PHANTASM review
Published 16 November, 2021

November 16, 2003

Dallas, Texas USA

American Airlines Arena

(Attendance: 13,457)

What are you willing to do to survive? And just like that, it. Is. On.

Michael Cole introduces us to the 17th annual Survivor Series from Dallas Texas. The ‘doctor of thuganomics’ opens the show, representing Smackdown. Where will Cena’s allegiance lie? A good example of polarising era Cena, hitting both baby face and heel territory well. The crowd ride his every word as Benoit makes his way out next, followed by a blonde, Farooq-less  Bradshaw, then ‘Sparky Plug’. As the captain of team Angle strides to the ring, Cole reminds us of ‘Braack Lesnorb’ breaking Bob’s neck several months earlier. Next, team Sasquatch. I cannot believe they play didgeridoo music for Nathan Jones. Ignorant cultural appropriation much. Team ‘Lesnarb’ looks just how I imagine Vince McMahon’s wet dreams to be. 

WWE Survivor Series Elimination match

Team Angle (John Cena, Chris Benoit, Bradshaw, Hardcore Holly, Kurt Angle) vs. Team Lesnar (Matt Morgan, Nathan Jones, A-Train, Big Show, Brock Lesnar)

Holly gets over enthusiastic from the get go and jumps the ‘Brock-ness monster’, getting DQ’d before the match even begins. How can you get disqualified before the bell rings? Bradshaw makes short work of A-Train after a clothesline from hell. Bradshaw sufferes similar fate by eating early shit and taking an early shower at 0:50. Imagine being Holly, Train or Bradshaw in real life. Building to a feud for weeks, travelling all the way to Dallas, checking into the hotel etc, getting all dressed up and prepped for the match, getting psyched for the live crowd…then wrestling for one minute or less. Ouch. 

Above : Team Angle vs Team Lesnar

‘Croc Dundee’ tags in and does some awkward big guy stuff. If this guy had of been around in the ‘80s, he would have been a massive star and been an opponent of Hogan. In 2003, he’s just a big, roided up body, with nowhere to go, a guy completely naïve to a business he should not be in. Benoit fights from underneath, realistic as usual. By the way- Matt Morgan is in this match. For a few minutes anyway, he gets pinned by Angle at 9:00, as Nathan Jones gets in the ring and just watches the fall happen. Outside brawling.

Above Left: Jones taps to the ankle lock. Above right: Brock pins Angle

Benoit hot tags Angle, who gets it on with Brick, cleans house, then cleans up the Nathan Jones trash, sending the big neanderthal back to Boggo Road. Away from our TV screens forever. In an instant, ‘Lesnerp’ hits the quickest of F-5s and pins Angle! Oh bad booking! This match is not messing around with time at all. Nothing if not unpredictable. To add more shock, Benoit traps ‘Bork’ in the cross face and makes the WWE champion tap out! The crowd goes crazy, chanting “you tapped out, you tapped out” to the beast incarnate. Cena rushes the ring and hits Big Show with his chain behind the referees back, then hoists his next (and first) WM opponent on his shoulder, dropping 500 pounds with an FU, for the 1, 2, 3 and team victory! 

Above: Team Angle wins

Cena and Benoit shake hands while the announce team put over the up-and-coming John. No one has ‘Cena- nuff’ yet, they want more. What a way to kick off, total non stop action a plenty.

Winners- Team Angle (13:17)

8.0/10 ~ Thumbs up

A match designed for Cena. Benoit looks good too on his road to a world title, Angle and Lesnar continued their year long rivalry, while Big Show is used as the transitional US champion for Cena to eventually conquer. A match that was hot and heavy, not wasting time, with plenty of falls coming strong and fast. Get the fans razzed up early, set the tone for the night. The only complaint is having Angle lose (and a case could be made for Lesnar) so easily. The format of traditional Survivor Series is tough though, as several guys have to lose by design. A better booking would see both Angle and Lesnar getting disqualified mid match, Holly and Bradshaw can get beat cleanly. Either way- lovely, lovely, lovely start.


Backstage:

McMahon x2 backstageg. Discussing the irony offather and son taking on the brothers of destruction.

