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Nov 20

Survivor Series 2010

Posted on Saturday, November 20, 2010 by Paul in Wrestling

The WWE sure is making life easy for me with these columns.  Once again, we’ve got a card that’s based around one or two core matches, with the rest filled out randomly at the last minute.  Which means there’s less to say about them.

Survivor Series, in theory, is one of the major shows on the WWE’s pay-per-view calendar, although it long since drifted hopelessly from the original theme of ten-man elimination tag matches.  It’s ironic that in a period when the WWE has generally been trying to build their shows around gimmick themes, Survivor Series has actually been going the other way, even while it holds on to the name as a relic from yesteryear.  There’s one elimination match on this year’s show, and it’s very much a last-minute affair designed to get the Smackdown crew on the show.

The other thing to bear in mind about this show is that the WWE have got it into their heads that there’s a proud tradition of doing screwjob finishes in the main event at Survivor Series.  This harks back to the notorious “Montreal screwjob” at Survivor Series 1997, when the outgoing Bret Hart was genuinely doublecrossed to bring about a result that he wasn’t willing to co-operate in.  While the WWE seems to have finally stopped banging on about the resulting storyline – which it kept harking back to years after anyone in their right mind had stopped caring – the notion that you get weird double-cross finishes in Survivor Series main events seems to have taken root.  Which is why they’re building this show around a main event whose central selling point is the promise of a ludicrous finish…

1.  WWE Title (no-DQ, no count-outs): Randy Orton v. Wade Barrett. So let’s recap.  Randy Orton is the defending champion, doing a sort of antihero babyface routine that’s starting to settle in but still feels a bit rough around the edges.  Wade Barrett is the leader of the Nexus rookie faction who’ve dominated Raw’s storylines for much of the year.  Two months ago, we had John Cena v Wade Barrett with the stipulation that if Cena won, Nexus disbanded, and if Barrett won, Cena joined Nexus.  Barrett won – by cheating, naturally – and after Raw’s general manager made clear that Cena would not be permitted to renege on the promise, he ended up reluctantly taking orders from Barrett.

Cena won Barrett a title shot, and last month we had Barrett v Orton for the first time.  Cena was supposed to interfere to make sure Barrett won the match, but (in a rather confusing finish) he technically complied with that order by getting Orton disqualified.  That meant Barrett won the match, but Orton retained the title, since championships don’t change hands on a disqualification.  It also meant that Barrett got an automatic rematch.

This time, Barrett won the right to choose the referee (yes, the idea of deliberately having a biased referee in a world title match is ludicrous, but that’s professional wrestling for you) and nominated Cena.  We also have a no-DQ, no count-out stipulation – which basically rules out the possibility of Cena’s engineering another Barrett win where the title doesn’t change hands.  It also seems to leave the way clear for a Nexus run-in, come to think of it.  And the deal here is that if Barrett wins, Cena is free from Nexus; if Orton wins, Cena is kicked out of the WWE.  (Again, don’t ask why the general manager would play along with that, given that Cena’s their single biggest merchandise seller.  The WWE tends not to think things through in that level of detail.)


The match, technically, is Barrett v Orton – which by all accounts was nothing to write home about last month.  But in practice, what you’re paying for is to find out what Cena does.  Does he stay true to his babyface principles and call the match down the middle?  Or does he just screw Orton in order to get himself out of Nexus?  There’s occasional talk about the possibility of turning Cena heel altogether, but I suspect now isn’t the time – Raw doesn’t have anyone else who can serve the same role of the main hero for the younger audience.

Despite the gaping logic holes, the storyline hasn’t been bad, mainly due to strong performances by Cena and Barrett (who’s inexperienced as a wrestler but shows potential and has a good screen presence).  There are, however, some problems with it as a pay-per-view main event.

Firstly, there is a possible outcome which doesn’t cause Cena any moral dilemma at all: Barrett could win cleanly.  For the story to work, you’ve got to downplay or discount that possibility, which makes Barrett look like a weak challenger – something that sits awkwardly with his status as leader of a main event heel faction.

Secondly, the focus is entirely on Cena and Barrett, so that Orton, despite being the champion, ends up as something of a third wheel.  Only at the last minute did the writers seem to twig to the only logical course of action open to Orton in this situation: destroy Cena so that he has to be replaced as referee.  Look for Orton to try that in the opening seconds – and quite possibly succeed, so that they can have some sort of actual match before getting to the storyline.

Thirdly, they seem to have written themselves into a corner.  They’ve hammered home the idea that Barrett’s bound to win, and it defies belief that they could actually get rid of Cena – though they might try it for a short period, I suppose.  Point is, they’ve made it seem something of a foregone conclusion, which doesn’t really serve the drama.

And on top of all that, it’s very difficult to have a good match when everyone knows it can’t end until something plainly illegal takes place.  It makes it incredibly hard to sucker the crowd into reacting to near falls, for example.  Given that Orton/Barrett wasn’t that great last time round, I have to admit that while I’m vaguely curious to find out what they’re going to do here, I’m not particularly desperate to actually watch it.  And that’s the thing – the draw here is the plot advancement, not the match itself.

