Cynoslam Pay-Per-View Review: This Review Ain’t About Love and Hugs
In my first PPV Review, I complained that for a long time, WWE Pay-Per-Views were barely more entertaining than the average episode of RAW, so we followed up that complaint with two good, real PPVs in a row. Since I couldn’t complain about the PPVs anymore, I lamented the fact that RAW was still the kind of thing that Malcolm McDowell had to sit through in A Clockwork Orange. Well, we followed Night of Champions up with a month of good-to-great episodes of RAW that had structure, purpose, and high quality matches (give or take a few throwaway Alberto Del Rio squashes). What the hell, guys? I’m writing a review column here. I need things to complain about!
Well, ask and ye shall receive…
Tree of No
Roman Reigns vs. Alberto Del Rio
Despite that ominous introduction, this year’s Survivor Series got off to a flying start, which is something I never thought I would say about Alberto Del Rio vs. Roman Reigns. Del Rio’s character has been a black hole since his return, and it breaks my heart to see the fire drain out of his eyes every time he has to stand still and grimace through a Mexamerica promo. His in-ring work is stiff as hell, though, and tonight he puts his offense to good use against Reigns, who seems to excel against bigger guys that don’t mind legit beating the crap out of each other (see Brock Lesnar for reference).
I mean, these shots to Roman’s head looked vicious. He didn’t even have to sell, I’m pretty sure his head is actually rocking from the blows. While this is probably Del Rio’s best match since coming back, I will say that he really needs to stop trying to dropkick guys near the ropes. He has a tendency to fly through the second rope. The same way. Every time. I get that he might want to get a lot of mileage out of a cool bump that he thought of, and it was a nice move the first time it happened, but how many times can a guy realistically make the exact same improbable mistake?
Speaking of improbable mistakes, Del Rio tries to go for that damn tree of woe footstomp thing that he’s been using in lieu of a real finisher these days, and once again, his opponent somehow gets caught dangling from the turnbuckle. However, instead of just hanging there with his torso out like an idiot, Reigns pulls himself in and dodges the footstomp, thus elevating him in my eyes forever. All I ask is that the wrestlers on the show pay attention to their own damn opponents, because if they do, then they’ll notice that some of these moves are pretty easily countered, and then we won’t have to sit through the same nonsense every week. And since Del Rio was forced to rethink his strategy, we got to FINALLY see his real finisher, the cross armbreaker.
Of course, Reigns rolls through and powerbombs him for his troubles. Del Rio manages to sucker Reigns in for another armbreaker, but this time he dumps him out of the ring, Del Rio jumps back in, and takes a surprise spear for the 3 count. It was a physical match, and yes, Roman Reigns looked strong, but so did Del Rio, and it’s still kind of weird to get so many competitive matches with clean finishes in a row. Something must be wrong here. There’s got to be some sort of karmic retribution on the horizon.
Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens
Side note: Does it bother anyone else that Eden pronounces Owens’ name “KEVIN OAAAAUUUGHHENS?” It sounds so weird. Even Codsworth can say Owens right. Then again, he can also say “Bayley,” “Neville,” “Xavier,” “Wyatt,” “Rollins,” and “Young,” so maybe we should just replace Eden with a video game NPC and be done with it.
Anyway, we go on from the best match of the night to the second best, although we already had pretty high expectations for Ambrose and Owens. Ambrose takes down Owens early with an elbow drop to the outside, but Owens gets the momentum right back with a cannonball into the corner. We then settle in for “Chinlock City,” which hasn’t caught on quite like Suplex City and I can’t imagine why. Owens does a great job heeling it up, as always, taunting Ambrose, the crowd, and sometimes both simultaneously. The first half of the match is a little slow, as they just go through the motions and hit their typical moves.
Things get a little spicier when Owens runs through his usual bag of tricks and begins pulling out bigger stunts, like a picture-perfect moonsault from the top rope and a pumphandle drop, also from the top. Oh, and a million bonus points to Kevin Owens for watching the show and knowing his opponent, so when Ambrose goes for the ridiculous rebound clothesline, Owens doesn’t turn around and forget where he is. He stands there and superkicks Ambrose back into the ropes, so that Ambrose can do it again and eat another superkick like a human paddleball. Don’t get me wrong, Ambrose is great, and I’m still a fan in spite of his tragic booking this year, but that rebound clothesline has got to go, and I hope he has a good, long feud with Owens in the future so he can superkick that move right out of Ambrose’s arsenal.
