that ended a few months later. There were also some good matches like the cruiserweight four way (Spike Dudley over Rey Mysterio, Chavo Guerrero and Billy Kidman) and Shelton Benjamin beating Christian in an IC title match. Meanwhile, poor Undertaker had to have a match with Heidenreich that was a stinker. Is the fact that Maven main evented a Survivor Series better or worse than Ludvig Borga in the main event? I’ll let you decide that one.
18. Survivor Series 2000
Best Match: Steve Austin vs. Triple H
Most Memorable Moment: Ending the show with a forklift in a parking lot.
This is the only Survivor Series that ended with a guy (Steve Austin) commandeering a forklift while another guy (Triple H) was in a car, and the show just ended like that. Another memorable moment was Lita getting busted open and bleeding heavily around her left eye. The rest of the card was disappointing, because 2000 is the best year in WWE PPV history in my opinion, and there just weren’t enough standout matches here.
17. Survivor Series 2015
Best Match: Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens
Most Memorable Moment: Sheamus cashing in the Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE Championship from Roman Reigns, who just won the title moments earlier.
There was only one traditional elimination match on the main card (also another one on the Kickoff Show) because the focus of this event was on the semifinals and finals of the WWE Championship tournament. Roman Reigns defeated Alberto Del Rio in a decent match, Dean Ambrose beat Kevin Owens in a great match and then the finals saw Reigns beat Ambrose for Roman’s first world title. The show ended with Sheamus cashing in Money in the Bank to leave as WWE Champion.
16. Survivor Series 1992
Best Match: Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels for the WWE Championship
Most Memorable Moment: Bret Hart countering a Shawn Michaels move off the middle ropes with a Sharpshooter leading to Hart getting the win.
This was a two-match show and both of them were pretty good, so if you only watch those two bouts it’s still a worthwhile event. Hart was WWE Champion and Michaels was Intercontinental Champion, although only the WWE Championship on the line. It was about three years before Michaels became a regular main eventer, but WWE knew what they had. There was also a big tag match with Randy Savage and Mr. Perfect beating Ric Flair and Razor Ramon by disqualification. Perfect was a late replacement for The Ultimate Warrior, who was gone from WWE before this event.
15. Survivor Series 2008
Best Match: Team Batista (Batista, R-Truth, CM Punk, Kofi Kingston and Matt Hardy) vs. Team Orton (Randy Orton, Cody Rhodes, Shelton Benjamin, William Regal and Mark Henry)
Most Memorable Moment: Edge won the WWE title in an extremely cheap manner because the match was Triple H defending the title against Vladimir Kozlov in a terrible match. Vickie Guerrero was the Smackdown GM, and she introduced Edge for the match, which was Edge’s return after being out for thee months. Jeff Hardy was also involved, he was drilling everybody with a chair and Edge ended up covering Triple H to win. Match sucked, but it was a memorable title change.
There were three elimination tag matches and three regular matches including a Casket Match. That match saw The Undertaker win when he threw Big Show into a casket that was vertical on the ramp. Main event was John Cena winning yet another World Championship by beating Chris Jericho in a solid match. Randy Orton continued his positive momentum at Survivor Series with another win as a survivor along with Cody Rhodes at a time when their “Legacy” group was growing.
14. Survivor Series 2009
Best Match: John Cena vs. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels for the WWE Championship
Most Memorable Moment: Kofi Kingston eliminated CM Punk and Randy Orton within ten seconds to be the sole survivor in his elimination match.
The REAL most memorable moment was this. Fan: “Go back to Toronto.” Jericho: “I’m from Winnipeg, you idiot!” Classic!
There were a lack of strong heels in WWE at the time, so the main event was John Cena defending the WWE Championship against D-Generation X buddies Shawn Michaels and Triple H, who were also faces. The elimination tag match with Kofi Kingston’s team beating Randy Orton’s team with Kingston pinning Orton to win was a great moment that drew a huge pop from the crowd. Kingston didn’t break through as a main event star as WWE hoped, but this was a big moment early in his singles career.
13. Survivor Series 2003
Best Match: Team Bischoff (Chris Jericho, Christian, Mark Henry, Scott Steiner and Randy Orton) vs. Team Austin (Shawn Michaels, Booker T., Rob Van Dam, Bubba Ray and D-Von Dudley)
Most Memorable Moment: Batista hitting Shawn Michaels with a Powerbomb to give Randy Orton the win in the elimination match.
