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Cageside Countdown: Greatest Survivor Series Moments

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Survivor Series is this Sunday. Who’s excited?

Anyone? Anyone? Anyone?

Lesnar-Goldberg II! Three Survivor Series matches! THREE OF THEM! Two possible roster-altering title matches! SIX HOURS OF WRESTLING! Can you handle it?

Ok, yeah, six hours (including the preshow) is overkill. But if the wrestling gods are willing, maybe we’ll see something that will be worthy of being called an all-time Survivor Series moment.

Maybe?

Well, one can hope, because for anything from this year to crack the list, they’ll have to meet a pretty high standard of classic Survivor Series moments.

But what is the greatest Survivor Series moment ever?

Earlier this week, we put that very question to you, the Cageside Galaxy. You’ve come through in the clutch as usual. With that, here are...

the 10 greatest Survivor Series moments ever.

10. The Rock wins the WWF Championship.

By the time Survivor Series came around in November 1998, there hadn’t been a WWF Champion in nearly two months. That’s a long time to be without a champion. That had to have sucked for The Rock, who on the night the title got vacated, won a #1 contender’s match for said title.

No matter: the issue was going to be solved with a one-night tournament to crown a new WWF Champion. Just about all the favorites to be the next champion were in the field: Undertaker, Kane, Austin, Rock, Mankind, Shamrock, but not Triple H (he was on the DL with a knee injury). The bracket was set up so that the corporate favorite, Mankind, would sail through to the WWF Championship. Well, a corporate favorite did sail to the WWF Championship.

That corporate favorite was, to the shock of many, The Rock. In a direct rehash of the previous year’s finish (don’t worry, kids. We’ll get to that one!), The Rock hooked Mankind in the Sharpshooter and Vince McMahon immediately called for the bell. Confusion filled the air, but for only a moment. Then The Rock and the male McMahons hugged it out, basically confirming that The Rock was in on the plan the entire time. Mankind was nothing more than, as Jim Ross put it, “a pawn in this entire orchestration”.

Just two years after his WWF in-ring debut, The Rock was not just WWF Champion, he was a historic WWF Champion. He was the youngest champion in company history, and the first African-American (partially) to win the title. Mankind took a beating post-match, then an angered Steve Austin returned (he got screwed by Shane McMahon in the semifinals) and put a beating on The Rock, effectively setting up a tease for a bout down the line.

9. Scott Steiner returns to WWE.

Scott Steiner in his prime was quite the anomaly in the professional wrestling world. Absurdly quick for his size, very technically sound, and really, really strong, Scott had the potential to be a huge singles star should he decide to break away from his brother Rick.

In 1998, that’s exactly what happened. Scott gave Rick the Jannetty (minus the plate glass window, obviously), he got bigger, he got unhinged, he got every singles title in WCW before the company closed down in 2001. What he rarely got was reprimanded.

Scott went away for a while after WCW closed, sitting out the remainder of his contract with Time Warner, then went to Australia’s World Wrestling All-Stars, then in October 2002, he would be the latest ex-WCWer to join McMahon’s house of fun and big people.

His debut came at Survivor Series in November 2002 to a huge ovation, and Scott... well, he was very much the Big Poppa Pump you remembered in his late WCW days. Suplex. Suplex. Suplex. Pushups. Suplex. Suplex. GIVE HIM A FUCKING MIC! (no, he actually said this) Catchphrase: “This goes out to all my freaks out there! Big Poppa Pump is your hookup! Holla if you hear me.”

Effective if nothing else.

8. CM Punk’s personal ring announcer: Howard Finkel.

I like Lilian Garcia. I like Justin Roberts. I even like Tony Chimel, but only when he announces Edge. But when it comes to ring announcing in WWE history, it’s Howard Finkel first, and everyone else second.

But by 2012, “The Fink” as he’s affectionately known to longtime fans, had been out of practice for years; he took on a progressively lighter schedule since the turn of the century. I mean, he did earn it, as he had been with the company since the WWE had three W’s in its name. And and F.

At the 2012 Survivor Series, WWE Champion Alberto Del Rio had his usual personal ring announcer in Ricardo Rodriguez. The challenger, CM Punk, hired his own personal ring announcer. Who did he get? It’s not like Punk had many friends in the locker room and I don’t think Punk and AJ Lee were dating around this timeHOLY SHIT IT’S WWE HALL OF FAMER HOWARD FINKEL!

Though goofs Michael Cole (about neck deep into his heel play-by-play run that surely turned off a few thousand fans) and Booker T did their best to ruin the moment, one thing was clear: The Fink is still gold on the mic. And he’s still better than your favorite ring announcer right now.

7. Sheamus 5:15.

Sheamus 5:15 says I just brogue kicked your arse.

Yeah, doesn’t quite roll off the tongue as the original, does it?

From the 2013 Survivor Series where he got four of the five eliminations for the winning team, then following that up with 12 eliminations in the 2014 Royal Rumble match, it was clear that WWE was setting up for Roman Reigns to be its next big star.

