WWE Survivor Series 2016 Review

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Survivor Series is second only to Wrestlemania in WWE’s oldest PPV… and it’s often the most underwelming. That’s not saying Survivor Series is a bad PPV – events like 1998, 2007 and especially 2002 are examples of how good the November event can be. However, after years the traditional Survivor Series match has began to feel like more of an obligation. There have been moments of true inspiration – see the epic 2014 Team Cena vs. Team Authority (no seriously, see it. It’s good). However, usually it seems like an excuse to put random mid-carders on the show.

This year is different – with the brand split, the company is focusing on a big Smackdown vs. Raw motif. It is an unusual mix as both sides have heels and faces intermingling so we have very few battles of good vs. evil – “heroic” Seth Rollins isn’t gonna conquer the evil Kevin Owens when they’re on the same team. But there is still a dynamic. Can these people who don’t normally like each other function as a team? Now really is the time to do this sort of thing: We’ll probably see drafts in the future so this is the time where we really have guys defined as Raw Smackdown guys. And with the brand split fresh in people’s minds

Plus we have the much ballyhooed (but mostly maligned) return of Goldberg. Also this show has to live in the shadow of the nearly flawless NXT Takeover: Toronto. For the sake of fairness I’m not gonna compare this show to that utter masterpiece.

Team Smackdown (Becky Lynch, Naomi, Natalya, Alexa Bliss, Carmella) vs. Team Raw (Sasha Banks, Bayley, Charlotte, Alicia Fox and Nia Jax)

As recently as two years ago, I would have called a match like this filler or a bathroom break match. With these talented women, this match is anything but filler. Before the match, former team captain Nikki Bella was attacked and replaced by Natalya. Time will tell whether this was all story or if it was to cover a real injury. I wouldn’t have minded Nikki Bella in the match since I think she’s improved and a match with this many women would have covered her, but I do think Natalya’s a trade up.

This was a pretty solid match. They did the thing where the women on both teams didn’t always get along. One highlight was when Nia Jax laid waste to Naomi outside the ring and let her just get counted out. What put this moment over the top was the way Jax just stood there, gloating over what she did. I was surprised to see how early Banks was eliminated, but also grateful that she didn’t do anything to shorten her career. The final moments came down to Becky needing to defend herself against Charlotte and Bayley – probably the best choices for survivors. Even in defeat, Lynch looked amazing (in more ways than one) as she fended off both women before being defeated by Bayley. Charlotte and Bayley celebrated before Charlotte beat up Bayley. This works as it makes Bayley look good by being the one who wins the match but setting up a feud between her and Charlotte

Overall rating: 3.5 stars (Out of 5)

Sami Zayn vs. The Miz – Intercontinental Championship

This was another good match. It kind of lacked drama because it didn’t quite have the drama of the previous Ziggler/Miz matches. There was a fun blend of Zayn’s more indie style with Miz’s more traditional style. This match was also fun because there was an atmosphere where man could have won. Both men also showed off their in-ring trash talking: Zayn taunted Maryse while Miz mocked Daniel Bryan’s taunts. I was worried we’d see Montreal rehash #9,823 in wrestling. But instead we saw a repeat of Austin/Undertaker from Cold Day in Hell ’97. Maryse wrang the bell while Zayn had Miz in a submission hold, tricking Zayn into thinking he won, only for Miz to sneak in a dirty pin. I disliked this at first, but the more I think about it, the more I liked Miz’s chicanery.

Overall rating: 4 stars

Team Raw (The New Day, Sheamus/Cesaro, Enzo and Big Cass, The Shining Stars, The Club) vs. Team Smackdown (Rhyno/Slater, The Hype Bros., American Alpha, Breezeango, The Usos)

Before the match, The New Day and Enzo/Cass did their usual promos. I bring this up because Big Cass claimed that he was running on Tim Horton’s coffee so he wouldn’t run out of energy. I’ve had Tim Horton’s coffee, and I can honestly say that’s not energizing anyone.

I was happy to see Breezeango in a high profile match. The match began with them playing fashion police – with hats, shades and tickets. Then they were almost immediately eliminated. So much for those two being treated like a big deal… Then the New Day was eliminated! On one hand, I kinda disliked that these guys who have been losing a lot (plus I’m a fan) were beaten so quickly, but I did like the “this can happen to anyone” vibe this match created.

This match had some insane action. Pretty much every team (that wasn’t eliminated early) got their big moves/spots in. This match would have earned high praises if just for that, but the last few minutes put this over the top. The last teams were Cesaro/Sheamus and the Usos. These last few minutes were an absolute nail-biter where it felt like either team could have taken it home. Cesaro pulled a big swing on Jey Uso that went on for an almost comical amount of time. There were dozens of moments where I thought one of these guys had it but their partner made the save or they just narrowly made a kickout. Cesaro won it for Team Raw with a sharpshooter. Cesaro and Sheamus have been doing an alright odd couple story, but have retreading Miz/Sandow with both asking for cheers and Sheamus receiving boos.

