Monday, November 21, 2011

WWE Survivor Series 2011 review

25 years of Survivor Series. It's changed a lot over the years and its original purpose is completely irrelevant to modern professional wrestling, but the name still carries weight for a reason. It's not WrestleMania, it's not even SummerSlam, but every now and then, something really special happens at Survivor Series and WWE achieved that last night.

Although with that in mind, I have no idea why WWE would want John Laurinaitis to be the first person we see. Why was he even out there?

At least it was quick and forgettable and we could dive into our opening contest, John Morrison vs. Dolph Ziggler for the United States Championship. Welcome to Madison Square Garden, Johnny, don't let the boos get to you too bad. Yeah, the crowd was not happy with Morrison getting a title shot over Zack Ryder, and rightfully so. Sure, Morrison has a win over Ziggler, that's after months and months of losses, but Ryder has been on a bit of a roll as of late and also has a win over Ziggler.

Even with that in mind though, I love the slow burn with Ziggler. It'll be a bit of a stretch, but it is possible they could keep this going until WrestleMania. Have Ziggler continue to dodge Ryder as someone who's beneath him, let Ziggler keep winning and give him a WrestleMania moment. Not only would it be huge for Ziggler (assuming he can keep the momentum going), it would be great for the United States Title.

Morrison and Ziggler had a solid match though, standard Morrison fare, but Ziggler really shined. He's coming into this Mr. Perfect/Shawn Michaels hybrid persona and his "follow that" shtick should be his launchpad to the WWE Title scene after the WrestleMania dust settles. Hell, if he drops the title sooner rather than later, I could see him as a contender to win the Royal Rumble.

Zack Ryder's bit after the match was fun too and with a reaction like that, even knowing they were in Madison Smark Garden, WWE can't ignore the Ryder Revolution any longer.

Eve vs. Beth Phoenix was for the Diva's Championship and I honestly liked the match. It wasn't much more than your typical Raw Divas match, but c'mon, a Super Glam Slam? How can you not love that? Kudos to Eve for taking that as well and even though the "booty poppin" is an automatic eye roll, Eve has become a solid female competitor by WWE standards. She's not a Beth or Natalya, but she's no Alicia Fox either.

The Rock's backstage promo was perhaps the best since his return, even if he did insinuate that he was going to impregnate John Cena via the collective electricity of 17,000 people.

Team Barrett vs. Team Orton was our one and only traditional Survivor Series match of the evening and poor Sin Cara. Poor, poor Sin Cara, the dude just can't catch a break. I don't know if he's just completely collapsed under the pressure of WWE's massive stage, if it's a string of bad luck, or if the guy is a victim of his own hype, but damn... poor Sin Cara. He's expected to be out six to nine months with his knee injury, but I'll be genuinely surprised if he ever comes back.

I have to admit, I wasn't a big fan of this match, at least most of it. Aside from Kofi's Stay Puft Marshmallow tights, there wasn't a lot going on and it really dragged at points. I really hated the fact that Ziggler came in a house of fire, showing off his ability to pull double duty, then goes down within seconds to the move that ruins everything - The RKO.

But at least there was good news, Wade Barrett & Cody Rhodes survived the night and left Orton battered and beaten. I know I mentioned Ziggler earlier as a long shot, but if the Barrett Barrage continues, he's my way too early pick to win the Rumble.

Big Show vs. Mark Henry for the World Heavyweight Championship was next and sometimes one move is all you need. If you're an old school ECW fan like myself, you may remember when Rob Van Dam and Scotty Anton had their big feud in the twilight years of the company. No one cared about Scotty Anton, but people were ridiculously excited about the match because RVD was going to unveil a new move, the Van Terminator. It was huge news back then because RVD was doing really wild and innovative stuff in the ring, unlike now where we'd be amazed just because RVD did something different for the first time in a decade. The whole build up of the match was when will we see the Van Terminator and when it finally happened, it instantly became a staple of RVD's career.

And when his career comes to its eventual end, that flying elbow drop will be played in every single highlight reel involving the Big Show for as long WWE exists. The match itself was fine, it was just in front of the wrong audience, but even those cynical bastards in the Garden couldn't help but go nuts when Big Show started scaling the top rope and thinking about maybe... possibly... will he do it... can he do it... he doesn't look so sure he can do it... OH MY GOD HE DID IT! That's the kind of excitement you can only get in a wrestling ring.

A lot of folks seemed to hate the ending, but I thought it worked well. The beauty of Mark Henry's character (the one good enough to earn a World Title after 15 years with the company) is that he's not just "MARK HENRY SMASH! RARGH!", he's a thinking man's monster and he has his own moral code. In Henry's mind, it's unfair that he even has to wrestle The Big Show again; they had a match last month, he didn't lose the belt, so it should've been time to move on. It doesn't help that Big Show just won't stay down, so he kicked him in the balls.

Of course, Big Show is no pushover, so if you kick him in the balls, he's going to break your leg. Should all come together for a fun gimmick match at TLC and with the spotlight on steel chairs during this feud, I assume we'll get another "chairs match." I want to see what they'd do with tables, or perhaps even the most awkward ladder match of all time?

CM Punk vs. Alberto Del Rio for the WWE Championship was almost perfect. The match was excellent, Punk using Fink as his personal ring announcer, the crowd, it all blended together to create the perfect atmosphere. My only gripe was that the build up for the match was sub-par and WWE really missed the boat on Punk representing the 99% against Del Rio's 1%, but this is WWE, so I guess that was too much to expect.

