With the thirtieth anniversary of Vince McMahon’s Survivor Series taking place this sunday at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. World Wrestling Entertainment fans will be catapulted to their television screens to watch the annual and traditional elimination tag bouts. These matches are profound in bringing unforgettable moments, which was the case 2 years at the twenty eighth installment of the event. As, Team Cena removed Team Authority from power with Dolph Ziggler being the ‘Sole Survivor’. In the process, Ziggler overcame tremendous odds by emerging victorious in a match where he had no other partner to lean on. Although, The show off went down in WWE history as a ‘Sole Survivor’, his heroics aren’t as memorable as these 5 sole survivors.
5. Ric Flair
Prior to the fifth annual Survivor Series, Ric Flair was already a huge name in professional wrestling having been the main face of Jim Crockett Productions and World Championship Wrestling. However, the 1991 Survivor Series was the first time ‘the nature boy’ would show his excellence on WWE pay-per-view. Fortunately, Flair was given the respect that he’d deserved at the November event, as he became the night’s only sole survivor by outlasting a team composed of Roddy Piper, Bret Hart, Virgil and the British Bulldog. Although, he may have captured the win by scurrying away from a brawl occurring at ringside in order to beat the referee’s count of 10. It was that win which gave the WWE fans a first taste of the type of competitor Ric Flair was.
Fifteen years later, Flair returned to captain a team of WWE legends consisting of Dusty Rhodes, Ron Simmons and Sgt. Slaughter into a traditional elimination tag bout against the arrogant Spirit Squad. After the eliminations of Simmons, Rhodes and Slaughter it was down to Flair to eliminate the remaining members of the opposition or suffer ultimate humiliation by the hands of male cheerleaders. Continuously, Flair knocked off Mikey, Kenny and, finally, Johnny in the span of one minute, 18 seconds to win the match. Although, his Survivor Series wins were not exceedingly impressive in comparison to the rest of this list, Flair did manage to prove both his skill and intelligence of the business in the two tag bouts he wrestled at the show, adding to the legend that was ‘the nature boy’ Ric Flair.
4. The Rock
For weeks leading to Survivor Series 1996, commentators such as Jim Ross and Vince McMahon highly anticipated the debut of the first ever third generation superstar Rocky Maivia. In this match, a young Rock defied the odds by eliminating Crush and Goldust to be the ‘sole survivor’ in his very first match.
However, it wasn’t until Survivor Series 2001 five years later that his potential was realised. As team WWE’s leader against the Alliance, The Rock was a world-wide known star bigger and brighter than the world of sports-entertainment. He was a pop culture and industry icon, not only down to his wrestling gimmick and slogans but his huge fame as an actor. Again, he was the ‘sole survivor’ but this time competition was much stiffer and way more celebrated compared to his victory fiver years previously. The Great One eliminated Booker T, Kurt Angle and most famously Steve Austin to secure the win for WWE. Two of those now being WWE hall of famers, and one an wrestling great. That highlights the Rock’s win even more so impressive.
3. Hulk Hogan
Although, it may not surprise you that the Hulkster was a ‘sole survivor’ at Survivor Series. Hogan managed to be the ‘sole survivor’ at consecutive pay-per-views. Being the biggest star Vince McMahon had ever promoted prior to Steve Austin, Hogan was expected to be in high-profile situations in which the spotlight was solely on him. In his first opportunity to grab Survivor Series success, he was without Randy Savage and despite his team being possibly one of the greatest teams of all time on paper, Hogan was left alone with no one to support him against ‘the million dollar man’ Ted Dibiase. Similar to the most of Hogan’s bouts, it ended with an atomic leg drop and the posing commenced.
The next year, he earned the ‘sole survivor’ status by eliminating the Barbarian to claim victory, with his earlier elimination of Dino Bravo being key. As, his team the Hulkamaniacs dethroned the Natural Disasters. Nonetheless, unlike previous years where ‘sole survivors’ earned you a couple minutes of glory. The 1990 installment show featured a main event which held all of the babyface survivors face the heel survivors which left Hogan at a certain disadvantage as the match would end up being a 3-on-5 elimination tag match, not in Hogan’s favour. In spite of the disadvantage, the Immortal Hulk Hogan stood tall with fellow co-survivor Ultimate Warrior to end the show on a high note.
2. The Ultimate Warrior
Whilst, Hulk Hogan may have been the biggest box office draw for WWE from 1988 to 1990, The Ultimate Warrior was by far the hottest star. Wearing arm tassels and trunks to match his colourful face paint, the Warrior would jolt down to ring and demolish his opponent without fail. He arrived on the stage of Survivor Series 1988 as the Intercontinental champion and begun a run that would only be matched by one other man. At the event, he lead a team consisting of Brutus Beefcake, Jim Brunzel, Sam Houston and Blue Blazer to take on Danny Davis, Bad News Brown Greg Valentine, Ron Bass and Honky Tonk Man. He was left in a 2-on-1 situation against Bass and Valentine, where he overcame the odds with two double axe-handles to eliminate both men.
The year after, the Warrior encountered the Heenan Family which included Arn Anderson, Andre the Giant and Haku. In this event, he had reached so much popularity that the WWE bookers chose to have the Ultimate Warrior as the main eventer and not Hulk Hogan, who carried WWE on his back for 5 years. Fans celebrated as he disposed of Arn Anderson, then finished off Heenan with his trademark gorilla press slam and splash combination for the win.
For the third consecutive year, Warrior celebrated as the ‘sole survivor’ leaving Ax, Smash and the Intercontinental champion Mr Perfect all victims of his gorilla press slam and splash combination. To remain consistently over with the fans like warrior did, is a testament to the performer himself. However, the point that Vince McMahon has enough confidence in the Warrior to book him so successfully over the three years, really shows how he was an icon of that era.
1. Randy Orton
The only current WWE superstar on this list, RKO is still one of WWE’s most valued superstars as he is part of Team Smackdown Live which is competing at this sunday’s annual Survivor Series and could add to his already impressive ‘sole survivor’ tally. The year 2003 was the beginning of Orton’s great run, where he found himself fighting against a bloodied and battered Shawn Michaels on behalf of one of WWE’s most hated figures, Eric Bischoff. The viper was able to grab a win after capitalizing on a Batista interference which rounded off his first ‘sole survivor’ victory.
A year later, Randy encountered a totally different situation as he battled against his former Evolution members Triple H and Batista with the company of Snitsky and Edge. He then, impressingly eliminated Batista and Triple to the bout, in what was Orton’s first clean win other Triple H in his push to the top of the card.
Moreover, in 2005 the Apex Predator returned to his favoured heel state, where he lead his team Smackdown to a victory over team RAW via a second pinfall over Shawn Michaels, which finalised his three consecutive run as a ‘sole survivor’. In addition, WWE had the opportunity to create something special with Orton’s sole survivor streak but sacrificed it in favor of a clean sweep by Team DX over Team Rated RKO at the 2006 event. Looking forward, Orton will be looking to replicate his memorable 2005 victory this sunday at the 30th installment of Survivor Series, which would make him the only superstar ever to be a ‘sole survivor’ four times.