Tag team elimination matches are not only a Survivor Series tradition, they have also long been the backbone of the annual November spectacular. They are what the show was built on and continue to present fans with interesting and unique pairings on a yearly basis.
While most in the event's history have taken place with nothing but pride and bragging rights on the line, there have been a few that have carried high stakes along with them.
For instance, the 2004 main event guaranteed control of Monday Night Raw for a month to its winners. The following year's show featured a battle for brand supremacy as Team Raw and Team SmackDown clashed in the show-closer.
The first traditional Survivor Series bout to feature something truly significant on the line, however, was the 2001 main event that pitted Team WWE vs. Team Alliance. At stake? The existence of one of the organizations and the jobs of every Superstar under their banner.
On March 26, 2001, the wrestling world was stunned when Mr. McMahon announced he had made a deal to purchase World Championship Wrestling. Rather than handling business behind closed doors, however, he took to the ring to brag about his accomplishment. He told the world that he would wait until April 1 and WrestleMania X-7 to have Ted Turner hand-deliver the paperwork before he would sign.
His promo that night would be interrupted by his estranged son Shane, who was in Panama Beach City for that night's final Nitro broadcast. In front of the rabid spring break crowd, Shane announced that he had purchased WCW out from underneath Vince.
At WrestleMania, Shane invited several former WCW stars to the event to watch as he defeated his father in a wild and chaotic Street Fight.
On May 28, Lance Storm became the first WCW star to invade WWE. The following week, Hugh Morrus became the second.
Diamond Dallas Page would make his debut on the June 18 episode of Raw, revealing himself to be the stalker of Undertaker's wife, Sara.
At the King of the Ring pay-per-view on June 24, WCW champion Booker T would make his debut in the angle, attacking Steve Austin and putting the WWE champion through a table. The following night on Raw, live from the hallowed halls of Madison Square Garden, he assaulted Mr. McMahon, really igniting the whole Invasion angle.
On July 2 in Tacoma, Wash., the entire angle nearly fell apart, as the first strong presence of WCW on WWE programming failed miserably. Booker T and Buff Bagwell had a truly awful main event match in front of a crowd that wanted nothing to do with the survivors of the fallen and defeated promotion.
Luckily, business would pick up the following week.
The July 9 episode of Raw featured a match between WWE's Chris Jericho and Kane and WCW's Lance Storm and Mike Awesome. The match would end in a no-contest, however, when former Extreme Championship Wrestling stars Tommy Dreamer and Rob Van Dam shocked the world by hopping the guardrail and assaulting the competitors.
The Dudley Boyz, Tazz, Rhyno, Raven and Justin Credible would hit the ring and appeared poised to fight off the latest invaders. Then, in a shocking and unexpected twist, they turned on Jericho and Kane, and a beatdown of massive proportions ensued.
Announcer Paul Heyman rose from the table and joined his former employees in the ring, revealing that ECW was back and it too was invading WWE.
Later in the night, things would get even more dire for WWE when ECW and WCW came together to form an unholy alliance. It was revealed that Shane's sister Stephanie had purchased ECW with money she received by selling her stock to a consortium and that the two McMahon children would attempt to put their father out of business.
Vince was feeling a great deal of desperation at this point and tried everything in his power to get the paranoid heel "Stone Cold" Steve Austin to return to his ass-kicking, take-no-prisoners ways. And, for a moment on the July 16 episode of Raw, he did just that.
Austin, however, would shock the world at the Invasion pay-per-view by siding with the Alliance and turning his back on WWE.
The heel faction would dominate WWE for the next month, though not without a fight from loyal stars such as Chris Jericho, Undertaker, Kane and newly minted babyface Kurt Angle.
On the July 30 episode of Raw, The Rock returned from a three-month hiatus and sided with his home company in the war with the Alliance.
At SummerSlam on August 19, Rock defeated Booker T to capture the WCW Championship, while Alliance leader Austin got himself intentionally disqualified to retain the WWE Championship in an outstanding, bloody battle against Kurt Angle.
