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WWE kills 'Survivor Series'
By BRIAN ELLIOTT - SLAM! Wrestling




Perhaps moreso than ever, in 2006 it isn't difficult to get what you might term a 'nostalgia fix'. For example, if, like me, you were a child of the 1980s, you probably won't have to look too hard to find an old episode of The A-Team, Knight Rider, or Magnum P.I on the plethora of television channels on the end of your remote control. Most likely, you won't have to wait more than a week to watch the latest re-run of Back to the Future, either.

In terms of wrestling nostalgia, the Survivor Series tag team matches are always held in high esteem. That notion was agreed upon by the SLAM! Wrestling's readers, who voted positively in favour of these elinination matches in today's poll. Since 1997, however, such matches have been in short supply, and thus it was quite the treat to discover that this year's card would be based around the original Survivor Series concept.

But more than just an opportunity for a little nostalgia, the card -- emanating from the Wachovia Centre in Philadelphia, PA -- offered up the chance for other positives, such as bringing ECW star CM Punk to the pay-per-view spotlight, and the opportunity to put a little emphasis back in tag team wrestling, something that hasn't been done for the best part of fifteen years.

Indeed, the opportunity was there. All the WWE had to do was seize on it.

Match #1: Team WWE Legends (Ric Flair, Sgt. Slaughter, Dusty Rhodes and Ron Simmons) (w/Arn Anderson) vs Team Spirit Squad (Kenny, Johnny, Nicky and Mikey) (w/Mitch)

The opening match was nostalgia of a different kind, as whilst the Survivor Series concept itself hasn't aged, the WWE Legends here most certainly have. This was a strange choice for the opening bout, a decision which looked even more perplexing when Ron Simmons was quickly counted out after being distracted by Mitch at ringside. After Simmons had beaten up on Mitch, dragging him back to the locker room, Arn Anderson was also ejected from ringside for having also beaten up on him, a decision which elicited vocal displeasure from the Philly crowd.

Back in the ring, Sgt. Slaughter seemed to have Nicky beaten with the Cobra Clutch, but Johnny struck Slaughter with a spinning enziguri, leading to the fall. Dusty Rhodes was quickly in however, and dropped a big elbow on Nicky to eliminate him, too. When "The American Dream" missed a Bionic Elbow in the corner, however, Kenny quickly schoolboyed him for the three, which left Ric Flair against Kenny, Mikey, and Johnny.

Flair quickly ousted Mikey with an atomic drop, using the ropes for leverage when executing the pin. He also captured the fall of Kenny, pinning him with an inside cradle, before locking Johnny in the Figure Four leglock for the submission.

In the aftermath, all five members of The Spirit Squad beat up on Flair, and disappointingly, none of the Legends returned to save their team captain. Kenny used his legdrop off the top rope to leave Flair prostrate in the ring.

This was an awful way to start the show, as the match had no rhythm or flow, and there was little build-up to any of the eliminations.

Sole survivor: Ric Flair

Match rating: 3.0 / 10

Match #2 -- U.S Championship: Chris Benoit ( c ) vs Chavo Guerrero

As his customary, Benoit went straight on the attack in this match-up, using suplexes, bodyslams, and chops to floor Guerrero. He even went for an early Crippler Crossface, but Vickie Guerrero -- who accompanied Chavo to ringside -- put her charge's foot on the bottom rope before Benoit could really lock in the hold.

A beautiful dropkick seemed to turn the tide of the match in Guerrero's favour, and he also utilised kicks to the ribs and back to try and subdue "The Rabid Wolverine". Benoit soon retaliated, though, with a trifecta of German suplexes, although when Vickie stalled his attempt at a top-rope diving headbutt, Guerrero was able to evade the attack, and deliver a frog splash for the near fall.

Rallying, Benoit tried to lock in the Sharpshooter on his opponent, but was kicked off against the ropes, crashing into Vickie as he did so. Benoit then took the opportunity to lock on the Crossface, and with no-one to aid his escape this time, Guerrero was forced to tap.

This was quite a good match, which undoubtedly would have been much better had it been given as little as five more minutes. As such, it felt a little rushed.

