WWE – Survivor Series 2016 (Cert 15)
1 Disc Blu-ray / DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 197 minutes approx.
The 30th instalment of this classic PPV concept comes with two big stories heading into it. First is the hastily conceived rivalry between RAW and Smackdown in the name of brand supremacy which feels a little rushed since the rosters have only been separated a few months thus haven’t had time to establish any sort of heated competition between them.
The second big story is the rematch 12 years in the making as Vince McMahon’s chequebook coaxed 49 year-old Bill Goldberg out of retirement and face part timer Brock Lesnar one more time. Having stunk up MSG in a controversial match at Wrestlemania 20 there was a sense of redemption about this return bout but with Goldberg now older and not having wrestled in a decade, there was also a big risk in him going against the notorious striker Lesnar.
Held on November 20th 2016 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada before 15,000 fans, the commentary is split between various permutations of Michael Cole, Byron Saxton and Corey Graves from RAW and Mauro Ranallo, JBL and David Otunga from Smackdown.
Onto the matches and as always no results spoilers but plenty of opinion.
Women’s Survivor Series Elimination Match – Team RAW (Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks, Bayley, Nia Jax & Alicia Fox) vs. Team Smackdown (Becky Lynch, Natalya, Alexa Bliss, Naomi & Carmella)
Nikki Bella originally beat Natalya to become captain for team SD but was attacked by a mystery assailant so Nattie – as team coach and resident Canadian – replaced her. If you’re wondering why SD Women’s Champ Becky Lynch wasn’t automatically team captain just as RAW Women’s champ Charlotte led the red team, well, Becky isn’t dating John Cena.
Solid work from the experienced women as ever with Lynch and Natalya holding the SD team together while Charlotte was clearly posited as the RAW MVP. A few botches courtesy of Nia Jax (who looked daft in her RAW t-shirt over her ring gear) reveals she needs more seasoning in NXT but this was a fun 20 minute effort overall, if hampered by the usual short sighted booking. It also set the template for the rest of the show where the teams would implode due to personal differences and a big brawl would ensue.
WWE IC Title Match – The Miz (c) (Smackdown) vs. Sami Zayn (RAW)
The idea here was that if Zayn won the match he would bring the IC title to RAW, which already has enough titles as it is. However Dolph Ziggler made the initial challenge but was defeated by The Miz on SD’s 900th episode so Miz took on the mantle of defending the title for SD instead, while Zayn defeated Rusev for the opportunity to face the IC champ.
Good match with Zayn working hard to establish a chemistry with Miz, who has improved in 2016 but has yet to find a way to truly mesh with an opponent although he got there in the end. Since they are in Canada, Zayn is the local hero and this is the Survivor Series this was the match that was to be tainted by the obligatory and hackneyed screw job finish. Let it go, Vince!
Tag Team Survivor Series Elimination Match – Team RAW (Enzo Amore & Big Cass, The New Day, Shining Stars, The Club & Cesaro & Sheamus) vs. Team Smackdown (Heath Slater & Rhyno, American Alpha, Breezango, The Usos & Hype Bros)
It’s been almost 20 years since the last time twenty men surrounded the ring at Survivor Series but back in 1988, the WWF actually has ten legitimate tag teams and not just a bunch of makeshift tandems. And not only do we have feuding teams working together but RAW has a team that is feuding within itself – Sheamus and Cesaro (the latter has trouble getting his tearaway suit off at the start).
This started off with the same burst of quick energy, with Zack Ryder of all people getting a good showing, before breaking down into another mass brawl. Things stayed within the usual parameters with the booking not doing much to let the newer teams establish themselves, until we get down to the final stretch and the remaining competitors pulled out all the stops to deliver a strong and exciting conclusion.
WWE Cruiserweight Title Match – Brian Kendrick (c) (RAW) vs. Kalisto (Smackdown)
Similar to the IC Title, the entire Cruiserweight division (all 8 men!) would move to SD if Kalisto won, which makes sense as he should have been in the CW division in the first place but was drafted to SD instead. But now the cruisers have their own show in 205 Live, this stipulation is somewhat redundant anyway.
