Known as one of the historical “Big Four” pay-per-views, Survivor Series’ impact on WWE history is hugely significant, with many legendary events happening outside the Survivor Series-style matchups that the show was initially famous for.
Survivor Series saw the debut of The Undertaker in 1990, and a year later “The Phenom’s” first title reign began with a win over Hulk Hogan. Both The Rock and Big Show also had their initial title wins at the event, in 1998 and 1999 respectively.
Other momentous events include the “Montreal Screwjob” in 1997, the final victory of the WWF—as it was named then—against WCW in 2001, and the inaugural Elimination Chamber a year later. The latter Survivor Series also saw the first pinfall defeat of Brock Lesnar, meaning the event saw both the WWE and World Heavyweight championships change on the same night.
Since the historical events of 2002, the importance of Survivor Series has ebbed away with each successive year. Today, the event that has crowned three of the WWE’s most notable figures has only had two title changes—Batista for the World Heavyweight championship in 2006 and Edge for the WWE title in 2008—in 10 years.
Only the 2007 event—where Batista defeated Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell match—has seen a gimmick title match take place. The majority of championship matches have been triple-threat affairs, and few have been the definitive or closing match in such a high-profile rivalry. Such a trend is set to carry on this year with the CM Punk, John Cena and Ryback main event, which—as a feud—is also unlikely to conclude until the Table, Ladders and Chairs pay-per-view next month.
To breathe excitement into last year’s event, the WWE brought The Rock in to team with John Cena against the partnership of The Miz and R-Truth. This certainly stimulated interest in the WWE, as The Rock is a high-profile figure for casual fans, but it did little to restore the prestige that the Survivor Series name once had, due to the concentration being very much on the man rather than the event.
WWE has not given Survivor Series the additional unique selling points that the other three major pay-per-views possess either.
No one expects any event to have the level of attention that WrestleMania receives, but the WWE has done a great job of giving both the Royal Rumble and SummerSlam additional importance by allotting a special ideal to these shows.
Everyone in wrestling circles knows that the rumble is the start of the road to WrestleMania, which makes that pay-per-view significant due to its connection with the biggest event of the year. This is backed up by the WWE making sure that there are at least a couple of surprise entrants to the main match, so a natural anticipation develops as to what might happen.
SummerSlam, on the other hand, is advertised as the biggest party of the summer and the company’s second-most important event after WrestleMania. This has been backed up by the addition of top named part-timers like Brock Lesnar this year or showcasing matches that have been building up over several months like the battle between WWE and The Nexus in 2010.
Survivor Series has no such added value attributed to it.
If anything, the event’s one unique feature—the Survivor Series-style match that the show is named after—has been downgraded in importance. Those matches certainly don’t supersede the title match’s importance like the rumble does.
Big names have been rarely added to Survivor Series either. Not counting The Rock’s visit last year, where the interest in the event was lost in the excitement of seeing “The People’s Champion” returning to the ring, not one part-time star has made an appearance since Vince and Shane McMahon were in Hornswoggle’s corner against The Great Khali in 2007.
This combination of unimaginative main events, a lack of standout moments and the WWE’s failure to amplify the event’s importance in the fans' eyes has effectively relegated Survivor Series from its position as one of the most important pay-per-views to just another event on the schedule.
If the WWE wants to continue with the idea of a big event punctuating each quarter of the year, then the next Survivor Series needs to be sold better and given a main event that stands out from the other cards around it.
This can be accomplished by good booking leading to the end of a top championship feud taking place at the Survivor Series, or else by adding part-time talent to the roster at this key moment.
A reason for why Survivor Series should be considered special, beyond the event’s long history, is also vital. Whether this means extending the road to WrestleMania through this pay-per-view or building the importance of Survivor Series-style matches, a uniqueness that interests fans must be found.
If something does not change soon, then Survivor Series really will lose its status and the WWE will be down to just three must-see events a year.