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Written By: Mark Armstrong
Produced By: WWE
Date: November 24 2013
Location: TD Garden, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Survivor Series is traditionally one of the top four PPV events of the year in WWE. The nearly-30 year history of the event has seen many famous and infamous moments since the first edition in 1987, and its late autumn timing often makes it a good starting point for storylines which will ultimately culminate at WrestleMania. Even if that isn’t the case on some SSeries cards, you can generally rely on big plotlines and important matches to peak on this show.
Unfortunately, WWE may not have gotten the memo this year, because the card looked subpar beforehand. A WWE Title match with a good build-up could not overcome the fact that Big Show was a less popular challenger for Randy Orton’s title than Daniel Bryan. John Cena vs. Alberto Del Rio was a rematch from Hell In A Cell, which in itself is a rerun of their 2011 feud. And whilst CM Punk and Daniel Bryan vs. The Wyatts was a fresh match, it still didn’t feel like a major match for a show of this magnitude. Considering that these were the three top matches on the show, it’s no surprise that the anticipation wasn’t exactly high for this card, especially since WWE used the pre-PPV episode of Raw to pay tribute to country music more than hyping up the last of the Big Four supershows of the year.
After The Miz beat Kofi Kingston with a clean roll-up on the pre-show (which was odd since Miz just turned heel on Kingston), the show opened with a traditional Survivor Series elimination match, which WWE did not even announce until the final SmackDown before Survivors. Another example of some almost non-existent build by WWE heading into this event. The match pitted the returning Rey Mysterio, Goldust, Cody Rhodes and The Usos against The Shield and The Real Americans (Zeb Colter twerked in his pre-match promo for some reason). This was a standard and rather enjoyable multi-man elimination match, which saw Dean Ambrose surprisingly get pinned by Cody, around which point Michael Cole pointed out how The Shield and The Usos have been feuding for “years”, a ludicrous exaggeration which even John Bradshaw Layfield tore strips off Cole for (“You exaggerate more than Gorilla Monsoon!” said JBL), made sillier by the acknowledgement by the announce team that this show marked the one-year anniversary of The Shield’s debut in WWE.
From there, the eliminations came largely as expected, with Jack Swagger being pinned by Jey Uso, Antonio Cesaro falling to Cody, and Roman Reigns defeating Jimmy Uso and Rhodes. Seth Rollins got rid of Jey Uso, bringing it down to two-on-two, before Rollins was unexpectedly sent packing by Mysterio. That left Roman Reigns alone against Goldust and Rey Mysterio, but the big man brought the fight despite his heel status, eliminating Goldust with a big Spear and then smashing Mysterio with a Spear for the win, making him the sole survivor. This was Roman Reigns’ match, no doubt; his dominant, energetic display and four eliminations showed some big commitment to him by WWE. This was the first time that one Shield member has truly outshone the others from a booking standpoint, which suggests that this could be the first sign of things to come; that being, a Roman Reigns solo push. It’s unlikely that The Shield will split up just yet, but this was definitely Roman’s breakout moment. Match quality was pretty good; the booking, by and large, was good too. But why didn’t WWE just let Reigns complete a clean sweep by beating all five of his opponents?
Match number two on the main card saw Big E Langston defend the Intercontinental Title against Curtis Axel. Langston had only just won the IC Title from Axel on the previous Monday’s episode of Raw, which combined with the recent babyface turn and steadily-increasing push of Big E, meant that Axel’s chances of regaining his title here were far from perfect (see what I did there?), especially since his five-month run with the title was largely humdrum. As was this match; it was athletically proficient, but there wasn’t a solitary memorable aspect from the bout at all, besides the finish which saw Langston plant Axel with the Big Ending for the pinfall win.
Big E might grow into this role over time, and he did display charisma with his “five-count” gimmick on NXT, so it’s possible that Langston might go on to make his Intercontinental Title reign worthwhile. The forecast seems gloomier for Curtis Axel: his disassociation from Paul Heyman, his title loss and his defeat here all suggest that the Curtis Axel experiment has ended in failure (which most could have predicted when it began back in May, if we’re being honest). The problem with Mr. Perfect’s son is that he’s talented in the ring, but doesn’t have any charisma or anything else about him which screams “star!” Until he does, Axel will not be able to make the most of any opportunities that WWE provides him with, and it’s possible now that he won’t even get another chance to ascend up the card.