That aside, the two really had a terrific match that was easily Match of the Night and very likely a late contender for Match of the Year. The crowd was into it from bell to bell and the payoff was wonderful: CM Punk is once again WWE Champion. He has the belt he never should've lost and hopefully - and this is a big hopefully - he can restore that excitement about WWE and wrestling in general when he began his quest for the title back in July. A lot of really, really bad stuff happened between then and now, so it's going to be an uphill battle for Punk, but if anyone can pull it off, it's him.

Oh and jumping in the crowd when you win any sort of championship, whether it's the WWE Title, Vince Lombardi Trophy, or a Cable Ace Award, is always cool.

The Rock & John Cena vs. The Miz & R-Truth featured The Rock's return to the ring for the first time in almost eight years and it was like he had been gone for eight days. The Rock fell right back into it and showed why no one has been able to capture the imagination of WWE fans since he left, there's just no one as special as he is. It's a cold, hard truth, but it was right there on full display last night.

In George Carlin's 1999 special You Are All Diseased, he railed against white, overpaid actors who blow into a harmonica and think they're Blues artists. "I'll tell ya a little secret about the blues, it's not enough to know what notes to play, you need to know why they need to be played." The Rock knows why the notes need to be played.

He's never been the best technical wrestler in the world, going back a decade or so to the last time I cared about that kind of thing, The Rock was remarkably average in the ring, especially putting him in there with the Jerichos and Benoits of the world. Hell, on a technical level, he wasn't even as good as Triple H when speaking strictly about "wrasslin." But The Rock knows what needs to be done, when to do it, and what little tweaks to add to better work the room he's in.

It's not like Hogan, who got by on doing just enough, and it's not like Austin, who was a fantastic in-ring performer who never got the credit he deserved as a wrestler during the Attitude Era, The Rock did his own thing. It's why he's one of the few people to leave the kind of lasting mark that he has, he was a once in a lifetime Superstar. Look at Cena, he's arguably had just as many, if not more, flat-out awesome matches than The Rock, but he still gets "YOU CAN'T WRESTLE!" chants. His promos are no more ridiculous than The Rock's - is "baloney fudgin' mustard" really that much worse than "go lick a llama's anus"? No, but The Rock just has this aura about him that no one else in wrestling ever has.

That's why he was so impressive last night, that aura is as strong as it ever was. Cena might have that if his in-ring career was as brief and as sporadic as Rock's was, it certainly adds to the mystique, but Rock is truly a special character. And I'm not even that big of a fan of the guy.

And I don't want to take anything away from Miz and Truth, who obviously were the Razor Ramon and Ric Flair in this match (download Survivor Series 92), but they played their roles perfectly. Truth ranting about pigeons in the pre-match promo and Miz being Miz did add to the match, even if it was just "hot tag to The Rock, Rocky Moves of Doom (where was the Samoan Drop!?), People's Elbow, YAY!"

Speaking of the Rocky Moves of Doom, how awesome is it that he still can't do the Dragon Screw? Like I said, he hasn't lost a step! Oh and just another example of "It's Okay if You're The Rock," if John Cena did a Sharpshooter that ugly, Canada would burn him in effigy.

The match was so much fun though. Honestly, when's the last time a tag match could headline a PPV with two guys teaming up for the first time being the main hook? Again, you might have to download Survivor Series 92.

Unfortunately, the aftermath of the match fell completely flat. I just feel bad for John Cena, he's busted his ass for almost a decade now and still gets booed out of the building for no good reason. I know people are talking about a heel turn and while Cena finally snapping could be very interesting, it's really a sad commentary on wrestling fans: we hate good and decent people who work hard and achieve their goals.

I don't think they'll turn him and they're just going to roll with the punches when Miami throws a fit after Cena makes The Rock tap out at WrestleMania. Don't worry WWE, there will be hundreds of "IF CENA WINS, WE RIOT" signs, but the most they'll do is furiously rage on their smartphone while sitting in traffic.

Overall, a very good show. Not enough to undo the nightmarish September and October WWE put us through, but the healing hopefully has begun. Definitely worth your $50.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Laying the smack down, bringing the interest up

It's no secret that my interest in wrestling is at a low point right now. I haven't written a single thing about WWE since The Muppets hosted Raw, I fell asleep during the Raw a week before that, I haven't been watching Smackdown and I haven't watched a PPV since SummerSlam. It's telling that I'm more excited about the new WWE 12 video game than the actual WWE product, I would rather tell my stories in my own head than deal with what WWE has been throwing out there.

But tonight, I'm going to throw down $60 to watch Survivor Series and I'm genuinely excited about it. For all the complaints about WWE's product right now, and there are dozens, they are doing something genuinely new tonight: The Rock is wrestling. That is something that hasn't been seen in almost eight years and when the majority of WWE shows end with "tag match where the good guys win" or "John Cena stands tall," at least it's something different. Granted, tonight's show is going to end with "John Cena stands tall... now with added Rock!" but at least we get to see The Rock lace up his boots again, something even a year ago I said would never happen.

For better or worse, this is a big deal. Criticisms of The Rock being bigger than every other WWE Superstar, despite not being a full-time WWE Superstar since 2001, are valid. He casts a big shadow and WWE just hasn't been able to create someone with that kind of appeal since The Rock, with the possible exception of John Cena. Cena's not as big as The Rock, but Rock was around in a much different period and the rose-tinted glasses prevent people from remembering how polarizing The Rock was during his time at the top.

So yeah, it's a sad commentary on WWE's star-making abilities in 2011 and after WrestleMania 28, I'm sure The Rock will disappear for a long time ("never leaving again!"), but tonight is still huge. It's The Rock in the ring for the first time since 2004 and it's really just a teaser for what is sure to be one of the biggest WrestleMania main events in history. Even for a guy that's completely bored with WWE right now - I'm ready to be electrified.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Way Too Early

In honor of The Muppets being adorable on Raw, here's the best Muppets-related thing since the Muppet Babies.