Even as their role at the pay-per-view has diminished over the years, the 5-on-5 elimination tag team matches are an integral part of what makes Survivor Series distinct from every other big show on WWE’s yearly schedule.
Over the years, the multi-person tags have come with their share of good and bad. On one hand, most older fans remember the early days that were littered with nonsensical eliminations with the most basic of moves. However, there have also been plenty of instances when the matches lived up to the All-Star game vibe they should have.
In that spirit, let’s look back at some of those traditional Survivor Series matches that embodied that standard in terms of star power and match quality.
These are the five best Survivor Series elimination matches in the pay-per-view’s history.
5. Team Triple H (Triple H, Jeff Hardy, Rey Mysterio, and Kane) vs. Team Umaga (Umaga, Mr. Kennedy, Finlay, MVP, and Big Daddy V) (2007)
Originally, Matt Hardy was scheduled to team with his fellow babyfaces in this match, but an injury (WWE used an attack by MVP to write Hardy off of TV) forced him off the pay-per-view and made this a 4-on-5 handicap match.
Things got much worse for Triple H’s team after the match started, as Big Daddy V eliminated Kane and Umaga took out Rey Mysterio to give the heels the 5-on-2 advantage. But when those two babyfaces are Triple H and an at-the-time ascending Jeff Hardy, you can guess how this went.
This match was designed to accomplish three things: cement Triple H as a world-beater (as if that needed to be reaffirmed), push Hardy into the main event scene and set up a Triple H/Jeff Hardy match for the next PPV.
The match started out a little slow, but once the more limited workers were removed, things picked up considerably, leading to a great Survivor Series match.
4. Team SmackDown (AJ Styles, Dean Ambrose, Randy Orton, Bray Wyatt, and Shane McMahon) vs. Team Raw (Kevin Owens, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Chris Jericho, and Braun Strowman) (2016)
There were a few things that almost made me regret putting this match here. The first was Shane McMahon’s awful, awful punches (and the reminder that he was in TWO more of these brand vs. brand matches). Second, you had this announce team (Michael Cole, JBL, Corey Graves, and David Otunga) that makes you appreciate the mute button. And finally, the knowledge that this match lasted for nearly 53 MINUTES!
In fairness, this went as long as it did to pad time before the main event, which lasted less than a minute and a half. Plus, the work most of the wrestlers in the match made helped assuage any concerns about the runtime.
By minimizing the impact of the lesser workers (McMahon and Braun Strowman), maximizing what the good ones did, spreading out the eliminations to make them more impactful, and mixing in some memorable spots, the match turned out pretty well despite brand warfare stuff not carrying the interest that WWE hoped it would.
3. Team Austin (Shawn Michaels, The Dudley Boyz, Booker T, and Rob Van Dam) vs. Team Bischoff (Randy Orton, Chris Jericho, Christian, Scott Steiner, and Mark Henry) (2003)
This encounter carried the stipulations that then-Raw co-general manager “Stone Cold” Steve Austin could attack anyone he wanted without provocation if his team won and would be fired if Eric Bischoff’s quintet won. Of course, the latter condition — which ultimately happened — didn’t matter when Austin returned a few weeks later as the “Sheriff” of Raw.
See, this is the kind of silliness that made Austin walk out the first time in 2002.
Anyway, the match was fine enough early on, but once it came down to Shawn Michaels against Randy Orton, Chris Jericho, and Christian, things kicked up a notch, making this one of the best WWE matches of 2003 (it must be shocking to hear that a match got exponentially better without 2003 Scott Steiner and 2003 Mark Henry).
Michaels, who by this point had evolved into a tremendous protagonist, played the “babyface in peril who nearly overcomes the odds” role to perfection, and his performance made this match the classic that it is.
2. Team Cena (John Cena, Dolph Ziggler, Erick Rowan, The Big Show, and Ryback) vs. Team Authority (Seth Rollins, Kane, Luke Harper, Mark Henry, and Rusev) (2014)
Like the previous match, this carried a pair of stipulations that ultimately amounted to nothing (as most WWE stipulations do these days). Still, the idea of seeing The Authority go away if the babyfaces won this match made for an intriguing hook to this Survivor Series match.
These two teams produced a match filled with many familiar WWE tropes, including “protecting” an undefeated wrestler (Rusev, in this case) by having them get counted out and the 67,685th Big Show heel turn.
For the closing sequence, WWE went to the reliable “babyface is outnumbered and must overcome the odds” formula that worked well with Shawn Michaels with Dolph Ziggler in the role. Of course, Ziggler is no Shawn Michaels, but the effort he turned in here towards the finish line is the sort of outing that should’ve made him a permanent fixture at least the upper midcard.
Plus, you got to see Sting’s long-awaited WWE debut (the lone high point of his run with the company, sadly). All of that adds up to make this a fun match to rewatch.
1. Team WWF (The Rock, Chris Jericho, Kane, The Undertaker, and The Big Show) vs. Team Alliance (“Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, Shane McMahon, Booker T, and Rob Van Dam) (2001)
As stated in another piece, this match represented one of the few high points of “The Invasion” storyline while simultaneously reflecting everything the WWF got wrong throughout those five months.
From having only one mainstay from WCW and ECW in the match, respectively (and no, Steve Austin doesn’t count), to the match coming down to Austin vs. The Rock (you know, that hallowed WWF/WCW dream match every fan had clamored for), the company made it clear that presenting WWE as the dominant entity was the only priority in this program.
Still, this made for an exciting conclusion to the long-term story that set things up for the next month’s pay-per-view, Vengeance; the Undisputed Championship tournament matches on that show spawned from Chris Jericho turning on Rock and Kurt Angle — acting as the WWF mole in The Alliance — costing Austin the win in this match.
If you watch anything from The Invasion, make sure this match is near the top of the list.