If something has been around for 26 years, it must be doing something right.
Since 1987, the WWE Survivor Series has been a staple in the WWE pay-per-view calendar. Only WrestleMania—WWE’s Super Bowl—has been around longer.
If PPVs had a Mount Rushmore, the four etched in stone would be WrestleMania (representing George Washington), Survivor Series (Thomas Jefferson), Royal Rumble (Teddy Roosevelt) and SummerSlam (Abraham Lincoln).
You may ask yourself why this event has succeeded where others have failed. One reason for success is the overall uniqueness of the format.
Unlike other PPVs, Survivor Series used to steer clear of the traditional one-on-one or tag team matches. Its original format was simple—five babyfaces on one team, five heels on the other. As a wrestler was beaten, he had to exit the ring, leaving his comrades to carry on. Just when you thought the odds would tip in the favor of the team with the greater number, something would happen to one or two on that team, and suddenly, everything was even again.
The ultimate goal was to eliminate all five members of the opposite team. Those left in the ring would be termed survivors.
That format was unheard of way back in 1987 when the first Survivor Series aired on Thanksgiving night in suburban Cleveland. But then again, the WWF, as it was known then, always seemed to be at the forefront of “things unheard of.”
Now, the number of elimination match participants has differed over the years, and the format of the event has taken on a more traditional look. Since 1991, singles matches have found their way to sharing and then overtaking top billing from the elimination matches.
And that is another reason why Survivor Series still is one of the best PPVs.
Survivor Series represents a touchstone moment in life for wrestling fans. Just like a hardcore baseball fan can tell you what he or she was doing when Hank Aaron passed Babe Ruth on the all-time home run list, a hardcore wrestling fan can tell you what he or she was doing when the “Montreal Screwjob” went down at the 1997 Survivor Series.
For the uninitiated, the Montreal Screwjob happened when Vince McMahon ordered the WWE championship match to end before Bret Hart submitted to winner (and new champ) Shawn Michaels.
Some point to that match as ushering in the Attitude Era, the most successful era in WWF/E history that rushed the organization to the forefront of sports entertainment and made megastars out of Triple H., Shawn Michaels, Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock.
And that is yet another reason why Survivor Series is still one of the best events on the WWE PPV calendar.
Current and future Hall of Famers have made their marks on this event. From Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant as the first major elimination match captains in 1987 to this year’s Triple Threat main event for the WWE Championship featuring CM Punk, John Cena and Ryback, only WrestleMania is ahead of Survivor Series in terms of featuring a Who’s Who of professional wrestling talent.
Only time knows if this Sunday’s Survivor Series in Indianapolis will take its place among the great Survivor Series of the past.
One thing is certain, however: Don’t be surprised if we see yet another 26 Survivor Series events in the years to come.
And many more touchstone moments in life.
Follow Bill Atkinson on Twitter at @BAtkinson1963.