Leading up to Survivor Series, most wrestling fans agreed that the event was booked as a two match show with one of the matches lacking in storyline development. Sure enough, two hours into Survivor Series, I was scratching my head as to why WWE decided to use this event to showcase the WWE Network. An excellent main event that featured Dolph Ziggler’s biggest professional achievement to date and the debut of Sting to help Team Cena overcome the odds and beat Team Authority reversed the tide. All told, I wasted two hours to get to a thoroughly satisfying third hour, and that’s probably a fair trade.
Team Cena def. Team Authority with Dolph Ziggler as the Sole Survivor
To open the PPV, Vince McMahon came to the ring and clarified that a loss by Team Authority would not just remove Stephanie and HHH from WWE TV, it would remove them from any position that would have an impact on the current WWE wrestlers. That announcement raised the stakes for the teams and both HHH and John Cena were shown backstage giving their teams rousing pep talks before the match.
When the ten wrestlers finally filled the ring, HHH shouted at Mark Henry to fire him up for the start of the match. Henry became excited and sprinted toward Big Show, who met him with a KO punch to take Henry out of the match as soon as it started. Team Cena took turns punishing Seth Rollins and they stayed in control even as Rusev entered the match. Kane saved Rusev from Ryback’s Shell Shock and the match rapidly deteriorated into chaos. Rollins recovered to hit a Curb Stomp on Ryback with the referee’s back turned and Rusev followed with a thrust kick to eliminate Ryback far earlier than I would have anticipated.
The next phase of the match saw the action turn outside with Rollins getting a back body drop onto a crowd on the floor. Rusev caught Ziggler’s attempt at a famouser and powerbombed him onto the same crowd outside the ring. Rusev moved outside to continue his assault on Ziggler, but missed a splash on the Spanish announce table and got himself counted out. With the advantage on Team Cena’s side, Cena went to work on Kane with a Five Knuckle Shuffle and an AA, but Rollins ran in and hit another Curb Stomp to prevent a pin. Erick Rowan tagged in and hit an impressive spinning kick. Rollins came out of nowhere again to hit a Drive By knee on Rowan. Luke Harper followed it with a huge clothesline to eliminate Rowan.
That left the match at three-on-three. With Ziggler laid out on the floor, Cena and Big Show stood face to face with Rollins, Harper, and Kane. When it looked like they were about to lock up, Big Show turned toward Cena and hit him with a KO punch. Rollins covered Cena to eliminate the captain and Big Show shook hands with HHH before he left the ring to get himself counted out and leave Ziggler as the only remaining member of Team Cena. Kane was the first wrestler to work over Ziggler, who was already so worn down that he could hardly stand on his own. After a few minutes of Kane in control, Ziggler suddenly gathered himself to hit a superkick and a Zig Zag to eliminate Kane. Harper came in next and continued to dominate Ziggler. He put together a big boot, a suicide dive, and a superkick for a near fall, then a sit-down powerbomb for another near fall. Out of nowhere, Ziggler rolled Harper up and eliminated him.
That left only Ziggler and Rollins, who have become very familiar with one another over the last several months on a variety of WWE TV shows. Although Rollins was in control of the showdown, Ziggler got a small package for a near fall a nice DDT. Rollins responded with a running buckle bomb, but went for a cover instead of following up with the Curb Stomp and only got two. Ziggler avoided a Drive By from the top rope and answered with a famouser for a two count. The Security team of Jamie Noble and Joey Mercury tried to provide a distraction, but it backfired and allowed Ziggler to deliver a Zig Zag to Rollins. The referee counted two and HHH pulled him out of the ring. Zigler fought off The Security and knocked Stephanie off the apron into HHH. He dodged a Curb Stomp and hit another Zig Zag while a new referee came to the ring. He counted to two and HHH broke up the count again. HHH went after Ziggler himself and hit him with a Pedigree. He draped Rollins over Ziggler and called crooked referee Scott Armstrong to the ring. Armstrong started his count and the lights went out. Sting’s music hit and he walked onto the WWE ramp for the first time in his career. He came to the ring and took out Armstrong. Sting and HHH had a long stare down that ended when HHH took an errant swing at Sting and Sting responded with a Scorpion Death Drop. He pulled Ziggler over Rollins and the original referee recovered to make the three count. Ziggler celebrated and hugged Cena on the ramp as the sole survivor and the star of the show. Sting left silently and Stephanie broke down and threw a tantrum in the ring as her fate set it.
