It's time to see if I make myself eat my own foot just hours after publishing a piece saying the show hinges on the success of the elimination format. This is a list of my favorite matches to take place at the show, and not just elimination style matches.
I'll start my top five favorite Survivor Series matches of all time starting with ...
Survivor Series 1996 Bret Hart vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin for the No. 1 contendership:
Yeah, that's right. The one between these two legends that everyone forgets along the way, even if for good reason. It's on WrestleMania 13 Submission match, but don't sleep on this one. Stone Cold was rocketing toward superstardom and The Hitman was the cog standing in his way. It's one of the first feuds I remember how confused it made me feel. On one hand, I have my childhood favorite in Bret Hart, who had recently started acting dickish, and this badass dude who captivated my attention in Stone Cold.
These two went at it for close to 25 minutes in the fall of 1996, which culminated in one of my favorite roll-up victories of all time. At the time, I didn't realize that they took it right out of the Hart vs. Rowdy Roddy Piper book, but hey, recycling is wrestling. It's a physical, classic match that should be earmarked for a Psychology in Wrestling 101 textbook.
Survivor Series 1988 10-on-10 elimination match: Demolition, The Bolsheviks, The Brainbusters, the Conquistadors & The Rougeau Brothers vs. The Powers of Pain, The Rockers, The British Bulldogs, The Hart Foundation & The Young Stallions.
This match holds a special place in my heart. I love tag team wrestling. WWF's division of the 1980s is the reason why this love still hangs on today, which makes this match an obvious choice for my list as it's literally 10 of the best tag teams the 1980s had to offer.
Not only did they put these guys all in a match together, but they gave them 45 minutes to tell their story. A lackluster ending doesn't take away from a solid 35 minutes of some of the best tag team wrestling you'll see. I'm just happy that this match exists.
Survivor Series 2001 5-on-5 elimination match: Team WWF (The Rock, Chris Jericho, The Undertaker, Kane, and Big Show) vs. The Alliance (Stone Cold Steve Austin, Rob Van Dam, Kurt Angle, Booker T, and Shane McMahon)
This match holds a very special place in my heart as it represented so many dream matches that I wished for in the late 90s come to fruition quicker than I had ever imagined. Not only was it a Winner Take All storyline, but the prospect of Team WWF losing wasn't that crazy to think about when you look back at the overall and broad insanity of the Invasion arc.
Let's leave the Invasion storyline hot takes at home for the good of this match, as yes, it's a major punch in the face to have Shane McMahon and Stone Cold on Team Alliance even though they had a plethora of actual WCW/ECW talent not featured in the main event. Target missed and all that on the storyline overall, yes, but this match delivered.
Each elimination felt like a gut punch, because they were so spread out in time which made it feel that much more intense. That's the thing that current WWE creative doesn't seem to get about tag team wrestling or elimination style matches; these need time to tell its story.
No one was eliminated in the first 12-plus minutes, which is about nearly the entire length of most of the SS style matches of the past 15 years.
In the 2001 main event, we get double-cross on top of double-cross mixed with outside interference and even more tangled webs of story. For once, though, the WWF couldn't outthink itself. The in-ring action and depth of talent would not let this main event fail.
Survivor Series 1987 5-0n-5 elimination match: Hulk Hogan, Bam Bam Bigelow, Don Muraco, Paul Orndorff & Ken Patera vs. Andre The Giant, One Man Gang, King Kong Bundy, Butch Reed & Rick Rude.
Oh, the original <3.
The fact that Vince and company nailed this new gimmick show on its first try in such a lasting effect is amazing. Team Andre is one of my favorite combinations of wrestlers, just big bad dudes and Ravishing Rick Rude.
Team Hogan is nothing to scoff at, as the inclusive of Bam Bam Bigelow still resonates with me when I inevitably watch this match once a year. For those who haven't seen this match, do yourself a favor and watch the show in its entirety. The four original SS matches are enough proof to realize why people still make a fuss over this show every November. Seriously, the opening match on '87's show could take any of these five matches' spot.
The brilliant heel elimination of Hogan is nothing short of hilarious, and watching young Bam Bam take on Andre as the last two people standing is plain fun.
Survivor Series 2002 The first Elimination Chamber match for the World Heavyweight Championship: Triple H (c) vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho vs. Kane vs. Rob Van Dam vs. Booker T.
The WWE as we knew it literally got flipped on its head between November 2001 and November 2002. There was no Alliance, WCW or ECW, but just the first dip into the brand extension world of Raw and SmackDown.
The first-ever Elimination Chamber match featured a perfect compilation of six men with a fantastic pairing of mainstays like HHH, Y2J and Kane, the returning Shawn Michaels, and ECW and WCW newbies RVD and Booker T.
Everyone got a chance to show off their stuff and narrowly avoided disaster when RVR jumped off the top of a pod onto Triple H's neck. Hunter finished the goddamn match, read this excerpt from a 2002 interview with Trips:
He not only finished the match, but he finished the goddamn match without missing a beat. Even with all of this considered, it gets overshadowed by HBK's historic return to championship gold. This match had it all, from the physicality to the emotional storylines like HHH and HBK.
There is something about Survivor Series and debuts, but they know how to do it. Fans had no idea what to expect from the Elimination Chamber, but it made such a lasting impression that there have been 19 (!) more in just 14 years.