Friday, April 19, 2024

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Survivor Series in Review: A Night of Extremes

Survivor Series was, for lack of a better word, packed. Two Divas matches, a pre-show appearance and one big meltdown at the end of the show ensured that Diva fans would have a lot to talk about today. And that’s not even mentioning what actually happened in the matches…

The card saw AJ Lee defend the Divas Title against Nikki Bella, while Alicia Fox, Emma, Naomi and Natalya took on Cameron, Layla, Paige and Summer Rae in a traditional Survivor Series Elimination Tag Team match.

Before any of that could happen, though, we had an appearance by Rosa Mendes on the Survivor Series Kickoff show. She’s now Fandango‘s manager, and is taking on some sort of flamenco gimmick:

Fandango defeats Justin Gabriel in his return match. Does he have his mojo back? I don’t care, really. It’s just nice to see Rosa back in a managerial role. I liked what she did with Primo and Epico, so maybe she can replicate that here.

On the show itself, our first Divas match is the four-on-four bout:

Alicia kicks things off by throwing her ring jacket at Paige, but she doesn’t start the match for her team. Instead, Natalya faces off with Paige. They trade momentum, Paige turning a side headlock into a headscissors submission, which Natalya kips up out of. They then repeat the exchange, this time with Paige doing the kip up (kipping up? kip upping?).

Natalya battles back and takes Paige out with a double underhook suplex. Paige slips out of the ring, and Natalya knocks her even farther away with a baseball slide before chasing after her and dragging her back to the ring. Once inside the ring, Paige seeks refuge in the ropes, clinging to the bottom one and yelling at Natalya to get off of her.

Once Natalya back off, Paige levels her with a forearm and tags in Layla, who misses a legdrop. Natalya takes the opportunity to tag in Emma, who gives Layla whiplash and goes for a pin. Layla kicks out. She rolls her up for another pin, but that too is unsuccessful. Another pin follows that one, but again Layla kicks out. Emma needs to rethink her strategy..

Emma whips Layla into the ropes and goes for an arm drag, but Layla reverses it, flipping Emma into a pin attempt. Emma reverses it into a pin of her own, but Layla escapes. Two kicks from Layla level Emma, but the subsequent pin attempt doesn’t keep her down. Emma kicks out. Layla tags in Paige.

Paige nails Emma with a headbutt. She brings her over to the ropes, kneeling against the back of her neck and allowing Layla to get in a kick before hitting Emma with a barrage of knees to the chest. While Paige taunts the audience, Emma fights back, attempting to drive Paige’s head into the turnbuckle. Paige blocks it, though, and sends Emma’s head into it instead. Paige climbs the turnbuckle from the outside and drags Emma up with her. Unfortunately for Paige, this puts her in perfect positioning for a superplex, which Emma hits after taking control of the exchange.

Paige is hurting, so she tags in Cameron. She kicks Emma and takes her to the ropes, exiting the ring just so she can slap her from below. Cameron reenters the ring and trash talks some more before hitting Emma with a suplex. She hits a split leg drop and goes for the pin, but Emma kicks out. Cameron captures her in a submission, but Emma battles back and pulls her into a backslide pin attempt. Cameron kicks out after a one count. Emma tumbles to avoid a clothesline and tags in Naomi.

Cameron comes charging at her former tag partner, but gets a kick to the head for her trouble. Naomi enters the ring via the top turnbuckle, climbing it and taking Cameron out with a crossbody. She chases all of Cameron’s partners off of the ring apron before returning to Cameron. Her Irish whip in reversed into a kick to the stomach, Cameron taunting her. When Cameron tries for an Irish whip of her own, Naomi reverses it too, latching her legs around Cameron and taking her out with a stunner. Naomi goes for the pin, but Layla storms into the ring and breaks it up.

Alicia enters the ring and takes Layla out with a dropkick, bringing in Summer, who returns the favor with a spinning heel kick. Emma enters, tossing Summer out of the ring. Paige then takes out Emma, drawing in Natalya, who blasts Paige with her spinning clothesline.

Natalya tries to do some damage to Cameron, but Cameron fights back, taking her out with a running bulldog. This leaves her alone with Naomi, who rolls her up into a bridged pinning combination. It’s enough to keep Cameron down for the count, and she is eliminated!

Cameron has been eliminated.

Summer enters the ring and charges at Naomi, but her blow is blocked. Naomi nails her with a forearms and snapmare, setting up for a low dropkick, but Summer screeches and back away. She doesn’t back away far enough, though, as Naomi then simply kicks her in the face. Naomi pins Summer, but she kicks out after the one count. Summer slips out of a bodyslam attempt, dragging Naomi to the mat by her hair. She goes for the pin, but Naomi kicks out even before the referee can start his count.