Vince bumps into Austin. Both laugh at the others predicament

-Thumbs up

Above: An uncomfortable meeting


WWE Woman’s Championship 

Molly Holly (c) vs Lita

Lita is looking very Brittany Spears circa 2000, rocking the studded belts and punk, fluro lycra and short shorts, whereas Molly is the original Karen. Actually, that award would go to Ivory in the ‘RTC’ era. Some of the match involves ‘King’ speculation whether or not Molly is a virgin. So there’s that. Molly is honouring the passing of Crash Holly with ‘CH’ written on her wrist guard. Crash, real name, Michael Lockwood, died of an apparent suicide days earlier, to which WWE failed to acknowledge. Very strange how the company picks and chooses who they pay tribute to. As of the era, this woman’s match is used as a buffer for the upcoming match, therefore given no time to produce anything significant.

Above left: Lita getting in some offence. Above light: Still woman’s champ

Both women do their best though. Lita hits a flurry of offence, namely, a Russian leg sweep, then top rope moon-sault, for which Molly moves and Lita hits hard. 

There is a kick-out botch after the Molly-go-round, where Lita kicks out late. Miscommunication for sure, Molly retains after smacking Lita into the exposed turnbuckle, for which the referee clearly watched Molly remove and utilise.

Winner- Molly Holly (6:48)

3.8/10 ~ Thumbs down


Ambulance match

Shane McMahon vs Kane

Holy God: Kane tomb-stoning Linda is evil. Hell fire and brimstone pre match promo is great, “O fortuna” really putting Kane over as a demon. This is arguably the best Kane. The original, who ripped the cell door off its hinges in ‘97 is regarded as the best version. For my money, it is this Kane here. He slips into sociopathic, serial killer-esque territory, a true horror villain who gets off on the emotional torture of others, opposed to just being physically impervious, as he was in his inception. Michael Myers has been unmasked, the wacky world of wrestling, his Haddonfield.

Above: Kane v Shane

The ambulance damn near blows up being parked next to Kane’s pyro, scary. The ‘big red psycho’ laughs, Shane is not laughing on his arrival to the ring. Here comes the money and the payback. What a scary start, McMahon rushes Kane and both flip over the top rope, Kane landing on his head. An omen of pain to come. Hardcore style match up, all sorts of ringside objects are utilised before Shane top-rope elbow drops a prone Kame through the announce table, causing a chaotic explosion of material and flesh. That spot has lost its shine over the years, it should be admired considering the genuine risk. 

Above: Ambulance violence

The “inbred pit bull” as JR would say, stalks McMahon past the ambulance and through the graveyard towards backstage, where the fight ensues, omens and all. Shane actually backs an SUV into the side of Kane who bumps through a security booth window… dangerous stunt for sure. The “best in the world” calls for a medical truck, the kid looks good. The Undertaker’s little burnt brother resurrects and is let off his dog chain, viciously throwing his foe wall to wall, from concrete to ambulance. 

The heir apparent to the McMahon family empire (at the time) recovers in time to swing an open ambulance door into the raw cranium of Kane, what a horrid, brain scrambling bump. A second (botched) attempt at a tornado concrete DDT, followed by a van terminator from atop of the ambulance puts the big monster down to the sound of “holy shit, holy shit”. But just like every Halloween movie in the franchise- Michael always comes back when you think he is dead. The ‘big red bastard’ drags the prodigal son into the ambulance along side him as Shane tries to end it all. If incapacitation is the goal, these two aren’t doing a bad job at all. Kane throws Shane like a human javelin into the side panel of the ambulance, sadistically laughing at the idea of his next move. A sick, concrete flavoured tombstone seals McMahon’s fate. Michael Myers has killed Laurie Strode. 

Above: Tombstone

Winner- Kane (13:25)

6.5/10  ~ Thumbs up

As “My chemical” drenches through the PA, Shane McMahon is slowly driven to the nearest medical facility, (not hospital) out like a light, while his sadistic foe revels in the pain and destruction. Plotting his next ominous move..


Backstage: Brock Lesnar believes he didn’t lose….Goldberg interrupts. Wrestlemania 20 seed planted.

~Thumbs up

Above: First meeting between Brock and Bill


Mark Cuban gets RKO’d segment. More for the live crowd heat, rather than retrospective rewatch. Bischoff is good as heel, gets the crowd against Randy.

