Despite being killed off as a series when Chairman Vince McMahon announced that WWE would drop the Survivor Series name and rebrand the event in last February, November saw the explosive return of the PPV spectacular, and that show is now available to buy on DVD and Blu-ray.
With a card boasting the collected talents of Kane, Randy Orton, Edge, Rey Mysterio, Big Show and Alberto Del Rio, the star quality is certainly there, but the question is: how does an event cope with being so cruelly undermined by the man pulling the power strings?
This year’s event was undoubtedly headlined, both in billing and in intrigue by the face-off between Randy Orton and former Nexus leader, and one of few resident Brits on the WWE rosta, Wade Barrett, with the added interest of the outcome supposedly deciding John Cena’s fate as a WWE employee.
Since the Survivor Series event is essentially a convergence (and partial resolution) of story-lines, which peak for the PPV audience, their back-stories represent a sprawling mass of complex narrative strands, so the easiest way to approach this review, rather than try and offer one big block of text, is to go through the running order, match-by-match and look at the relative merits of each in turn.
Match 1: United States Championship Match: Daniel Bryan v Ted DiBiase
Josh Mathews interviews Sheamus
Match 2: John Morrison v Sheamus
John Cena v R-Truth in the locker room
Match 3: WWE Intercontinental Championship Match: Dolph Ziggler v Kaval
Todd Grisham interviews Jack Swagger
Match 4: Traditional Survivor Series Elimination Tag Team Match: Team Mysterio (Rey Mysterio, Kofi Kingston, Chris Masters, Big Show & MVP) v Team Del Rio (Alberto Del Rio, Tyler Reks, Drew McIntyre, Jack Swagger & Cody Rhodes)
Josh Mathews interviews Randy Orton
Match 5: 2-on-1 Handicap Match For the Divas Championship: Layla & Michelle McCool v Natalya
Match 6: World Heavyweight Championship Match: Kane v Edge
Wade Barrett has a few last words for John Cena
Match 7: WWE Tag Team Championship Match: Justin Gabriel & Heath Slater v Santino Marella & Vladimir Kozlov
Match 8: Free or Fired Pinfall and Submissions Only Match for the WWE Championship: Randy Orton v Wade Barrett with Special Guest Referee John Cena
United States Championship
Daniel Bryan vs. Ted DiBiase
A great way to start, with Ted DiBiase Jr showing off some of the skills he has always promised against emerging talent Daniel Bryan (ranked second by WWE in a list of ones to watch in 2011). DiBiase is a very technical fighter, which isn’t surprising given his pedigree, and his domination of the early exchanges suggested he might be in for a break, but Bryan is arguably just as technically astute, with a veritable arsenal of submission moves, including the soon to be iconic LeBell Lock and the match-up turned out to be surprisingly compelling.
John Morrison vs. Sheamus
A second strong match, with Sheamus- one of the stars who looked likely to make a big impact in the wake of Survivor Series 2009- facing off in a ridiculously hard-hitting (or more appropriately “kicking”) dust-up, with a great, and surprising ending. Sheamus will go on to great things- I just wish he would get a spray tan or something- and on the strength of this bout at least, John Morrison is likely to follow in his huge footsteps in the coming years.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Kaval
A match formed when Kaval took up his guaranteed title attempt option (earned by winning NXT Season 2), to challenge the monstrous looking Dolph Ziggler (who I would expect huge things from this year), which was also one of Kaval’s last performances in his affiliation with WWE. The match itself wasn’t as impressive as the first two, but there is plenty here for fans of unique offensive work despite the slow ending.
Traditional Survivor Series Elimination Tag Team Match
Team Mysterio (Rey Mysterio, Kofi Kingston, Chris Masters, Big Show & MVP) vs. Team Del Rio (Alberto Del Rio, Tyler Reks, Drew McIntyre, Jack Swagger & Cody Rhodes)
And now for the big-time young pretender- the always cocky Aberto Del Rio in the only traditional Survivor Series tag-team bout- if this isn’t an indication of McMahon’s intent to water down, or completely disband the Survivor Series brand (as he originally intended of course). What price on him making the 25th (this year’s) edition, the final under the banner?
