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10 Things We Learned From WWE Survivor Series 1996

The Rock makes his debut...

You almost can't go wrong with a pay-per-view from Madison Square Garden. WrestleManias X and XX, SummerSlams 1991 and 1998, Royal Rumble 2000, each of them aspires to a higher level than the norm. Three Survivor Series events would emanate from the historic Garden, and it goes without saying that the 1996 show is one of the best Survivor Series cards in the show's 31-year chronology. Just something about MSG.

The event was unique in a number of regards, as you had debuts (Doug Furnas and Phil Lafon, Flash Funk, and some guy who became an action star eventually) as well as notable costume changes (Faarooq's Nation of Domination look, Undertaker adopting a leather-based bodysuit as a forerunner to his Attitude Era look). There were also returns, be they Jimmy Snuka's one-night one-off, or Bret Hart's grand comeback match against the ladder-climbing Stone Cold Steve Austin.

The event was truly notable for its main event, in which babyface superstar Shawn Michaels sees his seven-month WWE Championship run end at the hands of Psycho Sid, while the New York crowd boos Michaels into oblivion. All-around, Survivor Series 1996 rates as one of the better WWE events of the 1990s, as well as one of its most story-laden.

10. Rocked Out


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The pay-per-view opener pitted the debuting Doug Furnas and Phil Lafon, as well as The Godwinns, against Owen Hart, Davey Boy Smith, and The New Rockers of Marty Jannetty and Leif Cassidy (Al Snow). When Furnas and Lafon begin busting out their exotic offensive manoeuvres, the crowd inside the Garden can't help but be floored. On the strength of some rather inspired work, this opener was quite excellent.

But it wasn't without its hang-ups. In the early going, Jannetty is seen badly limping, the result of what was later revealed as a chipped bone in his foot, as well as a sprained ankle. Jannetty wouldn't be long for the match from there, succumbing to Henry Godwinn's Slop Drop. In general, Jannetty was on his way out of WWE, departing around the turn of 1997, reportedly due to his annoyance with where he was on the card.

9. Foley Self-Criticizes


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The second match of the night pitted Mankind against the new-look Undertaker, in a match where Paul Bearer would be suspended from a shark cage (years before WWE action figure makers thought to commemorate the gimmick in toy form). After Buried Alive matches and Boiler Room Brawls, it was going to be hard for a regular singles encounter to stand out, and in fact, the match was very basic. Not bad or anything, but nothing special.

Yet Mick Foley was especially less than enamoured with the match. In his first book, Have a Nice Day, Foley would write that the match was, "...probably the biggest disappointment of my career," in that he got to work MSG on pay-per-view, and it wasn't the experience he was hoping for. Foley piled on, also saying he was "amazingly mediocre" on that night, which sounds a little harsh.

8. The Game Stands Alone


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Hunter Hearst Helmsley was the reigning Intercontinental Champion at the time of the 1996 Survivor Series, and would captain his own villainous quartet. He would have been seconded by Mr. Perfect, who had helped him win the belt one month earlier, and was acting as Helmsley's mentor. But such was the case with the 1993 Survivor Series, Perfect left the company shortly before the show.

Perfect no-showed a handful of events prior to the PPV after agreeing to terms offered by Eric Bischoff and WCW. Curt Hennig was reportedly irked at Vince McMahon, whom he blamed for not being able to receive a hefty Lloyd's of London insurance payout. Vince reportedly offered Hennig a wrestling contract to make up for the lost money, and Hennig agreed, but ultimately chose to go with WCW. The entire ordeal led to a muddled legal situation that would result in Hennig not debuting for Bischoff until the summer of 1997.

7. Slithering In


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Originally, Jake "The Snake" Roberts had no part in the 1996 Survivor Series, but would end up wrestling on Marc Mero's team. Roberts had been off the road for more than a month prior to the pay-per-view, but he was good for a 20-minute appearance in an elimination bout, dispatching nemesis Jerry Lawler before ultimately succumbing to Crush late in the match.

Roberts was a fill-in for Mark Henry, who had sustained a leg injury. Henry had only begun wrestling two months prior to the pay-per-view (defeating Jerry Lawler at the Mind Games event), and coupled with the injury, Henry would spend most of the next year out of the ring, engaging in further training in order to better prepare him as a wrestler.

6. Rocky Start


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Whoever would have guessed that the wild-maned, exuberant-spirited Rocky Maivia that first appeared before the Madison Square Garden crowd at Survivor Series 1996 would one day be one of the biggest box office draws in all of Hollywood as Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson? Though The Rock looked reasonably promising in his televised WWE debut, there were a few rough moments in said debut, which Johnson himself would note.