Thumbs up

Backstage- Evolution getting down in style. Orton gets his nipples pinched by a stripper. 

Thumbs up

Above: Evolution


Speaking of nip pinches, the Basham bros. come out next, with big ‘ole Shaniqua leading the charge. It is hard to believe Eddie is 3 months away from heavyweight gold, thrown into the middle of a card, in a pointless tag match at SS ‘03. Surely the company had an idea Eddie would play a big part of 2004 and could be used in a strong singles match at Survivor Series, AKA, the true beginning of the road towards Wrestlemania? Here, he and cousin Chavo are taking on a couple of gimps, doing the job none the less to the Basham brothers (bash- them, get it?). The same argument could be made for Benoit, but he was victorious and looked pretty good, if not the focus, in his match. Side note- pity Shaniqua was not around in the Chyna era, could have done something there.

WWE Tag Team Championship

The Basham Brothers (c) vs Los Guerreros

Above: Los Guerreros

Her two pets do the heel thing throughout the match, they really are just token opponents for other over tag teams, nothing if not glorified 2K default characters, that have somehow been gifted title gold. Shaniqua cops a Chavo clothesline, then of course gets spanked. I think she likes it. I wish I knew the safe word for this match so it would stop. It’s all a build for the Guerrero split though, who go down far too easily. Bad booking aside, the match was ok. Nothing to remember, most of which to forget, just a token tag match. Eddie and Chavo would feud in the coming months, leading to Eddie becoming WWE champion at No Way Out 2004. 

Above: Tag champs

Winners and still WWE Tag Team Champions: The Basham Brothers. (9:00)

5.0/10 ~ Thumbs in the middle


Traditional Survivor Series elimination match 

Team Austin (Booker T, Buh Buh Dudley, D-Von Dudley, Rob Van Dam, Shawn Michaels)

vs Team Bischoff (Scott Steiner, Mark Henry, Christian, Chris Jericho, Randy Orton)

All right- strap in and hold on. Austin’s future is on the line against the man who famously fired him several years ago, via Fed-ex. Austin has been handcuffed from physically reacting to anyone who irks his rage, if his team wins, he stays on as Raw general Manager and is free to raise as much hell as he pleases. Lose and his 14 year career is over. The biggest match that Stone cold has never participated in. Pre match promo really tells the tale of just how high the stakes are, plenty of emotion and moving parts in this one. 

Above: Build up for the big match

The baddies all come out together, they include, from least talented to most: Scott Steiner, Mark Henry, Christian, Jericho and Orton. Austin’s stacked team includes: The Dudleyz, Booker T, RVD and Shawn Michaels. Hell of a line up, this is regarded as one of, if not the greatest, Survivor Series elimination match of all time.

Above: Team Bischoff

Christian locks up with D-Von to get things underway, the crowds buzzes as Rob Van Dam is tagged in and does his thing to electrify the Dallas crowd. ‘Weak-zilla’ flexes while looking at his reflection in the camera lens, let’s just hope the uncoordinated, steroid in-juiced, muscle head doesn’t hurt anyone for real, as he is the glaring weak-link in this otherwise star studded match up. Stacy K looks genuinely defeated being matched up w both Steiner and having to real life date Test… talk about falling into a career/ life hole. News flash to you circa 2003 ‘big sloppa dump’- you are not a ‘big man’, stop working as though you are. Steiner, a man of average height, moves around as if he’s Andre the fucking Giant. In reality he is just your average guy, with little talent, overcompensating with steroids and blaming injuries and badtiming for all his downfalls, developing a bitter personality complex along the way. He blew his big shot at Royal Rumble earlier that year. The botch-fest immediately planting him in the lower mid-card there after.

After a string of his usual belly to belly suplexes, (same old Shit!) the talented and at the time, underrated, Booker tags in and showcases the spinnarooni.

