Monday, November 23, 2015

Lobster Head and the Darkest Timeline: WWE Survivor Series 2015 Review

Dear Lord
Photo Credit:
In the TH Style. Yeah, this show.

  • Roman Reigns defeated Alberto del Rio with the spear in the first semifinal match of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship tournament.
  • Dean Ambrose countered the pop-up powerbomb twice, the second time into Dirty Deeds, to get the duke in the other semifinal.
  • Ryback, Jey Uso, and Kalisto were the survivors in the traditional Survivor Series match when they hit Sheamus with a flurry of moves ending in Ryback's Shell-Shocked.
  • Charlotte retained the Divas Championship via the Figure Eight on Paige.
  • Tyler Breeze used misdirection and a low kick from the apron on Dolph Ziggler to get the drop on him and defeat him with the Unprettier.
  • Undertaker and Kane bested Luke Harper and Bray Wyatt when Taker pinned Harper following the Tombstone Piledriver.
  • Reigns won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship with a spear on Ambrose.
  • After the match, Triple H came out to congratulate Reigns, to which Reigns answered with a spear. In the confusion, Sheamus hit Reigns with the Brogue Kick, cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase, hit another Brogue, and won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.

General Observations:
  • Lilian Garcia sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" to open the show, which was odd given that WWE only rolls that out for WrestleMania. Then again, Survivor Series was on high alert for an ISIS attack, and if Vince McMahon couldn't get promo time to tell Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to shove it up his own ass, the next best thing was a rousing rendition of our Nation's national anthem.
  • Jerry Lawler wondered aloud during the Alberto del Rio/Roman Reigns match if the former won, would it be an international incident? WWE announcers say things sometimes that sound like they may be smart, but I'm not sure they know what those words actually mean.
  • No matter how many times Reigns does the Bob Backlund Memorial Short-Arm Scissor Lift, it never fails to impress. He busted it out twice vs. del Rio, and with el Patron looking like he's been on IcoPro (if you know what I mean, wink wink nudge nudge), the move came off looking extra impressive.
  • JBL called Dean Ambrose a "wild card" before his match with Kevin Owens began, only adding more fuel to the fire that he reads Twitter and knows about the subculture that has named Ambrose the Charlie Kelly of the WWE Universe.
  • Owens locked in a chinlock towards the beginning of the match and immediately barked to the referee "ASK HIM." It's such a little thing to do, but it definitely makes what Owens does resonate. In another era, Owens would have been the best heel. Now? All the smark-ass motherfuckers in the crowd wanna cheer him for it, present company included.
  • WWE production has been sketchy as of late, but cutting to Triple H in the back during an Owens resthold was brilliant placement.
  • The sequence going from Owens throatily shouting "STAY DOWN" through Ambrose hitting the Nigel was A+ storytelling from two guys who know a thing or two about that.
  • Xavier Woods came out sporting a hybrid haircut between Egon Spangler and James Brown. I don't know how he keeps doing it, but he keeps topping himself. Now I gotta go pour one out for Harold Ramis, whose 71st birthday would have been this past Saturday.
  • Everyone does dives in WWE nowadays, but watching the Usos and Lucha Dragons go plancha quadrangular on the heels in the traditional Survivor Series match still held the kind of batshit insanity that those moves held back before they were spammed into eternity. But then Ryback going from the top to the floor reminded me and should have reminded everyone of how the mid-Aughts indie scene and thus present day WWE has ruined the dive for everyone.
  • Woods got on the trombone after the traditional "New Day Stomps on a Dude in the Corner" spot (which JBL dubbed the "Unicorn Stampede") thing and then Big E went into his patented sleazy sensual dancing. However, Wade Barrett got in on the action, and instead of what usually happens when a white dude horns in on a black guy's act, it got even more hilarious. It almost made up for Barrett predictably being the first to be eliminated in the match.
  • The Lucha Dragons' combo monkey-flip-into-a-splash and the New Day's Demolition Device double stomp are both tremendous double-team moves for widely different reasons. The former exemplifies the grace and beauty of lucha libre at its finest, while the latter gives New Day a sinister edge to belie their power of positivity veneer. Having both happen within a few spots of each other in this match was great contrast.
  • Woods and Kofi Kingston carried Big E to the back after he apparently tweaked his shoulder on that signature spear to the outside, leaving Sheamus to fend for himself against Jey Uso, Ryback, and Kalisto. It was an asinine, backwards decision especially in the face of what was going to happen later on. Storytelling in WWE is broken, but I guess that's what happens when the master storyteller in the promotion is a bully with a skewed worldview.
  • When naming dirtsheets possible progenitors of the Divas Revolution at the beginning of the Paige/Charlotte match, JBL said that it began with Fabulous Moolah. While Moolah was a notable female competitor, I don't think taking liberties with her opponents/students and pimping out other female wrestlers for sexual favors makes her a prime candidate for the advancement of women in wrestling. Then again, JBL was kind of a bully himself in the locker room. Birds of a feather and such.
  • Charlotte began the match with some rough grappling, and Paige shouted "GET OFF ME!" While I'm not a fan of WWE agents laying out BLOOD FEUDS with grappling, that bit of in-ring banter popped me a bit.
  • That being said, after the action spilled to the outside, the brutality ramped up and really took on the complexion of a personal, intense brawl. Paige tossed Charlotte around like garbage bags and at one point had a half-crab locked in so tight that I thought Charlotte was going to tear something in her leg. Charlotte responded with a really stiff running big boot and dropping Paige on the apron with the electric chair.
  • The centerpiece spot in the match, however, popped off the screen in a big way. Having Paige scream "THIS IS MY HOUSE" on top of the barricade before Charlotte took her down with the spear to the floor was memorable, or at least it would have been memorable if not in the backdrop of the Reid Flair stuff from last Monday that seemingly everyone wants to forget.
  • Dolph Ziggler enters the arena with a new piece of flair on his gear every show. By the time 2017 rolls around, he's going to be a walking, talking, grappling rack of clothes and swag, billed from the clearance section of Hot Topic.
  • That being said, he and Tyler Breeze probably had the best match all night, even though it went shorter than some other prestige matches might have gone. It was a tight, crisp sprint. Sometimes, two guys just need to keep it quick.

