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The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review (11/22/15): Survivor Series 2015



WWE’s annual Thanksgiving tradition, Survivor Series, is over and the one thing I am thankful for right now is the fact that there was no ISIS attack. We can keep hating on the wrestlers we hate, but when shit gets real like this, the safety of the talents, the crew, the audience, and everyone else who works in the Philips Arena takes precedence. 

It was funny, though, that WWE decided to kick off the main show with Lilian Garcia singing the Star Spangled Banner in the middle of the ring. Last I checked, they only did that for WrestleMania, and maybe the 4th of July. I’m pretty sure that was WWE’s way of telling ISIS to go fuck themselves.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get this show (and review) on the road!

Team Undercard Faces (Goldust, The Dudley Boyz, Neville, and Titus O’Neil) def. Team Undercard Heels (Stardust, Konnor, Viktor, The Miz, and Bo Dallas) in a five-on-five traditional Survivor Series elimination tag team match.

First things first, welcome back, Goldust!


Second, Cesaro’s notably absent from the entire show as a result of a shoulder injury that will sideline the Swiss Superman for the next 4-6 months, which could effectively take him out of WrestleMania. Mr. Pure Energy has become one of my top two favorite superstars and not being able to see him wrestle his ass off will leave a void in my weekly wrestling viewing habit.

Not much to see here, honestly. Just a bunch of guys with no storyline, direction, or purpose. Creative decided to throw a bone to the fans by making the babyface team win to keep Atlanta happy heading into the main program. My only concern was that the main card of a show called Survivor Series wouldn’t have a Survivor Series match. That would be a problem, one which would be answered later on.

Roman Reigns def. Alberto Del Rio in a WWE World Heavyweight Championship Tournament Semifinal Match

Roman and Alberto kicked off the main card, and the feeling of almost every thinking wrestling fan was that Roman Reigns was obviously winning this. And for good reason. ADR just happened to be the latest roadblock. It wasn’t a matter of if Roman Reigns were to win, but how.

Thankfully, El Patron and Roman were able to bring out the best in each other throughout their match. Contrary to how he performed against John Cena at Hell In A Cell, Alberto was actually open to wrestling in a more exciting manner against Roman Reigns. I don’t know why he suddenly mixed things up by doing that, but at least it made for a more enjoyable viewing experience. ADR’s moveset incorporated his own athleticism more, while Roman wrestled balls to the wall, which was just what we needed to see out of a guy so hungry for his first world title reign.


My only qualm with this match was ADR getting Roman stuck in the Tree of Woe and then missing his Double Foot Stomp. I guess one could argue that Reigns was that beaten up, so he was able to use his upper body strength to counter the move. But still, that finishing move was built up to have a 100% accuracy rate and all it took was Roman Reigns to let us know that one could escape that move. Roman must have done his homework and scouted Del Rio since El Patron returned.

As a whole, the match was fun to watch and it made Roman Reigns look like a deserving finalist in this tournament. Thanks for doing your part, Berty.

Dean Ambrose def. Kevin Owens in a WWE World Heavyweight Championship Tournament Semifinal Match

This was the match I was more excited to watch because I wanted to see if Dean Ambrose was going to continue wrestling in a more methodical and technical manner. A Reddit user had suggested a theory that Ambrose was centering his offense around technical skills so as to counter Roman’s power and athleticism, knowing that they’re bound for a collision course in the finals.

True enough, Ambrose and Owens locked up to start the match, going at it with a bit of chain wrestling. Once that was done, they then told the story of KO being the arrogant heel trying to continuously put the resilient Ambrose away. Both men were able to play their parts very well, mixing their high-impact moves with a pace that was just right.


What I appreciated about this match was that they didn’t need to resort to too many big moves or high spots to get the crowd going. They were able to energize the crowd enough and definitely deserved the “This is awesome!” chant that they got. 

