I got to admit something that might be mildly controversial. I think the brand split was actually a pretty good idea that could have been absolutely fantastic one if it was executed better. When it started in the Spring of ’02, I think it was something that almost had to be done. After the buyout of WCW and the dissolution of ECW, I think there was potential to have a roster so clogged and bloated that it would have made 1997 WCW look like 1997 WWF. Even with the brand split, there were tons of guys lost in the shuffle but by splitting the roster in two, they were able to salvage some semblance of a midcard.
Now where WWE failed was not fully committing to building separate entities for each brand and not really building up a rivalry between the two brands. I think RAW Vs Smackdown! could have been a built in storyline for the Big 4 shows for years. They could’ve committed to building a World Series or Super Bowl of pro wrestling. Instead when the two brands finally collided in the Fall of ’05, it felt more like an All Star Game, an exhibition that was kind of fun but really didn’t seem to matter much in the long term. Hell, the most memorable RAW Vs Smackdown match was probably Shawn Michaels Vs Kurt Angle and people barely remember that aspect of the match ten years later. RAW Vs Smackdown storyline itself was fine. Eric Bischoff was great as the smoldering, floundering losing GM and some of the guys played their parts well (Rey Mysterio as the boisterous underdog, Edge as the arrogant dickhead who was above it all) but it felt like too little, too late. At this point, I think it was sort of inevitable the brand split was a failure. So, of course, we’re only a few months away from the introduction of the third brand, which really killed the split dead ultimately but we’ll get to that later. For now, the culmination of the ’05 RAW Vs Smackdown storyline…Survivor Series!
WWE Survivor Series
November 27th, 2005
Live from the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan
Announcers: Joey Styles, Jonathan Coachman & Jerry Lawler (RAW), Michael Cole & Tazz (Smackdown!)
Opening video package highlights the traditional 5 on 5 Survivor Series match main event, pitting RAW’s best against Smackdown’s best. This is only one of three times in the past 20 years where Survivor Series has been main evented by an actual Survivor Series match (’01 and last year’s show being the other two) so I’m fairly excited to see it. This is one of the few Survivor Series I’ve never seen.
Joey Styles welcomes both the Detroit fans and the Canadian fans from over the river to Survivor Series at the Joe Louis Arena. A fan’s sign asks “Where’s Sting?” Wait nine years, my friend! Or two months, I guess, if you count TNA. He intros us to Carlos & Hugo at the Spanish announce table and Michael Cole & Tazz, who are calling the show for Smackdown! Cole announces our opener will be the first of a Best of 7 series.
Weird sidenote… I think this is the only time that Survivor Series aired AFTER Thanksgiving. Of course, from 1987 to 1992, it aired on Thanksgiving Night. Then in ’93 and ’94, it aired on Thanksgiving Eve and after that, it’s USUALLY aired on the Sunday before Thanksgiving it. Having Survivor Series after Thanksgiving just feels off to me.
Sharmell gets her own entrance and announces Booker as the next United States Champion.
Match One of a Best of Seven Series for the WWE United States Title: Booker T (with Sharmell) Vs Chris Benoit
This is their second Best of Seven series. First was back in the Spring of 1998 and was for the WCW Television Title. That was a great series and I was lucky enough to see one of the matches live. This has a lot to live up too and I’m not sure if it can. Tazz brings up that series but Cole says this series means much more since it’s for a title and Tazz says the WCW series was for a title too. Cole basically says this means more because it isn’t WCW. Cole announces a special live Smackdown! on Tuesday featuring Match 2 of this series and Big Show Vs Rey Mysterio. That’s not the most memorable Rey-Show match with Show lifting Rey (tied to a stretcher) and swinging him into the ringposts. That was a few years earlier. It was apparently the Smackdown! where Randy Orton destroyed Eddie Guerrero’s low rider though. Stay classy, WWE! This match doesn’t live up to their series but is a worthy enough sequel. Booker T wins after Benoit misses the headbutt and Booker gets an Oklahoma Roll for the win with assistance from Sharmell. ***1/2 Cole wants to know when someone will put a damn stop to Sharmell and Booker’s cheating!
Eric Bischoff warms up in his karate gi. Vince McMahon wishes him luck, in the interest of fairness, since he already wished Teddy Long luck. Bischoff says he’s gonna screw John Cena just like Vince screwed Bret Hart eight years before at Survivor Series. Cena barges in with his stupid smirk. Cena makes a joke about Bischoff screwing guys and Bischoff storms off. Vince calls Cena “my nigga”, drawing a “Tell me he didn’t just say that!?” from a nearby Booker T. So that’s where that YouTube clip comes from!
