Pre-show notes: If you missed the show, you can watch it here on WWE Network. You can find past editions of The Best and Worst of Survivor Series on its tag page.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Survivor Series 2015.
Best: I Don’t Normally Write Up The Pre-Show, But Two Wonderful Things Happened
1. Tyler Breeze and Summer Rae condescended their way through a backstage hashtag interview party with Tom Phillips — seated here, to avoid having to do the splits to make Breeze look 6-5 — and it’s the kind of moment that turned Breeze from a fun-looking gimmick into a cult hero down in NXT. The guy’s perfected the Zoolander promo and Summer Rae is FEARLESS with her improv skills, so their combined ridiculousness can get over absurdist phrases like “googs it,” and make any snobby wrestling fan interested in celebrating the upside of lower-tier wrestlers with conventional attitudes and skills fall absolutely the f*ck in love. Summer Breeze is the best.
2. And speaking of best, one of the best moments that happened on the entire show — and certainly the most unexpected, considering how by-the-numbers everything else turned out to be — was the return of motherf*cking Goldust during the kickoff show.
At first I was wondering why they’d decided to put a Survivor Series match on the Survivor Series pre-show. Isn’t that kinda like putting a ladder match on the Money in the Bank kickoff? Doing a battle royal before the Royal Rumble? The match itself has the same problem as the one later in the show — it’s slapped together at the last minute with no real stories or purpose and dudes get pinned off transitional moves they’d never lose to otherwise — but Goldie’s presence makes up for almost all of it. The crowd booing when Stardust tagged out was great, and I hope this means we’re gonna start from the beginning of the Rhodes Brothers story and build them back up to the WrestleMania match (and, I assume, sendoff for Goldust) that they deserve. At least give them something special at the Rumble. You’ve already done the “HE ELIMINATED HIS BROTHER” jazz too many times.
Anyway, yeah, great to have Goldie back. He still looks and moves as well as anyone on the roster, which is a testament to both DDP Yoga and that indomitable Rhodes gene. I see those polka dots, and I appreciate them.
So, The Show
Best: Alberto Del Rio Finally Looks Like He Wants To Be Here
Actually, the other unexpected moment of Survivor Series was Alberto Del Rio showing up with his damn boots on for once.
Since his return, Del Rio’s been kinda dead behind the eyes. We like to speculate that he hates being here and hates the MexAmerica story and more or less sold his soul for WWE money, and that’s been backed up by how lazy his matches have been. He’s sleepwalking through them, spending at least 20% of them wandering around near the corner trying to set up a Tree of Woe double-stomp that never makes sense. He vs. Roman Reigns looked like it’d make us pass out because our brains would forget to send oxygen up there and we’d just tilt over, but it ended up being, in my opinion, the best match on the show.
Roman still has problems in the ring, but they’re manageable, and he’s got something a lot of people in WWE don’t have: credible offense. The spear isn’t the best finish in the world, but he hits it with impact, and the Superman Punch is a great visual. Everything else he does is high impact, from the ballsplex (that’s what he’s doing, I don’t care what you say) to that apron dropkick. Look at some of his peers. Dean Ambrose has the worst offense ever. His suicide dive couldn’t knock over a magazine rack, his chops make Shawn Michaels look like Kenta Kobashi and he lives or dies by that Nigel McGuinness rope rebound. Look at Del Rio’s goofy finisher. John Cena’s been finishing people with a fireman’s carry for over a decade. Even guys like Ryback don’t have anything decent in the tank but a clothesline. Roman’s got speed and power, and his sh*t looks good. That’s his biggest upside.
He’s also great at ending matches. Roman Reigns match finishes are usually very good, whether or not the actual match is. The final moments of Reigns/Del Rio are so dope that I wonder if there’s a way to travel back in time and erase everything that happened between The Shield breakup and WrestleMania so we can only have this Roman Reigns, and not the faux-Cena one that turned supporting him into a smark debate. Also in this plan, he would never speak.
Best: Any Time Dean Ambrose Rebounds In The Ropes And Gets Kicked In The Face
Speaking of Ambrose, he continued the WWE World Heavyweight Title Tournament tradition of every match being good-to-great (Del Rio/Kalisto notwithstanding) by tearing it up in a nice little match with Kevin Owens. I’m sad that Owens didn’t have more of a presence at the show, honestly. With everyone injured or on vacation, he’s one of the best and most crucial voices you have. Having him wandering into Roman Reigns’ awkward backstage promo popped me just for the contrast. It’s like Prince wandering into the studio to watch Silento record.
