November 23, 2015 by Joey Keogh
It’s tough to be a WWE fan sometimes. In the modern, so-called PG era particularly, our faith is very rarely rewarded. Moments such as Daniel Bryan‘s triumphant Wrestlemania win or the boundary-pushing NXT women’s title matches are few and far between and often frustratingly short-lived. Last year’s Survivor Series event was predicated on the idea that The Authority were going to be removed from power. And, although they didn’t spend too long out of office, the short term pay-off was tantalising enough to get us to tune in, in our droves, to watch their toppling defeat at the hands of, er, Team Cena. It wasn’t the most memorable moment in pro-wrestling history, but it was enough to convince us to continue watching to see what happened next.
This year, the focus, according to the advertising surrounding the event, is on The Undertaker‘s 25 triumphant years in the business. But you wouldn’t know it given how short his appearance tonight is. Before all that, though, there’s another painful Kick-off show to suffer through, during which a traditional Survivor Series match takes place, starring, among others, The Ascension and Bo Dallas. There’s another themed match on the main show, but suffice to say the inclusion of this one suggests that tonight’s PPV is Survivor Series in name only. An appearance by Tyler Breeze and Summer Rae opposite a floundering, unable to improvise Tom in the social media lounge is the highlight of the entire pre-show, which is really saying something.
Tonight’s opener pitches Roman Reigns in a semi-final bout against Alberto Del Rio. Continuing on from his recent appearance on RAW, ADR flails a bit, seemingly unable to get on board with the fact he’s been brought back to triumphantly steal the US title from the biggest face in the company only to be relegated to eating the loss opposite less talented dudes like Reigns in order to put them over in his place. Kicking things off on a disappointingly flat note, Reigns predictably gets the win and Del Rio skulks off to seethe about it in private. There’s a suggestion that maybe the only way is up, but this match kind of sets the tone for the night: badly-paced, dull and uninspired.
The second semi-final match sees Kevin Owens and Dean Ambrose, two of the hottest commodities in the company, tear each other to pieces for a shot at the title. Twitter was alight with fans arguing that this should have been the Main Event and, given what the headliner actually entailed, one is inclined to agree with them. Of course, life is not that kind and, although Owens and Ambrose arguably have the match of the night, with stunning spots – a backdrop from the top nearly cuts Ambrose’s spine in half – a decent tempo and, crucially, a bit of noise from the Atlanta fans, they don’t get nearly enough time to show us what they can do and are quickly shooed off-stage once Ambrose has sealed the deal to make way for…a non-title tag match.
Let’s face it, The New Day can make even the worst match in the world seem palatable, and they do good work here, starting as they mean to continue with some great smack talk. Team-mates King Barrett and Sheamus do their best to get involved without compromising their tough guy personas, with the latter losing the run of himself slightly before being swiftly reined back in by his buddy. Xavier Woods channels a number of different looks with a new, slicked-back hairdo that he loudly warns his opponents not to ruin as things get down and dirty. There’s a lot of dancing and shouting ringside, but in the end it’s Sheamo and, annoyingly, Ryback who hash things out man to man, with The Big Guy subsequently nabbing the win for his team. But to what end? Why should we care? Why did this match need to happen tonight, as opposed to on RAW tomorrow?
The Divas follow and are gifted a measly fifteen minutes to show off what they can do. Puzzlingly, after a fantastically rough brawl on RAW less than a week ago, Paige and Charlotte seem to have calmed down considerably and engage in a slow, mostly submission-based match that ends rather abruptly in a tap out. The pacing of women’s matches on the main roster has been a serious issue for a long time, but it’s most evident tonight as these two very talented ladies struggle to maintain the flow in spite of giving it their absolute all; taunting each other, trading blows on the outside and teasing potentially devastating top rope spots. It’s frustrating, particularly in a garbage PPV such as this, to see the female talent get such short shrift. We can scream “Divas revolution” as much as we want, but is it ever going to actually happen when this is the best booking they get?
