Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The History of WWE Survivor Series, part 8 (2008-2010)

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.

Look, it's Team Batista.  Featuring that Punk guy who used to be Champ.

The semi-main slot went to one of the worst matches of the year.  Triple H was scheduled to defend the WWE Title against Vladmir Kozlov (Vince's latest "he's a big guy so therefore he's money" pet project) and Jeff Hardy.  Ever the purveyors of good taste, WWE used Jeff Hardy's real-life substance abuse issues as the basis of an angle, as Hardy was "found unconscious in a hotel stairwell" earlier in the day and wouldn't be able to compete.  Instead the returning Edge took his spot, joining the match in progress, and won the belt.  This fit Edge's "ultimate opportunist" character just fine, but why, for the love of Jeebus couldn't Kozlov be the one unable to make the bout?  Kozlov's remarkably lethargic style (the guy could grapple but otherwise moved in slow motion) sank the entire match, which garnered "BORING" chants within the first minute and earned a Wrestling Observer Worst Match of the Year award.

The final match of the night was a World Title bout between Champion Chris Jericho, and the uncannily-resilient-to-the-point-of-suspicion John Cena, who was inexplicably promised an automatic Title shot upon his return from an injury he suffered that August.  Why losing a match at SummerSlam entitles a wrestler to a Championship match at Survivor Series is beyond me.  I guess management just felt bad that he got hurt?  The buildup to this match was pretty horrid, as Jericho was portrayed as not remotely being a threat to SuperCena.  The company all but announced that Cena would be winning the belt in his hometown.  This could've been saved had Jericho been the storyline reason for Cena's injury and absence.  Then Cena would be the returning hero, out for revenge against the man who put him on the shelf.  Instead Jericho just happened to be the Champion in Cena's way.  The match itself was rather dull and kinda lacked urgency (Cena's "hometown crowd" reaction didn't help - a more tepid homecoming response I cannot recall).  It never really got out of second gear and felt like they were trying to fill the allotted time rather than naturally wrestling a 21-minute bout.  Of course Cena won the belt and Jericho went back to the midcard shortly thereafter.

Zzzzzzz.......Oh wait, there's a match going on right now?

Survivor Series 2008 was quite an uninspired effort, but it yielded two pretty good elimination matches, so it wasn't a total loss.  The Survivor Series would rebound huge the following year however.

Best Match: Team Orton vs. Team Batista
Worst Match: Triple H vs. Vladmir Kozlov vs. Edge - Seriously, how bad do you have to be to make a match featuring both Hunter and Edge suck out loud?
What I'd Change: A lot really.  Cena shouldn't just be handed a title shot after a three-month absence (this would happen again in 2013), Kozlov shouldn't get a title shot ever, and Punk SHOULD get a title shot since he technically never lost the damn thing.
Most Disappointing Match: Jericho vs. Cena - These two had worked well in the past but this wasn't one of their better efforts.
Most Pleasant Surprise: For the second straight year, Edge's return.
Overall Rating: 4.5/10
Better than WrestleMania XXIV and/or SummerSlam '08? - That'd be a no.

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 one of the best Series shows of the past decade.

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.

Alright, Evil Dave was pretty boss.

The highlight of the night for me was the second elimination match, between Team Orton (Randy Orton, CM Punk, Cody Rhodes, Ted Dibiase, and William Regal) and Team Kingston (Kofi Kingston, MVP, Mark Henry, R-Truth and Christian).  After they once again eliminated someone in the first minute (Henry), the match settled into a strong back-and-forth affair, with Kofi managing to survive both Punk and Orton to win the whole thing.  Kofi seemed poised for a major push, which inexplicably vanished the following month.  But for one night he was booked like a star.

The first of two Triple Threat Title matches was next, as World Champion The Undertaker faced JeriShow.  Nothing amazing here but this was very watchable.  Taker retained over the Tag Champs.

