Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The History of WWE Survivor Series, part 9 (2011-2013)

These next three are quite a mixed bag....

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.....

As a means of hyping their upcoming showdown at WrestleMania 28, WWE decided to have The Rock team with John Cena at Survivor Series, which would be Rock's first match in over seven years.  You might be thinking, "Well that could be a lot of fun - Rock and Cena as co-captains of a traditional elimination team at Survivor Series?"  That option was considered briefly before WWE eventually settled on a meaningless tag team match as the main event of this show.  Making things worse was the booking of their heel opponents, The Miz and R-Truth.  Awesome Truth, as they were known, had run roughshod over the roster in October, I guess hoping to get noticed and pushed as top guys.  This led to the horribly ill-conceived "walkout" angle, where the whole locker room threatened to leave the company unless COO Triple H was removed.  Somehow we were supposed to accept that babyfaces and heels alike blamed Hunter for not being able to control Awesome Truth's actions (Never mind that the wrestling industry had seen far more dangerous stables go on the warpath over the years.  Does the nWo ring any bells)?  So Hunter was forced to resign as COO (that obviously didn't last long), and to combat the brutal chaotic power of Awesome Truth, The Rock and John Cena would join forces.  The only problem was, in the weeks leading up to this event, Creative soured on Awesome Truth's push, and they were presented like total buffoons.  Rock and Cena got the better of them at literally every turn and in no way were Miz and Truth portrayed as a threat to the superteam.  So the main event of this show simply became a warmup match for Rock and Cena, where they barely even teased any dissension to lead into their 'Mania bout.  And this match ran over twenty-one minutes!  I just wanted to see either Rock and Cena come to blows or Awesome Truth steal a victory, but since neither of those things happened this was just an overly long, incredibly boring tag team match.  Not surprisingly the buyrate for this show was way below projections, and by all accounts The Miz took most of the blame for it.  Yeah sure guys, it was all his fault.

Uh oh.....they might self-destruct as a team. 
Oh, nope, they'll squash the other two guys instead.

The 2011 edition was a very solid outing that could've been great with a few changes.  The WWE Title match provided an awesome main event that from a quality standpoint totally outclassed the big money match on the card, and the opening US Title match nearly stole the show.

Best Match: Alberto Del Rio vs. CM Punk
Worst Match: Beth Phoenix vs. Eve Torres, but this wasn't bad
What I'd Change: Add Rock, Cena, Miz and Truth to the elimination match and either make that the main event or keep it as the "special attraction" while the Del Rio-Punk match headlines.  Also Daniel Bryan should've cashed in here.  The MSG crowd would've gone nuclear seeing both Bryan and Punk win belts.  Plus it was my birthday.  Throw me a frickin' bone!!
Most Disappointing Match: Rock/Cena vs. Awesome Truth - This was so pointless and anticlimactic.
Most Pleasant Surprise: Ziggler vs. Morrison - I knew this would be good, but this is one of the best eleven-minute matches I can remember
Overall Rating: 7/10
Better than WrestleMania XXVII and/or SummerSlam 2011? - Yes, and no.

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.

We were then treated to an excellent one-two punch.  The featured elimination match pitted Team Foley - Randy Orton, The Miz, Kofi Kingston and Team Hell No - against Team Ziggler - Dolph Ziggler, Alberto Del Rio, Wade Barret, Damien Sandow, and David Otunga.  I said before that the card had been reshuffled.  Originally the main event of this show was slated to be Team Foley, captained by Ryback vs. Team Punk, captained by....well, CM Punk.  Punk and Ryback had been feuding since Hell in a Cell, and eventually Foley got involved and assembled a team to face Punk's squad.  Additionally John Cena was to face Dolph Ziggler in the semi-main event.  Backstage however Vince insisted that the main event of this show had to be a WWE Title match, and a convoluted storyline removed Punk and Ryback from the elimination bout, subbing in Ziggler as the heel captain.  Nevermind that Foley and Ziggler had no beef with each other and therefore the whole reason for this match was now nullified.  I guess a WWE Title match is more important at Survivor Series than an actual Survivor Series match with a purpose.  It should be noted that the buyrate for this show was seemingly not helped by this reshuffle, but whatever.  The elimination match was still excellent and ran about 25 minutes, eventually boiling down to Orton vs. Ziggler.  Dolph managed to eke out a win as part of a rare push for The Showoff (He'd go on to defeat Cena at TLC the following month).

The main event was now a Triple Threat for the WWE Title - 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 rivaled the elimination match for the night's top bout.  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 was one of the most exciting angles in recent memory.  I was already familiar with Rollins from his ROH run, and was vaguely acquainted with Ambrose via some of his Indy and FCW exploits.  Reigns was new to me, but given the presentation of this debut I became instantly fascinated with all three new stars (as did everyone). 

The aftermath of this attack was one of the best-handled ongoing angles the company ever executed, as The Shield members were all groomed to become the future of WWE (We're seeing some of the fruits of that excellent booking to this day).

This was so boss.
Survivor Series 2012 was a show that really shouldn't have worked nearly as well as it did.  Changing the card only two weeks out was a pretty terrible idea, truth be told, but the PPV ended up being pretty great and set the stage for three new stars to take the company by storm.

