Where to begin? Well, it's not like everything was bad (the men's Survivor matches were agreeable, and Chris Jericho vs. John Cena was pretty decent), but the badness was especially putrid. The women's elimination match felt thoroughly primitive, far below the higher standard of today. Undertaker and Big Show gave us an inspired bout at No Mercy the previous month but, for reasons we'll explain, couldn't do the same here. And the Triple H/Vladimir Kozlov-third man WWE Title match...well, is there an antonym for "Gargano vs. Ciampa"?
The WWE title match was especially rough not only for Kozlov's slow, bare-bones performance, but the exclusion of Jeff Hardy, due to a storyline that many would find exploitative and tasteless. That sort of controversy overshadowed John Cena's return from an injury layoff and went a long way in cementing this event's legacy.
10. A Surprising First
The 10-woman elimination match that pitted Raw's finest against SmackDown's best possible quintet was a fairly-rushed affair (more on that in a moment), culminating with Raw's Beth Phoenix putting away Maryse with the Glam Slam. Beth was generally booked to look innately powerful (especially next to bumbling sidekick/love interest Santino Marella), so her standing tall alone is hardly a shock. But what is a bit surprising is the history that was made.
Though it was only the third all-women's Survivor match in history to that point, Beth Phoenix became the first non-Japanese-born woman to survive at the event. Previously, Noriyo Tateno and Itsuki Yamazaki of The Jumping Bomb Angels survived at the 1987 event, while Aja Kong polished of Alundra Blayze in 1995. The only other previous example of a woman wrestling in a Survivor match was Chyna, who jostled with her male counterparts in a bout at the 2000 event.
9. Sense Of Urgency
Usually when you see nine pinfalls and submissions in under 10 minutes, you're watching the WrestleMania XX Cruiserweight open, or you're playing Slobberknocker Mode on one of the old SmackDown video games. To see it happen at Survivor Series 2008 in the women's match was a bit disconcerting, as talented women such as Beth Phoenix, Mickie James, and Natalya could've piloted a longer match.
Nonetheless, the match set a record for shortest 10-person Survivor match in history, a record that stands to this day. In all, the match went just 9:39, which also makes it the only sub-10-minute elimination match with 10 or more participants. Previously, the Team DX vs. Team Rated RKO match from 2006 was the shortest 10-person ever, going a brisk 11:30. But that only had five eliminations, as opposed to the women's nine.
8. Ravaged Reaper
Their standard singles match at No Mercy was startlingly great. Their last man standing match at Cyber Sunday seemed enjoyable enough. But the rubber match between Big Show and The Undertaker, a casket match at Survivor Series, was many degrees off the goodness of the previous examples, especially the No Mercy battle. Though to be fair, Undertaker was a bit compromised.
According to The Wrestling Observer, Undertaker was dealing with serious knee and back issues at the time, which explain the heavy amount of slowness and stalling at points. The Observer also noted that Undertaker was set to work through WrestleMania XXV, though his working schedule would become much more infrequent through the early winter, including just a mere handful of matches in the run-up to the Rumble.
7. Go To Sleep (No, Really)
It always seems like such a waste to have a Survivor match begin with some sort of flash elimination, usually due to time constraints. Of course, I'm the type that loved those 30-minute-plus 20-man matches from 1987-88, so my standards can be extreme. At the 2008 show, William Regal was the victim of an early exit from one 10-man, jobbing out to CM Punk's GTS in 11 seconds.
This quick elimination was actually necessary. Regal had apparently taken ill during the company's recent European tour, and it was decided to get him out of the match as fast as possible so as to not exhaust him further. Regal (then the IC Champion) would actually miss more than a month of action, and used the time to scout upcoming opponent Punk from afar, per the angle.
6. King Of Survival
That elimination match would conclude with Randy Orton and Cody Rhodes as the remnants of the heel squad, finishing off Orton's former Evolution teammate Batista in the end. Though it was Rhodes' first time surviving, this was hardly new terrain for Orton, who had built part of his career profile on his effectiveness in Survivor Series elimination bouts.
