WWE Survivor Series 2022 (11/26/2022)- Boston, MA
WAR GAMES MATCH: Damage CTRL, Rhea Ripley, & Nikki Cross vs. Bianca Belair, Becky Lynch, Alexa Bliss, Asuka, & Mia Yim- 7.5/10
I really didn’t like the cameraperson in the cage. You would NEVER see a cameraperson on the court in a basketball game where they could get in the way of the action.
They did the same sort of “hit each other with stuff and also big dives off the top” that I’ve seen so much of at this point that I’ve become desensitized to it whenever I seen it in large quantities (compare the million weapons here to what Luchasaurus and Jungle Boy gave us in a cage at Full Gear 2022 earlier this month). They also did stuff like the superplexes from the four corners that was too cute for my tastes, and there were too many times that people were caught in the background standing around and waiting either for other people to finish their spots so that they could run in, or waiting to get hit by a dive, etc. The worst of these was on the finish, when Becky was set up to do the most high-risk thing you can do in pro wrestling- dive off the top of the cage- and she stood there, waiting for Bianca to hit the KOD on Bayley first, even though every passing second increased the risk that her opponents would be able to recover and move out of the way, leaving Becky at best stuck on the top having done nothing, and at worst splatting herself through a table.
I didn’t like Asuka using the mist, either, as I think the mist in general is just dumb, but if you must use it, having Rhea be able to recover without getting her eyes rinsed out was even worse.
I am not in any way trying to suggest that this was a bad match. It wasn’t. The action was great and the psychology was sound. Io and Asuka’s segment together early on was a particular highlight. But I have seen enough of these War Games matches (and Hell in a Cell, and Ladder matches… and most gimmick matches, really) that to really be pulled in, I need a more focused storytelling, off-the-charts intensity, or something truly above and beyond in terms of spots. All we really got here in terms of that was Becky and Bianca standing side by side against Damage CTRL going into the finish, which is a nice bit of bookending, but not much more.
JEY USOS TRIES TO CONVINCE ROMAN REIGNS THAT SAMI ZAYN ISN’T TRUSTWORTHY- great
Roman tells Jey that he will handle determining Sami’s loyalty. Both guys were great. Heyman was in the background, and looked at Roman a little questioningly. Roman then ordered Heyman to summon Sami Zayn to him.
AJ STYLES (w/the OC) vs. FINN BALOR (w/Judgment Day)- 8/10
That facemask of AJ’s is extremely stupid.
Michael Cole reciting New Japan stuff broke my brain. And not just that, but getting it right! He knew that Balor and Gallows were never in the Bullet Club at the same time!
AJ worked the knee, Balor worked the midsection, and they just had an awesome match built around that. Not much else to say other than that AJ won cleanly once everyone else had brawled away from ringside.
WWE SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH: Ronda Rousey(c) (w/Shayna Baszler) vs. Shotzi Blackheart- 2.5/10
In the video package they showed, Shotzi claimed that Raquel Rodriguez was the first person to really have her back. This would be the same Shotzi who was portrayed as best friends with her NXT tag team partner Ember Moon. Oops. And this asshole who talks about being bullied so often is the same person who kept trying to RUN OVER ROBERT STONE’S BROKEN LEG WITH A TANK. The only way Shotzi’s character makes any sense is if she is actually a parody of a Millennial being played completely straight.
Shotzi apparently dedicated this match to her father, who died earlier this year. According to Cole, that’s where she got her “ballsy badass” attitude from. That has to be the most poseur-sounding nickname in wrestling history.
Anyway, Ronda mostly outwrestled Shotzi. They did a spot where Shotzi laded a good shot on Ronda and the announcers were screaming that this was Shotzi’s chance… but instead of going for a pin, she went for a Tornado DDT over the top rope off the apron to the floor, which either they botched terribly, or Ronda countered the move but then fell and hurt themselves. Shotzi also got to do a big dive, knocking Baszler and Ronda into what were clearly a bunch of plants because there were no rows of seat behind them, but there were for every other seat in the row they were on the end of.
When Shotzi finally got Ronda back to the ring after her big high-risk move, the first thing that happened was Ronda Judo-tossed Shotzi off the top turnbuckle. Then Ronda hit Piper’s Pit and locked in an armbar for the submission.
ROMAN REIGNS & SAMI ZAYN BACKSTAGE- FANTASTIC!
Roman asks if Sami talked to Kevin Owens on Smackdown, and Sami told the truth. Roman asked why he lied to Jey about it. Sami started to say that he “withheld information,” but then changed and just said that he “lied” because Jey had a big match (for the advantage in tonight’s War Games) and he knew that Jey already had trouble trusting him, so he didn’t want to say anything that would distract Jey. Roman asked what Owens said, and Sami revealed the warning that Owens gave him that he should turn on the Bloodline before the Bloodline turns on him.
