COMMENTARY | The 25th anniversary of Vince McMahon’s WWE Survivor Series took place at Madison Square Garden in New York City where many classic moments in WWE history have taken place. McMahon hoped to guarantee at least one classic moment by bringing back one of the all time greats for his in-ring return. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson teamed with current top hero John Cena to battle the evildoers, Awesome Truth. The undercard had four championship bouts and a “traditional” 5 vs. 5 elimination tag match.
The opening contest was United States Champion Dolph Ziggler with Vickie Guerrero defending the title against the recently rejuvenated John Morrison. Morrison had been on quite a losing streak and recently upset Ziggler in a non-title match to earn a title shot at Survivor Series. The reality is that Morrison has been in the WWE’s “doghouse” since disrespecting veteran WWE Diva Trish Stratus at the last WrestleMania event. The match was very entertaining if you are a fan of solid in-ring wrestling. This comes as no surprise as these two had some classic matches against each other on some recent WWE live events. Ziggler, who is one of WWE’s best in ring performers and very similar to the late, great Curt “Mr. Perfect” Henning, pinned Morrison clean after his Zig-Zag finisher. Unfortunately, it appears this could have been Morrison’s last televised match with WWE as his contract is set to expire and hasn’t been renewed. I saw Morrison making a quick exit following his defeat which could be an indication that he is in fact done with WWE. Ziggler followed up his win by cutting a promo which was interrupted by the extremely annoying Zack Ryder. Ryder has a “Jersey Shore” gimmick and started a petition to secure a United States title match against Ziggler. Ryder hit Ziggler with his finisher, “The Rough Rider” which cleared the ring of the U.S. Champion.
The next match up was a train wreck called a “Lumber Jill” match for the Divas championship between the champion, Beth Phoenix with Natalya against challenger Eve Torres. The entire Diva’s roster surrounded the ring to make sure neither Diva could escape the other. The Divas division is a mess with very attractive women who try their best to wrestle but just aren’t very good. The two best in-ring performers in the Divas division are head and shoulders above the rest and are a unit, the Divas champion Beth Phoenix and her right hand woman Natalya who is the daughter of former tag team champion Jim “the Anvil” Niedhart. I would have counted Karma (formerly known as Awesome Kong in TNA Wrestling) along with Phoenix and Natalya but she is currently inactive due to being pregnant. The match was pretty bad with the exception of one high spot – Phoenix using her finisher, “The Glam Slam,” off the top rope to defeat Eve. However, I think one solid high spot does not make a match quality. I will revisit this belief in a few minutes.
On the card next was the “traditional” 5 vs. 5 elimination tag match. The first four Survivor Series (1987-1990) saw only these elimination tag matches on the entire card. The tag line used to be “Teams of Five Striving to Survive”. Team Orton – Randy Orton, Sheamus, Mason Ryan, tag team champion Kofi Kingston, and Sin Cara – battled Team Barrett – Wade Barrett, Intercontinental champion Cody Rhodes, United States Champion Dolph Ziggler (who was pulling double duty for the second consecutive pay-per-view), Jack Swagger, and Hunico. The first elimination was U.S. champion Dolph Ziggler by Randy Orton after Orton delivered his RKO finisher. Ziggler of course gets a free pass and stays “strong” because he was already weakened by his grueling U.S. title defense earlier. The first elimination for Team Orton occurred due to a legitimate botched dive to the outside of the ring by Sin Cara. Cara attempted to dive over the top rope but was unable to clear it causing him to fall awkwardly which ruptured his patella tendon in his left knee. To me this ironic and sad. I like Sin Cara and thought he was a good signing by WWE. However, Cara has been plagued by botched moves since entering WWE and this one is really going to cost him probably six to nine months. The next man eliminated, I’m glad to say, was Mason Ryan, who was pinned clean by Cody Rhodes after Rhodes hit his finisher, “The Cross Rhodes.” Ryan has been getting a huge “push” as of late and one I felt he didn’t deserve. Ryan is too “green” and hopefully it’s back to developmental for more training. The next elimination was yet another member of Team Orton as Wade Barrett polished off Kofi Kingston with his finisher, “Wasteland.”
