MR. TITO: What Made WWE Survivor Series Great as a Pay Per View Franchise
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For Thanksgiving, I was going to write a column entitled “Things that Pro Wrestling Fans Should be Thankful For” or something like that (hoping for a better title, not ending in a preposition), but then I tuned into NoDQ.com and found JDB’s Column which pretty much did the same thing… D’oh! I wanted to make it similar in positive tone to my NoDQ YouTube Video that I made last year describing how good the WWE Network is and what a deal we’re getting with Peacock added, among other things.
I still wanted write a Thanksgiving column for y’all, as I pride myself on producing columns for holidays… On one of the NoDQ Youtube shows, not sure if it was a Review or Surivor Series Prediction, but they were talking about how great WWE Survivor Series shows USED to be and why it’s no longer great now. For many younger fans who didn’t live through the 1990s when this show was excellent, I figured that I’d write about those great moments that used to be a Thanksgiving tradition.
Survivor Series was actually the SECOND Pay Per View franchise that the WWE invented, with the first being Wrestlemania.
What made the 1987 Survivor Series great was that the WWE wasn’t an over-exposed product. During 1987, you had Wrestlemania 3 on March 29th, 1987 and then the first ever Survivor Series 1987 show happened on November 26th, 1987. On top of that, WWE had very limited weekly shows that were taped in advance and were mostly filled with jobber matches. If you wanted to see big match ups from the WWE, you either attended a houseshow or you waited until Wrestlemania… As a television viewer, however, you were limited to seeing endless jobber matches on WWF Superstars syndicated show, WWF Challenge syndicated show, the All American Wrestling recap show on Sundays, and eventually, Prime Time Wrestling. A few times a year, WWE would have Saturday Night’s Main Event or eventually, the Main Event as Prime Time NBC specials that had bigger matches.
When Survivor Series 1987 was presented, it was a unique concept not just for the 5 on 5 match-ups, but for the fact that many of the wrestlers in these 5 on 5 matches were finally going to meet in the ring. For example on the first ever show, you’d have a possibility of seeing Bam Bam Bigelow mix it up with Andre the Giant or King Kong Bundy while a younger Ravishing Rick Rude could get a shot at working with Hulk Hogan or Paul Orndorff. Because a weekly 2-3 hour LIVE television show didn’t exist back then as well as monthly Pay Per Views, all match-ups were fresh and unique because the product wasn’t over-exposed as it is now. Thus, wrestling fans were HYPE for these 5 on 5 shows.
On top of that, teams had a reason to form… The heels were real heels, babyfaces were real babyfaces. They didn’t have a DRAFT to determine who was on what brand and then just weeks later, each team acts loyal to their RAW or Smackdown brand. Throughout the course of the syndicated Superstars or Challenge shows, teams were constructed for weeks ahead of time and patiently put together. They weren’t just randomly selected without reason as they are now. Hence, why these 5 on 5 matches aren’t doing much for wrestling fans. They mattered back then. From 1987 to 1990, the WWE put together unique teams and had fun with themes of specific teams.
Starting in 1991, the WWE began adding major SINGLES matches to the show. One would think that it would ruin the show, but Survivor Series remained a “Big 4” show that owned the 4th Quarter of the WWE’s calendar year. For each quarter, the WWE had 1 big show with Royal Rumble owning the 1st, Wrestlemania for the 2nd, SummerSlam for the 3rd, and Survivor Series for the 4th quarter. The WWE pie was divided into 3 pieces, with Rumble to Wrestlemania owning the first half of the year, SummerSlam being the aftermath of that, and Survivor Series “clearing the decks” before the next Rumble to Wrestlemania cycle began. If any residual feuds existed after SummerSlam shook things, Survivor Series was the place to clear things before Wrestlemania season began.
