RondaRousey.com’s Classic Match series takes a closer look at significant and super cool matches from wrestling history.
The Survivor Series 2014 main event—Team Cena vs. Team Authority—was everything a WWE fan could want in a traditional 5-on-5 Survivor Series elimination match. It had classic stakes (good vs. evil, the working man vs. oppressive management), surprising twists, and lots of quality wrestling. Let’s break down what just what made this match so special, starting with the build.
By the autumn of 2014, the Authority—led by Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, with Kane as their enforcer, Seth Rollins as their golden boy, J&J Security (Joey Mercury and Jamie Noble) playing extra muscle, and Randy Orton tentatively along for the ride—had been running rampant over RAW since Rollins betrayed his Shield brethren. On the October 27 episode of RAW, the powerful faction tried to recruit John Cena, with Triple H claiming that he needed to join them to be remembered. When Cena responded with a “HELL NO,” The Game declared a traditional 5-on-5 Survivor Series tag team elimination match between a team representing the Authority and one captained by Cena.
It seemed like the Authority had nothing to lose from this and everything to gain until Vince McMahon announced the next week that if his daughter and son-in-law’s team lost, they would be out of power in WWE. With the stakes raised, the teams started to come together. Seth Rollins, Kane, and Randy Orton were unsurprisingly the first three to join Team Authority, though The Viper was soon violently ejected. The scrappy Dolph Ziggler joined Team Cena, and Rusev joined the Authority after they helped him retain his U.S. Championship. Powerhouses Big Show and Mark Henry joined the good and bad guys, respectively. Jack Swagger was injured by Seth Rollins and had to drop out of Team Cena, but Ryback took his place, switching from the Authority side after Kane interfered in his match with Cena. Luke Harper joined Team Authority by attacking Dolph Ziggler and took The Showoff’s Intercontinental Championship for good measure.
By the time of the contract signing, the teams were set. It was going to be Rusev, Kane, Seth Rollins, Mark Henry, and Luke Harper (backed by Triple H, J&J Security, and Stephanie McMahon) against John Cena, Big Show, Ryback, Dolph Ziggler, and Harper’s “former Wyatt Family brethren,” Erick Rowan. But even after the contract had been signed, the stakes were raised again for the heroes: Triple H declared, trying to sow dissension in the group, that if Team Cena lost, the Authority would fire all of them except the captain himself.
At Survivor Series, after a show-opening hype video that declared “Everything is on the line!” and “The future is now!” Mr. McMahon raiseD the stakes for our villains when he
So by the time of the main event, Team Cena vs. Team Authority saw our heroes standing up for what’s right and standing up to people who had been ruining wrestler’s lives, at extremely high risk to their own livelihoods, against our villains who had nearly unlimited power and were willing to do anything to win… and had just been backed into a corner.
The match starts with one of the
We see Rollins vs. Show, speed vs. power, then a battle of giants Kane vs. Show, and then Cena comes in against the Big Red Machine. Everyone brings their A-game and the match looks pretty even. When Ryback is tagged in, we see the Authority’s game plan: When Kane breaks up a Shell Shock to Rusev with a boot, a brawl breaks out between Teams Authority and Cena, and Rollins Curb Stomps The Big Guy in the chaos. After this devastating blow, Ryback is easily pinned after a Machka Kick, and the match is 4-4.
Soon after this, Dolph Ziggler gives us a hint at the resilience that will come into play later in the match. He tags in against Harper—the man who stole his Intercontinental Championship—but is soon dominated in the Authority corner with the maximum, barely-legal amount of double-teaming and kicking on the ground. He makes a brief comeback against Rollins but is soon back in peril. But when Rusev tags in, Ziggler is able to use the Authority’s dirty tactics against them: Rusev takes Ziggler outside the ring and goes for a splash to his opponent on the announce table, but Ziggler moves out of the way. The Bulgarian U.S. Champion is counted out while Ziggler makes it back in the ring at 9. The crowd freaks out, and the match is 4-3.
