WWE’s Thanksgiving tradition has given us a lot of great matches over the years, but which ones are a part of Ferrari’s Faves?
The SURVIVOR SERIES debuted on pay-per-view in 1987, as Vince McMahon wanted to program an event to counter the NWA pay-per-view STARRCADE. But that one decision created a legacy that has endured for more than three decades, with the most recent event airing on the WWE Network this PAST SUNDAY.
The event started as a themed show with teams competing in elimination matches with very few real championship stakes, but the company slowly started introducing regular matches over the years. Now, the event has become a mixture of elimination and one-fall matches, and unfortunately much less special than it used to feel.
After 32 events and more than 200 matches under the SURVIVOR SERIES banner, there’s a lot of great stuff to watch. But I’ve chosen five of my favorite matches through the years (spoiler: none of them are from the last 15 years).
5 Traditional Survivor Series Elimination Match: “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase, The Mountie and The Warlord defeated “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, Bret “Hitman” Hart, Virgil and The British Bulldog (1991) – One of the most frustrating parts of the current era’s elimination matches is the terrible pacing. Almost every match has a series of quick eliminations before heading into a longer heat segment before moving on to the finale sequence. This match, back at the fifth annual event in 1991, allowed for some storytelling to build with a lot of great wrestlers who were given the go-ahead to do what they do best. The ending – everyone except Ric Flair being counted out of the match – was unique at the time, but it gave the newly-arrived Flair a major win and a reputation for being able to find a way to come out on top.
4 Triple Threat Elimination Tag Team Title Match: Eddie and Chavo Guerrero defeated Edge and Rey Mysterio (c) and Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit (2002) – The talent in this match is off the charts. Of the six men in this match, five of them have been a world champion. And even Chavo, the only man not to win a world title, is no slouch in the ring. The elimination rules for the match – which is my preferred method of triple threat matches – enhances the match in all the right ways.
3 Traditional 10-on-10 Elimination Match: Powers of Pain, The British Bulldogs, The Rockers, The Hart Foundation and The Young Stallions defeated Demolition, The Conquistadors, The Brain Busters, The Bolsheviks and the Fabulous Rougeau Brothers (1988) – Telling a cogent story with 20 men in the ring tagging in and out can be difficult. When the first of these matches happened in 1987, there wasn’t much to it. But here, over the course of 42 minutes and nine eliminations, the 20 men in the ring told a masterful story that featured mystery and intrigue, and a double cross that no one saw coming. Mr. Fuji, the manager of tag team champions Demolition decided to back the new challengers, the Powers of Pain, manipulating the match so his new team comes out on top. I’ve watched this match dozens of times, and there are so many subtle nuances to every minute of the match, every elimination. It is wrestling storytelling at its peak, and it doesn’t hurt that the match that some of the best wrestlers in the world are involved in the rest of the match.
2 Bret “Hitman” Hart defeated “Stone Cold” Steve Austin (1996) – The match these two had at WrestleMania 13 just a few months later gets most of the attention in this feud, and with good reason. It’s arguably the greatest WrestleMania match of all time. But the success of that match was built on what came before, including the match here, that kicked off the feud. Before the broken neck he suffered at the Summer Slam 1997, Steve Austin was one of the best ring technicians in the world. And Bret Hart certainly earned the tag phrase of “the best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be.” And when the then-WWF put the two together, they instantly clicked, with the upstart Austin trying to prove his worth and the old lion Hart trying to outmaneuver his challenger. Hart managed to win, reversing a cobra clutch into a pinfall, but this was the night Steve Austin proved that he deserved a spot in the main event.
1 No Disqualification WWF Title Match: Bret “Hitman” Hart defeated Diesel (c) – Shawn Michaels may be “Mr. WrestleMania,” but Bret Hart is clearly “Mr. Survivor Series,” appearing in four matches in my top five. He was the standard-bearer for classic confrontations for years before he left for WCW. This, a match with a giant who was not nearly as talented as Hart is, could be considered Hart’s masterpiece. A five-star match with Kevin Nash may as well be a unicorn, but Bret Hart made it happen, and he damn near had to kill himself to do it, including the first-ever bump through a Spanish announce table, something that became a standard of big (and sometimes small) matches. Hart parlayed the table spot into a game of possum that allowed him to roll Diesel up to win the championship for the third time. It was a brilliant match, definitely Kevin Nash’s best, and a match that everyone who appreciates the art of professional wrestling should watch.
What are your favorite SURVIVOR SERIES matches? List them in the comments!