The 25th anniversary of WWE Survivor Series is this Sunday. Still considered one of the “Top 4” PPVs of WWE’s calendar year (joining Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, and SummerSlam), it’s an event deeply seated in tradition and honor.
It’s also been home to some of the biggest “what the f--k?” moments in WWE history.
In my estimation, Survivor Series is sort of the unofficial closure for the storylines of the summer. Last year, the red-hot-and-refreshing-turned-pointless-and-milquetoast Nexus angle was really ended at Survivor Series (with the final kabosh put on it at TLC, where John Cena performed the dastardly act of spilling thirty or so chairs on top of a large, oversized dolley that Wade Barrett was safely nestled underneath), and I’m expecting some closure with a few angles at this year’s event while we begin to kick off the Road to WrestleMania in December/January. This year’s card could really go one way or the other. It could be a great event, full of plot twists, or they could miss the mark entirely on some fairly important storylines, as they are wont to do. Let’s take a look at the current card and see what we’re in store for, shall we?
WWE United States Championship: Dolph Ziggler (c) vs. John Morrison
It physically pained me to type “vs. John Morrison” up there rather than Zack Ryder, but I’m going to go against the grain here and give WWE the benefit of the doubt. Surely they can’t really be THIS stupid…can they? Zack Ryder has pinned Ziggler multiple times over the course of the last few weeks, has literally petitioned for a title shot, and is one of the most popular wrestlers on the roster completely despite himself. A horrible gimmick with “future endeavored” written all over it along with next to zero airtime would be a career death sentence for literally anybody else in the business, but somehow Ryder turned it into absolute gold. And he’s being snubbed for a United States Championship match…for John Morrison?
I cannot take this match at face value. What we see simply cannot be what we’re getting. Like I said, I’m going to give WWE the benefit of the doubt here and say that Zack Ryder weasels his way into the match, whether it’s from Teddy Long’s inexplicable powers over a RAW title, his petition somehow granting him clout when it comes to matchmaking, or some other bizarre, tacked-on method, and I say that he comes out the US Champion. It’s really the only solution here. Ziggler has outgrown the US Championship, and the mid-card in general. He needs to work his way into main events. He could be a great foil to CM Punk once del Rio runs out of steam (which was like, two months ago. More on that later.) And according to multiple dirt-sheet reports, John Morrison is basically on his way out of the company. What would anybody possibly gain by having Morrison go over here? He basically sealed his fate when he took his trollop of a girlfriend’s side after she bashed Trish Stratus for “stealing her spotlight” at WrestleMania. “Hey, you know what’ll get us over? Bitching about, and putting down, the most beloved female to ever work for this company!”
Don’t you look at me like that! YOU DID THIS!
So as Zack Ryder’s ex-girlfriend Princess Leia would say, “Help us, Obi-Wan KeBroski, you’re our only hope.”
PREDICTION: I’m taking the wild card: Zack Ryder as your NEW United States Champion. #manhattanscrewjob
WWE Divas Championship Lumberjill Match: Beth Phoenix (c) vs. Eve Torres
This contest will likely be second or third on the card, just in time for your normal beer run/bathroom break. And honestly, it sucks. It sucks because I want to like the Divas division. I’m a huge fan of Trish Stratus, Lita, and the other divas of yesteryear, and I really liked LayCool this time last year. And then, once LayCool broke up at Extreme Rules in the spring, the divas division has been entirely worthless save for a month-long Kharma hype-fest, which ended up being dropped suddenly when she found out she had been knocked up, presumably in a fashion that could have landed her a starring role in an episode of “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant”.
“How in the hell did that just come out of me?!”
You have to figure the landscape of the Divas division would be drastically different had Kharma not split so suddenly. In her absence, we have Natalya and Beth Phoenix playing the roles of alpha-female, snarling beast-women that would have invariably been Kharma’s job, which would be fine, but for some inexplicable reason, they lose all the damn time. The juxtaposition of building up two women as unstoppable monsters superior to everyone else on the roster, while at the same time having them job day-in, day-out to a model-turned, well, “model who attempts to wrestle” not only doesn’t work, it’s just absolutely ridiculous. Why is Natalya getting beaten via roll-up by Alicia Fox every week? More importantly, where the hell has Alicia Fox been in the past six months? At least she has a new theme that isn’t an instrumental, slightly corrupted version of “Hot In Here”, because that was just straight ig’nant. And it reminded me of WCW’s horrible themes, where they would just take popular alt-rock songs, modify one or two chords and call it a day, as if Jimmy Hart was doing his best Vanilla Ice impression while composing WCW’s themes.
But I digress. The overarching problem with this match is no fault of either Beth Phoenix nor Eve. Both are competent, athletic wrestlers. The problem is that the Divas Championship is less valuable than the toy at the bottom of a box of Cracker Jacks. So expect this match to be a decent back-and-forth, but expect the outcome to not really matter at all, because honestly, how could it?
PREDICTION: Beth Phoenix to retain. She needs to hold the belt for a while if they’re gonna build the division into anything before Kharma’s return.
Team Orton (Randy Orton, Sheamus, Mason Ryan, Kofi Kingston, and Sin Cara) vs. Team Barrett (Wade Barrett, Cody Rhodes, Dolph Ziggler, Jack Swagger, and Hunico)
Conspicuously missing from Team Orton is Kingston’s tag team partner, Evan Bourne, who is diligently serving his 30-day suspension for failing a drug test. It’s just like his theme song goes, “Some were born to fiiiiiight, some were born to siiiiiiiinnngggg, I was born to get baked off fake weed, and jeopardize the only significant push I’ve ever receeeeiiivvveeedd!.” Also missing is Christian, who legitimately injured himself at a house show during the European tour a week back. Bummer. So we have Ziggler pulling double-duty for the second PPV in a row. And people say he ISN’T getting pushed enough?
This match should be alright, but I really wish we could see Cody defend his Intercontinental championship, umm, ever. Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t his last defense against DiBiase at Night of Champions…in September? Oh, no, I’m sorry, he also defended in mid-October against John Morrison at Hell in a Cell…in a completely unadvertised, last-minute squash match where Cody wrestled in street clothes. I really dig Cody’s vows to bring prestige back to the Intercontinental strap, and I REALLY dig his resurrection of the classic belt design. But it’s not enough to simply state that someone is bringing prestige to a belt. It has to be shown. Rhodes has had a fantastic feud against Randy Orton the past couple months; why not make the Intercontinental title part of that storyline? Having the second-most popular guy on the roster fighting for the IC strap would instantly bring prestige back to it, so why not? You want to make the mid-card belts look credible, so here’s a crazy idea: Give the champion a credible challenger.
On the subject of the Rhodes/Orton feud, why is Barrett the leader of the heel team and not Rhodes? Cody Rhodes has been absolutely on fire lately, but I fear they’re just going to do what they normally do, and that’s seemingly forget what they were doing halfway through an angle and completely derail a good thing going. Wade Barrett claims he is in the midst of an unstoppable winning streak he has dubbed the “Barrett Barrage”. I like Barrett, and I think he’s a future star, but let’s take a look at the last few weeks. Does squashing Daniel Bryan, then squashing Trent Barreta, then piggybacking on Christian’s feud with Sheamus, then inexplicably getting shoehorned into a cheap win against Orton in a main event really constitute a “Barrage”? Does that make him more interesting than Cody Rhodes? No. Well, it might now, since they’ve seemingly ended Rhodes’ amazing “disfigured” gimmick, butt-rock-ified his theme song and just made him a generic “aggressive heel”.
Throw in Swagger, who is talented but just lacks anything even resembling creative direction, Mason Ryan, who is greener than the synthetic grass Evan Bourne was smoking to earn himself a month off, and the Sin Cara/Hunico feud which people honestly seem like they couldn’t care any less about (the non-reaction Hunico received on Monday was deafening), and you’ve got a traditional Survivor Series match with some potential, but a lot of things working against it.
PREDICTION: The heels should win here, but I have a feeling Team RKO is going to prevail.
World Heavyweight Championship Match: Mark Henry (c) vs. Big Show
If you told me even a year ago that I would think that Mark Henry was the most credible, believable, and compelling World Heavyweight Champion in recent memory, I’d ask if I could nicely partake in whatever the hell it was that you were smoking. But here we are, in the year 2011, where Mark Henry is an absolute beast, and one of the better mic workers on SmackDown to boot. Big Show on the other hand hasn’t interested me in the slightest since the Clinton administration. Also, I’d usually rather be brutally waterboarded than watch a punch-and-headbutt slugfest between two super-heavyweights, but amazingly, these two veteran behemoths had a very engaging match at Vengeance, even if you take away the Lesnar homage that was the ring collapsing after a superplex. Can they put together another entertaining match? I honestly don’t know. This match needs to happen though, and hopefully it ends their feud. Mark Henry should go over here. He realistically should keep the belt until WrestleMania.
PREDICTION: Mark Henry goes over here and retains the World Heavyweight Championship.
WWE Championship Match: Alberto del Rio (c) vs. CM Punk
It goes without saying that CM Punk is the most complete “total package” in the WWE right now (apologies to Lex Luger). He single-handedly kicked off this whole “Reality Era” we’re apparently in now, and even though WWE has managed to fail to capitalize on a lot of his steam, he’s still one of the hottest properties in pro wrestling right now. He’s great in the ring, amazing on the mic, compelling, charismatic, and has a deep understanding of the business. Enter: Alberto del Rio. del Rio is a guy I was really high on when he first broke onto the scene in late 2010. His cartoonish, Razor Ramon-esque character is refreshing in a “what’s old is new again” kinda way. And he’s certainly talented in the ring.
That said, if I hear one more time that something was his “destiny”, I’m just gonna lose it. His promos have gone from refreshing to not unlike watching paint dry. He’s great in the ring, but in every other aspect he comes off as completely flat and one-dimensional. I think he’ll be a major player in a couple of years, but he was thrown into the World Title picture WAY too soon. So here we are with another pointless, uninspired feud for El Patron, despite CM Punk’s best efforts to make the WWE Championship picture “interesting again”.
Whatever happened to storylines? With very few exceptions, everything these days is just “I’m gonna kick your ass because A) You have the championship I want, B) I think I’m better than you, or C) Because we were thrown into a match for no real reason and that’s what you do. That’s why the whole CM Punk saga this summer/early fall was so refreshing. But sadly, it seems like Punk has been thrown back into the “soul-crushing status quo” he was so adamantly crusading against. That said, he needs to win the title here to keep any modicum of steam he has left going. I don’t necessarily want del Rio to fade into obscurity as nothing more than a transitional, Paper Champion, but I don’t really see another option until he’s a bit more seasoned.
PREDICTION: CM Punk as your NEW WWE Champion.
The Rock & John Cena vs. The Miz & R-Truth
And finally, we come to the match featuring the sole reason 90% of people are going to consider purchasing this PPV: The Rock. Stepping into the ring to compete for the first time since teaming up with Mick Foley in a losing effort against Evolution at WrestleMania XX (almost eight years ago, if you’re keeping score), The Rock is returning to the arena and event that he debuted at exactly fifteen years ago. It’s the kind of perfect, poetic justice you’d expect from a return for The Great One, especially with how much brown-nosing Vince McMahon has been doing in his regards as of late, seemingly begging him shamelessly to return as a full-time wrestler. The Rock is almost unarguably in even better shape than he was the last time he competed regularly, but he’s going to have to fight off both ring rust and two opponents he’s never gone against in The Miz and R-Truth.
Sadly, The Miz and R-Truth do not matter in this match at all. The Rock and John Cena may as well be fighting Kai En Tai for how wholly irrelevant their opponents are; the story here entirely focuses on the rivalry between the leader of CeNation and The People’s Champion.
The main even of next year’s WrestleMania has already been set for about nine months now, which is unprecedented. They’re pushing this story above everything else, and while its an almost impossible task to keep people interested in a storyline for that long—especially when the bigger draw of the angle only appears on television “via satellite” once every four months—but they’ve done a surprisingly good job with it. It’s a classic, uncomplicated pitting between the new school and the old school; the silver-tongued icon of the Attitude Era with a penchant for a “special” kind of pie vs. the squeaky-clean, Fruity Pebbles ingesting face of the PG movement. It’s a battle between two of the biggest superstars in the history of wrestling, but it’s also representative of the generational differences WWE struggles with on a near daily basis at this point.
But before this epic clash, we get The Rock’s warmup match at one of the Big 4. As I said, it may as well be The Rock and John Cena vs. Barry Horowitz and Duke “The Dumpster” Drose, because I don’t think I could possibly conceive of a worse way to book The Miz and R-Truth leading up to this match. The “Awesome Truth” has been amazing lately; a perfect mix of anarchy, violence, and surprisingly funny humor. But ever since The Rock was officially revealed as John Cena’s partner at Survivor Series a month ago (when, curiously, WWE has been advertising the match online for the past six months), they have just been flat-out humiliated and 100% devalued on television. On the Halloween edition of RAW, one week after Cena—supposedly in a moment of extreme desperation—chose his most hated rival in The Rock as his tag team partner as the only possible way to ever defeat the combined forces of The Miz and R-Truth, John Cena handily took them both out with complete ease. The next week? Miz scored a surprise pinfall after R-Truth held Cena’s legs down. And Cena wasn’t even angry! He just gave a dopey, “Ahh, ya got me, ya rascals!” smirk, completely unharmed. And then finally last week, the “main event” was John Cena and The Rock fighting over who got to perform their finishing moves on The Awesome Truth, like two five-year-olds fighting over a Hulk Hogan Wrestling Buddy.
“It’s MY turn to make an open mockery of the mere notion that these guys could pose even a remote threat to us!” “No, it’s MY TURN!”
The other element to this match is the ever-present “Cena’s gonna turn heel” sentiment that every wrestling fan seemingly gets stuck in their heads around this time of year. Will he? I doubt it. How could he? He gets booed by 75% of the audience anyway, and he openly hates and is facing the only other face in the match. Where in this formula does a Cena heel turn fit in? Short of Cena somehow aligning with John Laurinaitis and going corporate in some sad, second-rate recreation of The Rock’s epic alignment with Vince McMahon at Survivor Series 1998, I just don’t see it happening. WWE is in such a strange place, wherein the face of the company also happens to be one of the most universally loathed members of the roster. How could a heel turn have any impact? Maybe we should instead be focusing on turning Cena FACE. Now that would be an accomplishment.
PREDICTION: The Rock gets the pinfall, no doubt about it. Shenanigans ensue between Rock and Cena. Miz and R-Truth disintegrate into piles of worthless dust before our very eyes.
So there you have it. Play along at home on Sunday if you’d like to make me feel bad about myself for how hilariously wrong my predictions turn out to be, and be sure to weigh in with your own predictions in the comments.