Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Top Ten Things: Non-Traditional Survivor Series Matches

Welcome to another episode of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!

As everyone who's spent any significant time discussing wrestling with me knows, I love me some Survivor Series elimination matches.  Every year I look forward to them, hoping beyond hope that WWE won't completely screw them up.  Some years my faith is rewarded (2016), some years not so much (2017).  But as we all know, Survivor Series is often about more than just the traditional 5-on-5 matches.  Some years the SS gimmick is completely upstaged by a regular old singles or tag team affair.  Some years in fact, one or two non-gimmick matches end up saving the entire show (when the company has decided not to take the traditional SS matches seriously).  Today's list is all about the regular ol' wrestling matches that have stood out, despite their lack of Survivor Series-ness.

Here we go.  This list includes two Honorable Mentions....




HM: Dolph Ziggler vs. John Morrison - 11.20.11


Our first entry is the opening match of the 2011 edition, and the final WWE match for John Morrison, better known these days as Impact Heavyweight Champion Johnny Impact, better known in my household as Johnny Glampants (Damn, he's handsome).  This was a spectacular US Title match, as Dolph Ziggler defended against the aforementioned Captain of Starship Pain.  These two gelled superbly and JoMo left WWE with a bang, nearly stealing the show with a thrilling exercise in nonstop action.  This eleven-minute match featured 17 kinds of Awesome; for those counting, that's roughly 1.5 kinds of Awesome per minute.





HM: Batista vs. The Undertaker - 11.18.07


The Hell in a Cell main event of Survivor Series '07 was the blowoff to the excellent Undertaker-Batista World Title feud.  These two had amazing chemistry and turned in a handful of show-stealing matches that year; I consider 2007 to be when Taker rediscovered his considerable in-ring ability, and also the year Batista came into his own as a worker.  After twenty-plus minutes of back-and-forth action, the returning Edge interfered, disguised as a ringside cameraman, and cost Taker the bout.  While run-in endings usually detract from big matches, in this case Edge's meddling made perfect sense and kicked off a great feud with Taker that lasted through most of 2008.





10. Ronda Rousey vs. Charlotte Flair

Image result for ronda vs charlotte survivor series"

Ronda Rousey's best wrestling match to date semi-main evented the 2018 Survivor Series, and holy shit did she and Charlotte beat the piss out of each other.  This match felt like a legitimate fight, with Flair attempting to go all MMA up in this bitch.  They were stiff as hell and incorporated lots of grappling, while Flair also went for her signature stuff.  Charlotte went move for move with Ronda and the match was dead-even almost the entire time.  Finally after being frustrated on numerous occasions Charlotte rolled to the outside, Ronda went after her, and Charlotte whacked her with a kendo stick for the DQ.  What followed was one of the most violent beatdowns I'd seen in a long time.  Charlotte MURDERED Ronda with the kendo stick, leaving welts all over her body, and then Pillmanized her neck with a chair.  The crowd, savages that they were, cheered Charlotte on the whole time, which was a bit disturbing.  But this was a fantastically executed beatdown (which of course WWE didn't follow up properly at all), to cap off a great bout.





9. CM Punk vs. John Cena vs. Ryback - 11.18.12


The 2012 Series was originally to be headlined by a 5-on-5 match between Team Punk (CM Punk, Miz, Alberto Del Rio, Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow) vs. Team Foley (Randy Orton, Ryback, Kofi Kingston, Kane and Daniel Bryan).  Two weeks out however, Vince changed the card around so there'd be a WWE Title match as the main event - CM Punk vs. John Cena vs. Ryback.  Going in I was so pissed about the card reshuffle that I figured this would be a forgettable schmozz of a match.  I was incorrect - these three put together one of the two best matches of the night.  This was a high-energy, chaotic brawl full of believable near-falls that culminated with Ryback hitting Shellshock on Cena.  Before he could get the pin though, three unknown assailants clad in black stormed the ring, beat the tar out of Ryback, and triple powerbombed him through a ringside table.  Punk then opportunistically covered the unconscious Cena to retain the belt.  Those three attackers?  Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns.  This of course proved to be one of the most exciting angles of the decade, launching the careers of three future top stars, and putting an exclamation point on a helluva main event.

The History of WWE Survivor Series (2016)

Minus a bafflingly abbreviated main event, WWE gave me a birthday present in 2016 by bringing back the real Survivor Series concept....

Survivor Series 2016 - Air Canada Centre - 11.20.16

For the 2016 edition WWE finally took the Survivor Series concept back to its roots (mostly), assembling three huge traditional elimination matches - one for the men, one for the women, and one for the tag team division.  All three delivered on some level, laying the foundation for what turned out the best main roster PPV of the year.  Additionally there were three singles matches, two of which also delivered, and one which just may be the most baffling thing of any kind, in any medium, in any universe, ever.  Advanced trigonometry makes more sense to me than did this main event.  But before I start complaining about a show that I frankly quite enjoyed overall, let's talk about the good stuff.

Brock's afraid of Grampa.

The show opened with the Women's elimination match pitting RAW Champ Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Bayley, Nia Jax, and Alicia Fox against Smackdown Champion Becky Lynch, Naomi, Alexa Bliss, Carmella, and Natalya, subbing for Nikki Bella who was attacked by a mystery person backstage (later revealed to be Nattie herself to get into this match).  This match was a lot of fun despite a slightly rushed pace.  The women got a solid 17 minutes to work with and multiple feuds played out a bit.  The RAW vs. Smackdown rivalry has never, and will never work as a believable feud, but at least in a few cases the babyfaces and heels were booked as very reluctant partners.  After Bayley won the match for her team, her co-survivor Charlotte beat the holy hell out of her, hammering home that the pleasantries were over.  Pretty much everyone in this match got time to make an impression, particularly Nia Jax who was booked like a monster, eliminating Naomi by countout after beeling her off the apron onto the floor.  This match easily ranked high on the list of best women's Survivor Series bouts, right up there with the Team Moolah vs. Team Sherri match from 1987.  A great way to open the PPV.


Next up was the Intercontinental Championship, as The Miz, fresh off regaining the strap the previous Tuesday defended against Dolph Ziggler's scheduled opponent, Sami Zayn.  I'm still not sure why Miz was booked to win back the Title at the last minute, as Zayn vs. Ziggler surely would've been the superior contest.  But this was quite alright too.  As I've said before, Zayn is nigh incapable of having a bad match, and The Miz was looking better than ever.  So this gelled nicely.  Miz eventually won in classic heel fashion.  Zayn had slapped on a figure four and Maryse rang the bell to distract both Zayn and the referee, allowing Miz to roll Zayn up for a cheap pinfall.  This was a cheap finish, but an appropriate one for Miz's character.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The History of WWE Survivor Series (2015)

WWE wasn't even trying with this show....

Survivor Series 2015 - Philips Arena - 11.22.15

This was one of those shows where the matches were all inoffensive at worst, but the booking was so completely tone-deaf and out of touch with basic wrestling logic and the will of WWE's entire fanbase.  At a time when the top three in-ring talents, plus a host of other top names, were on the shelf with injuries the company presented three hours of almost total counterproductivity.  I can't recall a time when the WWE Title has been so marginalized, or when an intended top babyface has been made to look so ineffectual.

First a little background.  Seth Rollins had been the WWE Champion since cashing in the briefcase at WrestleMania 31, and was scheduled to finally defend the strap one-on-one against Vince's intended "It guy" Roman Reigns.  The plan was for Reigns' coronation to take place at Survivor Series.  But a couple weeks before the show Rollins suffered a knee injury that would sideline him for 4-6 months.  So a tournament was held for the vacant Title, with Reigns, Alberto Del Rio, Dean Ambrose and Kevin Owens advancing to the Final Four at Survivor Series.  Now that that's outta the way let's look at the card....

At long last, the epic showdown.....we didn't get.