Above: Team Austin

The match breaks to chaos, the heels all enter leading to the faces to defend, the fight landing outside. ‘Scott-no-talent’ eats a modified, reverse, 3D and book-end to go bye bye, catch you later. Booker unfortunately gets caught in the worlds strongest slam from Henry, ending his night early. Big Mark knocks down that hillbilly “cracka” Buh-Buh Ray as Teddy Long eggs on his man, playa! J.R calls Henry the strongest man that’s ever lived, which is a stretch. After a 3D and a 5 star frog splash, the big guy isn’t looking too strong, as team ‘SCU’ dog pile on the WSM to keep him down for the count at 9:45. ‘Y2Jericho’ and the ‘whole f’n show’ lock horns in a rare exchange between the two, outside of the much forgotten Unforgiven 2001 encounter. The heel of the moment tags in and we see another one on one we barely got to see, RVD vs Orton. Rob hits a nice rolling thunder and is looking the goods. It’s Orton f’n show tonight though, as he puts down ‘Mr Monday night’ for the 3 count, tying the scores to 3 all. Bisch cheers, Austin jeers. So far, an unpredictable and highly entertaining bout, the live crowd riding every move. 

Above left: Steiner first eliminated. Above middle: Dog pile. Above right:Christian and D-Von

Team Eric then attain a rather strange win, as D-Von meets the canvas, courtesy of a Jericho neck breaker and a subsequent awkward, non run-in from his compadres. We throw back to that years Wrestlemania with HBK making his way into the ring against younger foe, Jericho. Wooo chops, back and forth until Big boy Dudley gets in… then out, as Chris and Christian cheat to pin, at 16:30. This leaves a lone Shawn Michaels to take on 3 of Bischoff’s boys. HBK amps up, getting in his stuff, not before his jealous rival puts a stop to this, intercepting the momentum and leaving a group mugging. 

Above left: RVD. Above left: Crimson mask

Steve O is beside himself… his 3:16 cranium forming a stone-cold sweat. It would take a dang miracle from here for team Austin to overcome the odds. The heartbreak kid will fight, even after being sling-shotted into a post. OMG he is busted wide, wide open! Michaels is nothing but a damn well stuck pig, red stuff all over the place. ‘CLB’ gets cocky, gets some SCM for his troubles. The chin music seemingly out of no-freakin-where from the reborn Christian enough to put Christian down. Shawn vs Jericho. The ominously named legend killer waiting in the wings. 

Above left, middle: HBK getting beat up. Right: Y2J pinned

There has never been a more sympathetic competitor, a fighting with heart and spirit, a wrestler who makes you believe more, than the great Shawn Michaels. No one can draw on the fans emotion, build up the suspense and importance of a match more. While losing his life’s blood, the man known as Mr Wrestlemania, rolls up Jericho and pushes one step closer to Survivor Series lore, with one Randy Orton away from ultimate victory. The miracle is seemingly shattered by a bitter Chris Jericho chair shot, ‘Y2J’ adamant that the boyhood dream will not come true tonight. Orton cover: 1, 2…he’s alive! 

Above: A bloody Michaels

Crossbody for another close count. Randy Orton is a rookie here, yet is as over as rover as the best cocky heel around. Shawn limps up to hit some SCM, every fan in the arena willing him on. That arrogant little Bischoff gets involved with Kung-fu, facilitating a violent reaction from Stone Cold, intervening with ripping stomps to “the King” and striking Randy with a sit down version of the RKO.

Above left: Stunner to Orton. Above left: Bischoff beat down

The people absolutely erupt as Austin throws rights and lefts, stomps and stunners to anyone in sight and gasp in shock as Batista runs in from absolutely nowhere and lays out Shawn Michaels with a devastating bomb. “Oh God no!” Screams JR and everyone every 18 inches. While Austin is battling Bisch up the aisle, Randy Orton shakes off the effects of the stunner long enough to slowly roll on top of Shawn, for the heart breaking 1, 2, 3 and team victory.

Steve’s Austin’s career is officially over. The shocked looked on the rattlesnakes face mirrors the feelings of the fans in Dallas, as a hush silence of disbelief sweeps throughout the arena, sucking the energy like a vacuum. As we now in 2021, Austin’s final match against the Rock at Wrestlemania 19 was not labeled as such, Austin wanting to just bow out quietly. Survivor Series 2003 acts as a more official, public retirement, with the stakes clearly laid out and the goodbye very real. 