Best Match: Team Foley vs. Team Ziggler
Worst Match: Cesaro vs. R-Truth, by default
What I'd Change: They still should've presented the original Team Foley vs. Team Punk scenario, with Ryback being the sole survivor only to be attacked by The Shield.  The effect would've been the same, but Ryback would have gotten a much-needed big win.
Most Disappointing Match: Nothing really.
Most Pleasant Surprise: The opening elimination match, since it wasn't announced.
Overall Rating: 8.5/10
Better than WrestleMania XXVIII and/or SummerSlam 2012? - Probably not better than 'Mania but way ahead of SummerSlam.

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.

The second of two elimination matches was up next, as WWE tried once again to shove "brand loyalty" up everyone's collective ass.  This time it was the ladies from Total Divas: Nikki, Brie, Natalya, Naomi, Cameron, Eva Marie and JoJo against the, um.....Partial Divas I guess: AJ, Tamina, Kaitlyn, Alicia, Rosa, Aksana, and Summer Rae.  Yes, heels and faces intermingled once again, because whether or not you're on a stupid reality show evidently trumps moral alignment.  This 7-on-7 match was over in eleven minutes, and Nattie and Nikki were the survivors.  Next?

A rematch of WrestleMania XXIX's worst bout was next as Ryback faced Mark Henry.  Literally the only logical reason to subject the audience to this match a second time would be for Ryback to get the win he should've gotten in April.  Nope.  Henry beat him again.  How's that big push workin' out for Ryback?

Echoing the events of 2008's Survivor Series, coincidentally held in Boston, John Cena returned from injury after a major SummerSlam loss to somehow earn an automatic World Title match, this time against Alberto Del Rio.  As in 2008, the defending Champion was treated as an afterthought and Cena predictably won the belt for the thousandth time.

The red-hot Daniel Bryan went from headlining a handful of PPVs against Randy Orton for the WWE Title, to teaming with CM Punk in a midcard match against Bray Wyatt's henchmen.  Read that again.  Daniel Bryan, the hottest babyface in the company, and CM Punk, the second hottest babyface in the company, were relegated to a midcard tag match against the two sidekicks of WWE's newest heel Bray Wyatt.  Wyatt himself would not participate in the match.  Unbelievable.  This match was fine as a RAW main event, but was a totally inappropriate use of Bryan and Punk.

These two shoulda won the Tag belts.  And then each won a World Title.
The Two-Man Power Trip 2013.

And now for the main event.  It's been three years and I still can't wrap my brain around how fucking stupid this was.  First a little background: During Daniel Bryan's big 2013 push, where he was constantly being held down by The Authority, The Big Show came to his aid and openly criticized Hunter and Stephanie's business practices.  The Authority responded by exploiting Big Show's apparent financial problems, threatening to fire him if he didn't do everything they asked (in this case, repeatedly beating up Daniel Bryan and other babyfaces).  This led to multiple segments where Show was reduced to tears.  Yes, the big nasty giant melted into a blubbering imbecile week after week.  Eventually Show had enough and turned his wrath on The Authority, and they fired him.  Nevermind that in 2012 he supposedly signed an "ironclad" contract wherein he could not be fired for any reason.  Show then started breaking into RAW tapings, interfering in matches, and threatened to sue for wrongful termination (One would think his case would evaporate once he attacked WWE wrestlers without being an employee).  Hunter and Steph were so taken aback they agreed to rehire him and give him a WWE Title shot at Survivor Series.  This has to be the least heroic way a babyface has ever gotten a Title match - hijacking RAW after being fired, and threatening to sue the company unless he got to fight the Champion.  Unreal.

It should also be noted that during this time WWE attempted to transfer Daniel Bryan's YES chant, and his white-hot popularity, over to The Big Show.  Needless to say it failed miserably.  Clearly Daniel Bryan, and not his catchphrase, was and is the main reason for Daniel Bryan's popularity.

This all led to one of the worst-ever PPV main events, as Big Show and Randy Orton delivered a weak free TV match that only ran ten minutes, featured a typical dumb-babyface-gets-distracted-by-heel-entrance-music ending, and had the audience bored out of their minds.  Seriously, this was one of the least engaged live crowds I can remember.  Listen for the "We want Bryan" chants scattered throughout the match.  Or better yet, don't watch this at all.  It sucks.  By the way, the funniest part of the match was Michael Cole quoting Randy Orton as saying, "I don't know if I can beat The Big Show."  Umm, Randy?  You just beat him six months ago at Extreme Rules.  Do you not remember that?

In 2013 Survivor Series returned to being a phoned-in fiasco.  WWE tried to dump Daniel Bryan back into midcard Hell and re-elevate a 40-something babyface the fans weren't invested in, and the result was another watered-down mess of a show.

Best Match: The Shield/Real Americans vs. Rhodeses/Usos/Mysterio
Worst Match: Randy Orton vs. Big Show, simply for how unwanted a main event it was.
What I'd Change:  Hey idiots.  This show's called Survivor Series.  You have a stable of heels running roughshod over the roster, and a handful of babyfaces standing up to them.  Seems like a natural backdrop for an elimination main event, no?  How about Randy Orton/Kane/The Shield vs. Daniel Bryan/CM Punk/Big Show/Goldust/Cody Rhodes?  Wouldn't that make sense?  Wouldn't that be 1000 per cent better than the main event we got?
Most Disappointing Match: No one match was disappointing.  The company's complete disconnect from what the fans wanted to see however, was.  I cannot overstate how giddy I was at learning of this show's abysmal buyrate.
Most Pleasant Surprise: Fucked if I know.
Overall Rating: 3/10
Better than WrestleMania XXIX and/or SummerSlam 2013? - Nope, not even a little.

Part 8
Part 10

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