Monday, November 23, 2015

WWE Survivor Series Recap, or "I Throw My Hands Up"

Well folks, another Survivor Series is in the books, and my esteemed colleague Dan Moore and I are back with our analysis. 

Perennial Loser, er, I mean new WWE Champion Sheamus

Spoiler alert: This show pissed us both off.  But aren't we more entertaining that way?  Dan, your take?

DAN: What a missed opportunity last night for the WWE. The injury to Seth Rollins could have been a blessing in disguise. A chance to elevate some young talent on the roster and really start to push some new stars in the world of sports entertainment. Instead, Vince and his crazy cooks in the WWE kitchen served us up a shit sandwich.

The wrasslin’ portion of the show was actually fine. Match of the night was Roman Reigns vs. Alberto followed by Ambrose-Owens (Owens could be the company’s ultimate heel if he’s given that chance someday). I didn’t even have a problem with the combatants in the thrown together Survivor match. The teams were filled with capable members but the match itself lacked a story, as it was put together like, yesterday morning. 

No, my problem stems from the total lack of storytelling all night. It was atrocious. For example, in the aforementioned Survivor match, the heels were led out by the comedic tag champs, the New Day. No problem there. However, they attempted to make a humorous turn with Sheamus, your Money in the Bank briefcase holder. Normally, that’s not an issue. But when later in the evening, the very same Sheamus cashes in the contract against a newly crowned Champion Roman Reigns, something is very amiss here. Let me get this straight: the super babyface Reigns just lost to a man who an hour beforehand was acting like a clown and coming up with nonsensical phrases to get the audience to laugh, only to be mocked himself by his teammates? This is your heel champion now?

They have booked Sheamus so terribly since he won the briefcase that his becoming champion is terribly hard to swallow. He’s not a threat. He hasn’t been for months. He’s become a joke, and now he’s the Authority’s choice as what’s "best for business?" If that’s the case, they’re gonna need some moving vans down in Connecticut very soon.

Also, did these writers just take a look at their old scripts and change names? This is EXACTLY what went down with Daniel Bryan a few years ago. He claws and fights his way to the top of the mountain, challenges for the strap, wins it cleanly and then gets cashed in on by Triple H’s handpicked "face of the company." Legit, same plotline, different characters. That’s lazy writing (this is also lazy writing, as I’m lying on the couch typing this).

The other complete lack of storytelling was the pointless tag match between the Wyatts and the Takers. Seriously, what the HELL is the point of building up all these huge Bray Wyatt, weirdo storylines if the guy constantly loses? They built up an ok idea of the Wyatts trying to steal whatever powers the Taker family has, and then...nothing. They lose. The match was ok, I suppose, but I would expect that tag match on Raw, not on what is supposed to be one of the marquee WWE events of the year. I’m dumbfounded about the complete lack of story execution from the writers in WWE when it comes to the Wyatts. It’s clear they really have no idea what to do with them, which is a shame, because they’re all fine wrestlers and Bray is a great microphone man.

I was disappointed with Survivor Series, and I don’t really know where they go from here. I also will have no idea what happens on Raw tonight, because I’m watching a different show where it’s already scripted and I know how it ends. The Patriots/Bills game.

Perennial Loser, er, I mean monster babyface Roman Reigns

JUSTIN: 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, are 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.  Before I get to the absurd ending of the latest mockery of a once-great annual PPV, let's look at the rest of the card.

The pre-show elimination match was entertaining enough.  Goldust finally made his in-ring return, much to the delight and pants-tightness of our friend Scott, and he and his team made pretty easy work of the Stardust-led heel team.  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."  How fucking lazy is this writing team, and more importantly, how are they still employed??  Furthermore, the Goldust team consisted of 48-year-old Dustin Runnels, both 40-plus Dudley Boyz, and a near-40 Titus O'Neil (apparently subbing for the injured Cesaro - fuckfuckfuck, by the way).  Oh, and former NXT sensation Neville - the one guy eliminated from the babyface team.  Being "called up" from NXT is a promotion in name only, I assure you.

