Sigh, The Same Old Survivor Series…
“14,000 plus stunned in Atlanta”. – Michael Cole, Survivor Series 2015
If by stunned you mean apathetic, bored, and indifferent, then you are damn right they were stunned in Atlanta. In a WWE World Heavyweight Championship tournament that featured zero drama, zero unpredictability, and zero enthusiasm, WWE stood strong on their stance of running in place. They stuck with their story of Roman Reigns coming ever so close, before losing. It didn’t matte that the night was set up for an awesome heel turn or a brand new champion in Reigns, Dean Ambrose, or Kevin Owens. WWE stayed true to their standard form. They’ve had their Money in the Bank holder lose about a thousand matches in a row (including earlier on in Survivor Series) before “shocking the world”.
“Let’s get jiggy!” – Sheamus, Survivor Series 2015
The brand new WWE World Heavyweight Champion uttered these three words in a thrown together Survivor Series match in the middle of the show. It was the bathroom break section of the program. When your future champion is wrestling during the obvious bathroom break match, something is wrong. Nobody is stunned that Sheamus has become the WWE Champion again. In fact, nobody is stunned because nobody cares. I’m not sure there is a single person excited to see Sheamus vs. Roman Reigns in a TLC match at the next WWE PPV. And if Sheamus gets through that, is anyone truly excited to see Brock Lesnar vs. Sheamus? Sure, Brock needed a fresh opponent, and Sheamus is tall(?), but in what world can one think Sheamus is that opponent? Sheamus is a guy that has been in a tag team for the last three months, with another loser in King Barrett. He has lost to Neville and Randy Orton on about 305 occasions. Most importantly, in 2015, Sheamus just isn’t over anymore.
“Are you not entertained?!” – Sheamus, Every WWE Event since April
No, I am not entertained. Sheamus has Big Show-Heat, which of course was originally X-Pac Heat. It means he garners a get off our screen type reaction from the crowd. Sheamus is not being booed by the crowd because he is an awesome heel. He is getting booed because we don’t want to watch him. We look at Sheamus and we see the old guard. Someone who has wrestled against Randy Orton, John Cena, and Albert Del Rio countless times and frankly is someone that has been buried repeatedly. Yes, Seth Rollins was seemingly pinned on every show since WrestleMania. But he was young and fresh, exciting and entertaining. Sheamus right now is the opposite of that.
The other major problem with Sheamus feuding with Roman Reigns over the next few months is that people don’t like Roman Reigns enough to want him to get over on Triple H and the Authority. This story has been played out forever in wrestling. Reigns, as the flag bearer right now, just is not on the level of a Steve Austin or a John Cena, and him feuding with Sheamus and Triple H to get over being screwed, just will not excite us. Throughout the month of December, I can very easily see myself fast-forwarding through Raw instead of enjoying it like I should be. When Sheamus cashed in the contract at Survivor Series it was the exact same scenario as when Randy Orton did it against Daniel Bryan in 2013. The audience was firmly behind Bryan, the hero, in a wave that took the company all the way through to WrestleMania. This same crowd has been fighting against Roman Reigns for the better part of a year. That’s not just going to all of a sudden change.
The crowd in Atlanta wasn’t pleasant to the meandering, predictable show last night, nor should they have been. Even when Reigns won the championship and the confetti came down and the fireworks went off, giving Reigns the WrestleMania type reaction from the company, the crowd didn’t react properly. Hell, the call of Michael Cole was even pathetically somber. It was like early years Joe Buck, where he forgot to get excited about things. I thought back to how Jim Ross would call Reigns’ first championship ever, and then listened to Cole’s call again, and was embarrassed for him. If his victory over his best friend for the WWE Championship is not treated with massive screaming, why should we see it as a big deal?
And speaking of Dean Ambrose, where the hell did he go in the last ten minutes of the show? He lost the WWE Championship tournament match to his best friend and then simply disappeared? As Sheamus is cashing in the briefcase, Ambrose is just watching his best friend get “screwed”? It doesn’t make any sense. You know sort of like the rest of Survivor Series, where the Undertaker and Kane predictably buried the Wyatt Family. Of course, the leader of the Wyatt Family, Bray Wyatt, wasn’t even the one protected. No, that was naturally the big strong guy, because you always need to protect big strong guys, rather than your most over characters in the company.
It’s a shame that WWE shows a constant failure to listen to their fans. We’ve been through the mill talking about the likes of Cesaro, Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler and I’m resigned to the fact that WWE will never see what the rest of the world sees in them. But, listen to the crowd reaction for a guy like Kevin Owens, who was placed in the semi finals of the WWE Championship Tournament. It was the biggest reaction of the night. Cheers, Boos, but never indifference. Compare that to the sounds for Sheamus both in the jobber elimination match and when he cashed in the championship. They don’t remotely compare. It’s incomprehensible that WWE refuses to listen. For Owens, he will be stuck wrestling over the Intercontinental Championship with Ambrose for the next few months (yup, the same feud planned before the Rollins injury) and WWE will keep their status quo. Predictability isn’t a bad thing when the story they tell is entertaining. Survivor Series story was far from that.