The Invasion angle would undergo major changes on a seemingly weekly basis throughout the fall, with Superstars defecting from one group to the other. On the October 29 episode of Raw, Angle turned on his WWE teammates and joined the opposition.
This led to the announcement of a "Winner Takes All" match at the Survivor Series. Five members of each of the feuding organizations would compete in a traditional tag team elimination match. The winning side would stay in business while the losing faction would cease to exist.
After the betrayal by Angle, WWE was reeling. The Rock and Chris Jericho were engaged in a feud that was rapidly becoming more and more heated with each passing week. Mr. McMahon originally was to be a part of Team WWE at Survivor Series but withdrew from the match and replaced himself with Big Show.
It seemed as though the Alliance was definitely the stronger group heading into the November 18 show until McMahon dropped a major bombshell on the November 12 episode of Raw.
He informed the Alliance that he had a mole working for the group but refused to reveal who it was. It created a bit of dissension within the group and fractured the strong unity that had once existed among the competitors on their Survivor Series team.
The final incarnation of Team WWE would feature The Rock, Chris Jericho, Kane, Undertaker and Big Show taking on Team Alliance's Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, Rob Van Dam, Booker T and Shane McMahon.
The stage was set for an eventful, unpredictable main event at one of WWE's marquee events.
The historic Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, N.C.
WWE Hall of Fame inductee Jim Ross and Paul Heyman.
Rock and Austin wasted no time trading rights, both in the center of the ring and in the corner.
Austin caught Rock with the Thesz Press, followed by an elbow.
Rock returned the favor, using Austin’s signature maneuvers against him. Shane McMahon broke up a pinfall attempt, and Austin tagged in Booker T.
Rock ducked under a clothesline attempt by the former WCW champion and hit a big one of his own. He covered Booker, but Shane jumped in and broke up the fall again.
In came Jericho, who delivered a series of chops and flapjacked Booker. Van Dam got the tag, and the crowd came alive for the most over star on the heel side of the match. A pretty cool exchange between the two followed before Jericho caught RVD with a spinning heel kick and a big vertical suplex.
Van Dam landed a cartwheel moonsault on Jericho for two, ducked out of the way of a charge by Jericho and tried for a headscissors takeover. Jericho countered with the Walls of Jericho, but Shane once again entered the squared circle and broke up the submission hold.
Kane and Kurt Angle tagged in for their respective teams.
Angle landed a few hard rights to the face, but Kane grabbed hold of him, tossed him in the corner and unleashed a series of rights of his own.
Angle escaped a suplex attempt and delivered a German suplex of his own.
Kane sent Angle into the corner and caught him coming out with a diving clothesline. Again, Shane broke up a pin attempt. Kane tagged in Undertaker, who wasted little time in taking it to the Olympic gold medalist.
Angle caught Undertaker with a boot and tagged Booker back into the match. Undertaker fended him off and attempted a pinfall, but McMahon, becoming quite the pest at this point, once again interfered in the count.
Undertaker targeted Booker’s left arm, climbed the ropes and came off with Old School, sending pain shooting down the arm of his opponent. He continued to focus his attack on the arm.
Shane broke up another pin attempt, and the distraction allowed Booker to tag in Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Undertaker called for Old School once again and caught Austin with it. Austin backed Undertaker into the corner and a five-on-one assault occurred while the referee was distracted by the protesting babyfaces.
Angle entered the match. A nice display of counter wrestling ensued between he and Undertaker before the Dead Man delivered a big DDT and made the tag to the Big Show.
The giant tore through his opponents and set Angle up for the chokeslam, but Angle countered and delivered the Angle Slam. A tag to Booker resulted in a scissors kick to Big Show. Rob Van Dam tagged in and delivered his Five-Star Frog Splash. Shane was next to enter the match, and he delivered a big top rope elbow drop, covered Show and picked up the first elimination of the match.
The Big Show is eliminated.
The Rock entered the ring and assaulted Shane. Kane was in next and flattened Shane with a huge chokeslam, to the delight of the audience.