With Team Orton looking thin, it looked like Sheamus was going to turn the tide but he got himself DQ’d after excessive punishment – repeated knee drops to the head of poor Jack Swagger. Randy Orton was able to make the easy pin of Swagger following the exit of Sheamus. It was now a three-on-one and I felt Orton was going to make the big comeback, especially after pinning Hunico following an RKO to get the odds down to two to one. However, to my surprise and joy, Wade Barrett was able to get the pin on Orton after nailing him with Wasteland. I was very pleased with the outcome as I think Orton is way overrated and guys like Barrett and Rhodes are the future of WWE. I just feel Orton had his chance on more than one occasion to be WWE’s number one guy and he dropped the ball. Time to build new stars so my hat is off to WWE for the outcome in this one.
Next was Mark Henry defending the World Heavyweight Championship against The Big Show in a rematch from the Vengeance pay-per-view that saw a Mark Henry top-rope superplex on Big Show that destroyed the ring leaving the match a no-contest. This match really wasn’t too good and the MSG faithful let them know it with chants of “boring”. The Big Show attempted to get the fans back into it with a top rope elbow drop on Mark Henry a la Randy Savage. Again, one solid high spot doesn’t make a match quality in my book. The end came when Mark Henry deliberately delivered a kick to Big Show’s groin in full view of the referee. Match was weak and we’ll get to see them yet again in some type of gimmick match at the next pay-per-view which is Tables, Ladders, and Chairs.
The next match pitted Alberto Del Rio with Ricardo Rodriguez defending the WWE Championship against CM Punk who is quickly becoming a top guy in WWE. I have to first note the ring entrances as Del Rio is always announced by his personal ring announcer, Ricardo Rodriguez. Punk countered by having WWE Hall of Fame ring announcer, “The Fink” Howard Finkel, announce him. This match was a bit slow at times but the ending was great with CM Punk narrowly escaping Del Rio’s cross arm breaker submission and then after some counter wrestling, CM Punk was able to trap Del Rio in his “Anaconda Vice” submission. Del Rio was unable to counter and was forced to tap out to the new WWE Champion CM Punk. In what I thought was a great moment to really build Punk as a top babyface, Punk went into the crowd with the belt to celebrate with the fans as Howard Finkel announced him as the new champion.
It was then main event time. Awesome Truth, the team of The Miz and R-Truth, made there way to the ring first while singing their rap song, “You Suck!” which I find hilarious. These guys have done a great job as of late as a heel tag team both in the ring and on the mic. John Cena was out next and heavily booed by the New York City fans. This has nothing to do with Cena being from the Boston area and everything to do with the fact that his tag partner who he is currently feuding with is just a far superior performer than he is. This scenario worked years ago when The Rock was the young icon and the returning old icon Hulk Hogan challenged him. It worked because Rock and Hogan are both on the same Mount Rushmore of professional wrestling along with other greats like Steve Austin, Ric Flair, and Randy Savage to name just a few. The problem with the current plan for Cena vs. The Rock at next year’s WrestleMania is that Cena is not and never will be on that Mount Rushmore of professional wrestling in my opinion. Cena’s good but he’s not great. The Rock came out to a deafening ovation. The match was OK and of course involved a lot of moments of lack of team work by The Rock and Cena. At no time did I think Awesome Truth would score the upset so in terms of drama there was very little. However, WWE delivered The Rock back in the ring and he looked great. That was the goal and WWE hit a home run with that. I do feel that John Cena came off as goofy and in the shadow of the great Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. WWE has got some work to do now actually proving that Cena belongs in the same ring with The Rock. The Rock got the pin fall for the team and “Rock Bottomed” Cena. Cena retreated like a submissive dog with The Rock celebrating in the ring to end the show.