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The 10 best Traditional Survivor Series Elimination Tag Team Matches
As WWE’s second longest-running event, Survivor Series is all about tradition, and nothing embodies that quality quite like the classic Survivor Series Elimination Tag Team Match. Pitting four- and five-Superstar crews against each other in an elimination format, the match type was long the centerpiece of WWE’s fall classic, and such bouts are still among the most anticipated aspects of the event.
And why wouldn’t they be? The truly unique nature of this matchup combined elements found in team sports and gave way to dream partnerships, dramatic comebacks and career-making performances. Here are 10 time-tested Traditional Elimination Tag Team Matches that served to make Survivor Series an event like no other.
The Million Dollar Team (Ted DiBiase, The Undertaker, Greg Valentine & The Honky Tonk Man) vs. The Dream Team (Dusty Rhodes, Koko B. Ware, Bret Hart & Jim Neidhart) (Survivor Series 1990)
The career of WWE’s most incomparable Superstar was birthed at Survivor Series 1990, and we’re not talking about The Gobbledy Gooker. Rather, The Million Dollar Team’s closely guarded mystery partner that night was revealed to be The Undertaker, who wasted no time in making a huge impression. Within the first minute, he economically dominated both members of The Hart Foundation and pinned Koko B. Ware, executing a total of executing seven moves — the seventh being the Tombstone — before gaining his first pinfall in WWE.
An instant Phenom in the eyes of the WWE Universe, The Undertaker also eliminated The Dream Team’s blue-collar captain, Dusty Rhodes, before getting himself counted out of the ring. With The Deadman gone, Ted DiBiase didn’t get much help from his Rhythm & Blues backup, the shoe polish-haired Greg Valentine and The Honky Tonk Man, both of whom were eliminated. The match eventually settled down to a clinic between two second-generation grapplers, DiBiase and Bret Hart. Still a tag team wrestler, The “Hit Man” flashed glimpses of greatness to come as a singles competitor, but ultimately fell to the wherewithal of The Million Dollar Man. — JOHN CLAPP
Brodus Clay, Rey Mysterio, Sin Cara, Tyson Kidd & Justin Gabriel vs. Tensai, Darren Young, Titus O’Neil, Primo & Epico (Survivor Series 2012)
Everyone loves a bonus, so spirits ran high when Survivor Series 2012 opened with an unannounced “bonus” match featuring dynamic squads of tag teams captained by two super-heavyweights (and future tag partners) Brodus Clay and Tensai. The breakneck pace was set early when Sin Cara and Rey Mysterio backdropped Primo and Epico to the floor, held the ropes open for tandem suicide dives by Tyson Kidd and Justin Gabriel, and then added the cherry on top with simultaneous Asai moonsaults.
Pre-Sweet T Tensai rattled the bones of his soon-to-be dance buddy when he delivered a mammoth senton onto The Funkasaurus, eliminating Clay from the match. Even without their good-natured captain, the popular risk-takers proved up to the fight, disposing of Tensai, O’Neil, Epico and Primo one by one, leaving Young at an unenviable 4-on-1 disadvantage. It didn’t take long for the remainder of Team Brodus to tie up the loose ends, and they did so in remarkable fashion, nailing a series of four top-rope moves in succession, capped off by a free-fall splash by The Ultimate Underdog. — JC
Hulk Hogan, Bam Bam Bigelow, Don Muraco, Paul Orndorff & Ken Patera vs. Andre the Giant, King Kong Bundy, Butch Reed, One Man Gang & Rick Rude (Survivor Series 1987)
The inaugural Survivor Series’ main event felt epic based on the promotional photos alone. After all, the mean-mugging mass of humanity known as Team Andre literally weighed almost one ton, and their Hulk Hogan-headed opposition was a collection of invincible, yoked do-gooders. Survivor Series also represented The Eighth Wonder of the World’s first time back in the ring after losing to Hogan at WrestleMania III earlier that year, and at the heart of the conflict was the possibility for another showdown between the captains.