On that night, Orton became the first man in WWE history to survive at four different Survivor Series events, having previously done so in 2003, 2004, and 2005. Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior each had four survivals to their respective credits, though each man survived twice at the 1990 show, due to the special Grand Finale match that was tacked on at night's end. Orton doing it at four different shows set a new mark.
5. It's A Family Thing
But Rhodes would make history of a different sort as a result of that match. The future American Nightmare was one of many second and third-generation wrestlers that seemed to pop up in this time frame, and certainly he was one of the best at carving out his own niche as a wrestling star. But he's forever proudly tied to his father, Dusty Rhodes.
And like father, like son - Cody became the first child of a previous Survivor Series survivor (Dusty in 1989) to survive at the event themselves. It's only happened three times since for other wrestlers: Goldust on the 2015 pre-show, Jey Uso on the 2015 main card (Rikishi survived as Fatu in 1995), and Charlotte in 2016 (Ric Flair survived in 1991 and 2006).
4. Premiering Power
We noted earlier that the Triple H/Vladimir Kozlov one-on-one portion of the WWE Championship match left much to be desired. The bout seemed to be a kiss of death for the imposing Kozlov, who didn't seem to recover after his resthold-filled performance. That's kind of a shame, because his sort of frightening scowl is something that can't be taught at the Performance Center.
Kozlov's performance in the match was notable for him getting a WWE Championship match in his first pay-per-view bout with the company. It's happened before, but it's an extremely rare occurrence. In fact, the last time that it had happened was in September 1997, when Del "The Patriot" Wilkes challenged for Bret Hart's WWE title at Ground Zero. The Patriot vs. Vladimir Kozlov - now *there's* a ready-made feud.
3. Distrust, But Verify
Jeff Hardy was originally set to take part in the WWE Championship match as a triple threat, but would be written out earlier that day with a rather troubling explanation. WWE.com reported through a serious-sounding news story that Hardy had been found unconscious on a hotel stairwell, which, given Hardy's history, had grave overtones. Of course, when Lilian Garcia announces to the crowd pre-show which news outlets reported on the story, it merely reeked of pride for mainstream attention.
It was TMZ that did their due diligence, contacting various Boston-area hospitals to verify the story, only to be told by each that Hardy had not been admitted into their auspices. The work was exposed quickly enough, but it did seem pretty tasteless for WWE to announce which media outlets covered their real-sounding story, especially since it paralleled many actual real-life wrestler deaths.
2. Hope He's Not The Fact-Checker
Two Survivor Series' ago, I had a little fun with grilling Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler for declaring that Team DX's clean sweep was the first time an entire squad survived. It wouldn't be Lawler's last time making a dubious statement at the event, though to be fair, he's probably only reciting the factoids that are pumped in through his headphones.
When John Cena knocked off Chris Jericho to become World Heavyweight Champion, Lawler declared that it was the first time both World titles (along with Edge's surprise win in the triple threat match) changed hands at Survivor Series. In fact, both belts changed hands at 2002, when Big Show won the WWE title from Brock Lesnar, and Shawn Michaels captured the World Heavyweight belt inside the Elimination Chamber. Likely, somebody feeding that line was trying to add some historical value, albeit erroneous value.
1. You're The Worst
Cena/Jericho was a decent-enough end to the show, even if Cena was still a bit wonky coming off of neck surgery. It was still good enough to be the best or second-best match of a pretty awful show, even with Cena's hindrances. And voters in the annual Wrestling Observer Newsletter awards made sure to etch the event's place in history for good.
The 2008 Survivor Series was voted as the Worst PPV of the Year by the considerable readership, "winning" out by a slight margin over TNA Sacrifice (er, Saccer-fice). The second-worst WWE show based on the voting came in ninth place overall (Cyber Sunday), so Survivor Series clearly stood out in the eyes of WWE viewers. Additionally, the HHH/Kozlov/Edge fiasco took home Worst Match of 2008, doing so in a landslide.