Overall rating: 4.5 stars

Brian Kendrick vs. Kalisto – Cruiserweight Championship

The story going into this match is that if Kaliston won, he would not only win the Cruiserweight championship, but the entire division would be moved to Smackdown. The match was pretty with both men gaining their finishers. Sadly, the crowd was inexplicably disrespectful during this match. The most noteworthy spot was when Kalisto performed a Spanish Fly of the apron. It looked amazing, but I hope he never e-e-ever does that again.

The match ended when Baron Corbin interfered and attacked both men. Hmmm, ruining a good match to make things about himself? Corbin apparently played the role of the crowd. I was ticked because I dislike seeing inconclusive matches at PPVs, but I’m hoping this leads to bigger things for Corbin. I feel like the man has a good look, good gimmick and is decent in the ring, but hasn’t gotten over because he’s directionless.

Overall rating: 3 stars

Team Smackdown (AJ Styles, Dean Ambrose, Bray Wyatt, Randy Orton, Shane McMahon) vs. Team Raw (Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Chris Jericho, Kevin Owens, Braun Stroman)

If a match is going to go on for nearly an hour, people are going to expect something special. Did this match deliver? And how! It should be no surprise that a match with this much talent delivered. Shane and Stroman seem like the outliers, but Shane can do some crazy stuff (as we’ll find out) and a multi-man match like this can hide Stroman’s limitations. This match got off on the right foot – normally in long matches, guys would have to pace themselves in the beginning – which makes sense, they wouldn’t want to tire themselves out late in the match. However, with all these men being able to take turns, the action started off fast.

This match was filled to the brim with great spots. Owens eliminated everyone with a top rope cannonball. Shane performed the elbow drop on Stroman to the announce table. Stroman’s elimination was one of the most entertaining. He tried to re-enter the ring only to get caught by James Ellsworth – for a comedy spot in a big match, that was well-done. One of the best and most worrisome spots was when Roman countered Shane’s coast-to-coast into a spear. That was awesome. Less awesome was that Shane seemed legit injured. There was an awkward moment where Roman had Shane pinned but the ref stopped the count and Shane was declared eliminated.

Dean Ambrose was the first guy eliminated. I have to credit that they did this without making him look weak. Ambrose was caught up in fighting with Styles. This distraction allowed Stroman to pin Ambrose. Dean didn’t look like a loser, he just looked hot-headed. This opened the door later for Ambrose to return and form a mini-Shield reunion when he, Reigns and Rollins performed the triple powerbomb on Styles. This lead to the elimination of Styles – again, taking one of the top stars out of the match without making him look like a loser.

I have to hand out a demerit here and there for a few things. There was a moment where Owens got himself DQ’d for using the list of Jericho as a weapon. It seemed absurd for the Universal Champion to get eliminated in what felt like a glorified comedy spot. Jericho was eliminated almost immediately after because he was torn up at seeing his life work destroyed. This match showed the right way to do comedy spots and how to have big names eliminated – this was definitely the wrong way to do that. There were some laspses in logic, such as the way people seemed to be out of the ring for an eternity without getting counted out, but I’m willing to put on my suspension of disbelief glasses for that sort of thing.

The end of the match was exciting when Orton took Reigns’s spear for Bray Wyatt so Wyatt could get the win for team Smackdown. This match was just a perfect storm of great wrestling and great drama with nary a dull moment to be found.

Overall rating: 4.75 stars

Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar

So here it is, after years of speculation, after their notoriously disappointing Wrestlemania match, after a month of buildup, these two finally meet. And it ends after a two spears and a jackhammer.

I admit I was upset at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized how clever this was. First of all, I must admit I HATE the idea of any PPV ending with a squash match, but this kind of worked. First of all, Goldberg was known for squashing people in micro-matches: That was his thing. Second, I was honestly dreading this match. In his prime, Goldberg was exciting, but the man was not the best worker in his hayday and the man is not a spring chicken anymore. Combine that with Lesnar’s growing apathy (more on that later), and this match was looking to be a disaster. So yeah, by making this a short squash, at least it didn’t have time to get boring. Lastly, it was kind of satisfying. George Carlin once said he wanted to see a big climatic fight where the guy just got beaten up, and there was something cool about seeing someone go in, crush the other and leave.

Some may wonder if this is gonna make Lesnar look bad. I don’t think it makes him look bad from a kayfabe story – He’s been a monster for so long and if booked right, he could be an even bigger monster. However, I don’t think this is gonna improve his reputation of being lazy. I heard through the grapevine it was his idea to get crushed by Goldberg to make him look good. I’m sure the prospect of making bookoo money without really doing anything swayed his opinion.

Overall rating: 2 stars (Look, it was satisfying, but it was still a squash match)

Overall, Survivor Series was a great show. There were two match of the year candidates. There were some weak moments – but the end of Kendrick/Kalisto was hardly a dealbreaker and Goldberg/Lesnar was satisfying in its own way. Survivor Series may now be neck-and-neck with Royal Rumble as best (non-NXT) PPV of the year. Between this and Takeover: Toronto, WWE may have presented the most entertaining weekend of wrestling one could ask for.

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Comments

  1. Deepthroat Ghoul says:

    Please tell us what you thought of the following pre-show matches:

    1.T.J. Perkins, Rich Swann, & Noam Dar vs. Drew Gulak, Tony Nese, & Ariya Daivari

    2.Kane vs. Luke Harper

    Like

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