The finish is great, too. That superkick sequence begins with an attempted suicide dive by Ambrose, which Owens catches and he throws him into the announce table. They follow with a pop-up powerbomb attempt that Ambrose leapfrogs, leading to the kicks, and ending with another pop-up powerbomb attempt that Ambrose counters into a reverse rana (!), which allows Ambrose to hit Dirty Deeds and move on in the tournament. If it hadn’t started off slow, this probably would have been my match of the night, but it’s still damn good and it got my hopes high for the rest of the Pay-Per-View. Bastards.
Release the Knockout Gas
Traditional Survivor Series 5 on 5 Tag Team Style Elimination Match
Before we get into the bad stuff, let’s do what the New Day asked us to do last night (perhaps because they knew the match would be garbage). Let’s stop and celebrate Xavier Woods’ hair:
For that matter, let’s just talk about the pre-match promo and forget about the match itself. Somehow, not only did the New Day manage to be the most entertaining guys on the show in spite of the fact that they have nothing to do, they managed to make KING MOTHERFLIPPING BARRETT and 2015 “Respect the ‘Hawk” Sheamus entertaining too! Go back and watch them during this promo. I know you’re distracted by Xavier’s beautiful mane, but watch them. They come out and “Kang of the Rang” Barrett is just white man dancing off to the side while Sheamus looks like a 12 year old boy on his first date, glancing around awkwardly and clutching his briefcase to his chest like a security blanket. As they walk down the entrance ramp and the New Day runs down their Survivor Series opponents, Sheamus slowly starts to white man dance like Barrett, then by the time they get to the ring he really starts to get into it and slaps his briefcase to the rhythm of the New Day’s entrance theme. And then…Jesus Jones. He gets so fired up by the Holy Spirit of Positivity or whatever that he grabs Big E’s microphone and turns into JBL whenever black people are on screen – he promises to “get jiggy” on these “posers.” The silence was magnificent.
I think the joke was intended to be “look at this lame white guy who thinks he can hang with the cool black guys,” because this is a character type that Vince McMahon can instantly relate to, but it’s really just everyone in the arena taking a second to process the fact that Sheamus just admitted he wants to bone the Lucha Dragons, the Usos, and Ryback, possibly all at once. Knowing the internet, this probably launched a whole new subgenre of WWE slash fiction and gave new meaning to the phrase “Feed me more.”
Anyway, this match was thrown together at the last second, so there’s no story besides what will happen to Xavier Woods’ hair? This story is compelling enough, until Big E gets eliminated, feigns an injury, and the entire New Day bail on the match since their ace in the hole was put out of commission. Barrett doesn’t last long, and then it’s just Sheamus against Ryback, Kalisto, and Jey Uso. Sort of an inverted version of last year’s Survivor Series, and I’m ashamed to say (it’s a shameful thing?) that my underdog instinct kicked in and I actually started rooting for Sheamus a little bit. Just a bit. Of course, since Sheamus has the Money in the Bank briefcase and could become champion at any time in the near future – but who knows when? – WWE has to make him look as weak and undeserving as possible. There’s no Dolph Ziggler Cinderella story this year. Sheamus gets triple-teamed and pinned off a Shell Shock, but by this time the crowd has been put to sleep. In fact, I’m pretty sure the New Day released knockout gas on the crowd as soon as they left the arena. Yep, I’m sure that’s it.
Wasn’t There a Story Here a Minute Ago?
Divas Championship Match
Charlotte vs. Paige
You can make all the dopey faces and insult all the dead people you want, Paige. That crowd is not going to boo you. A for effort, though. I suppose “A for effort” describes this match in the shell of a nut. Charlotte and Paige wrestle a technical 14-minute match, with lots of strikes and abdominal stretches, and even a spear on the barricade, but the crowd just isn’t having it. Either they’re still asleep from the New Day’s knockout gas, or Atlanta isn’t onboard with womens’ wrestling, or maybe this feud had a lazy and confusing build that meant nothing until literally the Monday before Survivor Series.
