5. Team Hogan (Hulk Hogan, Bam Bam Bigelow, Paul Orndorff, Don Muraco, Ken Patera) vs Team Andre (Andre the Giant, Rick Rude, King Kong Bundy, One Man Gang, Butch Reed) 1987 – The first of any match is rarely the best, but the story told in a Survivor Series match between 80s wrestling icons makes this one of the best traditional elimination matches in the show’s 30-year history. The story of the match allowed Bam Bam to shine himself up but keep the heat and rage on Andre as the sole survivor.
The best moment? After Hogan’s defeat of Andre at Wrestlemania III, we all wanted their in-ring staredown and clash. They tease it twice before it finally delivers 19 minutes into the match as Hogan gets so distracted during the confrontation that the official counts him out of the match.
4. Team Angle (Kurt Angle, John Cena, Chris Benoit, Bradshaw, Hardcore Holly) vs. Team Lesnar (Brock Lesnar, Nathan Jones, Matt Morgan, Big Show, A-Train) 2003 – The biggest monsters of the decade against some of the most respected tough guys and wrestlers, what’s not to like? This is the kind of story that made Smackdown during the “Smackdown Six” era so great. Wrestlers and storytellers conquer the traditional monsters for which WWE is known. The match itself is a perfect car crash. With John Cena and Chris Benoit as the breakout stars of Wrestlemania XX, this match is where things turned for both. Think about this: Benoit 1-on-1 tapped out Lesnar with no outside interference in his favor. On top of that, Cena picks up Big Show for an F-U and the 1-2-3. Cena and Benoit are your sole survivors.
The best moment? The best parts came before the bell even rang. First, we open with one of Cena’s freestyles on pay per view. Then, we get the payoff on a story 14 months in the making. With Hardcore Holly back after Brock Lesnar broke his neck, Holly kicks the show off in style when he explodes on Lesnar and all Hell breaks loose.
3. The Million Dollar Team (Ted DiBiase, Honky Tonk Man, Greg Valentine, The Undertaker) vs. The Dream Team (Dusty Rhodes, Bret Hart, Jim Neidhart, Koko B. Ware) and the Debut of the Undertaker 1990 – In a match that did not even last 15 minutes, it is special because of two words – The Undertaker. In an information age, these kinds of secret debuts and repackages can never be the same. On this night, the Undertaker stole every bit of the spotlight in a ring that included six WWE Hall of Famers. His first of 10,000 tombstone piledrivers sent Koko B. Ware out within minutes.
The best moment? The surprise debut of the Undertaker is one of the most iconic moments in pro wrestling history, what else?
2. Team Austin (Shawn Michaels, Booker T, the Dudley Boyz, Rob Van Dam) vs. Team Bischoff (Randy Orton, Mark Henry, Chris Jericho, Christian, Scott Steiner) 2003 – With the great Stone Cold Steve Austin’s job on the line, he broke his “don’t trust anybody” rule and bet on five men to save his job from the evil Eric Bischoff. RVD gets in some great offense to start the match. Jim Ross, the perfect mouthpiece for Austin, and Jerry Lawler make the match feel real and important. Stacey Keibler screws Scott Steiner in favor of the Dudleys, and it takes a 3-D, frog splash and three men to pin Mark Henry. Bubba Ray came out great with some foreshadowing of his Bully Ray run. He fought like a bully and stood side-by-side with Shawn Michaels after D-Von’s elimination. The three (Orton, Christian, Jericho) vs. one (HBK) is everything that made Michaels’ final years in WWE spectacular. Batista gets the last laugh when he crushes Michaels with the referee prone as Orton becomes your sole survivor. Austin’s farewell speech is that much stronger because of everything Michaels gave in the ring.
The best moment? As Michael Cole would say, the farewell was “vintage Austin.” Stone Cold said goodbye in his home town with four out-cold security guards, a mud-hole stomped Jonathan Coachman and two symbolic Miller Lites in the ring.
1. Team WWF (The Rock, The Undertaker, Kane, Big Show, Chris Jericho) vs The Alliance (Steve Austin, Shane McMahon, Kurt Angle, Booker T, Rob Van Dam) 2001 – The feeling around this match, and the entire card, is exactly what WWE needs to replicate in the brand-split era. Every match pitted Alliance vs. WWF during the hottest part of the Invasion angle. Everyone knows the backstory between WCW, WWF and ECW, so let’s get to the match itself. Paul Heyman on commentary adds extra passion to an hour-long elimination match. By the way, every member of this match is either a Hall of Famer or lock for induction when they retire from in-ring action. You name a signature move and we saw it from the Alliance in the Big Show’s elimination. From the Angle Slam to the five-star frog splash to a spinarooni, they needed everything to first eliminate the Big Show. Team WWF responds with a finisher spree of its own on the hated Shane McMahon. From there, we trade eliminations until we are down to who else – Rock and Austin. The Rock and Team WWF reign supreme, as expected, with an assist from Kurt Angle to end the epic confrontation.
The best moment? In another GOAT moment for Chris Jericho, the crowd explodes when he turns the Rock and his back on Team WWF. Jericho hits the Breakdown (younger fans would call it a skull-crushing finale) in one of Jericho’s many great moments.