The two semi-final matches were both solid.  Reigns vs. Del Rio is being 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 - certainly Del Rio's best match since returning but that isn't saying much.  Anyway, no complaints overall.  Ambrose vs. Owens was also good, and about on the same level as the opener.  The shortness of it made it feel a little underwhelming, and I'm sure they'll get the chance next month to improve on this match.

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.  As Dan said, Money in the Bank winner Sheamus was presented like a buffoonish comedy character and was later deserted by The New Day (I love how Kofi and Woods were never counted out or DQd - they were just gone after helping the eliminated Big E to the back).  Remaining babyfaces Ryback, Jimmy 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 last week 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.  Yeah, I know everyone thinks she's boring as a character (a heel role would probably suit her better) but she and her fellow NXT alum are finally starting to upstage their male counterparts.  I can'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's sort of fitting given that Charlotte-Paige got the main event segment on last week's RAW.  Anyway, this was my favorite match of the night.

The final three matches on this show totaled about 26 minutes.  Totaled. Twenty-six. Minutes. 
Ziggler vs. 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, Taker & Kane vs. two Wyatts.  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 the entire Creative Team has ADD.  They get attached to a new guy for like three months, have him feud with John Cena, lose, and he's never the same again.  Bray Wyatt's main event potential is all gone now.  He's lost every important match in 2015 and thanks to yet another nostalgia "celebration" he's 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.

Now for the main event, the Finals of the WWE Title tournament.  A first-ever one-on-one encounter between best friends Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose.  This one's for all the chips.  And it got nine minutes.  NINE.  This was the second-shortest match of the night, and it started at about 10:25pm.  Please can someone with a brain explain to me why a WWE Title tournament final got about 25% of the remaining airtime?  Regardless of what took place after, which only ate up another six minutes or so, there was no excuse for Reigns-Ambrose getting so shortchanged.  This was like a Bischoff Era WCW PPV main event.  It was a fine match while it lasted too, and by all rights should've been the best match on the PPV.  But sadly it simply didn't go long enough.  Reigns finally got the job done after nearly a year of trying, and was crowned the new WWE Champion.

Aaaaand then the Parade of Stupid arrived.  Sheamus, who hasn't won a meaningful match since Money in the Bank, who an hour earlier got chumped out by his own teammates and pretty easily defeated by the long-irrelevant Ryback, and who lost in the first round of the tournament, cashed in the briefcase to win the fucking Title.

So, in the wake of numerous injuries to top stars, 18-year-low ratings, and general audience apathy, WWE's big solution is to give the WWE Title to a guy they haven't pushed in the slightest in six months.  Sheamus has never been a proven draw, and if anything he's less over now than he was a year ago.  Not only that, but their strategy for pushing the less-than-blazing Roman Reigns (who wasn't nearly as popular as Dean Ambrose last night), is to shoehorn him into the role of perennially-screwed-over underdog, despite that being 100% against his character.  Roman Reigns, heel or babyface, needs to be presented as a killing machine.  Think Goldberg but Samoan (Samoldberg?).  Here's the thing about top babyface characters - unless they naturally fit the character of underdog (like Daniel Bryan), fans don't wanna see them get repeatedly effed by the heels, nor do they wanna see them easily duped.  At a certain point they stop being sympathetic and just come off as chumps.  That's where we are with Roman Reigns now.  He needed to either turn heel or beat Ambrose in a great 17-minute match AND withstand Sheamus's onslaught to retain.  Does anyone honestly have interest in a Reigns-Sheamus program?  I certainly don't.

More than ever I'm certain Vince McMahon doesn't want a new top star.  He wants the WWE brand itself to be the draw, and in his mind he thinks that will work as a business model.  No one with an iota of experience or common sense about the wrestling business would ever book a new top babyface as badly as Vince has booked Reigns.  This push has been an abysmal failure at every turn.  The only guys in WWE who get over now are the ones Vince ISN'T actively trying with.  Daniel Bryan, Dean Ambrose, Dolph Ziggler, Cesaro.  It's a true indictment of just how willfully out of touch Vince McMahon is in 2015.  Every pet project he actively supervises goes absolutely wrong.  I've said it before - Vince, please RETIRE.

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