Above: Team Austin defeated

SCSA subtlety teases a turn on a battered HBK, instead, picks him up and acknowledges his fight and courage, as Shawn says “I’m sorry”. The main event of Wrestlemania 14 walks side by side to the back, Michaels wearing a crimson mask, Austin, wearing a face of sorrow. Glass shatters and Stone Cold comes back out to give a short, somber, goodbye speech. The usually brash and blunt Rattlesnake is soft spoken and seemingly nostalgic as he declares “I love the shit out of you guys” and hooks in a few post match stunners, two beers left in the ring symbolicallng spelling the end of Steves Austin’s in ring wrestling career. One of the greatest and important careers a wrestler has ever had. 

Winners- Team Bischoff (27:04)

9.2/10 ~ Double Thumbs up

Above: Austin goodbye

The perfect Survivor Series elimination style match. Massive storyline build going in, enormous stakes on the line. Everyone involved played their part and executed their spots seamlessly. The only weakness is the fact that Scott Steiner has his name next to a 5 star classic. The babyfaces were over as hell, the heels were dastardly and strong. HBK stole the show with his sympathetic battle of hope against all the odds, looking to attain a miracle. Orton and Batista get a huge rub with their stealing the victory. Unpredictable and always entertaining, emotional and dramatic, this is my personal favourite Survivor series rules match. In hindsight, the image of Austin toasting a career well done by leaving beers in the middle of the ring should have been the final image of the PPV, as the next two matches strongly devise opinion.


Buried Alive match 

The Undertaker vs Vince McMahon

And now: the higher power. Or the former higher power vs the American badass. Boy how things change in wrestling. Vince vs Undertaker in 2003 is highly underrated. The narcissistic boss who quite literally holds the fate for all wrestlers under his company vs the man who represents the locker room, adjudicated by his peers as backstage judge and ruler of wrestlers court. In 2003, Mr f’n McMahon wreaked havoc upon the Smackdown brand, targeting everyone from the legendary Hulk Hogan, to a one legged kid, to his own daughter, Stephanie. The ego on Vince here is astronomical, I’m sure a huge part of him truly believes the statement that he “created the Undertaker and can damn sure end the Undertaker”. God complex much. 

Above: The history

It works here, in the previous months leading up, McMahon cost the Deadman the title against Brock at No Mercy. Signs of the boss cracking mentally began to show, as he claimed that he had been chosen, perhaps by some sort of higher power, to bury Undertaker alive.

Above: Undertaker/Vince build

Taker realised that the only option is to stop Vince from breathing, paying for his sins via the big dirt nap. This feud is not so longingly remembered for Vince threatening to have the Undertaker’s wife at the time, raped, his children, kidnapped by terrorists. Not to mention the truely bizarre promo where Vince describes his macabre dream to a disgusted Sable. This was the height of evil Mr McMahon though, a power hungry super villain who had finally lost touch with reality. The devil of the WWE needs to be stopped. He needs to pay for his sins.

All of the riske, semi sacrilegious and at times, outright ridiculous build-up is buried (pun intended) instantly with “the tale of the tape” segment immediately after the brilliant promo package. For the life of me, I cannot figure out why they did this. Here is the list that actually aired on PPV before one of the most unique Survivor Series matches ever.

“Tazz’ keys to victory. Undertaker: 1. Oh those evil submissions. 2. Home field advantage. 3. Match experience. Vince: Mental stability. 2 inVINCEable confidence. 3. Avoid the hole.”

This happened. Leave this for an athletic contest, not an apocalyptic blood feud.

Above: Entrances to the buried alive

The American badass walks his way to the ring for the final time. No bike. No smoke and chilling lighting. Just the man known as Mark. The end of a good run, a period of time needed for Mark Calaway to loosen up from playing such stoic roles for so many years. As history will tell, the man will become the dead man for the next 17 years, from the Wrestlemania 20 resurrection against Kane, to the  Boneyard buried alive against AJ Styles, circa 2020, where Mark would unleash the holy trinity of the dead man, American badass and the Undertaker in his final match. 

Above: Higher power

Vince arrives in a trance, holding on to the higher power and saying his prayers. One punch; the boss is bleeding. Not only bleeding, Vince McMahon is split open like a grapefruit. Losing his life’s blood with every beat of his black heart. A first and only in WWE history, someone bleeding in the opening second of the match. Prepare for 10 minutes of Vince McMahon beat down. The canvas is being painted, the gushing of red stuff is cringeworthy. Undertaker is given carte blanche to kick the living shit out of his boss, wrestling rules!