The pre-show elimination match was entertaining enough.  Goldust returned from an injury and he and his team made pretty easy work of the Stardust-led heel team (What a pointless feud that ended up).  But unfortunately, as with the main card elimination match, there was zero story here.  It was another case of "ten guys we don't have anything for."  Furthermore, the Goldust team consisted of 48-year-old Dustin Runnels, both 40-plus Dudley Boyz, and a near-40 Titus O'Neil (subbing for the injured Cesaro).  Oh, and former NXT sensation Neville - the one guy eliminated from the babyface team.  Neville's "call-up" from NXT, like so many others, was a career nosedive from day one.  Can't imagine why he later asked for his release.....

The two tournament semi-final matches were both solid.  Reigns vs. Del Rio was called by many the Match of the Night, which I don't agree with.  It was perfectly good but not above three stars or so.  Regardless, no complaints overall.  Ambrose vs. Owens was about on the same level as the opener, but the shortness of it made it feel a little underwhelming.  Turns out that would be a theme on this show.

Next up was the one Survivor Series match on the Survivor Series card.  The two teams were announced exactly two minutes prior to the start of the bout, which is always a good idea if you want your audience to give a sweet crap about what they're watching.  The New Day, Sheamus & Wade Barrett faced Ryback, Lucha Dragons and The Usos, and were given about 18 minutes to tell whatever story this was supposed to be.  The 2015 Money in the Bank winner Sheamus was presented like a buffoonish comedy character and was later deserted by The New Day (Mind you, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods were never counted out or DQd - they were just gone, after helping the eliminated Big E to the back).  Remaining babyfaces Ryback, Jimmy Uso and Kalisto then pretty handily trounced the Celtic Warrior for the win.  Sheamus got pinned by Ryback.  Remember that later.  Sheamus got pinned clean by Ryback (who just a week earlier got pinned clean by Kalisto).

The one real highlight for me was the Divas Title match.  Charlotte and Paige put together an urgent, compelling, innovative 14-minute match that cemented Ms. Flair as the top women's wrestler in the company.  It took a few months, but Charlotte and her fellow NXT alum were by this time finally starting to upstage their male counterparts.  Prior to this I couldn't remember another main roster PPV where the women stole the show (aside from the dreadful 2006 Survivor Series when Lita vs. Mickie James won MOTN by default).  It wasn't perfect and certainly nowhere near the level of the NXT Women's matches or the later Charlotte-Sasha feud, but this was my favorite match of the night.

Now this I liked

The final three matches on this show totaled about 26 minutes.  Totaled. Twenty-six. Minutes.

Dolph Ziggler vs. the latest NXT alum Tyler Breeze was given less than seven minutes and would've been right at home on the first hour of Smackdown.

The semi-main event went to the most hyped match on the show, The Undertaker & Kane vs. two Wyatts.  Originally it seemed like they'd pit all four Wyatts against Taker, Kane and two other babyfaces (Ya know, a Survivor Series match?), but they opted for just two-on-two here.  Again, I want someone in WWE to tell me with a straight face that a plain ol' tag match is a bigger draw on a Survivor Series PPV than a Survivor Series match.  This went about ten minutes and the Wyatts once again came off as not remotely threatening.  It's like Vince has ADD; he gets attached to a new guy for like three months, has him feud with John Cena, lose, and he's never the same again.  Bray Wyatt's main event potential had long since evaporated by this point, and thanks to yet another nostalgia "celebration" he was now 0-2 against the 50-year-old Undertaker.  There wasn't any point to this except to acknowledge Taker's 25th anniversary.  If that's your only storyline going into a semi-main event, you need a rewrite.  And a swift punch in the sack.

The History of WWE Survivor Series (2014)

Everyone loves the main event of this show, but when you really think about it, it was nonsensical.


Survivor Series 2014 - Scottrade Center - 11/23/14

Oddly the main event of the 2014 edition was like a do-over from 2013.  The Authority picked five guys to represent them, against a five-man insurrection led by the company's top babyface.  And if the good guys won, The Authority would be out of power, with only the babyface leader able to reinstate them.  On paper that's a pretty high-stakes elimination match.  Unfortunately the execution leading up to this show was so bad and lacked all urgency, and this type of angle had been done so many times no one really cared.  A year prior, with the Daniel Bryan vs. The Authority feud in high gear, this would've been epic.  In 2014 though, with longtime WWE posterboy John Cena cast as "The guy Triple H and Steph don't want representing the company because........just because," it doesn't quite work.  But before we get to this match, let's look at the rest of the show.

First up was a four-way match for the Tag Team Title, as Goldust & Stardust defended against Team Mizdow, The Usos, and Los Matadores.  Taken in and of itself this match was perfectly decent.  It was given over fifteen minutes and everyone involved could work.  The problem was these four teams had faced each other in various combinations ad nauseum over the preceding weeks, so nothing about this felt special.  It was just eight guys executing a match.  Also this being Survivor Series, Elimination Rules would've made more sense.  Mizdow won the belts prematurely to further the eventual split between Miz and Sandow, which as we all know led to nothing.

They won the belts too soon and split up too soon.
Next up was a four-on-four Divas elimination match: Alicia Fox, Emma, Naomi and Natalya vs. Paige, Cameron, Layla, and Summer Rae.  There was little point to this match but I'll be goddamned if it wasn't terribly entertaining.  It's a rare thing for a women's match of any kind to get nearly fifteen minutes on a PPV, and this was actually treated like a real Survivor Series bout.  Sadly it was a clean sweep which I hate in general (these should be saved for very rare occasions and made into a huge deal), but I liked the match quite a bit all things considered.

The first big match of the night was next, as Dean Ambrose faced Bray Wyatt in a battle of the crazy dudes.  This was pretty underwhelming actually, and ended with a lame DQ.  They'd have a much better match with an even dumber ending at TLC.

Next up was Adam Rose and The Bunny vs. Heath Slater and Titus O'Neil.  What in the hell was the point of this?  Between the match itself and the entrances this took up probably 7 minutes of valuable air time that could've been given to one of the matches people actually gave a shit about.

Monday, November 18, 2019

The History of WWE Survivor Series (2013)

I hate this show so much...

Survivor Series 2013 - TD Garden - 11/24/13

Ugh.  WWE was on their way to a triumvirate of good consecutive Survivor Series PPVs but then assembled this turd of a show, seemingly as a way to dare fans not to order it.  I remember reading online about a month before this show that WWE was really striving to put together a stacked Series PPV to make it seem like one of the Big Four again.  When the final card was announced I said, "Wow, they only missed that goal by about twelve parsecs."

What's sad is they had a ready-made five-on-five match just sitting there.  The Authority angle had just begun a few months earlier, and unlike in 2014 the fans actually cared about it.  Also unlike 2014, WWE had a full roster of healthy talent.  Sadly we'd have to wait a full year for an Authority vs. Anti-Authority Survivor Series match, and on paper the 2014 incarnation wasn't nearly as intriguing as the 2013 one could've been.

The only real elimination match at the 2013 Series PPV OPENED the show.  Yup.  Went on first.  This would be like the Rumble match going on first.  How can you have a PPV centered around a gimmick match and then have that gimmick match open the fucking event, with the rest of the show essentially just a slew of regular matches?  Anyway, The Shield and The Real Americans teamed up to take on The Rhodeses, The Usos, and Rey Mysterio.  In fairness this was a fine elimination match and helped build up Roman Reigns as a monster heel, but otherwise lacked much purpose.  Dean Ambrose was eliminated only two minutes in for some reason, but following that we ended up with a nice 5-on-2 scenario for Reigns and Rollins to come back from.  Reigns took out four men with The Spear to win the match.

Nothing was gonna follow this.  Not with the phoned-in card they booked.

Next Big E. Langston had a run-of-the-mill RAW match, successfully defending the I-C Title against Curtis Axel.  Yawn.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

The History of WWE Survivor Series (2012)

An historic show that had long-reaching fallout....

