In the interests of fairness, I should point out my inherent bias towards the Survivor Series concept. And it’s not just for the fact that on the afternoon of Survivor Series 1996 that I met Sunny (and Skip) in Madison Square Gardens (back when Sunny was the most impossibly glamourous and gorgeous woman I’d ever heard of) either. A life long love of what the Survivor Series should be means that in a few short weeks I will be jetting off to Houston, Texas for the 30th Anniversary of Survivor Series (with the least being said about Brock Lesnar vs Jinder Mahal the better…).
So this is a DVD set that I want to love. I want to wax lyrical about 30 years of wonderful and memorable Survivor Series moments that are shown in depth on the countdown that takes up the first disc. But I can’t. I simply can’t.
Every expense has been spared on this countdown. There is no host, no introduction, no talking heads and no links. It is simply what the WWE deems the 30 greatest Survivor Series moments counted down from 30-1. We will generally avoid spoilers in terms of the numbers for those of you who will want to watch the DVD in suspense, but there are some very odd moments included. For instance the opening , or thirtieth, moment is simply the first ever Survivor Series event. A momentous moment, of course, but it seems a very lazy way to start. Title matches, tournament finals, debuts, surprise returns, huge plot twists, face/heel turns and, yes, screwjobs all feature in the list. What little context that is provided adds little to proceedings and you will find yourself scratching your head at both some of the inclusion and how high (or not) they are up the countdown. Sure, The Rock is one of (if not THE) most recognisable WWE figure of the past 30 years but was his thoroughly underwhelming 1996 debut really in the top 5 Survivor Series moments ever? And if it was, why isn’t the 1990 debut of The Undertaker given as much reverence? The countdown flies by, but you’ll be scratching your head about great portions of it.
So it is up to the match choices to save the day. Up to a point they do, even if the fact that there are only four actual Survivor matches out of a total of seventeen on the set. These four, including the 1988 battle between Hulk Hogan’s team and Ted DiBiase’s, the 1994 Bad Guys versus the Teamsters effort and 2009’s Team Orton against Team Kingston all show what can be achieved when thought is put into Survivor Series elimination matches. Of course what the rest of the matches highlight, even when they are very good bouts, is that there is little patience within Titan Towers for doing traditional Survivors matches properly these days.
1991’s WWE Championship match between Hulk Hogan and The Undertaker is poor in terms of match quality but deserves it’s place for it’s historic value (even if it’s position on the 1991 card, in hindsight, shows that dilution of the strict elimination format on the shows). The WWE Championship matches between Diesel & Bret Hart (1995) and Shawn Michaels & Sycho Sid (1996) are very good efforts and in my opinion are the finest bouts of Nash’s and Sid’s careers. They are ultra-heated too, even if the heat is the “wrong way” around in 1996 and are well worth revisiting.
1998’s Championship Tournament final between the Rock and Mankind was a special piece of work at the time but whilst it retains its historical interest its impact was always in the storyline, not the in-ring action. This is more than can be said for 1999’s Triple Threat match between Triple H, The Rock and The Big Show. Eighteen years of hindsight doesn’t make that scenario any less baffling.
The 2001 Steel Cage match between The Dudleys and The Hardy’s is a choice cut; the 6-Pack Women’s Challenge from the same show is less so, even if it was a cut above the usual level of women’s action at the time. 2002’s Brock Lesnar / Big Show match is ok, and then there is a gap of seven years until the aforementioned 2009 Team Orton versus Team Kingston match. Two more women’s matches follow from 2010 and 2011 and neither are particularly thrilling. 2011 also sees The Rock and John Cena team up to take on The Miz and R-Truth in a boring one-sided effort before the action picks up with 2013’s 5-on-5 elimination between The Shield and Cody Rhodes’ teams.
Things round off with the passable 2015 Title tournament final between Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose and 2016’s memorable Brock Lesnar versus Goldberg match. Short, but memorable.
What could have been an essential look at the history of one of the WWE’s “Big Four” pay-per-view events instead feels like a cobbled together money-maker, rushed into production to cash in on the 30th anniversary edition. Of course there is absolutely no excuse for that to be the case. Even adding a host, some talking heads to provide links and a little more context to the moments presented would have added to the package for very little effort on the WWE’s part.
The matches do save it to a certain degree; as a collection of matches they offer up a good mixture of good-to-great bouts and historically important moments. Even these are tinged with sadness for this particular viewer though as, at times, the choices only serve to highlight how far down the list of the WWE’s priorities Survivor Series has fallen at times. This set has to go down and one big missed opportunity.
Photos courtesy: Fetch, Fremantle Media, WWE
Format reviewed: DVD
Thank you to our partners, WWEDVD.co.uk and Fetch for providing our review copy of 30 Years of Survivor Series which is available on DVD in the UK from Monday 23 October. You can buy your copy from WWEDVD.co.uk now by clicking here