With the 2012 edition of the Survivor Series just days away, there are a handful of WWE Superstars with the potential to make a name for themselves at one of the company's historic pay-per-view events. They could very well join the ranks of the greatest competitors in the history of the event.
Stone Cold Steve Austin. Shawn Michaels. The Rock. Hulk Hogan. Some of the greatest moments and matches of their individual careers occurred at the annual November extravaganza. Their matches, as well as others, have been etched into the minds of fans from a number of different eras through numerous video packages and highlight reels.
Join me as I take a look at the 10 greatest Superstars in Survivor Series history. They will be determined based on the quality of their matches, their win-loss records*, the importance of their matches in relation to the others on the card, and their overall impact on the history of the show.
*Wins will be counted for a Superstar if their team is victorious, even if they were eliminated, in a traditional Survivor Series tag match. Those competing in the 1998 WWE title tournament may be credited with multiple wins. Those winners in the Survivor match in 1990 are credited with two victories.
WIN-LOSS RECORD: 7-10
GREATEST MATCH/MOMENT: The Montreal Screwjob, 1997
Arguably the greatest wrestler of all time, Shawn Michaels' Survivor Series record is less-than-spectacular. With that said, he is a vital part of Survivor Series history.
As a member of the Rockers, he competed in a number of traditional Survivor Series tag team elimination bouts. In 1992, he challenged WWE Champion Bret Hart in the main event. In 1995, he was the star in the first, and only, "Wildcard" tag match featuring rivals teaming with one another.
And in 1996, his first WWE Championship reign came to a close as he lost to Sycho Sid in front of a very vocal, anti-HBK New York audience.
The most memorable moment of Michaels' Survivor Series career, as well as one of the most memorable moments of his career as a whole, came in 1997. Five years after squaring off with Hart in his first WWE title match, The Heartbreak Kid entered Montreal, Quebec, Canada for another date with The Hitman.
The conclusion of the bout would be the most controversial moment in the history of sports-entertainment as Vince McMahon, Michaels, and Triple H would conspire (behind the scenes) to screw Hart out of the championship in front of an international audience.
After suffering what many believed would be a career-ending back injury, Shawn made a triumphant return to World Wrestling Entertainment, a return that resulted in a World Heavyweight Championship victory inside the Elimination Chamber in 2002. A year later, he would provide fans with one of his most gutsy performances.
The last remaining competitor for Team Austin, he was faced with the task of squaring off with Randy Orton, Chris Jericho, and Christian. Losing would cost Stone Cold his job and Michaels competed with desperation, eliminating Jericho and Christian before falling victim to Orton and the interfering Dave Batista.
In back-to-back years (2008 and 2009), Michaels would receive shots at the WWE Championship. His contest with Randy Orton, a match where Sweet Chin Music was banned, proved to be one of the most unique bouts in recent history, while a triple threat match against John Cena and Triple H was a showdown between three of the industry's best.
While the Survivor Series may not be Shawn's strongest event, he has provided fans with some of the more unique, underrated performances of his career. Because of that, he slides in at No. 10 in our rankings.
WIN-LOSS RECORD: 7-4-1
MEMORABLE MATCH/MOMENT: His first official match against Mankind, 1997
Most would not immediately associate the Big Red Monster with the annual November event but, since making his debut at the 1997 edition, soundly defeating Mankind in a physical contest, he has enjoyed a fairly impressive win-loss record.
In 1998, he was on the losing end of a WWE Championship tournament match to his brother, the Undertaker, but rebounded a year later with a disqualification victory over X-Pac. In 2000, he upset Chris Jericho and in 2001, he was a member of Team WWE as they defeated the Alliance.
He would become one of six men to compete in the first Elimination Chamber match in 2002, losing in a bout that was ultimately won by the legendary Shawn Michaels. Unmasked and unleashing his fury, he would brutalize and defeat Shane McMahon in an Ambulance Match that was one of the marquee matches on the 2003 card.
Over the next handful of years, Kane would compete in a number of traditional Survivor Series matches, never managing to be a sole survivor but, more times than not, a member of the winning team. In 2010, in the middle of the longest reign as heavyweight champion in his career, he fought the "Rated R Superstar" (and 2012 Hall of Fame inductee) Edge to a draw.
At this year's event he will team with Team Hell No partner Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton, Kofi Kingston, and The Miz to meet the team of Dolph Ziggler, Damien Sandow, Cody Rhodes, Alberto Del Rio, and Wade Barrett, proving that 15 years later, Kane remains a valuable piece of the WWE roster.
WIN-LOSS RECORD: 5-6
MEMORABLE MATCH/MOMENT: Defeats Diesel for the WWE Championship, 1995
Bret Hart's career as a main-event star for Vince McMahon's company began in 1992 with a title defense against Shawn Michaels and ended, five years later, with a title defense against Shawn Michaels.
Early in the history of the Survivor Series, Hart was almost an afterthought as a member of numerous traditional tag team matches. He would often be one of the last competitors left on a given team but he was, usually, a runner-up.