Survivor Series 2012 - Bankers Life Fieldhouse - 11/18/12

This here was a helluva Survivor Series.  Along with the 2009 edition, 2012 was probably the best or second-best Series of the past fifteen years.  Not one but two full-length, exciting elimination matches were featured, and the main event was both a good match AND included a major show-closing angle.  It should be noted that this card was reshuffled only two weeks before the event due to Vince's batshit decree that the fans didn't want to see a Survivor Series elimination match headline Survivor Series.  More on that later.  Regardless, WWE delivered one of the strongest Survivor Series cards in years.

The PPV opened with one of the two traditional SS matches, which as I recall wasn't officially announced beforehand.  Brodus Clay led Justin Gabriel, Tyson Kidd, Sin Cara and Rey Mysterio against Tensai, Primo & Epico, and the Prime Time Players.  The bout took its time, featured pretty spectacular action, and amazingly the two oversized team captains were the first two knocked out, leaving the smaller midcard guys to carry the match.  After a tremendously entertaining 18 minutes Mysterio, Sin Cara, Gabriel and Kidd won the whole thing.

Next was a solid Divas Title match between Eve Torres (at the time probably the most over heel Diva on the roster) against Kaitlyn.  This was pretty standard stuff, but both women could work and they had a strong outing.

Third was a bit of a filler match as US Champion Cesaro defended against R-Truth.  Nothing great here but it was a decent RAW-quality match.

The World Championship was up next as new Champ Big Show defended against former Champion Sheamus.  This was a good hard-hitting big-man match until Show pulled the referee in front of him to absorb a Brogue Kick, earning a DQ.

What an eclectic bunch of guys.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

The History of WWE Survivor Series (2011)

This show was on its way to being really good, until an idiotic main event match...

Survivor Series 2011 - Madison Square Garden - 11/20/11

This show was loads of fun, up until the main event.  There's not a bad match on the card, but I found the Rock/Cena vs. Miz/Truth tag match utterly depressing.  But we'll get to that in a bit.

The PPV opened with a spectacular US Title match, as Dolph Ziggler defended against the departing John Morrison.  These two gelled superbly and JoMo left WWE with a bang.  This eleven-minute match featured 17 kinds of Awesome.  For those counting, that's roughly 1.5 kinds of Awesome per minute.

Second was a solid Divas Title match between Beth Phoenix and Eve Torres.  Nothing mindblowing, but both of these women could work, and they did.

The lone elimination match was next, as Wade Barrett led Cody Rhodes, Jack Swagger, Hunico (the former Fake Sin Cara and now simply known as Sin Cara), and Mr. Double-Duty Dolph Ziggler against Randy Orton, Sheamus, Kofi Kingston, Mason Ryan (??), and Sin Cara (now simply known as Not Sin Cara).  As always someone had to be pinned very early; this time it was Ziggler, and shortly after that Sin Cara injured himself (man this guy turned out to be a bust) and had to forfeit his spot.  Once that stuff was over though, this turned into a pretty good elimination match.  Barrett was just beginning to look like a real star and along with Cody, outlasted Team Orton to take the duke.  Sadly Barrett was plagued by injuries the rest of his WWE run and his push was never fully realized.

The World Title match was up next as Mark Henry defended against The Big Show.  On paper this sounds like a snorefest, but it was actually pretty decent.  The action was stiff and included the old Tackle-Through-The-Barricade spot.  Henry hit Show with a nutshot to cheaply retain the belt, and Show made him pay for it by injuring his leg with a chair.  This would've been the perfect time for Mr. Money in the Bank Daniel Bryan (who wasn't booked on this show) to cash in and win the World Title in front of a rabid New York crowd, but the company chose to save that for the TLC PPV in December.  Whatever....

All you gotta do is tap, Del Rio.  Tap-tap-tappa-roo!

The true main event of the evening was second-to-last as WWE Champion Alberto Del Rio defended against WWE's newest folk hero CM Punk.  This was a fantastically-worked match, full of great action, drama, submission holds and reversals.  After 17 minutes Punk forced Del Rio to tap out to the Anaconda Vice and began his legendary 434-day reign as WWE Champion.  The MSG crowd ate up this match and its aftermath with a serving ladle.  Unfortunately its awesomeness would be upstaged by the billed main event.....

Friday, November 15, 2019

The History of WWE Survivor Series (2010)

Well, half of this show is good...

Survivor Series 2010 - American Airlines Arena - 11/21/10

Survivor Series 2010 is like two different shows.  The first half is pretty fantastic.  The second half is so bland it's like the company ran out of energy at the 90-minute mark and just slapped together the last four matches.

The show opened wonderfully with Daniel Bryan defending the US Title against Ted Dibiase.  Bryan was on a major roll, delivering show-stealing matches for the last four PPVs.  This one was no different.  While not on the level of his bouts with Dolph Ziggler, The Miz or John Morrison, Bryan-Dibiase was one hell of an opening contest and further cemented Bryan as a rising star.

Yeah D-Bry!  I love y--- er, I mean...you're quite a grappler.....

Second was one of a series of strong matches between John Morrison and Sheamus.  These two had excellent David vs. Goliath chemistry and their feud, while not exactly raising Sheamus's stock, elevated Morrison splendidly, for a while at least.  Morrison and Sheamus would top themselves at TLC a month later in a thrilling ladder match.

Next up was Dolph Ziggler defending his Intercontinental Title against NXT Season 2 winner Kaval (formerly Low-Ki).  WWE clearly didn't bank on Kaval winning NXT but their hand was forced when the audience overwhelmingly voted for him.  The prize was a PPV Title match of his choosing.  This was another well-worked midcard bout and Kaval looked right at home as an I-C contender.  Unfortunately despite obvious fan support WWE stubbornly refused to do anything with Kaval, even going so far as to inform him they had no plans for him, and he requested his release shortly after this match.  Another example of how much disdain WWE seemingly has for its own audience at times.

The final match in the "good" half of this show was the traditional elimination match.  Alberto Del Rio captained the team of Drew McIntyre, Cody Rhodes, Jack Swagger, and Tyler Reks against Rey Mysterio, Big Show, MVP, Kofi Kingston, and Chris Masters.  This was solid if a little unremarkable.  Del Rio was strangely knocked out by Big Show halfway in, which more or less telegraphed who was winning this match, given the card position of his four teammates.  Rey and Big Show survived after taking out a slew of midcarders.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

AEW Full Gear, the Company's Best Show So Far

Alright, it took me a few days to watch this whole thing (lotta shit going on these days), but I finally finished it last night, and goddamn this was a good show.  AEW has outdone themselves with Full Gear, a seven-match main card featuring a stellar double main event and a slew of good-to-great undercard bouts.  Some new talents got big wins here, we got a great heel turn, and two of the main event guys tried to murder each other (if you're into that sorta thing).  This was one of the best shows of 2019.


