The team based elimination matches have been a staple of the Survivor Series event since its inception in 1987. Used as a way to showcase as many talents as possible and continue individual feuds, the Survivor Series became an instant hit and a fun event I the WWE’s line up.
Part of the fun of the earlier events is that you would see talents paired with each other that you wouldn’t normally see. This novelty is somewhat lost nowadays since we see everybody every week on Raw and all the pairings get cycled through. But in the old days, in an age of mostly squash matches, something as simple as The Ultimate Warrior teaming up with The Rockers was something that seemed really cool. But over the course of the event’s history, there have been several interesting teams put on display.
So because countdown lists are fun, I will go ahead and highlight my personal favorite Survivor Series teams. I want to make it clear that the match quality itself is not a factor in this list. I am only judging this based on how cool I thought the particular teams were.
10) Team Lesnar (Team Captain Brock Lesnar, The Big Show, A-Train, Matt Morgan, and Nathan Jones) (2003)
This particular team making the list is based entirely off of the novelty rather than the talent on display. Nathan Jones may have worked fine in moves like Mad Max: Fury Road, but he wasn’t exactly cut out for pro wrestling. Matt Morgan was extremely green at this stage of his career. And I could sit here all day and talk about Big Show and A-Train’s shortcomings. However, the real appeal of this five man team was the sheer size of all the men. John Cena jokingly referred to them as Team Sasquatch, but that isn’t too far off. They were impressive to look at and to have Lesnar backed up by these giants and monsters made for a believably imposing five man team. It was just a bunch of powerhouses and gargantuan beasts. Of course come Survivor Series time, they were all tossed around by the babyfaces on Team Angle and defeated soundly, but the idea was cool before then.
9) The Wild Card Teams (1995)
Wildcard Team 1 (Shawn Michaels, Ahmed Johnson, Psycho Sid, and Davey Boy Smith)
Wildcard Team 2 (Razor Ramon, Dean Douglas, Yokozuna, and Owen Hart)
Right off the bat, I am cheating a little bit. The appeal of these teams was in the concept behind the match. For the years before and after this, we always see teams made up entirely of heels and entirely of babyfaces. To mix and match the two in a situation where none of the team members had any say on who they’d be paired with was a neat idea. It created some interesting scenarios too like rivals having to work together, Jim Cornette managing men on both teams, and instances of betrayal and professional jealousy getting in the way. I wouldn’t mind if the Wildcard concept came back at some point because it could generate some interesting scenarios.
8) The All-Americans (Team Captain Lex Luger, The Undertaker, Scott Steiner, and Rick Steiner) (1993)
The original quartet had Luger, Tatanka, and The Steiners all on the babyface team. They might as well have called themselves Team Whitemeat Yankee Doodle Dandy. However, the loss of Tatanka forced a substitution and the addition of the Undertaker changed the dynamic of the team. It took a team of goody tooshoo, flag waving babyfaces, and made them more diverse. It was like the Justice League starting off with Superman, Green Lantern, and The Flash, and then adding Batman to the mix. The visual of The Undertaker working along side such bright and colorful characters just made it more visually interesting. It also led to a great payoff in the match where Undertaker was sort of treated like the last resort secret weapon to unleash on the powerful Yokozuna. It is amazing how one substitution instantly made a team and a match more interesting.
7) Team Austin (Team Captain Shawn Michaels, Booker T, Rob Van Dam, Bubba Ray Dudley, and D-Von Dudley) (2003)
In the battle to control Monday Night Raw, Eric Bischoff and Steve Austin selected their own Survivor Series teams to determine the GM of Raw. Wouldn’t it be great if the NFL could settle power disputes like that? Haha. Austin’s team was particularly interesting because it was such a diverse mix and match of personalities. By November 2003, we were almost 3 years removed from the days of the Big 3 companies. The idea of having Shawn Michaels teaming with WCW star Booker T and ECW icons like Rob Van Dam and The Dudley Boys seemed impossible, but we got it here. And aside from their individual histories, just the idea of mixing such different styles and characters together made it cool on paper.