We then had a 14-Diva Survivor Series elimination match, pitting Team Total Divas (the girls who have been on Total Divas in the US; namely, Natalya, The Bella Twins, The Funkadactyls, JoJo and Eva Marie) against, erm, the “regular” WWE women (AJ Lee, Kaitlyn, Alicia Fox, Aksana, Tamina Snuka, Summer Rae and Rosa Mendes). There are far too many eliminations to point out here, so I’ll quickly point out that Eva Marie got booed out of the building, and whilst it was AJ’s chance to show that the WWE women were superior to the Total Divas group (even though most of them are/were WWE divas anyway), it still made absolutely no sense that Kaitlyn would team with AJ, despite Kaitlyn making it clear that she was a reluctant partner.
As I said, there are far too many eliminations to record, especially since very few will matter in the long run, so I’ll skip to the ending which saw Natalya win the match for Team Total Divas by making AJ submit to the Sharpshooter. Chances are that this leads to AJ vs. Natalya for the Divas Title, continuing their recent television battles, which makes sense; if AJ is defending her championship against a member of the Total Divas cast, Natalya is unquestionably the best in-ring performer amongst the TD ranks. The bout was just okay; standard women’s fare really, especially in an environment when there has to be 13 eliminations within a very short amount of time.
If Survivor Series hadn’t exactly set off fireworks at this point, things didn’t really improve in the next segment. Ryback came out unannounced and insulted the legends on the pre-show panel: Mick Foley, Booker T and Bret Hart (whose appearance at Survivor Series amazingly didn’t lead to a Montreal reference). His remarks were obviously designed to set up an appearance by a babyface to put The Big Guy in his place, or try to anyway. I was trying to think of who WWE would bring out to make this a big moment, but it’s safe to say that I wasn’t thinking of Mark Henry, whose WWE career has now passed the 17-year mark without much success. Henry has now shaved his head bald, which kind of freshens up his act.
The fans were happy to see Henry, who is apparently a babyface for good now after his teases towards the good side back in the summer. This was a WrestleMania 29 rematch but with both men in the opposite roles. If it was possible for there to be an inferior Ryback-Henry bout to the one at Mania, this was it; slow and uninteresting, this was the poorest match of the evening. And it had the baffling ending of Henry cleanly pinning Ryback with the World’s Strongest Slam (so Ryback has lost to Henry twice now on PPV this year). Sure, he got the revenge for Ryback insulting the legends, but that’s not the point. Why is WWE booking Ryback to lose every match he has on Pay-Per-View, especially coming off big feuds with John Cena and CM Punk? If I was Ryback, I would be questioning what the writing squad are doing because he began the year as a contender to headline WrestleMania, and ends it in such a weak position that he might find himself lucky to even compete at WrestleMania next year. The other worrying possibility is that WWE is planning to give Henry another big push … please, no.
As noted earlier, John Cena vs. Alberto Del Rio extended their latest rivalry, which began with Cena returning from injury to win ADR’s World Heavyweight Title at Hell In A Cell. This feud at least renews interest in the WHC, which has felt second-rate for a long time now (let that be a lesson to those who say that Cena doesn’t make a difference). The big downside was that Del Rio had no chance of winning, and whilst he tried to re-injure Cena’s arm more than once during the TV tapings in the UK, Cena revealed on the pre-SSeries Raw that this wouldn’t be an issue once their title match arrived, therefore removing the remaining shred of doubt that Cena might lose the gold to ADR.
Cena got a mixed response, which is par-for-the-course but as it was his home state of Massachusetts (Cena is from West Newbury, not Boston where this show was held), one would have expected more cheers. Then again, I’ve often thought that Boston is a pretty poor crowd; there have been several matches, events and segments which had a reduced impact due to non-interest or awkward reactions from the Boston audience. Sad thing is, because Cena lives near that area, Boston will probably continue to host future supershows. Oh, goody.
Next up, we had CM Punk and … what’s that? I forgot to talk about what happened in Cena-ADR? I thought I did because the result was so predictable and … oh, never mind, I’ll do it anyway. To be fair, the match was actually alright, and an improvement on their HIAC bout. Don’t mistake predictable wrestling for poor wrestling; a match can still be entertaining, even if everyone and their ma knows what the result will be (look no further than the matches won by The Undertaker as part of his WrestleMania Streak). Del Rio did try to work on the arm, most notably with his weapon of choice the Cross-Armbreaker, but it was impossible to envision that Cena would lose; only a major unexpected development (like the Authority making a surprise appearance) would have led to a title change. So, it’s no surprise that Cena did indeed win this match, polishing Del Rio off with the Attitude Adjustment to remain World Heavyweight Champion. Del Rio’s future is unknown and probably a source of concern for ADR. As for Cena’s next feud … well, we received a hint about that later in the broadcast.