  • Interesting that JBL and to an extent Michael Cole brought up Hulk Hogan without really saying his name while rattling off Undertaker's history at Survivor Series. I can only imagine McMahon yelling KILL KILL KILL in JBL's headset when he said Taker beat "The Immortal One" at Survivor Series for the title a year after his debut. Then again, Triple H publicly expressed desire for Hogan to come back to the fold and "make amends with the world" so who knows.
  • I know Taker needs to come out and put in a full effort if he's going to be booked on shows from here on out, but I can imagine several other things he can do that don't involve a 50+ year old man doing a leg drop on the hardest part of the ring.
  • Honestly, if anyone was going to take Braun Strowman off his feet and make him bump, REALLY bump for the first time in his main roster career, it makes sense that the two supernatural brothers would do it by simultaneously chokeslamming him through a table.
  • For all the unease over Undertaker's current run, the spot where he and Kane sat up simultaneously while Bray Wyatt did the crab walk and Luke Harper stalked them was a damn cool visual.
  • Ambrose and Seth Rollins supposedly had a blood feud going, and they began their matches with collar and elbow tie-ups. Meanwhile, Reigns and Ambrose are BROS 'TIL THE END, DAWG, and they came out throwing hands like one of them caught the other banging his spouse. I don't get WWE road agents sometimes.
  • Honestly, ending the main part of the show at around 10:35 PM majorly telegraphed how the real ending was going to go. That being said, I was super-relieved when Ambrose bro-hugged Reigns and rolled out of the ring. Turning Ambrose right now would be the worst possible thing. He's a populist character, and he still has a ton of miles left before a heel turn makes logical sense. In fact, I was hoping he'd come back and deck Sheamus after the bell had rung for his cash-in as a favor to Reigns. That would have been some gnarly storytelling.
  • Reigns spearing Triple H seemed to me to telegraph a match between the two in the future. I'm far more stoked to see those two face off than Trips going up against Rollins, to be honest.
Match of the Night: Tyler Breeze vs. Dolph Ziggler - Not every great match has to be a sprawling, spanning epic. Sometimes, one just has to let the quick guys who bump hard and go in and out of counters do their thing, and everything will end up being alright. Ziggler and Breeze worked briskly and injected some emotion and hatred into the proceedings to make the cooldown match for the secondary main event. They began the match hot, which is not exactly a given in WWE. When the "blood feud of the year" had matches beginning with collar and elbow tie ups, an observer might be justified in thinking the agents drop acid before each show. But Ziggler and Breeze playing the game of one-upsmanship at the beginning fit the feud's tone perfectly.