Survivor Series 1991 featured the Undertaker vs. Hulk Hogan for the WWF World Title. Back then, the hype was around possibly doing Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair for Wrestlemania 8 and Ric Flair’s heelish move to help Undertaker win the match was the beginning of that. Then, of course, WWE had the “Tuesday in Texas” Pay Per View that could have forever devalued Survivor Series. Well, the 1992 Survivor Series did that to itself when the Ultimate Warrior just vanished from the roster to deny us from seeing the “Macho Maniacs” in action against Ric Flair and Razor Ramon. Then, Survivor Series 1993 went back to the full blown Elimination match format and tried to capitalize on “All American” Lex Luger’s so-called momentum from his SummerSlam 1993 “victory”. 1994 went back to having a strong singles match but it was a goofy gimmick Casket Match with Undertaker vs. Yokozuna, which pretty much ended Yokozuna’s relevance in the WWE.
But then you had Survivor Series 1995. That Bret Hart vs. Diesel match to end the show, that was great stuff! THAT was a match that perfectly showed how to work a smaller guy versus a larger man. And then the ending with the roll-up and a pissed off Diesel. I 100% agree with Kevin Nash. That moment when he attacked Bret Hart afterward was the true kick-off of the Attitude Era and what more mature wrestling fans wanted to see. Kevin Nash was finally allowed to spread his wings after that and we saw a much better Diesel character that WCW benefitted from when Kevin Nash opted to join WCW during 1996. But it was that character that helped shine on possibilities of what other mature badass wrestlers with an attitude could see later on.
And then we have the 1996 Survivor Series, what a treat! Bret Hart returns to the roster in his first match since Wrestlemania 12 against “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Austin was growing with momentum as a popular heel among WWE fans thanks to his “Austin 3:16” speech at King of the Ring. His taped promos where he ripped on Bret Hart were classic and really built this feud. Then, the match was GREAT! It was so well executed and it was a true battle between 2 Alpha males. What more could you love from that? I loved the finish because Bret had to sneak in a pin from Austin’s Million Dollar Dream submission hold and had you wanting more. This made their Wrestlemania 13 match credible and then that match delivered bigtime.
I need to stay on Survivor Series 1996 because Sid vs. Shawn Michaels was also on it… May I confess something to everyone reading this? I love me some Sid Eudy. Yeah, I know, he’s not the best worker in the world. Maybe he likes having random bouts of time off and maybe he loves the softball season too much. He says funny things in promos sometimes, too… Oh, and he had issues with Arn Anderson and Brian Pillman at hotels that led to some serious trouble. I get all fo that… BUT LOOK AT THE GUY. If the Gods opened up the heavens and created what they thought a Pro Wrestlers should look like, it would be Sid Eudy. Just a BEAST in terms of looks and then when he delivered that Powerbomb, oh yeah. Just go watch Sid’s match with the Skyscrapers against the Ding Dongs from WCW to understand why the MASTER and the RULER OF THE WORLD is my favorite.
For me, as a BIG FAN of Sid Eudy, I absolutely LOVE that “Sycho” Sid won the WWF World Title here at Survivor Series 1996. LOVE IT! And I also love that it redeemed many of us who thought that Shawn Michaels was a weak WWE Champion as a babyface. Shawn was not a natural babyface but a heel… Part of WWE’s demise during 1996 was overpushing a male stripper looking character as a babyface when most wrestlers wanted to hate him. Well, Sid was now here… Granted, the win was probably to allow Shawn Michaels regain the title at Royal Rumble 1997 in front of his San Antonio home crowd to really force this babyface issue, but wouldn’t you it, Sid would regain the WWF Title just before Wrestlemania 13. Yes indeed, Sid Eudy is the MASTER and the RULER OF THE WORLD!
Anyone who hates Sid is not a friend of mine… Come one guys, you LOVED his 1999-2001 “Millennium Man” stuff and you know it. And the WWE botched him as Sid Justice. I’ll forever debate that.
Getting on track, you know, there was a certain show in 1997 that changed everything. Survivor Series 1997. The Truth Commission vs. Disciples of Apocalypse match changed everything and set-up the WWE to grow significantly with the Attitude Era. Ooops, wrong match, I meant that Team USA vs. Team Canada match… Wait, that wasn’t significant either? Oh, you mean that Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels. Yeah… That match was bonkers and to this day, I’m still shocked that Bret Hart didn’t suspect that a “fix” was in. That said, the WWE didn’t participate in double crosses… OH WAIT, they have! They screwed Wendi Richter out of her Women’s Title against Fabulous Moolah.
