For over 30 years, teams of five (or sometimes four) have strived to survive as part of WWE’s Survivor Series.
One of the original big four pay-per-views, the event has seen some of the most historic moments in company history play out: from the Montreal Screwjob to the debut of the Undertaker. The biggest and best stars have taken part in the iconic traditional elimination matches that give the show its name, but getting enough of those prominent athletes to fill out a Survivor Series card has sometimes proven difficult.
A team may feature Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage in their Mega Powers pomp, but in order to fill out a team, Hillbilly Jim and Koko B. Ware headlined a pay-per-view. Even if you make one blockbuster team, such as CM Punk, Triple H, Shawn Michaels and the Hardyz in 2006, you still need another five wrestlers on the other side of the ring, meaning a Mike Knox may provide them with opposition.
Whether filling in for an injured star, reappearing after years in the wilderness, or making their only pay-per-view appearance, the Survivor Series has often featured wrestlers who couldn’t quite cut it for SummerSlam or WrestleMania. Who were these eyebrow-raising performers, and why was it so random for them to appear on a Survivor Series team?
10. Scott Casey (Survivor Series 1988)
The 1988 Survivor Series was plagued by changes to the card as several long standing WWF stars departed the company in the month before the Thanksgiving spectacular. This led to several surprising additions to the show, but the most random appearance of all was Scott Casey, who featured as a replacement of a replacement.
Junkyard Dog had originally been part of Jake Roberts’ team, but was fired after a tour of Europe. B. Brian Blair of the Killer Bees was drafted instead, though became unhappy with his future plans and quit. Needing to complete the team, the WWF looked downwards into the barrel.
Casey had wrestled for 18 years by this point across the territories, but in the WWF his usual role was losing to the Red Rooster. For his only pay-per-view appearance, he shared the ring with icons of the business such as Jake Roberts, Andre the Giant, and Mr. Perfect. He didn’t exactly fit in with this parade of Hall of Famers.
Casey seemed a certainty for the first elimination, but a more established star in Ken Patera took that accolade after falling prey to Rick Rude’s Rude Awakening neck breaker. Casey, however, only lasted another minute before taking a side suplex from Dino Bravo and heading back to municipal auditoriums, remaining far away from another pay-per-view match.
9. WALTER (Survivor Series 2019)
The star of NXT UK and chief chopper of chests, WALTER has put on some of the best matches in recent memory. But as of this writing, his only appearance on a main brand WWE pay-per-view was at the 2019 Survivor Series, when he was part of the men’s NXT Team.
The plane ride that wasn’t following Crown Jewel 2019 led to NXT being added to the battle for brand supremacy. Top stars Tommaso Ciampa and Matt Riddle were drafted, but fans were most excited about WALTER flying over from the NXT UK brand.
In the past, Survivor Series matches had been used to build up new stars, allowing an opportunity for a rising talent to take out multiple opponents at once on the big stage. The Undertaker, Diesel and Roman Reigns were amongst the list of future world champions who had run through teams on their way to the top. With the likes of Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens and Reigns himself in the match, the opportunity to establish WALTER as a huge threat to the top of the card looked perfectly set.
Instead, though, Drew McIntyre nailed WALTER with a Claymore kick within three minutes and he was gone.
8. Maven (Survivor Series 2004)
The first Tough Enough winner, Maven had started his WWE career well in early 2002 when he shockingly eliminated The Undertaker from the Royal Rumble, but he did little of note over the next two years. Then, suddenly, in the autumn of 2004, he reemerged on the RAW brand and even made it to the main event of the Survivor Series.
Joining former World champions Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit and Randy Orton, Maven took on the heavyweight foursome of Triple H, Batista, Edge, and the less revered Snitsky. The winning team would run RAW for the following month, with each member of the team taking a week in charge.
At the Survivor Series itself, Maven was nearly robbed of his first pay-per-view appearance since Royal Rumble 2003 when Snitsky attacked him backstage early in the show. He did not appear for the beginning of the elimination match, seeming to indicate that WWE had decided he did not in fact belong in such esteemed company.