It is difficult to shape such a large match into something coherent that showcases both the wrestling and the storyline. When an ambitious match accomplishes that sort of task, it instantly becomes highly memorable, such as the 1992 War Games or the WWF Invasion match from the 2001 Survivor Series. Add this match to that pantheon of group matches. Those who want to see Ziggler get pushed into the main event need not wait- this was Ziggler as the main event star of the show. He got to show off his ability to sell, absorb a huge beating, and continue to fight back. The conclusion of the show felt like a huge payoff to the story surrounding The Authority, but it also made me excited to tune in to see how the question of Sting’s involvement gets resolved. A satisfying payoff and a hook to bring us back- it’s hard for a main event to do any more than that.
Bray Wyatt def. Dean Ambrose by Disqualification
For better or worse, this underdeveloped story did not culminate at Survivor Series and the finish left a lot to be decided between Ambrose and Wyatt. Ambrose controlled the early part of the match until he went over the top rope and Ambrose caught him with a big punch as he landed on the floor. They collided with a double clothesline outside the ring and barely beat the ten count to keep the match going. Ambrose avoided Wyatt’s attempt at Sister Abigail and blocked a superplex. Wyatt managed to connect with a side slam for a near fall, but Ambrose recovered and delivered a top rope elbow drop to a standing Wyatt. A big clothesline by Wyatt sent Ambrose to the floor and Wyatt followed him out to hit a side slam on the steps. Wyatt retrieved a microphone and said that Ambrose should have joined him because they could have ruled WWE together. Wyatt threw some chairs into the ring and begged Ambrose to hit him with one. Ambrose hesitated at first, but finally hit Wyatt with a chair and delivered Dirty Deeds onto it. He put Wyatt on a table and hit another elbow drop through the table. He buried Wyatt under a pile of tables and chairs and posed on top of a ladder to set up their rematch at next month’s TLC PPV. It was a little disappointing that Ambrose didn’t jump off of the ladder to end the segment. While I understand the frustration with the messy finish, I think it fits the characters and helps create some real conflict in this feud. It was far from perfect, but we are still in an early chapter in the book between Ambrose and Wyatt.
The Mizes def. The Dusts, the Usos, and Los Matadores to Win the WWE Tag Team Titles
The second best match on the card was the goofball tag match between four teams that have become comedy acts as much as wrestlers. The crowd chanted for Damien Mizdow throughout the match and distracted somewhat from solid action in the ring. The Dusts performed a unique double team move on Fernando- a sunset flip into a German Suplex for a two count. The Usos cleaned house with a series of superkicks that led to double splashes to the outside, a Falling Star by Stardust, an El Torito splash, and finally a splash by Diego to finish the sequence. Both Matadores climbed the ropes with Goldust and Stardust intervened to turn it into a four-man tower of doom superplex. Jey Uso came out of nowhere with a Superfly Splash. Mizdow suddenly tagged himself in and got the pin for his first WWE title as an apparent reward for his excellent stunt double work.
Team Alicia Fox def. Team Paige in a Clean Sweep
Natalya and Paige opened the match with some very strong wrestling to drive home the fact that this match was not just a way to get eye candy on the screen. Conversely, when Cameron tagged in, she made everything look terrible. Thankfully, Naomi quickly eliminated her. Alicia took out Layla next with a nice sequence of a vertical suplex and a backbreaker to bring the advantage to four on two. Emma had a nice run against Summer Rae that ended with the Emmamite Sandwich and an Emma Lock to force Summer to tap out. Paige was left by herself. She put up some resistance with a superkick on Natalya, but Naomi tagged back in and finished the match with a head scissors DDT. Paige was clearly the standout wrestler in this match and I hope she quickly regains some heat after the disappointing result. The face team had plenty of talent to serve as rivals for her as she focuses on the Divas Title once again.
Nikki Bella def. AJ Lee to Win the Divas Title
Before the match even started, Brie Bella stood on the ring apron with the Divas Title and kissed AJ to harken back to AJ’s kiss that cost Brie’s now husband Daniel Bryan the World Heavyweight Title at Wrestlemania XVIII. Nikki hit a running forearm on the befuddled AJ and followed it with the Rack Attack for an instant victory. The bizarre kayfabe and reality blending of Brie in character kissing AJ in character as payback for a storyline with her real life husband is mind bending in a slightly amusing way. Nonetheless, it did not make up for the lack of wrestling in a match I was actually excited to see.
Adam Rose and The Bunny def. Slater Gator
The Bunny wrestled the match by himself and got the pin to Rose’s dismay. It was pointless filler, and not entertaining at that.