WWE legitimately just took the story they had in place with Rollins and Reigns and just shifted that to Sheamus. Reigns will still feud with Triple H (seemingly setting up a Reigns/Triple H WrestleMania match that I think only the McMahons want to see), Brock will have a new opponent (another match that I think only the McMahons want to see) Owens and Ambrose will still feud over a lesser championship, Bray Wyatt will continue to talk a big game before losing and all of the rest of the crowd’s actual favorites will be given glimmers of hope before ultimately losing to vision of the corporation. We have been told time and time again that Vince McMahon knows what we want better than we do. Survivor Series again solidified that.
Here are five more observations on Survivor Series. If I sound bitter, it’s because I’m writing after immediately finishing the show and I’m furious.
Kevin Owens is the reason to watch WWE
He is by far the very best thing going in this company. Owens’ character feels fresh, because he doesn’t speak like a written robot. His character seems like the smart ass that Kevin Steen probably is. When he screamed out in the middle of the match “that was three Cone” to the referee, I lost it. These small mannerisms are the difference between someone that gets over with a crowd and someone that goes through the motions. Not only can Owens talk, but he is also one of the best performers and it’s not even close. His match with Ambrose last night was by far, the match of the night. Despite being completely predictable, Owens made you believe that maybe he will walk into the main event for the title. WWE found a star in Owens and hopefully (entirely doubtful) they will give him the opportunity to run with the ball and be a fresh champion, be it as a heel or a babyface. The crowd clearly adores both cheering and hating him, which likely means, that it’s the case of Owens getting too over for his own good.
Charlotte didn’t smile and Reid wasn’t mentioned
The biggest controversy going into Survivor Series was the fact that the Divas Championship match was built around the death of Reid Flair. Both of Reid’s parents came out condemning the angle, and Charlotte cried in the middle of the ring while reciting her lines. Well, it’s clear WWE received the message, because at no point during Survivor Series was Reid mentioned. Paige and Charlotte had a physical, albeit clumsy match. At no point did the match seem fluid or smooth and even the finish seemed like it just didn’t mesh. The ending with Charlotte getting her revenge was the right call (clearly WWE is leading toward Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte at WrestleMania) and if WWE moves on from this feud, this match ended entirely clean that it’s believable. We have yet to see the Charlotte from NXT that was so damn good and I’m wondering if all of the tweaks from being on the main roster have affected her.
The announcing team made everything seem inconsequential
I alluded to this above, but it’s my biggest takeaway from the show. There were many near falls throughout the night, but I never believed any of them would actually result in the end of the match. One of the major reasons for this is because the announcing team didn’t make me. When Reigns hit his first spear during the main event and Ambrose nailed Dirty Deeds, there wasn’t outright excitement or jubilation from Michael Cole, rather just his normal mid match tone. It didn’t make the possible ending of the match seem important and thus I knew as a fan it couldn’t be over. This was not just a problem during the main event, but also during the two semi final tournament matches and the Divas Title match. The announcing team, which in fairness is never actually very good, was really just lackluster on a night they should have excelling. Announcing can make a good match great and at Survivor Series, the commentating really took okay matches and made them less than stellar.
Dolph Ziggler has really fallen in a year
The perennial Internet darling was once again on the cusp of a breakout at Survivor Series 2014. He was the sole survivor in a match against the big bad Authority, going over on Rollins and even outlasting John Cena. At this time last year, it really seemed like WWE was really going to try buying into Ziggler for real this time. Naturally, this was just another false start and a year later, Ziggler was losing in the PPV debut of Tyler Breeze. This is nothing against Breeze, who absolutely should be winning clean in his PPV debuts, but Ziggler should have been a star years ago. The massive eruption he had when he cashed in Money in the Bank a few years ago was unlike anything I’ve ever heard in wrestling. He was a superstar and now he’s just another guy. I think WWE is finally finished trying to actually push Ziggler and he’s destined to become someone that is always on the fringe and never will actually get the ball to run with. As for the match with Breeze, it was way too quick to get into a second gear and while both wrestlers did what they could, the match just never really was able to get going. I hate that after a month, Breeze already has a different finishing maneuver (the Unprettier, borrowed from Christian) than he ever used in NXT. What happened to the Super Model Kick and the Beauty Shot? They didn’t look as good with more people in the building?
The past will continue to always matter more
Survivor Series was built around the Undertaker’s 25 years in the company. Instead of using this as an opportunity to build around his heir apparent (Bray Wyatt), we had a standard tag team match, that we have seen on every card we’ve ever watch. The heels get the upperhand, the faces make their comeback an go over. Kane and the Undertaker’s match against the Wyatts, like the rest of the show was predictable and underwhelming. I respect the Undertaker as much as anyone else (case in point: last week’s column), but this was an opportunity to set something cool up for Mania and instead they went simple and predictable. It’s mind boggling that they protected the green Braun Strowman over Bray, but also shows you what they think of Bray right now. So will it be the winning team on Raw tonight to move on to their next feud or will it be the younger, losers, who can never win a big match? Exactly. Having the Wyatts lose AGAIN, just for storyline purposes makes no sense. All this does is cement the point that WWE always loves to make in glorifying the past. Hell, one of the commercials for the new programming this month on the network features Steve Austin interviewing Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels about, you guessed it, the past. It also features Edge and Christian doing, something? NXT is the most watched show on the network, and Breaking Ground, WWE’s version of Hard Knocks is excellent. I would much rather see programming related to both today’s stars and the future stars, then watch anymore rehashing on why the wrestlers of yesteryear are so much better than the superstars of today. But then again, what do I know? I’m only a paying fan.
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