That all changed in 1992.
As the brand new WWE Champion, Hart defeated Shawn Michaels in a main event most never thought they would see. Neither man looked like your typical McMahon-endorsed star but they had the best match on the card and showed the audience a little hint of what they could come to expect from their main-event stars over the next five years.
In 1993, Hart partnered with his brothers Bruce, Keith, and Owen to do battle with Michaels and the blue, red, and black knights. Jerry Lawler was originally scheduled to compete in the match but legal issues prevented him from doing so. The Harts won the match and, at the same time, the seeds were planted for the feud between Bret and Owen, which would last for the next three years.
Bret would lose the WWE title to Bob Backlund in controversial fashion at the 1994 event but would come back, better than ever, defeating Diesel in Washington, D.C., at Survivor Series 1995 to regain the title. After a months-long hiatus, Hart defeated Steve Austin in '96 in what was widely considered one of the best matches of the 1990s.
Unfortunately, Hart's legendary, Hall of Fame career would become defined by what happened at Survivor Series in 1997. The setting was Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Hart and on-screen (and off-screen) rival Shawn Michaels were set to do battle for the WWE Championship in the main event of the evening.
Hart was leaving for WCW but personal differences with Michaels made Bret unwilling to drop the title to him. After several scenarios were pitched and one was finally agreed upon, Vince McMahon swerved Hart in front of a worldwide audience, screwing him out of the championship in one of the most controversial, memorable moments of all time.
WIN-LOSS RECORD: 4-2
MEMORABLE MATCH/MOMENT: Loses the WWE Championship to The Undertaker, 1991
Hulk Hogan was the unquestioned top star in WWE during the 1980s and the early part of the 1990s. He made professional wrestling both popular and profitable in ways no one could ever have imagined.
After the unbridled success of WrestleMania III, which was headlined by the monumental clash between Hogan and Andre the Giant, it only made sense for Vince McMahon to devise new ways to bring those two attractions together in a new pay-per-view venture.
The answer was Survivor Series and Hulk Hogan, love him or hate him, deserves a lot of credit for making the event the success it has been over the years. He typically captained teams in traditional tag team elimination matches, more times than not winning those matches.
In 1991, Hogan defended the WWE Championship for the first time at a Survivor Series event. Unfortunately for the Hulkster, he ran into one of the most dominant Superstars of all-time, The Undertaker. Hogan would lose the title to the Dead Man, following interference from Ric Flair. The loss would bring to a close the Survivor Series chapter of Hogan's career.
While his resume at Survivor Series does not match up to his appearances at other WWE pay-per-views, the fact that Hogan was a key piece in the creation of the event makes him one of the greatest stars in the show's long and illustrious history.
WIN-LOSS RECORD: 8-2*
MEMORABLE MOMENT/MATCH: Winning the WWE Championship tournament, 1998
The Rock made his WWE debut in 1996 at the Survivor Series, beginning a career that would see him become the most electrifying man in the business. As the last remaining member of Team Mero, he consecutively defeated Crush and Goldust to pick up the victory. It was an impressive victory for a young man making his first in-ring appearance in WWE television.
In 1998, The Rock took the next step towards greatness, winning the WWE Championship tournament and capturing the first of what would be many heavyweight titles in his career. In one night, he would defeat The Big Boss Man, Ken Shamrock, The Undertaker, and Mankind, all major stars for the company during the Attitude Era. It set in motion one of the all-time great main-event runs.
In 2001, "The Great One" captained a team of WWE Superstars as they did battle with the Alliance in a Winner-Takes-All traditional elimination tag match. With partners such as Chris Jericho, Kane, The Undertaker, and The Big Show, Rock picked up the win for Vince McMahon's company, defeating Steve Austin in the process. It would mark the last appearance for The Rock until an unlikely return resulted in a huge tag team showdown 10 years later.
As the partner of John Cena, The Rock defeated The Miz and R-Truth inside Madison Square Garden, the event where his WWE career began. It was a homecoming for the WWE and Hollywood icon and the first indicator that he would be perfectly prepared for his showdown with Cena just months later at WrestleMania 28.
WIN-LOSS RECORD: 12-5
MEMORABLE MATCH/MOMENT: Debut as a part of the Million Dollar Team, 1990
Outside of the Montreal Screwjob, perhaps no Survivor Series moment is more iconic than that of the Undertaker's debut at the 1990 event. The image of the near-seven-foot tall man, slowly stalking towards the ring and remaining in gimmick throughout the course of the match was one that captured the audience's collective attention and made the "Dead Man" one of the very few enduring gimmicks from the time period.
Just one year into his WWE career, he defeated Hulk Hogan to become the WWE Champion. Only four men can say they have defeated Hogan to win a championship and Undertaker is one of them, the other three being Yokozuna, Andre the Giant, and the Ultimate Warrior. The fact that he was able to accomplish that feat so early was further evidence of just how special The Undertaker would be.