The eliminations came fast and furious, and plenty of fisticuffs pared down the match to a 2-on-3 scenario, with Hogan and Bam Bam Bigelow facing off against Andre, One Man Gang and King Kong Bundy. In classic Hogan form, the legdropping legend failed to see the trees through the forest, and was counted out when he gave chase to the interfering Bundy and Gang. Bigelow put in a valiant performance, ridding both Bundy and Gang from the contest. Yet just when it seemed like the Richfield Coliseum’s roof was about to blow off, reality set in for the flame-skulled street fighter: He simply couldn’t pass the Andre test. — JC
The Bodydonnas (Skip, 1-2-3 Kid, Rad Radford & Tom Prichard) vs. The Underdogs (Barry Horowitz, Marty Jannetty, Bob Holly & Hakushi) (Survivor Series 1995)
Don’t laugh. Barry Horowitz and Rad Radford played a crucial part in making Survivor Series 1995 a great, albeit unheralded, event. The Underdogs and The Bodydonnas may have lacked star power in the eyes of the WWE Universe, but they more than made up for it with stellar in-ring action, and as the evening’s opening bout, they set a standard that was almost unreachably high.
For nearly 20 minutes, the Superstars traded moves that, at the time, rarely had anything but match-ending consequences. From moonsaults to hurricanranas to hand-spring elbows, the combatants demonstrated a lightning-fast style of combat that WCW would appropriate with its introduction of the cruiserweight division the following year. Marty Jannetty — newly returned from an extended hiatus — pinned Skip with a top-rope powerbomb, a move the founding Bodydonna would make his own years later. The lone downside of the bout was its screwy ending: With the match down to just Jannetty and 1-2-3 Kid, Sycho Sid attacked the onetime Rocker, allowing Kid — Sid’s stablemate in the Million Dollar Corporation — to steal the win. — JC
Team Austin (Shawn Michaels, Booker T, Rob Van Dam, Bubba Ray Dudley & D-Von Dudley) vs. Team Bischoff (Randy Orton, Chris Jericho, Christian, Mark Henry & Scott Steiner) (Survivor Series 2003)
Months of vitriol between contentious Raw Co-General Managers “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Eric Bischoff led to this all-star Traditional Survivor Series Tag Team Elimination Match in 2003. If Austin’s quintet won, an ordinance stating The Texas Rattlesnake couldn’t open up a can of whoop-ass unless physically provoked would be removed. If Bischoff’s crew claimed victory, “Stone Cold” had to leave WWE. With such high stakes, it’s no surprise that neither Austin nor Bischoff spared any effort in assembling the best teams possible.
The quality of talent was almost peerless, as the half-hour battle quickly substantiated. One of the major questions heading into the fight was whether Austin — known for his “Don’t trust anybody” motto — would be comfortable placing his faith in others, especially former “Stone Cold” adversary Shawn Michaels. As it turned out, HBK survived until the near end, as 5-on-5 became 1-on-1 and The Showstopper was left to duel an emergent Randy Orton. Unfortunately for Austin, Orton’s Evolution cohort Batista was nearby when the match’s referee went down, and a well-timed Batista Bomb to Michaels was the difference maker in the end. — JC
The Powers of Pain, The British Bulldogs, The Rockers, The Hart Foundation & The Young Stallions vs. Demolition, The Brain Busters, The Fabulous Rougeaus, The Bolsheviks & The Conquistadors (Survivor Series 1988)
For spectacle alone, the massive 10-on-10 Elimination Match from 1988, featuring 10 different tag teams, is pretty hard to beat. WWE tested out the 20-Superstar concept at the inaugural Survivor Series, but the battle of attrition truly found its stride the second time around. The rules varied slightly from other Survivor Series Elimination Matches, in that once one member of a team was eliminated, so too was his partner.
With so many bodies flying around the ring, the tempo stayed high for the 42-plus minutes it took to decide a winning fall. Shockingly, the key twist came when Mr. Fuji, the manager of World Tag Team Champions Demolition, betrayed his own team and caused their dismissal from the bout. Ax & Smash’s counterparts on the other side, eventual survivors The Powers of Pain, quickly befriended the devious manager, turning the WWE tag team division on its head. Controversy aside, the match is notable for being not only the WWE pay-per-view debut of Shawn Michaels, but also the final WWE match for in-ring icon and one-half of The British Bulldogs, Dynamite Kid. — JC
Bertha Faye, Aja Kong, Tomoko Watanabe & Lioness Asuka vs. Alundra Blayze, Kyoko Inoue, Sakie Hasegawa & Chaparita Asari (Survivor Series 1995)
The WWE Women’s Title had literally been extinct before Alundra Blayze emerged from the rough rings of Japan as the division’s exciting new face. Yet rather than play cute with her long legs and charming smile, Blayze bucked the low expectations of women’s wrestling with a series of barnburners against the best All Japan Women's Pro-Wrestling had to offer.