But his progress was stymied by a sports hernia that sidelined Reigns for three months. Nonetheless, his push kept right on going as if he had never left. He would win the 2015 Royal Rumble match, then narrowly miss out on the WWE title at Wrestlemania 31. It was only a matter of time before Reigns kicked that championship door down.

At the 2015 Survivor Series, Roman did just that, defeating Alberto Del Rio and Dean Ambrose to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. But just as Roman kicked down the door to championship glory, Sheamus kicked Roman in the face. Sheamus, if you’ll remember (and it’s okay if you didn’t), won the Money in the Bank ladder match over the summer for a guaranteed world title match.

It took all of 34 seconds. One more Brogue Kick, one three count, and Sheamus is the WWE heavyweight champion of the world. Roman Reigns’ first WWE Championship reign lasted all of 315 seconds. If it’s any comfort, it was just over a minute longer than Daniel Bryan’s first world title reign (4:07), three minutes longer than Yokozuna’s first (2:06), and about three and a half minutes longer than Andre the Giant’s first—and only, as it turned out (1:48).

But I’m pretty sure none of them reacted to their quick defeat (or in Andre’s case, handover) like they just woke up from the worst hangover ever (GIF via legitshook.com)

6. Bret Hart vs. Stone Cold.

When Bret Hart won the WWF Championship at the 1995 Survivor Series, it signaled a very emphatic end to Diesel being the Hulk Hogan of the New Generation (as it turned out, the Hulk Hogan of the New Generation era turned out to be Hulk Hogan). But Hart for all he had done and had meant to the WWF, he was nothing more than a stopgap for the next man up, Shawn Michaels. At Wrestlemania XII the following April, Michaels defeated Hart in a one-hour (and three minute) Ironman match for the WWF Championship.

Save for a few house shows internationally, that’s the last we saw of Hart for six months. In those six months while Hart was gone, the WWF’s ground began to shift. While some took to Shawn Michaels’ flamboyance, it was another man’s personality that cut through the crowd: Stone Cold Steve Austin.

His no-nonsense demeanor was a black cloud over the otherwise bright-and-shiny New Generation era the WWF was touting, but fans were having less and less of. The few that stuck around during the fall of 1996 saw Austin on a mission to tear down perhaps the face of the WWF’s old guard: Bret Hart.

The dream match was set for the 1996 Survivor Series, with Bret Hart in his first televised bout since Wrestlemania (and rejoining the WWF, as he had one foot out the door before Vince backed up the Brinks truck for him) taking on the very vocal face of change, Stone Cold Steve Austin.

And well... seriously, you need to see this match. It’s pretty damn good. In fact, I’m putting up the full video of it. It’s on WWE’s official Youtube channel, so you don’t have to feel guilty about watching it.

If you wonder why their Wrestlemania 13 bout is considered an all-time classic, watch this match. It may not answer all your question, but it’ll answer more than a few.

5. Shawn Michaels completes the comeback of a lifetime.

Shawn Michaels had a dual reputation: he was one of the best in-ring talents in the WWF, but behind the scenes, he developed a reputation for being, for lack of a better word, a brat. Despite being in the prime of his career, Michaels had to call it quits at just 32 due to a severe back injury he suffered in early 1998. Had he not wrestle another match, he would still have one of the greatest careers in wrestling history.

But in 2002, after more than four years away, Michaels returned to the ring at Summerslam and beat his one-time on-screen best friend Triple H. Post-match, Michaels was for all intents and purposes virtually murdered on PPV. That would have been a sad end to a comeback for the ages (seriously, watch that match. It was awesome.).

But Michaels would return to exact his revenge in the first ever Elimination Chamber match in WWE history that November. Michaels was every bit the Showstopper of old, even if his attire was... questionable to say the least. Michaels would Sweet Chin Music the Wrestlemania X8 “main event” in Chris Jericho and Triple H to win the World Heavyweight Championship as confetti sprayed all over the Madison Square Garden. In just his second match in four years, Shawn Michaels was a world champion again.

A hell of a way to end Survivor Series for Shawn Michaels, and I would argue a million times better than how his last appearance at Survivor Series ended. Speaking of which...

4. The Montreal Screwjob.

If you’re a wrestling fan, you probably know the story by now. But I’ll summarize it because I love you all.

In November 1997, Bret Hart was leaving the WWF after more than a decade with the company for WCW. But Bret had one last bit of business to take care of on his way out: lose the WWF Championship. This was a problem on multiple levels for Bret: he was dropping the title to Shawn Michaels, a man he hated both on- and off-screen. He was dropping it at Survivor Series. And Survivor Series was in Montreal, Canada, where Bret’s pretty much Wrestling Jesus.

I wrote a more complete write-up of the match here (and you should read it), but here’s the important stuff you need to know: Bret wasn’t willing to lose to Shawn under any circumstances because Shawn once said he wasn’t willing to lose to Bret. A finish was concocted that neither man would truly lose the bout, ending in a disqualification and Bret handing over the title the next night, that way, Bret gets a clean break and leaves with his head held high.

