Once WWE gets through with their latest Blood Money show known as Crown Jewel on Thursday, its next pay-per-view stop will be the 35th annual Survivor Series, which will emanate from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
As we’ve seen since 2016, this year’s Survivor Series will likely comprise of Raw vs. SmackDown matches. Even though the WWE Draft has diluted much of the intrigue around the “brand supremacy” concept — which is why WWE de-emphasized it during the build to last year’s show — the potential matchups should foster some quality in-ring action.
But we’ll save the speculation for that show for later. For now, let’s take a look back at the many other Survivor Series shows and fish for some gems.
These are five Survivor Series matches that are well worth your time.
Shawn Michaels vs. Randy Orton (c)- WWE Championship (if Michaels used Sweet Chin Music, he would’ve lost the match, if Orton got DQed, he would lose the WWE Title) (2007)
This was a rematch from the 2007 Cyber Sunday pay-per-view, a match that ended with Randy Orton low-blowing Shawn Michaels to retain his championship via disqualification. So, for you younger fans who think that cheap non-finishes are a new phenomenon, let that serve as evidence to the contrary.
Due to that terrible conclusion, the second Orton/Michaels match carried the condition that Orton would lose the WWE Championship if he got disqualified again. However, because of how often Michaels hit Orton with Sweet Chin Music during this feud, it was also stipulated that Michaels would lose the match if he landed his patented superkick on Orton.
This was a very good match, but the slow pace early on combined with the abrupt finish kept it from being great. Much like Orton’s WrestleMania 25 program with Triple H, the stips sapped too much intensity from a match that was supposed to be the conclusion to a bitter feud that started at Judgement Day 2007.
For example, instead of Michaels aggressively going after the man who tried to end his career, we saw him start the match off by placing Orton in a cravate for several minutes. And before the match could get out of fourth gear, Orton hit the RKO to retain his title, though having Orton hit the move after Michaels hesitated to go for Sweet Chin Music (which also played off of Orton falling for a couple of fakeouts earlier) was a clever finish.
Still, this match is worth a second look (or first look) for the story of Michaels attempting the Sweet Chin Music to create openings to apply submission holds — spots that the crowd was very much into.
John Cena vs. Chris Jericho (c)- World Heavyweight Championship (2008)
Nowadays, you can find Chris Jericho thriving (and telling dated jokes from 2000) in All Elite Wrestling, but you could argue that the first-ever Undisputed Champion’s best run came with WWE in 2008. That year was highlighted by his tremendous program with Shawn Michaels that saw the two face off in classic unsanctioned and ladder matches, but it also included two reigns as World Heavyweight Champion for Jericho.
The second reign came to an end at the hands of, who else, a returning John Cena at that year’s Survivor Series. Cena had missed the last several months with a neck injury — suffered in his match against Batista at SummerSlam 2008 — and this match in his hometown(ish) of Boston was his first one back.
As expected, this match centered around Cena’s neck. Jericho spent most of the match working over the surgically repaired appendage — including a spot where he applied The Liontamer while pressing his knee on Cena’s neck — but little things like Cena grabbing his neck after taking a basic bump on a shoulder tackle and Cena hesitating to go for a top-rope leg drop (that was the move he went for at SummerSlam that ultimately resulted in his injury) also enhanced this story.
Of course, this was Cena’s return match in his (kinda sorta) hometown, so you know how this ended: Cena hoisted Jericho up and delivered the F-U (now the Attitude Adjustment) and scored the pin to win the World Heavyweight Title.
This match won’t go down as one of the all-time greats, but it was still enjoyable enough. Cena and Jericho told a solid story (albeit one that was more toothless than it should have been), even if the ending felt like an inevitability.
The Heavenly Bodies (Jimmy Del Ray and Tom Pritchard) vs. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express (Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson) (c)- SMW Tag Team Championships (1993)
WWE wasn’t always the island unto itself that ignored every other wrestling company in existence. To be clear, the promotion has mostly ignored competition on-screen, but there were also plenty of instances where WWE not only acknowledged other companies but also gave them time on their shows to feature talent.
In the early 1990s, Smoky Mountain Wrestling was one of those promotions, and that mutual agreement afforded fans to see this treat of a match for the SMW Tag Team Titles at Survivor Series 1993.
Unfortunately, the Boston crowd wasn’t as enthusiastic for this bout; they clearly had no idea why these teams were wrestling and the lack of build (outside of one promo on an episode of Raw) was the likely cause.
That combined with some wonky stuff during the climax hurt this one, but everything else made it seem like these two teams were teleported from 2021 to have this random match in 1993. We got moonsaults, suicide dives, and plenty of other great spots that wouldn’t feel out of place today and would’ve worked in front of a more attentive crowd.
The spot where Robert Gibson uses his body to keep Ricky Morton from hitting the turnbuckle following an Irish whip and Morton then throwing Jimmy Del Ray into the opposite corner when Tom Pritchard tries the same thing is, by itself, worth giving this a watch.
Batista (c) vs. The Undertaker- World Heavyweight Championship (Hell in a Cell) (2007)
After several months of Great Khali World Title matches, WWE revisiting the Batista/Undertaker feud during the fall of 2007 was a welcome reprieve. WWE kept the lead-up to this one relatively simple: Taker beat Batista at WrestleMania 23, Batista beat Taker at Cyber Sunday, and the two fought to two draws in a Last Man Standing match at Backlash and a Steel Cage match on SmackDown, respectively.
This Hell in a Cell main event represented the climactic tiebreaker (by the way, all of those preceding matches ranged between “surprisingly good” to “surprisingly great”). In keeping with their trend in 2007, Taker and Batista brought the brutality in a contest that measured up to its stipulation and placement on the card.
Having Edge sneak in and cost Undertaker the match chipped away at this one a bit — that decision was understandable, as it set up the triple threat at Armageddon the next month and made sense from Edge’s perspective since it would’ve put him next in line for a title shot — but everything that came before that makes this easy to recommend.
Sasha Banks vs. Asuka (2020)
Want to know how little faith WWE had in the majority of its women’s division in 2020 (and now, quite frankly)? Prior to this match, Sasha Banks and Asuka had faced one another in singles and tag matches a total of eight times between July and September. Suffice to say, WWE had gone to this well a lot.
However, it’s Asuka and Sasha Banks. As long as they received time and a satisfying finish to work with (a hard thing to come by in WWE), their chemistry and combined aptitude in the ring would take care of the rest. And for 13 minutes at Survivor Series 2020, that’s exactly what we got.
Since this encounter was babyface vs. babyface (Banks was fresh off of winning the title from Bayley at Hell in a Cell in the eponymous match), this was more of a chess match than some of the other encounters, with the two trading holds early on before going for strikes and more impactful offense.
Even then, they still mixed in some cool technical stuff, things like Asuka snaring a running Banks and transitioning into an Ankle Lock before lifting Banks up while still trapped in the hold to deliver a kick to the midsection or Banks going to Plan B and using a Cobra Twist when Asuka fended off The Bank Statement.
Looking back, it’s a shame that these two had so many matches with weird finishes before this one. It’s also a shame that these two only received 13 minutes and had to work in the architect of The Matrix’s room. The time constraints forced these two to sprint to the finish, and while the trading pinning combinations mirrored the back-and-forth from the outset of the match and put both women over as virtual equals, it made this feel less grandiose than it should have.
Still, Asuka and Banks turned in a great effort that’s detached enough from their summer 2020 matches to appreciate independently.
Keep an eye out for five more Survivor Series matches that are worth checking out.