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The Worst Booking Decisions in Survivor Series History

James Klonowski looks at some of the worst Survivor Series booking decisions in history.

Survivor Series has often been labelled the ugly step child of WWE’s traditional big four annual pay per view events.

However, it has given us some of the greatest moments in wrestling history such as the legendary debuts of Undertaker, The Rock, The Shield and Sting. It is a staple on the WWE calendar to this day despite Vince McMahon doing his best to scrap the whole concept in 2010. 

Survivor Series has also been known as the place where controversy looms. We’ve also seen our fair share of baffling booking decisions which is what this article is all about. Here, we take a look at the ten most head scratching decisions in Survivor Series. Yes, we mention you a lot here, Big Show.

Arguably the most famous match in Survivor Series history which saw Shawn Michaels recapture the WWE Championship from Bret Hart with a dubious submission call that later became known as the Montreal Screwjob. You may or may not have heard of it, it’s not like any of the guys involved ever bring it up or anything.

The story was that Hart had signed for WCW but still had contractual obligated dates to meet in WWE before then, which went past Survivor Series. Vince McMahon wanted Hart to drop the title to Michaels because he feared Bret would show up in WCW with the WWE Championship. Hart refused to do the job to Shawn in Montreal, and instead suggested a DQ finish before relinquishing the gold the following night on Raw.

That was seemingly the plan until Triple H decided to get involved and make Hart do business, one way or another, and thus the Montreal Screwjob was born. But we didn’t need any of that. Hart could’ve won at Survivor Series and still not left with the WWE Championship. 

Here’s what I would’ve done, and what everyone should have agreed on. Have a DQ finish following mass interference from The Hart Foundation and DX. During the scuffle, have Bret accidentally floor McMahon with a steel chair. While The Hitman and his family stand tall in the ring, I would have the ring announcer reveal that due to Bret’s assault on the chairman of WWE, he has been stripped of the WWE Championship with immediate effect.

The fans would go crazy, McMahon would be a ready made heel, and Hart could head off into the sunset as the wronged hero. The Screwjob did not have to happen, and we still wouldn’t have to be talking about the damn thing to this day.

The actual billed main event for Survivor Series 1999 saw Triple H, The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin do battle for the WWE Championship in a Triple Threat Match. Three of the biggest names of the Attitude Era colliding in the very same contest. It was a mouth-watering concept. Sadly, it never happened and WWE knew that weeks in advance yet still felt happy lying to their fans in promoting it.

Austin needed neck surgery and would be out for up to a year. WWE were panicking, not sure how business would go without their most popular star. Lucky for them, The Rock was about to hit superstardom level, and Triple H was going to enter his career best year. But we still had to get through Survivor Series. On the night, WWE ran an angle which saw a car take out Austin, thus forcing Vince McMahon to find a replacement for the main event. He found the Big Show. If that wasn’t bad enough, Big Show actually won the thing. A double whammy of a disappointment for those watching. 

WWE needed to do none of that. Here’s what should have happened. On the last Raw before Survivor Series, have Austin get run over. Vince McMahon would suspect both Triple H and The Rock, as it benefited both. He would have no choice but to take Austin out of the main event, and make it a one on one battle instead. But to add more intrigue, I’d have McMahon guarantee that by the night’s end at Survivor Series he will find out who ran down Stone Cold.

Just as Triple H scrapes past The Rock, Vince would come out to seemingly reveal it was The Game, and he’s brought some evidence with him. Then Stephanie McMahon would show up, pleading with her father about something, allowing Triple H to smash him with a Pedigree. Leave it there, and further tease who ran down Austin and the whole McMahon Helmsley era, plus delivering a great main event to boot.

Oh, this was bad. Kurt Angle had just won the WWE Championship a month prior, capping off one of the greatest debut years in WWE history. His first challenger at Survivor Series 2000 was The Undertaker, who didn’t seem to respect Angle at this stage as evidenced by their woeful Fully Loaded encounter in July of that year.

Many suspected Undertaker would be crowned the new WWE Champion here, and didn’t give Angle much of a chance of retaining. But with this being Survivor Series, shenanigans were just around the corner. Here, Angle took a pasting from The Phenom, before swapping places with his twin brother to avoid the pinfall loss. With Undertaker dumbfounded, the real Kurt quickly rolled him up for the three count to retain the gold. Nobody won here, everyone looked bad.

Again, it didn’t need to happen. All WWE had to do was give Kurt a slither of a chance, and Undertaker an excuse for losing. So, you take out Taker’s leg, and have the match be based around that. With no leg, he’s unable to deliver any of his signature moves. But this being The Undertaker, he’s not going to quit easily. He valiantly attempts for a Last Ride, but his leg gives out, allowing Angle to cover him quickly for the win. Similar outcome, but here Angle comes out of it looking smart for targeting an injured limb, while Taker has an out for battling bravely on one leg.

I’ll never understand why they decided to book this the way they did. I get that they wanted to turn Brock Lesnar face for his eventual WrestleMania showdown with Kurt Angle but there were better ways of going about it than having The Beast fall to Big Show in under five minutes with the help of turncoat Paul Heyman inside Madison Square Garden at Survivor Series 2002.

Lesnar had already destroyed Hulk Hogan, The Rock and Undertaker, but Heyman was so worried about Big Show that he sold Brock out in order to side with The World’s Largest Athlete. All they had to do was have Brock and Show brawl for five minutes, resulting in a double DQ. At Armageddon, the next month, add Kurt Angle to the mix and let him win the gold. The lead up to WrestleMania can be the same except have Heyman side with Kurt in the weeks prior to the big event. It would’ve made much more sense, and instead of losing his first match to Big Show, he could’ve done so to Kurt Angle instead, thus adding even more intrigue to the WrestleMania headliner.

