As the central focus of Survivor Series was the tournament titled Deadly Games, with the vacant WWE Championship at stake. The buildup involved many interlinking feuds.
In March, Steve Austin had won the WWE Championship at WrestleMania XIV. Austin’s working class, blue collar style and manner clashed with WWE Chairman Mr. McMahon and his corporate notions of who he wanted to represent his company. He then set about trying to mould a challenger in his own image to dethrone Austin. At first he brought back Dude Love, who soon abandoned his hippy style gimmick in favor of a suit – even wearing his false teeth Foley was known for his scruffy look, including various missing teeth from a variety of matches. After two attempts by Love to win the gold, including one with McMahon as referee, failed, McMahon turned to Paul Bearer and sought about setting up Kane in a match at June’s King of the Ring which Austin lost but only thanks to interference from Kane’s Kayfabe half-brother The Undertaker who, despite having animosity towards his brother, did not want to see him hurt Austin won his title back the following evening. Having been thrown to the wayside by McMahon, Love returned to his psychologically fragile alter-ego Mankind, soon changing his dress from rags to an unintentionally scruffy parody of his father-figure McMahon. Both Mankind and Kane formed a tag team which McMahon sponsored in a bid to take on the Undertaker, who had been defending Austin while similarly vying for a title shot. Shortly before SummerSlam in August, it was revealed that Undertaker and Kane had been in cahoots. Austin retained the title at SummerSlam, but McMahon was not done. At the next pay-per-view, he forced Austin to face both Kane and Undertaker in a match that essentially became a handicap match after McMahon added the stipulation that the brothers could not pin each other. Austin lost the championship, but since he was simultaneously pinned by Kane and Undertaker the title was held up. To rectify the situation, McMahon booked a match between the two brothers at Judgment Day: In Your House. To further mock Steve Austin, he was designated as referee and McMahon threatened to fire him if he didn’t perform his duties. Austin defied the order and attacked both Undertaker and Kane, then counted both brothers out and declared himself the winner and champion. McMahon then made good on his threat to fire Austin, and the title was left vacant. To rectify this, a single elimination tournament between a wide array of wrestlers in the company was set up.
Despite being fired, Austin was at Raw Is War the night after Judgment Day and held McMahon hostage at gunpoint, though when Austin went to fire his gun it turned out to be a joke gun, with a sign saying BANG! 3:16 on it; Austin left the ring when McMahon soiled himself, having given him a piece of paper. Austin revealed the following week that the paper was a five-year contract that guaranteed him a championship match and most shockingly of all, the contract had been signed by Mr McMahon’s son Shane, who had his owner rights suspended by his father and was demoted to a referee.
As well as Austin, McMahon seemed to have a new target of hatred. On the November 2 edition of Raw Is War, McMahon declared to the self-styled People’s Champion that because he had a problem with the people, he had a problem with The Rock. He then ordered Rock into an Intercontinental match with Ken Shamrock, with Rock’s tournament spot on the line. Shamrock hit him with a chair and thus he won, but only by disqualification and thus lost his tournament spot. Afterwards McMahon had The Rock arrested, much like he had done months before with Austin. The following week McMahon threatened him with expulsion from the company if he could not win a match against former Nation of Domination stable mate Mark Henry. Despite the odds being stacked in his favor with McMahon’s entourage at ring side distracting the referee, Shane McMahon ran down after Rock had performed the Rock Bottom, a lifting side slam, on Henry and counted the pinfall to secure Rock’s employment and, presumably, earning back his spot in the tournament although this was never specifically mentioned other than McMahon mentioning it on Heat.
While many wrestlers became the target of Vince McMahon’s ire, one wrestler returned to being his favorite. With his son ostensibly turning on him, Mankind tried to cheer McMahon up and was treated as a surrogate child. McMahon awarded him a new belt, the WWF Hardcore Championship, as well as giving him a makeover, including a pedicure, haircut and tailored suit, gearing him up to win the tournament. As well as being a Hardcore Champion, Mankind had formed a tag team with Al Snow; the humorous duo mocked each other’s mascots which they talked to, Mr. Socko and Head. In a tag team match Mr. Socko went missing and it later transpired that Mr. McMahon had wrapped it round Al Snow’s Head in order to provoke his wrath. Snow himself had also had several run-ins with Jeff Jarrett, after Jarrett had opened his guitar case only to find Head inside, instead of his trademark weapon.
Family problems were abound elsewhere with the return of Paul Bearer at Judgment Day. Bearer had been at Kane’s side ever since his debut the previous October at Badd Blood, but when Kane and Undertaker allied to take down Austin, Kane turned his back on Bearer and allowed Undertaker to beat him. When Bearer returned he seemed to be on Kane’s side, but in fact he gave a chair to Undertaker to strike Kane with, revealing on Raw that he had returned to being Undertaker’s mentor.
