Undoubtedly, WWE’s 17th annual presentation of the Survivor Series PPV, from Dallas on November 16, went down as a positive show for the company, despite what were glaring problems, merely because of brilliant overall booking, and several great specific angles on the PPV. While the show featured a horribly booked opening contest with the ten-man Team Angle (Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, John Cena, Bradshaw, and Hardcore Holly) vs. Team Lesnar (Brock Lesnar, Matt Morgan, Nathan Jones, A-Train, and The Big Show) match, it featured such classic gems as a stipulation 10-man Team Bischoff (Scott Steiner, Christian, Chris Jericho, Mark Henry, and Randy Orton) vs. Team Austin (Shawn Michaels, Booker T, Bubba Ray Dudley, D-Von Dudley, and Rob Van Dam), one of Steve Austin’s strongest promos ever, the first Goldberg match where he got over… and stayed over. Most fans left this show with the feeling that they spent their money well—nostalgic joy, perhaps—making this the first PPV in awhile that has shown a good build up to it (on SmackDown this is greatly debatable) and a satisfying conclusion.
Two of the biggest matches on the show were the two ten man classic Survivor Series contests. First, the Smackdown version featuring Team Angle vs. Team Lesnar, was first on the broadcast. The booking for the SmackDown match was ridiculous, seeing Brock Lesnar tap to Chris Benoit, unbelievable seeing as Benoit’s lack of push. John Cena, who absolutely needed to as a new babyface, come out of this without debate, as the star, didn’t. His FU on Big Show and pin was awkward and did little to establish him as anything special out of the gate. The match didn’t help either Kurt Angle or Brock Lesnar, who have been in desperate need of character revival.
Secondly, the Raw version was tremendous. It was everything that it needed to be and even more: the combination of the classic well-booked PPV match, seeing Shawn Michaels fight to the very end, in dramatic style, only to lose, followed by the speech by Steve Austin, marred only by the eventuality of his return. The only possible rewarding payoff of this is to have Austin gone forever, which won’t happen.
Moving on to two of the weirdest aspects of the evening’s card, Kane vs. Shane McMahon and the Buried Alive match between the Undertaker and Vincent Kennedy McMahon. For all intents and purposes, the culmination (as WWE likes to call it) of both of these feud was no more weird than how it started. Kane vs. Shane McMahon technically qualifies for the terminology “long-term feud” but that didn’t mean that it was good for anything. In fact, I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t. McMahon took the required amount of bumps, and it was no more exciting than the first several times. I’ve already discussed why it’s bad for wrestlers to work matches night after night and then have Shane-O-Mac come in and do all these huge, unnecessary bumps, so there really is no point to reiterate. The blowoff for McMahon/Kane required him to do what he did and job to Kane and the match was no more and no less than that. But the silly begets the silly and Vince really reached into his past as he and Undertaker had quite the emotional brawl of a match with McMahon bleeding a gusher to sell his eventual victory, which as you know, was due to the interference of Kane, who has gone back to being the Undertaker’s brother (see 1997-1998 for details). The foreshadowing was blunt (almost as blunt as when the WWF used to make posters that had an icon or symbol in it that foreshadowed the big angle or victory or loss on the PPV, which you may or may not remember depending on if you were paying attention) and it made me wonder why Vince McMahon is famous for saying in the late 1990s that life isn’t “black and white” and that he and the company “insulted (our) intelligence” when they produced such programs, since that’s all that Vince McMahon has done. He has, as Linda McMahon might say, gone classic—and it defies all logic.
For WWE, the follow through that comes after this PPV is very important. The next single brand shows are Armageddon in December (scheduled to have a main event of Kane vs. Goldberg vs. HHH for the championship) and No Way Out, in between that being the Royal Rumble with the same rules as last year (the winner gets a shot at the title for their respective brand at WrestleMania). WrestleMania is supposed to have Kane vs. Undertaker on the card which will be quite interesting. Overall, WWE has a blockbuster here but just like last year (which was a successful show but failed the company in the long run), but that lasts only as far as the execution of the angles from here onward can carry the success from this program.
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