Monday, November 15, 2004

The World's Greatest WWE Survivor Series 2004 Preview

Finally, a PPV that feels like it's worthy of a PPV. With the progression of PPVs from "once a year event" to "seasonal event" to "monthly semi-event" to "monthly, brand-exclusive shindig," a lot of the charm that was found in earlier shows has been lost. Gone are the days where each show had a distinct flavor, an underlying gimmick that set it apart (such as the royal rumble's battle royal, the survivor series' elimination tags and king of the ring's tournament brackets) and in their place are a series of watered-down shows just a step or two removed from your everyday TV broadcast. I'm vehemently opposed to the monthly, split-roster PPVs the fed's been running for well over a year now, and it's big, interesting shows like this one that remind me why, exactly, I cared in the first place. By stretching the rosters so thin, it's gotten to the point where too much talent and not enough time is an enviable problem, the kind of flaw you'd jump at the chance to tackle. Thus my interest in this month's offering, the nigh-legendary Survivor Series.

This is a well-rounded card, with a very good chance to succeed and a taste of something for almost everybody. Without the need to concentrate on any supplemental matches for this month's PPV, both shows have put together some very interesting storylines. Both of the classic Survivor Series-style tag matches have roots in pre-existing, heatedly-contested feuds, but rather than feeling rehashed and overdone, those lingering emotions only add to the tension in the air. All of the championships feel as though they're in genuine danger of changing hands, and none of the challengers would appear out of place wearing the gold when all is said and done. In short, this is the kind of show WWE could be producing on a regular basis if it weren't for the frequency and brand-exclusivity of the modern pay per view. I'm excited for this Sunday, but can't say the same for the month after that.

Spike Dudley (c) vs. Rey Mysterio vs. Chavo Guerrero vs. Billy Kidman
Cruiserweight Title

Should be a great example of four guys, completely in their element, doing what they do best. While I still miss the spontaneity of the matches these guys were putting on almost a decade ago in WCW and ECW, when they were completely unhampered by style limitations in the ring and could let it all hang out if they so desired, each one has taken steps to reinvent themselves within the confines of a WWE ring. They're each working a safer style, undoubtedly a less flashy one, but the matches are still very entertaining. Mysterio's had some outstanding matches with Kurt Angle. Chavo's always worked well with his uncle Eddy, but their matches at the end of 2003 were completely different than their clashes in the past. This is going to be interesting, no doubt about it, and unless the ringside area grows unnecessarily crowded, it should serve to energize the audience, regardless of where it's placed on the card. The real emphasis of this match looks to be Chavo vs. Kidman, and it's traditionally a bad idea to take your attention off the champion in a four way. For that reason I'm taking Spike, but in all honesty the only guy I'd be surprised to see win it is Rey.
Winner: Spike Dudley

Trish Stratus (c) vs. Lita
Women's Title

After being absolutely leveled by the recent roster cuts, I'm having trouble getting excited about the ongoing potential of the women's division. Not surprisingly, their choice of Lita as the current challenger to Trish's rarely-defended title isn't doing much to console me. The build for this match was started and then abandoned so long ago, it's tough to get excited about the payoff this Sunday night. Sure, they would dangle a fresh carrot in front of our faces with a random vignette or face-to-face backstage on RAW once or twice a month, but even those only seemed to serve as more of a reminder that both women are still on the program than an ongoing point of ignition for an eventual title match. These two have never really paired off well together, even before Lita underwent her style-altering neck surgery, so my hopes for the match itself are minimal. And even though Trish has been treading water with the gold for a few months, she's a much more interesting champion than Lita would be right now. I'm taking Ms. Stratus. If you should happen to hear the call of nature during this match, feel free to rise from your couch and investigate.
Winner: Trish Stratus

Shelton Benjamin (c) vs. Christian
Intercontinental Title

This should serve as a good indicator of how realistic a chance both guys have at climbing to the top of the card somewhere in the near future. It's interesting to note that they've both followed a similar path to their current positions on the card; surfacing as a silent tag team participant, part of a three-man operation helmed by a more vocal central figure, eventually splitting away from said figure and freelancing as a successful tag team combination, holding several tag team titles before discovering a personality and splitting from the team, then all but forcing their way to the Intercontinental Championship by participating in a series of very good singles matches. They've both suffered through badly-timed injuries, and they're both on the rebound in a thriving RAW midcard. Yet I've still got my doubts about each of their consistencies in the ring. Shelton's seemed to perform well opposite both slouches and superstars, but his offense is still very repetitive and he lacks a series to really pop the crowd. Christian, on the other hand, has a strong grasp of variety in his matches, but doesn't always put his best foot forward when opposed by a poor worker. I'm hoping they can teach each other a few lessons before this series is through, and if either one of them accomplishes that, the feud will be a great success. Christian takes this one due to his experience advantage (or outside interference, your choice) and the chase is on.
Winner: Christian

