Daniel Bryan def. Ted DiBiase to Retain the United States Championship
There was something about DiBiase right from the get-go that I liked a lot more than I have since he left Legacy. He’s been too bound up in his father’s image, and it’s hurt him and set his progression as a superstar back. Last night, he looked determined, ruthless and much more interesting. The early going was all about him and the remarkable aggression he showed Bryan, beating him down, picking him up, and beating him down again, including that sickening elbow drop to Bryan’s throat from the turnbuckle. I don’t know whether it was legitimate or not, but during Bryan’s resurgence, he hit a Suicide Dive on to DiBiase where he looked to fall awkwardly on his shoulder. If it was legit, kudos to Bryan for continuing, if not, kudos to both for making it a focal point of the match. DiBiase attacked the arm, and looked like he could beat Bryan, but Bryan eventually won by applying his LaBelle Lock from the other side of DiBiase, keeping his injured shoulder in mind. A very good opener though, and i’d be surprised if it has ended the feud. After the match, the Miz attacked Bryan from behind and cut a promo saying that he was sick of carrying that MITB briefcase around with him, teasing that he may cash it in on the night.
John Morrison def. Sheamus
This was the match I was least looking forward to. I didn’t think the build-up was very good, and I thought (and still kinda think) that Morrison isn’t charismatic enough to provide interesting narratives. The match started slowly, but to their credit, about a third of the way in, it started to pick up. The pace of the match picked up and there was some good back-and-forth, but mostly in Sheamis’s favour. A crucial moment came when Sheamus sweeped Morrison’s legs away when he was (I think) looking for Starship Pain. This started a nice progression involving Morrison’s leg, starting in style with some sort of (and this is my best identification of the move) leg-snapmare, which involved great athleticism from Morrison. Sheamus followed this up with a single-leg Boston crab, which I was really pleased to see as it showed some evolution from Sheamus, incorporating submissions. This still wasn’t enough though, and after Sheamus missed with a Brogue Kick, the resilient Morrison hit his flying chuck before a shining wizard and to pick up the three. A better match than I expected, and a good way to keep Sheamus interested in Morrison for now, though I was surprised to see Sheamus go down without receiving one of Morrison’s finishers.
Dolph Ziggler def. Kaval to Retain the Intercontinental Championship
This was another excellent match, and, as I expected, one that was high-octane and unpredictable. Ziggler’s highly competent mat-skills were never quite enough to contain the World Warrior, who even more than usual, was all over the ring, hitting springboards and flips and kicks whenever he got a moment’s breath. Some particularly special moments were his springboard moonsault on to Ziggler, and his corcscrewing flip into a Warrior’s Way which, unfortunately, Ziggler was able to avoid. It seemed Ziggler just wouldn’t be able to beat Kaval, so he resorted to holding his tights for the pinfall. Though Kaval is a new challenger that lost, that ending means i’m sure Kaval will go on to confront Ziggler and wrestle him again for the title at TLC. I’m putting my order in now for a ladder match. This was a very good match, and add in a ladder, and these two could steal the show.
Survivor Series Match: Team Mysterio def. Team Del Rio with Rey Mysterio and Big Show as Sole-Survivors
As I always say, it’s difficult to really analyse these big ten-man matches – there’s just too much going on in short bursts. That is not to say, however, that quality is lacking, and this Survivor Series match was, to my mind, excellent. The early stand-out was home-town boy, MVP, He had the crowd in the palm of his hand and was besting everything that moved. Though i’m sick of saying it, while your pushing people, WWE, why don’t you push someone who barely needs any pushing (MVP!) Del Rio got himself great heat by cheating MVP out of the match, tripping hm and then holding his feet while Drew McIntyre pinned him. Alberto was playing a fantastic heel indeed, after dispatching Masters with (relative) ease, and seeing Big Show enter the ring, he went to tag in McIntyre before mocking Show right in his face; his wink bringing him a swift Knock-out Punch to take him out of the match. Reks was characteristically powerful but indistinct, taking Show off his feet before getting eliminated without much fanfare. One stand-out was Jack Swagger. He was besting everyone in the ring, finding ingenius ways of grappling his way to an Ankle Lock. It’s obviously rare that faces tap, but Swagger’s determination paid off as Kofi succumbed to the devastating move. Swagger had McIntyre at his side as they took on Rey and Show, and McIntyre stood out too, working well with Swagger and being the last member of Team Del Rio to be pinned. As I say, a great Survivor Series match, though it was a little samey to see Rey and Show as sole-survivors.
