WWE presents the 24th annual Survivor Series pay-per-view this Sunday. Survivor Series is WWE’s second-oldest pay-per-view (trailing only WrestleMania) and has featured a number of memorable moments over the years.
Here’s a look at 10 of them:1990: The Undertaker debuts
A macabre, menacing figure was unveiled as the mystery member of Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Team, which took on Dusty Rhodes’ Dream Team in an eight-man tag team elimination match.
The Undertaker – who, ironically, was billed at the time as Cain The Undertaker – made an immediate impact. Seemingly impervious to pain, he eliminated Koko B. Ware just 1 minute, 39 seconds into the match, and later pinned the legendary Rhodes. The Undertaker continued to assault “The American Dream” outside the ring and was counted out. Nevertheless, “The Phenom” had arrived and WWE would never be the same.
1990: WWF lays an egg with Gobbledy Gooker
There was another notable debut that night. But while The Undertaker went on to become one of pro wrestling’s all-time greats, the other newcomer – The Gobbledy Gooker – instantly became one of the most absurd wrestling characters of all time.
In the weeks leading up to Survivor Series, a giant egg was shown on WWF television and it was announced that it would hatch at the pay-per-view. Speculation ran rampant about the contents of the egg. Most fans believed some big-name wrestler from another promotion was going to pop out of it. It turned out to be a guy in a bizarre-looking turkey costume (this was back when Survivor Series was always held on Thanksgiving night).
The live crowd didn’t know what to make of the surreal scene of announcer Mean Gene Oklerlund and the Gobbledy Gooker dancing in the ring. I think most viewers were waiting for the person in the costume to reveal their identity, but it never happened. After all the hype, the big surprise really was just a guy dressed up as a turkey. The character was dropped immediately after Survivor Series. On a side note, Hector Guerrero of the famous Guerrero wrestling family was The Gobbledy Gooker.
1991: The Undertaker wins his first world title
One year after his impressive debut, The Undertaker defeated Hulk Hogan to become WWF champion. The “Dead Man” got an assist from longtime NWA/WCW star Ric Flair, who had recently made his WWF debut.
In an unprecedented move, an immediate re-match between The Undertaker and Hogan was signed for a pay-per-view dubbed Tuesday in Texas five days later. Hogan regained the title at that show, but due to the controversial finish, the title was then held up. That set the stage for the Royal Rumble pay-per-view two months later, where Flair won the vacant championship in the Rumble match.
1992: Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels prove bigger isn’t necessarily better
The era of muscled-up big men and larger-than-life characters dominating the WWF title picture officially came to an end, as WWF champion Bret Hart and Intercontinental champion Shawn Michaels – two former tag-team stars who were considered small by WWF standards – wrestled each other in the main event.
Five years later at the 1997 Survivor Series, these two would engage in perhaps the most controversial match in wrestling history. On this night, however, Hart and Michaels simply put on a fantastic match. After nearly 30 minutes of action – far longer than the typical Hulk Hogan or Ultimate Warrior title match – Hart retained the title by forcing Michaels to submit to The Sharpshooter.
1994: Bob Backlund becomes champion again
Something happened on this night that showed why people in wrestling always use the “never say never” line. Bob Backlund, the WWF champion from 1978 to 1983 and the whitest of all white meat babyfaces, had left the company on bad terms in 1984. Just the fact that he was back in the WWF 10 years later was surprising enough, but it was downright shocking that the soft-spoken All-American boy had become a bitter, maniacal heel.
Nearly 11 years after losing the WWF title to The Iron Sheik – which led to the birth of Hulkamania – Backlund regained the championship from Bret Hart in a 35-minute “Throw in the Towel” match. As Backlund had Hart trapped in his Crossface Chicken Wing submission hold, Hart’s mother, who was seated ringside, threw in the towel after Bret’s estranged brother, Owen, pleaded with her to do so.
1996: “Rocky sucks!”
In another era, good-looking newcomer Rocky Maivia – a third-generation star with a wide smile – would have been a big success as a babyface. However, Maivia came along just as the Attitude Era was getting underway, and foul-mouthed anti-heroes such as “Stone Cold” Steve Austin had replaced cookie-cutter good guys such as Maivia.
The WWF still tried to make Maivia an overnight star, and he made his debut at Survivor Series as part of a babyface team in an eight-man tag team elimination match. It came down to Maivia against Crush and Goldust, and he went on to pin both of them to emerge as the sole survivor.
The fans, however, had no love for Maivia and they resented him being shoved down their throats. He eventually turned heel and the rest is history.
1997: The Montreal Screwjob
At this point, what else can be said about it?
1998: The Rock becomes the Corporate Champion
In a one-night tournament to crown a new WWF champion (the title had been vacated due to a disputed finish in a triple threat match between Steve Austin, The Undertaker and Kane), The Rock – who had recently turned babyface – stunned the wrestling world by conspiring with Vince and Shane McMahon to double-cross Mankind in the finals and win his first world title.
This time, the fans were chanting “Rocky sucks!” because he was an awesome heel, not because he was an over-pushed, smiling babyface.
2001: Failed invasion
The Invasion story line climaxed with a “winner takes all” 10-man elimination tag team match. In the end, the WWF team of The Rock, The Undertaker, Chris Jericho, The Big Show and Kane defeated The Alliance squad of Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, Shane McMahon, Booker T. and Rob Van Dam.
The Invasion angle is remembered as one of the most disappointing programs in modern wrestling history. After Vince McMahon had purchased WCW, fans were salivating at the prospect of a WWF versus WCW feud, but a look at the Alliance team shows why it failed. The only members of the team who came from WCW or ECW were Booker T. and Rob Van Dam. No one bought Austin, Angle or Shane McMahon as “outsiders.”
2002: Shawn Michaels makes history in Elimination Chamber
The first Elimination Chamber match took place on this show, as world heavyweight champion Triple H defended the title against Shawn Michaels, Chris Jericho, Rob Van Dam, Booker T. and Kane.
It came down to friends-turned-enemies Triple H and Michaels. “The Heartbreak Kid” – who had returned to the ring three months earlier after more than four years on the sidelines – prevailed to become a four-time world champion. It would prove to be his last world title reign.