The show kicked off with a Bucks Hot-Opener Special, as they mixed it up with hated rivals Ortiz & Santana (I hate the name Proud & Powerful for these guys - they need to come up with something better).  This was wild and blistering, as one expects from a Bucks match, with lots of high spots mixed with good psychology.  Notable were callbacks to two classic bouts - one was the Bucks vs. Evil & Sanada from Dominion 2018, with Nick missing a kick and injuring his leg on the post (which came back to haunt him when it was time for the Meltzer Driver), the other was the Steiners-Headshrinkers match from WrestleMania 9, as Matt countered a Street Sweeper attempt with a powerslam off Ortiz's shoulders.  The match went a fairly epic 21 minutes and came to a head when Matt missed a corner charge and P&P hit the Street Sweeper on Nick for the sudden pin.  Post-match they got into it again but the Rock n' Roll Express, who were seated at ringside, got involved and Ricky Morton actually hit Ortiz with a fucking Canadian Destroyer and then did a tope to the outside.  At age 63.  Just insane.  Anyway, pretty great stuff and the right team went over.  This feud will continue, as evidenced by the backstage brawl on the following Dynamite episode.  **** 


Hangman Page vs. Pac was a fantastic battle that made both guys look great and served as a definitive Page match.  These two put together a great mix of brawling and high impact signature moves, with Pac avoiding the Buckshot multiple times and Page cutting off the Black Arrow and hitting a top rope fallaway slam.  The most brutal-looking spot came midway as Pac hit a brainbuster onto a ringside chair; this looked like it killed Page.  At the end of the bout Page missed another Buckshot Lariat and Pac tried to low-blow him, but Page caught it and nailed the Deadeye piledriver for the win.  Just excellent stuff from both guys.  ****1/4


The weakest match on the proper PPV (which was still a solid bout) was Shawn Spears vs. Joey Janela, given the unenviable task of following the first two matches.  But Spears looked strong here and Janela got to do a few daredevil spots, including taking a snap powerslam on the apron.  At one point Spears cleverly tied Janela's hair to the turnbuckle using the tag rope and got in several free shots.  The finish involved some great heel tactics - Spears untied a turnbuckle pad, forcing the referee to put it back on, and he and Tully did the old Brain Busters spike piledriver on the floor.  Spears then rolled Joey back in and hit his Death Valley Driver for the decisive win.  Nothing amazing but a very watchable match to help establish Spears as a rising heel star.  **3/4

The History of WWE Survivor Series (2009)

I daresay this was the best Survivor Series of the aughts...
Survivor Series 2009 - Verizon Center - 11/22/09

A quantum leap over the 2008 edition, this Survivor Series moved along with purpose and was a streamlined, entertaining show.  I wasn't too excited about any of it initially but it ended up being a damn fine show.  Interestingly, Vince McMahon told investors in 2009 that he was getting rid of the Survivor Series concept and PPV, saying it had become "obsolete," (as I recall he considered replacing it with WarGames, an even older idea) and I was highly pissed, being that SS has always been one of my favorite gimmicks.  Fortunately cooler head prevailed and the Series stuck around, and is still going strong.

The opening match featured WWE's "youth movement", as Team Miz - Miz, Sheamus, Drew McIntyre, Dolph Ziggler and Jack Swagger took on Team Morrison - John Morrison, Matt Hardy, Evan Bourne, Shelton Benjamin, and Finlay (ok, Fit wasn't exactly part of the "youth movement").  This was a very well-worked elimination match and showcased much of the company's young talent, at a time when the roster desperately needed a shakeup.  For months every WWE PPV was being headlined by the same five guys, and this was the first concerted effort to push some new faces.  Sheamus was dominant and survived along with Miz and McIntyre.  It was clear from this match that the Celtic Warrior was being groomed for big things.

Next up was the newly-turned-heel Batista (Big Dave's work during this run was great) out to destroy his former friend Rey Mysterio for costing him the World Title at Bragging Rights.  Little more than a seven-minute flogging, this match was nonetheless well-executed and conveyed how dangerous Evil Batista could be.

Evil Dave is pretty boss.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The History of WWE Survivor Series (2008)

Moving on to the era when the 5-on-5 elimination matches started to get good again.....

Survivor Series 2008 - TD Garden - 11/23/08

The 2008 edition was uneven at best.  The good matches were worth watching and the bad matches are to be avoided like a three-week-old pastrami sandwich.  On the plus side there were three traditional elimination matches, and on the minus side there were three mediocre-or-worse singles bouts.

The show opened with a 5-on-5 match, as Shawn Michaels, Rey Mysterio, The Great Khali, and Cryme Tyme (yet another one of those classy "ethnic" WWE gimmicks) faced JBL, Kane, MVP, John Morrison, and The Miz.  Once past the idiotic, overly-quick eliminations this settled into some okay, watchable Survivor Series fare.  Nothing big was at stake, but it was just a solid, old-school elimination match.  Shawn, Mysterio, and for some reason The Great Khali were the survivors (shortly after this the company finally figured out that Khali probably shouldn't be beating anyone given his physical condition).

A Divas elimination match was next, featuring RAW's Beth Phoenix, Mickie James, Kelly Kelly, Candice Michelle, and Jillian Hall against Smackdown's Michelle McCool, Victoria, Maria, Maryse, and Natalya.  Once again we the audience were expected to believe that brand loyalty was more important to these wrestlers than moral alignment.  The match featured a series of rapid-fire eliminations spread over nine-and-a-half minutes.  Quite forgettable.  Beth Phoenix won the whole thing.

In slot 3 was the first singles match of the night, as The Undertaker and The Big Show plodded through a Casket Match.  I've never felt much chemistry between these two, and this was no different.  Tedious.  Very tedious.

The best 2008 elimination match was next, as Randy Orton led Shelton Benjamin, William Regal, Cody Rhodes, and Mark Henry against Batista, CM Punk, Kofi Kingston, Matt Hardy, and R-Truth.  This match came about because two months earlier at Unforgiven, Orton attacked and punted World Champion Punk backstage, resulting in Punk being taken out of his title defense that night, costing him the Championship by forfeit.  I'm not sure in what universe it's believable that a Champion can be sneak-attacked backstage minutes before his scheduled defense, and the company penalizes him by immediately stripping him of the belt, thus allowing his last-minute replacement (Chris Jericho) to capture said Title.  The whole point of this was to start a major feud between Orton and Punk, but only weeks later Batista returned to WWE TV and usurped Punk's spot in the feud.  Punk became a total afterthought and never got a return Title match, instead having to win another Money in the Bank briefcase to get near the strap again.  Anyway, the match was quite good, despite yet another first-minute elimination and Punk being taken out unceremoniously midway through.  Orton and Cody survived.

Top Ten Things: Alanis Morissette Songs

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com, where I make lists.  Lots and lots of lists.

Coming off my recent viewing of the stupendously awesome new Broadway show Jagged Little Pill, inspired by the Alanis Morissette album of the same name, I thought I'd make a list of my favorite Alanis songs.  Why not indeed?


I first became aware of Alanis while working at Strawberries record store in the summer of 1995.  One of the promotional tapes we were required to play on a loop all day long included two of her hits, "All I Really Want" and "Hand in My Pocket."  Being a fairly narrow-minded teenage metalhead at the time, my first response to these tunes was "What's with all the goddamn caterwauling??"  As with so many artists and bands I eventually came to love, I couldn't stand these songs initially.  My brain simply wasn't ready to accept this unconventional alt-rock approach to popular radio music.  But then I had to hear them once every hour, and of course they grew on me like a fungus.  Soon after that, my sister told me about another song called "You Oughta Know," and I was surprised it wasn't on the Strawberries tape (for what later became obvious reasons).  When I finally did get to hear it, via MTV, it broke my mind-hole and I immediately exercised my Strawberries employee discount to buy the Jagged Little Pill cassette.  On first listen I fell in love with both the album and Alanis herself (she was a MAJOR celebrity crush of mine for a few years).  I'd never heard pop music with such raw, emotive honesty; I felt like the album reframed my entire worldview, the way you come out of a productive therapy session with a new lease on life.  It was poignant, hopeful, sad, derisive, healing, and on top of that irresistibly hooky.  I was a superfan.

I got to see Alanis in concert a year later, and her visceral stage presence and vocal power absolutely blew me away; I actually liked some of her live versions better than the recordings.  Twenty-plus years later I still consider that one of the best live shows I've ever seen.

Morissette's other albums haven't had the significance for me that JLP did (I imagine that's probably true for many), but seeing the new Broadway show gave me new layers of appreciation and love for the seminal record.

But enough about me, let's talk about songs for a minute.  Here are my ten favorite Alanis Morissette songs (plus four Honorable Mentions)....