Like Ambrose vs. Owens, it was a little slow for about half the match, but just when some jackoffs started to chant “this is boring!” things started to pick up. Charlotte did that cool thing where she throws people around with her legs, which I haven’t seen her do since her NXT days, and they do a good Figure 4 reversal sequence. Oh, and that damn spear from the top of the barricade. It was nice to see a competitive Divas Championship match for a change, instead of just a Bella relentlessly picking Charlotte apart for 99% of the match only for her to no-sell, lock in the Figure 8, and make her opponent tap in 2 seconds. They’re finally letting Charlotte dominate a little bit, and that was what made her so fun to watch in NXT.
The match still ends in a Figure 8, and Paige still taps, but at least she hangs on and tries to break Charlotte’s bridge before giving up. It makes the ending feel like an actual submission, rather than a story beat. The match could have used a few more story beats, considering the controversial use of Reid Flair’s death for heat. There was really no payoff to that angle, apart from “Charlotte beat Paige.” I guess she learned her lesson not to…speak ill of the dead? I dunno, man.
Earning Your Damn Selfies
Tyler Breeze vs. Dolph Ziggler
We’ve seen a lot of NXT call-ups gone horribly wrong. Take Neville. Or Kalisto. Or Adam Rose. Or Bo Dallas. Or the Ascension. Somehow, Tyler Breeze has avoided all that by A) keeping his gimmick exactly the same, B) looking like a competent wrestler, C) delaying the blowoff to his first big match, and D) feuding immediately with the perfect opponent. Dolph Ziggler is the Kurt Russell version of Tyler Breeze, or Tyler Breeze is the Zoolander version of Dolph Ziggler, or they’re both the Les Enfants Terribles to Shawn Michaels’ Big Boss. Maybe this match should have taken place on top of Metal Gear REX.
They take turns kicking each other and zipping around the ring for awhile, and Dolph gets in some decent offense for a change, but Breeze has the edge in viciousness. The announce team calls back to last year’s Survivor Series, when Dolph almost single-handedly beat 5 dudes and got to be the Big Damn Hero over eternal Big Damn Hero John Cena, so it’s really sad when they refer to it after the year that Ziggler’s had. It’s like going up to fat, Demerol-addled Elvis Presley and reminding him how much people loved “Heartbreak Hotel.”
Breeze gets the win using the Unprettier, which they actually called this time (he’d used it once in NXT, and why they didn’t use the name then, I have no idea), and with a clean victory under his fuzzy belt, it looks like Tyler Breeze has landed, rather than crashed, onto the main roster. He even got the announce team to put him over after they’d been insulting him for the entire match. In JBL’s eyes, Breeze has now earned the right to take as many selfies as he wants. If that’s what it takes, perhaps we should put Kim Kardashian through a trial by combat as well.
Yo Dawg, I Heard You Like Chokeslams
The Brothers of Destruction vs. The Wyatt Family
Here’s a quote from last month to put my feelings on this feud and this match in particular into perspective:
“Where do we go from here? Clearly they’re planting the seeds for Survivor Series, but what are the teams going to look like? Is Wyatt going to brainwash Taker and turn him into the fifth Wyatt? Is Taker going to escape and recruit the former Shield guys to take on Wyatt? Are the former Shield guys going to turn to Seth Rollins for help? There are so many cool fantasy booking options here that it seems impossible for WWE to screw it up”
So let’s recap what actually happened. The Wyatt family beat up the Undertaker and Kane, stole their bodies, and claimed to have performed some kind of soul-stealing ritual. So far so good. Then they both show up the next week totally fine, and Bray’s like “yeah, but I stole a little bit of your souls.” So then the Brothers of Destruction beat up the Wyatt family and send them packing. Uh…Then Wyatt proves that he has some of their power by transforming Taker’s army of druids into killer sheep. Then the Brothers of Destruction beat up the druids and send them packing. Huh. It’s almost like they don’t want to put the Wyatt family over under any circumstances. Then Bray came up with some sort of ill-defined tag team match where he gets to choose which two members of the Wyatt family face the Brothers. Alright. We’ve gone from opportunistic soul-vultures kidnapping undead wizards to a tag team match. I guess that’s wrestling for you, but maybe if any one of the steps on the way to this sheer cliff had made a damn lick of sense, we wouldn’t be hurling ourselves off the edge.
