Survivor Series 2016

Notebook

November 20, 2016

 

Tonight was a wrestling show I'll likely never forget.

 

Let's be honest - both WrestleMania and SummerSlam this year underwhelmed fan expectations, given they were such big shows and demanded a huge time commitment and largely disappointed in most respects. But Survivor Series was not only a great show on paper -- it also over-delivered.

Full disclosure: The Big Rybowski and I did not have the greatest seats. Yes, it gave us a very good view of the ring, but they were high up in the building. So the following photos are certainly not top-notch, but there are about a zillion other places you can get decent Survivor Series pictures from.

 

Despite that, we (along with the Toronto faithful) were incredibly into the opening 10-women Survivor Series tag team match to kick things off.

Amongst the women, Bayley, Sasha Banks, Charlotte and Becky Lynch received the strongest reactions -- before it was apparent that Nikki Bella wouldn't be there and that her replacement was going to be Natalya. A Hart in Toronto is pretty much a guaranteed crowd pop - even though their history with the Survivor Series isn't always tremendous.

The match itself was incredibly fast-paced and allowed virtually everyone to tell a decent story while advancing their characters in a high-profile match. And the celebration (and subsequent dissention) by survivors Bayley and Charlotte sets the stage for what should be a tremendous feud between the two.

Sami Zayn vs. The Miz was a very good title match and the crowd was fairly solidly behind Zayn throughout the contest. They told a great story with Zayn's injured knee. Was I crazy about yet another Survivor Series screwjob? No.... but I do have to admit it that it worked here.

The ten-team tag match was refreshing for a variety of reasons. For one thing, each team had its own distinct personality - something that hasn't been present in professional wrestling, I'd argue, since the early days of the Survivor Series. While it was surprising to see The New Day eliminated so quickly, it made sense that they wanted to boil things down to the best storytellers. The final few minutes with Cesaro and Sheamus against The Usos was a fantastic sequence, and really helped elevate both teams to my mind.

 

The Cruiserweight Title match was my personal bathroom break and more interestingly, the crowd just wasn't into it. I think the bigger story here is that if you treat the Cruiserweights as different from the rest of the roster (different ropes, mats, lights), it's not going to look as good as the main stuff.... which is absolutely the case here. And the finish was incredibly baffling as well.

 

The main Raw vs. SmackDown match kicked off perfectly, with everyone getting a "top star" style entrance. The biggest pops were for AJ Styles, Kevin Owens and of, course, Chris Jericho. But everyone's entrances - even James Ellsworth's -- were well done.

The main interpromotional match had a ton of great spots, including KO clobbering Styles with Jericho's list, Shane O' Mac's leap to the ringside table, Strowman vs. Ellsworth, the coast to coast that turned into a spear, and of course, The Shield's mini-reunion. 

 

I will say that in the five minutes or so before The Shield reunited, the crowd was starting to fade a bit, a combination of a lot of action thrown early in and a cool-down period in the match.

The finish with Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton was surprising and yet, it wasn't. You had to know that Team SmackDown would win the final match, for starters. And as we have mentioned on this site, no one has performed better at traditional Survivor Series matches than Orton.

The Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar match was... well, brief. And shocking. No one in the "smart" Toronto crowd could have seen it coming, and the reaction matched that shock.

 

Is it a bad thing? Not really. This UFC-style quick victory is going to be watercooler talk today... which is something WWE hasn't had in a long time.

Overall, this was a historic show and for all the right reasons. It married entertainment, great wrestling and unpredictable moments... which is about all you can ask for from something like this. Definitely worth experiencing live.

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Wrestling Historian Mike Rickard