Undertaker tagged in and dusted off the Tombstone for the first time in quite a while. Jericho was in next, and he delivered the Lionsault for the pinfall, evening the sides at four apiece.
Shane McMahon is eliminated.
Angle entered the ring for the heels, and he and Jericho engaged in a quality exchange until Austin provided a distraction and allowed Angle to gain the upper hand. He tagged in Booker T, who punished Jericho with a series of bodyslams, followed by a knee to the face.
Van Dam tagged into the match and caught Jericho with a kick that backed him into the corner. Jericho surprised RVD with a sunset flip and made the tag to Kane.
Kane entered the match and used his power and size advantage against Van Dam. Booker T tried to get a cheap shot on Kane from the outside, and the Big Red Monster brought him into the match. The distraction that it provided allowed Van Dam to catch Kane with a kick to the head, followed by the Five-Star Frog Splash.
As he attempted to cover, however, Kane grabbed him by the throat for what appeared to be a chokeslam attempt.
Booker T exploded into the ring and caught Kane with a huge axe kick to the face. Van Dam came off the top rope with a dropkick and pinned Kane while the remaining members of each team fought around ringside.
Kane is eliminated.
Undertaker attacked Van Dam shortly after the fall, taking him into the corner and delivering a flurry of hard rights. Booker and Austin entered the squared circle and earned the same treatment. Undertaker took turns dishing punishment to every remaining member of the Alliance.
He called for the Last Ride on Angle and executed the move on the Olympic gold medalist.
A momentary distraction from Booker allowed Austin to catch Undertaker with the Stone Cold Stunner. He draped Angle over Undertaker for the pinfall decision.
The Undertaker is eliminated.
Rock and Booker resumed the action, as the numbers advantage was solely in the corner of the Alliance.
Rock reversed an Irish whip on Booker, sent him into partner Angle and caught him with a schoolboy roll-up for the decision, making things more manageable for he and Jericho from a numbers perspective.
Booker T is eliminated.
Van Dam and Rock thrilled the audience with a fine little exchange before the latter made the tag to Jericho, who exploded into the ring with a ton of energy. A well-timed kick from Van Dam slowed Y2J, however, and a split-legged moonsault followed.
Jericho got a knee up and caught Van Dam in the midsection and finished him off with the Breakdown, evening the sides up.
Rob Van Dam is eliminated.
Angle did not allow Jericho any room to catch his breath or recover from the encounter with Van Dam. He entered the ring and took it right to Y2J while Austin delivered a catapult to Rock, sending him face-first into the steel post on the outside, leaving Jericho to have to fend off Austin and Angle in the meantime.
Austin and Angle spent the next few minutes picking Jericho apart.
Austin delivered a big superplex to Jericho. A clunk Irish whip attempt concluded with a backdrop by Austin and a big elbow to the face for two.
The heels continued to work over Jericho as Rock returned to his corner.
Another botched Irish whip attempt by Jericho is covered up nicely by commentator Jim Ross, who described it as Angle fighting out of it. The 1996 Olympian then caught Y2J with a big clothesline.
Austin took Jericho over in the center of the squared circle and applied a sleeper, as the likelihood of Jericho lasting much longer lessened with each passing second.
A double knockdown saw each man make a tag to their remaining partner.
Rock exploded into the match, delivered a leg whip and applied the Sharpshooter. Angle, clearly in pain, had no choice but to tap out, putting the Alliance at a two-on-one disadvantage.
Kurt Angle is eliminated.
Austin bled from the match as he took the fight to Jericho, a sense of desperation setting in for the Texas Rattlesnake.
He caught Jericho with knees to the midsection as he attempted the Lionsault and covered for two. He followed by sitting Jericho on the top rope for another superplex attempt. Jericho fought Austin off and delivered a missile dropkick for two.
Y2J rolled up Austin, who reversed it and scored a pinfall to bring the match to a fitting one-on-one encounter between Stone Cold and The Rock.
Chris Jericho is eliminated.
Austin and Rock exchanged rights and lefts before Rock caught his longtime rival with a spinebuster. He teased the People’s Elbow, but a frustrated, selfish Jericho stunned Rock with the Breakdown before leaving with a smile on his face.
