Best: Cody Rhodes, Superstar
Before I start, yes, Cody Rhodes suddenly having kneepads feels like a personal betrayal.
But no, the best moment of Survivor Series (and WWE pay-per-view since at least July) happened the moment Cody Rhodes made a blind tag to Hunico. Mason Ryan grabs Hunico in a full nelson, leaving him wide open for Cody to springboard off the ropes and catch him in the mouth with a Beautiful Disaster kick. Cody grabs Mason by the head, snaps him down with Cross Rhodes and pins him clean, in the middle of the ring. He slides back into his corner on his belly with a huge smile on his face and his team pats him on the back. The Madison Square Garden crowd starts chanting CO-DY CO-DY CO-DY and it cuts over to Sheamus, and in the background Randy Orton is nodding his head at just the right time to look like he’s keeping time with the beat. It was a few seconds of wrestling perfection, and I loved it so much.
And sure, these kinds of pinfalls only tend to happen in elimination matches and yeah, Mason sorta kicked out at 1 1/2, but who cares? The crowd isn’t cheering Cody to be contrarian, they’re cheering him because he’s awesome at wrestling and just nerfed the big slow sh*tty guy with his specials like a boss.
Worst: Sin Cara, Opposite Of Superstar
Sin Cara running to the ropes for his first move of the match, blowing out his entire leg and just sorta hopping into the ropes with a full-body Test was the exact opposite of the Cody Rhodes moment, and one that will hopefully be the last in Mistico’s depressing, confusing WWE run. Whether that means he’ll work hard to improve his big match performance or simply be released and sent back into the lucha wild remains to be seen. Parts of this don’t feel entirely on the level — for example, the announcement of a ruptured patella tendon came back awfully quickly and he did always use messed up dives to the outside as excuses to be pinned in Mexico — but no, the white Sin Cara gear is cursed and everything Botchamania has MS Painted about him is true. He needs to cut some eye holes in his mask, or they need to put the hood back on Hunico, or they need to bring back Zack Gowen and get Averno used to working with a guy with one leg.
Worst: Sheamus Had A Hard Knock Life, King
The commentary during the traditional Survivor Series tag had about fifteen facepalm moment, but Sheamus got the two biggest, right in a row:
1. Michael Cole explained that Sheamus grew up being bullied for his pale skin and red hair. You know, in Ireland. In Ireland.
2. He also explained that the reason why Sheamus is so tough is because he’d been bullied. Being picked on all the time hardened him and made him a big tough great fighter. Keep in mind that WWE is currently running a Sheamus-headed campaign against bullying, so what the hell do we believe? That bullying is wrong, or that just nutting up and getting over bullies makes you strong and awesome? If I’m being bullied, aren’t the bullies doing me a favor? They’re teaching me to be a REAL MAN.
That “real man” thing people are doing lately needs to die in a fire. Daniel Bryan does it all the time on Twitter. “Real men READ!” “Real men grow beards!” There’s no such thing as a real man, and unless you’re the protagonist of goddamn ‘Home Improvement’ you should probably stick to wrestling well and being tolerant you f**king vegan.
Best: Going The Route Less-Traveled
A lot of recaps I’ve read didn’t like the Survivor Series elimination tag, and I have to admit that “elimination tag match storytelling” is right behind “battles royal” on my list of hacky wrestling tropes I fall for. I tend to forgive the wrestling in matches like those for the overreaching stories, so if Ziggler gets pinned out of nowhere like a chump and Sin Cara hurts himself unceremoniously I’m not picking it apart, I’m thinking “okay, so that brings it back to four-on-four, so what’s going to happen next?” It’s the more statistical approach to me enjoying that battle royal thing where you stand in the corner leaning against a guy’s leg and it’s supposed to be a thing.
That all being said, I (like many of you) thought the “four guys from Team Barrett vs. one guy from Randy Orton” was going to be four straight RKOs and some turnbuckle posing and was pleasantly shocked and surprised to see them let Team Barrett win, especially with more than one guy remaining. Going over Orton here makes Wade Barrett and Cody Rhodes look a thousand times better, and Orton doesn’t lose anything because he fought hard against impossible odds. This is the easiest booking in the world. People go into the match at one level and leave on another. Now an Orton/Barrett match would have some gravitas, and wouldn’t just be a “sample of what we’ll see this Sunday at Survivor Series”. The problem with giving away good matches every week is that you forget what makes matches good. It’s not always the wrestling.
Also, if at any point I’m complaining about lack of post-mach selling (and I’m sure CM Punk won’t make me do that), please look to Cody Rhodes having his hand raised and still standing there holding his face like he’d been concussed by the RKO.
Worst: Sole Survivors
Going back to that thing about math, Cole refereed to Barrett and Rhodes as the “sole survivors” of Team Barrett. How can I expect them to figure out anniversaries when they can’t tell the difference between two and one?