Pruett's Pause: WWE Survivor Series 2015 - WWE's universe is broken, Roman Reigns wins and loses the WWE Championship, Sheamus cashes in, sadness consumes us all, and a cool Undertaker thing!
By Will Pruett
WWE hauls a giant LED screen around from arena to arena for use every Monday, Tuesday, and on occasional Sunday nights. This screen probably cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars. It requires major local crew hires to assemble it. It blocks out hundreds of seats, making them unsellable. This giant screen does not show the fans in the arena the show. Why does it exist?
I'd love to write this essay about an amazing show with an electric moment to close it out, but I can't. Not only did WWE not deliver an amazing show with an electric ending, they delivered a spectacular lack of logic in even the smallest elements of their show. If the little things don't match up, how are the big things supposed to?
Roman Reigns came through the crowd to go to the ring for the first match of Survivor Series. Reigns, after winning said match, walked up the ramp and to the traditional backstage area. He was interviewed multiple times in the backstage area throughout the show. When he came out for his second match in the main event slot of the evening, he went through the crowd again. Why? Am I supposed to assume Reigns was so concerned about having a cool looking entrance that he went out to the concourse and caused a headache for security again? Why does Roman Reigns even come from the crowd? Does he get dressed up there? Did he lose a bet? Could anyone in WWE (including Reigns) actually answer why Reigns comes from the crowd?
Storytelling is about creating a separate world consistent enough for people to suspend their disbelief and dive into it. Wrestling is about telling stories. I've never been one to call out the minor logical flaws in wrestling ("Why doesn't everyone start bleeding immediately when they're punched in the face?"), but WWE produced an evening filled with flaws, ranging from giant to minor. I couldn't sit back and ignore them anymore.
A match between two men, considered to be best friends, started out with a more violent and extreme display than the match between two mortal enemies (Charlotte and Paige) built up by mentioning and mocking a departed relative. The "mystery" Survivor Series matches where no one knew the teams or opponents assumed wrestlers just hung out hoping to get picked for teams. Why would anyone want to fight in a match with nothing at stake? Will the results of them matter on Raw this evening?
The largest logical fallacy has been saved for last. How does a briefcase allowing the holder of it to physically and illegally assault a champion then pin them exist? The rules of the Money in the Bank contract have not always featured this clause. Holders of the briefcase have tried to cash in on downed opponents and been denied because the opponent couldn't stand. Why did this rule go away? More than the existence of the briefcase, who does it actually help? Does Sheamus' character gain any traction in his win? Does Roman Reigns seem more sympathetic for once again failing to accomplish his dream? Does Triple H seem like a brilliant tactician for arranging it all yet again? The answer to all of these is "No".
The largest logical fallacy of Survivor Series was assuming anything being done on this show was being done for any reason other than "it'll shock everyone" or "that's how we've always done it". WWE is a broken universe featuring an outdated vision from a 70 year old man who refuses to listen to criticism. The details, from the screen to the entrances to the stipulations, all show it.
And now for some random thoughts:
- Roman Reigns was supposed to be the sympathetic star of the show, but in one moment, this perception was ruined. When Roman, after two supposedly hard-fought battles, refused to shake Triple H's hand and attacked him, all sympathy was lost. Triple H had done nothing to Roman Reigns at this point. Even in the last couple months of television, Triple H hasn't really been mean to Reigns. Triple H offered Roman the WWE Championship. Triple H allowed Roman to be in the WWE Championship tournament. Triple H hadn't been very evil when it came to Reigns. Reigns responded to this by attacking someone. Who would ever want to like this guy? This was rude. There's no other way to look at it. Reigns looked like an ass hole in that moment.
- Who is Roman Reigns? Is he the nice guy who does things the right way I want to see get ahead? Is he the jilted former champion trying to reclaim the title stolen from him? Is he the cool guy who is effortlessly awesome at most things? I'm not sure who Roman Reigns is. I'm not sure Roman Reigns knows who Roman Reigns is. He has no moral compass or consistency as a character.
- If I am a fan of Roman Reigns, I have to admit that he is a constant failure. Roman has failed to capture the WWE Championship at Money in the Bank 2014, Battleground 2014, WrestleMania 31, and Payback 2015. He failed to win the Money in the Bank match at Money in the Bank 2015. Even when he finally accomplished something he first tried a year and a half earlier last night, he was immediately defeated for the WWE Championship. The worst part of all of these failures: They have not changed the character of Roman Reigns at all. Events in WWE occur within a vacuum and nothing changes anyone.
- Roman Reigns vs. Dean Ambrose was a pretty good nine minute match, but the main event of a pay-per-view culminating with a WWE Championship match should probably be longer than nine minutes.
- The first two tournament matches, Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens and Roman Reigns vs. Alberto Del Rio were decent. The crowd was into them and the finish of Owens vs. Ambrose provided the best wrestling action of the entire evening. They were a nice way to begin the night.
- The backstage promos between Owens, Reigns, and Ambrose (and later just Reigns and Ambrose) were pretty good. We needed to see Reigns and Ambrose react to being forced to face each other. This was the best way to do so.
- Alberto Del Rio has been noticeably disconnected in his matches since his return last month.
- Both traditional Survivor Series elimination matches featured a moment where the babyface team outnumbered and over-powered one heel. Why? It made the heels look sympathetic and the babyfaces look downright cruel.
- I'm glad WWE didn't include the Reid Flair line in the Charlotte vs. Paige video recap. It would have been a better choice not to include the line in the show on Monday, but WWE isn't about good judgement.
- Charlotte vs. Paige for the WWE Divas Championship (still a misogynistic name and a misogynistic butterfly design) was not a good match. It was a long match with a complicated array of moves one would expect to be found contained within a good match. This did not make it a good match. Charlotte and Paige entered to relative silence with a smattering of boo's among the apathy. They fought for almost 15 minutes. They never connected with the crowd. No one was rallying behind Charlotte on her quest for vengeance. No one was decrying the actions of Paige. No one cared.
- WWE's booking has managed to produce apathy for the women. I'd claim creative sabotage, but this is how the whole show is being booked. It's not sexism if the storylines are bad all around.
- Tyler Breeze should never be the reasonably dressed competitor in his matches.
- Undertaker's entrance and mactch on this show was a thing of beauty. They managed to honor the legacy of Undertaker and give him a special moment with Kane in a delightful way. In the sea of negativity and sadness WWE lead me to last night, this was a life raft of heartfelt joy.
- Here's the weird thing: I believe Sheamus is a decent-to-great wrestler who could be a legitimate WWE Champion at some point. I don't dislike him. I dislike the way WWE seems to abuse his character.
I have never been a conspiracy theorist as a wrestling fan. I try to keep my head filled with rational and logical thoughts. Last night, I was reminded of a conspiracy people in the wrestling business (even in WWE) have mentioned to me. The theory is that WWE is tanking the creative effort on the main roster and producing a better (and evolved) show with NXT on purpose, so when the time comes for Paul Levesque to take over for Vince McMahon creatively, people (and stockholders) will accept him. I don't currently believe this theory is true. I do believe it is worth mentioning.
WWE is in a dark creative place, and with the multitude of injuries, it shows no possibility of immediate improvement. It's a broken universe.
Got thoughts on this show or my review of it? If they aren't super annoying thoughts, hit me up with them! Check the Twitter twitter.com/itswilltime or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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