For weeks, vignettes had announced the arrival of Steven Regal under the gimmick of “a man’s man”. Regal made his debut by attacking the European Champion X-Pac from behind on Raw. Also, a masked man in a SWAT style uniform appeared alongside Mr. McMahon to defend him against Austin’s attacks. The enforcer turned out to be the returning Big Boss Man, who after a stint in World Championship Wrestling had taken on the role of personal bodyguard for McMahon.
The two other feuds going into the event were both championship feuds. Marc Mero grew jealous of his valet Sable and the attention she gained, eventually having her fired by defeating her in a match. When she returned as a wrestler in her own right, Mero employed a new valet Jacqueline and the two naturally squared off. Firstly they had a bikini contest, which Sable won by popularity, but was disqualified as her bikini consisted of handprints. The two then had an arm wrestling contest, which ended with Jacqueline cracking the bikini contest trophy over the head of Sable. When Sable revealed the Women’s Championship had been reactivated, the two met for a match on Raw, in which Jacqueline won due to Mero holding Sable’s legs down. After Sable was further humiliated when Jacqueline cut a piece of her hair and wrapped it into her own hair, Sable demanded a championship match.
The Headbangers had met the New Age Outlaws the previous month and after dominating most of the match, won via disqualification when Road Dogg broke a boombox over Mosh’s head. Despite titles not changing hands by disqualification, the Headbangers began to declare themselves champions, coming to the ring with toy replica belts and parodying New Age Outlaws pre-match speeches. With the dissolution of The Nation, D’Lo Brown and Mark Henry stayed together as a tag team and with Brown’s feud with X-Pac over the European title, by messing with one D-Generate, he picked an unwitting fight with the Outlaws too.
The opening match was part of the tournament and saw Mr. McMahon welcome Mankind to the ring, he then announced his mystery opponent as a WWF veteran who had a record setting win-loss record before jumping ship to WCW. The grandiose introduction turned out to be ironic, though, as his opponent was the jobber Duane Gill. Despite the ten-minute time limit, designed to make sure matches began swiftly, the match barely lasted one minute as Mankind knocked Gill to the floor and rolled him up for a pin.
Al Snow’s match against Jeff Jarrett began with Snow following Jarret’s valet, Debra McMichael but soon entered the ring. Snow took the first advantage, using the ropes to aid him with a neckbreaker but mistiming a flying leg drop. A succession of reversed pin counts from both parties ensued with neither wrestler winning, turning into a DDT from Snow. With both men on the mat, Debra walked onto the apron with Snow’s mannequin head to distract the referee and allow Jarrett to pick it up. Snow himself grabbed Jarrett’s guitar and swung for Jarrett, but missed and received Head. Jarrett went to attack him again in the corner but a kick from Snow allowed him to grab the Head and smack into it Jarrett’s face, allowing a victory via pinfall when the referee finally looked back. Snow would face Mankind in the quarter finals.
Big Boss Man met Steve Austin on the walkway for their fight, with Austin throwing Boss Man into the steel steps before the match was officially under way. Inside the ring Boss Man used his punches to subdue Austin before choking him in the middle of the ring. Crowd support inspired Austin to fight back with a clothesline, shoulder barging his opponent into the turnbuckle before stomping a mudhole. After being Irish whipped against the ropes, Boss Man escaped the ring and when Austin caught up with him, he was met with a night stick from the Boss Man. The referee awarded the match via disqualification to Austin but that did not stop the onslaught from Boss Man’s nightstick, much to the delight of Mr. McMahon.
The fourth tournament match, between European Champion X-Pac and Stephen Regal, saw X-Pac’s fast paced style take advantage over Regal until a mistimed bronco buster in the corner left X-Pac in pain, Regal pulling him out to fit a seated abdominal stretch on him. Regal’s mat-based technical style kept X-Pac slowed down and without much of his arsenal. Having slowed X-Pac down, Regal ventured to the top rope with his opponent, utilizing a double-underhook suplex from the top turnbuckle to put pressure on X-Pac’s fragile neck. Despite picking up some offense, X-Pac went for a top rope maneuver too quickly and Regal shook the ropes, causing him to fall off to the outside. Regal quickly followed with a double underhook suplex reversed into a suplex from X-Pac. The bell was rung as both men were counted out but McMahon sent out Commissioner Slaughter to restart the match with a five-minute time limit; however X-Pac was already halfway up the ramp, nursing his neck injury and amidst confusion it appeared the match would not be restarted, giving Steve Austin a bye through to the semi-finals.
