Introduction - Thanksgiving Time 2003. Goldberg had won the title at Unforgiven, Stone Cold was getting provoked left, right, and center, Stunnering my most despised wrestlers, and I couldn't have been happier. But my joy would be put into jeopardy when Bischoff made Team Bischoff vs Team Austin with the stipulation being win, and you can run roughshot over Raw, or lose, and be gone. Between that, being obsessed with Team Lesnar (five big badasses is the best composition for a team ever) and wondering just what the heck would happen to the McMahons in their respective matches. November 2003 was the first time I ever got truly invested in WWE Programming, does it hold up over time? Let's find out.
Opening video package - Actual perfection. TO SURVIVE (to survive) Why they don't use that narration trope every year is beyond me. It's got the melodrama going on that I slagged Judgement Day 2007 for having, but it just works here
Team Angle (Hardcore Holly, Bradshaw, Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, John Cena) vs Team Lesnar (A-Train, Nathan Jones, Matt Morgan, Brock Lesnar, Big Show) - 6.5/10
Hardcore Holly is immediately DQed for going after Lesnar and knocking down a ref in the process. Bradshaw eliminates A-Train soon after, but gets eliminated himself by Big Show. From there, it's a big man vs little man match, where the faces have to use cunning and miscues on the heel side to score eliminations. I like how the team of misfits seems to be more in line than the team constructed by the GM. Of note, Angle is eliminated by Lesnar very unexpectedly Benoit works the arm and taps out Brock for the first time ever. The finish comes when Cena blind tags Benoit, Benoit gets chokeslammed, and Cena uses the chain to hit Big Show and hit him for their first FU for the win. This was a solid Survivor Series Elimination match that was booked to set up a lot of different potential stories
Mr.McMahon tries to recruit Shane to help him later tonight, and gets laughed at by Steve Austin - Supremely dumb, but because McMahon and Austin were the principle players, it was fantastic,
WWE Women's Championship
Molly Holly (c) vs Lita - 4.5/10
A very basic wrestling match with an AMAZING nearfall, which was proceeded immediately by a corny, transparent dirty finish
Ambulance match video package - AWESOME. Any package with wrestling footage synched to "O Fortuna" is good enough for me.
Kane vs Shane McMahon - 7.5/10
This match starts out hot, but then we get a series of super contribed events where Shane lures Kane backstage to hit him with a car so he'll fly through a security booth in the parking garage, so he can bring around another ambulance. We also lose audio and visual several times in this segment. However, when we go back to the arena, it's a hard hitting spotfest which Kane wins.
Brock Lesnar and Goldberg interact - Bad. Lesnar is a delusional heel claiming he didn't tap to Josh Matthews. Goldberg then shows up, to which we get some painfully scripted burns.
The Coach, Eric Bischoff and Mark Cuban in ring segment - A fun segment, although it's a super contrived way to get someone to knock Eric on his ass and then for that person to be RKOed by Randy.
Evolution parties with high priced escorts - I'm sure if you were a teenager in 2003 and you'd never seen the Four Horsemen, you thought Evolution were rich, arrogant, albeit cool heels. But as an adult who's seen who they're ripping off, it's actually kinda sad how much of a ripoff this is.
WWE Tag Team Championship
Los Guerreros vs The Basham Brothers (w/ Shaniqua) - 5.5/10
This is every 80s "high flying tag team vs a heel tag team with a heavy on the outside" match you've ever seen....until Shaniqua interferes and we get our requsite spanking spot for the evening. This did however, lead to a creative miscue which lead to the finish and the story of the Guerreros not communicating well.
Austin vs Bischoff video package - Stone Cold Steve Austin, a middle manager, used to be able to beat up his employees, but he can't anymore, and he's willing to risk his job to get that power back. The heels are people who have been beat up by Austin, and the babyfaces were all people who Austin vouched for in unfair rulings. They make a huge deal out of HBK being the fifth guy for Austin
Team Austin (RVD, Booker T, The Dudley Boyz, and Shawn Michaels) w/ Steve Austin vs Team Bischoff (Chris Jericho, Christian, Mark Henry, Scott Steiner, and Randy Orton) (w/ Stacy Kiebler, Theodore Long, and Eric Bischoff - 10/10
This a fairly standard survivor series match until we get down to the final three for each team. Jericho eliminates D-Von with a freakin Slingblade of all things. Bubba gets a singles flourish that is fun to watch knowing that he would get a significant singles run years later (even getting a bit of genre savvy when they tease a miscue, but the heels cheat to thwart the faces taking advantage of it) , but is eliminated. The icing on the cake really comes out when we see HBK vs Orton, Jericho, and Christian. Blood, heel thuggery, surprise eliminations, this has everything that makes a Survivor Series Elimination match exciting. Bischoff runs in once it's down to Orton and HBK, but Austin runs him off, and stuns Orton. Then Batista comes in and powerbombs Michaels so that Orton can weasel in and get the three count. I never hear anyone talk about this match but you should go watch this match immediately as it's one of the best 5-on-5 Elimination matches ever.
Post-match - Didn't like it. Austin and HBK hug it out after HBK revives, and Austin helps HBK to the back. Maybe it's because the lack of blood in modern wrestling has heightened my senses to it but holy shit get HBK one of those blood bags and a trip to the hospital. Anyway, THEN Austin comes back out to his music and gives the heartfelt retirement speech. It seems like the creative teams had two different ideas about how the post match should go, and Vince liked them both so he went with both.
Undertaker vs Vince McMahon package - Insanity. We see Undertaker fill in a hole with dirt with the camera being in the hole, and Vince reciting scripture and pretending to be religious.
Buried Alive Match
Mr.McMahon vs Undertaker - No rating, amazing segment
Vince gets literally no offense in whatsoever. He also bleeds buckets. The finish of the match comes when Taker gets blown out of the cabin of a backhoe via explosion. The owner of said explosion was Kane, who apparently can teleport, and the result of said teleporting results in a blast of fire, like The Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz. Kane punches Undertaker to death in the grave, allowing for Kane to climb out and Vince to bury the Undertaker alive. This was a wacky segment, but a segment so wacky and nonsensical that only Kane could pull off a finish like that.
Triple H vs Goldberg video package - Triple H puts a bounty on Goldberg, causing random heels to attack Goldberg. The one who does the most thorough job is Batista who collects the money. Triple H is clearly using his influence to ape Mid-Atlantic angles, and I'm here for it. The end of the package shows Batista pilmanizing Goldberg's leg and it just ends. I'm not sure if I like it. On one hand every video package in WWE shows everyone on equal footing. On the other it's Goldberg of all people left laying .
World Heavyweight Championship
Goldberg (c) vs Triple H (w/ Ric Flair) - 7.25/10
Goldberg gets a spear off right away but Goldberg gets distracted by Ric long enough that Triple H can recover. Beyond that the story is that Triple H and Ric use schenanigans to work Goldberg's hurt leg, What really helped the first half of the match was Flair getting super physical. Goldberg fights back and gets ahold of the sledgehammer and kills all of Evolution, hitting Triple H with the Spear/Jackhammer for the convincing win. Other than the distraction at the very beginning, this match exceeded all my expectations.
I've spent a lot of my fandom in wrestling convinced people slept on this PPV out of all the ones in Ruthless Aggression. And you know what? I wasn't wrong. Even though most of the match was C-Grade, it was all FUN, and had a lot of excellence sprinkled in it. This is a show I recommend highly .