August 19, 2004
Graham Cawthon

WCW World Champion The Rock, Chris Jericho, The Undertaker, Kane, & the Big Show vs.
WWF World Champion Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, WWF Hardcore Champion Rob Van Dam, Booker T, & Shane McMahon
Survivor Series 01
November 18, 2001
Greensboro, NC; Greensboro Coliseum

The Buildup

1984: The World Wrestling Federation expands from a regional into a worldwide promotion after raiding other territories of talent and fans. With Hulk Hogan at the helm, the WWF becomes the biggest wrestling company in the world. Regional wrestling promotions across the land are forced to close shop due to a lack of talent and dismal attendance figures.

1988: Jim Crockett Promotions – a cornerstone of the National Wrestling Alliance – is sold to Ted Turner after many failed attempts at competing head-to-head with the WWF.

1991: The AWA, formerly one of the top three wrestling organizations in the world, closes its doors. That same year, the NWA name is officially removed from Turner’s wrestling organization, now known simply as WCW.

2001: Extreme Championship Wrestling, which had unofficially taken over the AWA’s spot during the 1990s, and WCW are shut down as a result of financial difficulties. McMahon buys WCW, hoping to benefit from its extensive video archives.

In March of 2001, wrestling history was made. For the first time perhaps ever, there was no competition in the professional wrestling world. World Class was gone. Mid-South was gone. Florida Championship Wrestling was gone. Georgia Championship Wrestling was gone. The NWA was a shell of its former self. ECW was no more. WCW had been dropped by Time-Warner executives. There was only the WWF and Vince McMahon.

While critics and historians will no doubt look back on that year as a dark day for wrestling, it did provide for good TV as McMahon brought in much of the WCW and ECW talent and pitted them against the stars of the WWF in a mock invasion. Playing off an idea previously tried by Verne Gagne, former head of the AWA, Vince devised a storyline in which his son Shane had bought WCW out from underneath him and planned to run it as a separate and competing organization, with the ultimate goal of running his father out of the wrestling business altogether. Months later, the plot thickened as it was revealed Stephanie McMahon, Vince’s daughter, had purchased ECW and all its stars.

WCW and ECW talent such as Booker T, Rob Van Dam, Tommy Dreamer, Diamond Dallas Page, Billy Kidman, Lance Storm, Mike Awesome, Chavo Guerrero Jr., Rhyno, Stacy Keibler, Torrie Wilson, Kanyon, Shane Helms, and several others played the part of the invading talent, hell-bent on taking the spotlight away from the undeserving WWF stars. After the introduction of the WCW / ECW team, WWF talent began jumping week by week to the other side, siding with the “Alliance” against Vince McMahon and ‘sports entertainment’ as a whole. Raven, Tazz, Test, Ivory, William Regal, Justin Credible, Kurt Angle, Paul Heyman, and even the WWF World Champion ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin were among those who double crossed both their peers and their employer.

So in October, Vince McMahon laid out a challenge to the other side – his son and daughter – for a ‘winner take all’ battle at the Survivor Series. Five of the top talent from the WWF and the Alliance would fight in a traditional Survivor Series elimination match to determine which organization goes and which stays. The challenge was quickly accepted.

The WWF’s team would include WCW World Champion The Rock, Chris Jericho, The Big Show, The Undertaker, & Kane. The Alliance offered WWF World Champion Steve Austin, WWF Hardcore Champion Rob Van Dam, Booker T, Kurt Angle, & WCW Owner Shane McMahon.

I don’t know if any 10 men were as well protected during this time as these, thus adding even more intrigue to the match. How often had the Rock or Austin been pinned in 2001? Or Rob Van Dam for that matter? Or would they be eliminated via disqualification or count-out instead? While the WWF team would of course eventually win in the end, would this be the end or would it be just another chapter? There were too many variables to pick a winning team or even a survivor for that matter.

The date would be November 18, 2001. The site – the Greensboro Coliseum in North Carolina. An interesting choice since Greensboro was a traditional Mid-Atlantic wrestling city, where such stars as Ric Flair, Chief Wahoo McDaniels, Paul Jones, Ricky Steamboat, Ole Anderson, Jack Brisco, and Harley Race spent many years wrestling in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. By no means was the city known for its 'sports entertainment'.