WWE Women’s Championship Match: Trish Stratus (c) (with Mickie James) Vs Melina (with Joey Mercury & Johnny Nitro)
This is the first of three interpromotional matches so we have a mixed commentary team of Joey Styles & Tazz. The chemistry they displayed here would lead them to commentating for ECW on Syfy a few months after this. Tazz has a mini meltdown over the usage of the phrase “on paper”. WHERE IS THE PAPER!? ALL THE RAW COMMENTATORS WANNA TALK ABOUT IS PAPER! Melina is kind of green here, which Joey Styles emphasizes to an annoying extent. It’s really too bad that there weren’t that many workers at the same level as Trish during Trish’s peak. Trish wins with a Stratusfaction after some interference from Mickie. **
The Detroit Tigers’ Dmitri Young is shown in the audience. Da Meathook is in da house!
An overly tanned Triple H tapes his wrists. He’s facing Ric Flair in a Last Man Standing match next.
Last Man Standing Match: Triple H Vs Ric Flair
Triple H jumps Flair during his entrance. Flair just pissed Triple H off when he beat him at Taboo Tuesday. Triple H throws away the Intercontinental Title in disgust. This is not as good as their match at Taboo Tuesday but better than a ’05 Flair match had any right to be. Triple H has been on a mini hot streak since losing the World Title. It’s easier to recognize what a solid worker he is when he isn’t being crammed down our throats. This match definitely could have had a few minutes shaved off of it. It’s kind of impressive that 56 year old Flair could get his ass kicked for an entire half hour. Also surreal to see Flair flip off Triple H and yell “Fuck you!” ’05-’06 was probably the peak of Ric Flair’s Randy The Ram era. Bleeding, cursing, doing garbage matches. Triple H wins with a sledgehammer shot. *** Coach says Triple H took the horse behind the barn and shot him. WWE announcers really loved to use the Old Yeller/old horse analogy with Flair. Think they were trying to give him a hint to retire?
Trish Stratus & Mickie James are with Todd Grisham in the WWE.com Instant Access Lounge. Boy, I’d like some Instant Access to ’05 era Mickie James & Trish. Great. All of this listening to Jerry Lawler commentary is wearing off on me!
In the Detroit Red Wings locker room, Team Smackdown! bickers. JBL and Randy Orton bitch about Batista being Team Captain. Orton says he’s survived last two years at Survivor Series and should rightfully be captain. Batista pops in. JBL blames all of the trash talk on Orton. JBL calls himself the Norman Schwarzkopf of WWE but gets stared down by Batista. Lashley just stares blankly the whole time then mumbles that he’s with Big Dave.
Edge & Lita come out. What’s going on? They’re not scheduled! Edge announces his new talk show The Cutting Edge will be debuting soon. Edge calls out Dmitri Young (wearing a Guy Fieri-esque, blue and black bowling shirt) and makes fun of the Detroit Tigers. Edge jokes that Dmitri Young isn’t injecting any foreign substances except for cheeseburgers. Edge calls out how drugged up baseball players are. Irony. He also badmouths the Pistons for choking in the ’05 NBA Finals. Edge calls Dmitri Young “Mark Henry” and I LOL. Dmitri Young calls out Edge for never winning a World Title. Pretty good for a time filler, celebrity guest appearance segment even if the final point/punchline of the segment would be rendered moot a little over a month later…
Video package for Kurt Angle-John Cena. This feud never really captured my imagination. Just I guess it caught both guys at the wrong time. Cena hadn’t really established himself well as a main event babyface and WWE was trying way too hard to make Angle to a widely detestable, over the top heel. It would’ve been a lot better with a more grounded Angle and a more confident Cena but eh, whatcanyado?
WWE Championship Match (Special Guest Referee: Daivari): John Cena (c) Vs Kurt Angle
Angle and Bischoff have successfully convinced the production truck to bleep out the fans chanting “You Suck” to Angle’s theme music, which gets really old really quick. Daivari’s returned as Angle’s manager since the last RAW pay per view four weeks before in another, over the top, misguided attempt to get Angle over as a monster heel. Character-wise, it makes no sense to have an evil foreigner be The U.S. Olympic Hero’s best buddy but I guess nothing about Angle’s ’05 character was supposed to make sense. I don’t know. At least, this is better than the stupid “Bestial sex” storyline….
Crowd is pretty electric for this match and split pretty evenly in support for the two guys. Yes, the guy who loves hot, nasty beastial sex and wants to make Jesus tap has 50% of the crowd support over the champ so I guess the Cena backlash had officially begun. Here’s the thing about Cena, you can never say that the crowd’s bored by him. They might hate his guts but they’re not gonna sit on their hands. I’ve seen a lot of heatless WWE World Title matches in my day but I can’t think of any with Cena involved. I like Cena trolling Daivari to try and draw a DQ but it totally goes against his character and demonstrates why some smarks don’t like him. After Daivari gets knocked out, we get a parade of ref bumps. I’d almost have another Montreal screwjob rehash then another generic Attitude era main event rehash. Charles Robinson comes out and Coach is apoplectic since he’s a Smackdown! ref! HOW CAN HE REF RAW’s MAIN EVENT? Cena DDTs Daivari and hits the FU on Angle for the win. Definitely one of both guys’ lesser PPV matches but they’re both so good that this was still entirely watchable despite being a lame Attitude era retread. ***
Jake The Snake DVD ad. Weirdly, this DVD and the Bret Hart DVD that came out around the same time helped me get back into wrestling after I was turned off by the crappiness of ’02/’03 WWE. I bought them on vacation Thanksgiving Weekend of ’05 and remembered how much I liked wrestling and very, very slowly got back into the current product. I really wouldn’t be fully back into it until early this decade—hence why I haven’t seen some of these shows and why I started this series!