Summer performs a splash onto Naomi’s arm (?) and tries for another, but Naomi rolls out of harm’s way. She tags in Natalya, who Summer immediately takes out, kicking her before she can get through the ropes. Summer then knocks off the rest of the team before following Natalya to the outside, retrieving her and tossing her back into the ring.

However, Alicia’s seen enough, and tags herself in. She storms in, Alicia-style, knocking Summer off her feet and taking her down with a series of dropkicks. She uses Summer like a battering ram, driving her into Layla. She drags in Layla and Paige, ready to take on them all. Indeed, she takes them all out at once with a crossbody. As they exit the ring, she climbs the turnbuckle, ready to dive out onto them. They see this and back off, though, and Alicia calls them chickens.

Slowly, they return to the ring apron, and are greeted by a roar from Alicia. Summer isn’t having any of this, and she frantically tags in Layla. She ties up with Alicia, but the hold is broken. Layla taunts her with a little chicken dance before being taken down with a Lou Thesz press. Alicia pummels her a bit before hitting her with a bridging suplex. Layla kicks out.

Alicia whips Layla into the corner, but gets a kick to the stomach when she charges in for the attack. Layla leaps from the second rope, hitting Alicia with a crossbody. Alicia uses her momentum to roll out of a pin attempt, hitting Layla with a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker that’s enough to keep her down for a three count.

Layla has been eliminated.

Paige doesn’t waste any time, entering the ring and kicking Alicia in the face. She tosses Alicia into the corner and tags in Summer, whose attack is telegraphed by Alicia. She gets snatched up mid-air and carried to the opposite corner, where Alicia tags in Natalya. They hit Summer with a tandem side Russian leg sweep. Natalya follows that up with a clothesline and attempts to take out Paige as well, but she’s just out of her reach on the ring apron.

Summer tries to ambush Natalya, but gets nothing but a face full of turnbuckle. Natalya hits her with a snapmare and hits the move Naomi wasn’t able to earlier, driving a low dropkick to Summer’s face. She hits a spinning clothesline, but her follow-up Irish whip is reversed, and when she hits the ropes, Paige nails a kick to the small of her back.

Summer tags in Paige, who immediately finds herself snared into a Sharpshooter attempt. Summer quickly frees Paige, knocking Natalya down before hurrying back out of the ring. Paige tags her in and sets up Natalya against the middle rope, inviting Summer to perform some of her knees to the chest. They aren’t as flashy as Paige’s, but they’re effective. Summer then pushes her luck too far, mocking Paige’s scream and giving Natalya time to knock her off the ring apron.

Paige tosses Summer back into the ring as Natalya tags in Emma. Emma hits her with a few clotheslines before trying to whip her into the corner. Summer reverses it, but Emma dodges her attack into the corner, capturing Summer in the Dil-Emma. After breaking the hold, she performs a very Emma-like move, tumbling forward to deliver a forearm to Paige and knock her off the ring apron. She tumbles over to the nearby corner and hits Summer with the Emmamite Sandwich.

She drags Summer away from the ropes and lock in the Emma Lock, forcing Summer to tap out.

Summer Rae has been eliminated.

This leaves Paige all alone. She chickens out the first time she tries to enter the ring, attempting to leave altogether. Emma follows her, though, bringing her back to the ring. Paige is quick to her feet and nails her with a kick, hitting some headbutts and driving Emma into the corner, where she stomps a mudhole into her. Emma catches her foot, though, and sweeps her legs out from under her, tagging in Natalya.

Natalya tries to bodyslam Paige, but Paige slips out and hits some chin music on Natalya. Paige tries to inflict more damage, but Natalya reverses into a German release suplex, tagging in Naomi.

Naomi goes for her springboard moonsault, but Paige stick up her knees and blocks it. Paige tries to go after Alicia, but gets forearmed by her instead. Paige then stumbles right into the Rear View. Naomi follows this up with a headscissors move, driving Paige face-first into the mat. Naomi then pins her and gets the three count!

Paige has been eliminated.

It’s a clean sweep for the babyfaces! They (and Tyson Kidd) celebrate the victory, giving the crowd a nice “feel good” moment.

Next up, we have our Divas Title match:

Brie and Nikki Bella are already in the ring as AJ makes her entrance. The bell rings, and Brie springs up on the ring apron with AJ’s Divas Title on her shoulder.

AJ notices this, and gets in Brie’s face. Brie then grabs AJ and plants a kiss on her (??????)! AJ breaks out of it and turns right into a forearm by Nikki. Nikki then immediately hits the Rack Attack and pins AJ! She’s the new Divas Champion!

