Wednesday 16 November 2011

Survivor Series preview

A few months ago I naively thought the WWE writing crew had pulled their act together and prepared several months of storylines that would culminate at Survivor Series, with the event also acting as a launch pad for the feuds that would carry the company through to the Royal Rumble.
The CM Punk worked shoot promos. Vince being relieved of his duties. The power struggle between Triple H and John Laurinaitis. Kevin Nash's return and his odd actions. The realistic assaults from R-Truth and The Miz. It felt like something was being readied and the pieces were being put into place.
Unfortunately I was wrong. Those threads have fallen off over the course of the last month or two, heading in their own separate directions and failing to provide the bigger picture that seemed so tantalisingly close.
It's frustrating. It really seemed as though the company knew where it was going with all of the elements they were introducing to their TV product and had a payoff to it all in mind. A natural assumption to make was that the company would make use of its ten man elimination tag format, but with the key players of the last six months of storylines all in separate matches it appears that that was never on the cards.
This should serve as a reminder to everyone (including me) never to get your hopes up when considering WWE storylines. You'll only be disappointed.
That said what WWE have put together looks like a solid show. It may not feel like the culmination of several months work but that won't detract from the quality of the matches.
The jewel of the undercard has to be the Survivor Series elimination match. Not just because it's as close as we're going to get to the big payoff match I wanted to see but because there are a lot of talented workers involved.
The bout will see Jack Swagger, Hunico, Cody Rhodes, Dolph Ziggler (substituting for an injured Christian) and their captain Wade Barrett face Sin Cara, Sheamus, Mason Ryan, Kofi Kingston and their captain Randy Orton. Predicting eliminations is practically impossible so I'll simply say that I think the victor or victors will represent Team Barrett, and that the captain will be among them. The man from Manchester has recently been the recipient of an understated but steady push for and it would benefit him to pick up a win here.
On the subject of United States champion Dolph Ziggler he will once again work a double shift at The World's Most Famous Arena. His opponent will be John Morrison. The reason for this match happening is tenuous at best. JoMo ended his months-long losing streak at Ziggler's expense two weeks ago on RAW and tossed 'The Heel' into the ring to face the wrath of Mason Ryan this week. Despite Zack Ryder's clear popularity and lengthier dispute with Ziggler Morrison has been awarded a title match.
On the bright side this indicates WWE is attempting to boost the mid-card division a little. In addition to 'The Monday Night Delight' and 'Long Island Iced Z' the US champ also has Mason Ryan after his belt. Morrison v Ziggler is a bout that could go a long way to restoring some credit to the championship, provided heel shenanigans are kept to a minimum.
Will Ziggler go two pay-per-views in a row retaining his beloved gold? I hope so. I think he's a great heel champion for the division to be built around. He deserves a world title but there are no vacancies at the top of the card right now so this is the best use for him. I'm going to pick him to retain.
Beth Phoenix will defend her Divas' championship against Eve in what will likely be one of the evening’s shorter entries. As I have for the last several shows I'll predict that not only will Beth win but Kelly Kelly or Eve will turn heel. KK costing Eve the championship because she can't bear to see anyone else dethrone Beth could make sense with a little promo time dedicated to it later in the evening or on next Monday’s RAW.
Sooner or later one of them will turn, mark my words!
Mark Henry v Big Show for the World Heavyweight championship will be more of what we got at Vengeance, though the ring has a better chance of staying intact this time. This match interests me less than any other. I don't care who wins but I expect it to be 'The World's Strongest Man'. His push still has mileage in it.
I voiced my concerns over the Alberto Del Rio v CM Punk rivalry during my recap of RAW on Tuesday (read that here). In a nutshell I feel Punk's constant promos have caused his popularity to wane and made him look like someone who doesn't actually believe what he says (why would someone who cares about wrestling so much monopolise airtime to say the same thing every week?). ADR, the WWE champion don’t forget, has been weakened in a variety of ways and does not come across as a serious headliner.
I'm sure the match will be good and draw the fans in nicely. Both men are amongst the best in the company as far as wrestling ability goes. Sadly I'm equally as sure that Del Rio will retain on a disqualification. That way WWE can set up a gimmick match at TLC next month and have Punk take the gold there.
Finally there's the main event. "Never before, never again" says the advertising. Said dramatically enough it can fool you into thinking it means something. The match will pit Awesome Truth against The Rock and John Cena, whom the company's marketing department have decided are "the most charismatic tag team ever." It's comments like this, a by-product of WWE's insistence of getting and keeping Cena over at any cost, that make it difficult for younger talent to get over. They’re constantly in Cena’s shadow.

For example notice how The Miz and R-Truth are not mentioned prominently in the event’s advertising. WWE could have made more of them with a minimum of fuss and added another hook to the match whilst doing so. Had Miz and Truth been billed as "the world's most dangerous tag team", accompanied by footage of their various convincing assaults of the past few months, they would have seemed more of a threat and been in a better position to help attract buys for next month’s pay-per-view when The Rock's nowhere to be seen.

WWE's short-sightedness strikes again.
Clearly this match is not about Awesome Truth. It's about laying more groundwork for the Cena v Rock feud that will heat up once we're into WrestleMania season in late January. The company wants as much footage as possible for their 'Mania hype video and this match will provide it. It's not intended to be classic, it's intended to be a spectacle and a milestone in Rock and Cena’s story. It ought to achieve those goals. WrestleMania's lead feud should have advanced by the time Survivor Series is over.
Can Cena and The Rock coexist? Of course they can’t. One is going to turn on the other, either during or after the match. My guess would be that Cena will turn on Rock and blast him with an Attitude Adjustment because Rock denied him the opportunity of connecting with the move on RAW.

I imagine the overwhelming majority of fans expect the WrestleMania opponents to win, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say Truth and Miz will go over. It will be a surprising result (which does occasionally play a factor in WWE’s booking) and ultimately no harm will be done to the more important Cena v Rock feud if they lose here, and it will give the heels something to brag about on television. It could even set up a match for TLC next month, with Cena choosing another partner for a rematch. Zack Ryder anyone?

The Madison Square Garden fans always make shows feel special and this Sunday should be no exception. With The Rock’s first match in over seven years, singles matches between Ziggler and Morrison and Punk and Del Rio, and a multi-man match featuring a wealth of talented workers Survivor Series should deliver in the ring. Will it set up the next several months of storylines as a Big Four PPV should? Probably not. And it’s that wasted opportunity that I’ll always associate with this show.

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