What makes the perfect traditional Survivor Series tag team elimination match?
It was a question that weighed heavily on my mind as I sat down to watch The Vipers vs. The Visionaries from the 1990 edition of the annual November pay-per-view. Rather than enjoying the match as a fan, I delved deeper into it to try to answer my question.
After long and extensive viewing of 13 different bouts, I have decided to analyze and break down the elements that add up to the perfect traditional Survivor Series tag team elimination match.
For a traditional Survivor Series match to be considered perfect, it must have a team consisting of Superstars from all areas of the roster.
The show's greatest teams have featured an eclectic mix of main-event, midcard and tag-team Superstars or performers with a variety of styles.
In 1989, Hulk Hogan captained The Hulkamaniacs, a team that included the immensely popular midcard star Jake "the Snake" Roberts and WWE Tag Team champions Demolition. The team, perhaps the best in the long history of Survivor Series, provided fans with a little bit of everything the company had to offer at the time.
Hulk Hogan was the grandstanding showoff who played to the crowd, posed and hit his big legdrop to a thunderous roar of approval by his loyal fans.
Demolition, on the other hand, were the face-painted brutes who brought a ground-and-pound style to their matches and utilized the dreaded Decapitation Device as their finishing maneuver.
Finally, Jake Roberts was the methodical worker whose moves were neither flashy nor done with brute force but effectively told a story and kept an audience captivated.
Teams that consist of Superstars with the same styles or from the same spot on the card can still be entertaining (the 1993 team captained by Razor Ramon, to be specific), but the unique and unlikely pairings between former champions, future champions and jobbers is what made the show so entertaining in the first place.
The heart of every Survivor Series tag match, perfect or imperfect, are the rivalries that intertwine in one match. Throughout the 26 years of the event's existence, the matches have been made of Superstars who are embroiled in rivalries with one another, a fact that remains true to this day.
The idea that fans can see so many rivalries unfold in one place, at one time has always managed to mask the fact that those same fans are being asked to pay for what is, ultimately, a glorified tag match, the only difference being the elimination rule.
Those matches that have featured a hodgepodge of Superstars fighting for no real rhyme or reason have always stood out as disappointing and unmemorable when compared to the great ones that have managed to bring together the feuds of all involved.
A perfect traditional Survivor Series match should not only involve several different feuds and angles, it should also manage to advance them, if not create new ones.
An excellent example would be the underrated main event of the 1993 show, which featured Lex Luger captaining a team consisting of himself, the Steiner Brothers and Undertaker against a team headed up by WWE champion Yokozuna, Ludvig Borga, Crush and one-half of the tag team champions, Quebecer Jacques.
Though the main conflict between Luger and Yokozuna was built upon in the match, it also spawned two new rivalries. Undertaker and Yokozuna would begin an angle that would culminate at the following January's Royal Rumble, while Luger would vanquish the dominant Finnish Superstar Borga.
The Rise of a New Star
To be considered perfect, a traditional Survivor Series match should take advantage of the interactions between top level Superstars and lower-card talent by elevating young performers with breakout potential.
In a match with so many moving parts, there is little consequence in sacrificing an elite, main-event star to help get a hot, young midcard star over. After all, the elevation of a young competitor means said established veteran has someone new and exciting to work with.
Survivor Series, maybe more than any other pay-per-view, has a long track record of young stars being put in the position to succeed.
In the inaugural show's main event, Bam Bam Bigelow rose to the occasion and went toe-to-toe with the iconic Andre the Giant. Though he lost the match, it was clear that Bigelow was an incredibly talented young performer who had potential to be a major player in the sport.
From 1989-91, Bret Hart established himself as the next breakout star in the then-World Wrestling Federation, thanks to impressive showings against "Macho King" Randy Savage, "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase and "Nature Boy" Ric Flair. By the time the '92 show rolled around, he would be WWE champion.
In 1996, the debuting Rocky Maivia made his mark by eliminating both Crush and Goldust en route to a victory in both his first televised and pay-per-view matches with WWE.
Some 13 years later, Kofi Kingston would defeat former World Heavyweight Champions Randy Orton and CM Punk to pick up the biggest win of his decorated career. That same year, The Miz, Sheamus and Drew McIntyre would be the survivors of their match.
Two of those three men would go on to become WWE champion within two years.
The Better the Worker, the Longer He Survives
Every great traditional Survivor Series match has that one guy who can carry the workload and, in the process, hold the bout together. As such, he is guaranteed to last longer in hopes of ensuring the quality of the bout holds steady for a greater period of time.
The Superstars chosen for that role have typically been associated with strong workrate and possess above-average in-ring skills.
In years past, performers like Bret Hart, Randy Savage, Mr. Perfect, Ted DiBiase, CM Punk, Rey Mysterio and Dolph Ziggler have filled those roles admirably.
They are the backbone to the match. Without them, the match suffers a considerable drop in quality.