If you’re interested in watching one of the best elimination matches ever, I highly recommend the Team Bischoff vs. Team Austin match that was really the Randy Orton and Shawn Michaels show. Michaels really carried the match as he fought as an underdog with a bloody head that nearly got the win until Batista showed up with a cheap attack. There were also two silly stipulation matches with Kane beating Shane McMahon in an Ambulance and the end of the “American Badass” Undertaker as he lost to Vince McMahon in a Buried Alive match, thanks to Kane. This was also the first PPV where John Cena worked as a face as part of Kurt Angle’s team. Cena’s been a face ever since, except to those fans chanting “Cena Sucks” for over a decade.
12. Survivor Series 1988
Best Match: Team Powers of Pain vs. Team Demolition
Most Memorable Moment: Mr. Fuji costing Demolition their match and aligning with the Powers of Pain in a double turn.
This was the second Survivor Series, and much better than the first due to some smart booking moves. Mr. Perfect and The Ultimate Warrior were both put over big as a sole survivors. The heel turn from Mr. Fuji going against Demolition and joining the Powers of Pain was really well done. It shocked me as a kid.
The Mega Powers duo of Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage (the WWE Champion at the time) won their tag match. All was well until the end of the show when Hogan picked up Elizabeth to celebrate and Savage flashed JEALOUS EYES~! at him. It was the start of Savage’s heel turn that took place a few months later to set up the WrestleMania V main event, when he dropped the title to Hogan.
11. Survivor Series 2014
Best Match: Team Cena (John Cena, Dolph Ziggler, Big Show, Erick Rowan and Ryback) vs. Team Authority (Seth Rollins, Kane, Mark Henry, Luke Harper and Rusev)
Most Memorable Moment: Sting debuting in WWE during the main event as Triple H was trying to help Team Authority win. Sting dropped Triple H with a Scorpion Death Drop and put Dolph Ziggler onto Seth Rollins to give Team Cena the win.
The main event was a good elimination tag match – one of the best ever – and really helped to carry this show because they got 45 minutes plus the memorable ending with Sting. I remember the news of Sting appearing leaked about two days before it. That made me care more about watching the show rather than feel bad that I knew about the spoiler. It was a cool moment.
10. Survivor Series 2011
Best Match: CM Punk vs. Alberto Del Rio for the WWE Championship
Most Memorable Moment: The Rock having his first match in WWE in seven years as he teamed up with John Cena to beat The Miz and R-Truth. After they won, The Rock hit Cena with a Rock Bottom to set up their WrestleMania 28 main event.
The WWE return of The Rock was a huge story at this show that took place in Madison Square Garden. They billed the Rock/Cena team as “Never Before, Never Again.” The team of The Miz and R-Truth (aka The Awesome Truth) were weak in terms of being a top heel duo, but WWE needed somebody to do the job in that main event tag match. It was a pretty good match that Rock won with the People’s Elbow.
Other matches on the show saw CM Punk win the WWE Championship from Alberto Del Rio in a competitive match that saw Punk have a big celebration with the fans after it was over. Plus, Punk using Howard Finkel as his personal ring announcer was a fantastic moment. That was the start of Punk’s 434 days as WWE Champion that ended at Royal Rumble 2013.
9. Survivor Series 2005
Best Match: Triple H vs. Ric Flair in a Last Man Standing Match
Most Memorable Moment: The Undertaker showing up when Randy Orton was celebrating the main event leading to Orton doing a fantastic “oh sh*t” face.
This is one of those shows that was very good from top to bottom without one standout match, but most of it was solid. Best match honors goes to that Triple H vs. Ric Flair Last Man Standing match that went 27 minutes. It’s amazing that Ric Flair went that long in a bloody, physical match when he was 56 years old. Just another example of how great Flair was. The worst part of the show was Teddy Long beating Eric Bischoff in a six-minute comedy match that was embarrassingly bad.
The main event was a Team Raw vs. Team Smackdown 5-on-5 match with Randy Orton as the sole survivor for the Smackdown team. The show ended with a big moment as The Undertaker returned while Orton was celebrating with the Smackdown roster. Undertaker beat up a bunch of dudes while Orton got away. Hot ending to the show.
8. Survivor Series 2012
Best Match: Team Ziggler (Dolph Ziggler, Alberto Del Rio, Damien Sandow, David Otunga and Wade Barrett) vs. Team Foley (Kane, Daniel Bryan, Kofi Kingston, The Miz and Randy Orton)
Most Memorable Moment: The Shield trio of Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns debuting in the main event by attacking Ryback and putting him through the announce table with a Powerbomb. That led to CM Punk covering John Cena to retain the WWE Championship.
This show will always be remembered for The Shield’s debut more than anything. At the time, most of us had known that Rollins and Ambrose were standouts in FCW/NXT, yet Reigns wasn’t well known. The announcers did a good job of saying their names to try to inform the audience. It was a shocking debut and the rest was history.
