Survivor Series is an annual tradition for the WWE that dates back to 1987, when the inaugural show was broadcast. In recent years, however, the event has become less and less important. Today, Craig takes a look at one of his favourite events on the WWE calendar.
Ah Survivor Series, how unkind the years have been to you. You were once so important. The show that hosted the debut of The Undertaker some 25 years ago. The event that saw, just a year later, the same man defeat The Hulk Hogan for the WWF title. Fast forward to 1996 and we got the debut of Dwayne Johnson and a classic between Stone Cold Steve Austin and Bret Hart. The following year came the Montreal Screwjob. Add in Stone Cold being knocked down, the first elimination chamber match and The Rock turning heel and we have an event with a history that’s full of important and memorable moments.
The problem is, however, other than the Elimination Chamber bout and, if you want to throw in another big match, Team Raw vs. Team SmackDown at the 2005 instalment, many of the events’ big moments took place before the millennium.
There lies the problem. The event that featured the debut of the Undertaker and a year later his rise to the top of the mountain, just isn’t important an ymore. It’s lost it’s unique selling point, of multi-men tag matches, and now its difficult to differentiate it from any of the other shows that the WWE promotes throughout the year.
Back when Survivor Series debuted it was different from the usual style of show. Instead of a lengthy show with an undercard of matches and, invariably, a one on one main event the Survivor Series promised multi-man matches with several feuds playing out in the one match as superstars strived to survive.
The show was developed by the WWF to cash in on the success of WrestleMania III and the Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant match that closed the show. So on the 26 November 1987, the Richfield Coliseum played host to the inaugural Survivor Series PPV. PPV providers were also in a quandary by Vince McMahon and the WWF that night.
With National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) airing Starrcade on the same night, McMahon threatened providers that if they aired Starrcade they couldn’t broadcast the following years’ WrestleMania. In the end, most cable providers baulked and gave into McMahon’s threat with only a handful choosing to air NWA Starrcade.
Fans that night were treated to a card that featured a main event that saw the team of André the Giant, One Man Gang, King Kong Bundy, Butch Reed and Rick Rude defeat Hulk Hogan, Paul Orndorff, Don Muraco, Ken Patera, and Bam Bam Bigelow with Andre the sole survivor.
But this side of the year 2000, the importance of the Survivor Series has certainly dwindled. There has been the odd memorable moment along the way but without it’s unique selling point, it’s faded into the background as gimmick heavy events like Money in the Bank and Elimination Chamber appear, certainly on paper, to stand out more.
But back to this year, don’t get me wrong, the WWE is trying. Building up this year’s event as the 25th anniversary makes a lot of sense – although also highlights other issues the WWE has. But for the first time, really, in a while it seems like the event is pretty important.
As I write – it’s Monday night before the Raw on the 2nd of November 2015 – it looks like The Undertaker is indeed likely to headline Survivor Series alongside three allies – probably Kane and maybe the Dudleys – against the Wyatt Family.
It’s a big match. It’s one that’s certainly making me contemplate taking the following morning off in order to make amends for having to stay up till 4am watching it here in the UK.
I’m not necessarily advocating a return to an evening of solely multi men matches – nor do I buy the notion that booking 4 vs. 4 matches are harder than singles or normal tag matches.
But the WWE needs to do something with the former Thanksgiving spectacular to make it stand out. It was fine when there wasn’t a monthly event but now with an event every four weeks, each has to have a unique selling point in order to stand out from a very busy crowd.
As it stands, Survivor Series rarely does. If this year’s features several multi-man matches with big name superstars taking part – then I’m curious to see what impact it will have on viewership. It’s widely reported that Vince McMahon isn’t a fan of tag wrestling and doesn’t believe it’s as easy to sell tag wrestling than it is to sell a big one on one match but in the post-PPV era there is absolutely no reason to try something different with events.
This writer certainly wouldn’t be disappointed if attempts were made to return Survivor Series to its former glory as superstars strived to survive in their elimination tag matches on the 22nd of November. One can live in hope…