The first wrestling pay-per-view I ever watched was Survivor Series 1990. It was Thanksgiving night and my dad, who alternately supported my love of wrestling having been a fan himself (he still tells me about seeing Pepper Gomez at the Boston Garden) and thought I watched it too much (or maybe my mom thought that, can’t remember) got it as a special treat. He, my sister and I brought some leftovers out to our den and settled in to enjoy three hours of WWF action including the one and only Ultimate Match of Survival where Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior overcame the odds to end the night on an up note.
In the 25 years since Survivor Series got its start, I’ve seen just about every one either live or via the magic of VHS or WWE Classics (I’ve still never seen 1988 and missed 2004 and 2005). I remember watching the Gravest Challenge at 1991 with my elementary school chums, seeing Bret Hart get screwed in 1997 with buddies from the wrestling team, booing Chyna beating Chris Jericho in 1999 with my high school pals, and catching 2006 and onwards on a couple months delay apiece from the privacy of my New Jersey apartment.
While Survivor Series has undergone many a format change since 1987 and the team elimination matches have become a special attraction as opposed to the norm, they’re still the first thing I think of when it comes to the event, so to commemorate tonight’s edition, here are my favorite squads from through the years.
1987: Team Macho Man (Randy Savage, Ricky Steamboat, Jake Roberts, Jim Duggan & Brutus Beefcake)
This is the kind of upper mid card dream team I don’t think you could even assemble today. Every guy on this team was a future World champion at best and a guy who could have been a solid Intercontinental champ at worst. It was a round robin of hot tags between five guys the fans legitimately loved each of whom had a distinct and memorable character. They had pretty crappy opposition in the form of Honky Tonk Man and the likes of Danny Davis and Ron Bass, but they were fun to watch.
1989: The Rude Brood (Rick Rude, Mr. Perfect & The Fabulous Rougeaus)
First of all, you’re not going to find a better string of entrance themes than Rougeaus-Perfect-Rude—just melody to my 80’s music-loving ears. Second, it’s a great collection of skilled technical wrestlers who also happen to mesh well as a group of egomaniacs who run the table as far as variations on narcissism. Third, they had the perfect opponents in the unruly Roddy’s Rowdies (Roddy Piper, Jimmy Snuka & The Bushwhackers), and since I love rooting for jerks, I had it made.
1990: The Warriors (The Ultimate Warrior, The Texas Tornado & The Legion of Doom)
Going by pure childhood nostalgia, my favorite Survivor Series team ever, I do believe. As mentioned, this was the first PPV I ever watched, and these were the guys I wanted to see. Kerry Von Erich was my favorite wrestler when I was a kid. The Legion of Doom were the crazy WWF newcomers who I was quite intrigued by. I wasn’t the biggest Ultimate Warriors booster, but he was the WWF champion, and that earned a certain cred in my book. I was cheering my little head off as these guys steamrolled Mr. Perfect and Demolition, though I was bummed the Tornado was the first dude knocked out.
1997: Team Shamrock (Ken Shamrock, Ahmed Johnson & The Legion of Doom)
Taking a look at this crew, I had trouble imagining anybody had the stuff to take them down. Shamrock was just hitting his stride as a bad ass, LOD was back as close to top form as they could get and Ahmed, while on the last legs of his brief run in the big time, still came off as a powerhouse who could take anybody’s head off. Not a lot of finesse, but with those grimaces, did they need it?
2003: Team Stone Cold (Shawn Michaels, Booker T, Rob Van Dam & The Dudley Boyz)
This is kind of an all-time greatest hits Survivor Series team, almost. You’ve got Shawn Michaels, my favorite wrestler ever and one of the WWF’s greatest performers. Booker T was the standard bearer of WCW in their final years. Rob Van Dam was the embodiment of ECW and arguably the biggest star they ever produced. The Dudleys also had the ECW legacy, but more than that, you’re not going to name a more decorated tag team. To top it off, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, the biggest star of the 90’s, was in their corner. Can you believe they lost to Eric Bischoff’s team? So much for playing the odds…
2006: Team DX (Triple H, Shawn Michaels, C.M. Punk & The Hardy Boyz)
The finest Survivor Series team of recent vintage and likely one of the coolest of all-time when it comes to popularity. With DX leading the charge they were guaranteed major fan support already, but adding the recently reunited Hardys was gasoline on an already raging fire. However, most will agree the coolest aspect of this grouping was hearing newcomer Punk get the loudest reaction and seeing him get at least a momentary rub from his veteran partners. They dismantled the competition—a pretty game squad themselves with Edge, Randy Orton, the future John Morrison, the underrated Gregory Helms and, well, Mike Knox—handily, had a good time doing it with a wealth of fun spots and earned a standing ovation from the crowd after surviving all intact.