For a full review of the Jagged Little Pill Broadway show, click HERE.



HM: All I Really Want

My gateway Alanis song was this JLP opener, a contemplative tune about what she wants out of a relationship and life in general.  It right away spotlighted her offbeat delivery and lyrical playfulness, and while it's not a tippy-top favorite for me, "All I Really Want" nonetheless holds a special place as the song that converted me into a fan.



HM: Head Over Feet

This sweet, tender love song was among the first collaborations between Alanis and her longtime producer/co-writer Glen Ballard.  Its simple chord progression and gentle lyrics about falling in love with your best friend made it a natural radio single, and it immediately became one of her most popular songs.



HM: Joining You

Boasting a Sting-like chorus hook, "Joining You" is about Alanis reaching out to a troubled friend going through a deep depression, saying "I've been where you are, and if I thought we as human beings were reduced to our worst and simplest qualities I'd still be there with you."



HM: Hands Clean

The first single off Under Rug Swept, "Hands Clean" is almost a sequel to "Right Through You," about a music business mentor that took advantage of Alanis when she was young and swore her to secrecy.  While "Right Through You" was rife with resentment and anger over the situation, "Hands Clean" is her way of moving past the episode and forgiving herself for keeping quiet about it.

The History of WWE Survivor Series (2007)

Welp, this was an improvement at least....

Survivor Series 2007 - American Airlines Arena - 11/18/07

Things got somewhat back on track in late 2007, as WWE rediscovered consistently watchable PPVs.  That year's edition of No Mercy and Survivor Series began a string of solid shows.  While Series wasn't exactly a throwback to the gimmick's glory days, it was still a strong PPV with two excellent main events.

The show kicked off in style as CM Punk defended the ECW Title against John Morrison and The Miz in a brief but exciting Triple Threat match.  For a little while the company was finally starting to get behind Punk as a rising babyface star (partly out of necessity due to JoMo being suspended for PEDs).

Next was a rather pointless inclusion, a one-fall ten-Divas tag team match.  It was forgettable but inoffensive.

Another free-TV quality match followed as Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch successfully defended the World Tag straps against Bob Holly and Cody Rhodes.  Holly and Rhodes became a team in the logical fashion: they wrestled each other several times with Holly repeatedly beating the piss out of Rhodes until he "learned respect."  This was a terrible angle and a perplexing way to create a babyface duo.  The match here was fine but far from noteworthy.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Top Ten Things: Disney Animated Films

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com, where tell y'all about a few of my favorite things.  Ten, to be exact.

What with the launch of the new stream service Disney+, today what's on my mind is Disney films.  Specifically the animated variety.  Before Disney was a multimedia, multi-franchise mega-empire, their bread and butter was making well-crafted, feature-length animated movies the whole family could enjoy.  So beloved were these films that the studio re-released them every five to ten years so a whole new generation of kids could experience them.  Many of them are so engrained in our culture it's hard to imagine what childhood must've been like before Walt Disney came along.

But which Disney films are the best?  Which ones still resonate decades later?  Well, here's my take....



10. Beauty and the Beast


Our first entry is one that frankly hasn't aged all that well for me, 1991's Beauty and the Beast.  While this one holds up as a visually rich, touching love story that appeals to viewers of all ages, it strikes me as far less timeless than some of its animated brethren.  The voice acting and songwriting is very much out of an early 90s Broadway production which firmly dates the film for me (along with the unnecessary use of computer animation in that one scene).  Nevertheless BATB is still widely hailed as an all-time classic that, like The Little Mermaid, returned Disney's animation studio to its former glory throughout the 90s.





9. The Great Mouse Detective


Easily my favorite Disney feature of the 1980s was this take on the Sherlock Holmes mythos, with all the characters recast as small animals.  The Sherlock figure is now a mouse called Basil, his Dr. Watson-esque partner is Dr. Dawson, and the film's diabolical Moriarty character is a rat, known as Professor Ratigan.  The Great Mouse Detective is a delightful action-adventure cartoon that sees Basil and Dawson helping a young girl find her kidnapped father and climaxes with a thrilling, CG-enhanced chase through the inner workings of Big Ben's clocktower.  This affectionate Holmes pastiche was only a modest box office success but I consider it an underappreciated near-classic.





8. One Hundred and One Dalmatians


One of the most purely fun Disney features was this 1961 canine-centric adventure, about a pair of dalmatians (Pongo and Perdita) whose puppies get stolen by a sadistic fur fanatic to be made into a coat.  Pongo and Perdita enlist the help of a network of dogs in and around London to find their pups, and the story takes them all over the country.  This isn't the most substantial Disney film but it's relentlessly entertaining, features an iconic villian in Cruella de Vil, and spawned one of the catchier songs in the Disney catalog.  Its animation style places it squarely in the early 60s, but unlike Beauty and the Beast, the datedness works in this film given when it takes place.


The History of WWE Survivor Series (2006)

Here's a PPV I would call joyless...

Survivor Series 2006 - Wachovia Center - 11/26/06

What a depressing show this was.  Survivor Series 2006 was a nice little cross-section of how uninspired and defiantly unsatisfying the WWE product was that year.  Looking over this card there were several potentially good matches, but sadly not one of them broke out of the two-star range.  WWE at this point was pushing who they wanted to push and more or less ignoring everyone else, regardless of how over they were (see Punk, CM).  Basically every match on this card felt like the whole crew was going through the motions and didn't want to be there.  Soooo, let's get started analyzing this bore of a show.

The opening match saw the already dead and buried Spirit Squad (featuring the future Dolph Ziggler) against four Legends with a combined age of roughly 240 - Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, Ron Simmons and Sgt. Slaughter.  As with any nostalgia vs. youth match the Legends team won (Flair singlehandedly eliminated three of the Squad members to become the sole survivor), thus ensuring no long-term benefit from the match whatsoever.  This stunk.

Next was the US Title match between Chavo Guerrero and Chris Benoit.  This was fine but wouldn't remotely make either guy's highlight reel.

The third match was Lita's retirement bout against Mickie James for the Women's Title.  Of all the matches on this PPV this was probably the only one with any urgency or motivation from its participants.  Lita clearly wanted to go out with a bang, and both women delivered.

Up fourth was an elimination match that should've been epic given the talent involved.  Triple H, Shawn Michaels, CM Punk and the Hardy Boyz faced Randy Orton, Edge, Johnny Nitro, Gregory Helms, and Mike Knox.  Hmmm, which of these ten dudes doesn't belong?  Could it be the guy who was eliminated 40 seconds into the match?  Yup, WWE once again decided to essentially pull a bait-and-switch by knocking someone out of the match right at the outset.  I love when that happens.  Anywho, what should've been a 20-plus-minute war became an eleven-minute clean-sweep, as the heels were made to look totally ineffectual and incompetent.  And yet the DX-Rated RKO feud continued for two months after this match, even though Edge and Orton got their asses handed to them in decisive fashion here.

Next up is an elimination match featuring DX! The Hardyz! CM Punk!
.............oh, and five other guys.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Theater Review: Jagged Little Pill


Dear Hamilton,

You are and have been the single greatest theatergoing experience of my life thus far.  I regret to inform you however, that your soundtrack's position of "music I choke back tears to on the way to work" is about to be usurped by the forthcoming soundtrack to Jagged Little Pill, the latest Broadway sensation based on the songs of Alanis Morissette.  

Sincerely, 

Justin


What an emotional gut-punch this show is.  Jagged Little Pill uses Alanis's milestone album (plus several of her other tracks) as the inspiration and backbone for a family-centric drama that tackles issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, sexual assault, drug addiction, and marital strife.  That one show is able to juggle this many sociopolitical themes without stumbling over itself is remarkable, but book writer Diablo Cody (of Juno fame) weaves them over and around each other effortlessly, while introducing and developing an ensemble of relatable but flawed everyperson characters.

