The WWE Championship (technically still the WWF Championship since the name modification had not happened yet) was not defended at a Survivor Series pay-per-view until 1991, with traditional tag team matches dominating the content. The singles match category at Survivor Series is somewhat of a special spot – whether it be a dark match or a title bout, viewers get accustomed to watching a four-on-four showcase for the majority of the event – which requires a little more patience and attention to all eight (or more) competitors that could be involved in the match. With a one-on-one match, not only could it be faster paced or be more technical, there could also be room for little detail, with all the attention focused on two men.

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Survivor Series was not exactly a fans only evening of matches – Thanksgiving is a time where families rejoice and give thanks, and with the exception of WrestleMania, there is no other event that accommodates every member of the family. However some of the most notorious and shocking WWE Championship matches took place at this pay-per-view. Here are five instants where the heels made their mark by coming out of Survivor Series with a load of heat, and left fans that watched their heroes endure unhappy endings.

takerHulk Hogan vs. The Undertaker (Survivor Series 1991)

Debuting on “The Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase’s team the year before as a mystery partner who almost killed Dusty Rhodes, The Undertaker was a demonic force that had not yet been seen in the business. Sure, there were creepy characters but nothing like “The Deadman;” a wrestler who would stuff his opponents in body bags and scare the living hell out of the younger audiences who were graced with his presence in the flesh with an equally as scary manager in Paul Bearer.

Hulk Hogan was the face of wrestling during that era, and there was a notion that this would be his toughest test yet – a man who resembles his size but not his physique, powerful and durable who was hard to wear down.

Although Hogan lost to The Ultimate Warrior the year before at WrestleMania 6, that moment did not exactly kill “Hulkamania.” With the help of Ric Flair who interfered by putting a chair under Taker’s Tombstone he delivered to the “Hulkster,” that could have been the end of the craze. Had Hogan not won six days later at “This Tuesday In Texas” and showed what kind of power he had, it seemed like it was the end of “Hulkamania” as we knew it – with Hogan lying on the mat having his title taken away from him.

Bret Hart vs. Bob Backlund (Submission Match, Survivor Series 1994)

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With Bret Hart’s parents Stu and Helen at ringside, they were forced to endure a sibling rivalry between Bret and their youngest son, Owen Hart after the two were at each other’s throats for almost the whole year.

After Bret successfully defended the title against Owen in a cage match at SummerSlam earlier that year, an unlikely contender who was a champion ten years earlier emerged as the athlete who was going to trouble “The Hitman.”

Bob Backlund had Owen in his corner, and he had been an unlikely threat to Bret’s title, in this case being the older horse that successfully surpassed the younger one. The WWE eighties legend turned heel during his feud with Hart, snapping and attacking Hart after their match on WWE Superstars a few months prior.

In a long match that game at the midway point of the 1994 pay-per-view, Backlund had Bret in the Crossface Chicken Wing for nearly ten minutes, courtesy of Owen’s interference at ringside – making Backlund champion once again at age 45. This moment was a sad one, with one of the most popular and beloved faces of the nineties unfairly losing to the American after Helen had no choice but to throw in the towel and end her son’s pain.

Shawn Michaels vs. Sycho Sid (Survivor Series 1996)

sideShawn Michaels was on a dream streak in 1996, beating Bret Hart at WrestleMania 12 in the classic “Iron Man Match” and mesmerizing crowds before him with his constantly great matches. Another underrated match that could go down as one of the best singles competitions in Survivor Series history featured “The Showstopper” take on his former friend and bodyguard, Sid.

Michaels had a niche for looking outstanding against larger men, with Vader, Scott Hall, Mick Foley and The Undertaker coming to mind. It was much of the same story against Sid, whom he surprisingly had great chemistry with.

Sid has hit Michaels’ mentor, Jose Lothario with a camera when the trainer interfered on the apron, and then hit Michaels with the same weapon on the outside while he was attending to his friend. Similar to the possible death of “Hulkamania,” Michaels was beat by Sid and that momentarily ended his run as a champion.

“The Heartbreak Kid” suffered defeat to the physical specimen, and because of Sid’s actions, it made him one of the most devastating heels that some fans feared, and some loved for his natural attitude and longevity as a well-known competitor.

Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels (Survivor Series 1997)

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“The Montreal Screwjob” will forever be known as the most notorious and dramatic moment in wrestling history. No matter how the outside world perceived wrestling, this was at real as it gets.

With Bret’s reluctance to drop the title to Michaels in front of his Canadian crowd before he jumped ship to WCW amidst the North American territorial war of 1997, the main event was supposed to end in a disqualification. Vince McMahon took the reigns with fellow compatriots involved including referee Earl Hebner, Triple H and Shawn Michaels (amongst countless others rumored to be in on the job), and screwed Hart by forcing Hebner to call for the bell once Michaels slapped on “The Sharpshooter,” Hart’s finishing maneuver.

Although there are conspiracies as to who knew about this plan and if it was a work (which is highly doubtful because of the weight of the situation and Hart’s bitterness about this episode for years to come), it cemented McMahon as the evil boss, who simultaneously created the “Attitude Era” based on that fateful night in Montreal. For Michaels, it launched D-Generation X into new heights alongside Triple H, Chyna and Rick Rude – being the most heinous bad boy you could think of up to that moment in professional wrestling (besides Hogan’s heel turn in WCW to form the New World Order). 

the rockThe Rock vs. Mankind (No Disqualification, Survivor Series 1998)

With the events of the previous year still fresh in our minds, McMahon inserted himself yet again in the main event – this time screwing over Mankind in the final of the “Deadly Games” tournament that crowned a new WWE Champion.

The Rock, who beat Mankind up to a bloody pulp before he was caught in Foley’s “Mandible Claw,” shoving Mr. Socko down his throat, won the vacant title. With Vince and his son Shane at ringside, they instructed officials to ring the bell after The Rock put Mankind in a sharpshooter. It was a moment that many fans enjoyed; yet it sickened others that the owner of the company poked fun at the surreal 1997-horror story. Vince turned on Mankind, who he was pretending to support leading up to the bout.

It made it impossible for “The Great One” to be either fully hated or loved, and this marked the beginning of his growth the most popular professional wrestler alive from that moment on. He aligned himself with McMahon that night, turning himself heel in a move that was eerily similar to the actions of the year before – with Earl Hebner serving as the referee once again.

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