Like many of WWE's pay-per-views as of late, Survivor Series relied on just a couple top-tier matches. Unlike some of the previous ones, however, Survivor Series delivered because of those bouts. The undercard was fairly weak and uneventful, but the night ended with a bang.
WWE has had a real issue with building depth on pay-per-view cards, and that continued, but the last couple matches saved the night. Not only was the Triple Threat WWE Championship match a good tilt, but the ending involving NXT stars Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns put it over the top.
Also, the traditional five-on-five elimination match between Team Foley and Team Ziggler lived up to expectations. On top of that, the creative team found a way to get essentially every meaningful WWE Superstar on the card, so it's tough to complain about the way things played out.
I wouldn't call Survivor Series the best WWE event of the year, but it was one of the WWE's better efforts in recent months. Here are my grades for each and every match on Sunday's card.
The WWE apparently decided to call an audible when it came to the Survivor Series pre-show as 3MB was supposed to take on Justin Gabriel and Tyson Kidd. Instead, Team CoBro, comprised of Santino Marella and Zack Ryder, opposed Heath Slater and Jinder Mahal.
Santino and Ryder were initially put in the pre-show match, but the WWE switched to Gabriel and Kidd on SmackDown. For whatever reason, the writers went back to their original plans. With that said, this wasn't too bad for what it was. 3MB came out on top thanks to interference from Drew McIntyre, and their recent push continues.
As much as I hate to admit it, 3MB is starting to grow on me. Slater, Mahal and McIntyre together make little sense, but at least all of them have something to do at the moment. There wasn't anything groundbreaking in this particular match since everyone involved was more of a comedic wrestler. However, it got the crowd into it.
It wasn't long ago that 3MB and Team CoBro probably would have been in contention for the Tag Team Championships due to the lack of depth in the tag division, but now they're lower-level squads that showcase how much the tag team scene has improved over the past few months.
Although I would have rather seen these teams take part in a big six-on-six elimination match on the main card, at least they got to be on the pay-per-view in some capacity. I'd rather Ryder be challenging for the Intercontinental or United States Championship than jobbing on a pre-show, but hopefully it leads to something worthwhile for 3MB.
This was a basic pre-show match that won't exactly have people talking on Monday.
I had a feeling that another traditional elimination match might be added to the card since there was time to fill, and I'm happy the creative team decided to go that route. A lot of talent would have been left off the card otherwise, but this bout certainly allowed the tag-team division to shine.
Rey Mysterio, Sin Cara, Justin Gabriel and Tyson Kidd faced The Prime Time Players, Primo and Epico in a normal eight-man tag match on Raw, so we got a near rematch at Survivor Series. Brodus Clay and Tensai were added to the mix, however, and elimination rules applied.
I wish WWE would have saved it entirely for Survivor Series, but I can't complain too much. This was the perfect opening match to get the crowd excited, especially since it featured so many high-flyers. That made for some cool spots, especially when Mysterio and Sin Cara opened the ropes for Gabriel and Kidd to suicide dive onto The Prime Time Players.
That led to a big-man encounter between Clay and Tensai, with Tensai coming out on top. Whatever momentum Tensai gained from that was destroyed when Gabriel kicked out of his senton and beat him with a roll-up.
Once that happened, the face team started rolling as it picked off Titus O'Neil, Epico, Primo and Darren Young one by one. The best part of the contest came at the end with Mysterio, Cara, Gabriel and Kidd left against Young. Each man hit their signature moves with Mysterio putting the exclamation point on it following a top-rope splash.
The two face tag teams stood tall as only Clay was eliminated from their side. I would have liked to have seen The Prime Time Players as the sole survivors since Mysterio and Sin Cara beat them at Hell in a Cell, but it was a really good fast-paced match to kick things off.
The Divas Championship match started off with some drama as Kaitlyn was once again backstage prior to the bout. A woman with blonde hair went after her, but Kaitlyn turned the tables and revealed her attacker as Aksana. Eve then told Kaitlyn that she wouldn't want anything to happen to her before their match, prompting Kaitlyn to push her down.
