Survivor Series is a Pay Per View that has been around for an incredibly long time. It was one of WWE’s first Pay Per Views to be established after WrestleMania, and has a storied history all its own. In fact, the first Survivor Series was established to compete with WCW’s Starrcade Pay Per View, which was their version of WrestleMania, and should give you an idea of how important Survivor Series used to be. While it has fallen off over the years, with only token gestures towards the traditional elimination matches that were originally the centerpiece of the show, it still a large place of importance in WWE history. Most notable is the number of Superstars who have had their debut at Survivor Series, many of whom would go on to become some of WWE’s biggest stars. Don’t believe us? Well, that’s why we made a list.
10. The Gobbledy Gooker
Hey, nowhere in the dictionary does it say that “memorable” must also mean “good”. For weeks, WWE trotted out this giant egg as part of the promotion for Survivor Series 1990, implying that a big surprise would be emerging from it at the Pay Per View. The common belief was that it would be a debuting wrestler, and while that turned out to be correct, it’s fairly certain that nobody predicted exactly what we got: a wrestler dressed up like a giant cartoon turkey, dancing to “Turkey in the Straw” with Gene Okerlund. Although, given what we’ve learned about Vince McMahon’s sense of humor over the years, perhaps we should have. In any event, the Gooker was extremely poorly received and quickly disappeared, but fortunately, there was still another debut at this particular Survivor Series that had a little more staying power. Don’t worry, we’ll get to him.
9. The Elimination Chamber
For years, the WWE audience has begged for War Games, and every time, they have been denied. The most popular rumor is that Vince McMahon will never allow a WCW invention to be presented as something that they did better (even though, in this case, it’s absolutely true), but concerns about the dual-ring and cage setup and how it would affect the number of seats have also been brought up. Whatever the case, the Elimination Chamber is one of WWE’s more successful attempts to imitate the concept of War Games without just using the concept. The concept, which debuted in 2002, and was even introduced to WWE by former WCW President Eric Bischoff, is a single, rounded cage that surrounds and encloses the entire ring. Two wrestlers start the match, with four other wrestlers enclosed inside individual pods. At regular intervals, a wrestler is released from a pod and can join the match. The only way to be eliminated is by pinfall or submission, and the last man standing wins the match. The concept has led to several good matches (although nothing at the level of some classic War Games bouts), and even briefly was the focus of the annual February Pay Per View, until it was re-named in 2015 (although the PPV name was resurrected as a special Network event in May of that year).
8. Scott Steiner
Technically, Steiner made his debut years earlier, as part of a tag team with his brother Rick, when the Steiner Brothers had a brief stay in WWE. But this was years later, and in the interim, Steiner had dropped his brother, acquired an ridiculously impressive physique, and established himself as a main event star in WCW. But with WCW gone, there was only one place for Steiner to ply his trade, and after waiting out the remainder of his contract with Time-Warner, Steiner became one of the hottest free agents in wrestling. With WWE desperate to find any big star that could possibly boost ratings, Steiner was quickly signed, and made his re-debut at Madison Square Garden for Survivor Series 2002. Sadly, while Steiner in his prime had been one of the best wrestlers on the planet, Steiner in 2002 was a shell of his former self due to injuries. A feud with Triple H over the World Heavyweight title was a disaster, with Steiner in horrible shape, leading to two terrible matches at the 2003 Royal Rumble and No Way Out Pay Per Views. Afterwards, Steiner was moved into a lengthy (and also bad) feud with Test, and largely forgotten about for the rest of his WWE run.
Survivor Series 2001 was the last gasp for the horribly mishandled WCW/ECW Invasion angle, where every mistake that could possibly be made was, and an angle that could have run for months and months and made millions of dollars ended up fizzling out in less than half a year and making only a fraction of the money it could have. Also, it sent WWE on a downward spiral that caused it to shed viewers at an alarming rate and quickly dropped them from the heights of the Attitude Era. But anyway, at the Pay Per View, WWE decided to resurrect the Women’s title due to actually having a group of not-terrible female wrestlers (yes, it has happened before), and decided that this match would be the perfect time for Jazz, a talented wrestler who was best known for a brief stay in ECW, to make her debut. Jazz failed to win the Women’s title in that match, and as a result of her alignment with the Alliance, she was fired after the WWE reigned supreme in the “Winner Take All” main event. Like most of the Alliance wrestlers, she was back on TV within weeks, and proceeded to have a decent WWE career as a multi-time Women’s champion.
6. Ahmed Johnson
Nobody really knew who Ahmed Johnson was when he was announced as a participant in the “Wild Card” Survivor Series match, but he quickly made an impact. On one of the final shows before Survivor Series, he suddenly appeared during a post-match brawl, and casually bodyslammed the massive Yokozuna, a feat that until that point, had only been accomplished by one other human being. Hype levels were high headed into the Pay Per View, and in his official wrestling debut, Johnson did not disappoint. The former NFL star brought a high level of intensity and an impressive array of power moves, and managed to be a key part of his team’s victory, surviving alongside Shawn Michaels and Davey Boy Smith. Going forward, Ahmed was clearly positioned for big things, winning the Intercontinental title, feuding with the dominant Nation of Domination, and seeming to set his eyes on the WWF Championship as well. He had the skills and charisma to make it to that level, but unfortunately, his body betrayed him at the worst possible time, and a litany of injuries began to pile up, to the point that he disappeared from WWE as suddenly as he had arrived.
