Progress has historically been slow when it comes to women’s wrestling in WWE, but the annual Survivor Series event has been slightly more on board since the beginning.
The very first Survivor Series back in 1987—headlined by teams led by Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant, continuing their famous feud—introduced five-on-five elimination tag team matches to the world, which have come to define the yearly November show. And that 1987 event included a five-on-five women’s elimination tag team match among the four matches on the show, featuring the likes of Hall of Famers The Fabulous Moolah and Sherri Martel.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t another women’s elimination match until 1995, and even more years until the next one after that—with many Survivor Series events taking place without a single woman on the card. Things have changed, and a women’s elimination match is now a Survivor Series staple. Here’s a look at the many women’s elimination matches throughout Survivor Series history, and how they’ve evolved into Team RAW taking on Team SmackDown this Sunday in Los Angeles.
The Fabulous Moolah, The Jumping Bomb Angels, Rockin’ Robin, & Velvet McIntyre vs. Sensational Sherri, The Glamour Girls, Dawn Marie, & Donna Christanello (Survivor Series 1987)
If you like glittery ring jackets, this match was a true treat. Even though the 1987 version of women’s wrestling may not have been as polished as what fans are used to today, it’s clear that this fast-paced match was meant to showcase the athleticism of the performers and take them seriously. As Jesse “The Body” Ventura said in a perhaps inartful but nonetheless astute moment on commentary: “These girls throw them punches and make the moves just as hard as the men do.”
The match came down to both of the Jumping Bomb Angels, Itsuki Yamazaki
Aja Kong, Bertha Faye, Lioness Asuka, & Tomoko Watanabe vs. Alundra Blayze, Chaparita Asari, Kyoko Inoue, & Sakie Hasegawa (Survivor Series 1995)
Even though the very first Survivor Series had a women’s match on the card, it would take eight years not only for another women’s elimination tag team match to happen, but for any women to make it to the Survivor Series, period. WWF Women’s Champion Alundra Blayze, leading the company’s women’s wrestling revival, teamed with visiting Japanese wrestlers to spark a feud with joshi legend Aja Kong, who absolutely dominated the match—pinning all three of Blayze’s partners in rapid succession.
The final two were, appropriately enough, Blayze and Kong, with Kong pinning the champ—presumably to set up a title match, but one never ending up taking place. Things still ended up working out for Kong, though, as one of the most storied Japanese women’s wrestlers, who remains active to this day.
Team RAW (Beth Phoenix, Candice Michelle, Jillian Hall, Kelly Kelly, & Mickie James) vs. Team SmackDown (Maria, Maryse, Michelle McCool, Natalya, & Victoria) (Survivor Series 2008)
Women’s wrestling in WWF waned again after 1995, and while the late ’90s saw a new prominence for women in the company, it wouldn’t be until 2008 that there was another women’s elimination match at Survivor Series (though plenty of other different types of women’s matches happened in the interim years).
Much like the current Survivor Series concept of brand warfare, this 2008 match put RAW against SmackDown, featuring WWE Women’s Champion Beth Phoenix (representing RAW) and WWE Divas Champion Michelle McCool (SmackDown). Despite encompassing 10 wrestlers, the match took less than 10 minutes as eliminations came at a brisk piece—ending with sole survivor Beth Phoenix pinning Maryse after a Glam Slam.
Team Mickie (Mickie James, Eve Torres, Gail Kim, Kelly Kelly, & Melina) vs. Team Michelle (Michelle McCool, Alicia Fox, Beth Phoenix, Jillian Hall, & Layla) (Survivor Series 2009)
A year later, Michelle McCool was once again champion—but now the Women’s Champion, and with Beth Phoenix on her side this time around. Rather than a RAW vs. SmackDown conflict, this match was born out of the personal conflict between Mickie James and the duo of LayCool, Layla and Michelle McCool)—a controversial storyline with LayCool body-shaming James which was one of the final feuds of James’ original WWE run.
Happily for Mickie, this was a successful encounter, with her and Melina left standing as the match’s survivors. Yet it was another example of the women’s match getting shortchanged on in-ring time—clocking in at about 10-and-a-half minutes, approximately half the time of the two men’s elimination matches on the show.
Total Divas (The Bella Twins, Eva Marie, The Funkadactyls, JoJo, & Natalya) vs. True Divas (AJ Lee, Aksana, Alicia Fox, Kaitlyn, Rosa Mendes, Summer Rae, & Tamina Snuka) (Survivor Series 2013)
Total Divas debuted on E! in 2013, is still going strong today, and has helped expose WWE and its performers to new audiences—but back in Survivor Series 2013, not everyone was so pleased with it. The narrative fueling this match was that performers such as AJ Lee resented the likes of The Bella Twins for participating in Total Divas—debasing the craft by appearing on a reality show.
Rather than a traditional five-on-five elimination match, this was a seven-on-seven affair (including a rare in-ring appearance from current ring announcer JoJo!)—but another relatively quick one, with with 12 eliminations in 11-and-a-half minutes. The Total Divas came out on top, with Natalya making AJ tap out to the sharpshooter, and proving that reality shows may not be so bad after all.
Team Fox (Alicia Fox, Emma, Naomi, & Natalya) vs. Team Paige (Paige, Cameron, Layla, & Summer Rae) (Survivor Series 2014)
Another match that arose from a personal conflict, this one blossomed from the issue between former friends Alicia Fox and Paige. It also represented the shifting perspectives on women’s wrestling in WWE, as it’s the longest women’s elimination match since the original—and the first one to see a total sweep, with the fan-favorite squad of Team Fox eliminating all of Team Paige, and suffering no losses themselves.
Paige was the last woman remaining on her team, and though it may very well be “her house,” she couldn’t overcome the odds, getting pinned by Naomi.
Team RAW (Alicia Fox, Bayley, Charlotte Flair, Nia Jax, & Sasha Banks) vs. Team SmackDown (Alexa Bliss, Becky Lynch, Carmella, Naomi, & Natalya) (Survivor Series 2016)
Following the latest brand extension—giving RAW and SmackDown their own unique rosters—in 2016, the RAW vs. SmackDown rivalry returned to Survivor Series, with a RAW team captained by upcoming Ronda Rousey opponent Charlotte, and a SmackDown crew headed by Nikki Bella. At least, that was the plan—Nikki got mysteriously attacked before the match and was replaced by Natalya, who had been left off the team and relegated to the role of “coach” (it turned out to be Natalya who attacked Nikki; maybe it really wasn’t that much of a mystery).
Firmly entrenched in the Women’s Revolution era, this match featured 10 of the biggest names of the current era of women’s wrestling and a hot feud between the sides, including a RAW invasion of SmackDown. Two of NXT’s Four Horsewomen—Bayley and Charlotte—ended the match as the victors, with Bayley pinning Becky Lynch.
Team RAW (Alicia Fox, Sasha Banks, Bayley, Asuka, & Nia Jax) vs. Team SmackDown (Becky Lynch, Naomi, Carmella, Natalya, & Tamina) (Survivor Series 2017)
Another RAW vs. SmackDown confrontation, this time headed by Alicia Fox as captain (as she’s never afraid to remind anyone, even to this day) of the red brand, Becky Lynch as captain of the blue.
So for those keeping track—SmackDown is 0-3 in women’s elimination tag team matches against RAW. Will this year break that streak? The world will find out this Sunday, November 18, on the WWE Network.