Above: The Undertaker destroys Vince McMahon

This is for all the great in ring talent you have metaphorically buried over the decades Vincent Kennedy, the people you have analytically and unemotionally treated as pawns. The famous names of Bret Hart and Randy Savage, to the thousand other forgotten souls and never-has-beens you destroyed on a whim. Tonight you pay with blood. Undertaker, the instrument of your destruction. ‘Big evil’ unleashes a variety of punishment- squashing the grapefruits into mere prunes, scrambling his brains with TV monitors, cutting off his oxygen with cable wire. Soup bones left and right making mince outta Vince. 

Above: CEO blood

As the claret continues to flow, the ‘big dog’ leaves his yard and makes his way to the grave yard. Not to bury Vince, but to bring back a steel shovel into the ring. As the prone CEO of a multi million company stands shaking and squirting fluid, dead centre ring, the man from ‘the dark side’ swings to the fences and brings down the steel shovel down into Vince McMahon’s evil cranium with full force, with a thud so loud it echoes throughout the Dallas arena. The boss is down. Taking the single biggest beating of his life.

Above: Shovel time

In viewing the 2020 Undertaker retrospective ‘The Last Ride’, it is hard to believe while viewing this buried alive match that Vince and Mark are like father and son. Taker sure as hell did not go soft against his mentor on this one. The Taker, takes McMahon to the outside for more violence, this time steel steps into the ankle, circa brothers of destruction 1998. Mark, marks himself in blood, hoists Vince up, ready for a dirt nap: the long sleep. Night night VKM.

Above: Vince beat down

The American Badass carries Vince to the dirt, where the genetic jackhammer hits his first offensive move of the night, in the form of dirt to Taker’s eyes. Vince, in desperation, grabs a hold of another graveyard shovel and swings it sideways at Taker’s prone chest. ‘The dead man’ drops into the hole. This spot did not go to plan at all, opposed to hitting flat chest, the shovel seemingly made contact to Taker’s right elbow, visibly hurting the man. ‘Evil Inc.’ is not happy one little bit, he drags Vince into the hole and opts to “go home” immediately. Just as he is about to operate the big scooper, an explosion and demonic Kane intercepts, the sociopathic brother of destruction causing his older brother to fall into the grave. As Vince drags his bloody carcass back to reality and into the controls of thebig scoop, Kane sadistically laughs at the idea of the Undertaker’s unknown fate. Sending his sibling to the depths of wrestling hell, forever laying the American badass to rest. 

Above: The Undetaker buried alive by the ‘higher power

Poetic in many ways, if not largely decisive. In regards to the build up, Vince is seemingly more preoccupied with entertaining himself rather than providing realistic storyline’s for a global audience. Did he get carried away or is he just really peaking as a villain? The idea that the American badass character is buried by Vince McMahon’s hand is quite appropriate though, the storyline that Kane could not deal with his brother being “human”, very believable in the wrestling universe. The amount of blood is akin to a teen slasher horror movie, it is understandable if the image of blood spurting from an old mans head for 10 minutes makes an individual feel queezy and turned off watching. Wrestling isn’t always for the faint of heart. For my money, this match is structured very well. While not a wrestling classic, it was exactly what it needed to be.  

Back and forth would have been unrealistic, so ‘Taker’ squashing his opponent made perfect sense. The boss being punished for his sins and once and for all put away due to his gross abuse of power is an always entertaining concept. Plenty of blood and cringe was needed, this was an attraction match, not a New Japan catch-as-catch-can classic. Biker ‘Taker’ wrestling his last fight against the booker and being buried by a surprise attack from his brother, the only conclusion to the ABA character. The later resurrection back into the deadman, one of WWE’s finest moments. 

R.I.P American badass:

May 21, 2000- November 16, 2003.

Winner: Vince McMahon (11:47)

7.2/10 ~ Thumbs up


World Heavyweight Championship

Goldberg (c) vs Triple H

The story of the arrogant, cowardice Triple H offering $100k to anyone who puts Goldberg on the shelf, is an underrated one. I wish this storyline could have extended further, as it only lasted a few weeks. Bad booking having Goldberg take the gold at the forgotten Unforgiven ’03. It would have made more sense for “the man” to become the man for just one night at Survivor Series, with the rest of Evolution being banned from ringside. Then Triple Hs “reign of terror” should have continued until Wrestlemania 20.

