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Monday, November 21, 2016

Cynical Thoughts: WWE Survivor Series 2016

-I just turned 33 last week. I've been watching WWE for over 27 years, and I'm more guilty than most when it comes to updating my expectations as a fan. When an event like Survivor Series rolls around, I get annoyed when I realize that not every match on the show is a traditional elimination match. Hell, that annoyance only spikes when WWE opts to license some contemporary song for the event's theme instead of using the old saxophone-and-trumpet fanfare from 1989. So yeah, next time you see me laughing at the IWC for their inability to change with the times, just remember that I'm part of the problem.

-That kind of mindset seemed to be setting myself up for disappointment once more when I heard that this year's event was going to have a 20-man elimination match featuring ten "legitimate" tag teams, a la the 1987-88 events. Coupled with a womens elimination match and one featuring ten male main eventers, it seemed like they were recreating the 1987 magic. Fuck Goldberg/Lesnar, put this on Thanksgiving night, and add an elimination match featuring guys from the Intercontinental/US Title/general midcard scene (Raw's Rusev/Zayn/Neville/Dallas/Truth vs. Smackdown's Miz/Ziggler/Crews/Hawkins/Harper), and I'd be in my element for sure. Four old school elimination matches? Hell yeah. But then I'd complain that they didn't bring in Jesse Ventura for commentary, and lament the lack of clothesline and elbow drop finishes, and I'd be back to square one of never being happy. Again, part of the problem, I.

Overall, I enjoyed the show, even against my lofty, "It could be as good as Survivor Series 1987, one of the greatest pay-per-views EVER!" expectations, which all but maybe four WrestleManias have failed to meet. Having inundated my palette with classic Survivor Series events in the lead-up to this year's show, I think I re-educated myself a bit on how to just check my brain at the door and enjoy something through simpler eyes. I could still note things about the show I didn't like, but without the usual spite and venom. Brimstone wasn't needed.

Womens Elimination Match: Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Bayley, Alicia Fox, and Nia Jax def. Natalya, Becky Lynch, Alexa Bliss, Carmella, and Naomi in 17:30
I did think it was pretty funny when the crowd wildly approved of Natalya filling in for the apparently-injured Nikki Bella. Granted, it was Toronto, but still. The match was fine, with the latter-day sped-up eliminations in spots. Frankly, it was surprising when the first elimination didn't occur for like six minutes, but then they squeezed the next seven eliminations into an eleven minute stretch. Sasha getting bounced early was only half-surprising, given how her stock has apparently diminished over the past few weeks. Apparently, freezing over a table spot gone wrong can be a temporary kiss of death. It's also a bit weird to see Bayley act as anything but wholesome when breaking up pins and smirking at the babyface opposition, but what do I know? I don't work for main roster creative, after all. Charlotte vs. Bayley could be a fine program, so long as they're not just using Bayley as placeholder before transitioning to Dana Brooke (aka Woman Weigns). A serviceable opener. **1/4

WWE Intercontinental: The Miz def. Sami Zayn in 14:05
Miz has been on such a roll ever since his fiery tirade against Daniel Bryan, and it's kind of a shame that he wasn't really appreciated sooner. It's lamentable to have him and Zayn on opposite shows, because Miz has proven effective against well-established babyfaces, particularly in the surprisingly-awesome feud with Ziggler (WWE's main roster feud of the year for 2016). Miz finding ways to cut off the hope spots of the scrappy, fight-the-odds Zayn, while twisting the knife through mannerisms and facial expressions, continues to be a treat of his 2016 career revival. Some bitched about the fuck-finish of Maryse ringing the bell in order to trick Zayn, but wasn't that Zayn's lot in 2014, to be screwed over by his own naivete? It only added to his feud with Neville (Neville faking a knee injury), and I just hope they can continue Miz vs. Zayn somehow, some way. ***1/4

Twenty Man Tag Team Elimination Match: The New Day, Swiss Cheese Potatoes, The Shining Stars, Enzo and Big Cass, and The Club def. Above Ground Watering Holes, American Alpha, The Hype Bros, The Usos, and Breezango in 18:55
Yeah, my fictitious names suck, but at least I didn't come up with "Breezango". Speaking of, they and New Day were both eliminated within the first minute for 'reasons', partially trampling my plate of Member Berry pie. Teams LASTED a while in 1987-88, damn it! At least have the Shining Stars survive inexplicably for 40 minutes like the Conquistadors did in 1988. The eliminations were way too quick, but at least the action was fun throughout. The final sequence of Sheamus and Cesaro against The Usos was extremely well done, as they could go either way with the two Europeans as begrudging allies or eventual enemies again. The matches would be good either way. It was also good to see WWE throw The Club a bone and let them eliminate two other teams. I think that qualifies as the first time Luke Gallows has pinned someone in WWE since he was Festus. ***1/4

