Monday, November 13, 2023

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.

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.


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