The best match on this year’s card was Dolph Ziggler’s heel team beating Mick Foley’s face team. This took place at a time when WWE was trying to get Ziggler to that next level as a top heel. Other noteworthy matches saw Rey Mysterio, Sin Cara, Tyson Kidd and Justin Gabriel as a foursome of survivors that were all high flyers in an exciting opener.
7. Survivor Series 2016
Best Match: Team Smackdown Live (AJ Styles, Dean Ambrose, Randy Orton, Bray Wyatt and Shane McMahon) vs. Team Raw (Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman)
Most Memorable Moment: Goldberg beating Brock Lesnar clean in 1:26 in the main event. Lesnar had never been booked like that before, so it was very shocking.
The men’s 5-on-5 elimination match saw Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt as the survivors for the Smackdown team. It was the longest Survivor Series elimination match in WWE history, as they went 53 minutes with a lot of fun moments. There was a cool moment towards the end of the match where Dean Ambrose attacked his teammate AJ Styles leading to Ambrose briefly aligning with Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns to deliver a three man Shield Powerbomb on Styles through the announce table. Fans booed Reigns all night, but they sure loved that moment.
Most people thought the main event was going to be Goldberg’s only WWE match during his return to the company. Originally, that was the plan, but he enjoyed his return and agreed to do more. There was also an enjoyable 10-on-10 tag team match that was great mainly thanks to Cesaro putting on an incredible performance.
6. Survivor Series 2007
Best Match: Randy Orton vs. Shawn Michaels for the WWE Championship
Most Memorable Moment: Edge interfering in the World Heavyweight Championship Hell in a Cell match by attacking The Undertaker and Batista retained the title for that reason.
This show was carried by the quality of the two major title matches. Shawn Michaels was always one of Randy Orton’s best opponents, so they had an entertaining bout here for nearly 20 minutes with the stipulation that Michaels wasn’t allowed to use the Sweet Chin Music superkick. That played into the finish well, because when Michaels was ready to finish him off, he remembered he couldn’t do the kick and the hesitation allowed Orton to hit the RKO to retain the title.
There were several Batista vs. The Undertaker matches in 2007 and all of them were very good. Their Hell in a Cell match ended when Edge interfered to cost The Undertaker the world title. It was the angle that would lead to Undertaker beating Edge for the world title in the main event of WrestleMania 24 about five months later. The worst part of the show was Hornswoggle vs. The Great Khali, which ended in a disqualification because I guess both men had to be protected? I don’t know. It was brutal.
5. Survivor Series 1995
Best Match: Bret Hart vs. Diesel for the WWE Championship
Most Memorable Moment: Bret Hart’s table bump and Hart winning the WWE Championship with an inside cradle.
When Diesel defended the gold against Bret Hart at Survivor Series 1995 it was day 358 of Diesel’s run (one week short of a one-year reign). They had a damn good match with Bret bumping his ass off while selling a beating for 25 minutes. Hart’s bump off the apron through the table was huge at the time because we didn’t see people doing stuff like that regularly. Great match with a memorable heel turn, too.
WWE tried something different this year with a “Wildcard Elimination Match” with a mix of faces and heels on opposite sides. The face trio of Shawn Michaels and Ahmed Johnson (both faces) with the heel British Bulldog ended up as the winners. I wish WWE would have done that kind of match again. People will remember 1995 as a terrible year for WWE, but this is an awesome show worth checking out again.
4. Survivor Series 2001
Best Match: Team WWE (The Rock, Chris Jericho, Big Show, Kane and The Undertaker) vs. Team Alliance (Steve Austin, Booker T, Kurt Angle, Rob Van Dam and Shane McMahon)
Most Memorable Moment: Kurt Angle turns on The Alliance by hitting teammate Steve Austin with the WWE Championship, which allowed The Rock to hit a Rock Bottom on Austin to win the main event.
The theme of Survivor Series 2001 was Team WWE vs. Team Alliance (WCW/ECW). The main event was a 45-minute elimination match with the two biggest names The Rock and Steve Austin battling in the final ten minutes. A lot of it didn’t make sense after the show because Austin ended up becoming a face again, but as a match it’s one of the best elimination matches ever. Vince McMahon’s over the top celebration to end the show was a highlight as well. Stephanie McMahon’s poor acting after the loss was a lowlight for sure.
The rest of the card had some good matches with The Dudleys beating The Hardys in a Steel Cage after Jeff Hardy missed a dive off the top of the cage that led to him going through a table. Edge got a surprisingly entertaining match out of Test, who really wasn’t known for good matches either.
It’s very tough for me to order the top three Survivor Series, because they’re all outstanding for different reasons, with all of them making a legit case for the top spot. Here we go.