Winner: Chris Benoit

Match rating: 6.5 / 10

Match #3 -- Womens' Championship: Lita ( c ) vs Mickie James

After a backstage segment where Cryme Tyme sneaked in and out of Lita's dressing room, it was time for the Womens' title match. Thank goodness, I thought, that the RAW shenanigans involving James having one arm tied behind her back etc were now through, but this match began very sloppily, with both women clearly not on the same wavelength. It was only when the champion -- competing in her final match before pursuing non-wrestling interests -- scored with a strong kneelift that the match began to take any shape at all.

Lita struck with a snap suplex and a sleeperhold, before missing a flying crossbody from the top rope. James then hit with chops, elbows, and kicks, and connected with a beautiful spinning roundhouse kick that caught the champion right on the jaw. She even executed a fisherman suplex, but was only able to capture a two-count.

The turning point of the match arrived when Lita hit a moonsault, but James kicked out. Frustrated, Lita went for a DDT, but James held on to the ropes, so that only Lita hit the canvas. James then struck with a tornado DDT for the pinfall.

After the match, in a lengthy segment, Lita scolded the crowd for not respecting her on her final appearance, and Cryme Tyme arrived to sell Lita's personal belongings that they had earlier stolen from her dressing room. The segment came off badly, with a lot of sexual gags for supposed cheap laughs. After what was a good title match (after its initial troubles), this was the polar opposite of the dignified exit that was afforded to Trish Stratus in September.

Winner: Mickie James

Match rating: 6.0 / 10

Match #4: Team DX (Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Jeff Hardy, CM Punk and Matt Hardy) vs Team Rated RKO (Edge, Randy Orton, Johnny Nitro, Mike Knox and Gregory Helms)

Just as the previous "traditional" Survivor Series tag match had started ignominiously, so did this one, as Mike Knox was eliminated within seconds by Michaels, using Sweet Chin Music. Knox had been distracted by Triple-H's interest in Kelly, and was taken out of the game before the match had effectively started.

The star of this match was CM Punk, for it was he who received the biggest crowd pop after accepting the tag. He didn't let the crowd down either, eliminating Nitro via Anaconda Vice submission after Matt Hardy had clotheslined the former MNM man on the top rope.

Randy Orton soon entered the fray, however, hitting Punk with a beautiful standing dropkick, and a RKO. But just as Punk seemed to be on the verge of being pinned, Michaels broke up Orton's cover. Edge then missed a Spear on Punk, who tagged in Triple-H, who cleaned house with a spinebuster on Helms, which led to a double team Twist of Fate/Swanton Bomb by the Hardy Boyz, from which the Cruiserweight champion was pinned.

Upon seeing the five vs two odds, the tag team champions decided to call it a day, with the intention of being counted out. The Hardys weren't about to allow that to happen, though, and they chased Edge and Orton down the aisle, before throwing them back in the ring.

Edge was the first to go down to Sweet Chin Music, before Orton (who once again tried to leave after his partner was eliminated) was defeated with the combination of Michaels' finisher, and a Pedigree from Triple-H.

For what was supposed to be a marquee match, this felt more like a non-competitive squash. None of the babyface team were eliminated, and at just over eleven minutes, this was far too short to have had any positives to take from it.

Sole survivors: Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Jeff Hardy, CM Punk, and Matt Hardy

Match rating: 5.0 / 10

Match #5 -- First Blood match: The Undertaker vs Mr Kennedy

Mr Kennedy took the novel step of undoing all of the turnbuckle pads prior to this First Blood match, obviously with the intention of busting The Undertaker's head open on one of them. It didn't look like that was going to be the case early on in the match-up, however, as Undertaker ravaged Kennedy with shots into the Spanish announce table, before being reversed into the steel steps to break up the momentum.

Kennedy used short punches to the head to try and cause bloodloss, but to no avail. In fact, the first sign of blood was from Kennedy himself, bleeding from the mouth. With the referee distracted by Undertaker, though, MVP emerged and cleaned up the blood with a towel, before throwing Kennedy back into the ring, as means of retribution for leaving him to suffer at the hands of The Undertaker and Kane on recent editions of Smackdown.

Despite that, Kennedy remained competitive, which prompted MVP to take matters into his own hands. He grabbed a chair from ringside, but accidentally struck Undertaker rather than Kennedy, causing him to bleed profusely. Kennedy was then declared the winner.

Furious at the result, Undertaker belted Kennedy with a brain-crunching chair shot, and also delivered a tombstone piledriver. Fortunately, having almost lost him midway through the move, Kennedy was not injured after landing awkwardly.