Above: The build

Arm chair booking aside, The reality is that Hunter had a groin injury going into this match, hence its ‘short’ duration and inclusion of Evolution. Speaking of short- this match has the infamous Triple H bike shorts. They look awful. Hunter looks awful. Compared to his usual chiseled self, he is doughy and looks injured. This could be attributed to the injury and the fact Mr. Levesque had recently been on his honeymoon. No wonder he spent the majority of this feud sniffing money, (For which ultimately went to Batista) as this is the worst the game ever looked in the ring.

Above HHH entrance, Goldberg entrance

Goldberg looks a milllion dollars though, breathing fire and wearing the big ‘ole gold belt that suits him for sure. Memories of the WCW streak pop into the mind. As all wrestling fans know, this era of Goldberg is not looked back on fondly for its memories. 

Goldberg rocks Flair and pummels HHH with a spear in the opening, before Hunter targets the ankle with a chair. Flair interferes once more, obviously because both men are limited. (HHH with injury, G limited in general.) As ‘the game’ works the leg some more, referee Hebnar is asleep at the wheel, forgetting his cues and missing some kayfabe calls. Wake up Earl. The crowd are flat, but want to be into it… put that down to bad match placement. After seeing Steve Austin retire and Undertaker be killed, they are a little emotionally spent. This match still does what it can given the circumstances, hitting on clear bullet points, but sacrificing long term build up of suspense. 

Above: Face off

Trips goes for a figure four leg lock as a tribute to his manager, come, punching bag, ‘Goodberg’ kicks him into Hebner. 

Above: Goldberg kicking butt

‘Naitch’ drops some brass knucks in ring, so Hunter can land a KO blow on the man from Atlanta. Earl takes another ref bump, this time allowing heel Hunter to get his weapon of choice- the dreaded sledgehammer. Before Goldberg gets hammered, he gets offence, a kick to ‘Trips’ and a slam to poor Ric from the top rope, (a move of which Flair has not successfully executed in 30 years) then lays out the remaining members of Evolution, who run in, post-haste.

Above left: Goldberg stops the sledgehammer. Above right: Spear

After ‘da man’ lays in a few gut shots with sledge, he drops the weapon outside, opting to decimate Evolution using his body instead. Spears left and right, Evolution has been stunted. Goldberg has hit superhero game mode, the stable of baddies reduced to mere henchmen, or wrestling equivalent to the crash test dummy. Tonight it is not the sledgehammer, rather the jack-hammer that prevails, Goldberg dropping Triple H to hold the gold, ‘terra-rising’ his enemies in the process. 

“Who’s your daddy!” screams JR as the World Heavyweight Champion Bill Goldberg stands tall at Survivor Series.. Who’s your daddy indeed. 

Above: Finish to the World title match

Winner and still World Heavyweight Champion: Goldberg (11:45)

5.9/10 ~ Thumbs up

Not the greatest Survivor Series main event that ever was, but sure as hell not the worst either. The match delivered in what it needed to do, without going too long. It seems like the match was somewhat doomed from the start considering Hunters injury, so they just hit all their high spots one after the other, had plenty of interference and covered all their bases. From a kayfabe POV, it’s fun, energetic, old school good conquering evil. Goldberg nothing less than an invincible protagonist in an action movie, taking down one foe after another in route to saving the day. From a more realistic, competitive perspective, quite ludicrous having one man fend off four of that caliber. Sure, in 2003, Orton and Batista were up and comers, but Hunter and Flair had a combined 23 world titles at this point in time. Not to mention Batista was presented as the man who could take out Goldberg in the build up. Well booked if your name is Goldberg or if you are a Goldberg mark. Puzzling that the man would drop the title next month to the game with Kane involved in the match… without being pinned! Why not just drop it here and have Evolutions night to be one of dominance? Goldberg winning the gold at Unforgiven is just a bad decision, simple as that. J. R does his best once more to put all over and make Goldberg look a million bucks. But the majority of the fans aren’t buying it. WWE would realise that WCW had lightning in a bottle with the man in 1997/98 and would ultimately realise that lightening does not strike twice. Goldberg would be gone from the company in just over 4 months. 