Prior to the match, we’re shown a buildup music video featuring Puddle of Mudd’s “Control”. Each member of each team is included.

The history between the 10 men had been well documented. Both teams were suffering bouts of in fighting. Vince had bragged in recent weeks about an Alliance member jumping to the WWF, thus creating paranoia within the Alliance. On the other hand, Chris Jericho and the Rock were embroiled in a heated rivalry over the WCW World Title and there was clearly no love lost between the two. Could either team work together as a collective unit and trust each other enough to win? That question was about to be answered.

The Alliance went into the match with the advantage as their members had a 4-2 edge over the WWF in the undercard matches of the night. Christian had retained his European title. William Regal had defeated Tajiri. The Dudley Boyz unified the tag team championship by beating Matt & Jeff Hardy in a cage match. And Test had won the immunity battle royal.

Shane McMahon led the way for his team, followed by Booker T, Rob Van Dam, Kurt Angle, and Stone Cold. On the opposing end, the Big Show came out first and was soon joined by Kane, the Undertaker, Chris Jericho, and the Rock.

“Jim Cornette can replace you tomorrow night, pal!” – Jim Ross during a heated exchange with Alliance color commentator Paul Heyman

The Match

Much like the famous Canadian Stampede 10-man tag, Austin and the Rock begin the match with an impromptu brawl in the middle of the ring, slugging it out for supremacy. Jericho and Rob Van Dam are soon involved in the match, with RVD receiving many cheers from the pro-WWF crowd. Kane and Angle share an exchange, with both Jim Ross and Paul Heyman recalling the match the two had weeks prior in which Angle forced a rare submission from his larger opponent.

Shane McMahon intercedes himself throughout the opening moments, breaking every cover a WWF star attempts and becoming a thorn in the side of the WWF team. Moments later, Kurt Angle takes down the Big Show with an Olympic Slam, which is followed soon thereafter by a Booker T scissors kick and Spinaroonie, a Five Star Frog Splash from RVD, and an elbow drop off the top by Shane. The combined effort is too much and Shane pins Show at 12:42 for the first elimination.

As Shane is celebrating his pinfall, he fails to notice the Rock waiting for him to turn around. And once he does, it is all but over. Kane is tagged in and hits a chokeslam on the young McMahon. Taker follows with a rare tombstone. Jericho finishes Shane off with a Lionsault at 14:31. WWF officials Tony Garea and Sgt. Slaughter help Shane to the back as the war wages on inside the ring.

During an exchange between RVD and Kane, RVD hits the Five Star Frog Splash only to receive a chokehold from his opponent as he goes for the cover. Moments later, Booker makes the save by hitting a Harlem sidekick, stunning Kane. A brawl erupts involving all the other participants and while everyone else battles around the ringside area, Rob hits a jump kick off the top to the face of the dazed Kane for the pinfall at 18:18.

Back inside the ring, the Undertaker – faced with enormous odds – easily fights off the four remaining Alliance members, hitting clotheslines on each of them as they stand in the four corners of the ring. After sending both RVD and Booker to the floor, Taker turns his attention to Angle and hits the Last Ride powerbomb. However, after noticing Booker T slide a chair into the ring and then kicking Booker square in the face, Taker falls victim to a Stunner behind the referee’s back and is pinned by Angle at 20:01. The Rock and Jericho, heated rivals, are now pitted against Austin, Angle, RVD, and Booker with a 2-4 disadvantage. The disadvantage becomes smaller moments thereafter as a reversed Irish whip sends Booker into Kurt Angle on the ring apron, allowing Booker to fall victim to a roll up from the Rock at 22:30.

The Rock is beaten down by Rob Van Dam following the elimination of Angle. Van Dam, who had scored convincing pinfalls over every other participant in this match save Shane in the weeks and months leading up to this show, was being portrayed as a top star and he was wrestling the part. After Rock makes the hot tag to Jericho, Y2J and RVD share some good exchanges until Van Dam fails a split-legged moonsault and falls victim to Jericho’s not-yet-named Breakdown for the surprise pin at 24:49.

It’s now down to Jericho and the Rock against Austin and Angle. Following RVD’s elimination, the four men pair off, with Austin and Rock briefly fighting on the floor until a catapult into the ring post knocks the WCW title holder out cold.