But yeah, no, Ambrose and Owens was great. It earns infinity points from me for Owens finally being the guy to catch Ambrose’s gentle-ass diving push by catching him and throwing him torso-first at the announce table. He makes it even better by superkicking Ambrose into the ropes, watching Ambrose fall backwards all loosey-goosey into them and just kicking him again instead of waiting to be clotheslined. Wrestling is the best when it allows the wrestlers to observe the match they’re having and respond realistically, instead of lemminging around in circles waiting for moves to happen.
This is another match with a great finishing sequence, and I wish they’d managed to maintain this momentum throughout the entire show. The pre-show and the first two matches make this seem like it’s going to be one of the best pay-per-views of the year, and then it just stops. It just stops, man.
Best: Xavier Woods’ Hair, And Anyone Who Comes Within 5 Feet Of The New Day
Xavier Woods puts more effort into his hair than most wrestlers put into their entire career.
Look at it. Look at it. It’s a cross between a classic James Brown pompadour, Cat from Red Dwarf and Gaston from Beauty and the Beast.
New Day’s so good right now that really anyone within a few feet of them becomes fantastic. Can you think of any characters with less positive momentum heading into this than King Barrett and Sheamus? They were total afterthoughts. They’re members 4 and 5 on a team with the New Day. Still, they show up together and Sheamus is yelling about how he’s gonna “get jiggy,” and it’s amazing. King Barrett is BOOTY DANCING alongside Kofi and Big E’s pelvic twirl, and life is grand. New Day should just induct Barrett into the group as the Owen Hart to their New Nation of Domination everyone said they’d be. Let the king of Bad News become the Prime Minister of Positivity, or whatever.
Worst: What Happens When You Book Matches On The Fly And Don’t Have A Good Reason
Unfortunately, the actual match that happened was not enhanced by their presence.
There was some fun stuff, but it was the flattest part of the entire show, which is saying something. It’s New Day, Barrett and Sheamus against The Lucha Dragons, the Usos and Ryback. That’d probably be a good match if they were teaming for a reason, or trying to win something, or had any real pre-existing relationships. At least Ryback and Kalisto shook hands after their tournament match, but Ryback’s ruining that by being the one dude on the team not vibing with the color scheme.
Like the pre-show match, it feels like filler. Kofi and Xavier just decide to leave to help Big E to the back, King Take-a-Pin takes a pin and Sheamus — the guy who’s gonna be your WWE World Heavyweight Champion at the end of the night — can’t stand up against an Uso, the smaller half of the Lucha Dragons and Ryback, who should lose to Sheamus in 100 out of 100 matches. That’s not a compliment for Sheamus, I’m just talking kayfabe reality. Sheamus should’ve been able to plow through these guys on reputation alone, but WWE is obsessed with making the upcoming champion look as impotent as possible before he wins the belt. Then he wins, gets a big moment, and looks as impotent as possible until he loses it. Remember when Seth Rollins was like 2-17 between April and August? He lost clean to Orton on the same show he won the WWE title. I know you want to build the surprise, but do you ever stop and wonder why casual fans don’t get behind these guys?
Other sports should operate like that. The Raiders should go 2-13, win their third game of the season on the last week and be named division champions. Then they should lose a bunch of playoff matches until they’re named Super Bowl Champions.
Worst: When The Lady Who Mocked A Kid Who Died Of A Heroin Overdose Is More Popular Than Your Babyface Champion
I’ve spent all night trying to figure out what was wrong with Paige and Charlotte.
If you look at it objectively, it’s not a bad match. There’s some iffy selling stuff, but it’s nothing worse than Roman having an “injured arm” for the entire tournament and winning every one of his matches with a punch and spear from that same arm. The barricade spear was ambitious, but looked like an asshole. I never got the impression that Charlotte was furiously angry about the whole “mocking my little brother who died from a heroin overdose and is my reason for being a wrestler” thing — they edited it out of the promo package, even, because WWE’s terrified of Actual Heat — but at least she wasn’t smiley the whole time like she was on Smackdown. It wasn’t a bad match. So what’s the deal?
