You wouldn’t think it, thanks to the piss-poor build, but tonight is the 35th annual Survivor Series PPV. It ain’t what it used to be, that’s for sure. Who cares about “Brand Supremacy” when nothing is one the line? No titles, no stakes…nothing. Clearly the bookers don’t care about “Brand Supremacy,” because this PPV build has been the worst I’ve seen for a long, long time. I was more excited for Crown Jewel 2021 than I am for this event. However, there are a few non-traditional matches that promise to be Match of the Year contenders. Over the years, Survivor Series has produced some great bouts, both in terms of the traditional Survivor Series bouts and other, non-traditional Survivor Series bouts. I’m here to talk about the latter. More specifically, my Top 10 Non-Traditional Survivor Series Matches!
- Adam Cole vs Pete Dunne (NXT Championship Match, Survivor Series 2019)
You want evidence most WWE fans don’t watch NXT? Watch the first five minutes of this match. There is little to no crowd reaction to this NXT Championship match. However, by the end, a ‘This is Awesome’ match breaks out, and the crowd are eating out of the palms of Dunne and Cole. They had just under fifteen minutes to prove the worth of NXT to the general WWE audience, and they sure did just that. Cole and Dunne could have a great match together blindfolded, and here they pull out all the stops. On a night where NXT dominated the show, Cole and Dunne stood tall above everyone else.
- Ronda Rousey vs Charlotte (Survivor Series 2018)
It’s fair to say that Rousey was underappreciated by the audience in the second half of her WWE career. The boos reign out for her here, whilst Charlotte is heavily cheered. And, to me, that’s rather unfair. Whilst she was pushed to the moon undeservedly, Rousey always gave her all whilst wrestling. She’s take crazy bumps and sell beautifully (most of the time). Here, she’s obviously carried by Charlotte to greater heights than ever before; this is surely Rousey’s best WWE bout, and the best women’s bout in Survivor Series history by far. It may be sullied by a DQ finish, but everything before that is pure wrestling goodness. Rousey and Flair go back and forth in a brutal war. Yes, Charlotte may have carried the bout, but Rousey rises to the occasion. It’s a pity there wasn’t a rematch…
- Randy Orton (c) vs Shawn Michaels (WWE Championship, Survivor Series 2007)
Even when Randy Orton can’t be bothered, he puts on a respectable match. When he’s motivated (like he has been during the pandemic, for example), he’s one of the best and most consistent in the world. Here, against another all-time great, he’s fantastic. Yes, the stipulation of the title changing on a DQ and HBK forbidden to use his finisher may seem silly, but it adds another dimension to the match; HBK isn’t known for his technical prowess, but here he shows that he knows plenty of submissions. No need for gimmicks, just a straight wrestling match from two of the best of all time.
- Shawn Michaels (c) vs Sycho Sid (WWF Championship match, Survivor Series 1996)
Sycho Sid in a great match? Yes, your eyes don’t deceive you. I’ll say this a few times during this list, but this bout is a case of a superior wrestler carrying someone to dizzying heights. This time, it’s HBK carrying a walking tree of a man to a sublime main event. Sid looked awesome, a mean machine, but his wrestling left a lot to be desired. Here, however, the crowd are inexplicably on his side. He’s ostensibly the heel, but babyface HBK is the one who’s booed. Sid seems to feed off the cheers, allowing HBK to carry him through a perfectly paced David vs Goliath bout. HBK, like typical 1990s HBK, bumps like crazy for Sid, who’s never looked more formidable. This is textbook Showstopper, never wanting to put on a bad show (even for unappreciative fans!). And if you believe that lightning could strike twice, check out their rematch at Royal Rumble 1997. HBK legitimately has the flu. Sid can’t carry the match on his own against a sick HBK, and it turns out to be a disaster. On second thoughts, just watch this bout instead.
- Brock Lesner vs AJ Styles (Survivor Series 2017)
Since his return in 2012, part-time Lesner can occasionally show little interest in wrestling. See, for example, his borefest against Dean Ambrose at WrestleMania, or his squash matches against Kofi Kingston and Rey Mysterio. However, sometimes he puts his heart and soul into a match. Just observe his effort here; yes, he’s against one of the best in the world in the form of Styles, but Lesner also holds his own, willing to sell like a champ AJ’s offence. This is a back and forth war that you rarely see out of Lesner. It even makes you think that AJ, the underdog, could pull a win out of nowhere, with a cheeky roll-up. This match, whilst awesome, is interchangeable with Lesner’s similar match against Daniel Bryan one year later at Survivor Series in terms of being a great David v Goliath fight AND a great effort from Lesner. But, for me, this one just stands out that little bit more.