The finish was dumb yet enjoyable, typical of what you’d see in an Ambrose match—reversal after reversal into a finisher connecting from out of nowhere. That was the case earlier as Dean blocked a Pop-Up Powerbomb attempt, only to run into a superkick. Ambrose landed onto the ropes and got back up for a Rebound Lariat, but instead received a second superkick from Owens. As he set Dean for another Pop-Up Powerbomb, the Lunatic Fringe countered and then connected with Dirty Deeds for the win. Thanks for coming, KO.

Team Midcard Faces (Ryback, the Usos, and the Lucha Dragons) def. Team Midcard Heels (Sheamus, King Barrett, and the New Day) in a five-on-five traditional Survivor Series elimination tag team match.

I can’t believe we went from one epic Survivor Series elimination tag team match last year, where the fate of the Authority hung in the balance, to this year’s travesty where both elimination tag matches were just there for the sake of having them. What a farce.

Having the New Day is always a good thing, and they made sure to make the most out of their mic time by being entertaining as fuck. Seeing King Barrett and Sheamus interact with them was fun as Barrett played the guy who could somehow blend in with the New Day’s antics, while Sheamus looked so ridiculously out of place.


Unlike most Survivor Series elimination tag matches, this one lasted almost eight minutes before somebody got eliminated. Normally, somebody gets eliminated within the first minute or two with a surprise finisher. For a match that had no stakes or bearing on the landscape of the WWE whatsoever, it was surprising to see them go that long before King Barrett got eliminated.

This match actually allowed Kalisto to shine the brightest, as he proved just why he had a surprise mini-run during the WWE World Heavyweight Championship Tournament. What I didn’t like was seeing Kofi and Xavier Woods take Big E to the back right after he was eliminated from the match. This impromptu match—a result of not having enough matches to fill the time—should have given everybody an opportunity to showcase what they had.

It did, except I actually felt robbed when the Kofi and Woods decided they were taking Big E to the back themselves. Don’t get me wrong: I know they did it to get heat by (1) just walking out on their match midway through it and (2) walking out on their partner, Sheamus, who was suddenly down three against one. While Sheamus was able to put up a fight against Kalisto, it wasn’t long until Kalisto, Jey Uso, and Ryback made Sheamus their Irish bitch.

And just like that, we had four Survivor Series elimination tag matches over the last month, with only one of them making sense. What’s worse is none of them had any concrete stakes. As much as I don’t want to give up on this PPV, the way they’re mishandling this annual tradition of a match really hurts me as a fan of this match type. Shame on you, Creative.

Charlotte (c) def. Paige to retain the WWE Divas Championship

All that time to fill on a three-hour PPV was a good thing for Charlotte and Paige, who had more than enough to work with during their championship match. From the hype video to the commentary, it was clear that WWE had taken a soft stance after receiving so much flak over Paige’s verbal barbs towards Charlotte’s real-life late brother Reid Flair. The hype video specifically left that part out, while the commentators made sure to keep referring to what Paige said as basically what Paige said.

The match itself was pretty good from the get-go because at least both ladies were able to show through their wrestling that the feud had gone beyond the title—that it was personal. They were able to do things we wouldn’t normally see in a Divas match, including the use of the announce table, submissions applied from the ring apron, etc. 


Charlotte still mostly wrestled like a graduate of the Mizanin School of Ring Psychology, focusing most of her attacks on Paige’s head and midsection, even though her M.O. was to make Paige tap out to the Figure Eight. Meanwhile, Paige wrestled with a definitive mean streak, which is always a good thing to watch because she’s at her best when she’s an aggressive heel.

It amazed me that Charlotte busted out Natural Selection, the finisher she used to win most, if not all, of her matches in NXT. What’s sad was that none of the announcers even called it out, or even recognized it. If they did, it could have given that spot a little bit more importance since Charlotte hasn’t used that move since officially debuting on the main roster last July.

In the end, Paige eventually tapped out to the Figure Eight, with Charlotte getting a clean win against her aggressor. I wanted Paige to win the title to give Charlotte something to chase and to draw more heat towards Paige. At this point, Charlotte’s still a bland character, who needs more reasons to get us to cheer for her, and being screwed out of the Divas Championship by Paige could have been the layer to add to her character.