That said, Bret Hart and Vince McMahon had a personal bond that Bret felt was unbreakable and Bret probably felt that he was doing WWE a financial favor by leaving. There was years upon years of TRUST that Bret Hart felt he had with Vince. However, Vince McMahon was desperate during the Monday Night Wars and DID NOT WANT Bret Hart appearing there was champion. This whole “hand over the title the next night on RAW” was non-sense to Vince as you’d know that Eric Bischoff would always say on WCW Nitro that Bret never lost the title. The last thing that Vince wanted was the WWE Title not being changed properly on television. Bret was reluctant to drop the title anywhere before Survivor Series, so it forced his hand when Vince wanted the title back on Shawn Michaels’s waist.
So a plan was hatched and Bret foolishly scripted his match ahead of time with Shawn Michaels to let that Sharpshooter spot happen. In hindsight, he should have never let Shawn any type of submission hold, as that’s not common for Shawn at the time. Shawn applied the Sharpshooter and referee Earl Hebner was instructed to call for the bell by Vince McMahon. And that was it… Shawn Michaels acted like he didn’t know about the screwjob on camera and then Bret Hart ruined any Legal claims he had about his contract being violated by assaulting Vince McMahon with a punch backstage afterward. The rest is, as they say, history, because the “Montreal Screwjob”, which is where 1997 Survivor Series happened, helped create the HEEL Vince McMahon character that was a perfect foil for the next great babyface “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. WWE would eventually start crushing WCW in the ratings through 1998 and especially 1999 on that Austin vs. McMahon feud + supporting cast.
Let me just tell you this… I LOVE Survivor Series 1998. LOVE IT! For anyone who dares to debate Vince Russo contributions to the WWE, then go watch this show and then binge watch all RAW and Pay Per Views until you get to Wrestlemania 15. Easily, the best storyline arc that the WWE ever had. Survivor Series 1998 was a WWE Title tournament thanks to Vince McMahon arranging a Triple Threat at a Pay Per View between SummerSlam 1998 and Survivor Series 1998 with Austin vs. Kane vs. Undertaker but the stipulation was that Kane and Undertaker couldn’t pin each other. Both Kane and Undertaker pinned Austin simultaneously and that caused a dispute over the WWE Title later on. So, a WWE title tournament was held.
There are 3 specific characters who made Survivor Series 1998 great:
(a) The Rock
(b) Mick Foley
(c) Shane McMahon
The Rock was a heel throughout 1998 but he started receiving babyface cheers. If you watch the SummerSlam 1998 match against Triple H in particular, you can hear the WWE babyface reaction split in that match and Triple H belonged to the popular Degeneration X at the time. There were many thoughts at the time that he was going to become the next great babyface.
Mick Foley was playing a conflicted Mankind character during 1998 and he was trying to reimagine himself as the corporate suck-up character again that we saw right after Wrestlemania 14. Sadly for Mick, the “Corporation” had other plans.
Then you had Shane McMahon. He was disagreeing with his father’s antics in the Corporation and felt that there was a better way to operate a wrestling company. This, of course, was met with anger and Vince McMahon demoted Shane to the role of a referee during the Fall of 1998. Throughout RAW matches and then with this Survivor Series, poor Shane was inside the ring with stripes and controlling the competitive nature of matches.
With Survivor Series 1998, those 3 characters CLASHED… During the semi-finals, it was Steve Austin vs. Mankind and it was another great battle between those two. The referee got knocked out, however, and that caused Shane McMahon to run in as the substitute referee. When Austin tried to score a pinfall on Mankind after a Stunner, Shane counted “1, 2…” and then stopped. Shane flipped Austin off and then Austin was blasted with a chair by the stooges to help assist Mankind to win the match with Shane quickly counting. This made you think that Mankind was the “chosen” one to become the new Corporate WWE champion.
And then it was Rock vs. Mankind in the finals and of course, the Corporation screwed Mankind to help Rocky become the new WWE Champion. They did so in a cheap fashion to play upon the Survivor Series 1997 Montreal Screwjob, of course, to really pour on the heat. The WWE had to go for this cheap heat because they needed the people to HATE the Rock as the new Corporate WWE Champion. Little did the WWE know that they accomplished more, as it poured on sympathy for Mick Foley and would cause an AMAZING 3 month feud between the Rock and Mankind. It really helped sharpen up the Rock’s in-ring ability in preparation for that feud with Stone Cold Steve Austin for Wrestlemania 15’s 5-star match and their continued feud afterward.