The ensuing match was nothing to write home about, but it wasn't horrible either. It received a decent amount of time, and both women showed that they could acquit themselves well. Kaitlyn controlled much of the match and seemed well on her way to victory with Eve begging for mercy, but the titleholder turned the tables by holding onto the ring skirt.
She caused Kaitlyn to take a tough bump on the apron and ended it with her finisher to retain. Since Kaitlyn has been getting pushed quite heavily lately I figured that she might take the title from Eve, but obviously Eve is the WWE's "it" diva right now and there are bigger plans for her.
It's difficult to see where the WWE is going from here with regards to the Divas Championship scene. Eve has already beaten both Kaitlyn and Layla, and perhaps the only face diva remaining is Natalya. She just seemed to change back recently, but she is excellent in the ring and deserves a push in the near future.
Aside from that, A.J. could figure in to the title picture, but I'm not sure there are plans for her to do much wrestling. With that said, this Divas title match at Survivor Series was decent, but it highlighted the fact that the writers aren't really sure what to do.
Heading into Sunday, it was quite apparent that Antonio Cesaro would successfully retain the United States Championship against R-Truth at Survivor Series, and that is precisely what happened. The fact that the match was so predictable took away from it, but the bout itself wasn't very good either.
Truth and Cesaro are both solid workers, but they weren't given the platform or the requisite time necessary to shine. There was some decent back-and-forth action with Truth gaining the upper hand, but Cesaro quickly turned the tables with a European uppercut and a Gotch-style Neutralizer for the win.
Cesaro has constantly put on great matches with opponents of all shapes and sizes, but that didn't happen on Sunday night. Cesaro did cut a pretty good promo prior to the match to get over as a foreign heel as he badmouthed Thanksgiving, but he didn't capitalize on that with another solid match.
Instead of having a throwaway promo segment with A.J. Lee and Vickie Guerrero right after the match, these guys should have been given more time to put on a show. The promo was admittedly funny and Tamina's return was a surprise, but it didn't advance the storyline much and it didn't help A.J. and Vickie like a great match would have helped Cesaro and Truth.
There wasn't a lot of heat between Cesaro and Truth before the pay-per-view, so their match suffered from that as well. Now that Cesaro has knocked off Truth, I can't imagine that their feud will continue. With so little midcard face depth, though, I wonder where Cesaro goes from here.
I would love for Jack Swagger to return as a pro-American face to contest Cesaro as that would make the fans care about Cesaro as a heel, but who knows what the writers are thinking? If the WWE doesn't do something quickly, though, Cesaro could possibly fall flat.
After their effort at Hell in a Cell, I had high hopes for Big Show and Sheamus at Survivor Series. While their tilt didn't quite measure up to the previous encounter, it was a solid match nonetheless. Big Show was in control throughout much of the bout, but Sheamus made a late charge and seemed poised to win, but he accidentally Brogue Kicked referee Brad Armstrong.
Big Show pulled the official in front of him and recovered, while Sheamus and other referees tended to Armstrong. When Sheamus turned around, he was met with a KO Punch and Big Show picked up the victory. Following the match, however, Big Show was disqualified for pulling the official in front of him. Sheamus was the victor, but Big Show kept the World Heavyweight Championship.
I didn't mind the finish since it allowed both Big Show and Sheamus to look strong, but since when does someone get disqualified for that? It was obviously done in an effort to continue the rivalry, but a double countout might have been a better way to do that. Whatever the case, both men turned in a pretty strong performance.
While Big Show is an underrated worker for a man of his immense size, he is limited in what he can do. He competed within his means in Sunday and didn't do anything to embarrass himself. The fact that he was largely allowed to control the pace of the match rather than Sheamus took away from it.
Sheamus is one of the best pure wrestlers in the WWE and has proven capable of putting on a great match against anyone, but his offensive output was few and far between at Survivor Series. I would have liked to have seen more of a back-and-forth affair similar to what happened at Hell in a Cell, but Big Show has been built as a dominant force, so it was sensible.