We open on an affluent suburban family.  The parents, Mary Jane and Steve, have a strained marriage, partly due to his being a workaholic and her behavior growing erratic after a car accident a year earlier.  Their son Nick is an overachiever (largely thanks to Mary Jane's incessant pushing), while their adopted African-American daughter Frankie is a high school activist who resents her parents' overcompensation at treating her as if she were white.  Tension ratchets up after Nick's best friend is accused of raping one of their classmates, while Frankie jilts her girlfriend Jo for a new boy at school.  What results is an emotionally and politically charged exploration of all these hot-button issues as each character is forced to confront their choices and relationships.

The performances by this extraordinary ensemble cast are all wonderfully poignant, and the arrangements and execution of Morissette's music are true to the spirit and brutal honesty of her original recordings.  Marveling at how effectively and seamlessly the songs are incorporated and repurposed, I was reminded why I fell in love with Alanis's megahit album in the first place.  These songs resonate well beyond their mid-90s timeframe, examining universal subjects and emotions with a stunning, raw frankness almost unheard of in pop music.  Their application in this show adds new layers of empathy and relevance, providing numerous choke-up moments as these characters are cracked open and spilled out.

The History of WWE Survivor Series (2005)

The first Survivor Series to be themed around an idiotic RAW vs. Smackdown rivalry, this was nonetheless a very good PPV....

Survivor Series 2005 - Joe Louis Arena - 11/27/05

This right here is a pretty damn good show.  Shockingly, for the second consecutive year the Survivor Series main event was a traditional elimination match.  While it was built around a completely phony "brand loyalty" premise, it was nice to see a melee between two superteams serve as the top-billed match at this event.

The card opened with a WCW retread - Chris Benoit vs. Booker T in a Best-of-Seven Series match for the US Title.  Their chemistry in 2005 was nowhere near on the level of their 1998 work, but this was still a fine way to open the show.  As with SummerSlam, Benoit went from headlining this PPV in 2004 to curtain-jerking in 2005.

Trish Stratus then took on Melina for the Women's Title in a pretty solid little match.  Trish was usually awesome, and Melina's absurd flexibility always made for some memorable spots.  Not bad.

Third up was a match I wasn't expecting to enjoy at all - Triple H vs. Ric Flair in a Last Man Standing match.  This feud started that October on the "USA Homecoming" episode of RAW, when Triple H turned on Flair for basically no reason.  Seriously, the feud was based on the thinnest of motivations.  Hunter said he realized Flair was no longer a legend and had to be stopped.  Really guys?  That's all you have?  Anyway, this match was definitely longer than it should've been, but still an exceptional, violent brawl with all kindsa flowing crimson.

"You must be stopped, ex-legend!"

The WWE Title match was next as first-time Champion John Cena defended against Kurt Angle.  This was sadly nowhere near their Unforgiven match two months prior, and due in part to special referee Shawn Daivari's biased officiating it devolved into a rather gimmicky affair.  The brief 13-minute running time didn't help either.

In the death spot was the one truly bad match of the night, as RAW GM Eric Bischoff faced Smackdown GM Teddy Long.  The whole RAW vs. Smackdown feud was so utterly forced and devoid of any genuine heat.  Did anyone in the audience truly believe any of these guys was loyal to their own brand, especially when they held Draft Lotteries almost every year to shuffle the roster around?  Idiotic.  Anyway, this was what you'd expect from two non-wrestlers.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

The History of WWE Survivor Series (2004)

The Randy Orton babyface experiment peaks here before its steep crash...

Survivor Series 2004 - Gund Arena - 11/14/04

The 2004 edition was a great big donut PPV - good at the beginning and the end, but empty in the middle.  This was honestly a show I wasn't expecting to like much at all, but it ended up being pretty decent.  The push was on for the OVW Class of 2002, as Randy Orton had become the company's top babyface despite being ill-suited for the role, and John Cena and Batista were emerging to the forefront.  I wasn't much interested in any of these guys but I got why they were being pushed.  JBL as the WWE Champ however was another matter.  Still befuddled by that one.

The opener was a Fatal 4-Way Cruiserweight Title match, as Spike Dudley defended against Rey Mysterio, Chavo Guerrero and Billy Kidman.  Exactly the type of match you want to kick off a PPV - fast-paced and full of crowd-pleasing moves.

Next was a potential show-stealer, as Shelton Benjamin defended the I-C Title against Christian.  This was given ample time and both guys turned in some fine work.  Remember when the company actually seemed to give a shit about Shelton?  And the I-C belt?

The donut hole began now, with the Smackdown elimination match.  Kurt Angle, Carlito, Luther Reigns (any relation to Roman?), and Mark Jindrak faced Eddie Guerrero, Rob Van Dam, Big Show, and John Cena.  For the second year in a row the SD elimination match seemed like it was only included out of obligation, and one of the participants was eliminated before the opening bell.  Unbelievable.  Carlito ran in fear from his nemesis John Cena (from whom he had cheaply won the US Title in his television debut) and was counted out.  From there Team Eddie dominated and made short work of the heels, winning the match in a scant twelve minutes.

Angle's team got bitchslapped here.

The most offensive match on the show was next, as The Undertaker took on the cosmically inept, made-Sycho-Sid-look-competent Heidenreich.  John Heidenreich was essentially WWE's attempt to replace Brock Lesnar as a monster heel, except he lacked Lesnar's wrestling background and most of his athletic ability and natural presence.  But they still paired him with Paul Heyman hoping the name association and Heidenreich's passing resemblance would make us all forget about Brock.  So in essence he was the 2004 counterpart to Fake Razor & Diesel.  By the way there was a point in this match where John struggled noticeably to figure out how to execute a Cobra Clutch.  How he made it past Developmental I'll never know.  This went sixteen laborious minutes.

Friday, November 8, 2019

The History of WWE Survivor Series (2003)

The company rediscovered five-on-five matchups again in 2003, but also presented a lotta shit on top...

Survivor Series 2003 - American Airlines Center - 11/16/03

Speaking of shows that piss me off, take a look at this rather homely little number.  Survivor Series 2003 was quite a mixed bag of random nuts that could've been pretty awesome if reimagined by persons of sound mind.  Like most of what happened in 2003 WWE, the good stuff was really fantastic, but you had to wade through some of the most ill-conceived and/or half-assed drivel to get to it.

Let's start with the main event, as WWE decided to.  Yes, the opening match of this show was the traditional elimination bout involving the WWE Champion (which at the time was still the top belt in the company, in spite of what Triple H wanted everyone to think).  Brock Lesnar led a team of The Big Show, A-Train, Matt Morgan, and Nathan Jones (seriously, he was still employed even after having been removed from the WrestleMania card for being so bad in the ring) against Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, Bob Holly, Bradshaw, and an up-and-coming breakout star by the name of John Cena.  This was far and away the match I was most looking forward to, and it not only opened the show, but was given a paltry 13 minutes.  I'd like to repeat that: a ten-man elimination match involving the WWE Champion (and US Champ for that matter) opened the show, and was only given thirteen minutes.  To kick things off, Bob Holly (who had just returned after sustaining a real-life neck injury in a 2002 match against Lesnar) shoved the referee and was disqualified before the match even started.  So already they failed to deliver the advertised match, as it was now a handicap elimination bout.  Sorry, but that's basically a bait-and-switch.  Next, both A-Train and Bradshaw were eliminated within the first minute.  Isn't that special.  After twelve more minutes of rushed action unbecoming of what should've been the main event of the show, Chris Benoit made Lesnar tap and John Cena pinned Big Show to win the match, setting up challengers for both Smackdown singles belts.  Aside from a few good minutes, this more or less sucked.

Probably the most disappointing elimination match ever.

Next, Molly Holly (paying tribute to the recently deceased Crash Holly by wearing a CH armband) defeated Lita to retain the Women's Title.  This was fine for what it was.

