Nothing is perfect, including pay-per-view shows. So there's no reason why one should be above critique. Besides that, analyzing and critiquing is part of the fun. It's why I'm a regular on a wrestling message board to begin with. And I cannot honestly say that I enjoyed every minute of Survivor Series.
So it seems like I should be all ready to write a review, even if it's heavy on praise and light on criticism.
But I can't, for one reason: the joy.
Last night, as I watched the pay-per-view, I was swept away by happiness. The feeling jump-started when Cesaro's alarm tone started while the commentary panel was talking, and it leapt way up the meter when he came out with a mic to deliver a smashing little promo.
And then, that Fatal Four Way. Something happened during the match - something magical. Part of it was getting to see one of my favorites, Damien Sandow, in a match where he had a good shot of doing well, along with getting to see another favorite, El Torito, make a ppv appearance.
But somehow, it became much more, very quickly. I don't quite know how to express what I was feeling - the best word for it is warm. It was like someone or something wrapped my heart up in an afghan. Here was an array of performers, sharing the stage, and everybody was getting to shine. Sure, part of the story was the characters not sharing, but the performers were letting each other take their moments to be in the spotlight. It was a story of nine talented men working together to create a fun, compelling story and share their talents with the world.
It didn't take long for me to realize that the crowd was indispensable here. They were in love with Damien Mizdow, and they made sure that he and everyone else knew it. Soon, my afghan-swathed heart was crying happy tears. (Just go with it. I really like metaphors.) I have loved Damien since almost the beginning of my time watching WWE, and I've been rather broken-hearted to learn about how far down the ladder he's fallen and to watch him struggle to the point of being Sonic Commercial Guy.
And now here he was, adored. I swear I could see something in his eyes on the close-ups - a little bit of wonder, gratitude, delight. His moment was here. He stuck with it for months and years, and now he is appreciated and loved. I felt it with him or maybe for him. I don't know if I was making it up, but I felt it.
When Torito flew over the ropes, I felt his moment of glory. Here is a hard-working, talented man who isn't' featured often enough, and he owned his moment. When Mizdow won the belts, I melted inside.
As soon as the match ended, I thought, "Well, even if the rest of the show is bad, this was enough. This was everything I could have asked for and more than enough joy for one ppv."
I had no idea.
Coasting along on that initial rush of happiness for a hard-working performer and beloved character, I watched with surprise and increased joy as Emma dominated the women's elimination match. Could this be happening? Not only was she bouncing back hard from her months of downtime, but the crowd was rallying for her. From the time she came out and they screamed and danced for her, to the cheers and chants for her as she fought her heart out, this woman had her moment.
There was a day back there months back when we were all shocked and horrified at what looked like the end of her WWE career. And here she stands, the hero in an eight-woman battle. My heart was full to bursting.
And then, here came my boy. My spirit animal. My Dean Ambrose. My heart's already all bursty. How am I going to even, with this?
This nearly killed me. The slow burn to Dean's upside down hang from the corner. The intense build after that to heavier and heavier blows as the two seemed ready to just slam their bodies together until one of them died. Bray's speech - in my opinion, his best acting yet, as he showed us an aching vulnerability. Then, Dean's break - and the crowd, though playing their part, was absolutely chilling. It's like when they cheer and sing and chant for Wyatt and clamor to be in his cult - here, they wanted to see Dean lose his heart, his soul, his mind and destroy a helpless human being. My heart sank as I watched him drift further and further into darkness. It was like his scary attack on Seth at Hell in a Cell - except here, once he got an advantage on Bray, there was no defense, and he just piled it on, ready to do murder.
And still, the crowd screamed for more. It was the Coliseum, the crowd screaming for the lion to eat the fallen gladiator alive. It was Dean Ambrose, behaving like a real person faced with the temptation to torture and destroy - and failing the test. I was breathless when it was over and ready for the next chapter in my favorite character's dark, brooding story.
From there, I was allowed to breathe again with the appearance of silly Adam Rose and his bunny. Adam's intro commercials were running when I started watching WWE, so sometimes I feel like he's my contemporary, like we both "arrived" at the same time, so it's hard for me not to feel invested in what happens to him. His heel character really entertains me, and then when SlaterGator reappeared after their recent absence (along with Fandango and Barrett having both reappeared earlier in the night), I felt so happy for everyone improving their fortunes and being so entertaining and wonderful no matter what level they were at - including whoever is in that bunny suit. And when they went out there and advanced the story that they were given, I was just so pleased with and for all of them.
I couldn't help but gasp in delight and clap my hands when they announced that Roman Reigns was here. I was already on such a happiness high that it was a thrill to welcome another old "friend" back "home" to the arena. I feel like the class wallflower getting smiled at by the star quarterback when he looks into the camera - his charisma is that extreme. I felt so proud of the obvious progress he's made - in confidence, mic skills, and health. He appeared truly happy for the first time in this series of "satellite" interviews, and all I could do was sit grinning at my screen.
As the main event started, I wondered how it could possibly match the pleasures of two wonderful hours of ppv, especially now that my favorite performers were done and some of my, um, less-than-favorites were up. But I wanted to see which way they were going with the rebels/Authority storyline, so I figured I'd stick around.