After some quality wrestling by Cena and another illegal Curb Stomp by Rollins, we finally get the ex-Wyatt Family giant showdown. Harper and Rowan throw down and Rowan holds his
Now it’s Cena 3, Authority 3, but things look way worse for the good guys. Ziggler is down, hurt outside the ring and Cena struggles to recover from his last time in the ring. Big Show, functionally the team’s sole survivor at this point, enters against Harper, Kane, and Rollins. And that’s when things get really crazy.
Rather than heroically take on three opponents, Big Show strikes the injured Cena. The Authority is shocked, but not too shocked for Rollins to cover Cena for the elimination (2-3). Big Show shakes hands with the delighted Triple H and leaves the arena, eliminating himself by countout (1-3). The giant, who viewers knew had already lost his home and had to declare bankruptcy due to the Authority’s actions, gave up when the going got too tough and he thought he would lose his job.
After Show crosses the picket line, so to speak, Dolph Ziggler is the only man left standing against the Authority, and he’s lying injured outside the ring. The crowd is rowdy and invested as Kane rolls Ziggler back in the ring and into the Authority corner. Things could not look worse for the Hollywood (Florida) blond. Rollins even mockingly stretches out his weak opponent’s hand to tag a partner who isn’t there. The commentary team points out that while Ziggler has been close to the top many times in his career, he’s never quite broken through. It doesn’t look like this will be the night he does… until he hits a Zig Zag and pins Kane!
Now it’s shockingly 1-2, and while things look dark for Ziggler, that quick elimination makes them look much brighter… until Harper knocks him out with a big boot. The dejected-sounding crowd is shocked by the
Now the only person left for Ziggler to beat is the self-proclaimed future of the WWE, Seth Rollins. As they wrestle, it seems like anything could be the end of the match. Rollins is fresher and an incredible wrestler, but Ziggler refuses to quit, and he’s fighting for his and his teammates’ jobs.
After a few kickouts, Dolph hits the Zig Zag for what would have been a three-count, but Triple H pulls the ref out of the ring. J&J Security start beating up Ziggler as Stephanie yells them on. Ziggler manages to fight off security and hit another Zig Zag on Rollins for what again would have been a victory, but Triple H this time attacks the referee from behind. HHH now takes the destruction of Dolph Ziggler into his own hands. By the time he hits the Pedigree, the crowd is booing and super bummed. To add insult to injury, Triple H pulls Rollins onto Ziggler for a pin, then calls in corrupt referee Scott Armstrong from the back to count it.
It would take a superhero to turn this into a happy ending. Thankfully, one was watching from the proverbial rafters.
After a video plays on the Titantron, WCW star Sting makes his WWE debut. In his late-’90s form, he delivers vigilante justice, punching Armstrong and advancing to the ring to stare down The Game. Triple H throws the first punch, but Sting takes him down and pulls Ziggler into a cover on Rollins. The actual legal ref has recovered at this point and counts the pin, a technically an illegal version of what Ziggler had previously scored multiple times legitimately.
It’s a great, scrappy babyface win, and the exhausted Ziggler stumbles, yelling victoriously, as he exits the arena. Cena comes out and supports him with a hug. In the ring, Stephanie McMahon is distraught and Triple H looks shell-shocked as they face an arena of people “YES” chanting.
The following night on RAW, the fallout of this match was immediate and dramatic. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon cut ominous and threatening promos as they said their goodbyes to the WWE Universe.
However, the December 29 episode of RAW—just a little over a month since the PPV—saw them return. Cena brought them back to power after Rollins threatened to break Edge’s already-damaged neck with a Curb Stomp on the Money in the Bank briefcase, and all Cena and his team’s hard work was undone. Though the Survivor Series main event was the high point of this conflict, WWE fans saw some of Team Cena continue to work together until just before WrestleMania 31.
The Authority, unfortunately, is still around, although with different underlings, to plague present-day WWE heroes like Braun Strowman and Ronda Rousey. And it doesn’t look like they’ll go away anytime soon. But Survivor Series 2014 will always be there as both a moment of hope and a great match to revisit.
You can go back and revisit this match (and the entirety of Survivor Series 2014) on the WWE Network.