WWE Survivor Series – November 20th 2016
Air Canada Centre: Toronto, ON, Canada.
Survivor Series 2016 was a weird show to say the least. There were good moments, great moments, and, of course, horribly booked moments, not to mention the six-hour run-time if you include the pre-show. There’s only one place to start however, and that is with one of the most shocking WWE main events of the last two decades.
In a move that absolutely nobody saw coming, Bill Goldberg pinned Brock Lesnar clean in one minute and twenty seven seconds. It was the archetypal Goldberg squash match right out of 1998; he hit two Spears, a Jackhammer and pinned Lesnar, who got zero offense in at all. At first I was dumbstruck by the decision. This was Brock Lesnar, the man who ended the Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak and who had been protected better than anyone in the WWE for a generation. Having a 50 year-old guy who had not wrestled in 12 years obliterate the only true special attraction the company had seemed like the most idiotic decision in the world.
But then I got to thinking about it. Even before Pro Wrestling Sheet reported that Goldberg had signed a deal to appear at the Royal Rumble, it became apparent that this was implicitly designed to set up a rematch. One of the major concerns going into the match was that Goldberg would not be in any kind of ring-shape and would end up sucking wind after about five minutes. The expectation was that they would have a match full of smoke and mirrors to hide Goldberg’s weaknesses, maybe go about ten minutes, then Brock would inevitably win with an F5. Instead, they booked Goldberg in the manner that got him over in WCW and did exactly what they should have done in 2003 when Goldberg had his first WWE match with The Rock. For once WWE broke away from their omniscient mentality and ran with a gimmick they in no way helped create. In essence, they let Goldberg be Goldberg and it was tremendous.
So what about Brock Lesnar? I mean, surely being squashed by a 50 year-old in under 90 seconds instantly killed all of his credibility. Well, if you think about it that is really not the case at all. It would have been more damaging to Lesnar had the match gone 10 minutes and he lost to a blown-up Goldberg who looked terrible. At least this way Lesnar was beaten by the real Goldberg that everybody remembered from WCW and not some worn-out old man. The notion that Lesnar lost all of his equity he had built up since beating the Undertaker is also completely untrue. Not that drawing power really applies anymore with the Network model, however MMA has taught us over the years that if a huge star is defeated in a big upset the rematch usually does better business than the first fight. If this were real – and a lot of people seem to forget that pro wrestling is in fact meant to be real – then the storyline is Brock was too overconfident and he got caught early in the fight and was never able to recover. Don’t forget Lesnar has Paul Heyman to cut promos about how it was a fluke and to spin the story in a manner that makes Brock look like a huge scary monster bent on revenge. Brock will be fine, everybody.
Goldberg actually moved the TV numbers when he came in and WWE should be applauded for taking such a massive risk by smashing him over Lesnar, in Toronto of all places. Imagine if Toronto decided they weren’t going to play ball and booed Goldberg from the outset; this would have been a disaster. Instead, the crowd loved Goldberg and they lost their minds when he won. Before this match, WWE had one huge monster special attraction. They now have two.
The rest of Survivor Series was the usual mixed bag served up on WWE PPVs. Team SmackDown won the big Men’s elimination Survivor Series match, however Team RAW won the Tag Team and Women’s versions, so neither side established dominance. The Men’s and Tag Team matches had some really good moments, although all three matches were marred by inexplicable booking decisions. They didn’t bother switching the IC and CW titles, as Miz retained over Sami Zayn, and Brian Kendrick retained over Kalisto, so the Cruiserweights will still be on RAW for some stupid reason.
Pre-show: Renee, Booker, Lita & Lawler were on the panel as usual. I missed the first hour as I got my US/UK time differences wrong for the first time in 20 years or so. Luckily the first hour was just a bunch of talking anyway. Kevin Owens & Chris Jericho did a bit in the Social Media Lounge with Tom Phillips that was the funniest thing WWE has done in ages. It was completely unscripted, so what does that tell you? Rich Swann, Noam Dar & TJ Perkins beat Ariya Divairi, Drew Gulak & Tony Nese in a solid match that took place in front of a half-empty arena. It was the usual story of the Cruiserweights on the main roster: everybody worked hard and got no reaction. Swann pinned Daivari with the 450 at 11:50. (***). Kane beat Luke Harper in a typical dull Kane match in 9:10. (**).
