Pre-show notes, with no sign of Zack Ryder:
– As a prerequisite for this column, make sure you’ve read The Best And Worst Of Raw Gets Rocked and our first ever attempt at a Smackdown live-blog. I’m considering starting a Raw open thread just to let you comment as you go and steal all your jokes.
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– A.J. and Kaitlyn actually showed up on this show, so look for them inside.
And without further adieu, please to enjoy the Best and Worst of WWE Survivor Series 2011.
Oh boy, this Sunday was the “25th anniversary of Survivor Series”! The first Survivor Series was in 1987.
I know it’s beating a dead horse, but that’s not how it works. And while we’re at it, stop dividing 100 by the amount of participants in the match and telling me that Triple H has only a 25% chance or whatever of walking out of In Your House: International Incident with the title. That’s not how it f**king works. I know at least some of you have college degrees. Michael Cole won’t shut up about how he was a Serious Journalist who went to Syracuse. I do my best to be both a wrestling fan and an intellectual and I hate having it f**king ruined when the biggest company in the world doesn’t understand basic concepts of mathematics and probability.
(Note: This entry, sans picture, is quoted verbatim ((mostly)) from my good friend Mike Ondrick.)
Best: New York City, The Most 2005 ROH Crowd Ever
I’ve written at length about bad crowd attitudes, from counterproductive, ill-informed “What?” chants (WWE) to chanting “This Is Awesome” and clap clap clapclapclapping to anything with even a moderate amount of effort put into it (Ring Of Honor) to chanting non-stop and acting like an idiot to get yourself over (TNA).
Last night’s Madison Square Garden crowd dipped into all three of those, but I’d be kidding myself I didn’t Best them for being hot all night and making being in a WWE audience seem fun again. That’s been missing from crowds for a long time, hasn’t it? When I think of ECW, I don’t think of hardcore wrestling, I think of a thousand people crammed into that dirty, crime-infested pool hall to be the sixth man for a genre redefinition. When I think of Nitro, I don’t think about the cruiserweights and the stupid swerves as much as I think about that sea of posterboard with “Eddie Mowed My Lawn” on every fourth sign. Those people really enjoyed being there, whether the shows were good or not. Now we’ve been so beaten down and conditioned to act as expected that a Hammerstein Ballroom crowd treating Big Show versus Batista like it’s the rape scene from Irreversible isn’t seen as a response to the product, it’s seen as anarchic and gets shut down. We’re expected to hit our cues and follow along.
Crowds like this remind us that we’re supposed to be enjoying the show, not simply watching it. Doesn’t that seem so far away, now? Imagine knowing you’ll go home happy when you get tickets to Raw. Imagine knowing you’ll get your money’s worth when you buy a pay-per-view. It might as well be organic chemistry.
Best: I’m Popular Enough On The Internet To Get Masked Man To Do Guest Blurbs
Here are a few thoughts on the crowd from Deadspin and Grantland’s David “The Masked Man” Shoemaker, who was there live. I’m going to get him to do a full Best and Worst, one of these days.
The star of every MSG show is the MSG audience. I’ve read some guys online say things like “It was the typical ‘look how smart we are’ douchebag crowd.” Well yeah, just like every ECW crowd was a typical “look how smart we are” douchebag crowd, and how every Canadian crowd is just full of sourpuss antihistorians. I was there one night in ’05 when Viscera made a surprise run-in to rescue Trish Stratus from a beatdown by Lita and Kane and the crowd immediately launched into a booming “Let’s go, Mabel!!” chant, which was the only redeeming thing about that angle. A really good Edge-Benoit brawl was overshadowed by “You screwed Matt!!!” chants directed at Edge (that, if memory serves, morphed into a back-and-forth routine with half the audience adding, by way of explication, “Lita screwed Edge”). Vince was booed lustily when he interrupted a Christian promo, and he scowled with visible bewilderment at the roars Christian elicited from the crowd. And when Shawn Michaels was getting beat down by Muhammad Hassan and Davairi, and Hulk Hogan made the “surprise” save… well, the crowd went absolutely nuts for Hogan. Some things are sacred.
But even if wrestling’s their religion, the MSG crowd — just as with the ECW fans — sees themselves as an integral part of the ceremony. It’s a burden sometimes, frankly.
At the end of the show last night, after The Rock dispatched Cena with the Rock Bottom and sent him (oddly) limping to the back, Rocky was left alone in the ring, and the crowd went absolutely crazy. “You still got it!!” from one side, “Wel-come back!!!” from the other. Finally we were cheering the way we were supposed to. We weren’t just cheering the Rock at the expense of Cena, we were cheering for him because we wanted to. Frankly, it was a relief.
