Monday, November 30, 2020

The History of NWA/WCW Starrcade (1983)

Hey there everyone.  Welcome to Enuffa.com, your home for pro wrestling, movies, music, and other life-altering forms of pop culture.  I know what you're thinking.  You're thinking, "Hey Justin, it's been a while since you posted the complete history of a beloved wrestling supercard.  Can ya help us out?"  You my friends are in luck, because without further ado, I'd like to present.....

The Enuffa.com Complete History of NWA/WCW Starrcade!!!




That's right, it's time to hop into the ol' DeLorean and travel back to 1983, when Jim Crockett Promotions envisioned a wrestling event so magnanimous it couldn't be just for the live crowd in attendance.  It had to be broadcast on closed-circuit television throughout the South!  Big wrestling events on Thanksgiving night had long been a tradition in the region, and Crockett correctly surmised that a supercard held on that date would draw big business.  Starrcade '83 is the real Granddaddy of Them All - the first wrestling event broadcast on closed-circuit, and the prototype for the modern PPV event.  The show was a tremendous success, famously causing massive traffic jams in downtown Greensboro, and JCP made Starrcade an annual tradition.  Quickly it became the promotion's flagship event, and by 1987 it was also carried on pay-per-view.  When Ted Turner bought out Jim Crockett in 1988 he kept the Starrcade brand but moved it to December to avoid having to compete with the WWF's Survivor Series, and that's where it stayed until WCW folded in 2001.

So let's look at the highs, lows and everything in between, of Starrcade!



Starrcade '83 - Greensboro Coliseum - 11.24.83

The inaugural Starrcade was by today's standards a very barebones production which featured quite a few obscure names from the early part of the decade.  It was a very uneven show with a pretty forgettable first half.  But it's the final three matches that make Starrcade '83, and they're all first-rate classics of the era. 

The NWA event lineups back then were different from the WWF approach, in that they stuck all the undercard bouts early on the card and saved the important ones for the second half - quite often the last four matches would all be for championships.  By contrast Vince would spread the big matches around to give each show peaks and valleys, often inserting "buffer matches" between some of the headliners.  There are pros and cons to both philosopies of course.

After three matches that could be considered throwaways (The Assassins vs. Rufus Jones & Bugsy McGraw; Kevin Sullivan & Mark Lewin vs. Scott McGhee & Johnny Weaver; and a brief Abdullah the Butcher-Carlos Colon showdown), the show began for real with a solid tag match: Bob Orton (Randy's dad) teamed with Dick Slater against Mark Youngblood and Wahoo McDaniel.  This was no five-star classic, but it was easily the best match thus far.

Next was a TV Title vs. Mask match between The Great Kabuki and Charlie Brown (actually the "suspended" Jimmy Valiant under a mask).  I've never been much of a Valiant fan, so for me there wasn't much to this, but it does stand as the first-ever championship match on a Starrcade show.
From here on out the show was pure gold.

I'd have tapped out right here.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

The History of WWE Survivor Series (2019)

The 2019 addition featured NXT being added to the brand vs. brand format, and Triple H's upstart brand shone bright....


Welp, you could say many things about the 2019 Survivor Series, but one thing you can't say is that they didn't do their damndest to get NXT over.  Triple H's upstart crew took four of the seven head-to-head-to-head matchups and it was clear from the crowd reactions that NXT is the show WWE fans were into at that point.  Going into this show I wasn't sure what to expect as far as mixing Triple H's booking philosophy with Vince's usual approach.  There were things that didn't make sense to be sure, and choices that were baffling and annoying, but for the most part this show worked really well for me.  For the fourth year in a row the Survivor Series mostly delivered, at times in spite of itself.  Say what you will about the idiocy of brand vs. brand, but this annual tradition has brought us some very good Survivor Series PPVs in recent years.  Yes, the triple threat approach was unwieldy and got old by the end, particularly in the main event, but I'll take a show like this over just about anything the main roster churns out right now.  So let's take the deep dive....

