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30 Years of Survivor Series Part 3: The One with the Screwjob

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Welcome back to the series where we talk a long, retrospective bender though the history of Survivor Series. This time, we go from 1997 to 2001. I think you know where this one is going, so let's not waste any time...

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We start this party with Survivor Series 1997 from lovely Montreal, Quebec. This show.....well, we'll get to it shortly.

First match was The New Age Outlaws and The Godwinns vs The Headbangers and The New Blackjacks. This match sucked, and the Montreal crowd was INCREDIBLY hostile toward one Billy Gunn. NAO and Godwinns won.

Next was The Truth Commission vs The Disciples of Apocalypse. It was much worse than I remember. The Truth Commission unfortunately won.

Next was the obligatory Team Canada vs Team USA elimination match, featuring the in-ring of Steve Blackman. This one wasn't good either. Note that I'm not shitting on this show because of what's coming up; it was just a genuinely crappy show. Canada won as you would expect.

Do we get a good match on this night? Yes we do with Kane vs Mankind. You see, Kane had only debuted one month or so prior at Badd Blood, so he was still being booked as a seven-foot murder machine. However, at the same time, the build for Undertaker and Kane's first match at WrestleMania XIV was starting, so they wanted to keep Kane strong. However, Mankind really brought it to Kane in this fun and brutal match. Kane won somewhat easily, but it was a fun one to watch.

The Legion of Doom with Ken Shamrock and Ahmed Johnson vs The Nation of Domination was next ,and it was back to this show's status quo of "boring and not very good"...except when Rock and Shamrock went at it - those moments were fire. LoD, Shamrock, and Johnson prevailed.

Stone Cold Steve Austin vs Owen Hart was next, and Austin was an absolute murder machine here. You see, a few months prior, Owen inadvertently broke Austin's neck with a botched piledriver, but had decided to roll with it by being proud of it, painting Owen as a viciously hated heel as Austin's babyface stock rose dramatically. Austin didn't much like this, so he tore apart Owen, British Bulldog, and anyone else who was in his path. Needless to say, the Rattlesnake won big.

The final match....Shawn Michaels vs Bret Hart. Oh boy...let me just lay some background down. At this point, Hart and Michaels genuinely hated each other, and both wanted to legitimately kill one another. Because of this and the general disrespect that he was receiving in WWF, Bret was planning to leave WWF for WCW, and he wanted to leave with the WWF Championship.

Basically most of this match was a downright vicious brawl with a crowd that was ready to riot at the snap of a finger (plus Michaels' constant disrespect of the Canadian flag didn't help either). Toward the end, it looked like Bret was about to seal up the victory, but Michaels reversed something and locked in the sharpshooter, causing Earl Hebner to immediately ring the bell.

But wait a minute, what the hell is going on? Michaels won the title and is running away, Vince McMahon is hauling ass out of the arena (after getting spat on), and everyone else is running away as the show quickly cuts. Any person watching this live knew that shit was going down, and it was further explained in the infamous "Bret screwed Bret" interview. If you haven't seen it, just watch the entire match - it's still impactful to this day.

Despite its iconic status (for the wrong reasons), this show was mostly terrible, so a D grade.

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Survivor Series 1998 brought a new twist to the series with the Deadly Game, a single-elimination tournament for the vacant WWF Championship. As such, there were quite a few matches on this night, so instead of reviewing each individual match, I'll do a bullet summary for the show sans the final match, which is worth discussing.

  • All night long, Mankind wrestled in a suit because he was under the impression that he was Vince McMahon's chosen one. As such, he was given easy competition such as Duane Gill (aka Gillberg) and Al Snow (who had stolen Mr. Socko and wrapped it around Head - Mankind's discovery of this is a genuinely hilarious moment). Although no one expected it, Mankind made it to the finals of the tournament because....
  • The unthinkable happened...MR. MCMAHON FINALLY DID IT; HE FINALLY SCREWED STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN OUT OF THE WWF CHAMPIONSHIP!!! How he did this was art. You see, Vince's son, Shane, had re-signed Austin to a new WWF contract, so you'd think that Shane was on Austin's side, right? WRONG!!! During Austin's match with Mankind, guest referee Shane flipped Austin the double bird. One thing led to another, and Austin was out of the tournament. For Vince, it was mission accomplished.
  • As both of these storylines ran, another one was in progress. The Rock, seen by many to be THE underdog and the guy Vince didn't want near the title, was somehow progressing through the tournament not by skill, but instead by taking advantages of many mistakes made by the Big Boss Man, Vince's security detail. First, Boss Man (already eliminated from the tournament) was rolled up in 4 seconds, then his thrown nightstick was intercepted by Rocky and used to hit Ken Shamrock, the intended target. After this, Rock made it into the finals when Kane chokeslammed him, sparking a brawl between Kane and Undertaker, Rock's opponent. Therefore, Rocky was in the finals, much to Vince's chagrin.
  • There was also a women's title match and a tag match....they were ok.