The third slot was originally supposed to go to the Cruiserweight Title match between Tajiri and Jamie Noble, but instead they booked a completely purposeless altercation between Eric Bischoff and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, bumping the aforementioned match to the preshow.  They exchanged heated, poorly delivered insults and eventually Cuban got RKOd by Randy Orton.  I am almost without words.  They actually cut a Title match from a show people paid real money to see, to make room for a staged argument involving two non-wrestlers, one of whom had no association with WWE.  If WWE can produce any credible evidence that this segment helped their business or future ratings in any way I will sign over the deed to my house.

The actual third match was Kane vs. Shane McMahon, making this the sixth PPV of 2003 to feature at least one McMahon in a match (and the third PPV of the year to feature TWO McMahons wrestling).  I dunno what this family was smoking in 2003 that made them think people were climbing over each other in the hopes of seeing WWE's owners pretend to fight other people (or each other).  Just unreal stupid.  Anyway this was an Ambulance Match, or as I like to call it, a Casket Match.  Same rules except with an ambulance doubling as a casket.  This stunk other than featuring another Shane-should-be-dead highspot.

For some reason they booked a forgettable Tag Title match between Los Guerreros and The Basham Brothers (one of the most nondescript teams I can recall).  This was your standard free TV match and didn't warrant inclusion on this card.

Finally a PPV-worthy bout broke out as Team Bischoff (Randy Orton, Chris Jericho, Christian, Scott Steiner, and Mark Henry) faced Team Austin (Shawn Michaels, Rob Van Dam, Booker T and The Dudley Boyz) in an elimination match for control of RAW.  Over the previous six months or so RAW was run by co-GMs, Steve Austin and Eric Bischoff, whose bickering yielded some pretty amusing segments but got tiresome after a while.  Finally it was decided they would each assemble a team with the winner becoming the sole GM.  For 27 minutes WWE reminded us all how good the Survivor Series concept could be.  This match was full of excellent action and drama, and came down to Shawn Michaels alone against Orton, Jericho and Christian.  A horribly bloodied Michaels fought valiantly, eliminating Jericho and Christian before finally succumbing to Orton.  Steve Austin was then forced to step down and gave a heartfelt farewell speech.  Of course he'd be back on TV a couple months later as the RAW "Sheriff," so in the end this match meant very little.  But it's still one of the best-ever Series matches.

Probably the most unexpectedly awesome elimination match ever.

Time for McMahon circlejerk #2 of the evening, as Vince took on The Undertaker in a Buried Alive match.  This amounted to little more than an extended squash.  Taker bloodied Vince in the opening seconds and spent the next eleven minutes pummeling him, only to be attacked by Kane in the closing moments, allowing Vince to win.  Yup, Vince booked himself to beat The Undertaker.  So let's see, Vince McMahon holds a WWF Title win over Triple H, a Royal Rumble win over Steve Austin, and a Buried Alive Match win over The Undertaker.  This is the pro wrestling booking equivalent of bending in half and blowing oneself.  For the record this sleep-and-nausea-inducing hokum was only about a minute shorter than the Lesnar elimination match, and LONGER than the main event of this show......

.....which ended up being the Goldberg-Triple H World Title rematch.  Remember their match at Unforgiven 2003?  Photocopy it, take out the novelty of a first-time dream match, and throw in a bunch of failed run-ins, and you have this.  Goldberg retained despite Randy Orton, Batista, and Ric Flair all attempting to interfere.  So one could argue that if the Title wasn't going to change hands and this match wasn't going to really one-up the first encounter, that it probably shouldn't have gone last.

There was really only one reason to watch Survivor Series 2003, and no matter how much they'd like to believe it, it wasn't to see a McMahon wrestle.  Outside of the RAW elimination match, which is pretty incredible, this show was mostly comprised of hot garbage.  Between Vince and Shane each fighting a Brother of Destruction, Triple H and Goldberg having another go through the motions, and the Smackdown elimination match getting comically shortchanged, there's crap oozing out all over the place here.

Best Match: Team Austin vs. Team Bischoff
Worst Match: Undertaker vs. Vince McMahon
What I'd Change: Alright, ready?  Put the Smackdown elimination match on last and change the teams as follows: Brock Lesnar/Big Show/A-Train/Shelton Benjamin/Charlie Haas (how were Haas & Benjamin not booked??) vs. Kurt Angle/Chris Benoit/John Cena/Los Guerreros.  Give that match 25 minutes and watch the fireworks.  Move Triple H-Goldberg to the semi-main slot.  It wasn't good enough to be last.  Combine the Vince-Shane nonsense so it's Vince/Kane vs. Taker/Shane, and make that a Tag Team Buried Alive match.  And put the Cruiserweight Title match back on the show.  Then you have a streamlined six-match PPV with two great elimination matches, one of which is the main event.
Most Disappointing Match: Team Angle vs. Team Lesnar - I'm still pissed at how far this fell short of expectations.
Most Pleasant Surprise: Team Austin vs. Team Bischoff
Overall Rating: 5/10
Better than WrestleMania XIX and/or SummerSlam '03? - Negatory.


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2002










The History of WWE Survivor Series (2002)

This installment, if anything, proves that I should likely see a therapist about my wrestling-related issues.  But I'm not wrong.  Read with caution.....

Survivor Series 2002 - Madison Square Garden - 11/17/02

Sweet mother of God this show pissed me off.  Really, on so many levels this show made me want to smash lots of things with a steel girder.  Besides the obvious surface-level stupidity of this not at all being a proper Survivor Series lineup (Not one traditional SS match?  Really?), the booking was so incredibly nonsensical it actually hurt my face.  Some of the matches were fine, but the backstage political games that plagued WWE at the time undermined almost everything good that happened.  So strap on your hip boots, cuz we's about to wade through some shit.

The opening match was a six-man elimination Tables Match. Ooooh, so close to being an actual Survivor Series match, but nope.  During the brand split in early 2002, the company decided to split up not one, but two of their top tag teams, The Hardy Boyz and The Dudley Boyz, essentially gutting the entire division.  Oh, and they made the Tag belts exclusive to RAW so almost no teams even existed to fight over them.  Makes sense.  Anyway, this match saw Bubba Dudley, Spike Dudley and Jeff Hardy face Three Minute Warning and Rico.  It was fine for what it was, but I gave less than a poop.  There's one moment during the match where Jeff Hardy is brawling outside the ring and the participants have clearly been told to pick up the pace and get to the finish.  Rico gets up on the second rope and quite audibly yells, "Jeff! Get in here!"  Well done sir.  The one significant piece of this match was D-Von's run in at the end to help Bubba defeat Rico via a 3-D.  The Dudleys were reunited, correcting one of the two aforementioned tag splits.

Second was a Cruiserweight Title match between Billy Kidman and Jamie Noble.  This was fine.  Seven minutes was enough for them to make an impression at least.

The Women's Title match was next as Trish Stratus defended against her crazed, smitten rival Victoria (another Trish feud played out in similar fashion a few years later with Mickie James).  Victoria was great as this psychotic character who seemed to harbor romantic feelings for Trish.  She also had Tatu's "All the Things She Said" as her entrance theme, which was fucking fantastic - probably the best entrance theme in the company at the time.  This match was passable and elevated Victoria as an excellent heel champ.