CM Punk and Daniel Bryan fought Erick Rowan and Luke Harper, representing Bray Wyatt, in the penultimate match of the evening. Punk and Bryan made for something of a dream team, and their smaller, flashier style provided a nice contrast to the more rugged, reckless big-man offence of Rowan and Harper. That combination led to a really good match here, the best of the evening, albeit not one which would truly be classed as a show-stealer. After some early double-teaming by both sides, it was Punk that was isolated for long stretches by the two hulking big men, setting up the hot tag for Bryan (at which point the arena became unglued with, what else, chants of “Yes!”). There were plenty of big moves as the next sequence progressed, with kicks, punches, dropkicks, powerbombs, splashes and more all unleashed as the bout reached its climax. Punk tagged back in, hit his signature moves and with Bray looking on in some form of horror (an evil smile can be horrifying too), Bryan levelled Rowan with the Running Knee and Punk polished off Harper with the GTS for the win.
Although the Wyatts would have been boosted by the victory, the chances of Punk and Bryan losing to the newcomers were pretty low, and would be considered a damaging result to the babyfaces. Punk may have ultimately won his feud with Paul Heyman, but his star has still fallen since he returned at Payback, so having him lose here would have been a big mistake. As for Bryan, he would have been harmed even more had he tasted defeat after the way in which his “B+ player” feud with The Authority abruptly ended after Hell In A Cell. This rivalry may continue and The Wyatts could get a win then (remember that Bray Wyatt wasn’t in this bout), but this wasn’t the night for the heels to stand victorious.
Big Show vs. Randy Orton was a pretty good match at Extreme Rules (held under Extreme Rules); while the bout benefitted from being staged in Orton’s hometown of St Louis, Missouri, thus ensuring a good atmosphere, the action itself was engaging, and was doubly impressive because of the generic nature of their spring 2013 feud. Compare that with this main event encounter at Survivor Series: culminating a well-plotted storyline which has seen The Authority humiliate Show until he couldn’t take more and got fired (whilst also knocking out HHH), a Big Show lawsuit was only prevented by him receiving this title opportunity. Only problem was, the match here wasn’t that good; the action was run-of-the-mill if not phoned-in, and the match only lasted around 10 minutes, all before a disinterested Boston crowd.
At the start of the show, Triple H had vowed that there would not be any interference in this match, but the mere presence of The Authority after HHH’s music hit (which included Kane, who has had a corporate unmasking makeover recently, and is now their Director of Operations) distracted Show enough to taste an RKO, and then get Punted to lose the match. Orton remained the champion after more devious Authority tricks (a Show title win was never happening, even though he has often enjoyed success at this event), and before you could wonder whether Show would get a rematch, John Cena surprisingly came out, World Heavyweight Title in hand, and had a face-off with WWE Champion Orton, with both men raising their respective titles in the air.
The layout of this staredown and its positioning to close Survivor Series strongly suggests that the two World Titles, which have been separated since 2002, will finally be unified. It could be saved until WrestleMania XXX, or it might happen as soon as TLC. Whatever the case, the largely lacklustre show at least ended with a significant moment, and this brief face-to-face was the most important happening on the event, all things considered. Unfortunately for Show, his most notable storyline in ages ended with a whimper, as three months of good work into building the storyline was pretty much dashed in an apathetic fashion. Whilst few will sob over the big man being kicked out of the main event scene again, it was still a let-down finish to the storyline, and an anticlimactic end to the PPV too.
So, Survivor Series 2013 ultimately wasn’t very memorable. One cannot say that the show was disappointing, because the expectations were pretty low going in. It wasn’t a terrible show; the action was good in a few matches, Roman Reigns took a major step towards future superstardom, and the closing scene suggests a pretty monumental title unification match is on the horizon. But the lack of proper build-up for most of the matches going in, the generally insignificant results on the night, the occasional head-scratching booking decision and the average action in the majority of the matches, topped off by a poor main event, left us with a show that will not be fondly remembered. Had this been an edition of Raw, it would have been considered fairly decent. As a major supershow, Survivor Series 2013 was quite underwhelming.
Overall Rating: 6/10 – Reasonable