Survivor Series: Through The Years (Part 5)
by Scrooge McSuck
- Last time, we covered the black hole era of wrestling for me, where we covered the Survivor Series between the years 2005 and 2010, including the first-ever Raw vs. Smackdown Elimination Match (for BRAND SUPREMACY!), and mostly mediocre results. We finally wrap things up with the remaining shows, except for the 2017 edition, of course. That recap is fresh enough to not warrant a rehash two weeks later.
Survivor Series '11 – November 20th, 2011 (Madison Square Garden; New York City, NY)
Highs: Even though the match quality of the Main Event seemed like nothing special, the unlikely team of John Cena and The Rock definitely generated interest and was a cool thing to see (see also: Michaels and Hogan tagging at Backlash '05 in another mediocre match that was tons of fun to watch). Howard Finkel being brought out to be CM Punk's personal ring announcer was great, as was the match that kicked off Punk's "modern era" record of 434 days as WWE Champion. The 5-on-5 Match was the usual "fun to watch, not much to say otherwise" performance, except for a horrible botch from Sin Cara (shocked?) that sidelined him for nearly half-a-year.
- Dolph Ziggler def. John Morrison to retain the US Title **1/4
- Beth Phoenix def. Eve Torres to retain the Divas Title in a Lumberjack Match *
- Wade Barrett, Dolph Ziggler, Cody Rhodes, Jack Swagger, and Hunico def. Randy Orton, Sheamus, Kofi Kingston, Sin Cara, and Mason Ryan [Survivors: Barrett and Rhodes] ***
- Big Show def. World Heavyweight Champion Mark Henry by DQ *
- CM Punk def. Alberto Del Rio for the WWE Title ***1/2
- John Cena & The Rock def. Awesome Truth *1/2
Lows: Howard Finkel's surprise appearance, where he was visibly moved by the crowd response, was buried on commentary by Michael Cole, who was going through his obnoxious heel phase that entertained fewer people than clean-cut babyface Michael Cole. Big Show and Mark Henry had a completely forgettable match for the World Heavyweight Title, the Women's Championship was a 4-minute rush job with little crowd heat, and the only memorable parts about the opening match was the crowd trying to hijack it with chants of Zack Ryder, you know, the guy who reached for the brass ring and was told that rule only applies to people Vince McMahon wanted to push.
Random Notes and Tidbits: The last WWE Pay-Per-View to be held at Madison Square Garden. With very few exceptions, almost all of the WWE's stops at MSG are "Live Event exclusive" due to costs of running shows in he building... In another "last" for MSG, CM Punk is to date, the last man to win the WWE Title at the Garden... Santino Marella defeated FUTURE WORLD CHAMPION Jinder Mahal in the Dark Match... Dolph Ziggler became only the second man to work double duty at a Survivor Series (subbing for Christian in the 5-on-5 match), the last being the Big Show in 1999... Randy Orton continues his streak of either winning an Elimination Match or being the last man eliminated from his team.
Overall Rating: C+
Looking at the match ratings, only two matches stand out as above average. The Main Event Tag gets somewhat of a pass for the sake of the Cena/Rock super-team, but is by no means a must-see match 6 years later. Once again, with so few matches featured annually, the filler is the make or break, and here, there's nothing that stands out that would make the show much more enjoyable. You'd think Ziggler/Morrison would've been better, but both are inconsistent in the ring, especially when the crowd is pooping on the company in the background. I can't recommend this either way, because there's nothing too awful, but not much that was good enough to push it as a can't miss show when the WWE Network hosts countless shows better than this one.
Survivor Series '12 – November 18th, 2012 (Bankers Life Fieldhouse; Indianapolis, IN)
Highs: If there's one thing to take away from this Survivor Series, it's the debut of Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, and Seth Rollins, running interference for CM Punk and helping him retain the WWE Championship (thankfully, they left their "Shield" shields backstage). Team Dolph vs. Team Foley (don't ask, there was a reason, damn if I can remember anymore) was pretty solid and Dolph got a big win on a Pay-Per-View for once. The opener was a pleasant surprise, and Sheamus vs. Big Show was much better than I anticipated.
