Last night, I was fortunate enough to be in attendance for the 25th edition of WWE's Survivor Series. Madison Square Garden was electric, and the place was as packed as it could be.
Unfortunately, certain things did not pan out, as the 16,749 in the building made sure their displeasure was known.
First, though, let us review some of the night's action.
United States Championship Match: Dolph Ziggler def. John Morrison
Let me make this clear from the start: Zack Ryder needed to be in this match. There was literally no reason for him not to be.
To say the crowd was hot for Ryder is an understatement. Prior to the show beginning, there were no "Rocky" chants, but those requesting for Ryder instead. This was essentially in his hometown, and he had been pushed to the moon in the past few weeks.
So, was there a logical explanation for him to not be in it? Perhaps they want to extend the feud unnecessarily longer? Who knows, but come next month's pay-per-view, Ryder will be the U.S. champion.
As for the match itself, Ziggler proved why he is one of the best in the company. He has a way of selling like few others in the business do, and he had a huge pop to go alongside him. Very little of the crowd was pro-Morrison, and many at the arena knew it could possibly have been his final match with WWE.
That said, it was an enjoyable match with a great finish by Ziggler, and it kicked off the night with an energized start.
It should also be noted, however, that before the Ryder run-in, the screen displayed part of Zack Ryder's video with no music playing, spoiling it.
Even so, the crowd went insane.
Match grade: 7.5/10
Lumberjill Match for WWE Diva's Championship: Beth Phoenix def. Eve Torres
Many will roll their eyes about how this was an average match for the girls, but I honestly enjoyed it. It is a pleasure to say I have seen Beth Phoenix in the ring, because she is honestly one of the best the division has ever seen.
Not to mention, give much credit to Eve. Her ring-work has improved greatly over the past few months, and she has taken some brutal spots of late. The finisher in this contest got the entire place riled up and was a nice touch.
Certainly not the cleanest match, but not bad at all either.
Match grade: 6/10
Traditional Survivor Series 5-on-5 match: Team Barrett (Wade Barrett, Cody Rhodes, Dolph Ziggler, Hunico and Jack Swagger) def. Team Orton (Randy Orton, Sheamus, Kofi Kingston, Sin Cara and Mason Ryan)
I came into this match very excited about what was ahead. This match had a chance to showcase some of the best youth the company has to offer, and as an admitted mark for Rhodes, I was pulling for the heels to win this one.
The crowd was extremely hot for this one.
Some excellent back-and-forth action between many of the competitors—even by Ziggler, who got knocked off in the first two minutes. Mostly everybody had a solid outing in this one, and much of the match was very well executed.
And then there was the botch heard 'round the world.
Sin Cara and Kofi Kingston go for a double-rope dive; Cara gets caught and ends up with a ruptured patella tendon.
Of course, you never wish injury on anybody, that is a given. Yet, as it happened, I (alongside several in attendance) jumped out of my seat screaming at what had just occurred, as I believe a majority of the "smarks" are done with Cara.
His run in WWE has been nothing short of a mess, be it from his early botches to his suspension to now this. His counterpart, Hunico, is a far better competitor than he is and could have stayed under the Cara mask if they had wished. I hope he has a speedy recovery, but there is no reason for them to bring him back.
Another pessimistic note is how much heat there is on Mason Ryan.
There was virtually no pop for him whatsoever, and he is still dominated by Batista chants. However, Rhodes' kick to Ryan's face and subsequent elimination was one of the highlights of the match and even the night.
As for the rest of the match, some great spots were included, and the place erupted over the painfully predictable yet incredibly awesome RKO off the rope on Hunico to knock him out. The finish saw Barrett planting the Wasteland on Orton, who was outmatched 2-1 at that point.
Orton has no problem putting people over, and it paid off, as both Barrett and Rhodes established themselves as legitimate contenders down the stretch with the win.
For the most part, the only bad part of this match was Cara's injury. Otherwise, very enjoyable contest.
Match grade: 9/10
World Heavyweight Championship Match: Big Show def. Mark Henry via Disqualification
Their match at Vengeance was spectacular. It was completely unexpected to see them move so well, and even with a no-contest, everyone was left happy.
This one was a lot slower than their first encounter, and I do believe they wanted you to feel the build-up. What's weird is that they're starting to show Henry as a coward almost, as he squirmed out of the ring several times and ended up retaining the title via the low-blow.