The Divas elimination match was stuck in the death spot as Mickie James led Kelly Kelly, Melina, Gail Kim and Eve Torres against Michelle McCool, Layla, Jillian Hall, Beth Phoenix, and Alicia Fox.  This was typically short and featured overly quick eliminations but was still pretty decent.  Mickie and Melina were the survivors.

The main event was a match in which I had zero interest going in.  John Cena vs. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels was yet another in the long line of PPV main events where no new talent was featured.  But I'll be damned if this didn't nearly steal the show.  Shawn superkicked Triple H right at the outset in an attempt to take him out of the match, which led to some nice trust issues and infighting between DX partners.  After 21 minutes of first-rate action, Cena outlasted both of his opponents to retain.

New, DX Stackers!  Pop open a can!

Survivor Series 2009 contained little in the way of far-reaching consequences or historical importance, but what it did have was three solid hours of entertaining wrestling.  There isn't a bad match on this card and in that respect it reminded me of the Series PPVs of old.

Best Match: Team Orton vs. Team Kingston - Wow, Randy Orton has really become Mr. Survivor Series.
Worst Match: Team Mickie vs. Team LayCool, by default
What I'd Change: Not much about this show specifically, but I would've started building up new stars long before this.
Most Disappointing Match: Nothing really.
Most Pleasant Surprise: The whole show, but especially the main event.
Overall Rating: 8/10
Better than WrestleMania 25 and/or SummerSlam '09? - Yeah just by a hair.

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.

They need to bring back John Morrison.  That's all.

So apparently WWE forgot they were putting on a PPV after this, because the rest of the show is essentially a weak Smackdown episode.

LayCool defended their shared Divas Title in a handicap match against Natalya next.  Nattie took both opponents down after three minutes to capture the belt.  Standard filler.

In the sixth slot World Champion Kane had a nondescript brawl with Edge resulting in a 13-minute draw.  This was instantly forgettable.  In fact I don't even remember what I was talking about, so I'll move on.

The death spot went to the Tag Team Championship, as Justin Gabriel and Heath Slater had a pointless five-minute defense against Santino Marella and Vladmir Kozlov.  This was obviously during one of those periods where WWE had no tag team division.  Yikes.

The main event was another chapter in the Wade Barrett-John Cena feud, with WWE Champion Randy Orton playing the third wheel.  Barrett had won a Battle Royal to earn a Title shot and since Cena was forced to become a member of Barrett's Nexus, Barrett demanded that Cena help him win the belt, and named him the special referee.  The stipulation was that if Cena aided Barrett he would be free from The Nexus.  If not, he would be fired from WWE.  This convoluted angle did nothing to lend any sort of spark to this dreary, uninspired bout.  Cena eventually shoved Barrett into an RKO, costing him the match, and losing his job in the process.  Of course Cena showed up the very next night on RAW, so this stip meant zero.

What an odd show.  I don't recall any other PPV starting out so promising and having such a drivelous second half.  If you're going to stream this on The Network, shut it off after the elimination match.  You'll thank me.

Best Match: Daniel Bryan vs. Ted Dibiase
Worst Match: Gabriel & Slater vs. Marella & Kozlov
What I'd Change: The red-hot Miz wasn't booked on the show because WWE wanted to create suspense about whether he'd cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase.  He did the following night, so why wouldn't you put him on this card?  As for the rest of the second half, I don't even know how you'd fix it.  Maybe put Cena in the main event and make it a three-way?  Does anyone else find it odd that SummerSlam was headlined by a WWE vs. Nexus elimination match but Survivor Series wasn't??
Most Disappointing Match: Kane vs. Edge I suppose
Most Pleasant Surprise: Nothing
Overall Rating: 4.5/10 - I'm tempted to say 5/10 but since both main events stunk I'm deducting a half-point.
Better than WrestleMania XXVI and/or SummerSlam 2010? - No on the first, probably yes on the second.

Part 7                                                                                                                                                Part 9

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