Monday, November 22, 2021

WWE Survivor Series 2021: It Was Fine

Well that was a show.  A pretty good show.  Certainly a pretty good show by 2021 WWE's standards.  Of course it was not without moments that make rational viewers go "Huh???"  Jesus there's a lot wrong with this product right now.  But Survivor Series 2021 was a perfectly decent watch overall.

Of note before I get into this, it's a mistake to watch an AEW PPV one weekend and then a WWE PPV the next.  Wrestling quality aside, WWE's live crowds are lifeless compared to AEW's.  I don't care what side of the wrestling fence you're on, there's simply no getting around this fact.  AEW fans are so much more excited to be there than WWE's, and it's not even close.  Just about every match at Full Gear got enormous crowd reactions throughout, while almost nothing on this show made these fans give a tupenny fuck.  Everything at Survivor Series lost up to a full star off its rating, just because the crowd was dead.  I've said it before, but how does Vince not think this is a red-alert-level problem?  If your audience doesn't react to anything, you're clearly not engaging them.  If you're not engaging them, they aren't going to watch your show.

Oh also?  Pat McAfee is annoying as shit.  Guy doesn't shut up and half the time says things that make no sense.  It's good that unlike every other WWE announcer he has a personality, but someone's gotta reign him in a little.  

I was pretty pissed to see Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Damien Priest get bumped to the pre-show, particularly considering just how much time was wasted on video packages, commercials, entrances, etc.  There is no excuse whatsoever for a match of any importance being relegated to the Kickoff while the company pisses away airtime on a video package for Drew McIntyre or Bobby Lashley.  What the fuck were those all about?  Yeah, we know who both those guys are, why are you showing us documentary-style videos with no objective?  Or how about Vince McMahon and the stupid gold egg?  Are we seriously building an entire episode of RAW around "Rich Old Guy's Expensive Trinket Missing?"  Imagine thinking your wrestling audience wants to see your obscenely wealthy 76-year-old ass whining about how someone stole your new toy.  Anyway, Nak vs. Priest was pretty good while it lasted, with lots of nearfalls and counterwrestling.  Until Priest let go of a submission hold because Nakamura's guitar player friend distracted him with his guitar playing.  What the actual fuck is with this gimmick?  Welcome to WWE, where a legit badass with MMA experience gets turned into a comedy character.  Priest went after Rick Boogs, took his guitar away, broke it over his knee, and bludgeoned both Boogs and Nakamura with it, drawing a disqualification.  So Damien Priest, who had been undefeated for months since debuting on RAW, loses by DQ on a Kickoff show.  Makes sense....  Like I said, this was good until the finish.  **1/4

The proper PPV opener easily stole the show, as Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair had a very intense, aggressive fight.  To WWE's credit they resisted the temptation to make it look like a shoot or have some wacky Montreal-esque ending.  Becky and Charlotte worked stiffly and urgently, using their real-life tension to fuel the bout.  There were a ton of nearfalls, both women used each other's finishers (Becky didn't quite lock in the Figure Four properly and had to kinda turn it into a heel hook), and it built to Flair attempting to steal a win with a rope-assisted roll-up, only for Lynch to reverse it and use the ropes more surreptitiously so the ref didn't see it.  Lynch got the pin and gloated over her archenemy.  This was a very good match with a few sloppy moments, like Charlotte's top rope moonsault that more or less missed Becky.  Still this was unquestionably the best thing on the show.  ****

After numerous video packages and by my count twelve (fucking TWELVE) minutes of ring entrances, the men's Survivor Series match got underway.  Seriously, there's no excuse for how much time this company wastes with non-wrestling stuff.  No wonder the crowds are always dead.  This match started off poorly, with Kevin Owens demanding to be the legal man, only to walk to the back and take a countout.  I guess it wouldn't be a Survivor Series unless the company booked a "surprise" early elimination.  So RAW was down 5-4.  From there though the action was quite good.  Finn Balor took Baron Corbin out with the Coup de Grace.  Lashley took out Xavier Woods with a spear and Hurt Lock combo.  Drew McIntyre and Lashley resumed their old feud with some power brawling that spilled to the outside and got them both counted out (Yes, this match featured three eliminations by countout).  Balor almost had Sheamus beaten but Sheamus dodged the Coup de Grace and hit the Brogue Kick to pin him.  This left Seth and Austin Theory vs. Sheamus and Jeff Hardy.  Theory pinned Sheamus with a rollup but Sheamus clotheslined both Theory and his own partner Jeff before leaving.  Jeff beat Theory after a swanton and it was down to Seth vs. Jeff.  These two had some very good exchanges, Jeff hitting a Twist of Fate for a nearfall only to have his swanton countered with Seth's knees.  Seth hit the curb stomp to win the whole thing.  This got a lot of time and had some good wrestling.  Sadly the show never got this good again.  ***3/4