Henry doesn't need that type of heel heat, as he alone as a dominant force who destroys everything works.
Nonetheless, cheers for both sides in this one, including a nice little "Sexual Chocolate" throwback. The highlight of the match and one of the highlights of the night was Big Show going to the top rope for the elbow drop, which many thought he'd bail on due to his inability at first to balance.
For a short time, I believed we'd see the return of Kane, when Henry went to crush Big Show's leg, but it was nice to see the tables turn. The feud is still fresh, but the match was average until the final five minutes or so.
Match grade: 7/10
WWE Championship Match: CM Punk def. Alberto Del Rio
I'll be honest; I did not see this one coming. I fully believed they'd give Del Rio one more month with it and have Punk win at TLC.
I won't complain, though.
It is truly amazing to witness in person how over CM Punk is. Months ago, this man was the most underappreciated star in the business. Today, he's larger than life.
Having Howard Finkel announce Punk was unbelievable, and perhaps that was the biggest pop of the night by the audience. The Fink has the best voice the industry has ever seen, and it has been a long time since we've seen him.
It was a classic Survivor Series moment that I can say I was a part of.
The bout got off to a little bit of a slow start, but picked up about halfway through. Thereafter, there were some fantastic maneuvers that kept a quick pace and provided for some enjoyable spots.
Punk won the title just over 17 minutes into the match with the Anaconda Vice, which was a nice change from the typical GTS for the finish. Del Rio sold the move very well, scratching and clawing at Punk's face just to break it. The crowd erupted as he tapped, and stood on its feet even as he dove into the first few rows up front.
Del Rio did a great job in this match, and Punk proved why he's the best in the world.
Match grade: 8.5/10
Tag team Match: John Cena/The Rock def. The Awesome Truth (R-Truth/The Miz)
Let the rant begin.
When Kevin Nash debuted at SummerSlam in August, that was supposed to be the beginning of the build-up for Survivor Series. When R-Truth and The Miz got in the face of Punk and Triple H after their Night of Champions match, that was supposed to be the build-up for Survivor Series.
At Hell in a Cell, R-Truth and The Miz caused Cena to lose his title and were working for a "higher power." That was supposed to be the build-up for Survivor Series.
So, where did this angle go? Nowhere. It was quickly abandoned.
They spent three months building an angle that they never even remotely settled.
Instead, we're left with this weird regular tag match featuring the return of The Rock. No implications were on the table, and had it not been Johnson's return to the ring after a seven-year absence, this could have headlined RAW.
Nonetheless, the place went insane for The Rock, who looked absolutely fantastic in the ring. His physique in person is tremendous to see, and he really does have a power to captivate an audience like no other person in the business has ever had.
The crowd even called for him not to tag in Cena.
This brings me to my next point. John Cena, whether he is actually a heel or not, will receive no love going into WrestleMania. The entire universe will be behind The Rock, and thus there is no reason for Cena to be a face.
Even so, a brawl to end this would have accomplished something, just as long as they did not win. There needed to be some clear miscommunication between Rock and Cena, and it needed to cost them.
Instead, they go over.
While the people got what they wanted to see in The Rock returning, this does nothing for either party.
Awesome Truth, who once again proved they are legitimate with a solid performance in the ring, get completely buried. There is not a single scenario in which they benefit from this.
On the other spectrum, the only scuffle occurred after the match, as The Rock laid out Cena. Even so, tension alone does nothing for their feud. It needs to escalate, and there needed to be a reason for that tension.
Losing would have been the perfect way.
I know I am not alone in this sentiment. While people were happy to see The Rock do his thing, many around me were shocked with the finish as well. And it certainly was not a good shock.
Match grade: 5/10
As for the top pops and heat...
1. The Rock
2. CM Punk
3. Zack Ryder
4. Howard Finkel
5. Randy Orton
1. John Cena
2. Michael Cole
3. John Morrison
4. Alberto Del Rio
5. Jinder Mahal
Overall, Survivor Series was a very enjoyable experience to be a part of, with an incredible letdown of a main event. The crowd was absolutely insane, and undoubtedly had an effect on the atmosphere and overall progression of the card.
It was one of the hottest crowds since Money in the Bank in Chicago for sure.
Unfortunately, the 25th edition of Survivor Series will be tainted with a main event that was more about ego than quality and sent many fans home on a disappointed note.
Survivor Series grade: 7/10
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