Maven would appear shortly after Benoit was eliminated, suggesting he had a big role to play in the story. Within minutes, however, Snitsky laid him out again, earning the monster a disqualification and leaving Maven easy prey for Triple H to eliminate him. Less than a year later, Maven was gone from WWE for good.
7. Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine (Survivor Series 1993)
Any pay-per-view match that featured mustachioed Hart brother Keith is random enough on its own, but the Hart Family’s match at Survivor Series 1993 ended up having an even more unusual participant. Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine had worked the first four Survivor Series as a key part of the ’80s boom. A multi-time champion, he still had enough name value to boost a team in the bleak early days of the New Generation.
Yet, he did not return as ‘the Hammer’, but under a mask as the Blue Knight. Bret Hart and Jerry Lawler’s excellent feud was set to culminate at the Survivor Series with the Hart Family taking on Lawler and three masked knights. The original plan had called for the knights to be performers well known to the audience, and after each elimination they were to have been unmasked by the Harts.
However, plans changed. After Lawler himself was absent due to legal troubles, Terry Funk’s horse got sick and he pulled out of the show. As a result, the lesser-known Barry Horowitz and Jeff Gaylord donned the hoods, and the unmasking was dropped. Valentine still worked, lasting more than twenty minutes before he submitted to Owen Hart’s Sharpshooter. His professionalism earned him one more pay-per-view payday at Royal Rumble ’94, this time as ‘The Hammer’.
6. Los Conquistadores (Survivor Series 1988)
A 20-man, 10 tag team Survivor Series match had stolen the show at the first event, and the trick was repeated the next year. Legendary tandems such as Demolition, the British Bulldogs and the Hart Foundation returned, with new arrivals the Rockers and the Brain Busters increasing the level of talent. Then there were Los Conquistadores.
Decked from head to toe in gold, the pair fleshed out the numbers on house shows, providing big bumps for more pushed teams. They seemed to be in the match to provide the big new team of the Powers of Pain an early kill to set them up as Demolition’s next challengers.
Yet more random than their inclusion in the match was the fact they made it to the end. They did very little during the match itself, only briefly getting involved as the likes of Bret Hart, Arn Anderson and Shawn Michaels did the heavy lifting. But the match came down to Los Conquistadors and Demolition against the Powers of Pain. In the memorable moments that followed, Demolition were counted out after their manager, Mr. Fuji, turned on them in favour of the Powers. Left alone with the newly heel monsters, The Barbarian quickly decimated Uno. The original Los Conquistadors never came close to pay-per-view again.
5. Nathan Jones (Survivor Series 2003)
Nathan Jones was everything you expect from a WWE star: tall, bald, and chiseled out of Australian rock. Programmed high up the card when he debuted in 2003, he was to be The Undertaker’s partner at WrestleMania XIX against Big Show and A-Train. He wouldn’t wrestle, however, being taken out on Sunday Night Heat by his opponents. Jones reappeared at the end of the handicap bout to lay in some kicks, but shortly after was sent to Ohio Valley Wrestling to hone his act.
In the run-up to the 2003 Survivor Series, Jones reappeared on television, aligned with Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman. Jones was included on Team Lesnar to tackle Team Angle in SmackDown’s top match of the event.
Jones lasted nine minutes and was the fifth elimination, tapping out to Kurt Angle. He did little of note in the match, not managing to eliminate anyone himself. A few weeks later while WWE was on tour in his native Australia, Jones quit the company and only wrestled a handful of matches elsewhere afterwards. Survivor Series 2003 was his only official match on pay-per-view, as someone who seemed set to be a huge star in the WWE machine fizzled out quickly.
4. Boris Zhukov (Survivor Series 1990)
Boris Zhukov had first found success as Private Jim Nelson, part of Sgt. Slaughter’s gang in Mid-Atlantic. A few years later, he shaved his head and became Russian, joining the WWF in 1987 and forming the Bolsheviks with Nikolai Volkoff. The pair were never upper-level challengers, but did participate in the excellent tag team matches at the first two Survivor Series. Their final pay-per-view appearance was a 19 second loss to the Hart Foundation at WrestleMania VI.