- Brodus Clay, Justin Gabriel, Tyson Kidd, Rey Mysterio, and Sin Cara def. Tensai, Titus O'Neil, Darren Young, Epico, and Primo [Survivors: Kidd, Gabriel, Mysterio, and Sin Cara] **1/2
- Eve Torres def. Kaitlyn to retain the Divas Title ½*
- Antonio Cesaro def. R-Truth to retain the US Title **
- Sheamus def. World Heavyweight Champion Big Show by DQ **1/2
- Dolph Ziggler, Alberto Del Rio, Damien Sandow, Wade Barrett, and David Otunga def. Randy Orton, The Miz, Daniel Bryan, Kane, and Kofi Kingston [Survivor: Dolph Ziggler] ***1/4
- CM Punk def. Ryback and John Cena to retain the WWE Title ***1/2
Lows: The Women's Division continues to be one of the weakest parts of any given show, even when it isn't sandwiched as the designated piss-break match. We're in the PG Era, which means they had to distance themselves from degrading gimmick matches, leaving us with attractive women who were mostly unremarkable at the actual work that comes from being a professional wrestler. Cesaro and R-Truth seems like filler left-over from a recent taping of Superstars, and definitely didn't feel like it belonged on PPV.
Random Notes and Tidbits: Seth Rollins was the reigning NXT Champion when he debuted alongside Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns... Heath Slater and Jinder Mahal defeated Zack Ryder and Santino Marella in he Pre-Show Match...The opening match (a 5-on-5 Elimination Match of undercard geeks) was literally added with little notice or promotion... David Otunga was a last-minute replacement for Cody Rhodes, who suffered a concussion in a match with Kane earlier in the week... CM Punk pitched for Chris Hero/Kassius Ohno to be a member of the Shield, but Roman Reigns ended up being hand-selected by Helmsley and McMahon, instead... Tensai, formerly Prince Albert/A-Train, makes his first Survivor Series appearance since 2003... ONCE AGAIN, Randy Orton is the last man eliminated on his Survivor Series Team.
Overall Rating: B-
How many times can I say a Survivor Series was entertaining, but nothing spectacular? Considering the limitations of one of the men in the Main Event, the match came off well and featured a memorable debut with three ready-made top-of-the-card workers. Both Survivor Series Elimination Matches were at the very least, fun to watch, even though there was a storyline going on with Foley and Ziggler's teams that went nowhere. Other than Torres vs. Kaitlyn, nothing was too bad. Mild recommendation to give this one a look.
Survivor Series '13 – November 24th, 2013 (TD Garden; Boston, MA)
Highs: The opening match, featuring Roman Reigns plowing through the other team like a mad man, is one of the few bright spots on the show. Remember when the crowd got behind him for this and breaking Kane's record for most eliminations in 2014, then chanted FOR him over Batista? Yeah, some fans are complete hypocrites. John Cena and Alberto Del Rio delivered a decent match, but never seemed to have the chemistry to get beyond that level. With those two matches out of the way, I've gone to the well as much as I can for anything good to say, except for back-handed compliments.
- Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Jack Swagger, and Cesaro def. Cody Rhodes, Goldust, Rey Mysterio, Jimmy and Jey Uso [Survivor: Roman Reigns] ***1/2
- Big E. Langston def. Curtis Axel to retain the IC Title *1/2
- Nikki Bella, Brie Bella, Natalya, Eva Marie, Cameron, Naomi, and JoJo def. A.J. Lee, Alicia Fox, Kaitlyn, Aksana, Tamina Snuka, Summer Rae, and Rosa Mendes [Survivors: Nikki and Natalya] DUD
- Mark Henry def. Ryback *1/4
- John Cena def. Alberto Del Rio to retain the World Heavyweight Title ***
- CM Punk & Daniel Bryan def. The Wyatt Family **1/2
- Randy Orton def. Big Show to retain the WWE Title ½*
Lows: Plenty. Remember when WWE had Big Show adopt Daniel Bryan's "Yes!" routine, and the crowd completely dumped on it, and when the Authority rewrote their own storyline and Big Show's Iron-clad contract wasn't so iron after all? Yeah, I could go on and on, but to make a long story short (too late), the Main Event SUCKED. I don't say that a lot these days, but it was one of the worst in recent history. The Women's 7-on-7 match was a rushed mess, designed only to promote the new show on the E! Network, Total Divas (including putting barely trained hacks like JoJo and Eva Marie in the ring along with barely functional trainees like Cameron and Aksana). Punk and Bryan vs. Harper, Rowan, and Wyatt was the biggest disappointment of 2013, and the rest of the card was meaningless filler (remember when CURTIS AXEL was Intercontinental Champion?!).