But now we get to tonight's main event: The Rock vs Mankind. This match pretty much set the tone for the feud that these two would have due to both taking full advantage of the no-disqualification stipulation. The match was great in terms of action, but the story set it apart. The Rock locked Mankind in the sharpshooter, and THE BELL RANG. WHAT IS THIS, ANOTHER SCREWJOB?!?

Wait, IS VINCE GIVING THE ROCK THE WWF CHAMPIONSHIP?!? WHY ARE THOSE TWO HUGGING....OH MY FUCKING GOD, THE ROCK WAS THE CHOSEN ONE ALL ALONG!!!

Mankind was devastated, and Jim Ross said it best when he said that Mankind was "a pawn in this entire orchestration." Mankind was devastated. However, this was one of the best story twists in WWF history.

I know everyone complains about Vince Russo's storytelling, but once in a rare while, he got it right. On this night, he absolutely freaking nailed it. This show deserves the A+ grade that I'm giving.

Seriously, watch this show.

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Could Survivor Series 1999 keep up the momentum that the previous show had? No....nope....not at all. I'll do bullets again, not because there were many matches, but that this show was awful.

  • After a particularly despicable storyline involving the Big Boss Man crashing the funeral of Big Show's father, Big Show was out to murder anybody and everybody in his way, and that's what he did. Big Boss Man escaped Big Show's wrath, but the seven-foot monster wasn't done.
  • Nope, he got himself a slot in the main event. How? Simple: Stone Cold Steve Austin got ran over by a car as he was chasing Triple H through the arena (a way to write Austin off due to nagging injuries). Everyone, including Triple H, was in shock at this despite accusations flying everywhere. Whodunit? We'll have to wait until next year to find that out.
  • Needless to say, this incident allowed the Big Show to get into the Russofied main event where he won the WWF Championship, giving him a good moment in an awful week.

Nothing else from this show deserves recognition because it was so bad. The ONLY reason that I give this show a D- is the story they told with Big Show....that's seriously it.

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Thankfully Survivor Series 2000 was a huge recovery from 1999's mess. This was the first Survivor Series show that I ever watched, and I always had fond memories of it.

First was T&A + Trish vs Steve Blackman, Crash, and Molly Holly. Honestly, it was a very fun way to open the show - can't think of more to say. Blackman, Crash, and Molly got the win.

The Radicalz were next, and they absolutely dominated Billy Gunn, Road Dogg, Chyna, and K-Kwik. It was fun despite the domination, and also marked K-Kwik's first PPV match).

Kane vs Chris Jericho was next, and although it's storyline was a little contrived (pretty boy vs disfigured maniac), the first match was pretty fun. It started out boring, but the intensity built as the match went on, eventually leading to Jericho eating a monstrous chokeslam from Kane.

William Regal vs Hardcore Holly was next and ended in DQ. However, I can buy the DQ because Holly had just returned from an arm injury, and he didn't feel like having it injured again, so he just beat the hell out of Regal. Simple, yet effective.

Next...The Rock vs heel Rikishi. First of all, let's laugh at the idea of Rikishi's heel run, which was an epic failure. However, this match was the high point of that heel run with Rikishi absolutely wrecking Rock's chest. The match was pretty good, and that was definitely boosted by Rock selling his chest as if he got shot. After the match, a losing Rikishi got the last laugh with FOUR Banzai drops onto said chest.

Next was an average women's title match between Lita and Ivory that saw Lita get busted open the hard way from either a kick or punch from Ivory, who eventually won by using the belt to block a Litasault.

