There's an adage in entertainment about leaving fans wanting more. And for the first time in a long while, a WWE PPV did just that, ensuring the millions who watched Survivor Series − and those who preferred to witness the Dallas Cowboys effectively end the New York Giants' season over on network TV − would be anticipating Monday's ensuing episode of Raw.
But enough about the "new and improved" Fandango's return. Sting was also there! And as with my weekly Raw recaps, I've broken down last night's action down into five essential takeaways and, as a bonus, a bunch of stuff that may have taught us nothing, but gave everyone something to tweet about.
Here's what I learned from the 28th annual edition of Survivor Series.
5. Take the Gimmick and Run
For all the dirt-sheet speculation over why certain talents get pushed as others are seemingly buried, Damien Sandow is proof that the Rock's fundamental advice about knowing one's role and shutting one's mouth are the fast track to WWE success.
Former "intellectual savior" Sandow has literally been doing that for weeks as the Miz's stunt double, Mizdow – silently mimicking his tag-team partner/storyline-employer's maneuvers, mannerisms and monologues. It was, initially, the continuation of Sandow's apparent demotion to utility comedy act, but the fans asked for more than just a single-night engagement. Next thing you know, Miz and Mizdow grab the tag-team title belts at Survivor Series and are essentially 2014's dysfunctional Team Hell No. The match's outcome may have been a bummer for ex-champs Goldust and Stardust (especially as the latter continues to excel in his new persona), and it's hard to say whether this helps anyone take that division particularly seriously. But for Sandow, it's his first belt of any kind in the WWE. And even if Miz hogged both the spotlight and possession of each strap, that moment was, improbably, all Damien's.
4. The Big No-Show
The last thing anyone really needs is a John Cena v. Big Show-down at TLC (set to air on the Network/PPV on December 14), even if it seems that Bray Wyatt/Dean Ambrose is set for main-event status (more on that in a bit). There's ample-ish time for Show and Cena to squash any residual beef after the world's largest athlete betrayed his comrades at Survivor Series and knocked out his team's captain. Not to mention any number of ingredients could be added between now and then into that particular mix. (Remember that neither Dolph Ziggler nor Erick Rowan can be thrilled with Show, and they both have unfinished business with Luke Harper.)
But with Roman Reigns – and possibly Randy Orton? – set to return and make a beeline for Seth Rollins, and Brock Lesnar still idling by, it seems Cena's out of viable rivalries for the moment. So if it indeed stands to be the 15-time champ and 15-year vet going at it in three weeks, hopefully WWE (i.e. Vince) will at least up the ante and toss in a winner-takes-the-privilege-of-reinstating-the Authority stipulation. After all, how else can we ensure Sting keeps hanging around to keep HHH honest?
3. Time for Plan Brie
What to do when a planned sibling feud goes south? As we discovered last night, just go back in time to Wrestlemania XXVIII, when AJ inadvertently cost Brie's eventual husband Daniel Bryan his World Heavyweight Championship with a bewildering good-luck kiss. Then summon that moment as Brie's incentive to lay a big smooch on AJ, set her up for defeat against Nikki and, voila, crisis averted. So are the Bellas both heels now? Were their months of squabbling among each other and with Stephanie McMahon a White Collar-worthy long con to undermine AJ, who remained blissfully unaware and uninterested in the sisters' petty antics? Did Nikki merely brainwash her Cinderbella into spite and subterfuge? Will Daniel Bryan say, "No! No! No!" to his wifey's wicked ways upon returning to action? Is anyone still reading this?
2. Tables, Ladders and Stares
Granted, Bray Wyatt and Dean Ambrose are typically doing their jobs if they leave folks scratching their heads. But as the latter perched atop a perfunctory ladder, looming over his adversary, who lay battered into unconsciousness under splintered tables and steel chairs, it begged the question: Did we just watch a 20-minute advertisement for a future PPV?
Moreover, did Wyatt come back from unexplained hiatus at Hell in a Cell and disrupt the culmination of Ambrose and Seth Rollins' simmering differences so they could exchange a month of meanderings that culminated in a DQ-abbreviated contest meant to stir excitement for the next true PPV, since this one was given away for free and has the built-in appeal of a traditional Survivor Series elimination match anyway? To no one's surprise, the Dean v. Bray TLC blow-off was signed and sealed before broadcast's end, but boy have they got some work to do toward meriting what was compromised to get there.
1. Stinging in the Pain
Despite everything I'd opined earlier, and to once again invoke Dwayne Johnson, it doesn't matter what happened during Survivor Series' first 170 minutes. The only important image is that of Sting – complete with apropos entrance theme and requisite all-black attire and face paint – planting HHH with a Scorpion Death Drop.
It doesn't matter if the man known to family and friends as Steve Borden has passed the threshold of middle age (hell, so has Brad Pitt, and he can still be an action hero), or if his graying strands of wispy hair are visibly wilting before the camera. Nor is it relevant that his triumphant debut in a Vince McMahon ring was preempted by an unfortunate detour inside TNA's octagon. This was surreal stuff, as personal and transcendent as it gets for wrestling fans who thought they'd seen it all ever since the industry's curtain of transparency was pulled back and Vince absorbed every legacy territory and corporate upstart in his path. And per the genius of WWE's marketing machine, no member of the WWE Universe was left behind on Sting's significance thanks to DVD releases, video-game hype and Comic-Con cameos. In essence, an event whose core appeal is derived from unlikely partnerships signed off by giving viewers the most satisfying and unlikely on-screen union possible. Now let's hope it leads to exhilarating unrest.
Below the Belt:
- Thank you, Vince, for at last clarifying exactly what was at stake in that main event.
- Why, exactly, wasn't Seth Rollins disqualified?
- Furthermore, why, exactly, wasn't HHH demanding Rusev return to the ring rather than get counted out or DQ'd?
- Steph, whom I normally adore, was bit too histrionic in this one.
- Is Rowan's new music a circa-Security Peter Gabriel B-side?
- I, for one, am actually rooting for Fandango.
- Bray is so physically compelling. Not too late to make him more of a silent monster.
- Rusev sure was giddy from that HHH pep talk.
- Ya think Goldust and whichever Los Matador he was with on the top turnbuckle talked about the weather while they waited?
- To that end, normally, I'd highlight a Move of the Night here, but Sting's impact notwithstanding, the evening suffered from a lack of real spots.
- Speaking of spots, wish we got a New Day sermon rather than that impromptu Slater-Gator v. Rose-the Bunny dust-up.
- But what if the Bunny is Sting?!?