So, I’ve done this once before in an article for Low Five so it might feel like this comes around more often than I say it does, but I promise that this is just a coincidence. Here now, for only the second time in a year, I say to you all: I was wrong about a thing.
In my last “Scott Talks Wrestling” article (and in the Title Hunt podcast, which you’ll eventually hear) I called Survivor Series, among other things, a clusterfuck, a mess, and a literal dumpster fire, saying that the show was all but guaranteed to be a miserable nightmare. And now that it’s over, I can say without a shred of irony or sarcasm that Survivor Series 2016 was easily the best pay per view of the last six months, and very likely the best pay per view of the year. With only two PPVs left (December’s TLC and Roadblock) I’m fairly confident that Survivor Series will be the tentpole on which 2016 is remembered. So, as long as we’re backpedaling at the speed of sound here, let’s just get right into the specifics of the things that I was wrong about:
The Show Was Tightly Booked
My biggest concern going into Survivor Series was that it was going to be a bloated, badly booked mess of a card, and to my enormous surprise it absolutely wasn’t. The show clocked in at just about three and a half hours, and it was honestly pretty great the whole way through. We opened with the women’s Survivor Series Tag match, then the Intercontinental match, then the Survivor Series Tag Team match, then the cruiserweight match, then the men’s match, and then the main event. This is more or less what I expected (although I would have swapped the cruiserweight and Intercontinental matches) but what was surprising was that at no point did it feel like any part of the show was dragging. I fully expected the entire show to feel like it was twelve hours long with the amount of Survivor Series matches on the card, but honestly, intelligent storytelling and really effective pacing made each match feel important and necessary, even the main event.
The Tag Match Was Actually Pretty Dope
So, the rules of the tag match were as follows: There’s only two people in the ring at a time, but if your tag partner is eliminated, your whole tag team is eliminated. One of the great ways that they prevented this match from being a complete clusterfuck was by eliminating two tag teams extremely early: Breezango and, to the shock of everyone, Raw tag team champs The New Day. This left us with eight men facing eight men, which, while rare, is not unprecedented. What was a little odd was the storytelling after that. With The New Day out the general expectation was that the final two teams would be SmackDown’s American Alpha and Raw’s Enzo and Cass. This would have been a great opportunity to give the burgeoning tag teams the spotlight, especially since neither has done a ton of note since leaving NXT. Instead, what we got was veteran team The Usos against veteran singles competitors Sheamus and Cesaro, with Cesaro ultimately picking up the pinfall victory. But honestly, even that’s not really something worth complaining about; it wasn’t bad, it was just a little odd.
The Right Guy Won the Men’s Match
After a brawl that lasted almost an hour, Bray Wyatt pinned Roman Reigns to win the men’s Survivor Series match. This was weird to me. Bray Wyatt never wins anything. They’ve been billing him for years as an enormously powerful monster fueled by fear and Hawaiian t-shirts and yet for those same years he has lost every single important match he’s ever been in. Every. Single. One. So to see him standing tall after a war like the men’s match was, it’s extremely refreshing. Now, historically speaking, WWE isn’t great about following up on Survivor Series successes, but to be honest, from a booking perspective 2016 has been so bonkers, and SmackDown has been so good lately, that I’m absolutely prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt in this case. Which of course brings us to:
Now, let’s just be clear here: A squash match (A short match where one side gets no offense in) should not be the main event of anything. It was dumb at SummerSlam, and it’s dumb now. But there’s something special about the fact that the person getting squashed was Brock Lesnar.
It’s special for a couple reasons. Firstly, there’s no way Brock would agree to come out the loser in a feud. That means that there’s more to come. Full disclosure, as of the time of this writing I haven’t yet watched this week’s Raw or SmackDown, so I don’t have any context for the fallout from Survivor Series, but I’m told that Goldberg and Brock are apparently going to be fighting at the Royal Rumble again? Or possibly that Goldberg will enter the thirty man Rumble itself.
Secondly, it’s special because they’ve managed to back themselves out of a corner with Brock. See, the satisfaction of watching Lesnar appear on cards comes from escalation. That is to say, the appeal of Brock is not in watching him win, but in the knowledge that someday he must eventually lose. The problem though is that the WWE took it too far. He beat John Cena. He beat Randy Orton. He beat The Undertaker for Christ’s sake. Brock is the only man on par with Brock Lesnar. Or, he was.
The fact that we’ve seen Brock lose, and in convincing fashion, makes it viable for him to lose again. The mystique has been cracked—not shattered, but definitely cracked—by the fact that Goldberg showed up and annihilated him. Now? Now Brock’s a human. He’s a big, scary, meaty human, to be sure, but he’s fallible, which means that he can actually be used as a marketable commodity to put over someone working a full-time schedule for a change. That’s huge.
Director Max Landis once said that when professional wrestling is good, it’s great. That when you dig through ten miles of suck to get to one golden nugget of amazing the entire thing pays off in a fashion that you basically can’t get in any other medium of entertainment. And honestly? That was Survivor Series for me. The storytelling, the match quality. Even the stuff that was bad about Survivor Series was, at its absolute worst, “pretty good.” And yeah, WWE might fuck it up in the coming months, but for now? For now we just get to savor where we are.