Random Notes and Tidbits: The Miz defeated Kofi Kingston on the Pre-Show... JoJo made her one-and-only appearance in a Pay-Per-View Match, and was soon relegated to doing interviews and ring introductions (and Bray Wyatt, hiyoooo!)... Goldust worked at his first Survivor Series since 2002 (as part of the pre-show match), and if you want to get more technical, since 1998... Roman Reigns was the first man to pin four opponents from a Survivor Series team, and was the first time a heel team came back from a significant deficit.
Overall Rating: D
Two above average matches save this from the toilet. Yes, I hated the Main Event that much, that I probably gave this a much harsher rating than usual because of it. The opening match is worth watching because it does a great job of pushing Roman Reigns as a star, but turn the damn show off at that point. CM Punk sleepwalking through a match, no heat for most of the undercard, and the worst Main Event since Survivor Series 2008 (specifically HHH vs. Kozlov) makes this an easy show to recommend avoiding.
Survivor Series '14 – November 23rd, 2014 (Scottrade Center; St. Louis, MO)
Highs: Even though WWE bungled the booking and handling of his future appearances, the highly anticipated debut of Sting will always be the moment that stands out from this show, even outshining an otherwise excellent Main Event where Dolph Ziggler pulled off a fantastic underdog performance that was rewarded with a lack of push for the next 18 months. Wyatt and Ambrose had a perfectly fine match in he middle of the card, and the opener featured the unlikely duo of The Miz and his stunt double, Damien Mizdow (formerly Sandow) winning the titles, with Mizdow pulling his best Zack Ryder impersonation, getting over with the crowd despite the brass ring rules not applying to people like him (people that Vince never intended to push).
- The Miz and Damien Mizdow def. Goldust & Stardust, Los Matadores, and The Usos to win the Tag Team Titles **1
- Alicia Fox, Emma, Naomi, and Natalya def. Paige, Cameron, Layla, and Summer Raw [Survivors: Team Fox] *
- Bray Wyatt def. Dean Ambrose by DQ ***
- Adam Rose & The Bunny def. Heath Slater & Titus O'Neil ½*
- Nikki Bella def. A.J. Lee for the Divas Title DUD
- John Cena, Ryback, Big Show, Dolph Ziggler, and Erick Rowan) def. Seth Rollins, Mark Henry, Rusev, Luke Harper, and Corporate Kane [Survivor: Dolph Ziggler] ****1/2
Lows: Watching the show again, three years later, WHAT WAS I SMOKING, giving that Women's Match a favorable rating? I must've been short on sleep to consider a sloppy mess like that "good" based on the original rating. Brie Bella randomly turning heel to help her sister defeat A.J. Lee made no sense, and kicked off a record setting reign that was designed only to erase A.J.'s name from the top of the list, with Nikki barely defending the title in the last 3 months before losing it. The less said about Adam Rose and THE BUNNY, the better. Don't worry, it wasn't a highly promoted match, it was added at the last minute, like Swagger vs. Cesaro, even though a storyline coming into the show was that Swagger couldn't be on Cena's team due to an attack.
Random Notes and Tibits: Two matches were featured on the Kickoff Show: Fandango defeated Justin Gabriel, and Jack Swagger defeated former partner Cesaro...Sting made his WWE debut at the age of 54 years and 7 months old, nearly three decades after beginning his wrestling career... The WWE Network offered the first "free month" deal, with Survivor Series part of the scheduling block... Brock Lesnar to date is the only WWE Champion to not appear at a Survivor Series... 2014 was the first time since 2005 where an Elimination Match closed the show... Natalya became the first woman to survive more than one Elimination Match... Kane/Glen Jacobs set a record for NINE elimination match appearances without a victory.