Back inside the ring, Jericho is the recipient of frequent tags and is beaten down by his two more rested opponents. As Paul Heyman announces that Hugo Savinovich would be replacing Jim Ross during the Alliance’s Raw the next night, Rock makes the hot tag and quickly traps Kurt Angle in the Sharpshooter. Angle, in a shocking turn of events, taps out at 31:51 without putting up a fight. Heyman and the WCW locker room are in shock.

Austin, now bleeding from the mouth, blocks Jericho’s attempt at a Lionsault but is taken down moments later by a missile dropkick. Jericho busts out a roll up after an Irish whip and gains a 2-count but Austin rolls over and eliminates Y2J at 34:29.

After arguing with referee Earl Hebner about the decision, Jericho drops Rock with the Breakdown to the dismay of the fans, Jim Ross, and the WWF locker room.

“You son of a bitch!” – Jim Ross

Jericho slowly walks up the ramp, keeping his eyes on the ring as Austin makes the cover and gains only a 2-count. Frustrated, Jericho makes his way back to the ring before the Undertaker comes out and verbally berates Y2J all the way backstage.

And now it’s down to two men. Stone Cold Steve Austin and the Rock. The same two that sold out the Houston AstroDome months earlier for WrestleMania. Two of the most popular stars to ever enter a wrestling ring. Rock had been screwed out of his WWF title at WrestleMania and wanted revenge. Austin wanted to prove his dominance as champion. But only one would walk out with the winning fall and be celebrated as the MVP of their respective team.

The two battle around ringside, Austin still bleeding from the mouth as Rock sports a visible bruise on the side of his face. Inside the ring, Austin applies the Sharpshooter as the fans chant in unison, “Rocky, Rocky”.

“Why doesn’t Hebner call for the bell?”

“Because Rock hasn’t tapped.”

“That’s never stopped him before at Survivor Series!”

- Paul Heyman and Jim Ross

After Rock reaches the ropes and the hold is broken, Austin goes to the floor and grabs his title belt. Back inside the ring, Rock avoids being hit with the weapon and locks Austin in his own version of the Sharpshooter. Moments later, Rock hits the Stunner on his opponent only for WCW referee Nick Patrick to pull Hebner out of the ring. As Rock attempts to hit the Rock Bottom on Patrick, Austin attacks from behind and hits his own Rock Bottom. Patrick goes down for the cover but Austin only gains a 2-count. Out of frustration, the WWF Champion knocks his own referee to the floor before pulling Hebner back inside the ring.

Austin attempts the Stunner on his opponent but Rocky pushes Stone Cold into Hebner, once again knocking the referee down. In the melee, Kurt Angle returns ringside and recovers Austin’s world title belt. After sliding inside the ring, Angle surprisingly slams the gold-plated belt across Austin’s face. As Stone Cold spins around from the momentum of the blow, he walks right into the Rock Bottom. The 1-2 combo was all it took and Austin was down for the count at 44:46.

The Aftermath

Paul Heyman’s jaw drops at the commentary table as the WWF locker room celebrates their victory. In the Alliance locker room, Stephanie McMahon is seen on her knees, crying over everything she and Shane had just lost. Their inheritance was gone, their company was gone, they had nothing.

After Howard Finkel gives the official announcement that the WWF was the winning team, Vince McMahon walks out on the stage, throws his jacket down and raises his arms in victory as the show fades to black.

So was Vince celebrating his scripted victory over the Alliance at the end of the Survivor Series or was it something more? Was he, rather, celebrating his many victories over the likes of Ole Anderson, Dusty Rhodes, the Von Erichs, the Crocketts, Paul Heyman, Eric Bischoff, Ted Turner, and all the others that stood in his way of wrestling domination over the years?

The invasion storyline, for many, was a disappointment for one reason or another. However, it did provide for many memorable matches and TV shows, of which this is one. Had Vince not decided to hot shot the angle and blow it off so soon, I think it easily could have been used to build up WrestleMania. But then again I’m just an armchair quarterback with a lot of student loans to pay off, what do I know?

While the Survivor Series was simply a wrestling show, it symbolized something much more. It made clear what had been fact since earlier that year, the WWF was the only game in town. The wrestling war was officially over and Vince McMahon was the winner and sole survivor.

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