Natalya def. LayCool to Become WWE Divas Champion
This was a relatively short but very good and physical match, which seemed to be well received. Natalya managed to handle the two heels in a way which didn’t seem unnatural, largely because of, I assume, the forays to ringside which makes the situation chaotic enough to allow that sort of unlikely dominance. The match progressed in almost the exact way I predicted it, but predictability is not necessarily a bad thing. LayCool are great heels, while most will acknowledge (in kayfabe terms or not) that Nattie deserves the title. It was almost like a right of passage, and so to have it delivered just as you might imagine it, makes it all the sweeter. Post match came a big surprise as Beth Phoenix made her return to save Nattie from the vengeful LayCool before celebrating with Natalya. Some interesting questions came from all this. Firstly, will LayCool stay together? Will they get a re-match? If they do, who will fight for them? Could the decision split them up? A LayCool split would be a genuinely big deal. Secondly, surely Beth Phoenix is interested in the Divas title? And if so, how will that effect her friendship with Nattie? Expect a tag match this Smackdown to provide some answers.
Kane and Edge TIE Allowing Kane to Retain the World Heavyweight Championship
This was, in many ways, an interesting and compelling match. It was a pretty slow one, because the story was based around Edge’s psychology and Kane’s mental state regarding his missing father. The early going was dominated by Edge drawing Kane in and capitalising on the angry champion’s lack of focus. This was obviously countered with some devastating offense from the Big Red Machine as he tried to punish Edge and beat some answers out of him. This was good, but the match wasn’t really action-packed until the very end. Kane, looking dominant, managed a Chokeslam, which provided us with a dramatic near-fall. An infuriated Kane set up for the Tombstone-Piledriver, but Edge escaped and hit a Spear, which seemed to give him the three count. On closer inspection though, both men were covering each other, allowing for a Kane retention. This is usually frustrating at PPVs, but it seemed justified here. Kane got to keep his title while Edge had a reason to stay focused on Kane. No doubt ther’ll be a rematch at TLC, and seen as Edge is involved, it’ll probably be a TLC match. A decent match, and i’m glad Kane kept the title for another month.
Nexus (Slater & Gabriel) def. Santino Marella & Vladimir Kozlov to Retain the WWE Tag Team Championships
Though predictable and relatively short, this was a neat little match which really played off Nexus’s distinct character. It was also good for the challengers as Santino was made to look stronger than he has in the past (indeed, a badly kept secret being that, in reality, he’s a very talented wrestler) and Kozlov was made to look like a dominant force. They really took it to Nexus, but Slater and Gabriel really performed a fantastic heel tag match, finding ingenius ways to keep te advantage and get in regular cheap shots, as well as their regular (within seconds of each other) tags meaning they can basically double-team for a lot longer. This, and involvement from other Nexus members was eventually too much for the faces to handle, as Nexus went over to retain in a way which showed the group’s strength, a point which was reinforced by their posy-match beat down of the challengers.
Randy Orton def. Wade Barrett to Retain the WWE Championship and John Cena Fired
Yes, this match was big and significant, though not for the reason I expected. The match was pretty good, and a point was made of making Barrett seem like a credible challenger, dominating Orton for the first quarter or so. The real focus was on Cena though, as he continued to call it down the middle. Orton was in the ascendancy towards the middle of the match, making every count very interesting, but again, towards the end, it was Barrett in control, using all sorts of moves: elbow drops, pumphandle slams and even a Wasteland without being able to keep Orton down. This frustrated Barrett who shoved Cena, but Cena, with nothing to lose, shoved Barrett in to an RKO and (though he briefly hesitated) counted the 1-2-3. Now I must say that I wasn’t on the edge of my seat like I was at Hell in the Cell, but I think that’s down to the fact that I so expected Barrett to win, and indeed, when he didn’t, I was surprised. Needless, to say, this isn’t the ideal scenario that I wanted to see, but it was not a bad way to end it. Had Barrett won clean, or had Miz have cashed in, it would have been frustrating, but here, when Cena realised what had happened, the response from the fans, and his connection to them restored was all genuinely emotional, and a testament to Cena’s acting in this storyline. Orton too, did a good job of showing immediate reconciliation with Cena, silently acknowledging the sacrifice Cena had made. There are more questions than answers though. What will become of Nexus? Surely it will be hard to justify another Barrett-Orton title match? It is crucial for them that they continue to make an impact, and I expect them to do something borne of anger on RAW tonight (one idea being they could beat down Orton and help Miz cash in, though I still think it best that he waits until post-Wrestlemania). It is crucial for them that they manage to stay relevant. The most important question surrounds Cena. For this to be an un-frustrating ending, he needs to either be gone from RAW for a significant amount of time (until, say, Elimination Chamber), or he has to go to Smackdown. I was gunning for a heel-turn, but a switch to the blue brand would be the next best alternative as he would have plenty of opportunities for fresh feuds, e.g. with the likes of Kane, Drew McIntyre, Jack Swagger and Alberto Del Rio. If he comes back to RAW within a month, I will be furious.
Overall, a very good PPV. The main event had to deliver, and largely, it did, pending the fallout from it. There was not one bad match on the card, even considering the shorter ones. Compared to last years outing, it was much better!