It’s worth mentioning the other main storyline involving Nexus, since it might get involved here.  Barrett is also feuding with Nexus member David Otunga, who seems to fancy himself as an alternate leader for the group.  The WWE still seem convinced that there’s some value in Otunga, perhaps because he’s married to Jennifer Hudson, but thus far he’s looked average at best.  In any event, given that they’ve surely got to do something unexpected, I wouldn’t be entirely surprised to see Otunga interfere against Barrett.

Nonetheless, my guess would be that Barrett wins, in a match with even more storyline twists than you’d normally expect, and goes on to a relatively short title run (since they’ll have to get the belt off him in time for Wrestlemania in the spring).  I can’t really see where you go if Orton wins.

2.  World Heavyweight Title: Kane v Edge. Over on Smackdown, Kane unexpectedly finds himself defending their version of the world title yet again.  He’s had it since July now.  He was supposed to lose it to the Undertaker at the climax of their three-month feud, but then it turned out that Undertaker needed more time off for health reasons.  And so Kane beat him after all, moving on to face a new challenger that the writers never really planned for him to meet.

That challenger is Edge, who was drafted over from Raw and turned into a babyface in an attempt to balance out the roster a bit.  There’s not much in the way of storyline here beyond the usual pre-title feuding – well, allowing for the general quasi-mystical insanity that tends to crop up in Kane’s stories, anyway.  So the only real question here is, allowing for the fact that they’re lumbered with a champion they didn’t actually want, are they just going to parachute the belt onto Edge, a more established main eventer, albeit one who’s generally more effective as a heel?  My guess would be that they’ll drag it out a little longer before switching the belt, especially if the Raw title is changing hands, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Edge win.

Kane’s basically a big strong guy, which isn’t really an ideal complement for Edge, so I imagine we’ll get the old “speed versus power” routine – it’ll be okay, it probably won’t be fantastic.

3.  WWE Intercontinental Title: Dolph Ziggler v. Kaval. Ah, the pay-per-view debut of Kaval.  He’s an acclaimed indie wrestler, better known in those circles as Low-Ki, who won the second season of NXT.  The results of that season depended partly on fan voting, and since he doesn’t seem to have been the WWE’s first choice, I can only assume the voting was legitimate.  You’d think that when somebody’s winning the vote, critically acclaimed, and getting a decent crowd reaction, the company would realise that there’s something there after all.  But the WWE is slow to adapt to wrestlers who don’t fit the house style, especially if they’re small.  Still, at least they gave him half decent theme music.

As an NXT winner, Kaval gets the right to challenge the champion of his choice on PPV.  In practice he’s been tied up doing the dreaded losing streak gimmick since his debut.  On Friday – yes, this is a last-minute affair – he finally got his first win by pinning IC champion Dolph Ziggler and promptly cashed in his title shot.  He could have chosen to go for the world title, but hey, baby steps.

Ziggler recently had some excellent matches with Daniel Bryan, and I expect he’ll mesh well with Kaval too.  Coming off the long losing streak, Kaval really ought to win here, although given the WWE’s ambivalent-at-best attitude to wrestlers from his background, nothing would surprise me.  Either way, on paper it’s the best match on the show by a mile.

4.  WWE Tag Team Titles: Justin Gabriel & Heath Slater v. Santino Morella & Vladimir Kozlov. Added to the card at the last minute.  The champions are Nexus members Gabriel and Slater, who were more or less handed the titles by Barrett after Cena won them for the group.  Gabriel is the stand-out in-ring performer of Nexus, and it’s good to see them making more use of him.  Slater is less notable, but fine in his role.  Logically, they really ought to be defending the titles against the de facto previous champions of Drew McIntyre and Cody Rhodes, who lost their titles to Nexus and never got a rematch.  But that’s a heel/heel match, so we’re apparently going to gloss over it.

Showing the shortage of babyface tag teams on the roster, we’re instead getting a rare PPV appearance for comedy babyface tag team Santino Morella and Vladimir Kozlov, who spend most of their time these days fighting undercard teams on Superstars, the company’s C-show.  Morella is a comedy Italian, the broadness of the stereotype being part of the joke.  Kozlov is a big Russian – well, actually he’s Ukrainian, but it’s not like the audience can tell the accents apart – who was briefly pushed as a main eventer before they figured out that he’s not on that level.  They’re a perfectly serviceable undercard tag team but I can only assume they’re being fed to Slater and Gabriel as opponents.  The inexperienced Nexus team may have trouble getting a good match out of Morella and Kozlov, neither of whom has ever been noted for their technical prowess.  If they keep it short and play up the comedy, they should be okay.

5.  Divas Title: Michelle McCool & Layla El v. Natalya Neidhart. Michelle and Layla have been doing their “Mean Girls” gimmick as self-proclaimed co-champions for a while now.  The idea here is that plucky babyface Natalya gets one more shot at their title, but only on the basis that she has to take them both on at once.  Now, since Natalya spends most of her time as a support act for the Hart Dynasty tag team – who’ve just split up – she’s got to be moved on to something else.  And frankly, the co-champion gimmick has been running for so long that it’s probably time to draw a line under it.  Natalya’s one of the better actual wrestlers in the women’s division – and to be honest, the heels are both better than you might think – so this might be passable as long as it’s short.