The Undertaker vs. Heidenreich

And here I thought we'd moved beyond feuds based solely around attempted vehicular homicide. Using automobiles as a weapon is SO 2000 - 2002. In case the blatant stalling didn't tip you off, I'm not all that interested in this match. The Undertaker's failed to recapture the original magic of his old gimmick since returning to the dead, and while I hate to be the conceded ass to say "I told ya so," well, I told ya so. The age of this gimmick is really hurting both the Taker and his unfortunate opponents, and he hasn't exactly ripened with age in the ring. This match is going to be painful.
Winner: The Undertaker

Kurt Angle, Luther Reigns, Mark Jindrak & Carlito Cool vs. Eddie Guerrero, Rob Van Dam, Big Show & John Cena
Classic Survivor Series Elimination Match

A relatively oddball couple of pairings, with unique histories that tangle and intertwine all the way back to at least late 2002. Kurt Angle's had beefs with every one of the guys on the opposite team, (sans RVD) and his close relationships with both Luther Reigns and Mark Jindrak make them a common enemy by proxy. Meanwhile, John Cena (who's never really seen eye-to-eye with the Big Show and never had anything to say about his other teammates) and Carlito (who seems to have joined up with his team by accident) feel more like they've been tacked onto their respective teams just to fill out their lineups. I like what they're doing with Angle, by moving him back into a mentor role similar to the one he previously occupied with Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin, and I'm interested in seeing how well that relationship translates to the ring this Sunday. No question about it, the heels should function much better together as a team, while their opponents don't have much in common aside from their alignment in the grand, face-heel scheme of things. For that reason alone, I've gotta give Team Angle a distinct advantage.
Winners: Kurt Angle, Mark Jindrak, Luther Reigns and Carlito

Triple H, Batista, Edge & Gene Snitsky vs. Randy Orton, Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho & Maven
Classic Survivor Series Elimination Match

Bar none, the most interesting match on the card. The best possible reason to allow a heel faction to run wild on any particular show, especially for the amount of time Evolution has been manhandling RAW, is to eventually motivate, unify and mobilize the faces of that particular show. This past month, all those months of seed-planting, storyline-progressing and character-defining have finally begun to pay off. All the shit is hitting all of the fans, all at the same time for Evolution. Randy Orton finally decided that he was bigger than the stable, took the World Title for himself and was exiled from the faction, shrinking their numbers. Eric Bischoff, fed up by years of broken promises, senseless ass kissing and constant humiliation, has actually started to crack down on Triple H and his cronies, and their last, desperate attempt at recapturing his favor ultimately proved to be futile as he was driven to the verge of stripping Triple H of his title. Finally, all of the faces that Hunter's gone out of his way to individually demoralize and silence have banded together and pose what's possibly a more serious threat than the group has ever faced this Sunday at Survivor Series. This month's episodes of RAW have done a great job of not only emphasizing the match itself, but also the ramifications of its outcome on the World Champion. Adding to that, the physical portion of the competition should be extraordinarily good. Benoit, Orton, Jericho, Hunter, Batista and Edge have all been instrumental players in the show's constant parade of top-notch main events this year, most of which have been tag team competitions. Needless to say, these guys have had a lot of experience together, both as tag teams and as singles. Snitsky and Maven stick out like sore thumbs here, even moreso than Cena and Carlito in the Smackdown Elimination Tag, but both serve as wild cards in the scheme of things. Snitsky's already expressed his intentions, should his team win the general manager's powers, and something tells me Maven's been sleeping with the enemy. Somebody's gonna turn in this match, but it's anybody's guess as to who that might actually be. Despite the "last RAW victory curse," I think the faces are too completely unified to lose here, and are actually quite likely to recover from the loss of Maven, if he should turn his back on them and join up with Evolution.
Winners: Randy Orton, Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho and Maven

John Bradshaw Layfield (c) vs. Booker T
WWE Championship

I'll tell you the truth, this has actually been a pretty fun ride. It's great to see Booker excited about his potential on the card again, and it's tough to pick a winner here because of the way things have played out. Even though he's still very poor in the ring, it's tough to deny the fact JBL has evolved into an interesting heel character, and I can't believe he's held onto the belt for as long as he has. Even if Booker is the one destined to take the gold off him, it would be almost anticlimactic to do it here, after such an abbreviated build. I'm thinking the match will be sub-par, since Booker hasn't been the same wrestler since coming to the federation years and years ago and JBL is... yeah, he's JBL. Still, the crowd should be awake and I'm intrigued by the various potential outcomes.
Winner: JBL

In Closing...

Like I said, a lot of possibilities on this card. The championship matches are there and they seem to mean something, the elimination-style tags are here in all their glory, and at least one of them should be out-of-this-world good, and the big, slow man match is there for anybody who's interested in seeing that kind of goodness. The RAW side of this card is hands-down the more interesting in the ring, while the Smackdown side is holding its own on the storytelling side of things. Not a bad card by any means, and if a couple of these matches exceed their expectations the night could be very fine indeed.
until next time, i remain

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