More annoyingly, a rubbish, nothing match follows that pitches talented newbie Tyler Breeze against his less interesting, older counterpart Dolph Ziggler. Although Breeze takes the win (and rightly so), it’s difficult to get on board with his appearance here as it seems so utterly unimportant in the grand scheme of thing. A PPV win, as opposed to one on RAW or Smackdown, should have more impact but here it just feels like time wasted that could’ve been better spent on the Divas, for example. Speaking of which, Taker takes about twenty minutes to get to the ring before he and his fellow brother of destruction Kane make quick work of Bray Wyatt and his bro Luke Harper. That’s right, folks, after shilling the absolute shit out of him for weeks, Braun Strowman is relegated to ringside for this match. Taker and Kane do put him through the Spanish announce table at one point, but that’s about as much attention as he gets (not that I’m complaining).
Fittingly, considering tonight is supposed to be some sort of celebration of the Deadman’s career thus far, he and Kane take the win, meaning Bray Wyatt has now lost more times than Adam Rose, Bo Dallas and Zack Ryder combined. Okay, so he didn’t eat the win personally, but it still counts as a knock against him. The saddest thing about this so-called feud – aside from the fact there was absolutely no tension built around it, since we saw the brothers defeat four Wyatts just the other week – is that it marks yet another step down for Bray Wyatt, a talented fighter and speaker who deserves a proper push and to be respected in his own time for being something different and unique. Fuck being the new face of fear, let him carve his own niche and mark his own path to glory. He doesn’t need Taker to give him a leg up, he can do it on his own merit and kill it if he’s just given half a chance.
To say this year’s Main Event wasn’t hugely anticipated would be a considerable understatement. To those who were optimistic about it, who wagered that maybe something amazing was going to happen like Ambrose stealing the title from his buddy’s grasp or Reigns turning heel or anything remotely different or shocking, I salute you. For everyone who expected the worst and had their greatest fears realised, the question we now must ask ourselves is this; is Sheamo winning slightly less insulting than Reigns being champ? To be clear, this was a garbage Main Event for a garbage PPV that felt like a bad episode of Smackdown, let alone a rubbish RAW. Reigns won easily after about five minutes and then Speared Trips in a hail of confetti when he went in for a handshake, giving Sheamus the opportunity to cash in and nab the title with an aul’ Brogue Kick.
Then, for some bizarre reason, the powers that be thought it wise to zoom in on what they assumed was Reigns’ tortured face to drive the point home that this was a devastating loss for him. Only problem was the man can’t bloody act. Plain and simple. He can’t act happy, sad, tough, mysterious. There are no emotions Reigns is comfortable portraying. None. Earlier on, he attempted to play cool and aloof in conversation with his soon-to-be opponent and BFF Ambrose but came across sullen rather than threatening. The choice to focus on him here, in what should be his lowest moment, only further highlights how undeserving Reigns is of a title shot in the first place. His slow walk back to the locker room, his music playing sadly in the background, was even more ill-advised. He looked embarrassed, confused even, but not hurt.
It’s disappointing to have no investment in a PPV as big and well-known as Survivor Series. If WWE are going to scrimp on shit like this, what are the chances of RAW being any good week to week? Certain allowances can be made for the fact that Cena, Rollins and now, reportedly, Cesaro are out of action at the moment but that doesn’t account for burying talented mid-carders and newbies in favour of giving more time to those less deserving of a push. It wasn’t just the Main Event tonight that sucked; the entire build-up for this PPV has been off. The emphasis on Taker, rather than the traditional Survivor Series element itself, was always going to make this event feel a bit less than it was. Elsewhere, not only was the outcome of the WHC tournament embarrassingly pre-determined, but the unfair casting aside of the women’s division has gone beyond a joke at this stage.
With Survivor Series ending with more of a whimper than a bang, Rollins out for the next six months at least, Sheamo as champ yet again, and just one more PPV, and a handful of RAWs to go before the year is out, the real question is; where the hell do we go from here?