The procession from that beginning where Breeze and Ziggler traded sojourns across the top turnbuckle was crisp and taut at the same time. The counterwrestling was on point, and each wrestler hit into his transitions through tight windows without losing the spontaneous and chaotic atmosphere a match between two guys who really don't like each other should have. But the end sequence with the big counters out of the finishes into Breeze taking the apron was a whirlwind that Breeze kicking the shin out from under Ziggler felt like a jolting wakeup call. The Unprettier was more shocking for leading to a clean win in such decisive fashion, but it was a refreshing way to end a match, especially in the valley of fuck-finishes WWE has seemed to find itself in.

Overall Thoughts: Survivor Series, on paper, looked to be one of WWE's finest shows, but the way it played out in real life was disappointingly slow and clunky. WWE seems to put on its best efforts when no one is really expecting the company to, but the inverse rarely seems to be the case. This time, however, the compelling series of Monday Night RAW episodes leading up to the latest installment of the second oldest pay-per-view on the slate as a wet fart.

To be completely fair, in a vacuum, the visual of Sheamus cashing in on a weary, exhausted Roman Reigns after the pyro and after the typhoon of confetti would have been the bedrock for an epic chase into WrestleMania. It could, and really should, have been a moment, and WWE loves to hype the fact that it's a company that creates moments. But context is a tricky, fickle beast. WWE has completely and utterly fumbled Sheamus since he won the briefcase out of what seemed to be nowhere. His character was not developed outside of owning the briefcase, and he wasn't developed as a true contender. Sure, the cache of holding the golden ticket is that the win can come out of nowhere, but at the same time, the difference between being groomed while remaining out of sight and out of mind and being made completely irrelevant upon the eve of the cash-in is staggering. Hell, Sheamus even lost in ill-fitting fashion in the traditional Survivor Series match.

And it's not like Reigns was built for that kind of moment either. Atlanta is as close to a Roman Reigns town as one can get in WWE, and even that crowd turned on him. The writing was on the wall for a heel turn to happen if Reigns was going to win the tournament, and WWE didn't seize it. Instead, Vince McMahon's vision for Reigns as the next rock-solid babyface led him to keep fucking that chicken. Obviously, the future is still unwritten, and anyone can be rehabilitated. Reigns could very well walk into WrestleMania against whoever the Champion ends up being, win, redeem himself, and take the mantel like he was always meant to. However, right now that future looks improbable.

Of course, Reigns, Sheamus, nearly everyone who has been done wrong to this point is a victim of the backwards way WWE tells stories. Sheamus, for example, never should have been put in a situation where he was down one-on-three in the Survivor Series match. That situation should be reserved for the babyface either looking to make a giant comeback or to go down valiantly to build up a big heel. The way it played out felt like a schoolyard beatdown of an unpopular kid, which really isn't a good look for anyone. Charlotte and Paige fought over words that were conveniently cut out of the recap packages (that made Charlotte look like the goober for overreacting) and that WWE is allegedly making Charlotte take the fall for. And the supernatural stable of hillbilly Deliverance cosplayers once again got its lunch handed to them. I'm not one to make big deals about wins and losses, but if one is to believe Bray Wyatt is a force, shouldn't his group be more than ineffectual to the point of hilarity? All the group is right now is bluster. They don't win matches against their opponents, and their actions don't have any long-lasting effects.

Sure, the night wasn't all bad in terms of booking or wrestling. Charlotte and Paige worked a fine match, and Tyler Breeze and Dolph Ziggler quickened the pace and tried injecting some life into the show. Breeze in particular took center stage and has been built into something worth fearing, booing, or even getting behind. How long that may last, however, is a mystery. And that's modern WWE in a nutshell. Guys come up and they make splashes, but one is left waiting for when the bottom falls out on them. Sometimes, a Kevin Owens will luck out and parlay his hot start into a substantial, consistent run, but for every Owens, a Ryback is there to fizzle out, whether through fault of his own or via the machinations of shitty organizational structure, and get stuck in midcard hell. Then, when WWE tries to make that wrestler a thing again, well, it ends up producing Sheamus winning Money in the Bank and cashing in at the end of Survivor Series to the general reaction of watching those Sarah McLachlan commercials for pet shelters.