Survivor Series Captains Randy Orton and Wade Barrett Faced Off; Christian and Sheamus Backed Their Respective Captains
Orton was out first to give his ‘state of the union’ address about his prospects at Survivor Series. Though he recycled the ‘I don’t play well with others’ line, which feels like it should be treated more like a spontaneous line, I enjoyed how Orton applied his character to his role at Survivor Series; also, I seem to remember Orton using similar language for a previous Survivor Series match (2009 perhaps?). I enjoyed this especially because of the contrast with Barrett’s ethos. While Orton announced how he will personally enjoy ‘taking care’ of Team Barrett, Barrett made clear that his team was a indivisible unit, and that he was simply their leader – which suited him just as well given his leadership history with Nexus and Corre. Words aside, in terms of delivery, Barrett is so good that he seemed Orton’s equal during their face-off, which is a position Barrett’s lacked since he was discarded from Nexus, and would carry on later in the night. At this point, Christian interrupted, as is his want, wearing a neckbrace too, which is classic Christian attention-seeking cowardice. He put Barrett over as the leader of his team and said that, unlike in Orton’s team, there was genuine unity (a kind of honour amongst thieves which is one of my favourite heel characteristics), and I think this was important to stress given the genuine advantage in quality Team Orton has over Team Barrett, especially now Christian may be injured. To illustrate this point, Christian looked to team up with Barrett to beat Orton down, but before they could, out came Sheamus to even the odds. This may be formulaic, but the team-mates backing each other in confrontations makes for great Survivor Series build. You can expect a locker-room emptying 5-on-5 confrontation soon, and though you can expect it, it’ll still be great!
Sheamus def. Christian
This was a really good match. The central story of the match was Christian’s feigned neck injury, which, perhaps in an attempt at self-fulfilling prophesy, Sheamus spent the match trying to make genuine. This was especially evident with Sheamus’s hard-to-watch fallaway slam (I think that was what it was, but it also looked like a T-bone – or does in my memory at least) to Christian in to the barricade after catching his plancha attempt. Indeed, Sheamus hit another fallaway slam later on in the match, so perhaps he’ll use that as a new regular move that fits him well. The match continued to go back and forth naturally, with a lot of good, fluid reversals in retrospect. One beautiful counter was Sheamus’s counter to Christian’s signature springboard sunset flip, which he caught and in one fall swoop, brought Christian down with an Irish Curse backbreaker. Christian also seems to be getting a new characteristic as a ‘late game player’, and this again showed in the match, as he came in to his own towards the end of the match, showing his veteran-like wiles and resilience in a sequence of diving elbow, pendulum kick and tornado DDT for a near fall, before attempts at the Killswitch and Spear which Sheamus managed to avoid. Missing the Spear sent Christian to the turnbuckle, and Sheamus was able to quell Captain Charisma’s second wind with a Celtic Cross. A nice match, but perhaps the last time we’ll see Christian in the ring for a while because, as I say, he apparently got injured on tour this week. Perhaps this makes Christian’s whimpering retreat to his neckbrace a helpful bit of serendipity to keep him off TV while he heals – if he needs to.
Ted DiBiase def. Jinder Mahal
Another squash for perpetual partier, Ted DiBiase. He is certainly being made to look good, and seems to be working more naturally as a babyface. The one problem is his ‘I Come From Money’ theme, which screams heel. Change it already!
Mark Henry def. Daniel Bryan
The re-rise of D. Bryan continues, despite losing again to the World Heavyweight Champion, or, indeed, because he lost again to the World Heavyweight Champion, but in impressive style. I liked that they took the time to explain that Bryan only nearly cashed in because he was ‘out on his feet’ and Big Show was basically forcing him – it re-highlights not only the WrestleMania cash in angle, but also the the sheer respectability of Bryan as a character. This is great because whether he does cash in at Mania, or beforehand, turning heel, keeping this angle, and this ethos, at the centre of Bryan’s character going forward will make either scenario more meaningful. Backstage, AJ and Kaitlyn were the ones to clarify this, while seeming quite enamoured with AmDrag, which was really cool because the Chickbusters are awesome and would totally love Bryan in real life being the ‘nerdy’ characters they are. In contrast, Mark Henry tried to intimidate Bryan before their match, but unlike the week before, where Bryan seemed naturally scared, he back-talked, slapping Henry’s hand away and promising that if he’s still champion by WrestleMania, he’ll take the title off him because everyone always taps, eventually. We were watching Bryan growing in confidence and charisma in front of us, and Henry seemed to respect this too, before finishing on a particularly Henryan line that Bryan has guys, but he was about to tear them out. The match itself was similar to last week’s in that Henry physically dominated Bryan in the early goings, as you would expect. Again though, Bryan stayed in the game, and really took the fight to Henry, getting him to his knees with a huge missile dropkick (so huge that Bryan landed awkwardly on his neck) before hitting his stiff buzzsaw kicks to the chest and finishing with one splitting Henry’s wig for a good near-fall for Mr. Money in the Bank. Bryan then went for the LaBelle Lock, and somehow managed to lock it in for some time. Henry managed to get to his feet though and hit a back slam to Bryan to retake control of the match. From here it was a short road to a Worlds Strongest Slam. Henry cockily lifted Bryan’s head off the mat though, to give him more punsihment, but AmDrag would not die! Instead, he motioned Henry to bring it on, and though Henry soon swept him up with another WSS for the win, it showed a great level of respectable courage from Bryan. A furious Henry looked to add Bryan to the Hall of Pain, but again, Bryan fought back! He hit Henry with the chair. No sell from the monster though, who hit Bryan with the chair before attempting the Hall of Pain spot again. This brought out Big Show and a botched chair-punch which nonetheless saw Henry back off. A short-but-sweet match, with the right booking for all concerned. Bryan looks formidable and tough again, while Henry remains the monster. I’m a little uneasy with Henry backing off Show, but I guess some doubt about the matches winner has to be retained.