The last man out of WCW, Sting made a legend out of being one of a very few, and definitely the highest-profile, to never work for WWE. That all changed when he appeared in a WWE video game, with the expected Sting appearance in WWE itself not far behind. Sure enough, in the main event match, featuring Team Cena vs Team Authority, where if Cena’s team lost, they would be fired (except for Cena, of course), and if The Authority lost, they would be removed from power, when all hope seemed lost and Team Authority was just about to claim victory, Sting appeared. He took out Triple H, laid out Seth Rollins, and helped Dolph Ziggler get the pin and the victory for his team, removing The Authority from WWE forever. Or, more accurately, about a month, when the events of Survivor Series were erased and everything went back to the way it was before. But hey, Sting was officially in WWE, and he would go on to wrestle Triple H at WrestleMania 31, then compete against Seth Rollins for the WWE World Heavyweight title at Night of Champions 2015, in matches that were generally accepted to be decent.
4. The Shield
At Survivor Series 2012, CM Punk was deep into what would become his legendary 434-day reign as WWE Champion, and stuck in a feud with Ryback (who had become #1 Contender largely due to John Cena suffering an injury that had prematurely ended his feud with Punk. After beating Ryback at Hell in a Cell thanks to crooked referee Brad Maddox, Punk was first placed into a Survivor Series match and then (due to some fairly terrible writing by WWE) re-booked into a Triple Threat match against Ryback and the now-healed Cena. With Punk looking to be out of options and about to see his lengthy title reign come to an end, help came from an unlikely source. Near the end of the match, the lights of the arena went out, and when they came back, three mysterious figures in black combat gear were attacking Ryback, ending with driving him through the announce table, ultimately allowing Punk to retain the WWE Title. The three men were identified as Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, and Roman Reigns, and soon after, they would come to be known as The Shield. The trio would reign over WWE with a dominance rarely seen, defeating all comers and rarely ever losing as a united group. Eventually, Seth Rollins would betray the group and go on to become WWE World Heavyweight Champion, leaving Reigns and Ambrose to seek revenge.
3. Kurt Angle
Oh, it’s true, it’s true, your Olympic hero did make his debut at Survivor Series in 1999, facing Shawn Stasiak in a glorified squash match to establish his character. In fact, it is rumored that WWE had two plans for Angle, depending on how fans reacted to his All-American persona. Well, the fans weren’t exactly enamored with Angle’s amateur-style wrestling in an era that was all about brawling, so he rolled out of the ring, grabbed a mic, and berated them for daring to boo an Olympic hero. And from that, an amazing character was born, as Angle would spend his career cementing himself as one of the greatest technical wrestlers in the history of the business, with an ego to go with it. The combination of his superior wrestling skills and the inherent goofiness that came from playing a character who was a bit naive and considered himself a role model for children to look up to was dynamite from the start, and Angle went on to have one of the greatest debut performances ever, remaining undefeated for several months after his debut, and winning the European, Intercontinental, and WWF Championships (as well as a King of the Ring title) all within his first year in WWE.
2. The Rock
That’s right, the man who would go on to become The Most Electrifying Man In Sports Entertainment actually made his WWE debut at the 1996 Survivor Series, and to make it even more special, he debuted in the World’s Most Famous Arena, the center of WWE’s power for many years, Madison Square Garden in New York City. Billed as “The Blue Chipper” Rocky Maivia (a combination of names taken from his father, Rocky Johnson, and his grandfather “High Chief” Peter Maivia), he was thrust into the spotlight quickly, as part of a traditional Survivor Series elimination match. And he was the star of that match, eliminating the final two members of the opposing team to become the sole Survivor and winner for his side. The road ahead would not be smooth for Maivia, however, as his cheerful babyface gimmick and fledgling wrestling skills quickly drew the ire of fans, leading to chants of “Die, Rocky Die”. However, a heel turn allowed Rocky to develop a new persona, and two years later, at Survivor Series 1998, he would win his very first WWF Championship.
1. The Undertaker
Unlike the other debut that would happen at the 1990 Survivor Series, this one would have much longer and more far-reaching consequences. Brought in as the mysterious final member of Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Team, The Undertaker made an immediate impression. He also made a big impact on the match, eliminating half of the opposing team, before getting counted out after brawling to the floor with Dusty Rhodes following Rhodes’ elimination. A year later, The Undertaker would win his first WWF World Championship, again at Survivor Series (although interference by Ric Flair would lead to a rematch two days later, where even more interference would lead to the title being declared vacant). Over the next twenty-five years, The Undertaker would win multiple World titles, and set an unbreakable record by remaining undefeated at WrestleMania over 21 straight appearances (before finally losing to Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania XXX). To this day, The Undertaker remains one of the most popular WWE Superstars of all time, and is undoubtedly one of the greatest wrestlers in history.