I try to be consistent in my methods, no matter what the circumstances. In the short time Iíve been doing my weekly recap of the WWE programming, I always try and lead with whatever the situation is revolving around the World Heavyweight Champion, or in this case, the World Heavyweight Championship Tournament, to be concluded at the Survivor Series this weekend. That will not be the case this week. No, instead we will begin with the final build for the DIVAS CHAMPIONSHIP, featuring reigning Champion Charlotte (Donít Call Me Flair But You Keep Acknowledging My Family Name) and Paige (No Last Name Given). The build-up has been so-so, typical hum-drum effort (or lack thereof) from the creative department. Paige turns heel on former "friend" who has never really been established as more than a coincidental partner, earns #1 Contendership, and poof, we have a match signed. Closing out this weekís episode of Monday Night Raw seemed a bit odd on paper, but then we got what might be one of the worst segments on WWE TV Iíve seen in recent memory, using the death of Charlotteís brother, Reid, to advance an angle... and an angle that isnít going to draw a dime, in the words of the immortal (and late) Mike Graham.
For those unfamiliar, Reid is the youngest child of Ric Flair. Reid, much like his half-brother David before him, followed in his fatherís foot-steps of becoming a professional wrestler, but passed away at the young age of 25 from an overdose of Heroin and other prescription drugs. Rumors (mostly false) circulated that Charlotte (real name Ashley) entered professional wrestling to chase the dream Reid was trying to live before his passing. Deep inside, I think all reasonably knowledgeable wrestling fans could see it coming: WWE using Charlotte in a key role and exploiting the death of her brother for some stupid, half-assed attempts at making waves and getting some publicity. Maybe they thought ESPN would cover them for more than 5-minutes a week by taking a very real, very emotionally sensitive issue, and just throwing it out there in a segment that had no hopes of getting over, and only achieve the wrath of anyone who watched it or was personally offended by it.
The only rational logic behind the segment is that Vince McMahon, who we all know has his finger on the pulse of what is relevant, knows of a few female athletes and thought this was the moment to create a moment. After all, it wouldnít be the first time he has given the green light to some questionable angles involving the deaths of former employees, with Eddie Guerrero and Paul Bearer obviously popping up in the minds of almost anyone over the age of 18. I wouldnít say Iím mad at them doing this, but more disappointed that THIS is all they could come up with. Weíve got women in NXT doing amazing things, and Iím sure a writer and staff of agents making these things a reality as well with not nearly enough credit given, and they donít have to trample over the name of someone who cannot respond, or on the memories of a young man without the consent of his father, mother, or sister. I could call it a scummy, sleazy attempt at grabbing our attentions, but the truth is... they did. It wonít bring in revenue through merchandise, stock shares, PPV buys, ticket sales, or Network subscriptions, but they keep finding ways to make us question the decision making process in the world of professional wrestling. Weíre not talking about someone being jobbed or handed a title they donít deserve, but going out of their way to be controversial for the sake of being controversial. Iíd like to think that the days of crossing the line into uncomfortable territory was over, but we would just be fooling ourselves. Sooner or later, we will find ourselves back in this same situation, reciting over and over again the depths a wrestling... sorry, an ENTERTAINMENT company, will go to make themselves relevant on Social Media outlets.
With that unfortunate business out of the way, let us recap the rest of the road to the 29th Annual Survivor Series... The WWE World Heavyweight Championship Tournament continued with the Quarter-Finals, a.k.a Round of Eight. The predictable path to the Finals continued to play out, which isnít a bad thing if you really think about it. Three out of the four matches delivered in quality, something the 1st Round was lacking in. The only negative of the four was the lack of chemistry between Alberto del Rio and Kalisto. To be honest, since his return to WWE, it feels like Del Rio is just moving in cruise control, rarely doing much that he is capable of, and relying on a limited offense of kicking and resting. Maybe Iím being too harsh, since their match followed excellent performances from Ziggler/Ambrose and Cesaro/Reigns, the latter being a match I highly recommend for all WWE fans if you missed Raw this week. They keep teasing something is up with Triple H, as he was seen in separate segments having little pep-talks with Kevin Owens and Cesaro. The only thing I have to really question is who will be turning on whom at Survivor Series when it comes down to Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns. I feel like mentioning Smackdown seems pointless, but the go-home show for Survivor Series featured the tired trope of "everyone comes out for an interview, and Teddy Longís wish comes true because weíve got a tag team match, playa" for the Main Event. If you expected more, you forgot Smackdown usually doesnít host much relevance these days. For the three of you who care, the match ended in a No Contest.
