Confetti raining down from the rafters usually signifies the end of a memorable night. But as the paper fell at the conclusion of Survivor Series, the feeling I had wasn’t elation, it was annoyance.
Because within the span of five minutes, I had just watched Roman Reigns defeat Dean Ambrose to claim his first WWE World Heavyweight Championship, shun Triple H’s sell-out advances, dish out a savage Spear to the head of the Authority and get cashed in on (and Brogue Kick-ed out by) Money in the Bank winner Sheamus, who then stood triumphant over the future face of the franchise as the last stray scraps of confetti fluttered down to the ring. This was by no means an awful show – Reigns vs. Alberto Del Rio, Kevin Owens vs. Dean Ambrose and even the traditional Survivor Series tag match were all solid. The Undertaker’s 25th anniversary entrance was amazing. Shoot, we even got a great national anthem from Lilian Garcia. So why was I annoyed?
Blame the main event, which never connected and concluded in a way that cast a pall over the rest of the show – and quite possibly the company, too. But don’t let me get too far ahead of myself. Here’s my five-point takedown from the 2015 Survivor Series.
5. Keeping Tradition Alive
Over the past decade, Survivor Series has featured no shortage of nonsensical pairings, none of which have amounted to much of anything. Who could ever forget the epic Team Cena vs. Team Big Show match in 2006? Or Team Mysterio vs. Team Del Rio in 2010? How can you forget a match involving Tyler Reks and Chris Masters? So last night’s random five-on-five pairings weren’t exactly random. Not knowing the competitors beforehand? Well, that’s a little different. But really, would knowing that New Day was partnering with Sheamus and Wade Barrett change anything? What about if you knew their opponents were the Lucha Dragons, Ryback and the Usos? Still no? I don’t blame you. The match was pretty fun, though it does beg the question: If they are going to go completely random with the Survivor Series matches, are they really worth having? Then again, thanks to all that randomness, we saw the return of Goldust (in the preshow five-on-five) and King Barrett dancing with the New Day. Who am I to complain?
4. Tyler Breeze Is Perfect…Dolph Ziggler? Not So Much
There are little things that can help a gimmick. Tyler Breeze is a model, and he thinks all of his opponents are uggos, so why wouldn’t his finisher be called the Unprettier? That he got to use it to beat Dolph Ziggler – and not his Beauty Shot kick – gave his character both credibility and points for creativity. You know what doesn’t help your character? Cosplaying as a mix between Bret Michaels and Shawn Michaels. Dolph Ziggler – who, at this event last year, was the sole survivor of Team Cena, and seemed primed for another push – showed up last night in full-blown leather daddy regalia, which, let’s face it, was probably only the eighth most ridiculous thing he’s done over the past few months. Then, in the match he decided to “tune up the band” a la the Heartbreak Kid. Has Ziggler taken the Shawn Michaels comparisons too far? Maybe. He just needs to figure out who he is, and quickly.
3. Cesar-OH NO
So this didn’t technically happen on the show, but it’s something that needs to be addressed. Cesaro was notably absent last night, reportedly due to a shoulder injury that requires surgery. This couldn’t have come at a worst time, both for him and WWE – because while the Swiss Superman hadn’t cracked the main-event ceiling quite yet, you could feel a move up the card in the making, especially given the rash of injuries that has beset the roster. For fans of Cesaro, it seems like every time something starts to go well for him (The Real Americans, his team with Tyson Kidd, etc.) something goes wrong to derail him. So it’s certainly frustrating for him and his fans.
While it’s terrible for Cesaro, it’s also equally troubling for WWE. They are now down Seth Rollins, Randy Orton, Cesaro, Rusev and John Cena for at least the next month. Brock Lesnar probably won’t be back until 2016, either. If nothing else, they’re now severely low on manpower for a three-hour show, especially when you consider that a bulk of the 20-minute matches have involved some combination of those men. WWE is really going to have to dig deep over the next few weeks.
2. The Undertaker Can Still Raise the Dead
For most of the night, the crowd in Atlanta was dead. That all changed when the Undertaker came out. And who can blame them? His entrance, complete with flaming Undertaker symbols and a giant coffin showing images of the icon throughout the years, was phenomenal. It was better than some of his WrestleMania entrances. The whole night was a tribute to the Undertaker, who made his official WWE debut at this event 25 years ago – his match included. The crowd was completely in his corner, and he and Kane hit all of their, uh, vintage spots. Of course, they ended up squashing Bray Wyatt and his disciples yet again, running Erick Rowan out of the building, sending Braun Strowman through a table and Tombstoning Wyatt and Luke Harper for the win. This was a night to respect the history of the Deadman, and WWE did a good job of setting that up. But where does that leave Undertaker, Kane and Bray Wyatt? That’s something they’ll have to answer in upcoming weeks, and yes, they’ll need to actually address it instead of just pretending it never happened. Will they? Don’t bet on it, But for one night, it was fun to sit back, relax and take a trip down memory lane.
1. Is Sheamus Actually Best for Business?
Well, the answer is no. Granted, he may be popular with the Notre Dame football team, but Sheamus is in no way over. At a time when the roster is so depleted and ratings are lousy, having someone like the Celtic Warrior at the top of the card is not going to solve anything. It’s very clear what WWE was thinking here, and the thought process isn’t wrong. It’s always better when a face topples a heel to win the title. You want your faces to chase, and then overcome. So if you want Reigns to win the title, it’s better to put him on a two-month pursuit, toppling the hated Sheamus in the process. Part of the reason that the crowd didn’t react much to Reigns winning (beside the fact that they were dead throughout the night, and the match itself wasn’t very good) was because Reigns didn’t really chase at all. They’ve done a better job of building his credibility by having him win tournaments to get to the top, but he still seemed like Vince McMahon’s handpicked guy. That latter point has been lessened some after last night, but they’ve created a whole new problem in the process.
Plain and simple, Sheamus cannot be the guy at the top of your card every night. He can’t be the guy who gets three segments and a match every week. When a bad guy’s biggest heel quality is his facial hair, it doesn’t bode well. And if you have both Reigns and Ambrose chase him, instead of just Reigns, Sheamus will feel like an afterthought, which is never a good way to think of your champ. And while Daniel Bryan fit the role of a plucky underdog being screwed over by the Authority, it may hard to buy Roman Reigns in the same role, even if they’ve gone through the exact same scenario with him.
The good news? The Royal Rumble is right around the corner, and that has the potential to change everything. Sheamus could (and likely will) lose the belt in January. Maybe it will be to Reigns, maybe to Ambrose. Maybe even to John Cena. Brock Lesnar should be returning around then, and could even win the Rumble. Everything starts moving toward WrestleMania, and more often than not WWE gets the Road to WrestleMania right. So there’s a chance that all of this will get fixed in the near future. Hoping it gets fixed isn’t a great way to end a pay-per-view though, and until things change, this will be remembered as a night that started with much promise, but ended in disappointment.