Coming to us from Madison Square Garden, Survivor Series 1996 marked a turning point for WWE. The company was coming out of its cartoony presentation and developing a more realistic approach to professional wrestling. The Attitude Era was well on its way and we got to see this first hand at Survivor Series.
Survivor Series 1996: Doug Furnas, Phil Lafon, Henry, and Phineas Godwinn vs Owen Hart, The British Bulldog, Marty Jannetty, and Leif Cassidy
The first match of the night was a traditional Survivor Series match involving four tag teams in the company. It was an odd match to start the show off with. Normally, the opener is there to get the crowd hot from the first bell and this match did not get that pop.
Misplacement on the card aside, the talent in the ring put on a very entertaining match. The pace was fluid throughout and the wrestlers did their best to keep the crowd engaged.
The important event coming out of this contest was the apparent push of Furnas and Lafon. The two men had had success all over the world and this was their debut in WWE.
The push was clear when Lafon was able to kick out of an enzuguri kick from Owen Hart. This was the same move that put Michaels out of action for months and to have Lafon kicked out was a clear indication big things were on the horizon.
Furnas and Lafon were the survivors of the contest, beating the tag team champions in the process. Unfortunately, things halted for the newcomers after Survivor Series, and their push disappeared.
Backstage Segment: Mankind and Paul Bearer
After the match, we cut to Mankind with Paul Bearer waiting for their match. Knowing what Foley became it was fun to see his original WWE gimmick.
Bearer was visibly upset as he knew he was about to be put in a cage high above the ring. It was a great little promo that added to the anticipation for the next contest.
Survivor Series 1996
The Undertaker vs Mankind w/ Paul Bearer
The feud between Mankind and The Undertaker had been going for much of the summer before the leaves changed. The previous month Mankind had buried The Undertaker alive with help from Paul Bearer. This is why Bearer was suspended above the ring in a shark cage.
The fear in Bearer’s eyes pre-match was very entertaining and showed just how good of a talent the late Bearer was.
Once in the ring the two men, as well as all in attendance, bore witness to an amazing entrance from The Undertaker. Coming down from the rafters The Undertaker was clad in leather ring gear that was new to the character. Their match was a pretty good one but not one that will live on in people’s memories.
It was slower than most of their matches but there was still some great psychology. Undertaker had been thwarted by the Mandible Claw over the previous months. This led to him focussing on the fingers of Mankind during the match. It was an intelligent move and one that fit into the realistic approach to wrestling WWE was working towards.
Undertaker got the win, in the end, and was ready to finally get his hands on Paul Bearer before Terry Gordy, or the Executioner, came out to run interference. Thus setting up a less than great match between the two at In Your House, in December.
Backstage Segment: Jerry Lawler, Crush, HHH, and Goldust
We head backstage for a promo from the heel team before their Survivor Series match. It was your usual heel promo with each man getting their time to shine. It should be said that Lawler was the highlight and it is worth watching him, even when others are talking.
Match 3: Jerry Lawler, Goldust, Crush and HHH vs Marc Mero, Barry Windham, Jake Roberts, and Rocky Maivia
Mark Henry was slated to be the fourth member of the team but after bowing out due to injury Jake Roberts was brought in. It was a nice surprise and got a good pop from the New York crowd.
This match was 23 minutes, which was 22 minutes too long. It was slow and the pacing was odd for a Survivor Series match. The number of rest holds was a bit disturbing but makes some sense considering the average age of most men in the ring.
The only thing of note was the WWE debut of one Rocky Maivia. The third-generation superstar went over huge in this match, being responsible for the last two eliminations. He was the sole survivor and was set up for huge things coming out of the contest.
Of course, we all know how far The Rocks’ career would go after his debut. He became one of the biggest names in the history of the industry and we got to see him first at Survivor Series.
We cut to a promo for the upcoming match between Steve Austin and Bret Hart. The vignette does a fantastic job of hyping the personal rivalry between the two men
Survivor Series 1996
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs Bret “Hitman” Hart ( No.1 Contenders Match)
Hart and Austin put together the best match on the card. The chemistry between the two men was fantastic and they used it to milk every last reaction out of the New York crowd.
The match started with a technical showing that was unparalleled. The basic holds and reversals showcased by both men were amazing and it is doubtful that any two on the roster, at the time, would have been able to pull it off. The slow start of the match would have killed a normal crowd but these two men were able to work in their history to tell a wonderful story to start the match.
Naturally, the technical showcase only lasted so long before this devolved into an all-out brawl. Both men tore the house down fighting all over the ring and ringside area. It was a great bit of fighting and one that felt realistic. You could sense that these two men were legitimately trying to beat the holy hell out of one another.
It was also interesting to see the rise of Austin during this match. Stone Cold was in the heel role during the match but you could not tell. The New York crowd gave him as much a positive response as was given to Hart. We could see the tides of change on the horizon.
Hart got the victory with a finish reminiscent of his Wrestlemania 7 clash with Piper. It was a great way to end the match without either man looking weak.
The Survivor Series match is not considered on the same level as their Wrestlemania 13 classic but it should be. It laid the foundation for what their rivalry would become.
Backstage Segment: Psycho Sid Promo
We cut to backstage where Sid is being interviewed before the main event. It is a run-of-the-mill promo but delivered perfectly by Sid. The man can’t wrestle but he can sure cut a promo.
Match 5: Faarooq, “Razor Ramon”, “Diesel”, Vader vs Savio Vega, Yokozuna, Flash Funk, and Jimmy Snuka
This was a bathroom break match if there ever was one. You had a few guys who were past their prime and some who were given some terrible gimmicks to work with.
The match lasted just under 10 minutes and thank god that was the case. The action was boring and the spots were poorly timed. It ended with a double DQ which begged the question as to why this was even booked to happen.
The only high point of the match was having Jim Cornette on commentary. He was one of the best talkers in the industry and he proved it, once again, sitting next to Vince and JR.
We cut backstage with some backstory leading to our main event. Once again WWE proves that when it comes to production value, no company can hold a candle to them.
Survivor Series 1996 Main Event
Shawn Michaels vs ‘Psycho’ Sid (WWE Championship Match)
Deep into his first championship reign, Michaels was experiencing backlash from the WWE faithful. They had grown tired of the smiling babyface champion and the crowd reaction was vicious. You could see Michaels reacting to the negative response throughout the match and he was not happy with what he was hearing.
The crowd response aside the match wasn’t the worst main event WWE has put on but it certainly wasn’t the best. The competitors were hindered by the mobility of Sid and his lumbering move set. Michaels did what he could to carry the man but he could only do so much.
The pace of the match was slow and involved too many rest periods in between moves. It was hard to remain invested in the contest while both wrestlers lay around.
Even with the slow pacing, the two men were able to work some decent psychology into the match. Michaels spent the majority of the match working over Sids’ leg while Sid showed some tremendous resilience to the onslaught.
In the end, Sid was able to cheat his way to the WWE championship. His tactics were supposed to get some heat from the crowd but only cheers were heard when Sid was announced as WWE Champion.
This will not go down at one of the better WWE PPVs. The singles matches ranged from decent to great but all Survivor Series matches were sub-par. The New York crowd was hot, as usual, for most of the evening and helped to make this a watchable show.