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10 Best Singles Matches In WWE Survivor Series History

For a pay per view themed around team-based warfare, Survivor Series loves a good singles match.

Hey, Survivor Series isn't just about the traditional elimination matches. It's also about standard wrestling bouts of very mixed quality. Fortunately, in this article, we're going to be focusing on the best ones - and no, before you ask, the Montreal Screwjob is not included.

In fairness, the actual match portion of Bret vs. Shawn at Survivor Series '97 is pretty damn good - as you'd expect from two of the best wrestlers of all time. But nobody remembers that, and for good reason. Everything that came after it totally overshadowed the rest of the card, let alone the rest of the contest.

Fear not, though, because we're here to talk about the Survivor Series matches that were genuinely compelling (in a kayfabe sense only, Vince) - from high stakes championship bouts to gruelling brawls between some of the best wrestlers of all time.

At this stage, it is my unfortunate duty to report that The Undertaker losing a Buried Alive match to Vince McMahon will not appear on the list. I know, I'm disappointed too, but let's be reasonable here.

Sound exciting? What do you mean you'd rather read about the best 'Mania matches ever? It's November, and I have no choice in the matter. Just embrace it.

10. Hulk Hogan Vs. The Undertaker - 1991


WWE


From a pure wrestling standpoint, this match wasn't great. Hogan has never been a particularly great worker in a technical sense, and this WWF Championship match with an inexperienced Undertaker shouldn't be expected to deliver in that way.

What it did do, however, was feel like an absolute moment. Although this occurred during the wane of Hulkamania, Hogan was still very much Hogan - ie. largely unbeatable. It had only been a few months since he defeated Sgt. Slaughter at WrestleMania VII and saved America.

Could he do the same to The Undertaker and save the entire mortal realm?

Err, no.

Hogan tried his Hogany best, but 'Taker triumphed after a Tombstone Piledriver onto a steel chair (cunningly placed there by the devious Ric Flair). It was the Phenom's first world title and a landmark moment in both his rise and the decline of the Hulkster.

Surely this led to Hogan vs. Flair at WrestleMania VIII, right? That's another story for another time.

(Somehow no, it didn't.)


9. Bret Hart Vs. Bob Backlund - 1994


WWE


This match is a polarising one, for sure. I've heard people describe it as a wonderful example of old-school psychology, while others deem it far too long and boring.

It's also important to remember that the booking wasn't just out of left field - it wasn't even on the playing surface.

This match featured Bob Backlund, a man who last held the WWF Championship in 1983, wrenching the belt from the valiant grasp of Bret Hart - the new face of the company, and the man supposedly destined to lead it into the new era.

However, the manner of Backlund's dubious victory was storytelling and drama at its finest. Held under a 'Throw in the Towel' stipulation, the bout saw the challenger trap Hart in his signature Crossface Chickenwing. There's no way the Hitman was going to willingly give up, but dastardly Owen - Bret's own brother, dammit - convinced their mother to throw in the towel from the outside. Infuriating; brilliant.

Then Diesel squashed Backlund at a house show three days laterĀ and embarked on one of the most underwhelming title reigns in WWE history. Let's ignore that part.

8. Batista Vs. The Undertaker - 2007


WWE


As far as Hell in a Cell matches go, this wasn't up there with the likes of 'Taker vs. Mankind, 'Taker vs. Shawn, or even the recent clash between Shane McMahon and Kevin Owens.

However, for all its shortcomings, this match still felt huge - and was improved immeasurably by a shocking finish. I mean, you can try to be cynical about a HIAC match between Undertaker and Batista at the respective peaks of their careers (the Deadman was just beginning his streak of ridiculously good 'Mania classics, after all) - but it can only fail to excite you for so long.

Even if you feel the bout was a little subdued, the shocking finish certainly warrants its place on this list. Wrestlers disguising themselves as non-wrestlers is always cool - I'm very passionate about this, I love it - and when Edge whipped off his cameraman disguise to blast Undertaker with a steel chair, it was just tremendously exciting, guys.

It also set up their excellent WrestleMania XXIV main event, arguably the best match of Edge's career - so, all in all, an even more significant Survivor Series bout than it originally seemed.

7. Alberto Del Rio Vs. CM Punk - 2011


WWE


Speaking of significant bouts, this was pretty important. CM Punk's 400+ day WWE Championship reign is the longest of the modern era (at least until Jinder Mahal snaps it like a puny twig, all hail the Maharaja, etc. etc.) - and it all started here, at Survivor Series 2011.

2011 was CM Punk's year: the pipebomb, the Cena match, and the beginning of that mammoth reign. But for a while, all that momentum seemed to be crashing to a halt. Somehow, WWE managed to turn one of the hottest angles in wrestling history into Triple H vs. Kevin Nash - and I'm still not really sure how it happened. Something about Nash texting himself, or...?

Triple H decided to put himself over Punk for no reason at Night of Champions, and it looked like WWE might have entirely ruined all that good work.

Thankfully, this match helped salvage Punk's main event career. He and Del Rio were friends outside of the ring and put together a match that felt appropriately significant. It was capped off by a delighted Punk diving into the Madison Square Garden crowd, title in hand. He wouldn't let go of it until 2013.