Technically the work was fine and both guys worked hard to make this a competitive match but they had a hard time getting the crowd invested after the hot finish of the previous match, not to mention that the Cruisers have been a flop under Vince’s watch. Unfortunately just as the match was getting good they pulled another lame ending which, while frustrating, is a surprising sign of someone paying attention to storyline continuity whilst setting up a future direction.
Survivor Series Elimination Match – Team RAW (Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns & Braun Strowman) vs. Team Smackdown (A.J. Styles, Dean Ambrose, Randy Orton, Bray Wyatt & Shane McMahon)
Just like the previous elimination matches, both sides have feuding pairs being forced to co-exist in the name of brand loyalty and team unity. On the SD side, Baron Corbin was originally on the team but was injured so SD GM Daniel Bryan decided Commissioner Shane McMahon should replace him. Yup, that will get new talent over alright. Prior to the match, Undertaker returned to SD and threatened to kill Team SD if they lost whilst Big Steph threatened to sing for Team RAW if they won.
The chinless wonder James Ellsworth was SD’s official team mascot which would seem demeaning under any other circumstances but his gimmick is that of the unlikely star so it is wholly appropriate. You’ve probably already guessed what sort of reaction Reigns or upon his entrance while the response to hometown heroes Jericho and Owens blew the roof off!
Running almost 53 minutes bell to bell I’m not sure if the big story in this match was Seth Rollins’ god awful half red, half black T-shirt or 46 year-old Shane O’Mac almost making his kids (who were at ringside) orphans after taking nasty bump from a Roman Reigns spear. Or perhaps it is the way that the rules which governed all the previous eliminations matches went out the window here which is one reason why it went so long. Anyway, despite the creative end leaving us scratching our heads this was both a drawn out mess and insanely epic.
Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg
It’s hard to discuss this match without spoiling it but it was a shocker to say the least and not in the way you might expect. Kudos to Goldberg who looked in great shape for his age although not as buff as in his prime, but I still wouldn’t argue with him. And amazingly he got over so well that even the Canadian fans, who have hated Goldberg for ending Bret Hart’s career in 1999, gave him a hero’s reception.
How you view this match depends on how much leeway you are prepared to give to the age concerns of Goldberg and the residual ill-well from their first match. This is either pure genius or a huge troll on the fans by Vince.
Vince McMahon should be thanking the Canadian fans for being so attentive and energetic all night long as their enthusiasm and hot reactions made this rather long and often dragging event a much better show. This is evident by the way they embraced the brand wars as the central concept of the show, despite the fact it is happening way too soon.
It clearly is a potential draw and has been in the past, as well as being a simple theme by which to set up the matches, but in this instance rushing it hasn’t given newer acts recently recruited from NXT time to fully establish themselves with the mainstream WWE audience. Then there is the inexplicable sense of brand loyalty engendered by the wrestlers that suddenly nullifies and overrules the animus they hold towards a teammate who is also their current feud.
Had this idea been implemented a few years down the line, the bookers (read: Vince) could have temporarily halted the feuds to focus on building this brand unity for the wrestlers and the fans. It is something we have to live with but it does ruin the heel-face psychology of the match, especially when a face acts like a heel and vice versa. What was interesting however is that the Canadian fans at this show essentially decided that, fellow countrymen aside, Smackdown was the face side of the battle, despite their teams having a strong heel presence.
Work wise this was a very entertaining show and everyone put in a good effort where required but again it is clear to see who Vince’s favourites are through the booking, when this could have been the prefect showcase to create new breakout stars.
Best match – Owens, Jericho, Rollins, Reigns & Strowman vs. Styles, Ambrose, Orton, Wyatt & McMahon
Sami Zayn Doesn’t Need Motivation
Charlotte Flair Has A Message For Team Smackdown Live
Kevin Owens And Chris Jericho Join The Social Lounge
Who Will Be The Face Of The Cruiserweight Division?
Survivor Series Kickoff Match – T.J. Perkins, Rich Swann, & Noam Dar vs. Drew Gulak, Tony Nese & Ariya Daivari
Survivor Series Kickoff Match – Kane vs. Luke Harper
Monday Night RAW – 14th November 2016
Goldberg And Brock Lesnar Go Face To face
Rating – *** ½
Man In Black