Go watch Survivor Series 1998 just for the storyline that unfolded… Just amazing work by Mr. Russo and the participants involved inside the ring. Perfection in wrestling drama and storytelling was achieved that night and continued to be achieved through Wrestlemania 15.
And then there is Survivor Series 1999 where it all ended when Stone Cold Steve Austin was hit with a car to sell the fact that he needed neck surgery in real life. If you read my columns during prior years, you’d know that I considered this very event the “Day that the WWE Attitude Era” died. WWE was running on fumes at this point, as they just lost Vince Russo and have beat the Austin vs. McMahon feud into the ground at this point. While Triple H was a solid wrestler and ready for more, the change in the WWE’s Main Event scene from having the luxury of Austin vs. the Rock to Triple H vs. the Rock just wasn’t the same. Austin was the true fan favorite of the Attitude Era and without him, things started to fall apart for the WWE’s popularity. Then, when Austin came back, the WWE environment was changed from what we remembered him performing within and now Triple H was firmly dominating things. Instead of “fighting the power”, Austin made a foolish creative decision by wanting to turn heel at Wrestlemania 17 and that finished his great character off and it was never the same.
Survivor Series 1999 show, itself, wasn’t any good and then the Survivor Series 2000 main event of Steve Austin vs. Triple H indicated what I just described above. By November 2000, it was a changed WWE and that show proves it.
Then, Survivor Series 2001 was the final nail in the WCW/ECW Invasion coffin. What a TURD that Invasion storyline turned into and all because of WWE being petty about who their competitors were during the “Monday Night Wars”. Instead of making more money, WWE wanted to make a point about what Eric Bischoff created and it lost fans permanently instead. Yeah, we saw the traditional 5 on 5 Survivor Series match to end the show, but it was driving nails in to a coffin that shouldn’t have had a corpse in it to begin with.
Survivor Series 2002 had the first ever Elimination Chamber match… It was interesting the first time you saw it, been kind of lame ever since. The great part was crowning Shawn Michaels as the World Heavyweight Champion and that was sort of an award for making a great comeback in his life. Before SummerSlam 2002, the last time you saw Shawn wrestling with the WWE was at Wrestlemania 14. For him to win a WWE World Title just months after that amazing comeback match was awesome. Also on this show, I personally liked Paul Heyman turning heel on Brock Lesnar to help the Big Show win the WWE Title. This was a reward for Big Show, as he left the WWE during 2000 to get in better physical shape and he was really hitting his strides here on the Smackdown roster with Paul Heyman’s booking and help.
AND then I cannot remember Survivor Series mattering to me after this 2002 show. Nothing sticks out.
Yeah, you’d have the return Goldberg vs. Lesnar 2016 encounter that shocked everyone. Lesnar was the STAR of this show for a while, as he’d go on to pump out great matches against AJ Styles for 2017 and Daniel Bryan for 2018. But that’s about all I can remember or care to remember.
The Monthly Pay Per Views + overexposure that came with WWE having too many weekly television shows has ruined the importance of this 4th Quarter Pay Per View titan. You can really see that after 2002, the WWE didn’t even care about this show and in fact retired it for a few years. Now, it’s just the November Pay Per View and 5 on 5 Teams are just slapped together. They have also merged the “Bragging Rights” Pay Per View with this to have many Champion vs. Champion matches. But nobody has any reason to care about those matches, as nothing is on the line but “bragging rights” and even that is watered down.
As I have said in MANY MANY MANY columns throughout the years, WWE needs to place a “sense of urgency” on these Survivor Series elimination matches. I remember when I suggested on my October 16th, 2016 column that a top Survivor Series elimination match-up should determine the seeding of the Royal Rumble section. I believe that I said that the winners get the last 5 spots and the loser get the starting 5 spots, something like that. I remember getting HATE for that idea back then, but more recently, that has become a common opinion of wrestling fans lately. Imagine that, the early adopter is right once again!
