By Matt Hirsch
World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) brought their Thanksgiving week tradition, Survivor Series, to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Nov. 21.
Since 1987, WWE has kicked off the holiday season with the pay-per-view event. As part of the “big four” (WWE’s four biggest pay-per-views of the year, alongside Wrestlemania, the Royal Rumble, and Summer Slam), some of the most memorable moments in professional wrestling history happened at Survivor Series.
Traditionally, Survivor Series pits WWE’s two brands, Raw and Smackdown, against each other in a battle for bragging rights. About 15,000 fans packed into Barclays this year to witness long-time rivals Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair, the Raw and Smackdown Women’s Champions, go head to head.
Three years ago, at Summer Slam 2018, Flair won the Smackdown Women’s title in a triple-threat match against Lynch and Carmella in the very same building. Lynch jumped Flair after the match and sent her career to the stratosphere with that beat down. Three years later, they’re two of the most important women in the company’s history. In what can only be called poetic justice, Lynch pinned Flair this time, staking her claim as the top woman in the company.
Survivor Series is known for its five-on-five elimination matches, pitting teams from the two brands against each other. This year, Raw cleaned house, winning both the men’s and women’s matches. Former champion Bianca Belair distinguished herself as Raw’s MVP, knocking off three of Smackdown’s competitors in the women’s match.
The main event saw Universal Champion Roman Reigns defeat WWE Champion Big E is arguably the best match of the evening. The two have been chomping at the bit, building up to this collision for months. And though Reigns came out on top, E gave him the hardest fight he’s had to endure during his reign as champion so far.
Survivor Series has produced iconic moments in pro wrestling. The most infamous of which happened in Montreal, Canada at Survivor Series 1997, known as the “Montreal Screwjob.” That night’s main event was a title match between then-champion, Bret “The Hitman” Hart, and challenger, “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels – two all-time greats in the business. The pair notoriously hated each other. Hart was set to leave WWE, then known as the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), for World Championship Wrestling (WCW), the biggest competition the company had ever seen.
When deciding the match’s outcome, Hart refused to lose the title to Michaels, but owner Vince McMahon had other plans. He infamously ordered the match’s referee to say Hart tapped out after Michaels put him in his own finishing hold, the Sharpshooter, even though he never submitted. Beating a wrestler with their own signature move is one of the most disrespectful things you can do in pro-wrestling, regardless of the circumstances. If you go back and watch the match, you can see Hart spit on McMahon after the bell rings. The Montreal Screwjob might be the only time in WWE’s history where real-life dirty laundry was aired out in front of a live audience, and certainly, the most significant.
Survivor Series 2021 was the fourth time the pay-per-view was held in New York City, but the first time in Brooklyn. Survivor Series ‘96, ‘02, and ‘11 all happened at Madison Square Garden. Though the Barclays Center might not be as significant to the industry as MSG, it played the perfect home for the memorable moments that only the squared circle can provide.