In 1992, he ended a months-long rivalry with Kamala by defeating the Ugandan giant in a Casket Match. A year later, he joined Lex Luger and the Steiner Brothers to beat Yokozuna, Jacques Rougeau, Crush and Ludvig Borga. And a year later, he defeated Yokozuna in another casket match, a bout that featured Chuck Norris as the special guest enforcer.
The Dead Man would remain a constant over the years, the locker room leader and one of the most popular stars to ever step foot in a WWE ring. In 2007, he clashed with Batista inside Hell in a Cell, a match he may very well have won if not for the returning Edge interfering and costing him the contest.
Two years later, he would retain his World Heavyweight Championship by defeating The Big Show and Chris Jericho in a triple threat match.
The legacy of the Undertaker can be traced back to the November pay-per-view, and the changes he has undergone over the past two decades are on display from year to year. He is an iconic figure in the sport and the Survivor Series remains one of his signature events.
Behind WrestleMania, of course.
WIN-LOSS RECORD: 6-3
MEMORABLE MOMENT/MATCH: Defeating Shawn Michaels to retain the WWE Championship, 2007
A member of World Wrestling Entertainment since 2002, Randy Orton has been around for so long that fans tend to forget just how good he has been at the Survivor Series pay-per-view.
In 2003, 2004, and 2005, he was the sole surviving member of his respective teams. In 2007, he defeated Shawn Michaels in one of the truly underrated matches in WWE history, countering Michaels' inability to use to Sweet Chin Music (due to a previous ruling) and finishing him off with an RKO.
He continued his winning ways in 2008, captaining a team that would defeat Dave Batista's team. In 2009, however, Orton's team ran into the surging buzzsaw that was Kofi Kingston. Kofi upset Orton and won the match for his team, scoring what many consider the biggest win of his career.
One year later, he would enter the Survivor Series as the WWE Champion and the major question surrounding special referee John Cena's motives hanging over his head. Cena had lost a match to Wade Barrett and was forced to join Nexus.
If he helped Barrett win the title from Orton, he would be free. If not, he would be fired. Orton retained the title at that show, despite all of the extracurricular activities surrounding the match.
Dominant early in his career and still fairly successful at the event, Orton is not only already one of the greatest Superstars in the history of Survivor Series, and he still has time to improve upon his record.
WIN-LOSS RECORD: 4-0
MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT/MATCH: Teaming with Hulk Hogan and Tito Santana to win the Survivor match, 1990
And now we reach the point in our countdown where undefeated competitors rear their heads.
More so than any Superstar in Survivor Series history, the Ultimate Warrior should be considered the "King of the Traditional Elimination Tag Match."
All four of his victories were in those type of matches, no one year more impressive than 1990, when he captained the "Warriors" to victory, becoming the team's sole survivor, and then competing in the night's main event, which featured the survivors of the night's matches competing against each other in another elimination tag match.
In 1988 and 1989, he captained two other teams to victory.
While Warrior's Survivor Series record consists of only four matches, he excelled at the very type of match the entire pay-per-view event was built on. He did what no other Superstar has done and that was to win those matches without ever being eliminated. Whether you like him or not, that makes him one of the three greatest Superstars in Survivor Series history.
WIN-LOSS RECORD: 5-0
MEMORABLE MATCH/MOMENT: Teaming with Hulk Hogan as the "Mega Powers" and winning, 1988
Like the Ultimate Warrior, Randy Savage excelled at the traditional tag team elimination bouts. From 1987 until 1993, every team he was a part of ended up victorious. In 1992, he teamed with Mr. Perfect to defeat Ric Flair and Razor Ramon by disqualification in what was billed as a co-main event.
As one of the most immediately recognizable faces in the sport, Savage helped nurture the Survivor Series concept in a way not unlike Hulk Hogan did. He was a major star in the business and could be trusted to sell pay-per-views and perform at a high level. He did just that.
WIN-LOSS RECORD: 7-0
MEMORABLE MATCH/MOMENT: Successfully defends the WWE Championship against HHH and Shawn Michaels, 2009
There really is no competition here.
In his seven appearances at the Survivor Series, John Cena has won three traditional tag team elimination matches, successfully defended the WWE Championship twice, won the World Heavyweight Championship, teamed with The Rock, and refereed.
Oh, yeah, and he's never lost.
Cena's Survivor Series resume, arguably, is more impressive than his WrestleMania achievements. He has never been eliminated in a multi-man tag match, has successfully defended his title against Shawn Michaels, Triple H, and Kurt Angle and defeated Chris Jericho to win a World title. One of those men is already a Hall of Fame inductee while the others are all but guaranteed to join him one day.
There is no Superstar more dominant at Survivor Series than Cena. Although, as the 2012 edition of the event approaches, that his undefeated streak is in greater jeopardy than ever before. Can he defeat Ryback and CM Punk to win a 13th heavyweight title or will the number one replace the zero in his win-loss record? Find out this Sunday as WWE presents its annual fall spectacular from Indianapolis.