The one thing I didnít miss about the Undertaker hanging around more often is the super-long, super-dull entrances where we would have the annual trotting out of the Druids. You thought Undertaker took forever walking to the ring? My God, the druids are in super-slow-motion by comparison. Last week, the Brothers of Destruction got the best of all four Wyatt Family members, rendering Survivor Series pointless since weíve already seen them get their comeuppance. At least they remembered to script in that Wyatt has some of the supernatural powers and conjured up a special effects lightning storm. This weekís throwback to 1995 booking: The druids are actually under Wyattís command and are wearing the signature sheep masks. Undertaker and Kane easily dispose of them for obvious reasons. ORDER SURVIVOR SERIES! Iím honestly surprised someone hasnít scripted for Wyatt to scream "curses!" after being foiled yet again. While weíre on the subject of the Undertaker... they did a YouTube feature with "5 matches youíve probably never seen" from the Undertakerís WWF career, one of them a dark match from a Superstars taping in 1991 against Randy Savage. Why not put these full length matches on the Network instead of teasing us with 5-second clips? ... And for the record, Kevin Sullivan is the true leader of the Army of Darkness.
Now that both have been eliminated from the WWE World Heavyweight Championship Tournament, weíre going back to the program between Tyler Breeze and Dolph Ziggler. Breeze picked up a couple of quick victories this week, over R-Truth on Monday Night Raw, and Zack Ryder on Smackdown. Ziggler made his presence felt on Thursday, violating the personal space of their VIP section, and after the match, knocking Breezeís head off with a Super-Kick. All this hype for what was announced as the Kick-off Match for Survivor Series... so we STILL only have 5 matches announced for the PPV portion of the show?!
Other happenings and results not worth noting in detail and/or part of any significant storyline... RAW: The New Day defeated The Usos and Ryback by DQ in another filler match for the Tag Team Champions. They also celebrated their 1-year anniversary of being a team... The Dudley Boyz defeated the Ascension in a match to remind everyone why signing the Dudleys to something other than a short-term deal was a bad idea... SMACKDOWN: Cesaro squashed The Miz, making him tpa to the Crossface... The Dudleys and Neville won a 6-Man Tag over the Cosmic Wasteland, and yes, we got the Dudleys vs. Ascension twice in one week... Charlotte tapped Brie Bella in a Non-Title Match... Big E. pinned Kalisto to remind everyone that Kalisto pinning Ryback was a fluke all along.
From WWE Main Event, taped on November 17th from Knoxville, TN... The Usos (1-0) defeated Adam Rose (1-2) and Brad Maddox (0-1) in 7:27 when Jimmy pinned Rose following the Splash off the top. I guess this is Maddoxís reward for being the turkey for Undertaker to squash on the Late Show. Heís bleached his hair since we last saw him, but did anyone really care if he came back? Iím surprised he didnít take the fall, too... Naomi (1-0) tapped out Alicia Fox (0-1) at 5:53 with some kind of Octopus hold. Technically heel vs. heel, and the crowd didnít really care, to the surprise of nobody... Titus OíNeil (1-0) pinned Heath Slater (0-4) at 6:26 with Clash of the Titus. Did we ever get a true blow-off match when Slater-Gator Exploded? No? Oh well...