But what do I know? I’m just a wrestling fan who LOVED the older Survivor Series match-ups and am just presenting idea on how to make this Pay Per View franchise great again.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving and THANK YOU to all of my readers + great websites for making these columns possible!
So just chill… Until the next episode!
Comments and feedback are welcome. Follow and Tweet me @titowrestling or login in below to post comments.
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– 11/21/2020 – Ask Mr. Tito – Kenny Omega Hall of Fame?, Zelina Vega, and More
– 11/19/2020 – Can Zelina Vega Survive as a Twitch Streamer?
– 11/14/2020 – Ask Mr. Tito – Zelina Vega’s WWE Release, Bellas, More
– 11/11/2020 – How to FIX Brandi Rhodes in AEW
– 11/6/2020 – Ask Mr. Tito – Sting in AEW?, Full Gear Predictions, and More
– 11/2/2020 – The POSITIVES in Pro Wrestling Right Now
– 10/30/2020 – Ask Mr. Tito – Jericho, Hager, WWE 3Q Financials, and More
– 10/28/2020 – 1998 = Peak of Wrestling and American Politics
– 10/25/2020 – Mr. Tito’s PHAT WWE Hell in a Cell 2020 Review
– 10/24/2020 – Ask Mr. Tito – Jericho/MJF, WWE Hell in a Cell Predictions, More
– 10/21/2020 – Wrestling Fans and COVID-19
– 10/17/2020 – YouTube Video: The Great Debate between Mr. Tito and Virtue – Roman Reigns, Bray Wyatt/Fiend, and Vince Russo vs. Paul Heyman
– 10/17/2020 – WWE Draft, Roman’s Submission Hold, and More
– 10/14/2020 – Good, Bad, & Ugly of the WWE Draft
– 10/9/2020 – Ask Mr. Tito – WWE Draft, Retribution, Cody/TNT, More
– 10/7/2020 – AEW and NBA Gambling on 18-49 Demo
– 10/3/2020 – Ask Mr. Tito – The Rock’s Politics, Roman Reigns, and More
– 9/29/2020 – WWE Needs to Appreciate Paul Heyman
– 9/26/2020 – Ask Mr. Tito – Road Warrior Animal, Retribution, and More
– 9/23/2020 – The Rock and John Cena Returning to the WWE?
– 9/19/2020 – WWE 2K Battlegrounds Video Game Review
– 9/16/2020 – My Job Application to Join WWE Creative
– 9/12/2020 – Ask Mr. Tito – Miro in AEW, Tessa Blanchard, More
– 9/8/2020 – Time for AEW To GROW UP
– 9/5/2020 – Ask Mr. Tito – Sasha/Bayley, Jey Uso, and More
– 9/1/2020 – The Value of Brock Lesnar to the WWE
– 8/30/2020 – WWE Payback Review & Roman Reigns
– 8/29/2020 – Ask Mr. Tito – Roman Reigns & Paul Heyman, More
– 8/26/2020 – Who Wants to be the Next WWE Main Eventer?
– 8/23/2020 – Mr. Tito’s PHAT WWE SummerSlam 2020 Review
– 8/22/2020 – Mr. Tito’s PHAT NXT Takeover XXX Review
– 8/22/2020 – Ask Mr. Tito – Rene Young, WWE Thunderdome, and More
– 8/18/2020 – Maybe WWE Has a Triple H Problem?
– 8/15/2020 – Ask Mr. Tito – Randy Orton/Ric Flair, Dixie Carter, Kamala, Pat McAfee, and More
– 8/13/2020 – YouTube Video: What’s Wrong with Wrestling – Foreign Objects
– 8/11/2020 – Does AEW have an EVP Problem?
– 8/9/2020 – YouTube Video: The Positives in Pro Wrestling for 2020
– 8/8/2020 – Ask Mr. Tito – Adam Cole vs. Pat McAfee, Rock vs. Daniel Bryan?, Blood in AEW, and Much More
– 8/4/2020 – WWE is an Unorganized Hot Mess
– 8/1/2020 – WWE and AEW Blew It with COVID-19
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