After the show I went to the Upright Citizens Brigade theater for the UCBW’s special Survivor Series aftershow top see Mick Foley do his comedy act. (And since Brandon spends paragraphs in every column pimping indie feds, allow me to do the same for UCBW. These guys, top-notch improv comics, do a weekly comedy wrestling show. It’s really hilarious, and totally respectful (well, given that it’s comedy) to their source material. There are some serious wrestling fans in the bunch. Totally worth checking out if you’re in NYC, or just visiting. Last night’s main event — it was a Stepladder Match (heh) for the championship between the irksome Little Brother and UCBW’s own hardcore legend, Whole Lotta Denim –featured an crazy tornado DDT, a guy fighting with a legit broken collarbone, and a Chris Farley-level table spot. Just spectacular stuff.) The crowd — 200 or so folks, most of whom had walked down 10 blocks from MSG — were serious wrestling fans almost to a one. But we weren’t saddled with the expectation of irony there — the UCB crew took care of that for us — so we could just be fans. You haven’t heard anything until you’re in a packed little theater with everybody screaming “Foley! Foley! Foley!” I half expected people to start tossing their folding chairs onto the stage in honor. And when Foley pulled out Socko to ice the main event match, the place went nuts. It was earnest fandom, and it was wonderful. It was an even better feeling than cheering the Rock. I mean, it was nice to have these guys take us fans seriously enough to just let us be little kids again.
Best: The Best John Morrison Match Since Survivor Series
Remember this time last year, when John Morrison was jackal-jacket deep in a feud with Sheamus, and circa Survivor Series we were sorta reveling in how good they were together in the ring?
They had a great match at Survivor Series 2010 and followed it up with another good match at TLC, but Morrison had spent all Autumn trying to get his parkour thing over and it seemed less about wrestling and more about him Mirror’s Edging things. Then came his admittedly rad-as-hell Spider-Man spots in the Royal Rumble and we (not for the first time) thought he was going to be a Huge Deal. He got put into a high profile Wrestlemania thing with Snooki, but then the rumors started spreading about Melina being upset about “losing her spot” or whatever and some combination of Internet Confirmed Doghouse and “I like parkour” being his only character development grounded him, and he mired in that six-to-whatever months of mailed-in boring. He could jump, sure, and he could find fifteen different ways to clear a production cart, but his matches looked like a failing business chart from an ’80s movie. Just a big red arrow peaking, then sloping to the ground. Breaking the bottom of the chart and hitting the floor, because that’s hilarious.
Anyway, regardless of what did or didn’t happen, Morrison seemed like his old self last night, at least the old self who could hang with Sheamus and be carried like Frodo f**king Baggins by Rey Mysterio. His moves connected with urgency, he moved like a guy trying to win a wrestling match and even his overshot Starship Pain seemed to make sense in context. It was good, and more importantly made better BY John rather than in spite of him, and a reminder that I only talk so much sh*t because I know he can be better than his last year.
Best: Dolph Ziggler, The Only Person Who Can Make Me Go ‘Ooooh” At A Nearfall
Dolph Ziggler is one of those things everyone is going to agree on five years from now. Today when you type “Dolph Ziggler is awesome” into Twitter (into it), somebody always chimes in with “yeah right whatever CM Punk something something” or “lowered expectations”. I don’t know what bar you think I’m looking at, but when Ziggler can get a convincing near-fall out of John Morrison with a Rocker Dropper while making one of the dumbest moves in wrestling history look 1) real and 2) painful, no, he’s awesome, I don’t care if you’re comparing him to 1990s All Japan or WOW: Women of Goddamn Wrestling.
He does just enough to make me think he’s on the cusp of losing. He postures too much, takes too many liberties, walks around yelling at the crowd and pushing Morrison’s face with his foot. He gets hit with moves and dies a thousand deaths, and you’re all NO NO NO and he kicks out, or he turns a headscissors into a sleeper out of nowhere and it f**king rules. If you read this column and don’t agree with me on this point, watch him sell Zack Ryder’s Jumping Cock To The Face and compare it to anyone else in wrestling. Anyone. Daniel Bryan couldn’t sell that move better. Eddie Kingston couldn’t sell it better. Dolph eats it and launches himself into the mat like he’s been shot through the windshield of a car. It’s great, and even better it’s great in a way few things in TV wrestling get to be great.
Best: The We Want Ryder Chants Actually Accomplishing Something
Am I the only one who felt terrible for John Morrison during this match? He was working hard, but he was a glorified jobber and no matter what he did the crowd chanted “We Want Ryder”. In any other world this would end with John Hennigan throwing his sunglasses in the garbage and walking away all sad with MORRISON NO MORE across the page.
I’ve never understood WWE’s penchant for giving fans the opposite of what they want, be it humiliating guys in their hometown or listening to a crowd chant “we want” something and not giving it to them. Maybe “giving it to them” is too strong … giving it to them in any capacity. If you have Zack Ryder backstage and the crowd has been chanting WE WANT RYDER through the dark matches and opening bout, send Ryder out there, have him do something. For once they did just that, and look how it worked — the crowd LOVED Ryder jumping Ziggler and booed the hell out of Dolph for daring to throw shade. It was simple but it worked, and now that kid from Long Island who begged his parents to take him to Survivor Series and bought all that dumb Broski sh*t you peddle can go home with a happy memory instead of wondering why you hate him.
Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything.