Everything old is new again.
Everything old is new again.

I didn’t want to do it. I just didn’t want to order Survivor Series, but I felt like I had to. WWE didn’t exactly do a great job in building storylines to make us, the fans, emotionally involved with.. well, really anything going on in WWE right now. No, the John Cena ‘return from injury’ story didn’t hook me. No, I don’t give a crap about Big Show; and yes, I’m still stuck on how Daniel Bryan was unceremoniously removed from the title picture. I know I’m not alone with that opinion, but more on that later. The Survivor Series matches were a bit thrown together, but that’s how they historically have been for the most part. Even a big match I should be excited for, involving the best wrestlers in the company (CM Punk, Daniel Bryan) and a man whose words are ever intriguing (Bray Wyatt), felt like it was sloppily thrown together with no real end game in sight. Can you blame me for not being sold on any of this?

Not because of excitement for the event itself, but because of tradition, we bought the PPV tonight. For the last few years, some friends and I have gotten together the Sunday of Survivor Series to cook up a delicious turducken and watch some football followed by professional wrestling. Turducken Sunday is a big deal, and we’re not about to change things by skipping out on that last key ingredient, even when the draw just isn’t there.

We had high hopes for the turducken and low expectations for Survivor Series, and frankly – we weren’t surprised.

Tonight, we saw Big Show face off against Randy Orton in a “blockbuster match up” for the WWE Championship. This should be a big deal, right? Well, neither man got a lot of cheers or jeers when their names were announced, and within a few minutes the two of them managed to get a “BORING” chant out of the Boston crowd. How could this possibly happen? Well, since SummerSlam, WWE had built up a storyline that started off as hot and exciting. Daniel Bryan got screwed out of the WWE Championship, and over the course of three PPV’s he kept getting screwed out of it as The Authority groomed their champion, Randy Orton. Ultimately, Orton was awarded the belt, and Big Show was granted a shot at the title without any true conclusion to the “screw Daniel Bryan” storyline. He just had to accept his defeat, and so did we. Frankly, that’s insulting. It’s no wonder the crowd became so hostile during this match – as the “Daniel Bryan” and “BORING” chants grew louder, you could tell it was affecting the wrestlers. Undoubtedly, Vince McMahon himself ordered the match to be sped up – at least that’s the way it appeared. What should have been pretty big moments in the match came in quick succession with a rather lackluster finish (don’t even try to tell me Orton came close to making that punt look convincing) and plenty of time left in the hour.

After all was said and done, John Cena (who had retained the World Heavyweight Championship earlier in the night) came down to the ring to stare down Randy Orton, as The Authority looked on with approval. It’s quite clear that they’re setting up a unification match between these two men sometime in the near future. There are two sides to that coin. On the negative side, do we really want more Cena and Orton? Their feuds from 2007-2009 weren’t exactly awe inspiring, yet here we go again. On the positive side, we’ve complained on more than one occasion about the dilution of championship status in WWE. With so many belts, and really just one weekly show (SmackDown isn’t really used to advance story lines the way it once was), the World Heavyweight Championship had become a second tier championship, on par with the way the Intercontinental Championship had historically been seen. To eliminate the WHC would give more meaning to the IC and even to the other traditional “mid card” belt – the United States Championship. Ultimately, I hope that is the case. Do we have to sit through another Cena / Orton feud to get there? It seems to be the case. But another positive spin on this situation – it’s not something that’s likely to be dragged on to WrestleMania. This will play out in the coming weeks, with some sort of false conclusion at Tables Ladders and Chairs in December – and with an undisputed champion finally crowned at the Royal Rumble, just as the Road to WrestleMania starts to become clearer.

Maybe that gives another opportunity for Daniel Bryan to become involved. Maybe not.

On to the rest of what we saw tonight, which overall provided some pretty decent matches, for what it’s worth:

  • Mark Henry returned to challenge Ryback and won decisively. Mark’s got a new Rick Ross look, and he’s looking pretty spry – which is a good sign after returning from an injury.
  • Big E Langston defended the Intercontinental Championship against Curtis Axel. Look for Axel to show up at the Impact Zone soon!
  • The Miz defeated Kofi Kingston in the kickoff match. Ho hum.
  • The Total Divas defeated the non-Total Divas in a rather strange (but eh, could have been worse) match. Most of the eliminations took place in what seemed to be about three minutes. There was a barrage of “move / pinfall / next entrant / move pinfall / etc”. Eventually, Natalya made AJ tap out. I’m a bit bummed out about the direction of the Divas division. Rather than rely on potentially intriguing storylines within the confines of Raw (example: the evolving relationship between AJ and her lady-Diesel, Tamina), they are heavily utilizing the “reality” show Total Divas from E! to try and unite the demographics and draw in a larger audience. I have a certain level of respect for that angle, but it seems a bit insulting to the hard work these women put into their development.
  • The Shield & The Real Americans defeated The Usos, The Rhodes, and Rey Mysterio. Roman Reigns was made to look like a star in this match as he finished off the last babyface, Rey Mysterio, with a reversal of the 619 into a killer spear.
  • CM Punk and Daniel Bryan def Erick Rowan and Luke Harper. I’m conflicted about this match. On one hand, I loved to see these four matched up. On the other, the build up left a lot to be desired. It all started with Punk and Bryan being attacked on Raw, which coincided with Bryan being pulled out of the main storyline. It seemed like they might distract us with something compelling, as Bray told the audience “the devil made me do it”. Ultimately, there was no devil besides Bray, and they got matched up at Survivor Series I guess as a sort of revenge for the initial beat down. Compelling stuff, right there.
  • John Cena retained the World Heavyweight Championship over Alberto Del Rio. A big part of the reason the WHC has seemed to hold so little value, especially in this past year, is that ADR has been a part of the WHC picture for pretty much the entirety of 2013. That’s not to say ADR isn’t a capable wrestler – he is. The problem has been his one sided character and the lack of compelling storylines.

As a final point, this in itself is a shining example of what’s gone wrong with WWE. Character development and well crafted plots can work in pro wrestling. Look at Survivor Series 1998 – Deadly Game, for a prime example. The championship was in peril, just as it is today. Many storylines were built up to converge as a single elimination championship tournament was booked to crown the new champion. Mick Foley and The Rock’s characters were built up, as Stone Cole Steve Austin suffered the brunt of an imposing regime. There were intriguing plot points and some gargantuan swerves by the finish of the event, and we were left with a scene that got people talking and excited for watching Monday Night Raw the following night.

The level of excitement going into the newly developing unification picture isn’t anywhere on the same level as it was 15 years ago. The talent worked their butts off tonight to try and overcome issues with creative and lack of compelling storylines. There’s only so much they can do, though. It has to be effective on both the creative side and with the in ring product. WWE’s got some work ahead of them if we are going to come around.

Joshua Schlag

For most of the last 30+ years of my life, I've been watching WWE. As a kid, Monday Night Raw hooked me from the start. From Bret Hart and Razor Ramon, to Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock, to CM Punk and Daniel Bryan.. I've witnessed the ups and downs and I'm proud to have enjoyed pro wrestling through the years.

Though I now watch in a much different fashion than I did when I was a kid (finding out Vince McMahon was the owner and Jack Tunney no more than a figurehead was like finding out Santa Claus did not exist), I feel like I have a much greater appreciation for the hard work pro wrestlers do and the things they sacrifice to entertain us.

It's still real to me, dammit!