Tyler Breeze (w/ Summer Rae) def. Dolph Ziggler

Meh.

I wasn’t really that big of a Tyler Breeze believer because of all the highly-touted NXT prospects, he was the one whose wrestling ability was least impressive. Sure, he has a great character and he’s able to live up to it. But it’s hard to get invested in a Tyler Breeze match especially when he tries to be a smash mouth heel despite his smaller frame.


I thought a match would Ziggler would force Breeze to step up his game and perform better, but they just weren’t able to do that. Ziggler’s ring gear was also too distracting for my tastes. I have no idea if those are Ziggler’s legit fashion tastes, but he should just drop the whole fuccboi outfit. It’s not doing him any favors.

The Brothers of Destruction (The Undertaker and Kane) def. The Wyatt Family (Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper) in a tag team match.

For a match that was being billed as the co-main event of the show, this one was a letdown as well. 

First, they had Erick Rowan get his ass handed to him via a double big boot and a double chokeslam. And then they let him walk to backstage after getting the jabroni treatment. Then, Bray Wyatt decides to send himself and Luke Harper into the match when Braun fucking Strowman was right fucking there.

For someone who claims to be such a master of mind games, Wyatt sure fucked up in not choosing Strowman. I mean, why keep the biggest guy in your faction (and on the roster not named Big Show) out of this match in the first place? As a smark, it’s easy to point out that Strowman’s green in the ring and maybe Taker and Kane just wouldn’t be able to work with a rookie like him. But this move really just did not make Bray Wyatt look good at all.

The match itself didn’t have a lot of drama. From the way they wrestled, there was no doubt that Undertaker and Kane were there to win. Sure, there were some memorable moments, particularly the double chokeslam to Braun Strowman on the Spanish announce table. But it was mostly a boring match that didn’t even give Taker and Kane any moment of adversity, considering the Brothers of Destruction were still down numbers-wise with the presence of Strowman at ringside.

The match was basically an exhibition, a part of Taker’s farewell tour. Imagine Kobe Bryant’s 2015-16 season with the Lakers except it’s less pathetic. It also reminds me of Dikembe Mutombo and Hakeem Olajuwon surprisingly suiting up to play in an NBA exhibition game in Johannesburg, South Africa this past offseason. The old timers could still ball a bit, and that’s all they wanted to show you. That was pretty much the Taker match we saw today, which was sad because Taker could still go, but you know he wasn’t going to give it his all at the PPV. 


And that hurts Bray Wyatt the most because he’s the one who needed this win. It was okay for him to call Taker out again more than half a year after losing to him at WrestleMania. He needed to get revenge. But Bray Wyatt hasn’t had a major victory in his career. It’s hard to take him seriously as the New Face of Fear, when he can’t win on a big stage. Never mind that he’s never held championship gold because he’s not about that. The fact that he can’t win a rivalry that matters against the likes of Roman Reigns, John Cena, and the Undertaker is really bothersome. Some face of fear you are.

Roman Reigns def. Dean Ambrose in the WWE World Heavyweight Championship Tournament Finals

So much for using technique to counter Reigns’ brawn and power. These guys just went at it from the opening bell, using strikes and punches to get the better of the other.

Atlanta mercilessly booed Reigns from the moment his music hit, and they just supported Dean Ambrose all the way through. It’s pretty sad that Reigns still gets reactions like this from vocal sections of the crowd despite the performances he’s been having over the last half-year. 


After building up the whole “Dean and Roman are blood brothers and BFFs” storyline over the last few months, it finally came to a head as both men threw their relationship out the window to fight over the championship. I was expecting one of them to turn on the other by using some cheap tactic or by getting some outside help to steal the title, but unfortunately for me, that didn’t happen.


