My previous article focused on what the WWE did wrong in leading up to and promoting Survivor Series, but now that the pay-per-view has been entered into the record books, it's only fair to look at what the entertainment powerhouse did right at Sunday's show.
Adding the lumber-Jills to the Divas Championship match
I'm willing to gamble that the thought behind adding eleven people to stand ringside during a four-minute contest had to do with Vince McMahon's faith in the buyrate numbers the Rock's return would generate.
In the past several years, WrestleMania has featured battle royals and other multiple competitor matches because it is the WWE's highest grossing event, and McMahon wants as many Superstars on the roster as possible to get a piece of that gate. Unless the Great One returns at January's Royal Rumble, it is unlikely the company will have as profitable an event as this one until the Rock/Cena showdown in the Sunshine State.
If my assessment in this is correct, then kudos to WWE for taking care of their talent.
On the match: As much as I've admired Eve's commitment since she arrived in WWE, I'm glad to see the talented Beth Phoenix go over in that superb finish, as she and her BFF Natalya are the only two Superstars in this division that seem to have characters, from which arise motivations, which leads to conflict that will need resolving in a 20x20 ring.
The dramatic return of... Howard Finkel!
Rock who? The Hall of Fame ring announcer's return to introduce CM Punk during the WWE Championship match was right for a number of reasons, namely that it is based in character. The defending champ, Alberto Del Rio is such an aristocratic prig that he has "his own personal ring announcer" in Ricardo Rodriguez. His opponent, CM Punk, has a history that ranges from going against the grain to being downright anti-authority. A character like that would relish the opportunity to wag his middle finger at Del Rio's pomposity by calling in his own personal ring announcer for the evening.
Speaking of middle fingers, the last Superstar to bring in his own announcer was Stone Cold Steve Austin, who was credited on-screen for bringing out Jim Ross to replace Michael Cole to call the main event of Rock/Austin at WrestleMania XV. It's another nudge closer of the anti-authority figure of this era to the bullet headed bad man from the Attitude Era.
The fact that the ring announcer Punk brought out was no less than the WWE's very first employee added a certain, needed, grandeur to the 25th anniversary of Survivor Series. Howard Finkel was the ring voice of every major WWE event, from the MTV specials (broadcast from MSG) to the company's growing slate of pay-per-views. The diminutive Finkel possessed a giant's bellow, and went a long way to making the arena feel like it's own space, one full of Hulks and Hitmen and monsters called Kong.
That's not to say Finkel was hammy was in his delivery—far from it. He had a straightforwardness, a seriousness and a brio about his performance that, in all honesty, I never found in any other fight announcer, even the highly paid Michael Buffer who WCW would sometimes employ for their main events.
For a longtime fan like CM Punk, I'm sure it was a childhood dream come true to hear Finkel hail, "And NEWWWWW WWE Champion..."
Wade Barrett and Cody Rhodes stand tall
When Gerry Brisco told Hulk Hogan he should consider working for the WWF, the reason he gave the future champ was that they like 'em big in New York. Wade Barrett certainly fulfills the old WWE's preferred size factor, but his impressive outing as the Nexus leader showed a maturity and confidence that made a favorable impression on the fans.
Cody Rhodes is a product of the post-Shawn Michaels WWE, which made it believable for middle and cruiserweight competitors such as Chris Jericho and Rey Mysterio to be called Heavyweight Champion, and to have title reigns with distinction. Autumn saw Rhodes battling with his former mentor Randy Orton in a feud that developed Rhodes' character from the deranged bagman to a snake willing to give the Viper a run for his money.
Rhodes received a great reaction from the MSG faithful, and the well-booked traditional Survivor Series elimination match ended with what I hope continues to be a vote of confidence in Rhodes and Barrett. Alongside fellow heel Dolph Ziggler, and the rebuilding of established act Awesome Truth, the future main event scene in WWE presents all sorts of possibilities.
The Rock returns to form
In my previous article, the majority (34%) of voters said they were ordering Sunday's show for the sole purpose of seeing the Great One return to action.
Whether it was the Rock cutting a multi-layered promo that touched upon emotional connections to the WWE and MSG, as well as advancing his heat with John Cena, or his performing as though he had never quietly retired from sports entertainment seven years prior, the People's Champion gave the millions their money's worth.
After the Rock had retired, Jim Ross would frequently come to Johnson's defense when fans would question how the third generation Superstar could leave the ring for a career in Hollywood. Ross oftentimes said that when Rock was wrestling, no one worked harder or was more dedicated to his craft. As evidenced by Rocky's Survivor Series promo, wrestling is not only a matter of personal pride, but a tangible expression of family pride, as well.
It is a credit to Dwayne Johnson that he possessed enough respect for himself and his fans to show up ring ready to perform in an art form he loves.