The WWE played the ultimate gambit. With a roster decimated by injuries and subscribers for the WWE Network falling well below their anticipated goals, they did the unthinkable. They offered a free month of the WWE Network to any new subscriber, including not just a PPV, but one of their marquee PPVs, Survivor Series. Should the WWE put on a great show, perhaps they right the entire ship and finish 2014 strong right before the Road to Wrestlemania begins.
Their risky bet hit the jackpot and the main event delivered the moments that wrestling fans live for.
Sting’s WWE debut at the end of the match will certainly deliver all kinds of incredible buzz for the WWE; however, and I say this as a huge Sting mark (the guy is my favorite wrestler of all-time), that debut was only a small part of what the WWE needed to accomplish in the main event. Sting is the hook to get people to come back Monday night, but fans tuning in for the first time in ages needed to finish the evening emotionally invested in the product and roster beyond Sting. The main event had to squeeze in weeks and even months of story to ensure this happened. Not only that, but the WWE also had to make sure to please their hardcore audience with a coherent story that makes them feel good about continuing to shell out $9.99 every month.
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Before the match even started, I had the mindset that, no matter what, Cena would win (because lolCenaWins), but I’d get some fond nostalgia memories with the rumored Sting debut. The WWE delivered so much more and completely destroyed my cynical expectations.
I probably should’ve taken Mark Henry’s immediate elimination at the hands of the Big Show as a sign that this main event would be booked wisely. That immediately put Team Cena in the driver’s seat. The cocky heel team that I expected to dominate throughout the match all of a sudden became the desperate team. Typically, the WWE has booked any Cena match in the opposite direction–stack the odds against Cena and delay the inevitable comeback and win.
Eventually, Team Authority evened up the team count to 4-on-4 with Ryback’s elimination, but another problem became quickly apparent: how do you eliminate Rusev? Would the WWE kill the “never submitted or been pinned” angle just to ensure that the babyface team secured the obvious result (let’s be honest, there is no way a short-handed WWE roster would fire four more people)?
The answer came via a countout elimination, which, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, the announce team did a great job with as they reminded the audience that disqualifications could happen in the match. Without that nugget of information a few minutes prior, fans are potentially left scratching their heads as to what happened.
Team Authority evened out the team count again with Erick Rowan’s elimination, but again, they are the team fighting hard to stay alive. And because of that, the Big Show’s heel turn on Cena has so much more impact. If Team Cena isn’t in the driver’s seat, Show’s betrayal looks like just another instance of the WWE trying to find more ways to stack the deck against Cena, a movie we’ve all seen far too many times.
However, this heel turn wasn’t just another odd for Cena to overcome. This backstab screwed Team Cena and removed Cena from the match, a result that no one expected. With Big Show walking out on the match, that left Dolph Ziggler, the man that many fans feel has been held back or buried by the powers that be, to take on the remaining three members of Team Authority. This has been a dynamic that the WWE, and HHH specifically, has played off of on more than one occasion. All of a sudden, here was the chance to prove all the cynics wrong, push Ziggler to the moon, and give fans a non-Cena babyface to love.
Push him they did. Ziggler eliminated Kane and Luke Harper. It appeared that he delivered the final dagger to Seth Rollins, but then HHH got involved, interrupting the sure three count. Ziggler received the top babyface treatment, a sure win removed due to outside interference. And not just any outside interference, interference from one of, if not the, top heel in the WWE and his cronies. The Cena treatment continued and Dolph fought The Authority off and hit his Zig Zag finisher again on Seth Rollins appearing to have the match won for a second time until HHH interfered yet again and tried to finish the job himself.
It was the embodiment of everything that drives fans insane. Dolph, just when it looked like he was about to break through the glass ceiling, had a WWE authority figure kick him back down once again. HHH, as a symbol of the WWE, draped his hand-picked next “face” of the WWE over Dolph and called for Scott Armstrong, the same referee HHH paid off to help screw over Daniel Bryan last year, to deliver the final three count.
Enter Sting, the man whose fame reached sky-high levels for taking on The Authority of his time, the nWo. Here he was, nearly two decades later, making his first ever appearance in the WWE and his first action as a WWE superstar was to eliminate the heel stable currently in power. One Scorpion Death Drop later and Sting finished the job of putting Ziggler over and walked away.