Here’s what actually happened: Shawn hooked Bret in Bret’s own finishing maneuver, the Sharpshooter. Vince McMahon immediately calls for the bell. Shawn wins the WWF title without Bret having actually submitted. It wasn’t a maybe he did, maybe he didn’t submit either; he clearly did not give up. Not even a little bit. The crowd nearly riots, Bret loses his marbles, fans were left in a state of shock.

The fallout is massive: most of the Hart Foundation and Rick Rude leave the WWF in protest. Vince McMahon becomes one of wrestling’s greatest villains in Mr. McMahon, and Steve Austin had the perfect foil to become one of wrestling’s greatest heroes. Forget it being one of the biggest moments in Survivor Series history; it’s one of the biggest moments in wrestling history. A whole lot of the business will be different without the events of November 9, 1997.

3. Sting’s WWE debut.

There are four things certain in life: death, taxes, the Undertaker wins at Wrestlemania, and Sting is never coming to WWE. All these things were true as of January 1, 2014. We know what happened with the third thing. But the rest was still very much true. You could practically set your watch to it.

Since WCW closed in 2001, Sting has had multiple negotiations with WWE, but the two sides could never close the deal. Whether it’s because Sting wasn’t up for a full-time schedule or he saw how WWE treated WCW in the years since the sale, it was never meant to be for the franchise of WCW to join the biggest company in the world.

But as Sting himself said a time or three, the only thing for sure about Sting is that nothing’s for sure. So imagine the surprise of many, including the Authority’s Seth Rollins, Triple H, and Scott Armstrong that the crow cawed on a WWE program near the end of the Survivor Series elimination match in 2014. Lights go out. Morbid, creepy images. Lone spotlight.

Then the first WWE appearance of A Vigilante Named Sting. Scott Armstrong went down and he went down hard. Moments later, Triple H challenged A Vigilante Named Sting to a staring contest. That’s a recipe for disaster. Triple H came at the icon and he missed. Scorpion Death Drop. Sting puts Dolph on top of Seth, and Triple H and Stephanie are out of power.

It didn’t matter they were out of power for all of six weeks; A VIGILANTE NAMED STING IS IN THE WWE!

2. The Shield crash Survivor Series.

One common complaint in recent WWE history is their inability to create stars that mattered. The number of stars that truly broke through over the last decade can arguably be count on one hand.

At Survivor Series in 2012, the WWE created three in one night. The threesome, all from WWE’s developmental league, NXT, were Dean Ambrose (who actually never appeared on NXT but was a big star in its predecessor, Florida Championship Wrestling), Roman Reigns (who was once known as Leakee), and NXT Champion at the time Seth Rollins.

The threesome dressed in black made an immediate impact as they put a beating on Ryback before finishing off by powerbombing him through the announcer’s table. The beatdown opened the door for CM Punk to retain the WWE Championship, and complete the company’s first year-long world title reign since John Cena did it in 2007.

The threesome would identify themselves as The Shield, and would become perhaps the most dominant threesome in wrestling since the original incarnation of the New World Order. Even more remarkable, all three men in the group would go on to become a world champion. It may be a long time—if ever—before we ever see a trio this dominant again.

1. The Undertaker is the mystery man.

In 1990, Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Team was set to take on the Dream Team, led by “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes. But the Million Dollar team was down a man on the night of the match. DiBiase, along with Greg Valentine and the Honky Tonk Man probably didn’t have much of a chance against the quartet of Rhodes, Bret Hart, Jim Neidhart, and Koko B. Ware.

But then Ted unleashed his secret weapon. From Death Valley, weighing 320 pounds, The Undertaker. And then time stopped. Because seriously, look how big this guy is. Look at him. LOOK AT HIM! (Better yet, don’t look at him. He might be weird and undead and whatnot.) I mean, dude’s seriously pale. He not only looks like he hasn’t been out in the sun lately, he looks like he hasn’t slept in a week.) But seriously, LOOK AT THE SIZE OF THIS HAMHOCK HERE! He was the biggest dude in the match, and it wasn’t close.

Oh, and it also turned out he was practically impervious to pain. Bret Hart couldn’t do anything with him. Jim Neidhart couldn’t do anything with him. Koko B. Ware had no chance, as he was turned upside down and dropped on his head something violent. Dusty Rhodes soon followed after Undertaker walked the top rope (HE WALKED THE TOP ROPE, PEOPLE!) and dropped him with a clubbing blow. It took a countout to eliminate the creepiest mortician ever, but it would be a hell of a first page for what would turn out to be a legendary career.

A career that continues more than a quarter century later with more moments than any of us could count. Interestingly enough, it could have played out a whole lot differently: legend has it, he was considered for the role as the Gobbledy Gooker (for what it’s worth, Hector Guerrero, the Gooker himself, rebukes this).

That’s why you voted The Undertaker’s legendary WWF debut as the greatest moment in Survivor Series history.

Agree? Disagree? Discuss in the comments.