- Triple H vs Ric Flair (Last Man Standing Match, Survivor Series 2005)
Ahhh, the days when the blood could flow freely and WWE wrestlers could gouge each other’s foreheads with screwdrivers…you won’t get a match like this in modern WWE. Flair and HHH had been feuding for a few months. This was the end of that feud, a bloody affair between mentor and protégé. There aren’t many of Flair’s matches in his second WWE run that I look back at fondly, but this is one of my favourite Flair matches EVER. Last Man Standing matches can often feel disjointed, over-long and oddly paced, but this was just a brutal, bloody brawl from two of the best in the business. And I don’t know how Flair bled so much without passing out (however, this is probably only the second best Last Man Standing match in WWE history. The best? HHH…against Y2J).
- Elimination Chamber (World Heavyweight Championship, Survivor Series 2002)
The original is, often than not, always the best, isn’t it? The first instance of the Elimination Chamber gimmick is surely the best, even nearly twenty years later. Just like Hell in a Cell, it’s been diluted in the past decade by having a PPV named after it. Rather than occurring naturally out of a storyline, the gimmick match is forced upon us. Here, it was the culmination of several storylines (the most notable being the rivalry between HHH and HBK). It’s violent, bloody (yes, just like Hell in a Cell, blood is a key ingredient that’s missing from modern Elimination Chamber matches) and gripping. Even lesser wrestlers like Kane and Booker T are elevated by simply being in this match. Everyone performs their best (even an injured HHH), resulting in a Chamber match that hasn’t been matched since.
- Diesel (c) vs Bret Hart (WWF Championship, Survivor Series 1996)
Just like Sycho Sid, Diesel isn’t someone you usually associate with great matches. Great character, no doubt, but great wrestler? No chance. And he held the WWF Championship for a year in the mid-90s! However, there’s his No Holds Barred match against HBK that stands out, along with this awesome David vs Goliath collision. Yes, yet another one of those collisions! Styles vs Lesner is more of a mismatch, but Lesner is by far a better wrestler than Diesel ever was, and thus the onus is on Hart to carry the match. He carries it with aplomb. This match is notable for featuring the first ever announce table bump (Hart takes a plunge from the ring apron through the announce table), but it’s so much more than a one bump match.
- Bret Hart (c) vs Shawn Michaels (WWF Championship Match, Survivor Series 1992)
No, this isn’t their infamous Survivor Series 1997 bout (although that could have been a stunner, if not for the Montreal Screwjob). Five years earlier, they put on a wrestling classic that few people talk about today. I watched it for the first time this week, and had to watch it again today. You talk about underrated matches, but not many people talk about this one. People would prefer to talk about their ‘Mania XII clash. That’s overrated, an Iron Man match that goes into extra time…and only one pinfall! It’s simply boring. This half and hour clash, however, is a wrestling clinic, a back-and-forth chess game that builds and builds until a cracking ending. It’s HBK’s first main event of a PPV, and he proves he belongs there, while Hart proves he should stay there. I also love the pre-match interviews with each contender. Bring those back!!! All in all, a cracking bout that needs far more love and attention that it receives.
- Stone Cold v Bret Hart (Survivor Series 1996)
Yes, we all know about their epic I Quit match at WM13. One of the most important matches in WWE history, a great double turn, and one of the best WWE matches of all time. But this is where their rivalry started in the ring, five months prior to WM13. Bret Hart returned and selected up and comer Stone Cold as his Survivor Series opponent. While their WM13 clash is a violent brawl, this is a pure wrestling match. Each man trying to out-wrestle the other, this is proof (if you needed it) that Austin was a great wrestler before he was a great brawler (the latter necessitated by his broken neck, ironically at the hand of Hart’s brother Owen). The best Survivor Series singles match of all time.
Batista (c) vs The Undertaker (Hell in a Cell Match for the World Heavyweight Championship, Survivor Series 2007)
John Cena (c) vs Triple H vs Shawn Michaels (WWE Championship Triple Threat Match, Survivor Series 2009)
Daniel Bryan vs Brock Lesner (Survivor Series 2018)
CM Punk vs Alberto Del Rio (WWE Championship, Survivor Series 2011)
Roman Reigns vs Drew McIntyre (Survivor Series 2020)