The Big Show def. 3 Local Competitors
Show asked Henry to watch his match and see something ‘really impressive’, which he (kinda) provided, beating three local guys (cue bad oversells). Not really as impressive as intended, especially given Henry ruling Show on the mic afterwards too, saying that he wasn’t impressed, but that he knows he impresses Big Show, and that at Survivor Series, he’ll leave Show with a lasting impression. This was probably the best week so far building Henry and Big Show, and it’s precisely because they didn’t have any real physical interaction. One-upmanship is a great way to build two giants, and that is essentially what happened here.
Alicia Fox w/ Aksana def. Tamina w/Rosa Mendes
Tamina was much better in this match than i’ve ever seen her. Maybe it’s because Alicia probably weighs something similar to an actual fox and can be pressed easily, but Tamina showed flashes of decent technicality too, for as brief as the match was at least. It’s a shame they didn’t get her in Pin Up Strong when they had the chance, but it really is too late now. A. Fox was always going to win this one, and she did so with her flip leg drop, which I quite like as a finisher for her. It’s athletic, unique, and plays on her long legs, so it fits. All the while we had a feisty Natalya at commentary, putting forward again case for Pin Up Strong. We didn’t, however, see any confrontations, so other than getting Fox over more as a higher, more powerful, babyface, nothing much way achieved with regards to that story.
Hunico & Epico w/ Primo def. The Usos
There was a lot to be excited about because of this match, and the booking of it. First off, we had Hunico and Epico together, as I expected given their history as a tag team, but I loved that Primo was there with them. Primo is uber-talented and deserves TV time, and he fits in with these two to make a version of TNA’s Mexican America, a stable that i’m actually a fan of. It’d be nice to see this stable succeed and become an edgy, unique element in WWE (as long as they don’t PG-rub the edgyness off the characters and make them more West Side Story than Grand Theft Auto). Now, for a while i’ve been a huge fan of the babyface Usos, but I was worried about their prospects after one of them got caught with a DUI. Last night, however, it seemed they were back on track, even getting pyro to accompany their fantastic entrance; a splice of the traditional and the modern. Instantly, I was excited about the future of WWE tag team wrestling as the ring carried old-skool brother tag team the Usos, working with great chemistry, and established tag team Epico and Hunico with a fresh gimmick for WWE, both teams showing great tag team wrestling (blind tags, double teams etc). Fast-paced, this match was a good match, including a sweet corkscrew forearm from Hunico whilst he stayed on his feet. The break-down of the match was also good, and also showed good tag team booking. With Primo’s distraction, Jimmy was drawn out of the ring while Jey hit one of their sweet superkicks to Epico, but walked in to a cool reverse Angle-like slam from Hunico, which he followed up with a Senton Bomb for the win. Good match, and one that got everyone over. The Usos were back in action and looking good, this new Latin stable looked dominant, and Hunico especially looked good, which is important if he’s going to be going up against the likes of Orton on Sunday in any believable way. Following this we had a beat down from the Latino guys. I kinda expected Sin Cara to make the save but was eventually glad he didn’t because it was cool to see an old-skool beat-down making the new guys look dominant. This ended with a nice little combo of a Codebreaker from Epico straight in to the mirror-image Backstabber from Primo and finally another Senton Bomb from Hunico to finish it all off.
Wade Barrett def. Randy Orton
This was a good match; brutalist if not magical. Orton is good at both, so Barrett going toe-to-toe with him made him look really good. Even if his style is build around ‘bare-knuckle boxing’, Orton is the man to beat on the Blue Brand (well, him and Henry). The first cool spot was also based on brawling and happened outside of the ring. After slamming Barrett against the barricade, he whipped him against the steps before squashing his head on them. Going for a second, Barrett jumped the steps and hit his trademark back-kick to them to collide painfully with Orton’s knees before returning the favour by whipping The Viper in to them. Wade took control for quite some time after that, choking Orton on the ropes before his new Big Boot spot through the ropes and sending Orton to the floor. After even more dominance from Barrett, Orton finally achieved a reversal in to a superplex to get back in the match. Orton them capitalised similarly with a hangman DDT before taunting for the RKO. Usually, however, where the opponent would walk in to the Randy Keith Orton, Barrett managed a thumb to eye, which allowed him to roll Orton up for the big win! A nice back and forth match here, and for the first time perhaps on this ‘Barrett Barrage’, the ‘Barrage’ seems formidable and he seems like a main player again. A good way to build tension between the two captains going in to Survivor Series, while making Barrett look good. I expected Cody Rhodes to make an appearance to help Barrett win, but realised that would have detracted from the glamorizing effect of his win, so was happy with it.
Still, where was Cody all week!?