Case in point: This pier-six brawl from the 1995 Survivor Series that saw Blayze and big, bad Bertha Faye lead opposing teams of unknown, but seriously talented Japanese women into battle. Blayze and her colorful highfliers were impressive — particularly Chaparita Asari, who busted out a mind-blowing Skytwister Press. But it was 230-pound beast Aja Kong who stood out as the bout’s star, eliminating the entire opposing team with reckless suplexes and a spinning backfist that nearly shattered Blayze’s septum. Forget about the most dominant woman in Survivor Series history. Kong may have been the most dominant Survivor Series competitor, period. — RYAN MURPHY
Shawn Michaels, Ahmed Johnson, British Bulldog & Sycho Sid vs. Razor Ramon, Yokozuna, Owen Hart & Dean Douglas (Survivor Series 1995)
Sometimes, novel concept matches backfire spectacularly, and other times, they pan out thrillingly. Survivor Series 1995’s Wild Card Match is an example of the latter. The brainchild of then-WWE Commissioner Gorilla Monsoon, the match pitted friends against each other and placed enemies on the same side of the ring.
Thanks to the luck of the draw, fan favorites HBK and Ahmed Johnson were forced to ally with the unpredictable Sycho Sid and boastful British Bulldog, while Razor Ramon couldn’t count a single friend among his teammates. The bizarre partnerships caused mutiny —Ramon slugged Dean Douglas and HBK expressed zero guilt about Superkicking Sid — but also led to a riveting match full of inspired performances. Johnson seemed on the fast track to the WWE Title, Michaels really was only months away from capturing WWE’s most prized championship for the first time, and Yokozuna looked intent on reminding everyone exactly how he had become a WWE Title holder in the first place. The Wild Card Match is a true hidden gem of WWE’s fall classic. — JC
Ric Flair, Ted DiBiase, The Mountie & The Warlord vs. Roddy Piper, Bret Hart, British Bulldog & Virgil (Survivor Series 1991)
You know those Traditional Survivor Series Elimination matchups that felt a tad haphazard? Well, the opener from Survivor Series 1991 was anything but, as each Superstar involved was in the midst of a rivalry with a counterpart on the opposing team: Roddy Piper was paired off with WWE newcomer Ric Flair, Intercontinental Champion Bret Hart and The Mountie were on a collision course for the title, Virgil still had former employer/tormentor Million Dollar Man in his sights, and British Bulldog and The Warlord were vying for the unofficial title of WWE’s strongest man.
Unsurprisingly, the formula was a winning one that resulted in a kinetic, back-and-forth bout. Powerhouses Davey Boy Smith and The Warlord were eliminated at the 11- and 17-minute marks, respectively — an uncommonly long period of time without falls for a classic Survivor Series Match. With six Superstars remaining, the match disintegrated into bedlam, the wrestling equivalent of a bench-clearing brawl. After Hot Rod fired him into the turnbuckles, “Nature Boy” took a fortuitous Flair flip that landed him ringside. Immediately afterward, the referee disqualified the other five Superstars, causing Flair —who was absent from the brawl by that point — to be named the sole survivor by default. — JC
Team WWE (The Rock, The Undertaker, Chris Jericho, Kane & Big Show) vs. Team Alliance ("Stone Cold" Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, Rob Van Dam, Booker & Shane McMahon) (Survivor Series 2001)
In 2001, Survivor Series was truly about survival. WWE was fighting for its very existence against the invading WCW/ECW Alliance. After seven months of a vicious battle for sports-entertainment supremacy, WWE Chairman Mr. McMahon and his children – Shane and Stephanie, the respective owners of WCW and ECW – decided that only one promotion could exist.
The three agreed to a winner-take-all Survivor Series Elimination Match at the 2001 edition of the pay-per-view, with the loser of the bout being forced to go out of business. Shane McMahon joined forces with Booker T, Rob Van Dam, Kurt Angle & “Stone Cold” Steve Austin to take on Mr. McMahon’s squad of The Undertaker, Kane, Big Show, Chris Jericho & The Rock.
There was no shortage of drama in the bout, as Team WWE quickly found itself at a disadvantage with two of its largest members, Kane and Big Show, eliminated in the early goings. Eventually, though, the bout came down to longtime rivals Austin and Rock. With a little assist from double agent Kurt Angle, The Great One vanquished Austin with a thunderous Rock Bottom, leaving The Alliance as nothing more than a memory. — BOBBY MELOK