My hope was that Big Show would move on to a feud with a face Miz, but it looks like we'll probably be getting Big Show vs. Sheamus at TLC again. Their feud hasn't been as bad as I thought it would be, but Sheamus has been in the main-event scene a little too long for my liking on SmackDown. Ultimately, this was one of the better matches on the card, but it didn't live up to what they showed us before.
Heading into Sunday night, I was extremely excited for the traditional five-on-five elimination match between Team Foley and Team Ziggler, and it didn't disappoint.
With 10 of the top stars in the WWE competing, this bout was destined to shine on a fairly shallow card. Perhaps the best part of the entire situation was the fact that Dolph Ziggler was finally given a meaningful pay-per-view win as Mr. Money in the Bank.
The match itself largely went as expected early on with the likes of Damien Sandow, Kofi Kingston and David Otunga being eliminated. It eventually came down to Randy Orton and The Miz against Ziggler and Alberto Del Rio. Much to my surprise, Del Rio took out Miz with a beautiful enziguri. Since Miz appears to be receiving a babyface push, I figured he would be the last man remaining for his team, but that honor went to Orton.
Orton took out Del Rio in order to set up a final two of The Viper and Ziggler. Dolph hit Orton with a Zig Zag for what seemed like the decisive pinfall, but Orton kicked out. Orton then took control and had Ziggler prone, so he decided to set up for the punt. Once Orton got to Ziggler, however, The Show Off got up and nailed Orton with a beautiful super kick for the win.
I wasn't surprised that Ziggler won, but I figured it would happen through unfair means. Ziggler triumphed in a clean fashion, and that should help him moving forward as a World Heavyweight Championship threat. The finish makes me wonder if Orton may be turning heel, though, He hasn't gone for the punt in a long time, but it may have foreshadowed a change in demeanor moving forward.
Also, I would have liked to have seen Miz take another step in his transition toward a babyface character but not much happened on that front. A potential double turn could very well be in the cards involving Miz and Orton moving forward.
There was plenty of action throughout the match, and although there weren't a lot of lulls between eliminations, I felt like the bout was well done. Even if the match wasn't well wrestled, the fact that Ziggler won made it great since he was obviously the one person in the match who needed it most.
Survivor Series matches have been known to lift superstars to new heights in the past, and hopefully that will be the case for Ziggler.
The Triple Threat match for the WWE Championship between CM Punk, John Cena and Ryback needed to be great in order for Survivor Series to be considered a success and it most definitely was. Not surprisingly, CM Punk was able to retain and extend his reign to one year, but the manner in which the contest ended came as a shock to everyone.
Punk and Cena carried the match for the most part, but Ryback did his thing and played an integral role. As is always the case with Triple Threat matches, there was a lot of action and plenty of momentum shifts.
The coolest spot of the match, at least initially, came when Punk and Cena decided to join forces by double suplexing Ryback through the announce table. Punk and Cena have had plenty of issues in the past, but the fact that they teamed put Ryback over as a major threat.
With Ryback temporarily out of commission, Punk and Cena engaged in a see-saw affair. Ryback got back into it, however, and hit both men with Shell Shocked. Just as Ryback was about to pin Cena, three men dressed in black attacked the big man. They were Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns from NXT Wrestling, and their involvement allowed Punk to pin Cena.
For the second consecutive pay-per-view I assumed Brock Lesnar would be the one to help Punk, but I was made a fool of once again. Many fans have been complaining for weeks and months that the WWE has neglected its developmental talent, but it appears as though there are finally plans to push some new blood in WWE.
The writers had to find a way to get Punk the victory through unfair means and they definitely accomplished that at Survivor Series. Now, fans will be talking about Rollins, Ambrose and Reigns for the foreseeable future, and it figures to favorably impact the Raw ratings.
There is no better way to get young talent over than to pair them with a guy like Paul Heyman, and it seems like that is precisely what will happen. Heyman and Punk may deny involvement at first, but ultimately it will come out that they enlisted the help of the NXT stars.
When you combine the in-ring work with the crazy twist at the end, there is no question that the Triple Threat match was the best contest of the night.