WWE really blew a big opportunity with Wade Barrett in 2010. He and Nexus completely revitalised a stale product when they invaded Raw and took out everyone in their path. This led to a huge multi man tag team showdown at Summerslam which the rookies needed to win to cement their place within the company. John Cena had other ideas, and easily disposed of the invaders, killing their momentum dead in the water.

Somehow, Barrett remained somewhat relevant, at least enough to challenge Randy Orton for the WWE Championship at Survivor Series 2010 with Cena acting as the special guest referee. Sadly, WWE pulled the rug from under Barrett again by having Orton routinely beat him. Barrett needed to win this one. And he should have. Have Nexus take out Cena, and bring out a new official, who would be in cahoots with Barrett and his crew. Have him low blow Orton, and fast count for Barrett to capture the gold. Cena could get his heat back afterwards by dropping him with an AA. The main point would’ve been Barrett leaving as WWE Champion and adding some credibility to his character. 

Who in their right mind thought this was a good idea? History is filled with Big Show proving that he is a disaster when it comes to this event and the WWE Championship, but this may just be the worst of them all. His rivalry with Orton was tedious and heatless. Nobody wanted to see him challenge for the gold at Survivor Series 2013, they all wanted Daniel Bryan. 

The match itself was 10 minutes of Big Show dominance before a simple distraction from The Authority allowed Orton to drop him with an RKO to retain the title. Both were booed out of the building, and rightfully so. However, if I was writing this, I’d have done something a lot more entertaining.

This was Survivor Series after all, so why not make the main event a high stakes Elimination Match, pitting Team Authority against Team Bryan. If The Authority won, all of Team Bryan would be fired. If Team Bryan won, each member of his team would get full control of Raw and Smackdown for the next five weeks. Obviously, have Team Bryan win, send the crowd home happy, deliver an enjoyable main event, and create several weeks of intrigue along the way. Simple.

The Survivor Series elimination match from 2017 was so poor and such a comedown in quality from the previous year’s effort which may very well have been the greatest of all time. On paper, it looked to be a fantastic showing with Triple H, Kurt Angle, Braun Strowman, Samoa Joe and Finn Balor from Raw taking on SmackDown’s John Cena, Randy Orton, Shane McMahon, Bobby Roode and Shinsuke Nakamura. Sadly, it turned into a Triple H egofest and not even an enjoyable one.

It was all about The Game, when it really didn’t need to be. He was the focal point of the entire match, which is frustrating when you see what he is capable of creating with NXT. Here’s exactly how the eliminations should have panned out.

Have Triple H eliminate Bobby Roode first. Only for Nakamura to put an end to The Game. The angry King Of Kings would take his frustrations out on Angle, dropping him with a Pedigree, allowing Shane to pick up the scraps. From there, have Strowman wipe the floor with McMahon, and then have Joe stomp out Nakamura. Things would look bleak for Team Smackdown with only Cena and Orton remaining, but they would rally and eliminate Joe, only to succumb to Strowman. I’d have Balor pin Cena, before Strowman drops Orton to survive. A much better booked version of what we got.

All of this was in such bad taste. WWE promoted Jeff Hardy for the Triple Threat encounter at Survivor Series 2008, before somberly announcing on the evening that Jeff had been found in a rough state in his hotel room and unable to compete. It all came across very real, especially when one considers Jeff’s lifestyle. Add in the fact that this angle was run just three years after Eddie Guerrero died in his hotel room and it may very well be the most distasteful thing WWE have ever attempted.

What we were left with was a dire and overly long WWE Championship match between Triple H and the very limited Vladimir Koslov. That was until Edge made his surprise return, inserted himself into the contest and won the gold, but not before Hardy made a miraculous return himself. It was just too much and too bonkers to be taken seriously. 

They should’ve just left it as the original Triple Threat Match and have Hardy finally win the top prize in WWE, as he did so a month later anyway. This would’ve come across much bigger due to it being on a larger platform, and we would’ve been saved from the awful hotel room angle too.

The match between Triple H and Stone Cold Steve Austin at Survivor Series 2000 was an excellent street fight between two of the greatest of all time. That wasn’t the problem, not at all. The problem was how this one ended. The two battled their way into the car park where Triple H attempted to run over Austin, only for Stone Cold to commandeer a forklift, scoop up The Game’s car with him inside and drop him upside down from 100 foot in the air.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Austin was charged with murder and we never saw Triple H again. You’d at least expect an attempted murder charge, and Triple H not to be seen for months on end. Neither of those things happened. Triple H returned a mere two weeks later with not a scratch on him and no explanation of how he survived the horrific incident.

None of it made sense and none of it needed to happen. Just have Austin beat Triple H cleanly. Austin had just returned, while The Game was the top heel in the business and could afford a loss. Both would have come out of that looking a whole lot better than what followed after that ridiculous stunt.

Survivor Series 2015 was a dud of a show from start to finish, but none of it was as bad as seeing Sheamus cash in his Money In The Bank Contract on Roman Reigns to win the WWE Championship. It was terrible decision making.

Reigns had won a tournament to be crowned the new WWE Champion after Seth Rollins was forced to relinquish the gold due to injury. The tournament itself sucked, and Sheamus leaving with the title rendered it all pointless anyway. 

No one wanted to see Sheamus as Champion, so have him cash in, then have Roman overcome him. He may have actually got some cheers for stopping The Celtic Warrior sucking the life out of WWE main events. Sadly, we had to wait a few more weeks for that to happen, but when it did Roman garnered a monster pop. I’m guessing the same would’ve happened at Survivor Series.

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