WWE Cruiserweight: Brian Kendrick def. Kalisto by disqualification in 12:25
Ideally, if you're in the Cruiserweight division, wouldn't you band together and beat Kendrick with clubs and wrenches before the match so that you can all escape Raw for the friendlier confines of Smackdown? (Thanks to James Hornsby of Botched Spot for using my very idea in one of his comics!) Another fairly pedestrian Cruiserweight match, though Kalisto's Spanish Fly off of the apron to the floor was pretty incredible. I suggest calling it the Good Lucha Thing. Corbin causes the DQ, because he hates indy geeks so much that he wanted to give them the ultimate fuck-you: forcing them to be stuck on Raw. The Corbin feud with Kalisto seems kinda randomly-selected, but I've learned to keep an open mind with recent Smackdown endeavors. James Ellsworth's shirt sells more than Roman Reigns' merchandise, for Chrissakes! **1/2

Mens Elimination Match: AJ Styles, Dean Ambrose, Randy Orton, Bray Wyatt, and Shane McMahon def. Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, and Braun Strowman in 52:55
A pretty good match, but toooooo loooooong. They could've shaved ten minutes off of this, added it to the 20-man, and we could have potentially had a couple of four-star outings. Alas. The big story here is Shane getting shattered by a Reigns spear, off of Shane's attempt to springboard dropkick him. It was a legitimate scary moment, particularly with Shane twitching without blinking on the mat. Apparently, Orton kind-heartedly went over to reassure Shane's kids in the front row, which hit a lot of online fans in the feels when they heard the story. Meanwhile, I was wondering if any of them asked Randy why he punted their grandpa in the head eight years ago. Me and my silly kayfabe-mindedness. I did find it amusing that Toronto spent the interminable match savaging Reigns every chance they got, but when he joined up with Rollins and Ambrose to give Styles the Shield Powerbomb, they couldn't cheer the move loudly enough. Just as comical was after Ellsworth's stuntman bump, Cole calmly saying, "Let's reset things here," mere moments after a science-class skeleton was thrown to his death from the stage. There was a lot of good in this match, but it didn't need to be 53 minutes. It's like those baseball playoff games with a few web-gem moments that end with a dramatic walk-off, but it took until the 13th inning to end. Sure, you're not sad you watched it, and you went nuts a few times, but you're not sitting through it again without the miracle of fast-forward. Matches like that can only top out at three and a half stars. Consider this the full monty for bloat. ***1/2

Goldberg def. Brock Lesnar in 1:24
Well, this was surprising. At first, I was wondering if WWE finally went the USADA route and punished Lesnar for his failed test from the summer, but then I realized I was happy to be thrown this curveball. I was recently listening to some Bryan and Vinny Shows that covered Impact episodes in 2013 (angry Bryan is funnier than Carlin), and Bryan Alvarez had a gem of an idea: every eight matches or so, a match should end during the heat segment. It would keep people on their toes, and not draw them into a lull as they wait for the finishing sequence. Fuck 'em once in a while and give them a flash finish to keep their instincts honest. Grant you, this match didn't even have a heat segment to slog through, But it is a problem, and a long-standing one, when unbreakable muscleman Goldberg hits the Jackhammer (a veritable death sentence) on his opponent, and fans are waiting for the kickout because only ninety seconds have elapsed. There was an anticipatory silence on the count of two, and then stunned jubilation when the three-count was rendered. It really is indicative of a larger problem, that fans are way too familiar with tired patterns. When Lesnar broke The Streak nearly three years ago, fans were stunned because they didn't look at it through realistic eyes: a pale Incredible Hulk landed his devastating F5 on his opponent for the third time in a long battle, and instead of thinking, "I don't care if he is The Undertaker, he can't kick out of this much punishment," they thought, "Well, he's kicking out because The Streak doesn't die." I know we're all jaded now, and that's the problem: we're jaded. We're never going to be happy with wrestling if we're jaded, because pretty much the only way you can enjoy wrestling through jaded eyes is by nitpicking the most technical elements of a match. That stops being fun after a while, and it barely qualifies as a hobby. And yeah, most of us are going to question why the almighty Lesnar lost such a brief skirmish ("DOES HE HAVE HEAT WITH VINCE?!?"), so maybe we're too far gone as fans to ever be truly happy with what they present when they pander to their less-jaded audience. But the more I thought about it, the more I actually liked last night's booking. Different is good. NO RATING

Overall: 7/10 - kept me entertained and showcased a lot of diversity among the roster. That was the spirit of the old Survivor Series events, so on that front, it succeeded.

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