Overall Rating: B
The first two hours of the show was largely forgettable, with only one match that could be considered Pay-Per-View worthy, and even that one ended with a bull-crap finish designed to extend the program until the next PPV. Then we got what would easily be considered a show-saving match, featuring hard work, great story-telling, and a memorable debut that had a bunch of grown men jumping up and down like 6-year old marks. Even with the high rating, I'd only recommend watching the Main Event, and skipping the rest, unless you're one of the two fans of the Bunny.
Survivor Series '15 – November 22nd, 2015 (Philips Arena; Atlanta, GA)
- Roman Reigns def. Alberto Del Rio **1/2
- Dean Ambrose def. Kevin Owens ***
- Jimmy and Jey Uso, Kalisto, Sin Cara, and Ryback def. King Barrett, Sheamus, Kofi Kingston, Big E, and Xavier Woods [Survivors: Jey Uso, Kalisto, Ryback] *1/2
- Charlotte def. Paige to retain the Divas Title ***1/4
- Tyler Breeze def. Dolph Ziggler **
- The Undertaker and Kane def. Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper *
- Roman Reigns def. Dean Ambrose for the Vacant WWE Title **1/2
- Sheamus def. Roman Reigns for the WWE Title
Highs: The 2015 marked the "25th Anniversary" of The Undertaker, which means he gets to shine front and center with kayfabe half-brother, Kane, and fights the Wyatt Family, back when Bray was only considered a joke by the minority of wrestling fans. The idea of crowning a new Champion via Elimination Tournament is a great idea, and played out well on television. Paige and Charlotte had the best match of the night, as we've finally entered an era where the old stink of poor women's wrestling was starting to be washed away.
Lows: Unfortunately, no matter how good Paige vs. Charlotte was, the match was overshadowed by the tasteless angle where Paige, to generate heel heat, took a shot at Charlotte's brother Reid dying from a drug overdose. By the time Survivor Series took place, that part of the angle was thankfully ignored, but the damage was already done. Reigns vs. Ambrose as a Tournament Final would barely qualify as a good TV Main Event, let alone as the crowning match of a Championship Tournament on PPV. To cap it off, Reigns' big moment was ruined when Sheamus successfully cashed in his Money in the Bank Briefcase, when a successful defense, even with odds against him, would've done more in getting Roman over than making him look like a geek.
Random Notes and Tidbits: The Dudley Boyz, Goldust, Neville, and Titus O'Neil defeated The Miz, Bo Dallas, Stardust, and The Ascension in a Kickoff Elimination Match, with only Neville eliminated from his team... The Dudley Boyz competed in their first Survivor Series match since 2003... The 2015 Survivor Series is the second time in the PPV history to feature a tournament to crown a new champion (1998 being the first time)... Roman Reigns' first reign as WWE Champion lasted a whopping 5:15... Kane and Undertaker teamed up for the first time in a traditional setting on PPV since their infamous match with KroniK at Unforgiven '01.
Overall Rating: D
The concept of Survivor Series is once again compromised, with one meaningless undercard (and I'm talking scraping the barrel) Elimination Match, and a tournament that only features the Final Four. You'd think keeping it to a limited number of matches would mean longer matches, but nope, three short matches (for the WWE Network Era PPV's) to crown a Champion that only held the title for as long as it takes to boil water. Every match that promised something failed to deliver except for one, and that match had the stink of a tasteless angle attached to it. Strong recommendation to avoid this stinker.
Survivor Series '16 – November 20th, 2016 (Air Canada Centre; Toronto, Ontario)
Highs: A strong show from start to finish. Three elimination matches, featuring a Raw vs. Smackdown storyline, means this is the most of the gimmick matches to be featured on the PPV namesake since 2006, and unlike 2006, all three were at worst good, and at best excellent, especially the men's 5-on-5 featuring clever booking, sensible eliminations, a brief Shield Reunion (despite 2 on 1 team, and 1 on the other), and attempted murders of James Ellsworth and Shane McMahon. Goldberg's complete annihilation of Brock harkens back to the days of Celebrity Deathmatch, when the Loch Ness Monster defeated Big Foot before Nick Diamond could return from concession, expecting a marathon of a slobber-knocker.
- Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks, Bayley, Nia Jax, and Alicia Fox def. Becky Lynch, Natalya. Naomi, Alexa Bliss, and Carmella [Survivors: Charlotte and Bayley] ***
- The Miz def. Sami Zayn to retain the IC Title ***
- Cesaro and Sheamus, Enzo and Big Cass, Gallows and Anderson, The New Day, and The Shining Stars def. American Alpha, The Usos, The Hype Bros, Heath Slater and Rhyno, and Breezango [Survivors: Cesaro and Sheamus] ***1/2
- The Brian Kendrick def. Kalisto to retain the Cruiserweight Title ***
- A.J. Styles, Dean Ambrose, Bray Wyatt, Randy Orton, and Shane McMahon def. Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho, and Braun Strowman [Survivors: Orton and Wyatt] ****
- Goldberg def. Brock Lesnar **1/2
Lows: It'll be hard to point out some flaws when you run through the match list above, but there's a few without grasping too hard for straws. The non-elimination undercard matches seemed like a waste of time, especially with the ridiculous idea that if Kalisto were to win the Cruiserweight Title, then Smackdown gets THE ENTIRE 205 Live Roster. To show you the value of the division, the same stipulation of a title changing brands was done for Miz vs. Sami, except only the belt would move, and not 12 geeks without heat. The only complaint I have for either of the elimination matches is that the 10-on-10 had way too many rush-job eliminations, but with so many people out there, it's probably for the best to get rid of some clutter.
Random Notes and Tidbits: For the first time since 1988, we got the 5-on-5 TAG TEAM Elimination Match, featuring 20 bodies lining up the entire ring apron... The Cruiserweight Title is defended at Survivor Series for the first time since 2004, with the belt revived as part of the Cruiserweight Classic featured through the Summer of 2016... Randy Orton became the first man to win 5 Survivor Series Elimination Matches, and the first time he wasn't the Sole Survivor for his team... The 5-on-5 Men's Elimination Match set the record for longest match in Survivor Series history at 52:55... The Kickoff Show featured Kane def. Luke Harper, and TJ Perkins, Rich Swann, and Noam Dar def. Tony Nese, Drew Gulak, and Ariya Daivari... Storyline substitutions included Shane McMahon replacing Baron Corbin, and Natalya replacing Nikki Bella... Dolph Ziggler was originally set to defend the IC Title against Sami Zayn, but lost the title to The Miz earlier that week.
Overall Rating: A
There's two randomly thrown together singles matches on the card between Raw and Smackdown talent, but neither was going to sway this one way or another. The Main Event had little expectations, and it delivered a memorable 90-seconds where Goldberg completely squashed Brock Lesnar. The 5-on-5 Men's Elimination Match could be considered a WWE Match of the Year candidate, and the 10-on-10 and Women's 5-on-5 matches were both solid pieces to the card. For the first time in over a decade, Survivor Series promised a big show, and actually delivered on those promises, making this one a highly recommended card.
2017 Update! Randy Orton neither won his Survivor Series Elimination Match, and WASN'T the last man eliminated from his team! After 5 wins and 4 previous losses, the impossible had finally happened! Kudos Randy Orton, Mr. Survivor Series if there ever was one deserving of that nickname.
Final Thoughts: If you want to save your sanity, avoid watching most of the Survivor Series Pay-Per-Views and stick to the following if you want the cream of the crop: 1987, 1995, 1996, 1998, 2002, 2005, and 2016. All of them have strong enough cards to keep you entertained from beginning to end. I never realized how mediocre the legacy of Survivor Series is, with countless forgettable cards with the occasional good show peppered throughout the years. With Survivor Series, Royal Rumble, and WrestleMania all covered, that means I better work on the SummerSlam Collection.
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