When it comes to the WWE, every fan has that one favourite annual pay per view which they look forward to more than any other event on the calendar. Sure, we all enjoy keeping track of the goings-on in the weekly TV shows and investing our time, money and emotion in the other monthly pay per views but there’s always that one show we get hyped for more than every other. For a lot of fans that show is WrestleMania and that’s understandable. The historical significance and associated prestige make it stand head and shoulders above all the other shows. Other people though look forward to SummerSlam. As the 2nd biggest show of the year, it invariably presents us with an altogether more balanced card of matches and is often a better wrestling show than the much more glitzy and glamorous “granddaddy of ‘em all”. Quite popular too, are the events which play host to a unique match concept that only comes around once a year and gives us something out of the ordinary to enjoy. The Royal Rumble for instance or special stipulation shows like Elimination Chamber, Money in the Bank or Hell in the Cell are key examples but whatever the event, whatever the reason, there is no denying that some just get us hyped-up more than others.
The show which I look forward to more than any other throughout the year however is November’s Survivor Series. For as long as I’ve been a fan of pro wrestling, I’ve enjoyed seeing groups of wrestlers join forces and form alliances to battle their enemies. Either operating under a leader like The Heenan Family or the Dangerous Alliance, or as a group bonded by a common ethos like The Hart Foundation or The Four Horsemen; some call them stables, others call them factions. Whatever terminology you prefer, there’s no denying the excitement generated when these groups form and we get to see a totally different aspect of pro wrestling. Whether it’s a gang of ultra-cool bad guys looking to wreak some serious havoc or a band of popular fan favourite avengers assembling to take down a common foe, we’ve seen some awesome teams manufactured over the years. Looked upon for the most part as a one-on-one situation, by expanding wrestling into essentially a proper team sport, the actions of your partners can ultimately affect the end result and that makes things a whole lot more interesting. It goes without saying that these team battles more often than not descend into a mass-brawl and much like whenever such fighting erupts during a Football, Rugby or Ice Hockey match, if our favourite teams engage in a massive punch up, we absolutely love the ensuing chaos.
Yeah, the traditional Survivor Series elimination tag team match has definitely earned a lasting place at the top of my list of favourite match stipulations, so I was most annoyed then a few years ago upon hearing that the WWE were actually planning on scrapping the show to replace it with something new. Actually what prompted the proposed removal of it from the events calendar is unknown; Perhaps it was due to marginally declining PPV numbers or maybe even the decision that it’s concept had grown stale. The innovation of other match ideas throughout the year such as the ridiculous 7-on-7 tag team match at Bragging Rights had perhaps stolen some of the thunder of the Survivor Series, held just weeks later but I feel those fears were unfounded. We know how much the WWE loves history and nostalgia and as the 2nd longest running pay per view tradition of the year, I can’t help but think that it’s establishment over twenty-six years as a key trademark helped to keep the Survivor Series name “out there” in a manner of speaking. Essentially, all the tradition of the event could be advertised and rather than have to build a whole new show from scratch with zero history it appears WWE had a rethink and decided to give The Survivor Series a stay of execution and retain it within the schedules. And I for one am glad they did.
The thing about this event is that whilst it’s tradition lies firmly in the elimination tag team match idea which I absolutely love, so many other battles have taken place throughout the years which put a whole different spin on the famed “survival” element. The Survivor Series name could literally be used for a vast array of match concepts and ideas and I think that is a route the company should definitely explore again.
The initial change in 1989 saw the concept switch from five-on-five to four-on-four elimination matches. In 1990 we were treated to the bonus “Grand Finale match” which saw all the survivors from the five scheduled bouts compete once again. In 1995 the innovative idea of the “wildcard” match was implemented and resulted in teams being drawn seemingly at random, meaning enemies were on the same side whilst stable-mates fought as opponents. In 1998 there were no elimination tag matches but we were presented with a single-elimination title tournament when the “Deadly Game” Survivor Series ended with The Rock as undisputed WWF Champion and in 2001, a survival Battle Royal was staged to determine who would gain immunity from being fired before the Invasion storyline culminated in a five against five WWF vs WCW/ECW “Winner Take All” finale.
2002’s show clearly stands out above others as revamping the event based on it’s eclectic array of matches featuring numerous different concepts all based around “survival”. A 6-man tag team elimination tables match, an elimination 3-way dance for the tag straps and the first ever Elimination Chamber match in 2002 were all contested and unquestionably gave the show an edge over the other more pedestrian pay per views when it came to deciding the card of the year.
The following year in 2003, we were treated to another classic show. Stone Cold Steve Austin and Eric Bischoff sent out their respective five-man teams, battling on behalf of their captain’s to determine who “survived” as the sole GM of Raw, before we were presented with both ambulance and buried alive matches, as Kane & The Undertaker each battled the male members of the McMahon family, again with the emphasis on “survival” in these rarely seen special stipulation matches.
In recent years though, it seems to me that the show has lost a little of it’s creative edge which always made it a must-see event in the past. Nowadays just content to stack the show with singles matches we’ve already seen on previous pay per views with the odd traditional Survivor Series elimination match booked alongside to maintain some sense of unique feel about the event, I would love the WWE to just take a gamble on something new. As I recently proposed in my article regarding the return of WCW’s “Lethal Lottery/Battlebowl concept, it would be so easy to implement such an idea that I simply cannot understand why the WWE don’t shake things up a bit like they have done at this particular event in the past often to great effect as described above.
And also, as the buzz continues surrounding the whole Triple H/Daniel Bryan/Randy Orton storyline, with Dusty Rhodes, the creator of War Games now added to the mix, could this year actually see the return of the classic two-ring steel cage match concept, integrated into the WWE, at the Survivor Series, no less? Now that certainly would be what’s “best for business” right?
The Survivor Series is such an historic, much loved annual event that I would hate for it to go the way of the King of the Ring and be pushed aside in favour of a silly new generic pay per view along the lines of Night of Champions or Extreme Rules. So here’s to at least another 26 years of Survivor Series history.
– By Dave Green