The match ended quickly, with Reigns hitting the Spear on a charging Dean Ambrose. From a kayfabe perspective, you could say that both men were tired, and therefore were easier to defeat. From a smarky point of view, it looked lazy and uninspiring, which didn’t do Roman any favors. I wanted Roman to win a hard-fought match, to earn my respect, and that of the fans, especially those who don’t believe in him like I do. Seeing Roman just win and get a celebration like that really put a damper on my morning until I realized that there were still roughly twenty minutes remaining on the show’s supposed three-hour running time.

That got me excited, and then when Triple H’s entrance theme hit, I was on the edge of my seat.


He entered the ring and offered to shake Roman’s hand. It was such a callback to the end of SummerSlam 2013, when Daniel Bryan won the WWE Championship from John Cena. I like that Roman was smart enough not to trust Triple H and just flat out denied him, before spearing the COO in the middle of the ring.


I was disappointed again until Reigns turned around into a Brogue Kick from Sheamus!

Sheamus def. Roman Reigns (c) to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.

When Sheamus handed his Money in the Bank briefcase to referee Charles Robinson, I just wanted Little Naitch to not fuck it up while Roman was still down. Robinson took too damn long, and I started to think it was a work so Sheamus could unsuccessfully cash in before Roman got to his feet again. Thankfully, Lilian announced that the cash in was indeed taking place and the bell eventually rung.


Roman Reigns kicked out when Sheamus covered him, which made me (and all the other nonbelievers) panic. But Sheamus made quick work of Reigns, hitting him with another Brogue Kick after Reigns was unable to even connect with a Spear.

Seeing Triple H celebrate alongside Sheamus at the end opens up possibilities for the new champion as they could explain that Sheamus is the new Authority golden boy. Or it could just mean a temporary alliance. What I’m really excited to see is how this affects Sheamus’ partnership with King Barrett. I hope that this makes him relevant, too.


The shot of Roman Reigns lying in the center of the ring amidst the confetti all dumbfounded and about to cry was pure money. It was a great move by WWE to paint the picture of a man who fought so hard to get to the top, finally achieved it, but immediately lost it because he got screwed. More than anything, this story should help Roman Reigns truly get over, even with haters like me. After all, who doesn’t love a good underdog story? It’ll take a while to get me to truly get behind Roman and to pity him, but this was definitely a step in the right direction.

As for the new champion, was Sheamus the right option? Given the circumstances, maybe he was deemed the best choice. I would have preferred just one of Roman or Dean turning heel and aligning with the Authority. But since the MITB was still in the picture, it did make sense to let Mr. MITB cash in and win the title. The problem was that Sheamus is just as disliked among the IWC as Roman Reigns is. So while there are some like me who were pleased because #AnyoneButRoman, there were still loud rumblings on the interwebs over the bland Celtic Warrior being hotshotted to the title once again.

I get the argument that Sheamus has never found a way to be compelling as a character, and that’s why I’m hoping that he ends up being the new Authority golden boy. At least, he gets to work with different elements in the Authority, and not just the foil he’s facing. I really want to see this work because this is what we’ve got, so we might as well make lemonade out of lemons. Creative already fucked up by giving Sheamus MITB. Let’s not waste this time without Seth Rollins, Randy Orton, or John Cena in the picture and make Sheamus interesting as a member of the Authority and the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion.

*****

This year’s Survivor Series is a far cry from last year’s excellent show. While the first two matches and the Divas Championship match were actually solid, the other matches were either just exhibition matches or matches that didn’t deliver given certain expectations. That being said, this year’s Survivor Series gets a C for craptastic.

What did you think of Survivor Series? Are you happy with Sheamus as the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion? What did you think of the Undertaker’s 25th Anniversary Match? Let us know by sounding off in the comments section below!

Photos from WWE.

*****

Stan Sy is a radio DJ, an events host, a freelance writer, one of the hosts of the Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast, and Smark Henry's official PPV reviewer. He enjoys watching WWE, NXT, Lucha Underground, and the occasional New Japan match. Every now and then, he dresses up in fancy suits to book matches as PWR's longest-tenured General Manager to date. Follow him on Twitter: @_stansy

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