Women’s Survivor Series Elimination Match: Team RAW (Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Bayley, Alicia Fox & Nia Jax) vs. Team SmackDown (Natalya, Becky Lynch, Alexa Bliss, Carmella & Naomi). – Team RAW over in 17:30. Match was a total mess. Nikki Bella was supposed to be on Team SD, however she was taken out in the back and Nattie replaced her; gimmick was that we were supposed to think Nattie did it. Best thing about the match was Nia Jax killing everyone, however they undid all that good work by having her tap-out to Becky Lynch. Fox eliminated Carmella at 6:25 then Bliss pinned Fox after her Sparkle Splash at 6:45. Naomi did a dive onto Nia on the floor, however Nia killed her and she was counted out at 9:20. Sasha hit a stupid Meteora off the apron on Nattie. Nattie pinned Sasha with a roll-up in 10:20; Sasha came off like a total after-thought here. Charlotte sent Nattie packing with a Big Boot at 12:00. Becky & Alexa double-teamed Nia and hit the worst double DDT in the history of the universe. Becky submitted Nia with the Shirome Armabr at 13:40; it was inexplicably dumb. It came down to Becky vs. Charlotte & Bayley. Nobody really cared. Bayley pinned Becky with her finish at 17:30 then Charlotte beat her up afterwards to start their program. – This was a bad match on all fronts. Why on earth Naomi was protected with a count-out but the monster Nia Jax and the SD Champion Becky were not makes zero sense. The wrestling wasn’t that great either and rapid-fire eliminations are never a good thing. (* ½).
Gallows & Anderson made fun of James Ellsworth in the back. Mick Foley showed up to defend him and tried to poach Ellsworth for RAW. Ellsworth politely declined. Braun Strowman appeared and asked if he knew Ellsworth, who ran for his life.
IC Championship: Miz (C) w/Maryse vs. Sami Zayn. – Miz retained in 14:05. Decent match, bad finish. Things picked up about 6 minutes in when Sami landed a big Tope con Giro over the top. They did some near-falls and Miz once again did the Daniel Bryan “Yes” kicks which looked terrible. Finish saw Sami get Miz in the Figure Four, however Maryse rang the bell and he let go like a moron. Miz rolled him up and pinned him. – If they wanted to do a heel finish, surely they could have come up with something that didn’t make Sami look like an absolute chump. (** ½).
Tag Team’s Survivor Series Elimination Match: Team RAW (New Day, Enzo & Cass, Anderson & Gallows, Sheamus & Cesaro, The Shining Stars) vs. Team SmackDown (Heath Slater & Rhyno, American Alpha, The Usos, The Hype Bros, Tyler Breeze & Fandango). – Team RAW over in 18:55. This had some good moments and turned into a really great match by the end, but the bulk of the match was not exactly the best. Fandango started off by handing out fashion tickets like the principal in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie who gave all the dead vampires detention slips. I laughed. Kofi Kingston hit him with Trouble in Paradise and eliminated Breezeango in 0:55. Jey Uso eliminated New Day in 1:55 when he pinned Kofi with a Superkick. Hype Bros were gone when Gallows & Anderson pinned Ryder with the Magic Killer at 5:20. American Alpha sent the Shining Stars packing after a Steiner Bulldog off the top at 8:10. Gable also broke out the Chaos Theroy rolling German Suplex. Slater did a dive off the post onto everyone on the floor then Gallows & Anderson eliminated American Alpha with the Magic Killer on Gable at 10:40. Rhyno Gored Gallows to oust the Good Brothers then Enzo pinned Rhyno after the Rocket Launcher for some more rapid eliminations. Enzo & Cass were gone after an Uso Frogsplash at 13:30. It came down to the Usos vs. Cesaro & Sheamus and things really picked up. Cesaro got a big shine spot and looked awesome; he even hit a 619 on Jey. Finish saw Cesaro reverse the Tequila Sunrise into the Sharpshooter on Jey. Jimmy tried to break it up but Sheamus hit him with the Brogue Kick and Jey tapped-out. – Usos pinning New Day in such a quick manner was bizarre since they are on separate brands and won’t be wrestling each other any time soon. They had a chance to put the spotlight on American Alpha but they ended up getting lost in the shuffle. There was some good action and it really picked up after about 15 minutes, but with a little more thought put into the booking it could have been so much more. (** ¾).