From WWE Superstars, taped on November 16th from Greensville, SC (but officially broadcast at a later date than Main Event)... Brie Bella (1-0) pinned Naomi (1-1) with the X-Factor. Nice to see that without Nikki Bella, Brie and Alicia Fox have been bumped down to the shows nobody (except myself) cares about... Titus OíNeil (2-0) pinned Bo Dallas (1-2) after the Clash of the Titus. Are we getting a renewed singles push for Titus? Until it actually happens on Raw and/or Smackdown, Iím going to assume "No." Iím disappointed we didnít get Heath Slater doing double job duty again, nor did we get another appearance from Damien Sandow.
We return from commercial with Ziggler doing his best impression of Shawn Michaels. Ambrose blocks and counters with a slingshot into the corner for a near fall. Ziggler counters Dirty Deeds with another sleeper hold. Ambrose turns it around, but Ziggler escapes with a jaw-buster. Ambrose uses it to spring off the ropes and hit his wild clothesline for a two count. They both find their way on the top rope again, and this time Ziggler takes him down with an X-Factor! Ziggler goes for the cover, but Ambrose manages to roll out of the ring. Back inside, Ambrose surprises Ziggler with a small package for two. Super-Kick from Ziggler gets two. Ambrose with a flurry of rights and chops. Ziggler slows him down with a headbutt and goes for a cradle, but Ambrose rolls through and hits Dirty Deeds for three at 11:20. ***1/2 Really good match, definitely of PPV quality. The outcome didnít come as much of a surprise, but the style they chose to work. Ziggler didnít rely heavily on his over-exaggerated offense and they worked a more grounded style.
We return from commercial with Cesaro hitting a series of uppercuts. Whip to the corner and another uppercut. Whip across the ring and ANOTHER uppercut. Roman counters the next attempt with a forearm and throws a flurry of clotheslines in the corner. Cesaro breaks the momentum with uppercuts. Whip to the corner, and Reigns explodes out with a clothesline, followed by a modified T-Bone Suplex. Reigns goes for the Drive-By, but Cesaro catches him by the legs, drags him to the center of the ring, and swings before sitting down with the Sharpshooter! Reigns goes for the ropes, so Cesaro turns it into a cross-face! Reigns tries rolling through, but finds himself trapped in the center of the ring! Reigns muscles his way to his feet, with Cesaro across his back, and drops down with a Samoan drop for two! Cesaro gets dumped over the top rope, hitting his injured elbow on the apron on the way down. Roman hits a Drive-By on the second attempt, rolls Cesaro back in the ring, and comes off the ropes with a jumping clothesline. Roman with the 10-clotheslines in the corner, but on the 10th, Cesaro slams down across the arm to counter. He throws Reigns into the corner and tries setting him on the turnbuckle, but Roman rolls through and connects with a one-armed Powerbomb for two! Reigns sets up for the Superman Punch, but Cesaro counters with a super-sized uppercut for another near fall. Cesaro hoists Reigns to the top rope and knocks him back down with a dropkick. Cesaro goes for his suplex from the ring apron, but Reigns fights free and hits the Superman Punch! Cesaro counters the Spear and goes for the Neutralizer, but Roman counters that. Cesaro with a back slide for two! Superman Punch out of nowhere and Spear is finally enough for the three count at 15:38. **** Even better match than what we just saw from Ziggler and Ambrose. Instead of going the route of mat wrestling, this was just a hard hitting heavyweight battle between two beasts.
Final Thoughts: A truly up-and-down week. Yes, Monday Night Raw featured some good wrestling, and in the grand scheme of things, the wrestling is the most important part of the picture. However, the lack of creative direction for most of the roster makes things a bit of a chore, and since this was the go-home week for Survivor Series, I expected a bit more effort. Instead, the only true effort was creating a tasteless scenario to push the Womenís Championship, and then had the nerve to throw Charlotte under the bus when making an official statement to respond to the criticism coming from most of the wrestling world. This time next week, weíll complain about the Survivor Series and new WWE Champion Roman Reigns. Until then...