All I can guess is that the elimination tag kinda-sorta drained the air out of the crowd, Paige and Charlotte didn’t have a story worth telling until Monday, and the combination of WWE backtracking all over it and modern audiences not wanting the controversial storylines they think they want ended with everything being long, boring and quiet. This was 14 minutes long, and they probably should’ve seen what was happening and took it home at around 8. It’s the story of the Divas Revolution, you know? There’s a lot of talent, a lot of effort, and no sustained creative support to maintain either.
And yo, why is Charlotte still the champion? Why didn’t Paige win this match? How are you gonna capitalize on that small amount of buzz you got from throwing Reid Flair under the bus if you don’t even have the bitter lady who threw him get an advantage over the person it hurts the most? What’s the story then, that insulting Charlotte won’t get you anywhere? That she’ll just be fine and beat you like always? What’s the story for Paige, that she’s actually bitter and jealous and wrong? Why would she keep being that way if it didn’t get her anywhere? We need some balance here, and to stay away from trying to protect everyone to actually MAKE someone.
Best: Jushin Thunder Liger > Dolph Ziggler
At last year’s Survivor Series, Dolph Ziggler was in the main event. He was the last surviving member of a team that dared to defy the evil bosses in charge of WWE, hoping to defeat them and make things better. His job was on the line. He was on “Team Cena,” but Cena got taken out early. There was no chance for him to win, but he was winning, and eventually WCW legend Sting made his WWE debut and saved the day. If it wasn’t for Ziggler’s courage and effort, the entire course of WWE would’ve been changed forever, and the power would’ve been permanently removed from the hands of the people. He was a hero. Finally, after years of being a bit player and, at best, a sassy boyfriend, he was the man.
At this year’s Survivor Series, Dolph Ziggler showed up looking like one of Road Warrior Hawk’s turds from 1983 and lost clean to a guy who didn’t even win most of his matches in developmental. Also, it turns out his performance last year meant nothing, as John Cena retconned the entire thing to help save a guy he didn’t even like. And Sting lost to Triple H, and Seth Rollins beat him up so bad he couldn’t walk. Life is pointless and Dolph Ziggler is the saddest. See you all at TLC!
Worst: Wait, That’s It?
In case you missed literally any of the promotion for Survivor Series, the show celebrates 25 years of The Undertaker in WWE. It’s a run worth celebrating. In our predictions and analysis (and in predictions we read across the internet), it seemed pretty obvious that the Wyatt Family was gonna lose, but we thought something would happen.
The way the story was set up, Bray Wyatt had kidnapped Kane and Undertaker and “harvested their souls” to steal their powers. He showed up on Raw with the ability to command druids, summon lightning and make thunder happen inside arenas. The assumption was that Kane and Undertaker were dead? I don’t know. Anyway, Kane and Taker show up like nothing’s changed and establish that they still have powers, and Bray’s story becomes, “I just stole some of it, and you’ll never be the same.” The Brothers of Destruction appeared to be EXACTLY the same, but Bray could still turn druids into sheep men or whatever so there was some mystery. The match at Survivor Series was Kane and Undertaker against two opponents chosen by Bray Wyatt, phrased in a way to make you think Wyatt had some kind of plan. It’d be Braun Storwman, you’d assume, and then maybe a new member? Maybe Bray himself with supernatural powers? Maybe he’d use his command over the dark side to turn Kane against Undertaker, or vice versa.
As it turns out, the plan was as follows:
1. make Erick Rowan run at them by himself
2. if that doesn’t work, it’ll be Luke Harper and Normal Bray Wyatt with zero additional abilities or powers, and Braun Strowman, the unstoppable monster nobody can even knock down, gets to valet
4. SPOOKY PROFIT
As you’d imagine, that plan was the sh*ts and the Wyatt got their asses kicked. Undertaker got a cool entrance with a TitanTron-laced coffin, and then … it was just the greatest hits of the Undertaker. He did the Old School, he did a chokeslam, he did the Tombstone. The crowd chanted “you still got it.” That’d be great if Taker hadn’t been around for years, but the dude was in a HELL IN A CELL MATCH with BROCK LESNAR like a month ago. Bray just stole the man’s lightning effects, he didn’t chop off one of his legs.