The show opened with the women's elimination match, with Charlotte Flair leading the RAW team against Sasha Banks's Smackdown squad and Rhea Ripley's NXT faction.  First off, let me applaud WWE for bringing the elimination match teams out all at once instead of giving all fifteen participants their own entrances.  I actually read a review complaining about this, and to that I say "Would you rather they spent 20 minutes on entrances for these two matches?"  Anyway, I think these matches would've been better if only two people were allowed in the ring at a time, but for some reason it was triple threat rules.  Still, most of the participants got a bit of time to shine.  Io Shirai and Kairi Sane had some good early exchanges, Carmella had an amusing moment where she kept trying to cover two downed opponents and screamed every time they kicked out, Charlotte and Bianca Belair got a nice battle of the super-athletic women, and Rhea Ripley came off like a fucking superstar.  The first two eliminations came, bafflingly, after a series of outside the ring dives, which apparently left Io and Candace LaRae "injured."  They were helped to the back, leaving NXT at a two-woman disadvantage.  No idea why they did this, as both of them showed up again at the end and were fine.  This was handled badly, but it's my only real complaint about this match.  NXT eventually evened the odds and more, not losing another member until RAW and Smackdown were down to one woman each.  Charlotte and Asuka got into a shoving match, after which Asuka sprayed mist at Charlotte and walked out, Bad News Brown-style.  Sasha and Natalya eliminated Toni Storm with a double-submission and then hit a Hart Attack on Belair to get it down to one-on-one-on-one.  Sasha then turned on Nattie and pinned her, and we were down to Sasha vs. Ripley, who had some nice exchanges.  Suddenly Io and Candace showed up to interfere and help Ripley put away Sasha.  Io hit a springboard dropkick and Ripley nailed the Riptide for the win.  I assume Ripley was the sole survivor but they didn't make it clear if Io and Candace were actually eliminated or not.  Regardless, I enjoyed this match a lot and the right team won.  Ripley went on to dethrone Shayna for the NXT Title and then her big push was all but derailed at WrestleMania with a nonsensical, infuriating loss to Charlotte.


The History of WWE Survivor Series (2018)

Amazingly the 2018 edition was a neo-classic Survivor Series PPV, and ended up the best main roster show of the year...

Image result for survivor series 2018 poster"

Well I'll be goddammned.  In 2018 WWE actually pulled off a really great Survivor Series PPV that for me even exceeded the miraculously good show from 2016.  Including the pre-show match (which has to be one of the two or three best pre-show matches of all time), this had three very good elimination matches, four excellent singles bouts and only one throwaway tag match.  In 2018 this was about as good a main roster WWE show as you could ever hope for.  Let's get into it.

I pretty much always skip the pre-shows for these PPVs but since this particular pre-show included my beloved 10-team elimination match I made it a point to watch, and I was glad I did.  While this was obviously no Powers of Pain-Demolition epic from 1988, these ten teams worked their asses off to do something memorable.  The first half felt a bit rushed as teams were getting eliminated pretty quickly, but once it boiled down to New Day & Usos vs. Revival & Gable/Roode, this kicked into high gear.  Loads of crazy offense and dives over/off the top rope (including an absolutely nuts spot where Jimmy Uso German suplexed Gable off the top, onto the pile of guys on the floor).  It boiled down to The Usos vs. The Revival - nice to see Dash & Dawson make it to the end - and Jimmy & Jey hit their superkicks followed by a top-rope splash to win the whole thing.  Just a damn fun opener that won the crowd over (WWE should hold every PPV at the Staples Center, by the way; this crowd was awesome).


The proper PPV opened with the women's elimination match, and this was roughly on par with the 2016 edition.  Some last minute changes improved the match, as Nattie and Ruby Riott were subbed out after a locker room fight in favor of Sasha and Bayley (nothing against Nattie and Ruby, but you can't omit Sasha and Bayley in one of these things).  Mandy Rose disappointingly ended up being the mystery partner for Smackdown, but she at least earned her keep in this match.  Of course the match started with two "shocking" quick eliminations.  WWE has to stop doing this - both main card elimination matches had them and they never get the desired reaction.  They seemingly set up dissension between Rose and Sonya Deville, as Rose stole a pin on Mickie James after Deville leveled her with a sliding knee.  Sasha tapped out Mandy with a Bank Statement and Bayley and Sonya got double counted out.  This paved the way for a super engaging exchange between Sasha and Asuka that lasted a good four minutes.  Sasha gained the upper hand and climbed to the top rope only for Nia Jax to push her off into a waiting Asuka, who slapped on the Asuka Lock for the tap out.  Nia then pounced on Asuka with three legdrops, followed by a Samoan Drop for the win.  Nia had nuclear heel heat coming off her injury of Becky Lynch and came off like a total asshole here.  Very enjoyable match to open the main card.


Next up was a top contender for Match of the Night, as Seth Rollins faced Shinsuke Nakamura.  I daresay this was Nak's best main roster match to date.  He looked a lot like his old NJPW self here, pulling out every move in his arsenal and played the antagonist to the hilt.  The first half of the match was a little slow in spots and they struggled to keep the crowd into it, but in the second half everything picked up tremendously.  They built to a furious pace by the end, trading finisher attempts and counters, and finally Nak went for a Kinshasa but missed, allowing Seth to hit the Curb Stomp for the win after 22 minutes.  I was very happy to see this get the time it deserved and even happier to see Nakamura look really motivated again.  This was pretty excellent.


Tuesday, November 24, 2020

The History of WWE Survivor Series (2017)

Here was a very good Survivor Series show with an absolutely wretched main event....

Toyota Center - 11.19.17

Well, just like the 2016 Survivor Series, this was a very good PPV that had a mindnumbingly stupid main event.  The problem is, unlike 2016's main event which only took up 90 seconds of my time, this one took 33 minutes.  Brock Lesnar went from the worst match of the night in 2016 to the best match in 2017, while the men's elimination match took the opposite path.

The show opened, smartly, with the six-man tag between two very over squads, The Shield and The New Day.  The crowd was into this and loved both teams (except Roman who got a smattering of "you still suck" chants).  Both trios worked hard and aside from a couple miscues (which seemed oddly prevalent on this show), threw together a very enjoyable 21-minute match which loads of false finishes and an actual ending that was a callback to an earlier spot - after being thwarted earlier in the match, The Shield put it away with their signature triple powerbomb, but delivered it from the second rope.  If anything this match could've been maybe three minutes shorter, and it wasn't at the same level of the Shield's amazing 2014 matches with The Wyatts and Evolution.  But it was a hot opener with a big-fight feel and established The New Day as very worthy opponents for the dominant Shield.

If you didn't pick these guys to win, I dunno what to tell ya.

The women's elimination match was next, after a baffling backstage pep talk from Stephanie McMahon to her RAW team that once again made the actual women wrestlers look subservient to the boss's daughter.  I don't want to see McMahons on my TV screen anymore.  I'm sick to goddamn death of this family.  Anyway, the match itself got over 18 minutes and didn't feel like a sprint, but still felt a bit rushed.  Too many eliminations were too sudden, like Becky Lynch's unceremonious exit two minutes in (This was of course before they knew what they had with Becky).  From there we got a battle of the bulls, as Nia Jax and Tamina faced off.  Tamina won this round by repeatedly attacking Nia outside the ring and hitting her dad's Superfly splash on the floor, getting Nia counted out.  Bayley also fell to Tamina's splash, while Alicia Fox was the victim of a horrendous fast count by the ref.  Naomi had rolled her up and she was clearly supposed to kick out before being locked in a submission hold, but the referee counted 1...2-3 and basically pushed her out of the ring.  Not sure who screwed up, but someone did.  It all boiled down to Nattie and Tamina vs. Asuka, allowing the Empress of Tomorrow to fully demonstrate her dominance by eliminating both opponents clean.  Not a great match but a good one that accomplished what it needed to.  Asuka was set up for a several-month run of dominance that included winning the first-ever Women's Royal Rumble.  Sadly Vince ruined her starting with her WrestleMania 34 loss to Charlotte, and she's become just one of the girls.