And Brie looks… happy? She certainly doesn’t look like she did this against her will. She celebrates with Nikki, handing her her title. Brie’s got two days left of being Cinderbella, but did this have anything to do with that?

Later on the WWE App, Nikki didn’t exactly clarify things in an interview with Bryon Saxton:

She says the story isn’t about Brie, deflecting Saxton’s questions to talk about herself and how she earned the title. She prevents Brie from answering any questions, and Brie looks a bit annoyed as they leave.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Stephanie McMahon‘s epic freak out upon Team Authority losing the main event slot, putting her and Triple H out of power.

It’s classic McMahon theatrics, and I love it. Stephanie is truly her father’s daughter.

Oh, and her bump during the match should put to rest any pregnancy rumors. It’s only a matter of time before the WrestleMania match speculation returns full force!

Thoughts: The four-on-four match didn’t seem as sloppy watching it the second time through. The beginning was just fine, if drawn out a bit. This was a fifteen minute long match, which sounds like a Diva fan’s dream on paper, but it just felt overly long here. Making this too short would have surely rendered it a clusterfuck, but I do think it dragged a bit. I guess that’s what happens when the card is thin and the Divas Title match is less than a minute long.

I liked the dynamic between Paige and her partners. She’s a lone wolf, but an entertaining one, mocking her teammates. I can’t even compare heel Paige to babyface Paige. She’s just so entertaining now. Long gone is the bland Paige of old. Speaking of babyface/heel comparisons, I’m not crazy about the idea of Alicia being a babyface, but she was as entertaining as ever here, so maybe it’s not all bad. As long as she can still be the wild card, I think we might be okay.

Summer’s comedy acts were fun, but they come across as awkward when the crowd doesn’t react. Maybe if the match was a little tighter and quicker, the crowd wouldn’t have been as unresponsive. There’s definitely place for Summer as a comedy heel, but they need to find a way to get the crowd to respond better. Maybe having Summer on TV more consistently would help.

Somehow, even though she lost, Paige was clearly the star of the show. She didn’t score a single elimination, but she’s the one people will be talking about, in the end.

All in all, I didn’t hate the match. It just, like I said, felt drawn out, especially since it ended with no eliminations on the babyface team. The booking left a lot to be desired, I guess. It wasn’t particularly messy until the match broke down and multiple Divas got involved, which is what usually happens in these situations. That running bulldog by Cameron and the strange splash by Summer which made me cringe, too. Maybe the design of the match just isn’t conducive to some of the less experienced girls working calm and collected.

I will say, though, that it could have been a lot worse. There have been much worse multi-Diva matches in Survivor Series history, which probably doesn’t sound like a glowing review. I’m kind of just “meh” on it, I suppose, which is weird, since it seems to have polarized much of the Diva community. I’m glad it happened, though, because if the AJ/Nikki match was the only Diva match on the card, the night would have been a lot more controversial.

As for AJ and Nikki… I’m almost afraid to talk about it. I feel like there’s land mines all over the place, since Diva fans either LOVED what happened or HATED it or think it means AJ’s definitely gone. Putting aside the AJ speculation (which, for the record, I still think is bullshit), it was a clever move. I certainly didn’t see it coming. I’m not sure why they didn’t pull the Brie distraction a bit later and let them wrestle. Hell, the introductions by Lilian Garcia were longer than the damn match. Maybe they’re saving it for an AJ/Nikki match at TLC. That way, we as an audience will be dying to see AJ get her hands on Nikki. Maybe? I don’t know.

The spot itself was weird. Did Brie have to kiss AJ? Why not hit her with the belt while Nikki distracts the referee? I know it plays into the “mind games” thing, but it felt a little cheesy and faux-controversial. Maybe it just annoys me because it exposes how hypocritical the WWE’s PG policy is. We can have non-consensual girl-on-girl action, but no women wrestling men! No sir!

It’s an interesting twist, though, and I like that we don’t quite know what’s going on: is Brie still playing Cinderbella? Are things repaired between the Bellas? Is Brie just setting herself up for an easier path to the Divas Title? This isn’t a case of muddied writing: they’re obviously making it unclear to add some mystery. I’m sure we’ll get to the bottom of it soon.

Survivor Series, it turns out, was a night of extremes: one match was too long, and one was far too short. One was a classic “feel good” moment, and the other had a confusing twist and possible heel turn. No one, it seems, is completely happy with what went down.

Hell, maybe Stephanie’s freak out at the end of the show was just reflecting the mindset of Diva fans. They went through a lot last night.

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