I don’t know, this was just underwhelming as hell, and the Wyatts continue to be the most hilariously neutered, inept cult I’ve ever seen. They’re Abbott and Costello in sheep masks. Why would anyone be afraid of these people? They don’t accomplish anything, they don’t win matches, and when they do, they say winning matches doesn’t matter. So can we just throw them in a hay baler or something and never listen to them again?
Best: The Best You Can Do When Marching Toward The Inevitable
Finally, the Room Temperature Mega Powers EXPLODE! BOOM!
Like the rest of the tournament, it’s very good. Ambrose’s offense looks like a child’s but at least he’s wrestling with a sense of urgency. Roman’s not even considering selling that arm unless it’s situationally appropriate, but he’s running on adrenaline at the end of a tournament and fighting his best friend, so it’s cool. I didn’t think this was as good as Reigns/Del Rio or Ambrose/Owens, but it could’ve been that I sat through everything between them.
Everyone in the world expected a turn here, but I’m glad they didn’t do it. I felt the same way with the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. The whole thing was built around an assumed swerve that never happened, and that in itself became the swerve. They just did it afterwards. If you’re going to turn Reigns or Ambrose against one another, why do it on the show where everyone’s expecting it? Let their fans gets comfortable and complacent, and then bust it out on them. That’s how you do it.
I guess the major problem with the match is one of the problems with any Money in the Bank cash-in. What happens in the post-match negates everything that came before it.
Best/Worst: The Inevitable
Sheamus cashed in, and that’s a thing. As mentioned, there are a lot of problems with it. Sheamus was a lame-duck Money in the Bank briefcase holder who lost all his matches, so now he’s the top dog in your company. You’re going to build him up with a bunch of matches he loses, but he’ll keep the belt. It’s exactly what happened with Rollins, because time is a flat circle and/or the WWE isn’t great at coming up with new ideas.
As far as the character motivations go, Roman Reigns hits all my WWE BABYFACES ARE THE WORST buttons here. Before the tournament, Triple H came to him man-to-man and was like, “hey, we want you to be our guy, so if you want to just wrestle a one-on-one match at Survivor Series we can do that.” Roman gives him this bit about how he’s not gonna sell out and take the easy path, so H is like, “okay, have it your way” and leaves him alone. He canvasses trying to find a new Guy for The Authority, but that’s to be expected. Roman fights all the way through the tournament, wins, and Triple H shows up to shake his hand. Assuming the worst, Reigns spears Triple H with no physical provocation. That allows Sheamus to get the jump on him, Brogue Kick him a couple of times and win the championship. The easy way. Like Triple H suggested. I know that Roman’s trying to be valiant and all, but man, he walked right into that, didn’t he? Why you gotta be such a weird goof, Roman? Couldn’t you have at least shake the man’s hand and let him screw you over before assuming you’re about to be screwed and screwing yourself? You kinda deserve it.
Also, did Dean Ambrose vanish? Did I miss him getting beaten up by Sheamus outside the ring, or did he just ascend to Heaven in all that confetti?
Ah well, the reality of this situation is that no matter how much we complain and how little it ends up meaning, Sheamus vs. Roman Reigns is gonna happen, and it’s gonna be really good. Throw Brock Lesnar in there and you’ve got WWE’s top three guys who volunteer to let you punch them as hard as you can in their faces.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
The Real Birdman
Soul Stealing: Half a Star
Think I like the Rolaids commercials more than the Taker ones. At least I know Rolaids will do the job every once in awhile.
Some believe the comments about Reid ended the Diva’s revolution.
Mr. Royal Rumble, TheCensoredMSol
Byron Saxton is the only person whiter than Sheamus.
Dolph looks like minutes 30-54 of a Behind the Music episode.
DOLPH: Tyler, why do you keep calling me “Finn”?
TYLER: SHUT UP FINN, I FINALLY BEAT YOU.
BRAY: No. This is something I have to lose myself.
Who has more of a chance?
+1 for Washington Generals
lol for Wyatt Family
When he raises his fist they should play Don’t You Forget About Me
Right now Full Sail would be like HEEEEEY WE WANT SOME REFUND
Thanks, everybody. See you tonight for Raw, and tomorrow for lots of sighing about Raw!