Roman said that he needed to be able to trust Sami, and Sami gave this AMAZING speech about what being in the Bloodline means to him… and it was at this point where I figured out what this angle is: It’s Jimmy Loves Lacey.
You’ve got an underdog babyface with a sense of romantic idealism (in Jimmy’s case it was literal; in Sami’s case it’s more a general “we can all get along and be friends” optimism to teamwork and friendship and brotherhood) who because of that idealism craves acceptance from the desired person/group and winds up in a situation where we all know that they are being exploited by that group, but they crave that acceptable so genuinely that we begin to root for them even though they are helping the heels because we want to see them be accepted so badly.
Anyway, Sami finishes his speech, and Roman looks him in the eyes for a good long time (while Paul Heyman looks on suspiciously from the background) before he stands up. Roman then tells Sami to “get up” and they look each other in the eyes some more. Roman smirks and says “let’s do it” and he opens his arms for a hug. The crowd goes wild. They hug, and we zoom in on Roman’s face over Sami’s shoulder… and he’s not smiling.
WWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH: Seth Rollins(c) vs. Bobby Lashley vs. Austin Theory- 8.5/10
Tremendous action throughout, but especially the last few minutes. It almost never felt like they were waiting for someone to get into position for their complicated three-way spot. They did some little spots here and there that were callbacks to previous moments. I have to give props to Michael Cole for calling these spots in a way that pointed out their significance without making it feel like the main goal of him doing so was to get me to notice the wonderful art I was watching, which is what it often feels like in other promotions.
The only thing I didn’t like here was the finish, which saw Rollins have Theory up for the Falcon Arrow but get speared by Lashley, resulting in Theory landing on Rollins and lucking into the winning pinfall. This feels like a step backwards for Theory.
ROMAN REIGNS & JEY USO BACKSTAGE- great
Jey asked Roman if Sami lied to him, too. Roman said that he looked Sami in the eye and “saw everything I needed to see.” I usually hate it when one character is being cryptic with another so that the audience that they’re not even aware of is kept in the dark, but in this case it worked because the Usos will follow Roman’s orders without question. All Jey needs to hear to be reassured is that Roman has an answer. He knows that his role is to be ready to act on Roman’s orders the moment they come.
WAR GAMES MATCH: Brawling Brutes, Drew McIntyre, & Kevin Owens vs. the Bloodline (w/Paul Heyman)- 9.5/10
Kevin Owens was wearing a Dusty Rhodes shirt. That is one of those touches that I care about a lot less than most others seem to.
Cole told us that Paul Heyman knows so much about War Games because he managed the Dangerous Alliance against Sting’s Squadron at WrestleWar 1992. How do you bring up that but not bring up him managing the Samoan Swat Team in a War Games match at Great American Bash 1989, when the fact that he was managing them back then was part of the storyline basis for he and Roman joining up in the first place? Big miss there by Cole.
This was absolutely wonderful. A beautifully-crafted journey for Sami Zayn, and for all of us. They did such a great job of turning this into a roller-coaster without overdoing it, so that each little touchstone moment felt important but not overdramatic. Critical to this effort was how well they were able to keep Owens and Zayn away from each other to delay the big moment until they were ready for the climax… and what a climax it was, with Sami first breaking up Owens’ pin- by grabbing the referee rather than actually attacking Owens- and then, after Owens tried to talk some sense into Sami and Owens’s arms were full with a superkick, Sami hit Kevin Owens right in the nuts, then nailed him with a Helluva Kick, and allowed Jey Uso to splash Owens and get the pin. Somewhere in Mexico, El Generico is smiling.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT- great!
The Bloodline are all smiles, too, as they all hug Sami. And the fans are all happy and cheering, because Sami finally got the acceptance he wanted, and the dissension is over. And somewhere in America, in a little house with a white picket fence, Jimmy Jacobs and Lacey are smiling and chowing down on some Thanksgiving leftovers with their two little kids, and they’re thinking back on what Jimmy dubbed their “prom night,” also in a steel cage, almost sixteen years ago now at Supercard of Honor II…and they’re praying that Sami Zayn doesn’t have to go through even half of the hell that they still had to go through after that point before getting their happy ending.
This was a great show from WWE. The main event will wind up being one of the more memorable moments in WWE of this decade, and other than the one stinker in the middle, the action was excellent. That being said, I still think doing two War Games matches on the same show is a bad idea, and I hope that this doesn’t become another instance of “we do this gimmick at the appointed time every year” instead of doing it only when the story necessitates it.
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