I became 12 years old again, transported back to the time in which I was flipping channels and landed on WCW Monday Nitro. I saw a Hulk Hogan that I didn’t quite recognize. I didn’t watch wrestling much, but I did know that Hulk Hogan was supposed to be wearing red and yellow and not black and white and certainly not standing with a ring full of people all dressed in the same colors and being booed no less. Then, from the rafters came a man in a trench coat and in Crow-like facepaint. He cleared the ring and fought everyone off himself.
The crowd went nuts and I was hooked. Even when I thought I was done with wrestling, Sting pulled me back in when he returned to TNA. Tonight, his return, and all the events preceding it, reminded me that I am forever hooked on this crazy, scripted sport that can drive me insane. Moments like this make it all worth it. Pro wrestling toys with emotions like nothing else and getting this kind of payoff is almost impossible describe (although Lord knows I’ve tried in the past 1,000 words or so).
My favorite wrestler of all-time helped put over one of my favorite current wrestlers on the roster. It feels like a dream. I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Five Takeaways from the Night
1) Bray Wyatt and Dean Ambrose had my favorite match to end in a non-finish ever.
Everything about this match was so great. Wyatt and Ambrose just beat the hell out of each other throughout the entire match, but what made this so great is how it was everything Wyatt/Cena wasn’t.
Bray pulled the same “give in to your dark side” temptation that he tried with Cena at last year’s Wrestlemania. Unlike Cena, Dean was more than happy to comply and, like everything else he does, took it to a whole other level like only Dean can. The chair shots, table spot, and the ladder pose all served as a nice little bit of foreshadowing that a TLC rematch is in their future.
No finishes can drive me crazy, but this is how you do it.
2) Yes, Damien Mizdow is ridiculously over, but The Miz deserves some credit too.
I can’t believe I just typed that, but Miz is just thriving off of the crowd’s reactions to him right now. He’s getting heat for simply ignoring Mizdow in tag matches and he’s working the crowd to perfection in the pose exchanges. And grabbing both tag team titles and making Mizdow act like he’s holding one? GENIUS.
I’m hoping the eventual breakup and blowoff can last until Wrestlemania because these two deserve it for hitting this gimmick out of the park and consistently being one of the most entertaining things on WWE programming.
3) Stop interviewing Roman Reigns via satellite.
Reigns already struggles as it is on the microphone and I seriously doubt anyone is going to forget about him. Can we stop checking in on him from whatever panic room his holed up in? The WWE crowd managed to remember a wrestler that has never been on WWE programming, so I think the WWE Universe can handle remembering a super-popular guy that’s only been on the shelf a couple of months.
Plus, now thanks to this appearance, we now have Roman Reins fisting jokes (and likely accompanied by GIFs somewhere, I’m sure). I’m pretty sure I could’ve done without that in my life.
4) Normally, I wouldn’t be too mad about how A.J. Lee lost her title, but…
…let me get this straight…the WWE attempted, and then bailed, on a fatal attraction angle between A.J. and Paige. That program was actually rather intriguing and I think had the plugged pulled far too soon in what I can only assume was done because they were painting themselves into a non-PG corner.
But then Brie goes and plants a big kiss right on A.J. and there’s the quick title loss. I don’t get it.
Oh well, at least we likely have the return of heel Bella Twins, which is a very good thing as I think they are much better in that role.
5) The Divas Survivor Series match was solid.
It was far from perfect, but the WWE Universe got to see that eight of these ladies can flat out go. I mean, even Emma was finally allowed to do wrestling things on the main roster. And Namoi’s finisher? Holy crap. Drop the Rear View for whatever that was because that might just have been one of the most vicious looking spots all night.
Oh, and added bonus to this match, Paige is finally establishing a clearly defined character. She absolutely hates everyone, and I mean, everyone. She consistently screamed at her teammates, insulted them, and even tossed one of them back into the ring to be finished off because she was so angry at their performance. She became truly despicable in this match and I loved it. Also, it’s no wonder her team got swept with that kind of cancer in their corner (hey look, logic!).
BONUS: Stephanie McMahon, I will miss you.
After the reality of what happened set in, Stephanie just went HAM on the situation. She has consistently been one of the best performers on the show week after week and I’d be doing a serious disservice if I don’t give her a hat tip here.