Y2J started to head back to the ring, but Undertaker appeared and escorted him to the locker room.
Austin unleashed a series of rights to Rock and stomped away at his WrestleMania X-7 opponent.
Rock scored with a series of hard rights, but Austin sent him over the top rope and to the arena floor, buying himself a break.
He rolled outside the ring and delivered a few chops to The Great One before Rock returned the favor.
Austin sent Rock into the steel post, then the ring steps. Rock responded, throwing Austin over the Spanish announce table and following up with rights to the face. He rolled Stone Cold back into the squared circle as a “Rocky” chant broke out in the arena.
Austin caught Rock with a spinebuster and applied a Sharpshooter of his own. Rock’s will was tested, as it was clear that the match had taken its toll on the WCW champion, but his ferocious dedication to WWE and its continued existence willed him to reach the ropes.
Austin slid outside the ring and retrieved the WWE Championship. Rock caught him coming in with a spinebuster, then applied a Sharpshooter of his own. Austin screamed in pain, all the while clutching his title and fighting to make it to the ropes.
Austin caught the referee between himself and the ropes, allowing him to deliver a low blow to Rock. He tried for a boot to the midsection, but Rock countered and delivered a Stone Cold Stunner to the master of the move. Alliance referee Nick Patrick pulled Earl Hebner from the ring and knocked him out.
Back inside the ring, Austin fought out of a Rock Bottom attempt and delivered one of his own. He covered, but Rock shot his shoulder off the mat at two.
Austin argued the count with Patrick and knocked him out, despite his allegiance to the Alliance. Austin pulled Hebner back into the match and set Rock up for a Stunner. The Great One shoved the Rattlesnake into Hebner, knocking him back out.
This time, Austin successfully executed the Stunner to Rock, but there was no official to count the fall.
Austin checked on Hebner when all of a sudden, Kurt Angle hit the ring and grabbed the WWE title. He shocked the world by striking Austin. Rock delivered the Rock Bottom and pinned Austin for the win.
Steve Austin is eliminated.
Team WWE wins the match.
An above-average traditional Survivor Series elimination tag match that really picked up once it got down to Austin and Angle against Rock and Jericho.
The rapid-fire eliminations midway through the bout make you wonder why those Superstars, no matter their star power, were involved in the first place when the company could have gone with a basic tag match—using the same stipulations—and had a much more crisp, clean bout.
The final encounter between Austin and The Rock was outstanding, as they once again proved that the chemistry they have with one another is far and beyond that of any two other Superstars in company history (save for maybe CM Punk and John Cena).
The finish, with the two referee bumps and the interference from Angle, was a bit clunky and disjointed, but it worked within the context of the story they were telling.
Jericho turning on Rock after being eliminated signaled a heel turn that was weeks in the making, and the story early in the match involving Shane McMahon and his breaking up of every pin or submission attempt was clever and made it that much more satisfying when all of Team WWE performed their finishing moves to eliminate him.
The match brought to an end the largely disappointing Invasion angle and essentially led to a major booking reboot the following night on Raw.
It would also be the last time Steve Austin ever worked as a heel and the second-to-last pay-per-view match he would work with The Rock before retiring from the squared circle at WrestleMania XIX.
The Superstars that made up Team Alliance would eventually find themselves back on WWE television, some sooner than others.
The wealth of talent WWE found itself in possession of following its purchase of WCW and the closing of ECW would result in one in one of the most star-studded rosters in the history of the business. With only so much television time to get everyone involved and no other promotion to compete against, the decision was made to split the roster in two and have a brand extension.
Monday Night Raw and SmackDown would be two separate, distinct brands with their own exclusive talent, meaning fans would be able to pick and choose which show they wanted to watch.
The idea worked early, but soon Superstars moved freely between brands.
By 2005, a new wave of talent began infiltrating WWE, leaving stars such as Rob Van Dam, Booker T and The Hurricane as the last remnants of the Invasion angle.