WWE Cruiserweight Championship: Brian Kendrick (C) vs. Kalisto. – Kendrick retained via DQ at 12:25. Match was going a long fine until Baron Corbin showed up and killed both guys. The storyline was that Corbin was “too injured” to be in the Men’s elimination match, but he looked just fine here. Crowd didn’t really care about this CW match either. Kalisto hit a crazy Spanish Fly off the apron which got a mild reaction. Another cool spot saw Kendrick get the Saka Otoshi off the second rope into the Captain’s Hook. Corbin showed up, hit Kendrick from behind and gave Kalisto the end of days. – Vince McMahon’s ruination of the Cruiserweight division continues! (** ¼).
Daniel Bryan chastised Baron Corbin in the back. For costing SmackDown the CW division. Corbin said he didn’t want those “little pests” running around on SmackDown.
Men’s Survivor Series Elimination Match: Team RAW (Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns & Braun Strowman) vs. Team SmackDown (AJ Styles, Bray Wyatt, Randy Orton, Dean Ambrose & Shane McMahon w/James Ellsworth). – Team SmackDown over in 52:55. Again, there were some good points here, although a ton of bad ones too. Shane McMahon being booked as the babyface in peril who kicked out of finishers, for example, was one of the most egregious things in a long time. Also, Vince’s desperate attempt to get Reigns over as the heroic babyface failed spectacularly yet again as the crowd booed him unmercifully. Shane was doing spots and beating up Strowman – it was obscene. Ambrose was eliminated first at 16:00 when Strowman pinned him with a Powerslam. Styles took a crazy bump over the top for Strowman and nearly killed himself. Orton gave Strowman an RKO on the announce table then Shane followed up with a diving elbow off the post through the table. Strowman got counted out at 21:30 when Ellsworth held onto his foot from underneath the ring. Strowman ended up killing Ellsworth by tossing him off the stage through a table. Shane sold; it sucked. Owens came in illegally and hit Styles with Jericho’s List then gave AJ the Pop-up Powerbomb. In a match that had men putting each other through tables, Owens was disqualified for his actions and eliminated at 29:30. Orton pinned Jericho with an RKO at 30:15. Shane went for the Van Terminator but Reigns caught him in mid-air with a Spear which legitimately knocked Shane out. It was supposed to be his elimination, but Shane – on autopilot – got his shoulder up at two and the referee just called it as an elimination anyway. Shane looked in a really bad way and was helped to the back by the trainers.
Story was meant to be Reigns & Rollins fighting against the odds, but the fans hated Roman. Ambrose ran out and attacked Styles like a jerk. Security tried to take him away, but Rollins & Reigns beat them up and there was a brief Shield reunion, as they gave Styles the old Triple Powerbomb through the announce table. This was not a DQ for some reason and Styles was pinned by Rollins at 46:00. Orton eliminated Rollins with an RKO, so it was down to the hated babyface against two heels. Luke Harper showed up at ringside but Reigns took him out with a Spear. Finish saw Reigns go for a Spear on Wyatt, but Orton – like a total babyface – shoved Bray out of the way and took the move. Wyatt hit Reigns with Sister Abigail and pinned him clean which made the fans very happy. – Clearly the idea was to overcompensate for the main event going 87 seconds, but this match was way too long. Much like the Tag Team elimination match, there was some good action but it felt way too over-booked at times and the key storylines of the match were simply absurd. Shane playing pro wrestler was just atrocious, nobody wanted to see Reigns booked as the underdog babyface fighting against the odds. The DQ on Owens was dumb, Ambrose running out to help Team RAW and not being DQ’d was dumber. At least they finally put over Bray Wyatt strong in a meaningful match; it’s just a shame it came about three years too late. (*** ¾).
Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar w/Paul Heyman. – Goldberg over in 1:28. Here’s everything that happened in the match. Brock went for a Double-Leg which failed and Goldberg shoved him on his ass. Lesnar looked shocked then smiled at Goldberg who hit him with a Spear immediately. Goldberg hit another Spear then hoisted Lesnar up for the Jackhammer and pinned him clean as a sheet. – As noted, this was a hell of a spectacle and certainly came off like an historic moment in WWE history. (***).
Show went off the air with Goldberg celebrating with his son in the ring.
As expected, this show could not top NXT Takeover the night before, however there were still some fun moments and the main event was legitimately a legendary moment. A lot of the booking was regrettable, however unfortunately that is to be expected with any WWE show in 2016.