Picture it: the Civic Center in sunny Hartford Connecticut, Thanksgiving Day, November 1990. That year’s WWF Survivor Series not only gave us a look at that ham hock The Undertaker, it not only consisted solely of Survivor matches (the only valid and correct format for the Survivor Series), but it also rewarded its survivors by tossing them back into combat in the Grand Finale Match of Survival.
As we like to say sometimes at PTBN, what if? What if this concept was applied to every ding-dang Survivor Series, throwing the survivors back into the arena? Let’s take a walk through history…
Randy Savage, Jake Roberts, Ricky Steamboat, the Killer Bees, the Young Stallions, and the Jumping Bomb Angels vs. André the Giant
There’s one babyface for each wonder of the world, including André and Chyna. Also, picture Ricky Steamboat flying and flipping like he’s been hit by a cannonball every time André manages to shift one of his limbs. That face team is stacked as hell, but of course André still wins, last eliminating one of the Angels.
The Ultimate Warrior, Randy Savage, and Hulk Hogan vs. The Powers of Pain, Mr. Perfect, and Dino Bravo
It’s a bit early for the Warrior to be in a group like this, but historically it’s a solid group. I quite selfishly want to see Warrior given the name “Megapowers” to riff on for a while as well; you need Mega Power for the force field that protects all the little warriors from those who are not prepared to make the sacrifice, no doubt. The heel team is really weak in comparison; Mr. Perfect vs. Randy Savage in their respective primes is a nice prospect, but seriously, it’s a team that has Dino Bravo on it. The mega faces make short work of these guys.
Dusty Rhodes, Brutus Beefcake, Hulk Hogan, and the Ultimate Warrior vs. Randy Savage, Earthquake, Dino Bravo, and Mr. Perfect
Talk about another classic babyface team…plus the Beefer, but he fits in enough for the time. The addition of Randy Savage compensates for the continued presence of Dino Bravo, plus Earthquake always plays the role of “fat guy present for the purposes of getting slammed by Hogan” pretty well. Beefcake gets eliminated but his team prevails, including a rare and welcome sight of Dusty mixing in with the upper-card faces. Hulk and Warrior dance with Dusty following the big win.
Ultimate Warrior, Hulk Hogan, and Tito Santana vs. Ted DiBiase, Rick Martel, Warlord, Paul Roma, and Hercules
Nah, it’d never happen.
Jim Duggan, Texas Tornado, Tito Santana, Sergeant Slaughter, and the Legion of Doom vs. Ric Flair, the Nasty Boys, and Blake Beverly
The face team is voluminous but doesn’t have any top names, while the heel team, on first glance, is Flair and a bunch of schlemiels. Upon further reflection, Blake Beverly might actually be a schlimazel. Still, Flair vs. pretty much anyone on the face team is a potentially good matchup, especially Duggan and Santana, so he can use skill and cunning (and cheating) to pick them off one by one. Have the LOD and Nasties brawl away and get counted out to keep Hawk & Animal unpinned and get rid of the Nasty Boys, then one of the remaining faces (let’s say Tito) eliminates Blake before Flair hits a low blow or pulls the tights or something to get the win.
[no faces] vs. the Nasty Boys
There was only one Survivor Series match, and the freakin’ Nasty Boys won it. The WWF forgot how to Survivor Series. *shrug*
123 Kid, Marty Jannetty, Bret Hart, Bruce Hart, Keith Hart, Men on a Mission, Bushwhackers, and Lex Luger vs. [no heels]
I am not an opponent of faces going over, but it does make this one a little difficult. All of the faces kind of mill around awkwardly. Lex starts waving a flag.
Razor Ramon vs. Jerry Lawler, Sleazy, Cheesy, Queasy, King Kong Bundy, and Bam Bam Bigelow
Razor doesn’t stand much of a chance here. Maybe he can eliminate Sleazy and Queasy before Bam Bam and Bundy, their heft combined, close the deal.
Aja Kong, Undertaker, Savio Vega, Fatu, Henry Godwinn, Shawn Michaels, and Ahmed Johnson vs. 123 Kid and the British Bulldog
How’s that for a varied face team? At least the Kid and the Bulldog are there to work with them. Hopefully neither of them gets horribly injured by Ahmed Johnson. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the building, Yokozuna is taking his time and stalking his prey.
Rocky Maivia vs. Furnas & LaFon
We’re kind of a long way away from all-time assemblies on either side of the fence.
Ken Shamrock vs. The New Age Outlaws, the British Bulldog, and the Interrogator
What the hell, Shamrock chokes them all out.
[no elimination matches]
The WWF forgot how to Survivor Series.
Godfather, D’Lo Brown, Val Venis, Mark Henry, and the Big Show vs. Hardcore Holly
Big Show might not want any partners, but at least Holly never desecrated his dead father. Ol’ Hardcore still doesn’t stand a chance.