Anyway, back to the battle. The problem for this bout, and the reason it never really got beyond middling quality was two-fold. Firstly, the overall format of the event makes this traditional style match look almost archaic- which is hardly helped by the proximity of Bragging Rights with its larger scale tag-team contest. And then secondly, the creative decision to eliminate Del Rio, the shining light on his team, and not allow him the auspicious opportunity to be the last man on his team standing, robbed the bout of the little importance it could claim.
2-on-1 Handicap Match
Layla & Michelle McCool vs. Natalya
It is still a little distasteful to note that the Divas invariably get less ring time than their male counterparts, and also seem to come to events like this with less interesting storylines behind their appearances, and this match up is no different. The high-point of course is the appearance of Beth Phoenix, which far outweighed the action, in a match which failed to meet the success of the same match-up at Bragging Rights.
World Heavyweight Championship
Kane vs. Edge
Kane v Edge. Should be pretty good, right? Well, it might have been if not for the ridiculous angle that saw Edge kidnap jello-necked pale-face Paul Bearer that made it all a little bit too silly, and the poor execution within the match itself. The worst thing about the match is that the resolution left the possibility of the feud between the Big Red Monster and Edge continuing, which I will never believe in because of the sheer difference between the two wrestlers. I much prefer the supernatural flirtations between Kane and The Undertaker to these sort of “normal” fights, because they will always look like man vs superman to me, and yet we are supposed to believe that Edge has the ability to almost best the same monstrous fella who beat the hell out Undertaker three times in a row.
WWE Tag Team Championship
Justin Gabriel & Heath Slater vs. Santino Marella & Vladimir Kozlov
An obvious breather match- with the action being largely inoffensive and wholly unforgettable, and a mildly annoying resolution involving the interference of other members of the Nexus squad. Strangely this was the first time the crowd seemed to liven up, even despite the harmless mediocrity of the match.
Poor old Randy Orton. Billed at the top of the show in a fight based on merit against a genuinely dislikeable villain in the shape of Wade Barrett, but almost entirely overshadowed and undermined by the story-line that offered more focus to the guest referee, with the outcome of the match deciding a far more important fate than who won the brawl. The fact that he was overlooked is actually made worse by the fact that Cena was treated like a star in his own right, entering to his own entrance music, despite his supposedly enforced and humbling submission to Nexus. That decision robbed a little authenticity to a storyline that would live or die on its successful kayfabe.
Story is all well and good, and WWE has consistently shown the merit of inventive and affecting story arcs, but to have a bout that is so woefully overshadowed by the storyline that has little to do with the actual actions of the two fighters was too much for me, and meant a sadly disappointing in-ring ending to proceedings.
Still, the Nexus/Cena storyline has provided some strong moments, including in the ring, it’s just a shame it had to ultimately be at the expense of fight quality. Especially when there was NO WAY Cena was going to really disappear.
NB: If you didn’t know much about wrestling and lived in the North East of England, you might be stumped as to why John Cena was so bummed at being forced to work for Tyne and Wear Passenger Transport Executive- I mean it’s not the greatest job in the world, but the prospects are good, and it’s a steady paycheck at least. Little joke there for the North East.
Despite starting off strongly, the irony of the Survivor Series is that it was the traditional Survivor Series style match that represented the start of the slide into mediocrity and unfulfilled potential that is the final match. This year’s PPV event will always be remembered as being entirely overshadowed by the Bragging Rights event that preceded it way too closely, and for a headline wrestling match that was in no way concerned with wrestling.
If you didn’t get the title, this is probably the time to tell you that it alludes to the Raw section included as the sole Extra on this disc (in typical PPV home video release manner), and specifically Miz’s appearance as he cashed in his Money In The Bank to steal a flagging Orton’s WWE Champ crown after his bout with Wade Barrett. Thankfully we get a much better Barrett/Orton match than the night before’s uninspiring attempt, which leads up to the Miz/Orton action, and it’s good to see Miz and Orton actually square up, rather than the Miz just stealing the title.
- The Miz cashes in – Monday Night Raw (22nd November, 2010)
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