Next was Undertaker vs Kurt Angle, and despite it being clunky here-and-there, this was a very fun match that would be a sort-of preview of the far superior match that these two had at No Way Out 2006. In the end, Angle went to hide under the ring, but Undertaker pulled him out and destroyed him with a Last Ride. However, Earl Hebner didn't count the pin. Why?! Because Angle wasn't Angle. The real Kurt Angle had a decoy take his place, and the real Angle won with a roll-up full of tights. The Dead Man American Badass was outsmarted, but you don't outsmart Undertaker and get away with it.

Next was an elimination match with Right to Censor and Edge & Christian vs The Dudley Boyz and Hardy Boyz. As you'd expect, it was pretty fun, and that was bolstered by RTC being completely incompetent ninnies in the ring. These constant screwups led to their downfall and eventual sacrifices through the Altars of Dudley.

The main event was a BRUTAL no-DQ match between Stone Cold Steve Austin and Triple H in a culmination of last year's vehicular storyline. The build was intense, and the blowoff was so appropriate because it took FULL advantage of the stipulation, which is something that never happens today. Toward the end, a bloodied Triple H tried to get his Radicalz goons to beat down Austin, but you don't stop a vengeful Rattlesnake.

In fact, it only made him angrier. Austin escaped, grabbed a forklift, and lifted a car that Triple H was hiding in. Despite Haitch's begging, Austin dropped the car from the raised forklift with Triple H still inside. He would miraculously rise from the dead for Armageddon, but it was a pretty intense ending.

All in all, excellent, A-grade show.

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The final show of this series is Survivor Series 2001 - the culmination of the failed Invasion angle. All of the split titles would be unified on this night, and the surviving company would be decided with an elimination match...a bit of a disappointment, but let's see how the show went...

First match was Christian vs Al Snow. Christian won, and it was an ok match.

Next was a quick tussle with William Regal taking on Tajiri. Regal won this one easily, and gave Tajiri and Torrie Wilson the gift of some Tiger Bombs.

The first unification match was up with Test and Edge fighting to unite the Intercontinental and United States Championships, and this was, believe it or not, was excellent. It had great action and quite a few false finishes. Edge eventually got the win, but it was a war. However, Test's night wasn't done quite yet...

A very fun cage match between The Dudleyz and Hardyz was next to unite the WWF and WCW Tag Titles. There isn't much to say aside from the fact that these teams had great chemistry and HOLY SHIT JEFF HARDY JUST DID A SWANTON FROM THE TOP OF THE CAGE AND HE CRASHED AND BURNED!!! Needless to say, The Hardyz lost because Jeff is a little cuckoo.

Next  was an immunity battle royal that was just a standard BR. Test, who angrily stole Scotty 2 Hotty's spot, won the thing, so his night wasn't all bad.

A women's six pack challenge was next that featured the WWF debut of Jazz, who immediately destroyed Lita. This wasn't bad, and saw Trish Stratus win the match and Women's Title.

The main event was a traditional elimination match between Team WWF and Team Alliance, and this was a great example of multiple stories being told simultaneously in the course of one match. The primary story was that the Alliance would do ANYTHING to win, including Shane McMahon breaking any and every pin attempt (and getting destroyed for it), bringing WCW head ref Nick Patrick down to interject himself, and Stone Cold Steve Austin being himself.

However, the secondary story that also ran was about a WWF mole in Team Alliance. As expected, this story caused paranoia in the team as they tried to figure out who the mole was. The result was one that ultimately cost the Alliance.

ALSO running in the course of the match was the continued feud between The Rock and Chris Jericho, two men who had huge egos. They had an excellent match at No Mercy 2001, but had to somehow cooperate to save the WWF. They cooperated...until Jericho was rolled up for an elimination. He didn't like this much, so he just said "fuck it" and downed Rocky with Breakdown, one of his old finishers. It nearly downed The Rock, but he wasn't going to die easily as he and Austin had themselves an obligatory war.

At the end, Earl Hebner took a ref bump and was down. As he was down, Kurt Angle (who was on Team Alliance) came down, grabbed the WWF Championship belt, and was about to hit The Rock. However...SWERVE!!! ANGLE HITS AUSTIN...ANGLE WAS THE MOLE ALL ALONG. The Rock got the pin, and WWF lived on.

This remains one of Survivor Series' best elimination matches. Although the middle act is a bit slow, the intensity of the beginning and (especially) end coupled with the masterful storytelling made it one to remember.

The Invasion Era was pretty forgettable, but it went out very nicely with this great show. I give it an A-

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That's all for this one. Tune in next time as we examine 2002 - 2006!