Above: The champ


Phantasm Final Thoughts

An underrated, if not strongly decisive, event. I for one, am on the side of rating this Survivor Series as one of the greats, an event that was absolutely loaded with drama, emotion, blood, sweat and tears. A night when the heels went over all night, bar the opener and closer. No wonder the audience is split on this one, Undertaker, Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels, Eddie, Lita and Shane ‘O, all suffer devastating losses, ranging from mere title loses, to blood feuds, career enders and in Undertakers case-life. Reliving this event in hindsight truly captures its magic though. It includes what I consider the absolute perfectly booked Survivor Series match, an interesting hardcore style ambulance match, the one and only encounter between the Undertaker and McMahon and fast paced, action packed opening and closing matches. Cena was strongly pushed in the former, Goldberg made to look ustoppable in the latter. Wrestlemania seeds were not only planted, they were rapidly growing. Lesnar and Goldberg faced off for the first time, Kane ended the run of the American badass and the younger members of Evolution were portrayed as major players. The major criticism, as I touched on earlier, is the match placement. Quite simply, the epic Austin v Bischoff affair should have closed the show. There is no reason that the World title match couldn’t have opened the show, fast paced, short and sweet, the crowd would have been surprised and pumped up early. Austin saying his goodbyes clearly took the wind out of the live crowds sail. The native Texan’s post match farewell speech was uncharacteristically heartfelt and was sold with emotion and meaning. Considering Austin’s memoirs were released around this time, perhaps Austin was feeling the nostalgia and reality of genuinely never stepping in the ring as an active wrestler again. The other booking flaws are with Eddie Guerrero being thrown into a pointless tag team match, same can be said for Benoit. Even though Benoit was on the winning end, a singles match would have been better booking. Benoit will be the next Royal Rumble winner and Eddie the next WWE champion, perhaps they could have both been used better here. Much criticism has been fired at both the ambulance and buried alive matches respectively. For the former, this was yet another ‘Shane style’ attraction match, of which suffers simply because of the unattainable expectations set by the near murderous, unholy build, combined with the high risk spots Shane McMaho has taken and is expected to take over the years. The buried alive should also be viewed as an attraction, not an athletic contest, for which evil McMahon payed with blood. The story achieved its goal in spades, setting up for the Undertaker’s character rejuvenation in March 2004. 

Kurt Angle was wrestling through a neck injury in his Survivor Series match, an injury that would plague much of his career. This was Nathan Jones’ first and only PPV match, a fact that wrestling fans are glad to accept. The ambulance match was a first, there have been 4 more since November 2003. Mark Henry was wrestling his first PPV match in almost 4 long years, his last being No Way Out 2000. Randy Orton holds the record for most Survivor Series elimination match wins, with a total of 5. This was his first. As for Steve Austin, he was back on Raw within 6 weeks. I believe this was just a belated goodbye from the Rattlesnake, who bowed out quietly as an in ring performer after WM19. The Undertaker was wrestling with injured ribs and would not be seen for 5 months, with the much anticipated return of the deadman. This was the 4th buried alive match in WWE history, as of 2021, there have been 5 total, (6 of you include the boneyard at WM36) with Undertaker being in all of them. The victory marked the last time Vince  McMahon would win a one-on-one, PPV match, having vanquished the dead man at the age of 58. Since then, Vince’s only PPV victories have come in handicap matches at consecutive Backlash events, defeating Shawn Michaels in 2006 (it wasn’t a tag team match because “God” no-showed), and Bobby Lashley the following year. This event marks the only PPV that Goldberg successfully defended a world title in the WWE.

Numbers dropped throughout 2002 and 2003, the attitude boom fizzling out after the disastrous ‘invasion’ angle of 2001. Survivor Series 2003, however, managed to be a surprise exception. The show did 450,000 buys, up more than 32 percent from one year earlier. With a buried alive match, an ambulance match, a Goldberg title defense, and a do-or-die match involving Austin, there were plenty of special attractions, undoubtedly. The event was little more than 28,000 buys away from being the most-bought Survivor Series ever, that being  Survivor Series 1998, which did a whopping 478,000 buys. Survivor Series 2003 was the seventeenth annual Survivor Series professional wrestling PPV event produced by WWE. 

 

PHANTASM review