In 2016, Rock watched the match back, and pointed out a couple of gaffes that perhaps the home viewer would not have realized. Both before the match, and after he defeats Goldust to win the match, Rock excitedly gestures to a spot above the entrance way. Why? Because Rock thought that the hard camera was up there, when in fact, the hard camera was *facing* the entrance way. So in Rock's big moments, he has his back to the main camera, instead of facing it. But alas, better days were ahead.

5. Return Of The Hitman


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The best match of the 1996 Survivor Series was certainly Bret Hart's return bout. For almost a half hour, the 39-year-old "Hitman" fought tooth and nail, combining intricate science with mouth-foaming brutality as he and Stone Cold Steve Austin lit up the Garden with a masterpiece. The WrestleMania 13 submission match gets all the glory, but this battle lives in the same neighbourhood.

Hart understood that the match was important for Austin, who was in the midst of the biggest push of his career. Although they'd worked together previously at events in Kuwait and South Africa, Hart wanted to make sure everything went perfectly. Thus, in the week leading up to the match, Austin flew all the way to Calgary to work on the entire 28-plus minute epic with Bret. If the rehearsal is what made it special, then it was time (and airfare) well spent.

4. Get The Funk Out


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Though Rocky Maivia's debut is what Survivor Series 1996 is most famous for, it was pretty hard to sneeze at an incoming talent the calibre of Flash Funk. The former 2 Cold Scorpio had the in-ring ability, the jaw-dropping athleticism, and the natural charisma to make a mark on WWE programming. Some feel that presenting him as a hybrid of George Clinton and Dolemite wasn't the way to go, but there have been much worse gimmicks.

As for Scorpio, just 24 hours later, he bade farewell to ECW, albeit in very heelish fashion. Working just two-and-a-half hours south in Philly on Saturday night, Scorpio beat a handful of wrestlers in short matches before vowing to leave for a year if he couldn't beat Louie Spicolli. Well, Louie won, and Scorp was finished. This brought Taz out to growl at him: "Bye bye, Flash. Get the f**k out of my house, bitch!"

3. Banzai, One Last Time


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Flash Funk's debut was in an eight-man elimination bout, in which he would team with Savio Vega, Yokozuna, and a mystery partner in Jimmy Snuka to take on Vader, Faarooq, and the impostor versions of Razor Ramon and Diesel. After Vega and the faux Razor were eliminated, a wild brawl erupted that resulted in everybody being disqualified, a Survivor Series first.

The match also marked Yokozuna's final appearance before his passing in October 2000. Company officials had grown seriously concerned about Yokozuna's weight, as he'd gone past 600 pounds by the time of this match. Reportedly, Yoko did manage to drop 100 pounds, but it wasn't enough to satisfy the WWE office, and he was even unable to gain medical clearance from some state athletic commissions. At the time of his death, Yokozuna was said to have weighed 580 pounds.

2. It's Time?


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Fans of the time will remember that the December 1996 In Your House was sub-titled "It's Time". Sounds for all the world like part of Vader's catchphrase, does it not? As in, "It's time, it's time, it's Vader time," right? Yet, Vader was nowhere to be seen that night in West Palm Beach. What gives?

Vader was supposed to go into that show as WWE Champion, having defeated Shawn Michaels at the 1996 Survivor Series instead of Sid. Due to Michaels' displeasure with working with the brawny, hard-striking Vader, the program was changed so that Sid got the match (and the belt) instead. Either way, Michaels was regaining it from whichever of the heavyweights he faced at the 1997 Royal Rumble in his native San Antonio. But the original plans were for Vader to be that beast, the one one who felled him at Survivor Series in MSG.

1. Heart Broken


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The match between Michaels and Sid was arguably the greatest of Sid's career, which can be chalked up to another expert carry-job by Michaels. But more noticeable than a well-put-together David vs. Goliath story was the fact that the Garden fans showed open disdain for David. The squeaky-clean, smiling do-gooder version of Michaels lacked edge, and the New York fans openly cheered for Sid to crush him.

While Michaels would later note the difficulty of working as a "white meat babyface," he admitted that the reaction that night really got to him. Michaels wrote that he feared he was no longer the go-to guy at the top of the card (due to Vince viewing the Garden crowd as a fair barometer of fan sentiment), and added that he "went out and got wasted" that night in response to his anger and insecurity. While the likes of John Cena and Roman Reigns take passive "you can cheer, you can boo" stances with the crowd (largely due to WWE's unassailable status, with no real competition), Michaels had more pressure on him to come through. And as he admitted, he didn't handle that response well.

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Justin Henry

Written by Justin Henry

In addition to writing lists and commentaries for Cultaholic, Justin is also a features writer and interviewer for Fighting Spirit Magazine, and is co-author of the WWE-related book Titan Screwed: Lost Smiles, Stunners, and Screwjobs.