What separates Survivor Series from all other WWE pay per views has always been the elimination match theme. One might argue against that rarity since elimination matches were central to the Summerslam and Bragging Rights pay per views this year. Still, Survivor Series is a favorite of wrestling fans. Even though the theme of Survivor Series is integral to its existence, one must not forget the significance of the title match. Throughout the history of Survivor Series there have been several title matches that were more than just your run-of-the-mill pay per view main events.
In 1991 WWE broke the tradition of having only elimination matches and featured a match between Hulk Hogan and The Undertaker. It was the ultimate good against the ultimate evil. That night was the first Survivor Series Screwjob as Ric Flair was there to help Taker defeat Hogan for the WWE Championship.
While their match at the 1992 Survivor Series was not what they would be most remembered for, the match between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels was significant for its change in direction. Just one year prior had been the Hogan-Taker match. One year later Hogan was not even with the company. There was no Hogan, no Warrior. The times had changed. The company had changed.
There was a shortage of heels in late 1994 as Yokozuna was no longer in the title picture, Owen Hart had lost his bid for the title, and Bam Bam Bigelow had been used mostly as a house show opponent. Bret Hart was in need of fresh challengers for his title and WWE found an unlikely title contender in Bob Backlund. Both men had a representative in their corner, Hart with Davey Boy Smith, and Backlund with Owen Hart. Each rep had a towel that they would throw in if their man could take no more. After Smith was knocked out during a scuffle, Owen brilliantly manipulated his parents in the front row, tugging on their strings until Helen Hart threw the towel in, costing Bret the championship. Backlund served as a transitional champion as he dropped the title just days later to Diesel.
Baby face matches were rare back in those days, as was such a match that was contested under No DQ rules. In one of the best matches of both men’s careers, Bret Hart challenged Diesel for the title at the 1995 SS. After a year on top, Diesel’s loss torched him off so much that he immediately power bombed Hart three times after the match. It launched Hart’s third title reign and turned Diesel into a tweener.
Sid Vicious had always been touted as a future champion. He was supposed to be a big star but never won the big one until his match with Shawn Michaels in 1996. This may open up a can of worms, but this match was a bit of a disaster. It was another baby face vs. baby face match but the crowd in Madison Square Garden was not in any mood to cheer Shawn Michaels that night. HBK legitimately lost his cool with the crowd that night and it hurt the match. The ending saw Sid hit Jose Lothario with a television camera. It supposed to show how sadistic Sid was. It should have given sympathy to Michaels, but it didn’t. At the end of the night Sid was as big a baby face as ever.
It’s a dead horse. The Montreal Screwjob. For years after Survivor Series had a dark cloud looming over as the Screwjob was relived over and over again. In 1998 they did it again as Vince McMahon used it to get the strap on The Rock. In 1999 it was used t get the title off of Triple H. And in 2000 it was used in a different variation to give Kurt Angle a successful title win over a legitimate contender in The Undertaker.
A new breed of a Survivor Series match was born in 2002. The Elimination Chamber was unlike any match fans had seen before and it remains one of the best Chamber matches to this day. Triple H showed how tough he was by fighting a serious injury suffered early in the match at the hands of Rob Van Dam to make it to a great finish with Michaels. It was a special night for the audience and the participants. It was also the night Michaels began his final title run. This would also be the night that Brock Lesnar suffered his first WWE pinfall loss in a revival of the Screwjob finish as Paul Heyman betrayed Lesnar in favor of Big Show.
The next few years calmed down for Survivor Series on the title front. Goldberg had a successful defense against Triple H, JBL against Booker T, and John Cena against Kurt Angle. There was a less than eventful title change in 2006 when Booker T dropped the title to Batista. But things turned around the following year. 2007 was the ten year mark since of the Montreal Screwjob and Shawn Michaels once again walked into the event as challenger for the title. The real Screwjob would happen in the other title match when Edge revealed himself under the disguise of a camera man to cost Undertaker his shot against Batista in a Hell in a Cell match. 2008 marked the return of Jon Cena after a neck injury that saw him recapture his championship and Edge play into his Ultimate Opportunist title by manipulating his way into the WWE Title match and walking out that night with gold.
After the 2009 event fans were told that the event was done. However, WWE has decided to keep the event alive and this year promises to be as important as any other. Like 2007 and 2008, Edge is again in the title picture. Kane has been champion for some time so Kane dropping the title is not out of the question. Could Edge have something special in store for the Devil’s Favorite Demon?
The main focus of the 2010 Survivor Series is the WWE Title match between Randy Orton and Wade Barrett. The role of John Cena as special referee puts a whole new twist on the Screwjob. Instead of a heel costing the face the match, there is the moral dilemma of our hero choosing between himself and his principles. So what happens on Sunday? Do we see Cena choose his principles and lose his job? Or do we see him choose himself and begin a turn for the worse? The answer comes at Survivor Series in another title match for the event that fans will not soon forget.