But here we are, in freefall, where even Bray Wyatt’s team choices don’t make sense. Instead of choosing hulked out lumberjack Braun Strowman for this match, he chose Luke Harper and himself. But he’s got some kind of supernatural power, right? Is he going to have a force lightning duel with the Undertaker? Maybe summon an army of sheep druids? Or is he just going to be the centerpiece for Taker’s anniversary party?
Okay, I guess it’s the latter. Erick Rowan does some kind of kamikaze rush into the ring for some reason and gets double chokeslammed out of the arena, so it really is just Bray and Harper with Strowman hanging out at ringside. Maybe Brawny’s the ace up their sleeve, or they’re protecting him for something big later on. Or they’re just gonna chokeslam him through a table and kill his heat before it even gets going.
Kane takes the brunt of the offense, because it’s not his anniversary, but the match is really just a series of chokeslams and “vintage” Undertaker moves. Single chokeslams, double chokeslams, two chokeslams side by side. For the record, Taker is still in fantastic shape, but he doesn’t need to be Night of Champions Taker to bury the Wyatt family. He could have made it through this match as wheezy, gurgling Summerslam Taker. It was that bad. The Wyatt Family have taken a lot of hits, but seeing their most interesting feud in years fizzle out into this ill-defined tag team squash match feels like a death knell (pun sort of intended). Strowman was a shot in the arm, and then they dumped him on the announce table like he was the Big Show.
So Taker pins Luke Harper with a pretty decent tombstone piledriver, and that’s the finish. Because this match was so poorly explained, I thought it was an elimination match and it took me a moment to realize that it was over. I think the live crowd had the same problem. Remember the end of Taker vs. Lesnar last month? Remember how the entire arena was on its feet, screaming in one voice and clapping louder than any thunder the Dead Man has ever summoned? Yeah, this was…not that. Everybody was just standing around half-heartedly clapping, like “Okay this is the Undertaker so I know I’m supposed to be cheering but was that really it?” Maybe for people nostalgic about the Brothers of Destruction, this was okay, but for people who want to see new talent build momentum and make memories and become something other than fodder for the old guard to feed on, this match was a nightmare.
Technically, the Finish was Kind of a Hug
WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match
Roman Reigns vs. Dean Ambrose
Earlier in the night, there’s this beautifully awkward promo where Ambrose and Reigns are all like “yo, we’re best friends forever, but tonight ain’t about love and hugs, so we’re not gonna hold back or anything.” That’s mostly paraphrased, except for the most ridiculous part, because at some point Roman Reigns turned into Bayley when we weren’t looking. This seems like the perfect setup for that expected heel turn, but I can spoil the suspense right now and tell you that it never comes. At least, not yet. Ambrose comes out in the same ripped t-shirt that he left the ring with earlier in the night, and the former Shield brothers waste no time in setting off the match.
It’s a good match, too. Not quite as good as either of the tournament matches leading up to it, but this is Old Bull Dean Ambrose, wrestling a more urgent, technical style than his usual flail around and run in circles style. He spends a good part of the match working Roman’s arm, which various wrestlers have been working on for the better part of two weeks, but it doesn’t seem to do much. I have a theory that Roman Reigns is either a cyborg, or he thinks he’s a cyborg, because not only does he cock his fist like a gun all the time, but if you watch the way he deals with these constant shoulder injuries, he just mechanically ratchets his arm back and stops selling it like he’s the goddamn Terminator.
Also, tell me that is not the face of a man who wants to turn heel. This is what Reigns looks like after trying and failing to put Ambrose away with a spear and a superman punch. I know they’re trying to fill the Superman void that John Cena has recently vacated, and may one day vacate for good, but tonight they really sowed the seeds for a turn, or at least character development. Something. Abruptly, he hits Ambrose with another spear and gets the pin, but the New Day’s chemical attack on the area was so powerful that the audience doesn’t even have the strength to boo him.
