Tuesday, September 28, 2021

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Survivor Series in Review: A Dish Served Cold


Monday night’s Raw left us with perhaps the most personal and intense Diva rivalry in years, setting up a Divas Title match at Survivor Series that held the promise of a real, vengeful fight between Charlotte and Paige.

For some reason, that match never came to pass. Sure, the match went on as scheduled, but it seemed to be playing off of a different feud, one in an alternate reality where Raw’s controversial Reid Flair mention never happened. Whether or not that was an intentional move on the WWE’s part (though omitting it from the pre-match promo seems to indicate that it was), it was disappointing to see. We had a rare opportunity to see Charlotte and Paige break the mold a bit, and that opportunity was wasted. All the controversy was for naught.

Before we can get to the nitty gritty of that match, let’s stop in on the Survivor Series Kickoff show, where Summer Rae and Tyler Breeze stopped by to answer questions from the crowd:

Charlotte also made an appearance, previewing her title defense in an interview with Rich Brennan:

About halfway through the main show, the Divas Title match took place, introduced by a nice promo video:

Charlotte and Paige get full championship match introductions and then get down to business, circling each other. Charlotte takes control with a waistlock, taking Paige down to the mat. Paige struggles to get free, getting to her feet, but is taken down again. Charlotte is tenacious, tossing Paige to the mat a third time. Paige gets to the ropes, wrapping her limbs around them and using them to finally get free.

Paige heads out to the ring apron and lures Charlotte to her, attacking her and delivering knees to the chest. Charlotte then follows her out on the ring apron and they trade blows, Paige winning the exchange when she shoves Charlotte into the ring post. Paige celebrates and then follows Charlotte to the outside, slamming Charlotte’s face into the announce table and tossing her into the ring. Paige follows, locking in a front facelock on Charlotte. Charlotte struggles, getting to her feet, but Paige hangs on, turning the hold into an abdominal stretch.

After a bit, Paige modifies the hold again, climbing onto Charlotte’s back. Charlotte finds an opening, charging forward and dropping Paige to the mat. Paige gets to her feet and grabs Charlotte, but Charlotte fights back with chops. Paige starts to fight back herself, but is halted by a big boot from Charlotte. Charlotte goes for the Figure Eight, but Paige rolls her into a pin attempt. Charlotte kicks out, and Paige nails her with a kick to the face, going for another pin. Charlotte kicks out.

Paige grabs Charlotte’s leg and tries to lock in a Figure Four, but Charlotte slips free and turns the tables, locking in a Figure Four of her own. Charlotte tries to bridge, but Paige rolls the hold and puts the pressure on Charlotte. Charlotte flips back, the Divas battling for control. Charlotte slips out of the ring, the hold still applied as she hangs off the ring apron. After a few agonizing moments for Paige, Charlotte breaks the hold at the referee’s insistence.

Charlotte gets to her feet on the outside, only to be met with a kick from Paige, which she catches. Charlotte seats Paige on top of her shoulders and drops her, Electric Chair style, face-first onto the ring apron. Charlotte regroups on the floor and gets to her feet, mocking Paige’s “THIS IS MY HOUSE!” taunt. Charlotte sends Paige back into the ring and follows, kicking her repeatedly. She lands a few knee drops and then chokes Paige with her shin. Charlotte locks in a headscissors on Paige and flips to an all fours position, slamming Paige’s face to the mat with her legs.

Charlotte flips back to her back, the headscissors still applied. She pulls Paige’s legs back for a pin attempt, but Paige’s shoulders aren’t down, so it’s no good. Charlotte then opts for flipping Paige around the ring, disorienting her before finally relinquishing the hold. Paige stumbles to the corner, where Charlotte drives her shoulder into her midsection repeatedly. When Charlotte charges once more, Paige moves, leaving Charlotte to hit the ring post with her shoulder. Paige then unceremoniously tosses Charlotte out of the ring, buying herself some breathing room.

After a few moments, Paige follows, fighting Charlotte outside the ring before returning her to the confines of the ring. Once back inside the ropes, Paige wraps Charlotte in them, planting a boot on her spine and stretching her arms back. She relents after a few seconds and hits her with a scoop slam. She then locks in a painful submission, hooking Charlotte’s left leg under her arm and bending the rest of her body with a chinlock.

When Charlotte refuses to tap, Paige switches to a bodyscissors hold. Charlotte answers by rolling back and getting Paige in a pinning position, earning a two count. Paige resumes the hold, but Charlotte is still fighting, turning around and getting free. Charlotte backs into a corner and Paige decks her with knees, but Charlotte eventually grabs hold of her, dropping her face-first onto the top turnbuckle.