6. Brock Lesnar Vs. Goldberg - 2016


WWE


What is there to say about this match that hasn't already been said? Yes, it lasted a matter of seconds, and yes there were precisely three moves (two Spears and a glorious Jackhammer) - but I still feel fully justified in including Goldberg vs. Lesnar on the list.

I was once present for an AJ Styles interview where he was asked the secret of being such a fantastic wrestler, and he replied: "Moves are easy; it's the little things". Now, this is an obvious lie - I certainly couldn't do a springboard 450, for example - but the sentiment rings true.

Sometimes wrestling isn't about the moves; it's about the moments. For all their shortcomings when compared to certain aspects of the indie scene (most notably match quality), WWE understand moments better than anyone else in the game.

5. Bret Hart Vs. Shawn Michaels - 1992


WWE


No, not that Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels Survivor Series match. The pair actually main-evented the same pay per view five years earlier, having been bumped up the card due to the sudden absence of the Ultimate Warrior.

The pair delivered, showing themselves to be the streamlined, technical future of wrestling on a card otherwise slowed down by Yokozuna, the Nasty Boys, and a very questionable casket match between Kamala and The Undertaker.

This was Bret's first PPV title defence, and although HBK might not have been the finished article quite yet, the Hitman most certainly was. He bumped for the young Intercontinental Champion like nobody's business, at one point slingshotting himself sideways into the ropes - one of those terrifying Bret Hart bumps where you're like "Damn Bret, I know it's scripted; you don't need to kill yourself to convince me otherwise".

Ultimately, the Canadian pulled it out of the bag - forcing Michaels to tap out to the Sharpshooter and celebrating with Santa Claus afterwards. No, really. Santa came down. There was snow and everything.

4. Shawn Michaels Vs. Sycho Sid - 1996


WWE


Survivor Series 1996 is, for my money, one of the finest shows in the pay per view's history - which is weird, because it came at a time where WWF was getting absolutely pummelled by WCW in the Monday Night Wars.

A major reason for the show's success is the main event, which saw WWF Champion Shawn Michaels - around the time when people were kinda starting to get sick of ultra golden boy HBK, in all honesty - taking on Sycho Sid.

This is one of those fascinating matches to watch back, as you really get a sense of the split crowd. Most of the women and children are cheering for Shawn, while Sid's periods of dominance are met with a distinctly 'bassier' noise.

In perhaps the best match of the challenger's career, he was able to eventually triumph after Michaels tended to his wounded, elderly manager, Jose Lothario - leaving himself open to Sid's ringside camera shot. What a way to win your first ever WWF Championship.


3. Randy Orton Vs. Shawn Michaels - 2007


WWE


Take two of the best performers in Survivor Series history, stick them in a singles match together, and what do you get?

Predictably, this '07 clash between Orton and HBK was an excellent one. Both men have excelled in traditional elimination matches over the years, and unsurprisingly carried this level of quality over into singles competition.

The bout is also a rare example of wrestlers overcoming overly-intrusive stipulations, rather than being bound by them. Michaels' Sweet Chin Music had been banned, and if Orton tried to get himself disqualified, he would have lost the WWE Championship.

Ultimately, after a compelling encounter, Orton triumphed - the slippery, slippery snake. Shawn instinctively went for his finisher, only to pause midway through the motion, allowing Randy to nail him with the (decidedly rarer) RKO out of somewhere for the win.

2. Diesel Vs. Bret Hart - 1995


WWE


Announce table spots are exciting, aren't they? They make a lovely crunchy sound, and the surrounding area looks absolutely devastated afterwards. On the other hand, they've lost that surprise factor when they happen at every pay per view - and occasionally on Raw and SmackDown.

Bret Hart and Diesel's match at Survivor Series 1995 saw one of the first announce table spots to hit a big audience and took everyone by complete surprise. The fact that it came at the end of a stellar contest - a perfect example the Hitman's ability to craft a story - is almost incidental, so well did they play it off.

Diesel knocked the Canadian from the apron, sending him crashing through the table. He then freaked out. The reaction of everybody convinced fans that it was a legitimate accident, and then-WWF Champion Diesel scrambled to apparently end the match quickly - only for Bret to catch him in a roll-up!

It was a masterful finish to a masterful match, one which saw the title return to the man many felt to be its rightful owner.

1. Bret Hart Vs. Steve Austin - 1996


WWE


Of all the great matches they enjoyed with other Superstars, Steve Austin and Bret Hart arguably never enjoyed better in-ring chemistry than with each other. Their WrestleMania 13 bout is perhaps the best match in the history of the event - certainly one of the most fondly remembered - but their Survivor Series match several months prior deserves to be regarded in the same bracket of quality.

Compared to their more famous rematch, this bout enjoys a far clearer face/heel dynamic - Austin the sadistic upstart looking to usurp established hero Bret. Both men bring incredible intensity, but also careful thought and planning.

While their 'Mania match was an intense, bloody contest between two men who hated each other, this was arguably more of a technical competition. It featured a typically inventive Bret Hart finish. This time the Hitman found himself caught in Austin's Million Dollar Dream and walked up the turnbuckles in desperation - flipping himself into a successful pinning predicament.

A fittingly dramatic finish to an excellent match, and my favourite singles contest in Survivor Series history. Lovely.

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Jack G. King

Written by Jack G. King

Head of News at Cultaholic.com | [email protected]