For the past week, many wrestling fans have been excited about the idea of the Survivor Series pay-per-view being headlined by a traditional 10-man Survivor Series main event.
But WWE seemingly couldn't leave well enough alone. After rushing to announce the two teams - led by WWE Champion CM Punk and WWE legend Mick Foley - on last week's episode of Raw, WWE seems to have let its own doubt run rampant and cause major adjustments to the teams and the PPV card as a whole.
Raw opened with a pre-taped segment in which former Intercontinental Champion The Miz walked away from Team Punk. Things would further disintegrate later in the show when Vince McMahon ordered Raw Supervising Manager Vickie Guerrero to book Punk, Ryback and John Cena in a triple threat match at the pay-per-view, taking Punk and Ryback off their respective teams.
Dolph Ziggler and Wade Barrett were added to the former Team Punk. Barrett replacing Miz is acceptable, especially given his recent issues with Randy Orton, who now may be the de facto leader of the other team in Ryback's absence. Ziggler, now the team captain, seemed poised for a match with Cena, which could have elevated his profile, but now he's thrown into the elimination match for no real rhyme or reason, other than Guerrero picking Punk's replacement.
There's no word on who will replace Ryback on his team's squad.
Fans who were excited for a traditional Survivor Series match to main event the pay-per-view that bears its name can now feel let down, knowing Cena returns to his spot atop the pay-per-view scene to participate in the triple threat match for the WWE Championship. It was likely too novel a concept for the title to not be on the line as a means of making another match more meaningful.
This same triple threat match could have easily been done at the TLC pay-per-view in December to give conclusion to Punk's rivalries with both Cena and Ryback. Unless, of course, the plan is to do a title switch and then give Punk his rematch in TLC and allow whoever would win (presumably Cena) to go to the Royal Rumble and face The Rock.
No matter the thought process, these are things that should have been determined and decided before rushing the announcement of the Survivor Series teams last week. These kinds of rash decisions and on-the-fly changes rub the most loyal of fans the wrong way, and it is a blemish on the WWE's product.
People were genuinely excited for the 10-man eliminator, and while the new lineups don't necessarily take away from the quality of the match, they make it seem far less important in the grand scheme of things.
Survivor Series has become just another stop on the road to WrestleMania in recent years, and it appears that reputation will continue for at least one more. Maybe one day it will be restored to its former glory. It's just a shame that Hell in a Cell can be built around a Hell in a Cell match, Money in the Bank around a Money in the Bank match and TLC around TLC variations, but at Survivor Series, the Survivor Series match becomes a midcard afterthought.
- Referee Brad Maddox, who screwed Ryback at Hell in a Cell, explained his actions at the PPV by saying he always wanted to be a WWE superstar, and this was the route he had to take to the make it to the big stage. Some were quick to criticize Maddox's mannerisms and mic skills, but isn't the gimmick that he should be nervous and not confident? His rationale was sound, but he just bucked the system as the new guy. The odd part is that Maddox wants to make a name for himself by facing Ryback. Why would he want to face the guy who was going to manhandle and defeat the longest reigning WWE Champion in history if not for his help? McMahon said it best when he called it a "death wish." Anyway, Maddox will face Ryback next week with a $1 million contract on the line. This will certainly be interesting to see how it pans out.
- The drama between Cena, Guerrero, Ziggler and AJ continued to be ridiculous. Guerrero's "evidence" was laughable once again, and this storyline becomes even more questionable when you consider it's seemingly no longer leading to a Cena vs. Ziggler match (unless it's going to be extended beyond Survivor Series, which would be unfortunate). Cena was at least good for a laugh, as he pointed out that Guerrero running a fair show would be as impossible as him adding a new move to his repertoire The Encyclopedia Brown reference also receives a thumbs up.
- Rey Mysterio, Sin Cara and R-Truth opened the show with a win over the Primetime Players and United States Champion Antonio Cesaro. The match picked up a bit in the final few minutes, but it still never seemed to hit full gear. What they did was good, but I would expect more out of the men involved. The feud between the Players and the masked luchadors would be more interesting if it wasn't so lopsided. R-Truth now holds a pinfall over Cesaro, which advances their rivalry and should set Truth up for a title shot. Overall not a bad way to start the show.