His victory is heralded by a hugely melodramatic confetti-and-fireworks explosion, and you can see tears in Roman’s eyes. For his part, he’s a much better actor when he doesn’t have to recite scripted promos, and he’s aces when he doesn’t have to say anything at all. Triple H comes out and offers his hand, and instead of shaking it, Roman decides to spear him instead. They probably wanted it to be one of those cool face moves, but to me, it looks more like being unprofessional to your boss. What did Triple H do to Roman? He offered him a pass to the top in exchange for being “his man,” and Roman didn’t take it because I guess he doesn’t like being showered in praise and gifts from Mommy and Daddy (since that’s all you really have to do as the Authority’s “man”). Instead, he won the belt fair and square, and Aitch didn’t interfere once. He didn’t even deliver a sarcastic promo. It was just “hey Roman, good show tonight, congratulations, hope you like the confetti blizzard, I made it just for yo-AHHH SPEAR”
Actually, maybe that wasn’t supposed to be a cool face move considering his unprovoked assault on his boss allowed this to happen…
So, this happened. I’m way behind schedule, working on this review almost 24 hours after the Pay-Per-View ended, and I still don’t know how to feel about it. On the one hand, we got the briefcase off of Sheamus and that idiocy is done with. On the other hand, Sheamus successfully pinned Roman after two brogue kicks and is our new WWE World Heavyweight Champion. On the one hand, Roman kicked out of the first pin and dodged a second brogue kick, so at least he put up a fight without going Super Cena and beating Sheamus anyway, because that makes him seem like a tough guy without seeming like an impossibly tough guy. On the other hand, he didn’t consider for a second that Sheamus would try to cash in, he distracted himself by assaulting Triple H for no reason, and Dean Ambrose didn’t even attempt to help him out. On the one hand, this is the perfect time to turn Reigns heel. Just look at his face!
Tell me that is not the face of a man who wants to turn heel. On the other hand…
— Roman Reigns (@WWERomanReigns) November 23, 2015
I dunno. The only positive outcome of this is that it allows Roman to grow as a character, and if this tweet is any indication, this is just white-bread-ass Roman Reigns with another obstacle to beat on his way to the top. I hated this ending a little less than most, but only on the condition that it changed Reigns in some significant way. He even got a sad post-PPV walk of shame to the back, where he slowly unbuckled his body armor to the half-hearted boos of a chemically sedated crowd.
Maybe he is supposed to turn, and the social media department didn’t get the memo. Or maybe I’m just fantasy booking my hopes up again. But it’s not like the WWE to ever hint at a possible storyline and then drop it completely with no explanation or warning.
I’ve heard a lot of people say they’re washing their hands of the whole business after Survivor Series. They’ve decided Sheamus as champ is the worst thing ever, even though before the show Roman Reigns as champ would have been the worst thing ever. People say that this finish negates the whole month-long tournament, and they’re absolutely right. That’s what the Money in the Bank briefcase does. It’s absurd, but as long as Sheamus held it, he was going to negate something someday. I still don’t think Roman is quite ready for a championship run, and I’m optimistic that Sheamus won’t keep the title for long, so I think it could have been worse. Plus, we still had a lot of great PPV-quality matches throughout this tournament, including two on this very program. It all took a nosedive after the New Day gassed everyone (hmmmm, should I really be making all these chemical attack jokes just after a potential terrorist threat was called in?), and everything from the Traditional Survivor Series etc etc match and beyond was okay at best and abominable at worst. I still don’t feel like I hated this PPV as much as the average bear. But I’m a newer wrestling fan. Maybe I can just stomach this a little better because I haven’t seen it happen so many times, or because I have NXT and Lucha Underground Season 2 (someday) and main roster WWE just kills the time in-between. Anyway, that was Survivor Series. Tune in next month for Tables, Ladders, Chairs, Stairs, and Televisions.
- Reigns vs. Del Rio
- Ambrose vs. Owens
- Breeze vs. Ziggler
- Charlotte vs. Paige’s Popularity
- Impromptu Traditional 5 on 5 Tag Team Sole Survivor Series Elimination Match
- The Undertaker’s Anniversary Party