Next up was the stupid battle royal.  There was a Pizza Hut promotion so R-Truth distracted Otis by feeding him pizza, only for Otis to throw him out.  Aside from that there was little of note, Omos played the Andre role and tossed half the field.  AJ Styles spent most of the match outside, letting Omos do all the dirty work.  Finally about 2/3 of the way in AJ entered, hitting a Phenomenal Forearm on Dolph Ziggler before eliminating him.  Azeez grabbed AJ from the outside while Omos tried to keep him in.  Ultimately AJ went flying over the ropes to the floor.  From there Omos basically tossed everyone else, last eliminating Ricochet, and AJ came back in to celebrate with him before Street Profits attacked them and threw pizza into the crowd.  This was pointless.  *1/2

The tag team match pitting RK-Bro vs. The Usos was next, and it was....fine.  It was a solid TV-quality match.  Riddle, sporting yellow toenail polish for whatever reason, played the babyface in peril for much of the bout.   Riddle eventually made a blind tag to Orton, Jimmy Uso went for a top rope splash on Riddle, and Orton intercepted it with the dreaded RKO out of nowhere for the win.  This was one of those matches that went in one ear and out the other, so to speak.  It was well-worked but I remembered virtually nothing about it once it was over.  Except for the nail polish.  **1/2

The women's elimination match took the traditional death spot on the card, and boy did the crowd oblige in that sense.  The audience gave less than a shit about this, except when Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair were fighting.  And it's unfortunate, because there was some good action here.  Once again the match started with a quick elimination, as Carmella spent a bunch of time trying to put her protective mask on, couldn't get it situated, and got rolled up by Toni Storm.  Storm got a good amount of time to shine in this match actually.  She was the first one eliminated from her team but also took out two members of Team RAW.  Banks and Belair had a good exchange in the middle and sadly the match never reached this level again.  I'm still pissed we never got a proper rematch between these two.  Anyway, Belair tagged Zelina Vega in, but Vega was eliminated by Storm, who was then pretty quickly taken out by Liv Morgan, who was then pretty quickly eliminated by Sasha.  That left a 4-on-2 scenario.  Rhea Ripley got double-teamed and eliminated by Shotzi and Shayna, leaving Bianca alone against four opponents.  Then the stupidest part of the match happened.  Sasha shoved Shotzi into Shayna on the outside, and then Sasha's entire team took turns keeping her from re-entering the ring, resulting in a countout.  Except that Sasha made it all the way into the ring before being pulled out.  This looked terrible and was yet another instance of inept WWE booking.  Bianca pinned both Natalya and Shayna in short order, thus dissolving all the suspense and boiling down to Bianca vs. Shotzi.  They had some decent exchanges before Bianca hit the KOD to win the whole match.  Once again bad booking keeps a good match from reaching its potential.  ***

The main event was kind of a slog for the first third, as Roman Reigns dominated Big E for several minutes and the crowd seemingly couldn't have cared less.  Things picked up as Big E took over, hitting a bunch of suplexes.  Big E locked in a stretch muffler but couldn't get the tapout.  Reigns came back with a Superman punch but Big E stayed on his feet.  Reigns then hit him with two more to knock him down, but after his pre-spear taunt, Big E stood back up and got in Roman's face, waking the crowd up.  Big E hit the spear through the ropes (dude's gonna kill himself doing that move one day), but Reigns hit his own spear back in the ring for a nearfall.  Reigns countered another spear with the guillotine, but Big E reversed into the Big Ending and went for the pin.  They were too close to the ropes though, and Reigns got his hand on the bottom rope.  Big E went for another Big Ending but Reigns escaped and kicked his knee out, and hit him with another spear to end it.  This was a good match but there was never any real suspense about Big E winning.  The crowd got into it by the end.  ***1/2

So this was probably the second-best of the Big Four PPVs in 2021.  More evenly good than either the Rumble or SummerSlam but with only one match cracking **** territory.  And Jesus H. Christ this company needs to streamline its presentation.  There is zero reason for all the video packages and backstage bullshit they subject us to.  These six matches could've easily fit within a three-hour running time.  Easily.  

Best Match: Becky vs. Charlotte
Worst Match: Battle Royal
What I'd Change: Remove all the goddamn video packages - seriously, why did they spotlight Lashley and Drew like that?  Stop booking stupid things like unnecessary countouts.  This is a PPV.
Most Disappointing Match: Women's elimination
Most Pleasant Surprise: Eh?
Overall Rating: 7.5/10

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