Asuka's main roster push looked so promising until Creative started doing what they do.

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.

Monday, November 23, 2020

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.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

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.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

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.

Friday, November 20, 2020

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.....

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 19, 2020

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.

WWE Survivor Series 2020 Preview & Predictions

Well I may have cut the WWE Network cord back in April, but this Sunday is the one PPV of the year that actually tempts me to tune in, WWE Survivor Series!


If you've been reading my stuff at all over the last almost-seven years (Jesus, I need a life), you probably know that I have a soft spot for WWE's second-oldest PPV event.  Ever since the company announced in October of 1987 that their new supercard would feature teams of five going to war in elimination matches, I've been fascinated with the possibilities inherent in this format.  The first two Survivor Series events rank among my all-time favorite PPVs, and while sadly most editions since haven't even come close to being as good (2016 and 2018 got the job done), whenever there's a lineup featuring multiple elimination tag matches my ears perk up.

That said, it's high time WWE loses the Raw vs. Smackdown rivalry, at least for the elimination matches themselves.  While I do enjoy the champion vs. champion concept, which gives us the chance to see big matches we might not otherwise get, assembling teams of heels and faces bound by brand loyalty is and has always been utterly phony.  Does anyone watching actually buy the brand rivalry nonsense?  Why would good guys and bad guys set aside their differences simply because they're on the same show, especially when next year they may not be?  It makes no sense.  Instead how about if the babyfaces from both brands group together to stop their mutual enemies?  Wouldn't that be a much more compelling story?

Anyway, as has been the case the last four years, the 2020 Survivor Series looks plenty strong on paper.  The men's elimination match and the women's champions match in particular have the potential to be pretty great.  We'll see if they deliver.  

This being The Undertaker's 30th anniversary with the company, they'll have some kind of special tribute to him, which will probably take up way too much time and end with someone attacking him and starting a new feud.  It is once again telling that the poster for this event features the 55-year-old semi-retired Undertaker (a pic from ten years ago, mind you) and not any of the current stars.....




US Champion vs. Intercontinental Champion: Bobby Lashley vs. Sami Zayn


One match that has very little potential is this one.  I don't know why they took the belt off Sami months ago only to put it back on him the moment he returned from self-quarantine.  I like Sami a lot but he hasn't been presented strong at all.  There's zero chance he beats Lashley here either.  This will be a short near-squash.

Pick: Lashley




Tag Team Champions: New Day vs. Street Profits


This one actually could be really good, with all the athleticism involved.  I honestly have no idea who wins this, but the smart move at this point would be to give Street Profits a win over the legendary New Day, in order to get them over.  New Day doesn't at all need this win.

Pick: Profits

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.

Midsommar: The Trauma of Passive Horror

Welcome to a special movie review where Justin breaks down what makes Midsommar so traumatic.  Ari Aster's sophomore feature about a group of Americans who visit a strange Swedish commune and experience grisly rituals touched a nerve with audiences in 2019.  With an emphasis on off-putting visuals and ever-escalating dread, Midsommar eschews modern horror tropes and instead takes on the feeling of a bizarre nightmare, sticking with you long after it's over.

But why?  What is it about Midsommar that's so upsetting?  Join Justin as he hypothesizes from a different angle than most analyses to date....

SPOILER WARNING!!!!

 

Excerpts of Bobby Krlic's score included under fair use.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2020

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.

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.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

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.

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.

Monday, November 16, 2020

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.

Friday, November 13, 2020

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.