Monday, 23 November 2015

Survivor Series 2015 review

Let's start off with some honesty. Survivor Series was not a great show. When the longest match of the evening takes place on the pre-show you know you're in for a rough night. It's too early to attempt a redemptive reading of this card (not that redemptive readings of pay-per-views should even be a thing because it's massively pretentious but whatevs) but even if it weren't I don't think much could be done. There were good matches but not where it counted. And the ending of the show, a bigger deal here than normal because a new world champion was to be crowned, was a spectacular misfire. There's not really a way for a wrestling show constructed so heavily around its main event to come back from that.

Reigns figuratively Superman punching rebelling fans in the face.
The official opener saw tourney favourite Roman Reigns take on Alberto Del Rio. The reasoning of making this match was sound enough, it was intended to keep the crowd on side on stop them revealing against Roman. It achieved its goal because ADR is massively boring and has a confusing gimmick to boot (he's pro-multiculturalism but we're meant to dislike him for an unspecified reason). But having your show begin with a man who's main method of getting heat is being tedious to watch is a bad idea for very obvious reasons. Reigns went over clean and will show no interest in the United States title in the foreseeable future.

Things improved with the other semi-final match. That saw Dean Ambrose defeat IC kingpin Kevin Owens in exactly the kind of gripping affair everyone expected from them. Even though an Ambrose win seemed likely they managed to cast doubt on the outcome until it rolled around, in which Ambrose reversed the pop-up power bomb into a hurricanrana and then hit Dirty Deeds for the pin.

That was followed by a traditional Survivor Series elimination match, the only one on the show (although that pre-show bout I mentioned was one). Rybsck, the Usos and the Lucha Dragons took on King Wade Bad News Barrett I, Sheamus and New Day. There was fun to be found because New Day are the best act in WWE. They hit the right mix of fun and threatening which is exactly right with them portraying heels. Also, Xavier Woods had a new haircut!

Unfortunately the match wasn't good. There were moments of delight to be had but there were too many bodies in the ring to avoid blown spots and sloppiness. The wrong team survived too. This was the perfect chance for New Day to be established as unstoppable when they're at full strength (it would have given us another heel victory on the show, which could have been a help). Instead they were treated as generic heels and, bafflingly, walked out on the match together after Big E was eliminated. It's not that that went against character, it's that it was a stupid idea that did nothing to put them over as an effective trio. 

This weird team though...
The tag team champions, the King of the Ring (remember when that tournament was treated like it meant something?), and the man who would leave end the night as WWE world champ were outlasted by Ryback, Kalisto and Jey Uso. Yes, Jey Uso. It's worth noting that Ryback got the pin on Shaymo. That's a potential world title feud. Harrowing to think about, I know.

Paige's challenge for Charlotte's Divas championship followed that. This card being relatively light on matches ensured that they got plenty of time, a shade under fifteen minutes. The match wasn't bad but they weren't lively enough to hold attention for that amount of time. Too many rest holds made this somewhat of a chore to sit through. The by-the-numbers ringside excursion did nothing. Charlotte won with the figure eight.

Tyler Breeze and Dolph Ziggler were only given enough time to have a match slightly better than what they'd have had on RAW. They made up for it by having two of the best outfits of the evening. 'Prince Pretty' looked good, as he should have done in his PPV debut, but the match was nothing special. He got the win too, again as he should have done. Interestingly he did so with the move Christian once called the Unprettier. Apt.

Expert selling from Harper there.
Undertaker's twenty-fifth anniversary match took the semi-main event spot. As I wrote in the preview this was a wasted opportunity. 'Taker tagging with Kane against Luke Harper and Bray Wyatt just didn't feel like a big enough deal for such a significant milestone in the man's career and the character's history. More should ahve been done in advance to build towards this. I understand that WWE has been hit by an unfortunate spate of injuries but nothing across the last month or two of television indicates that anything of any greater worth was originally planned for 'The Dead Man' at Survivor Series. The company knew this anniversary was coming up and could have made it a far bigger deal had they wished. We're left to assume that they didn't want to, which begs the question of why they made even this token attempt.

The match itself was okay. Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper were wisely picked as the representatives of their Family and got to look reasonably competitive against the Brothers of Destruction before they took the loss. That said they were also shown to rely heavily on interference and still couldn't win, even against a 'Phenom' who was very visibly off his game, quite possibly feeling the pressure of the moment. Or maybe he was feeling his age. Harper was pinned by Undi' following a Tombstone. No other pinning combo was an option: 'Taker had to get the win and Bray couldn't take a loss.

Which left only the main event (although in actuality it didn't). Notable omission of a handshake at the start aside, odd because of the brother versus brother narrative WWE was going with and their well-established on-screen friendship, the two had an entirely believable and completely natural face versus face match. Neither was too aggressive, both got in an abundance of their signature moves and high spots. They packed in plenty of near falls too, although it's possible too many of them relied on finishers. With only ten minutes to play with it did feel a very busy match at points.

No heel turn here.
Then Reigns hit a spear and just like that it was over. Reigns got his moment to celebrate as JBL, Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler gushed about his achievement and the legacy he comes from. He and Ambrose shared a hug before the loser gracefully exited the ring and Reigns was flooded by confetti. This was, of course, designed to make Reigns' subsequent fall all the harsher.

Triple H hit the ring. He applauded Reigns and raised his hand before offering a handshake. Reigns responded with a weak spear. Sheamus then showed up, Brogue kicked Reigns, and officially cashed in his Money in the Bank contract. Even when losing to a surprise cash-in Reigns was kept strong, kicking out of the move (which not let forget has been well protected over the years) before falling to a second.

There's more to Ireland... dan dis!
And here's why this show was a failure. The main event, despite being pretty good in and of itself did nothing to play up to the situation. There was no corrupt boss, no Survivor Series '97 callback, no swerve heel turn. None of these things were necessary but with the circumstances as they were it was reasonable to expect some of these aspects to come into play. The decision not to use them was a bold one and something that could have worked had the writing team had the courage of their convictions and given the main event the time to be the classic encounter they intended it to be.

Instead we got yet another sneaky heel champion aligned with The Authority and Michael Cole bleating about history being stolen. This is not the stuff that memorable pay-per-views are made of.


Results summary:
Roman Reigns defeated Alberto Del Rio
Dean Ambrose defeated Kevin Owens
Ryback, the Usos and the Lucha Dragons defeated Bad News Barrett, Sheamus and New Day
Charlotte defeated Paige to retain the Divas championship
Tyler Breeze defeated Dolph Ziggler
The Undertaker and Kane defeated Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper
Roman Reigns defeated Dean Ambrose to win the WWE championship
Sheamus defeated Roman Reigns to win the WWE championship

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