Breaking up shortly after, Volkoff became pro-America and after a short feud Zhukov sank down to the bottom of the card. He then appeared out of nowhere in November 1990 because he was “foreign”, joining the pro-Iraq Sgt. Slaughter’s Mercenaries team.
Back on pay-per-view, Zhukov didn’t have time to make much of an impact. Forty-eight seconds in, Tito Santana hit him with the flying forearm and the Bolshevik was gone. He didn’t even have a chance to interact with former partner Volkoff, who was captaining the opposing team. It was Zhukov’s final pay-per-view – he lost a couple of matches to Tugboat before disappearing from the WWF forever. Survivor Series 1990 was literally one last moment of fame.
3. JoJo (Survivor Series 2013)
Mostly known as a ring announcer and the bearer of Bray Wyatt’s potentially demon offspring, JoJo has appeared at five Survivor Series shows. What is random is that her first appearance at the event was inside the ropes. Recruited as a cast member for the first season of Total Divas, JoJo debuted on TV aged only nineteen in the summer of 2013. To introduce the new show, the Women’s Division was split in two: the women who would appear on the reality show and the ‘True Divas’, who were wrestlers, not reality show stars.
JoJo didn’t make her in-ring debut until October as part of a six-woman tag on RAW, and her next bout would be as part of a 14-woman elimination match at the Survivor Series where the Total Divas would face the True Divas. With only one TV match to her name and Natalya and the Bella Twins leading her team, JoJo was not expected to do much.
Indeed, Natalya and Nikki Bella won the match, but JoJo made it deep into the contest, before being pinned by Divas champion AJ Lee. JoJo would feature in a rematch the following night before venturing to NXT where she was quickly converted into the ring announcer role that she fulfilled at future Survivor Series shows.
2. Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka (Survivor Series 1996)
The 1996 Survivor Series is notable for the debut of a certain Rocky Maivia, as well as Stone Cold Steve Austin having his coming out party against Bret Hart. The WWF was transitioning out of the New Generation and towards the Attitude Era, as a group of young, hungry stars were beginning to get the spotlight and develop a new style. Which makes the appearance of a 53-year-old Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka on the show an odd one.
Presenting itself as the young and dynamic counterpoint to the more aged headliners on the competing WCW shows, the company moved away from its past. 1996’s Hall of Fame ceremony would be the last until 2004, Snuka was among the class, however, and was added to the Survivor Series team of Savio Vega, Yokozuna, and a debuting Flash Funk.
Back in his old stomping grounds of Madison Square Garden, where he had been a huge star ten years earlier, Snuka even managed an elimination as he leapt off the top rope to hit his patented Superfly Splash on the fake Razor Ramon. Seconds later, everyone remaining was disqualified as time ran out on the show, meaning Snuka had lasted the entirety of the contest. Even more randomly, his last pay-per-view match came another thirteen years later at WrestleMania 25.
1. Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan (Survivor Series 1989)
During the late 1980s, The Heenan Family was the premier faction in the WWF. Led by Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan, they were set to headline the Survivor Series against a team led by the Ultimate Warrior: Andre the Giant, Haku, Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard were set to represent ‘The Brain’ that Thanksgiving night. Things didn’t work out that way, given the unusual situation of a manager taking part in the main event of a pay-per-view.
After the match had been announced, Anderson and Blanchard gave their notice to return to the NWA and Blanchard was quickly suspended for the rest of his contract. With no other members of the Heenan Family available, Heenan was forced to participate instead.
Making history as the first manager to headline a WWF pay-per-view, Heenan even lasted to the end of the match. Tagging himself into the match when his opponents were down, Heenan quickly tagged out before he could be hurt, even pinning a beaten-down Marty Jannetty. In the end, a miscommunication between ‘The Brain’ and Anderson led to Anderson being eliminated, leaving Heenan alone to be brutally defeated. It was the last time Heenan wrestled on pay-per-view, soon settling into the commentary role that he fulfilled on three future Survivor Series events.
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