When Bill Goldberg and Brock Lesnar step inside the ring and turn "fantasy warfare" into "real" pro wrestling this Sunday night, they will follow a long lineage of wrestlers who have created memorable moments at the Survivor Series
The Survivor Series was initially launched to combat the NWA's Starrcade at a time when Vince McMahon was trying to destroy everyone else in the wrestling business. In the early days, the show took place on Thanksgiving Day or Thanksgiving Eve. Eventually it just became tied to Thanksgiving, taking place near that special day.
As the second-longest running PPV in WWE history, the event has several memorable moments, from the debut of #TheRock in 1996, to Dolph Ziggler's dramatic sole survival in 2014. In the debut of the event we had Andre the Giant, and later The Ultimate Warrior and Randy "Macho Man" Savage appearing at the event.
With such a history, Survivor Series usually turns out to be something special. In fact, let's look at 5 of the event's greatest moments.
The Montreal Screwjob (1997)
In the 1990s there were some absolutes in pro wrestling. Stone Cold Steve Austin ruled. The NWO was cool. And Bret Hart hated Shawn Michaels. Hart hated HBK so much that he refused to lose the title to him in his home country. Hart, the then WWE champion, was headed to WCW, but he needed to drop the belt. He was booked in a feud with Michaels at the time that was supposed to culminate with him dropping the title to him in his homec country of Canada at the Survivor Series. But the prideful Hart absolutely refused to lose in front of his fans. So how did the WWE solve this predicament? Vince McMahon decided to go old school; he changed the ending without telling Hart. Michaels put Hart in the sharpshooter submission hold and the referee Earl Hebner rang the bell. Hart freaked out because he never submitted. He destroyed camera equipment, spit in McMahon's face, and then hit him behind closed doors. Oddly, the event turned out to be a good thing for the WWE. Hart left for WCW, but the Montreal Screwjob gave birth to the evil Vince McMahon character and eventually the rise of Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels, 1992
These guys didn't always hate each other. In 1992, Hart was a new champion and Michaels was the intercontinental champion on the rise. Michaels was delivering some of the best matches in the world and Hart had already established himself as the excellence of execution. The WWE set the stage for a champion vs. champion match at the Survivor Series. This was just after the departure of Hulk Hogan and a sign of the times when the company shifted to focusing on smaller wrestlers than bodybuilders. Hart and Michaels stole the show with a technically brilliant match. At the time it was good guy vs. good guy, a rarity in wrestling. Hart won because, well, he's Bret Hart.
Bret Hart vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin
if the chant existed in 1996, everyone would have been yelling, "This is wrestling." Stone Cold had become Stone Cold earlier that year, dropping his Ringmaster gimmick for something more edgy. Now he was the trash-talking, beer swilling redneck and working man's superhero. He had spent most of the year bad-mouthing Hart, who had taken time off after losing his championship to Michaels at that year's Wrestlemania. Here's the thing about Austin: Even though his gimmick caught fire, and he was one of the best talker's in wrestling history, he was also a skilled wrestler. Against Bret Hart, there was no way he was going to ever have a bad match. This may have been the greatest match in Survivor Series history. Near falls, reversals, perfect timing. It's why we love pro wrestling.
The Undertaker is Born, 1990
You could argue that The Undertaker is the greatest character in the history of professional wrestling. He is a modern-day Andre the Giant. Who knew that when Mark Callaway, that guy from the Skyscrapers in WCW, debuted as the bizarre Undertaker at the Survivor Series in 1990, that he would have such longevity. Introduced by The Million-Dollar Man Ted DiBiase and managed by Brother Love, The Undertaker made a chilling entrance at the Survivor Series. No one knew quite what to expect, or what was to come, but we knew that this character was new and daring for the WWE. Now, 26 years later, The Undertaker is still a focal point of the WWE, and has an amazing 23-1 record at Wrestlemania. The Dead Man is regarded as the leader of the locker room, and a guy that the other wrestlers respect backstage. He's a 7-time champion and it looks like he isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
The Undertaker Defeats Hulk Hogan, 1991
A year later The Undertaker would do the unthinkable: He defeated Hulk Hogan for the WWE championship. With the help of Ric Flair, The Undertaker made history by putting Hogan in his place and chipping away at the myth of the Hulkster. The match was not great because Hogan was never the most skilled wrestler. It was memorable, however, because of a horrible failed tombstone piledriver that came nowhere near hitting Hogan's head, and the fact that Flair was at ringside. Here was the leader of the WCW/NWA, in the WWE wreaking havoc on Hogan and ultimately caused him to lose the championship. The WWE was changing. It would take years before the emergence of Stone Cold and the rise of the Attitude era, but in 1991 we were starting to cheer for the bad guys because Hogan had overstayed his welcome.