- At this point, it's almost hard to believe that Brodus Clay had an undefeated streak not all that long ago and that he dominated everyone he was in the ring with. Now he's a big jobber who puts guys over, much like Tensai does for the babyfaces. I seriously can't remember the last time Clay picked up a win on Raw or Smackdown. Tonight, he was used to put over Wade Barrett, whose appearance breathed new life into a crowd that had died by that point. Barrett looks strong heading into Main Event on Wednesday, where he meets Sheamus.
- Ryback once again stood tall over the WWE Champion as the show went off the air. Much like at Hell in a Cell, where Ryback hit Shellshocked atop the cell, the superstar hit his signature move on Punk to earn the pinfall for him and Cena's team. Punk had teamed with Ziggler for the contest. The match itself wasn't bad, as Cena worked the majority of it for his team before making the hot tag to Ryback. On the night when these four men's Survivor Series paths were altered, it was a fitting main event.
- Kofi Kingston and Alberto Del Rio had a good little match. The ending, though, brought it down a notch for me, as Orton's music distracted Del Rio and allowed Kingston to pick up the victory with a roll-up. Orton then appeared out of nowhere and hit an RKO. If Orton beats Del Rio on tomorrow's Smackdown, their rivalry will reach near ridiculous levels of one-sidedness. This seems to be Orton's thing, as it's reminiscent of his feud with Christian.
- The match between Daniel Bryan and Cody Rhodes was a major disappointment. The crowd was hot as Hades for this match, firmly behind Bryan. The atmosphere made the first few minutes a lot of fun, but then almost out of nowhere, the match was over as quickly as it began. Rhodes' Beautiful Disaster off the apron was a cool spot, but this match was far too short to mean anything.
- Kane and Damien Sandow immediately followed their respective partners' match, and this one was just as odd. While they were given more time to work with, it was a very one-sided match with Kane in control. I love all four men involved in this Rhodes Scholars-Team Hell No rivalry right now, but the way it's being booked is baffling at times.
- Sheamus and The Miz had a good contest that received plenty of time for a television match. They went back-and-forth, which allowed Miz to look strong with the former World Heavyweight Champion, but the result was never in question. Hopefully with Miz leaving the Survivor Series team, it doesn't mean there's not anything for him.
- I'm in the minority of people who actually like the 3MB gimmick, but Heath Slater wrestling a singles match against Jey Uso didn't do much for me. By this point in the show, this wasn't a match I was longing to see. Hopefully the Usos begin to play more of a role in the tag team division.
- A vignette aired for a new (or returning star) that featured a dance theme. Unfortunately, this likely isn't another "Dancing with the Stars" run for Chris Jericho. Johnny Curtis has been using a dancer gimmick lately, so it seems he's going to making his way to Raw soon.
- Primo and Epico are the most mis-used tag team in a floundering tag team division. This duo should be getting a midcard push, but instead they are jobbing to Santino Marella and Zakk Ryder. I have no problem with Team CoBro as a comedy duo, but the Colons deserve better.
- The divas tag team match pitting Divas Champion Eve and Aksana against Layla and Kaitlyn was a sloppy mess. Kaitlyn won, which should get her the one-on-one title match she should have gotten weeks ago.
R-Truth, Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara d. Antonio Cesaro, Darren Young and Titus O'Neil
Cody Rhodes d. Daniel Bryan
Kane d. Damien Sandow
Sheamus d. The Miz
Kaitlyn and Layla d. Eve and Aksana
Kofi Kingston d. Alberto Del Rio
Santino Marella and Zakk Ryder d. Primo and Epico
Wade Barrett d. Brodus Clay
Heath Slater d. Jey Uso
Ryback and John Cena d. CM Punk and Dolph Ziggler
Tonight's episode of Raw seemed to drag on forever. Since the expansion to three hours, many people - myself included - have questioned whether it's too much. This is a case where it was. The England crowd was hot at the start of the show, but they died out for a good portion of the middle before coming back to life for Wade Barrett and the main event. There just wasn't enough strong material to carry a show like this. WWE crammed 10 matches onto the show, presumably to get everyone on the card and make the most of flying them all to England. On top of that, this episode basically rendered last week's Raw completely irrelevant, as the Survivor Series lineup was completely modified. There are more issues at hand than are appropriate for this forum, but there are some logistical challenges WWE simply needs to get a better handle on before the product will completely thrive again.
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