Both Divas stumble to their feet. Charlotte charges at Paige in the corner and catches her defensive kick, dropping her with a sick-looking neckbreaker. She goes for the pin, but Paige kicks out. Charlotte pulls Paige to her feet and the Divas start to trade blows, control flipping between them until Charlotte flattens Paige with a spear.

Charlotte hits the Natural Selection on Paige, but Paige quickly rolls out of the ring to avoid being pinned. Charlotte follows, tossing Paige back into the ring. Paige simply crawls out again, drawing Charlotte out after her. Charlotte grabs her, but Paige reverses the momentum, sending Charlotte into the ring apron and then the barricade. Paige enters the ring for a moment to break the referee’s count and then returns to Charlotte, tossing her into the barricade once more. Paige climbs the barricade, taunting the crowd. This distract her long enough for Charlotte join her up there and send her flying to the floor with a spear!

Charlotte sends Paige back into the ring and follows, locking in the Figure Four. Paige tries to stop her from bridging, but Charlotte does it, locking in the Figure Eight. After a few moments of pain, Paige taps out. Charlotte is still your Divas Champion!

Shortly after, we got in a bit more Summer Breeze action when Summer accompanied Tyler to the ring for his match against Dolph Ziggler:

In post-show interview, Charlotte talked about her win and the significance of the show taking place in Atlanta:

Charlotte reflected on the venue, talking about making her main roster debut in the same city and having come so far in such a short amount of time. She muses that her brother is smiling down on her after her big win.

Thoughts: On paper, this match was pretty damn good. It had interesting spots and made Charlotte look like a resilient, tough champion. Unfortunately, though, two things let it down.

First, the crowd. I mean, damn… The energy was just sapped out of the place like a Divas match in the WrestleMania death slot. What the hell happened to the crowd? I never like to put too much importance on the crowd – when I do, I decide they’re either trying to put themselves over or are responsible for killing a match – but Jesus, could it have killed them to make some noise?

I know many say that wrestlers need to earn enthusiastic crowd reactions, but I don’t see how the Divas didn’t. They busted their asses out there and were hot off a very controversial main event segment on Raw. Did no one in the crowd watch Raw? Did no one there have access to the internet when the blame game was being played over who pushed for the Reid Flair mention? Judging by the nuclear outrage over that segment, you’d think people would be watching this match like the Ronda Rousey/Holly Holm fight. Instead, they were watching it like they had just seen The Undertaker‘s streak get broken. They were deflated. The cynic in me would draw the conclusion that some people only pay attention to the Divas when they can criticize them, but I’m not sure I have the energy to go there right now.

There’s not much else I can say about the crowd’s behavior other than express my disappointment. As we’ve learned, crowds can do so much: they can kill a match or make it legendary. Here, they helped kill what could have been a terrific grudge match. I’m not going to pretend that the Divas were 100% perfect and the evil crowd wasn’t worthy of them, but Christ, the fans might as well have not even been there.

The second thing I believe let down this match was the fact that it didn’t jive with the tone of the feud. Maybe if the stakes hadn’t been raised on Raw, this rather technical match would have felt appropriate. As it was, Charlotte should have been out for blood, much like she was in the pull-apart fight that closed Raw. I’ve seen many saying that it should have been more like the Lita/Trish Stratus match at Survivor Series 2004, when Lita said “fuck it” and just beat the crap out of Trish, willingly getting herself DQed. I agree with that – Charlotte had every incentive to do that, Paige having insulted her so deeply.

That’s not even mentioning the fact that she would have retained the title in a DQ scenario. What did she have to lose? She should have torn Paige apart with everything she had. At least then the controversy from Raw would have reaped something tangible, aside from countless clickbait-y headlines: a refreshingly personal Diva feud. It would have also given Charlotte the chance to show a new side of herself, breaking out of the “Flair’s daughter” box many Diva fans think she’s trapped in. Instead, she largely played by the rules, when she had every excuse to throw the rule book out of the window. If she can’t be set free here, will she ever be?

Even if the match was booked with a bit of cognitive dissonance, the Divas did do their best to bring some fire to it, with Charlotte’s doggedness and Paige’s desperation. Like I said earlier, I don’t intend lay full blame at the feet of the crowd, but can’t help but wonder how much of their performances were affected by the lifelessness of the audience. Intense wrestling performances often syphon energy from the crowd, so it’s probably pretty difficult to bring an intense feel to your match when the crowd’s practically silent.

So we’re left at a weird place: we have a match that wasn’t bad by any means, but didn’t feel right at all. From the crowd no-selling them to the booking ignoring Charlotte’s fury, the pieces just didn’t fall into place. If this feud continues, maybe they’ll course correct. I can only hope that they take the next opportunity to give Charlotte some edge, because there’s only so many chances they can miss before she’s left adrift with a totally forgettable title run.

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