With much of the Survivor Series' hype surrounding the WWE Championship and Team Foley vs. Team Ziggler, it seems as though the World Heavyweight Championship match is being overlooked.
Sure, we've already seen Big Show vs. Sheamus in a WHC match on pay-per-view, and there's no reason to believe this match will bring down the house. But the World Heavyweight Championship has a storied past when it comes to the Survivor Series.
In what ways will this year's title defense add to that story?
We'll take a look at the detailed history of the WHC at Survivor Series and relevant statistics for those matches. Then we'll see what those things tell us about the title match on Sunday.
Survivor Series 2001 marked the end of the WWF vs. Alliance feud, as WCW Champion The Rock lead Team WWF to victory, with a surprise assist from Kurt Angle. The next night on Raw, Vince McMahon deemed the WCW title “unbranded” and simply called it the World Championship.
At the Vengeance pay-per-view in December 2001, Chris Jericho famously defeated both The Rock and Steve Austin in the same night to unify the WWF and World Championships. Vince and company would go with a single world title until Fall of 2002.
The belt that we know today as the World Heavyweight Championship technically didn’t exist until September 2002, when Eric Bischoff created the championship and awarded it to Triple H, a title that would be exclusive to Monday Night Raw.
Since many people still associate the World Heavyweight Championship with the lineage of the WCW World Championship, I have included The Rock’s appearance at Survivor Series 2001 as the first instance of the WHC being present at Survivor Series. If you think that’s wrong, please make your case in the comment section below. It really only impacted one of the statistics below.
Survivor Series 2002 marked the birth of an entirely new type of match: The Elimination Chamber.
An idea presented to the wrestling world by Bischoff, the first occurrence of this match saw Triple H defending the WHC against Rob Van Dam, Chris Jericho, Kane, Booker T and Shawn Michaels. HBK won the match and the WHC on the evening that marked his return to the ring.
Triple H would win the title back the following month and hold it for more than nine months before dropping it to Bill Goldberg. At Survivor Series 2003, the WHC was put on the line as Triple H received his rematch. Even with Flair in his corner, The Game couldn't overcome and Goldberg retained the championship.
Chris Benoit and Randy Orton would both hold the WHC in 2004, but it was back in the hands of The Game by the time Survivor Series rolled around again. Orton, who has lately been regarded as a Survivor Series specialist, was still feuding with World Heavyweight Champion Triple H at the 2004 Survivor Series.
The title was not on the line, as both men captained teams for an elimination match. The winning team would be in charge of Raw for a month. Triple H was the last man eliminated and Orton was the sole survivor.
The WHC was vacated about a month later, but Triple H would begin his fifth reign as WHC when he won the vacated title in January. Batista would take the WHC at WrestleMania 21 to begin what still stands as the longest reign as WHC since the title was introduced in WWE.
At Survivor Series 2005, Batista was champion and captained Team SmackDown. Although Batista's team won, it was mostly thanks to Randy Orton, the sole survivor, as Batista was the second member of his team eliminated, the third elimination of the match overall.
Over the course of the next year, the title would be vacated again due to a legitimate injury on Batista’s part. The title would go through three men (Kurt Angle, Rey Mysterio, Booker T) before Batista recaptured the title at Survivor Series 2006 in a match against King Booker.
Batista would drop the title to the Undertaker at WrestleMania 23, and it would go through Edge and The Great Khali before Batista started his third reign in September 2007. At that year’s Survivor Series, Batista would face off against the Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell match. Thanks to interference on the part of Edge (unbeknownst to Batista), The Animal retained the title.
Before Survivor Series 2008, the title would go through Edge, the Undertaker, Edge (again), CM Punk, Chris Jericho, Batista and finally Chris Jericho (again) who defended the belt at the Survivor Series. Facing the current leader of the Cenation, Jericho’s second WHC reign lasted less than three weeks.
The next calendar year saw the WHC change hands even more frequently.
Edge took it from ‘Taker, Cena took it from Edge, Edge took it back from Cena, Jeff Hardy would take it from Edge, CM Punk would immediately take it from Hardy, Hardy would take it back from Punk, Punk would yet again take the title back from Hardy and the Undertaker would take the belt from CM Punk in October. The Dead Man successfully defended the title at Survivor Series in a Triple Threat against The Big Show and Chris Jericho.
By the time Survivor Series 2010 was upon us, Undertaker’s little brother Kane had possession of the World Heavyweight Championship. He wrestled Edge to a draw to retain the title. 2011’s WHC match ended equally as anticlimactic, as The World’s Largest Athlete defeated the World’s Strongest Man by DQ, leaving the belt in the hands of Mark Henry.
When the World Heavyweight Championship is defended at Survivor Series, the champion has left the pay-per-view with the title over 71 percent of the time (five out of seven times).
The World Heavyweight Champion’s odds actually decrease when the title is defended in a singles match. In a one-on-one encounter at Survivor Series, the champion has retained less than 67 percent of the time, walking away with the belt four times out of six.
Regarding the 71 percent and 67 percent noted above, one match ended in a draw and another in the champion being disqualified. Although these aren’t “wins,” the champion still retains.
Who will leave Survivor Series with the World Heavyweight Championship?
If you figure in traditional Survivor Series elimination matches (looking only at whether the WHC’s team won, regardless of the champion’s involvement in any of the falls), the champ’s win-loss record at Survivor Series is 7-3-1.
Sheamus has never been involved in a World Heavyweight Championship at Survivor Series. In fact, he has never been involved in any title matches at WWE’s Thanksgiving Spectacular.
The Big Show, by contrast, has been in a total of four world title matches at Survivor Series. In 1999, he defeated Triple H and The Rock in a Triple Threat match to win the WWF Championship. Three years later, Show took the WWE Championship from Brock Lesnar.
Show has competed for the World Heavyweight Championship at Survivor Series on two occasions and failed to bring home the gold either time. He lost a Triple Threat match to champion Undertaker in 2009, and won by disqualification against WHC Mark Henry in 2011.
Don’t forget Dolph Ziggler still holds the WHC Money in the Bank contract. When the briefcase has been cashed in on the World Heavyweight Champion, the challenger has been successful 100 percent of the time. To date, no one has ever cashed in any briefcase at Survivor Series.
If you’re interested in how the Survivor Series career of The Big Show measures up against that of Sheamus, I would recommend the last article I wrote. By my count, Show’s record is 14-6, beating out the record of 2-2 posted by Sheamus (to see how those numbers were figured, please read the final paragraph on the first slide).
If you’re pulling for Sheamus this Sunday, you have to focus on the fact that Show has not been able to walk away from Survivor Series with the World Heavyweight Championship.
He may have had incredible success in many other ways at November’s addition to WWE’s “Big Four,” but not when it comes to the WHC.
But could the old adage “third time’s the charm” apply to Show this year? The statistics are clearly in favor of the champion. In WHC matches at Survivor Series that involved less than six competitors, the WHC has retained all but once.
Still without any stipulations scheduled this year, Show also has the traditional “championship advantage.”
Additionally, Show has more experience in marquee matches in November. As mentioned above, Show has competed in four world title matches hosted at the Survivor Series. On top of that, Show has seen a great deal of success at the Survivor Series, which you can read all about if you follow the link I provided above.
Accompanied by the statistical advantage and his former dominance at this annual pay-per-view, The Big Show is currently in the midst of a seemingly significant push.
Sheamus only recently dropped the title after a lengthy (and relatively uneventful) tile reign. I’ve got to believe 2012 will be the first year Show leaves Survivor Series as the World Heavyweight Champion.
That is, of course, assuming Ziggler doesn’t decide to finally cash in.