6) Team Smackdown (Team Captain Batista, Randy Orton, JBL, Rey Mysterio, and Lashley) (2005)
In the Raw Vs. Smackdown Survivor Series match, the Smackdown team was represented by the biggest stars on the brand. The current World Champion Batista, the iconic Rey Mysterio, their brand’s longest reigning champion JBL, the thoroughbred Randy Orton, and hot newcomer Lashley. The past, future, and present of the brand were well represented in this five-some. The Raw team didn’t quire fare as well as it was basically just Shawn Michaels and a bunch of Raw midcarders. The Smackdown team was a much better representation of the brand as a whole. Sure Eddie Guerrero had passed away and they lost him, and Undertaker didn’t participate, but I felt like the identity of 2005’s Smackdown brand was captured with this team.
5) The Teamsters (Team Captain Shawn Michaels, Diesel, Owen Hart, Jeff Jarrett, and Jim Neidhart) (1994)
I always liked this team, mainly because it was like they took all their egotistical jerk heels and their muscles, and combined them all under one banner. Shawn, Owen, and Jeff were all selfish, self serving, and chicken heels, and you had the bodyguard Diesel and Jim Neidhart to provide the power. Most of the coolest Survivor Series teams were made up of babyfaces, but to have this gang of jerk heels all working together made for a lot of fun. I had severe misgivings with how the match itself ended, but these guys interacting with each other and being themselves made for some fun. Also, this served as stage that would lead to Michaels and Diesel’s partnership being dissolved, so it served for key storyline development as well.
4) The Hart Family (Team Captain Bret Hart, Owen Hart, Keith Hart, and Bruce Hart) (1993)
In my youth, I was obviously familiar with Bret Hart and his brother Owen, but this match served as a nice way to bring the younger fans up to speed on the history of the Hart Family and revealed how many of the brothers were trained wrestlers. With Stu as their trainer, the four boys came together to, uh, do battle with Shawn Michaels leading Jerry Lawler’s masked knights. Yeah, things got awkward, but to get a taste of how big the Hart Family tree was proved to be a fun concept and made for a unique Survivor Series team. It also led to Owen’s character development that would lead to him turning against Bret and also giving him the best years of his career.
3) Team DX (Team Captains HHH and Shawn Michaels, Jeff Hardy, Matt Hardy, and CM Punk) (2006)
As I said, most of the Survivor Series teams since the turn of the century have not been very memorable, mainly because of TV over saturation. So for them to be able to put this awesome team together in 2006 was remarkable to say the least. Basically what you had here were the cool, young acts of different eras. From the early Attitude Era, you had DX, from the early 2000s, you had the Hardys, and in the mid 2000s, you had guys like CM Punk. They were all acts that revolutionized the business in one way or another and to have the personalities and talents all grouped together in one match was amazing.
2) The Hulkamaniacs (Team Captain Hulk Hogan, Jake Roberts, Ax, and Smash) (1989)
Most of Hulk Hogan’s Survivor Series teams were comprised of dopey goofballs like Tugboat and Hillbilly Jim. I don’t know what happened in 1989, but putting the All American Good Guy Hulk Hogan on the same team with Jake the Snake and the killer team of Demolition was just awesome. It looked great on paper and was infinitely more interesting than any of the other Survivor Series teams Hogan was a part of. Also interesting is that Hogan and Jake almost never interacted with each other, which made this team all the more fascinating. It was this team that really expanded my interesting in creating interesting team ups for the Survivor Series. My imagination expanded and it made the event more interesting as a whole.
1) The Warriors (Team Captain The Ultimate Warrior, Kerry Von Erich, Hawk, and Animal) (1990)
Aside from the obvious aspect of all four team members sharing the name Warrior (Ultimate Warrior, The Road Warriors, and in his pre-WWF days, Kerry was known as The Modern Day Warrior) this was an instantly impressive and fascinating team. It helps having 3 of the 4 members of the team being face painting psychopaths, but there was just so much color and excitement to this team that it was just instant magic. Much like the 89 Hulkamaniacs, this was one of the teams that really captured my imagination and got me to thinking about what other cool teams this event could create.
Those are my picks and there are plenty of other good teams I left off. The Survivor Series isn’t quite as celebrated as Royal Rumble or Summerslam, but when you get 4 and 5 man teams like this, it is fair to say that the event has provided its fair share of good memories.