3. Survivor Series 1996
Best Match: Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin
Most Memorable Moment: Sycho Sid wins the WWE Championship from Shawn Michaels after using a camera as a weapon.
I think Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin is the best match in Survivor Series history. If you like rating matches with star ratings (I do, by the way) this is the only match that I’d rate five stars at a Survivor Series. The finish saw Austin applying the Million Dollar Dream sleeper, Hart went towards the turnbuckle, kicked off the ropes and landed back onto Austin to pin him. Austin kicked out right after the three to make it look close, which led to an even better match between the two at WrestleMania 13.
The rest of the card had some entertaining matches including The Undertaker getting revenge on Mankind by beating him in a singles match. Rocky Maivia also debuted at this show and was the sole survivor in a below-average match. The main event was unique because Michaels was the face, but the crowd didn’t like him as much as Sid and fans cheered when Sid cheated to win the title. The match also produced this meme. A true classic if there ever was one.
Very good show from top to bottom, although if you’re a fan of traditional elimination matches there was not much to get excited about here.
2. Survivor Series 2002
Best Match: Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H vs. Chris Jericho vs. Booker T vs. Kane vs. Rob Van Dam in the first Elimination Chamber match for the World Heavyweight Title.
Most Memorable Moment: Shawn Michaels wins the World Heavyweight Championship after missing over four years of action by pinning his rival Triple H, who was the champion going into the match.
If you’re a fan of Survivor Series in the traditional sense you may hate this show because there wasn’t a 4-on-4 or 5-on-5 match. I don’t think it hurt the event at all because the Elimination Chamber match main event was amazing. We had no idea what the chamber was going to look like because this was its debut (from the mind of Triple H). It was Michaels’ second match in over four years, so seeing him last until the end and beat Triple H with a superkick was an awesome moment. There was a huge pop for Michaels winning the World Title in Madison Square Garden, which made it that much more special.
The unique thing about this show is that there were five title matches and five title changes. The three-team tag team match that saw Los Guerreros (Eddie and Chavo) beat Edge and Rey Mysterio and Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit was full of tremendous nearfalls with the Guerreros cheating to win because that’s what they did. Paul Heyman turned on Brock Lesnar to help Big Show win the WWE Title, which was done to make Lesnar a face, and was very well executed.
1. Survivor Series 1998
Best Match: Mankind vs. Steve Austin
Most Memorable Moment: The Rock wins the WWE Championship after Vince McMahon tells timekeeper to ring the bell while Rock applied a Sharpshooter to Mankind. Post match, Rock hugged Vince and Shane McMahon to show that he was aligned with them.
The “Deadly Games” tournament took place to crown a new WWE Champion and there was also a catchy “Deadly Games” theme song, too. The WWE Championship was vacated because WWE Chairman Vince McMahon hated Steve Austin as his champion, so after several months of confusing storylines, we were told a new WWE Champion would be crowned by the end of the night. There was a huge moment during the Mankind vs. Steve Austin semifinal match as Shane McMahon entered as a referee and was going to count the win for Austin, but he stopped and gave Austin the double middle fingers. It was a shocking heel turn from Shane, who was a fairly new character on WWE TV at that point. Mankind ended up getting the cheap win and moving onto the final. Meanwhile, The Rock made the final on the other side of the bracket thanks to Kane hitting him with a Chokeslam, so Rock beat Undertaker by disqualification.
Mankind vs. The Rock was the finals, with most people thinking Vince would help his buddy Mankind win. Instead, The Rock flashed the People’s Elbow at Vince, slapped on the Sharpshooter and Vince called for the bell to give The Rock his first WWE world title. Rock hugged Vince and Shane as they formed a new stable called The Corporation. They bragged about what they did while beating up poor Mankind some more. Steve Austin ran back out there, got his revenge on Rock and that sent the fans home happy even though Rock left with the WWE Championship.
In terms of match quality, there are better shows than this and if somebody picked another Survivor Series as the best I’d be fine with it. However, from a start to finish standpoint and in terms of telling stories throughout the show, this is the best Survivor Series ever to me. There were turns, there were some creative finishes and the ending is one of the best in WWE history. That means a lot when comparing it to other shows. Vince Russo takes a lot of heat from WWE fans as a writer under Vince McMahon in the Attitude Era, but this was the best show that writing team booked from start to finish.
Survivor Series 1998 was so memorable because of The Rock’s turn, Shane’s turn and the repeat of the 1997 finish that was still such a hot topic in the wrestling world. A lot of fans remember it as one of the most fun wrestling events they’ve ever seen. Survivor Series 1998 is a true masterpiece that will never get old. Take us away, Deadly Game song.