The next match, between Ken Shamrock and Goldust, began as a high-speed encounter with both wrestlers making many running attacks, until Shamrock had Goldust on the floor at which point he began to use a chin lock to slow him down. Goldust regained some momentum after standing up and, although Shamrock was able to reverse it initially Goldust soon had some advantage in the match. Things changed though when Goldust set his opponent up for the illegal move, Shattered Dreams. As Goldust made the run up, the referee jumped in the way to prevent the low blow which gave Shamrock the time to jump up to the top rope, jumping onto Goldust for a hurricarana, following it up immediately with an ankle lock that made Goldust tap out.
In the last first round match, the Rock was to square off against a returning Triple H. Despite Triple H’s D-Generation X music playing, Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco came to the ring to make the announcement that despite a no-show from Triple H, presumably due to his knee injury, the match would not be forfeited. The last minute replacement was Big Boss Man who ran to the ring, only to be rolled into a pin for the shortest match in WWF history – three seconds.
The first of the quarter final matches, which saw the time limit increased to fifteen minutes, was between two wrestlers who received byes through the first round, the warring brothers Undertaker and Kane. Both threw each other around the ring before the match was taken briefly outside, Undertaker thrown into the crowd barrier and Kane stomped into the steel steps. Although Kane would retake the advantage in the ring, a jumping elbow drop met with the mat when Undertaker set up. Undertaker used the opportunity to take out Kane’s knee, using a number of attacks and holds on it. Undertaker pushed the rules to the limit by choking Kane in the corner and as the referee reprimanded him, Kane was able to recuperate to fight back. After a series of punches and a flying lariat the two were even again, this was symbolised when Undertaker grabbed Kane’s throat for a chokeslam from a running attack. Kane did the same and eventually was able to deliver the chokeslam. Before he could pin his brother though, Paul Bearer jumped on the apron to distract Kane and in the interim period Undertaker stood up to deliver a tombstone piledriver and pin his brother, with Bearer holding Kane’s leg down.
Mankind met Al Snow next, with Snow throwing Mankind around the ring and barging him to the floor before dropkicking him to the outside. Mankind tried to balance things by grabbing a steel chair but Snow took it off him and hit him twice (without disqualification), before mistiming an attack to the ring post allowing for Mankind to take charge. Having been beaten in the ring, Snow crawled to Head to use as a weapon but swung and missed, allowing Mankind to deliver a back drop. As he did, Head came away in his hand and he realized Mr. Socko was tied round Head’s head. The rage saw him beat the mannequin, stamping on it before turning his attention back to Al Snow to land a double-armed DDT and then the mandible claw to win the match and setting up a match for Steve Austin in the next round.
The Big Boss Man was entered into the tournament twice and interfered in The Rock’s matches
The final second round match pitted the long-feuding Shamrock and The Rock against each other. Rock began his attack instantly, punching and clotheslining Shamrock before the latter replied with a suplex. Rock was not down for long, coming out of a kneeling position with another clothesline before chasing Shamrock out of the ring and spitting water into his face but receiving steel steps in the shoulder for it. Big Boss Man came to the ring as Shamrock moved from a chin lock into his ankle lock. Rock held on and slowly crawled for the ring break. After breaking away both men collided with a double clothesline allowing both men to recover and, after a failed pin attempt, stand up and fight again. Rock dynamically swung around Shamrock’s body to secure a DDT attempt and as Boss Man distracted the referee, punched Shamrock in the crotch. Despite this, and a People’s Elbow, Shamrock still kicked out and managed to reverse a Rock Bottom attempt into a belly-to-belly suplex. Boss Man tried to interfere again, slyly throwing a night stick to Shamrock as the referee was distracted. Rock intercepted the night stick though, allowing him to strike down Shamrock and make a pinfall.
Halfway through the evening, Women’s Champion Jacqueline defended her title against Sable. The match seemed to be over almost instantly as, after a flurry of strikes Sable used the TKO on Jacqueline. Marc Mero, though, pulled Sable away from the pinfall for which he received a kick to the groin, followed by a Sable Bomb on the outside of the ring allowing Jacqueline to recover and attack her from behind, rolling her back into the ring and taunting Sable with the hair Jacqueline had cut a few weeks before. Sable was then taken to the corner and kicked before being set up for a powerbomb. Sable tossed the champion over her back but Jacqueline crawled her over to the corner to set up a tornado DDT from the turnbuckle. Sable reversed again, throwing Jacqueline to the ground, picking her up to deliver a Sable Bomb and winning the Women’s