With a stipulation such as First Blood, there was always a chance that Kennedy would come up trumps in this one. But the anticlimactic manner in which this occurred left a sour taste in the mouth, and did nothing for either participant. Not for the first time tonight, the crowd voiced their dissatisfaction.

Winner: Mr Kennedy

Match rating: 4.0 / 10

Match #6: Team Cena (John Cena, Kane, Bobby Lashley, Sabu and Rob Van Dam) vs Team Big Show (The Big Show, Test, Montel Vontavious Porter, Finlay and Umaga)

Just when you thought that it couldn't get any worse, for the third "traditional" Survivor Series match in a row, a competitor was eliminated immediately, without no important storyline reason. This time, it was the turn of Umaga, who was disqualified for hitting RVD with a ringside monitor. From opening bell to his elimination, he was gone in less than a minute.

MVP attempted to take advantage of the downed ECW star, but found himself on the end of a Five-Star frog splash, after being chokeslammed by Kane. Almost as soon as he had covered MVP for the elimination, however, it was RVD who was ousted, blindsided with a boot to the face by Test. He himself was then next to go, again in rapid order, after Sabu struck with a beautifully-timed springboard tornado DDT.

The Big Show then got involved, chokeslamming Sabu for the fall, before Finlay used the shillelagh on Kane, which allowed the Big Show to score with a chokeslam pin once again.

That was five competitors gone in a little under two minutes, and some semblance of sanity was restored when it took a little longer (three minutes) to eliminate Finlay, the victim of a spear by Lashley. This left Cena and Lashley against the ECW champion, and they scored with both a double DDT and a double suplex, before Cena displayed incredible leg strength by hoisting Show onto his shoulders for the match-winning F-U.

Sole survivors: John Cena and Lashley

Match rating: 5.0 / 10

Match #7 -- World Heavyweight Championship: King Booker ( c ) vs Batista

Before this match commenced, Smackdown General Manager Theodore Long came to ringside to announce that if King Booker got himself disqualified or counted out, the World Heavyweight title would change hands. This was in response to the stipulation for this match, that should he lose, Batista would never again get a shot at the title.

This match was an impovement on their dreadful Summerslam encounter, but not by much. After much aisle-way stalling, Batista attacked the champion and brought him to the ring. But it was the King who took the first decisive control of the match, hitting Batista with a superkick which sent him flying from the apron to the security barrier.

From there, Booker applied a Cobra Clutch, but "The Animal" was able to get to his feet, and countered with a belly-to-belly suplex and surprisingly, a flying shoulderblock from the top rope.

From out of nowhere, though, Booker grabbed the advantage back by hitting the Book End, but as he went for the Ax Kick, Batista responded by executing the Batista Bomb, from which the champion was only able to escape by reaching for the bottom rope. As he held on, Sharmell handed her husband the title belt, and then provided the distraction so that he could use it. Unfortunately for Booker, Batista saw this coming, and it was Booker who was struck with the belt, for the pinfall and title change.

The crowd during this match were more quiet than they had been for any previous bout, which isn't a good thing for a main event, and especially not for Batista. The in-ring action hardly helped, as it was rather plodding, and the new champion looked slow and lacking in creativity.

Winner: Batista

Match rating: 4.0 / 10

Overall, the Survivor Series was a terrible pay-per-view event, certainly the worst of 2006. That is quite the feat, given the nonsense that was The Great American Bash.

In my introduction, I noted that this was both the chance to elevate new talent to pay-per-view, and to re-establish the importance of tag team wrestling. Neither of these things, however, were accomplished, with the likes of the Spirit Squad and Mike Knox made to look foolhardy, and with so many non-descript eliminations making a mockery of the tag team matches. At 12:35, the Team Cena vs Team Big Show match was the longest elimination match on the show, but in those twelve minutes, there were eight eliminations, seven via pinfall, which was overkill beyond overkill.

The WWE had their opportunity to make this an excellent, and unique, pay-per-view event. Instead, the only thing they achieved was to kill their own Survivor Series gimmick, and something that fans had actually been looking forward to. Furthermore, the event finished on an shockingly flat note, considering that Batista had just regained the World Heavyweight Title. But unless "The Animal" can find his working shoes again, that type of response is quickly going to become the norm.


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    Brian Elliott is British journalist covering pro wrestling, fight sports, and soccer. He is the sports editor for Burn magazine, and can be visited online at http://spaces.msn.com/brianelliott.