And then, they hit me in the face with another cinderblock of joy. First, they grabbed me by knocking out Mark Henry instantly - I was ready for a traditional "everyone takes their turns" fight, and here they showed that they were truly up for absolutely anything in this fight.
As I watched, I reacted on cSs with my friends. I had learned that lepsaxon, my wresting bff, was having problems with the stream on her computer, so I was popping back and forth, posting updates, as Seth is her favorite and I wanted to make sure she knew what he was doing, and I wanted to experience the event with her in real time as much as possible. I found myself watching for everything that mean ol' Traitorface did, but I was watching it with two sets of eyes - hating his cruelty to Dolph, but picking out any amusing smack talk that I could make out to report to Lepsy, zeroing in on any moments of good leadership and camaraderie. I was watching 10 men (plus 4 Authority goons on the side) tumble around the screen, feeling for many of them, feeling my own reactions, and feeling for my WBFF. I was almost bouncing with excitement.
Rusev putting himself through a table made me shake my head in a mix of dismay and amusement, and then I was swept up in an emerging character who I never thought I would care about, as Erick Rowan went on his rampage. After he was eliminated, I clicked back to the cSs screen to report on the latest round of happenings, and then I heard the announcers going bonkers.
I clicked back in time to see everyone standing around John Cena. From the context, I quickly realized that Big Show had taken him out - it was a famous Big Show heel turn. I watched him walk to Triple H and offer his hand, and I realized I couldn't do any more updates - they were still twisting this thing, which I hadn't expected. I needed to stay on the ppv screen and watch. (I could almost hear Lepsy in my head: "For goodness sake, don't miss the match! I'll get to see it - just enjoy it!")
I was overwhelmed with a rising sense of joy again as I watched John Cena walk away after Big Show - because Dolph Ziggler was it now. They were actually going to let him have the final say, and not John "Rise Above Everybody Else" Cena. I started to get that breathless, "Can it be? Can it really be?" feeling.
As the remaining heels started in on Ziggler, I braced for him to get in one or two more licks and then die. He took out Kane, and I waited for that to be his big rally and then for him to die.
But then he took out Harper. And then my racing heart was all the way up in my throat, and my smile was perma-plastered across my face, and I realized this was it - this had to be it. Seth Rollins' face told the story - the "oh, no" story. Ziggler dragged himself up to fight. I felt like Ziggler was fighting for me - for the loss of the Shield and the sad feelings. For the story frustration and the WWE real-life frustration. This was really happening. Ziggler was the superhero of my dreams. I thought of my friend TMadeBurner and the joy he must be feeling, and I felt it for him, too.
Then they swerved it to Triple H getting involved. Breathing was no longer an option. I wasn't thinking ahead to where this was going - it was all happening, it was all in the moment, it was all real. Haitch destroyed Dolph and draped Seth's body across him, like they were two broken dolls. Then out came a ref, and my disappointment welled up.
And then, this crazy music hit, music I had never heard. And there was a spotlight on the stage. And out came this guy that I've only seen once, in a commercial for the video game.
And I felt like Sting was my hero. He looked like the strongest and most powerful hero I'd ever seen. He wasn't going to let this end in disappointment. The crowd was in ecstasy. I knew that somewhere out there in the Bay area, my normally stoic little brother was losing him mind over this premiere that he had dreamed of for so long. And I knew that around the world, my cSs friends were marking out. It made my heart slam in my chest like it hadn't all night. I could only grin harder as I realized I was marking out for a wrestler I knew absolutely nothing about.
He came into the ring. He stared down the worst, most unfair man ever, the man who broke my favorite trio. I felt like Sting was there to protect me. Not today, Triple H. Not. Today.
Sting took him down. He reversed the cover so that Seth couldn't hurt me again. Not today.
The referee, attacked by Triple H earlier, dragged himself back into the ring and slapped out an exhausted, painful 3-count. And it was done. It was sealed, official, real.
For just this once, just this night, goodness won out. Most of the time, things are unfair. You fight hard and it doesn't go anywhere, or you have to compromise, or your best effort is just not good enough. One step forward, two steps back.
But tonight, everyone got to play. Everyone got to look good and have their moment and triumph. And then Dolph Ziggler saved the universe, and Sting arrived to make sure justice wasn't miscarried.
In the heady moments afterward, Triple H and Stephanie standing about in shock made me think of the French aristocracy after the revolution, realizing their power was gone and they were bound for the guillotine. The storybook has ended; the carousel has collapsed. I felt as dizzy as they looked, picking their steps through the ruins.
Ahead of us, A New Day is dawning. What will it look like? Will the faces be able to stay good, or will absolute power corrupt? Will WWE be able to maintain this incredible rush of wonderful storytelling?
I have no idea. If I know one thing, it's that WWE can tell awful stories as often as they can tell great ones - arguably, more often. And if I know another thing, it's that I'm going to react really, really big to all of them.
But nothing can take away the rush of joy from the best pay-per-view I've ever seen. Justice prevailed - and so did storytelling. For this one night, the WWE Universe was full of light and wonder and magic. I have nothing bad to say.