Okay, here's where things get stupid, folks.  The WWE Title match saw the company's newest main event star Brock Lesnar, fresh off cleanly defeating Rob Van Dam, The Rock and The Undertaker in PPV bouts (plus Hogan and Flair on free TV), defend against The Big Show, fresh off defeating almost no one on RAW for months.  Big Show had been floundering for the better part of two years and lost basically every feud he was involved in, only to be traded to Smackdown and immediately given a #1 Contender's spot.  Umm, what?  To make matters worse, the storyline was that Lesnar's manager Paul Heyman legitimately feared for Lesnar's well-being after Big Show attacked him, and was convinced Lesnar couldn't win the match.  Keep in mind Brock Lesnar was undefeated at this point while The Big Show just came off a horribly unsuccessful midcard run on RAW.  Got that?  So Lesnar's manager Paul Heyman didn't think the undefeated WWE Champion could beat his newest challenger who had just spent months losing most of his matches.  Did WWE think their viewers didn't watch both shows?  Also of note: Big Show's most recent PPV match prior to this was at May's Judgment Day, where he and Ric Flair lost a handicap match to Steve Austin.  Yeah there's a credible challenger.

Why is Big Bully Busick beating up Brock Lesnar?

Anyway, the match was a four-minute brawl where the big story was that Lesnar's ribs were injured (to be fair Lesnar was legit injured so he couldn't work a full match).  Lesnar dominated much of the match, lifted Big Show up for an F5 (incredible), and went for the pin, only for Heyman to turn on Lesnar and help The Big Show win the Title.  So let me make sure I'm clear on this.  We're supposed to believe that Paul Heyman was so convinced his guy couldn't beat this perennial midcarder that he "opportunistically" turned on Lesnar, despite Lesnar never having lost a match, and despite Lesnar having THIS match won.  Sorry, did anyone at WWE Creative bother to proofread this garbage before they greenlit it?  This is some of the worst storytelling I've ever been privy to.  None of this made sense, and it wasted the potentially HUGE moment of Brock Lesnar's first pinfall loss by giving it to someone who wouldn't benefit from it (oddly similar to WCW booking Kevin Nash to beat Goldberg).  Oh, and the match wasn't good.

The one really great match on this show was the WWE Tag Team Title match (the company realized that RAW had basically no tag teams left to challenge the champions Chuck & Billy, so rather than the logical option of having the champs wrestle on both shows they created a Smackdown-only set of Tag belts) - a Triple Threat Elimination bout between Champions Rey Mysterio & Edge, Kurt Angle & Chris Benoit, and Los Guerreros.  This three-way feud for the straps resulted in some spectacular television in the fall of 2002, or as it's known by most, The Smackdown Six Era.  The only problem was that the belts changed hands every couple weeks.  Angle and Benoit were the first champions, but two weeks later they lost the belts to Edge & Mysterio, who lost them here to Eddie & Chavo.  But this was a helluva good match (with a slightly anticlimactic third act after Angle & Benoit were ousted), and really the only bright spot on the show.

Yes, I mean that wholeheartedly.  The Tag Title match was far and away the best thing on this card, including the inaugural Elimination Chamber.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

AEW Full Gear Preview & Predictions

It's the first AEW PPV since the launch of Dynamite, which means it's the first PPV the company has been able to hype in the traditional fashion.  Thus for me it's the most exciting PPV of AEW's young history.  Let's talk Full Gear!


This Saturday's extravaganza has to be considered the most stacked AEW show thus far, with a huge AEW Title match, a triple threat tag title scramble, and three big grudge matches, including the delayed Kenny Omega-Jon Moxley war.  This show on paper has PPV of the Year potential.

I realize I haven't been writing much about Dynamite as a show.  Five weeks in, the fledgling primetime series has already reminded me how much fun a two-hour weekly wrestling show can be.  With its strong balance between good wrestling, hot angles, emotive promos (it could use more of these), and innovative video packages, Dynamite is an incredibly easy show to watch and in many ways feels like what RAW used to be when RAW was consistently good (something that last happened nearly two decades ago).  The wrestling is fun, the crowds are always raucous, the promos are genuine and don't overstay their welcome, and I absolutely love the commentary team.  Jim Ross, Excalibur and Tony Schiavone have an easy chemistry, actually get along with each other, and seem happy to be there, unlike WWE's various announce teams, who come off as scripted corporate shills and bicker incessantly.  I enjoy spending time with the AEW announcers, and it's a pleasure to hear Ross and Schiavone together again after so many years.  Dynamite isn't a perfect show, but it is a truly enjoyable one.  I look forward to seeing this show reach its full potential.

Alright, back to Full Gear.  This show's stacked.  Let's pick some winners...




Pre-Show Match: Dr. Britt Baker vs. Bea Priestly


Considering how well they've built up this feud I'm actually a little sad this match isn't on the main card.  Baker is definitely green but her Pittsburgh homecoming a couple weeks ago was handled so perfectly she came off like a megastar, and this should be her defining match thus far.  Hopefully the in-ring work will deliver.  I have to think Baker gets the win here.

Pick: Britt





Shawn Spears vs. Joey Janela


Spears has a ton of asshole heel potential and it seems like this is the beginning of his real push.  His short feud with Cody a few months ago served as more of a tryout as it turns out; I figured he'd beat Cody in their first match and feud for the rest of the year, but that wasn't in the cards.  Spears needs a big win here to establish himself just below the top tier of stars, otherwise it's a waste to have a talent like Tully Blanchard as his manager/mouthpiece.  Side note: I'm not sure what Tessa Blanchard's contract situation is, but if she's a free agent, AEW needs to snap her up immediately and pair her with her father and Shawn.  As for Joey Janela, he'll bounce around like crazy to make Spears look like a brutal jerk, so this should be a solid match.

Pick: Spears



The History of WWE Survivor Series (2001)

The botched Invasion Angle ends with a premature whimper at Survivor Series 2001....

Survivor Series 2001 - Greensboro Coliseum - 11/18/01

The 2001 installment was the big blowoff to the most disappointing wrestling angle of all time, The Invasion.  The WWF had purchased WCW in March of 2001 and retained all their talent, except the guys everyone wanted to see fight the top WWF stars.  Hogan, Flair, Sting, Goldberg, Nash & Hall were all still under contract to Time Warner for another year and would've apparently cost too much money (for this billion dollar entertainment juggernaut).  So instead the top WCW guys Vince got were Booker T (fine wrestler but still unproven as a main eventer), Diamond Dallas Page (who got killed dead by The Undertaker in his first WWF program), and Buff Bagwell (No I'm serious, they thought he was gonna be a WCW cornerstone.  Unbelievable.).  To supplement the rather anemic WCW contingent Vince merged them with all the former ECW talent, calling them The Alliance, and made the WWF Champion Steve Austin their leader.  Because if anyone in the company would want to bring down Vince and the WWF, it's the guy who became a pop culture icon thanks to Vince and the WWF (this would be like Sting becoming the leader of the nWo in 1996).  For three months the non-WWF wrestlers were made to look like total chumps, with the exception of the white-hot Rob Van Dam who, despite being part of the heel anti-WWF faction, was the most popular guy in the company.  As a result this whole angle died a slow death, and Survivor Series 2001 was a way of putting it out of everyone's misery.

The main event was a traditional elimination match (for the first time in eight years), where the losing team would cease to exist as a wrestling organization, and its members would all be fired (unless they possessed championships or won the Immunity Battle Royal, or it just didn't make sense for them to be written off TV).

The first match was a throwaway featuring European Champion Christian (an Alliance guy) beating Al Snow (a jobber guy).  This was your standard RAW-quality match.

Next was a complete waste of time as turncoat William Regal (one of several WWF guys who joined The Alliance for seemingly no reason) handily defeated rising star Tajiri in under three minutes.  Hey, how 'bout instead Tajiri challenges Christian?  That would've been great.

Third was a unification match for both the WWF I-C Title and the WCW US Title.  The WWF's Edge fought The Alliance's Test in a pretty solid eleven-minute match.  Edge walked away with both belts, but we'd see more of Test on this show.

The first noteworthy match was next as the WWF and WCW Tag belts would be unified.  The Hardy Boyz faced The Dudley Boyz in a Steel Cage match.  This could've been a little better, but it was still very watchable and featured fine Hardyz-as-underdogs storytelling.  The Dudleyz won the match to ensure they'd still have jobs.