6.  John Morrison v. Sheamus. Added to the card at the last minute, but this is at least based on a running storyline from Raw.  In theory the idea is that Sheamus has been bullying undercard comedy babyface Santino Marella and that Morrison keeps coming to the rescue.  In practice, because they haven’t written it very well, the deal is that Sheamus has a perfectly understandable grudge against the pesky Marella, and Morrison really ought to mind his own business.  But never mind.  Morrison’s not been very well used in recent months, and they could do with pushing him in order to fill some of the vacancies at the top of the card.  My instinct is that Morrison needs the win (which won’t do Sheamus any harm), and that these two could probably have a good match.  However, it’s so far down the card that I doubt they’ll get more than 10 minutes at a push.

7.  Elimination match: Rey Mysterio, the Big Show, Chris Masters, Kofi Kingston & MVP v. Alberto Del Rio, Cody Rhodes, Drew McIntyre, Jack Swagger & Tyler Reks. Basically an exercise in getting Smackdown’s spare main eventers and upper midcarders on the card.  Oh, and Chris Masters and Tyler Reks, who are making up the numbers.  Mysterio and Del Rio have been feuding on and off for months, Del Rio being the cocky new Mexican heel, but there’s no real storyline to this beyond a straightforward gathering of teams for a conventional Survivor Series elimination match.  Mind you, most of these wrestlers are good, and the ones that aren’t can easily be disguised in a ten-man match.  It’s a low enough priority that I expect it’ll be a bit rushed, mind you.  On the basis that the heels probably need the heat more and that it helps to continue the story, I’d pick them to win.

Worth buying? I have no real interest in Edge/Kane, and while I’m intrigued to see where they go with Orton/Barrett, I suspect I’d be happy enough just reading the results.  Mind you, Sheamus/Morrison and the elimination match are solid, and Kaval/Ziggler sounds very good, so while it’s far from a classic card, there’s enough promising material on the undercard combined with a big main event storyline on Raw to give fans some reason to pick this up.

Bring on the comments

  1. Paul C says:

    This is essentially a one-match show, and even then they’ve made a bit of a mess of it. When most of the focus is on the (guest) referee as opposed their champion, it’s a bit of a red flag. And funny you should mention Barrett winning cleanly, as based of TV the WWE *have* discounted that fact by hammering on about ‘Cena screwing Orton’. It makes Barrett look a chump who doesn’t belong in a PPV main event and can’t get the job done on his own. Oh, and I think the Raw GM has banned Nexus or promised to suspend them if they interfere.

    They don’t have the balls to turn Cena heel for fear of loss of merchandise revenue – it apparently took a big drop-off since he joined Nexus (instead of possibly having him where the terrible big yellow N shirt to drive those up) so they are rushing it, instead of playing it through to Mania for a big Cena/Barrett blow-off – and they can’t afford to ‘fire’ him due to lack of stars on TV. Barrett wins but since The Miz is conspicuously absent, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him cash-in. I personally don’t think he will but they’ll still be in the position of possibly having to put the belt on Barrett, get it off, put it on The Miz, and get it off again all before ‘Mania.

    The undercard, while poorly built, looks quite enjoyable (except for the tag titles), especially if they throw a Daniel Byran/Ted DiBiase US title match on to fill time. Hope Natalya wins, and I’m glad they’ve woken up to the excellent Kaval.

  2. Henry says:

    The problem is they really haven’t woken up to Kaval… unless they’re planning on giving us several weeks of Ziggler rematches as Vickie Guerrero flaunts her ever-shifting level of authority. Hope he wins, but I doubt WWE will get behind him in either case. Presumably Natalya will win here and LayCool can finally break up, but I doubt we’ll ever be free of Michelle McCool challenging for the title, so my enthusiasm is kept in check.

    Kane/Edge might be a better match than we’re expecting; the storyline has been crap, but the two worked well together in 04/05 and Kane’s certainly brought his A-game this year.

    That said, why the hell are Chris Masters and Tyler Reks chosen for these teams? Masters has won a grand total of like, two matches since his return to WWE and Tyler Reks’ last appearance was being eliminated early on in another elimination tag match, which might make one thing Del Rio would reconsider.

    Miz threatened to cash in, but I think the storyline will be fine without him, but I’ll bet he pops up at some point during the show just to cause tension for the main event.

  3. PPP says:

    They have to get rid of Kane’s background music during his promos; it’s driving me nuts

  4. Sean W says:

    Why couldn’t they have folded Morrison/Sheamus and Ziggler/Kaval into traditional SurSeries matches? That way it keeps the feuds alive for a few more weeks/months until they can face off 1-on-1, and it’s another (fun) elimination match.

    This is reason #94756284 why I don’t care for the ‘E anymore.

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