(Note: This article was updated in 2017)
For WWE fans, Survivor Series will always hold a special place in their hearts. Along with the Royal Rumble, SummerSlam and Wrestlemania, Survivor Series is one of WWE’s annual Big 4 Pay Per Views, and it has been wrestling’s Thanksgiving tradition since its inception in 1987.
The very first Survivor Series introduced the concept of the Survivor Series match – an elimination style tag team match featuring two 5-man teams. Since its beginning, Survivor Series, like most things, has changed. Today there are usually only one or two Survivor Series matches on the card, sometimes the matches are 4-on-4, sometimes its 10 tag teams in the ring – but almost every year, WWE fans get to witness giant teams of some of their favorite wrestlers facing off.
But who’s the best?
WWE’s other big PPV, the Royal Rumble, sparks an annual discussion of who is the master of the 30-man battle royal, with plenty of data to back that up. So today, with Survivor Series 2013 on the horizon, we’ve done the same type of analysis on the mayhem that is the Survivor Series match.
When all things were said and done, it became clear that only a handful of men can call themeselves masters of the Survivor Series. These 10 men have formed the two Ultimate Survivor Series teams. Let’s break them down.
ULTIMATE SURVIVOR SERIES TEAM ONE
CAPTAIN: RANDY ORTON
If there were a Mr. Survivor Series, Randy Orton would be the guy. He’s wrestled in eight traditional Survivor Series matches since his first in 2003 (representing Team Batista). He’s stood as a survivor in four of those matches, tied for the most ever, and captained four different Survivor Series teams. In fact, there have been four different Team Ortons, not to mention Team Rated RKO in 2006. And at last year’s Survivor Series, Orton stood as the de facto in-ring leader of Mick Foley’s team. If that weren’t enough, Orton has eliminated 13 men combined in his Survivor Series matches – the most in history. You would never think “Randy Orton” and “team player” in the same sentence, but it’s clear that when it comes to Survivor Series teams, Orton knows how to survive.
THE BIG SHOW
With his giant size, you would think The Big Show would be more apt to dominate a match like the Royal Rumble, but when it comes to Survivor Series, there are few better guys to have on your side. Show has competed in 7 different Survivor Series matches and stood as a survivor at the end of three of them, slaying 10 different opponents personally along the way. In 1999, Big Show survived after eliminating all four of the men on his opposing team. More impressive – it was a 4-on-1 Survivor Series match!
“MILLION DOLLAR MAN” TED DiBIASE
If money can buy the perfect Surivor Series team, you’ll want to shell out the big bucks to get the Million Dollar Man on yours. Ted DiBiase competed in six different Survivor Series matches and was the captain of four of those teams. DiBiase captained two different Million Dollar Teams, often against Hulk Hogan’s teams. In 1994, when DiBiase was no longer competing in the ring, he managed yet another Million Dollar Team to Survivor Series victory.
“THE BRITISH BULLDOG” DAVEY BOY SMITH
The powerful Brit appeared in eight different Survivor Series matches, proving himself to be a solid teammate. Smith and his partner The Dynamite Kid competed at the very first Survivor Series in a match that featured 10 tag teams. In 1997, the Bulldog stood as the sole survivor as the captain of Team Canada, which felled Team USA featuring big men like Vader and Goldust.
“MACHO MAN” RANDY SAVAGE
Though compared to his teammates the Macho Man appeared in relatively few Survivor Series matches, he certainly made an impact when he did appear. Savage competed in four different Survivor Series matches and ended as the survivor in all but one of them. The Macho Man captained his own team against Team Honky Tonk Man in the very first Survivor Series match. Between then and his final Survivor Series appearance (as part of Team Razor in 1993), the Macho Man dropped five different opponents.
CAPTAIN: SHAWN MICHAELS
The only person who could argue Randy Orton’s claim to Survivor Series domination is The Heartbreak Kid. Shawn Michaels has appeared in an amazing 11 Survivor Series matches, more than anyone else in history. He’s also tied for the most team captainships at 5, heading up everyone from The Teamsters in 1994, the Rockers and The Bushwhackers and The King & His Knights in 1993 (don’t ask). While Michaels has only stood as the survivor in three of his matches, there’s a reason the guy has made so many appearances – he gets things done.
Aside from Shawn Michaels, Hulk Hogan is the only other man to captain 5 different Survivor Series teams (usually The Hulkamaniacs). In fact, Hulk Hogan captained every Survivor Series team he was a part of. More impressive, Hogan stood tall at the end of the match as the survivor all but one of those matches. Hogan mastered most everything during his years on top of the WWE, and Survivor Series was one of those things.
Rey Mysterio has appeared in five different Survivor Series matches, including last year when he helped decimate Tensai’s team to stand as one of four survivors on his team. Rey has been victorious in three different Survivor Series matches. In 2010, he captained his own team against Alberto Del Rio’s group. Most impressive, in his five Survivor Series matches, Rey has eliminated seven different men, making him a true threat in this type of match.
Even though Tito Santana is a WWE Hall of Famer, you don’t necessarily think of him as the cream of the crop. You’d be wrong when it comes to Survivor Series though. Santana was an early stalwart in Survivor Series matches, competing in the first five events. Santana eliminated six different men in Survivor Series matches, and in 1990, was part of the Grand Finale Match of Survival, where all of the survivors of the night’s previous matches stepped in the ring again to face off in a 3-on-5 Survivor Series Match.
THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR
Another man who had a solid streak over a short period was the Ultimate Warrior. The Warrior only appeared in four different Survivor Series matches – but he stood as a survivor in all four of them. His Warriors team stood victorious in 1988 (over Honky Tonk Man’s team), 1989 (over The Heenan Family) and in 1990 (over The Perfect Team). Warrior was also co-survivor in 1990’s Grand Finale Match of Survival.
So there you have it – the ten best performers in the history of the traditional 5-on-5 Survivor Series Elimination Match. We’ll never know who would win between these two mega teams, but you can be sure few would survive.