The Beast, Declawed.
In this post modern, super-informed era of wrasslin’, true surprises are harder and harder to produce. That problem has lead to WWE playing things a little too safely, then erratically making changes when it appeared that the audience had “figured things out”. It’s years of that pattern which lead to arguably the most surprising yet totally sensible squash match in recent memory. Goldberg, after 12 years away from the ring, absolutely decimated The Beast, Brock Lesnar in barely two-minutes. Simultaneously ending a long stale story, and opening up the possibility of more down the line. Survivor Series was able to exceed expectations thanks to a creative push to just say “screw it”.
Of all the ways I saw this match going, even factoring in the potential for a complete and utter beatdown, THIS wasn’t the outcome that immediately jumped out. And yes, there will be plenty of nay-sayers out there. Those that won’t or don’t understand why WWE would serve up the monster they’ve spent the past three years making, but it all comes down to this; Brock Lesnar HAD to take a fall in spectacular fashion. Why? Because they’d missed the opportunity to do it sooner. Remember that Roman Reigns guy that every seems to hate now, because they were supposed to love him? Well, HE was the clear choice to slay the beast, but our collective rejection of his hero status killed that. Making room for Seth Rollins to cash in, and leaving Brock in a bit of a holding pattern.
He couldn’t be served up to a “lesser” star, lest we riot in the streets in memorium of The Streak, but there was no one else high enough on the totem for us to give even half a shit about winning that was also believable as an actual beast slayer. They’d done too good a job of creating this monster for us to accept just anyone in that position. Which is why Goldberg taking him out like this was the 9:15 match on an episode of Monday Nitro makes so much sense. He isn’t just anyone, and he’s been protected just enough during the build up for this to make at least some sense. You could say Brock underestimated him from a kayfabe standpoint. You could say WWE didn’t want to risk injuring the 50 year old in a typical Brock match from a business standpoint. Or, it could also be a case of Brock knowing what was “best for business” and doing the job for a guy who deserves the reverence. Either way, the call was made, and I can’t stop laughing from sheer wrasslin’ glee. They don’t often pull one over on us nowadays, so when it happens it’s refreshing. We may not see Goldberg until his inevitable Hall of Fame induction, but Brock, well he’s gonna be good and pissed. God help the poor soul that has to take the 43 suplexes needed to assuage him.
A Calamity of Riches
Survivor Series somehow ran long and ended early, because WWE doesn’t exist on the same plain for time and space as the rest of us. So how did they pull that off? By making the 5-on-5 match an hour long slug fest that managed to showcase old and new rivalries. No, there were no real stakes to the match, which WWE finally acknowledged as a chance to just go bat-shit crazy. The biggest selling point going into the match were the bragging rights to come after. Which as a fan, mean absolutely nothing. WWE may want us to choose sides (incidentally, Smackdown Live got the most chants by virtue of being the “better” TV show), but I don’t know of anyone who watches one or the other, we watch wrasslin’. The inter-company rivalry is meaningless to the fans. Try as they might, WWE can’t convince us to truly pick a side, because we know it matters about as much as professional football in LA.
What resulted was an hour long match, with men throwing themselves at one another for the greater good. I can confidently say that I was sports entertained. Even the moments that could have otherwise been seen as stupid worked. Let’s all have a fake moment of silence for that random snack table James Ellsworth was put through……
And let’s all put out some very real positive vibes for Shane McMahon, who had as serious “maybe I should just sit my 46 year old ass down somewhere” moment. After completing the elbow drop from the ring to the announce table, he went for his other big spot, the coast to coast. And that’s when his clock tower was struck by lightning. Roman speared him in mid-air, leaving the aging daredevil with the engine running but no one behind the wheel. It was a scary moment that’ll likely be worked into the larger narrative over on Smackdown Live. The tension mounted as the infighting got the better of each team, and while some dynamics had to play themselves out, it never distracted from the match as a whole. Jericho freaking out over his list made just as much sense as the small Shield reunion, because why the hell not. It all played out perfectly.
A Confederacy of Dunces
The other matches on the card suffered a bit more, for almost the exact same reasons the men’s 5-on-5 worked so well. They all felt largely inconsequential. This isn’t a knock on the men and women in the matches, just an acknowledgment that resources were clearly stretched. The tag match had 20 f**k-damn people in it. I’m surprised the ring didn’t collapse.
The women’s match opened the night, and you could tell something was off from the start. The limited ring time on both shows was evident when women who hadn’t mixed it up since the brand split had to find a chemistry that just didn’t exist. They eventually got to the end, but not before we watched what appeared to be baby deer running through Bisquick.
The rest of the night was filled with moments you won’t remember come Monday Night Raw and more needless filler, which is weird for a show that ended at 10:30pm. Now if only they could find a way to trim half an hour from RAW we’d be in business. Survivor Series still has a ways to go before reclaiming its spot in the Big 4, but if the show is clearly on an upward trend. I guess if the matches aren’t gonna mean a damn thing, they may as well make them a spectacle.