If you’re a WWE fan, perhaps you hear yesterday’s big Houston-related WWE news — and by “heard” I mean “took off the rest of the day to get wasted celebrating — WWE announced, as part of a new strategy for its four “major” pay per view events, that they will be bringing Survivor Series, their annual November pay per view, to Houston in 2017, along with three more WWE programs surrounding that Sunday on the calendar.
Next year, the Toyota Center will be invaded in mid-November for four days by the WWE, with their Saturday night NXT card, Survivor Series on Sunday, and then live RAW and Smackdown shows on Monday and Tuesday, respectively. This is huge news for WWE fans, especially those like me, who revel in the historical significance of the Survivor Series.
Invented in 1987 by WWE head honcho Vince McMahon, in part to block his primary competition (Jim Crockett, at the time) from running a Thanksgiving Night pay per view, Survivor Series began as a series of five man vs five man (or five tag team, or five women, you get the idea) matches with babyfaces versus heels in each match. Over time, those team style matches have become more like a specialty nostalgia attraction and Survivor Series has become more like a regular wrestling card.
While the signature of the event historically are those team-style matches, the Survivor Series as a pay per view event has been home to some of the most historically significant matches of all time! This Sunday, the 30th edition of the Survivor Series takes place with the main event being Brock Lesnar versus Goldberg, which is about as nostalgia-driven as a main event could be. It’s been a fun, fast build to what should be a physical pro wrestling match. (Before you casual fans chuckle at “physical” staged bouts, go Google “Lesnar Orton blood”.)
I don’t know if Lesnar/Goldberg will ever crack a “most significant matches” list — the last time they met over a decade ago, they were both booed out of the building at Wrestlemania —but it should be a fun way to get through a day with no Texans game. For now, here are my six most historically significant Survivor Series matches of all time….
6. UNDERTAKER vs HULK HOGAN, 1991
The Undertaker shows up on this list a little later, but this match was exactly a year after Taker’s debut. Dubbed “The Gravest Challenge,” this match saw the Undertaker win his first World title (with help from a Ric Flair chair). This match set up a rematch just a few days later at the one-and-done “Tuesday In Texas” pay per view, a rematch that saw Hogan win in controversial fashion, setting up the title being vacated and put up for grabs at the 30-man 1992 Royal Rumble, where it was won by Flair, of all people. Those were fun times!
5. BRET HART vs STEVE AUSTIN, 1996
This was Bret Hart’s return match to WWF (WWE’s old company name) back in 1996, when it was widely known there was a bidding war between WWF and WCW for his services. Bret wanted to have his first match back with, who he called, the “best wrestler” in the WWF, Steve Austin. This bout, a technical masterpiece, set up their eventual submission match at Wrestlemania 13, which to this day, I still think is the greatest, most significant Mania match of all time (in part because I was there for it — I’m biased).
4. WWF vs WCW, 2001 (The “Invasion”)
This match is on the list because it’s a reminder of how historically badly the Invasion angle of 2001 was botched by Vince McMahon and the powers that be in WWE. They’d just bought WCW for pennies on the dollar, and instead of investing in a legit invasion angle by assuming the contracts of a few of the upper tier WCW guys, they pieced it together with mid card guys, ECW guys, and even turned a few WWE guys INTO makeshift WCW players. This match was great, but the unsatisfying nature of the storyline needs to be told to future generations. We’d all waited for half a decade for this angle, in real life, and then got fed crap.
3. THE DEBUT OF “THE ROCK”, 1996
Two significant WWE careers were launched at Survivor Series. In 1996, there was The Rock, introduced as “Rocky Maivia” and nearly booed out of the building. Actual chants during ROck’s first month with the company were “ROCKY SUCKS” and “DIE, ROCKY, DIE”. Tough crowd! It all seemed to work out ok for him, though.
2. THE DEBUT OF THE UNDERTAKER, 1990
This is another one I was in the building for, at the Hartford Civic Center on Thanksgiving 1990. This night saw the debut of the company’s greatest gimmick — the Undertaker — and its worst — the Gobbledygooker….
1. SHAWN MICHAELS vs BRET HART, 1997 (“The Montreal Screw Job”)
This might be the most historically significant match of all time, not just at Survivor Series, but ever. Vince McMahon screws Bret Hart with a phony finish, Bret leaves for WCW, which opens the door for Steve Austin and The Rock to become the faces of WWE, opens the door for the creation of the iconic “Mr. McMahon” character, and eventually helps facilitate the downfall of WCW. So much triggered here. Books will be written about this. Hell, there’s already a documentary about it….
Enjoy Survivor Series, everybody!
Listen to Sean Pendergast from 2-6pm weekdays on “The Triple Threat”, and follow him on Twitter @SeanTPendergast.