Jeff Hardy vs. Chris Benoit and Perry Saturn
Poor, poor Jeff.
The Rock vs. [no heels]
The WWF forgot how to Survivor Series again.
[no elimination matches]
John Cena and Chris Benoit vs. Randy Orton
I’m sorry. This was a terrible mistake. This funny little idea willed another Cena vs. Orton match into being, no matter how hypothetical, and that I cannot ask you to forgive…or forget.
Eddie Guerrero, John Cena, Big Show, and Randy Orton vs. [no heels]
This could be a sneakily great face team if there was someone to fight, and if it wasn’t catching Orton in his abortive face run rather than one of the later ones in which he was more accepted.
Randy Orton vs. [no heels]
Yes, Randy Orton was of course a heel by the end of 05, but he was on Team SmackDown, and every time Raw vs. SmackDown came up as a serious thing SmackDown was the face side. SmackDown was such a face in that feud that even JBL, as Mr. SmackDown, felt like he could plausibly turn face based on it.
Ric Flair, HHH, Shawn Michaels, Jeff Hardy, Matt Hardy, CM Punk, John Cena, and Bobby Lashley vs. [no heels]
This is about as close as we get to the modern equivalent of one of those classic big-time face teams that came together in the early years of the Series. Lashley is of course the team member with the least historical importance, but even he has his place as nobody else is primarily a power guy in the way that he is. And again, as much as I am not opposed to faces winning, I wish these guys had someone to fight.
HHH and Jeff Hardy vs. [no heels]
Again, only one Survivor Series match at the Survivor Series.
Shawn Michaels, Rey Mysterio, Great Khali, and Beth Phoenix vs. Randy Orton and Cody Rhodes
Michaels, Khali, and Rey on a real-life Survivor Series team was seriously a great thing to see, and just the sort of joyfully daft team-up the Survivor Series exists to create. The addition of Beth Phoenix only adds to that. What the hell, let her take out Cody.
Kofi Kingston, Mickie James, and Melina vs. Miz, Sheamus, and Drew McIntyre
Push the young folk!
Rey Mysterio and Big Show vs. [no heels]
Mysterio was an absolute master at the big-versus-little dynamic, but an underrated aspect of that is the big-plus-little tag team. Rey and Batista made a great tag team in 2005 and then again in 2009 — their match against JeriShow at Hell in a Cell 09 was a fantastic combination of two big-and-little teams with wholly different dynamics, as Jericho kept hiding behind Show and Rey kept refusing to hide behind Batista — so I’d actually be optimistic about the combination of Mysterio and Big Show as a standalone tag team. Buuuuuuut the WWE just about forgot how to Survivor Series, only booking the one match. This was the year of the Nexus, and they couldn’t figure out how to take a big ol’ stable and build a Survivor Series match around it.
[no faces] vs. Wade Barrett and Cody Rhodes
That reminds me, chalk up the Corrrrrre as another stable that never got into a Survivor Series match.
Rey Mysterio, Sin Cara, Tyson Kidd and Justin Gabriel vs. Dolph Ziggler
Dolph Ziggler’s natural role is as a smarmy heel who primarily bumps and sells for babyfaces, and there’re a bunch of flippy-flying faces here for him to sell for.
Nikki Bella and Natalya vs. Roman Reigns
At least they got the Shield in an elimination match! Can Reigns overcome the odds when he goes up against Team Total Divas???
Dolph Ziggler vs. [no heels]
By 2014 Dolph Ziggler had found his current home as a smarmy face who primarily bumps and sells for heels, and bah gawd did he do a lot of it in the Survivor Series match. Sadly, the arcane knowledge of how to have more than one Survivor match on the same card is gone — much that should not have been forgotten was lost.
Two mere days before the 2015 Survivor Series, it seems that the WWE has again forgotten how to Survivor Series. There are four Wyatts; they appear to be jammed into a two-on-two tag match. There are three stables of women fighting a revolution, sometimes utilizing guerilla tactics and sometimes staging more traditional battles; as things stand now, those nine women will be represented by a singles match. “Singles match,” a phrase that ought to sound dirty when discussing the Survivor Series. (A three-on-three-on-three elimination match would have been non-traditional, but could have worked as a blowoff to a better-booked mass feud. They could also have used matches & turns over the last couple of months to collapse everyone into two four- or five-woman stables.)
Oh well. So it goes. We might get a match thrown together, and it might be great. There might even be two! It’s still a bit of a measure not only of how special gimmick matches & gimmick PPVs have evolved from “this month it’s all tag-team matches!” to the deep specialization of some modern shows. It’s also a measure of how even when tag-team wrestling is at a relative peak as it is now, or in the early 2000s, it doesn’t really translate into this old and beloved show getting a little more love.