Oooh this DVD is available on UMD.
Eric Bischoff Vs Teddy Long (with Palmer Cannon)
This is our second interpromotional match. Michael Cole & Coach are our announcers for this match. This is Palmer Cannon’s first and last pay per view appearance. He was a main event level guy at the indy promotion that used to regularly put shows on at the armory up the street from my house back from ’01 to ’03ish. He was a Brock Lesnar-esque dominant babyface so it was totally surreal to see him as a dweeby, heel non-wrestler when he finally made it to WWE. Not sure who looks dorkier. Bischoff in his gi or Teddy in his t-shirt tucked into his windpants (with garish yellow sneakers). This is awful. It ends with a Boogeyman run-in. Of course. Boogeyman hits the pumphandle slam on Bischoff and Teddy covers the win. I award you no points and may God have mercy on your soul.
Smackdown! and RAW teams walk through the locker room. Seeing the guys cheer on the team kind of emphasizes how forgettable the undercard for WWE was during this era.
Five on Five, Survivor Series Elimination Match: Team RAW (Shawn Michaels (captain), Kane, Big Show, Carlito, and Chris Masters) Vs Team Smackdown! (Batista (captain), Rey Mysterio, Randy Orton, JBL, and Lashley)
All five announcers commentate on this match. They go over the top trying to bicker with each other. I think thing that announcers forget when they’re trying to replicate the dynamic of Gorilla Monsoon & Bobby Heenan is that underneath all of the bickering, those guys obviously liked each other. Now these guys actually do like each other in real life, as far as I know, but seem like they like pretending to hate each other’s guts. It’s funny how heatless the crowd is for Lashley and Masters’ irresistible force meets immovable object spot. Lashley is first guy eliminated after getting chokeslammed by Kane (elimination #1). So much for putting over the new guy. RAW gets the 5-4 advantage. Old Man Lawler says Big Show’s dumps are bigger than Rey Mysterio. Rey Mysterio hits the 619 on Kane and Tazz says that’s why Smackdown’s got a 175 pounder. Batista hits the Spinebuster on Kane to eliminate him (elimination #2). Smackdown and RAW are 4 even. Batista gets pinned with a double chokeslam from Kane & Big Show (elimination #3). Smackdown takes 4 to 3 advantage. Big Show is eliminated after a 619 from Mysterio, two Clotheslines from Hell from JBL, an RKO from Orton, and finally a seated senton from Mysterio (Elimination #4). Both teams are 3 even. Bonzo gonzo as the two sides brawl.
JBL eliminates Carlito with the Clothesline from Hell (elimination #5). Smackdown is up 3 to 2. Shawn Michaels is knocked out outside the ring after a fallaway slam to the floor from JBL so it’s really more like a 3 on 1 advantage. Mysterio eliminates Chris Masters with the Droppin’ The Dime to really give Smackdown! the 3 to 1 advantage. Michaels does an absurd sell of the 619 that’s up there with his selling for Hogan’s offense three months earlier. He catches Mysterio off the ropes with the Sweet Chin Music to eliminate Rey Rey. Smackdown! up 2 to 1. He ducks the Clothesline from Hell from JBL and hits Bradshaw with the Sweet Chin Music. It’s down to 1 on 1. Orton from Smackdown! and Shawn Michaels from RAW. Crowd chants “We Want Taker”. They really telegraphed an Undertaker out of nowhere return. Which really kind of negates the purpose of a surprise Undertaker return. Orton gets the win after some distraction from JBL and an RKO outta nowhere on HBK. Sole Survivor: Randy Orton, for the third year in a row! Winners are Team Smackdown. Smackdown’s locker room runs out to celebrate! Scotty 2 Hotty and The Dicks lift Orton on their shoulders.
BONG! It’s the Druids with a casket. Orton freaks. The Dicks and Little Guido don’t know why Taker doesn’t wanna keep celebrating Team Smackdown’s victory. Casket explodes. Undertaker emerges from the flaming casket. Undertaker is sporting a full beard. Maybe a throwback to his debut at Survivor Series 15 years earlier. He tosses Orton from the ring. He chokeslams one of The Dicks. He decks Funaki. He chokeslams Brian Kendrick then tombstones Regal. The Ortons and Undertaker have a staredown to end the show. This was a fun, breezy main event. Almost everybody got a little showcase and it really was a fine example of a traditional Survivor Series match. It wouldn’t be my all time favorite but it’s probably one of the best of the past 20 years. **** Randy Orton: Master of the Survivor Series match would have been a great running storyline but it was ruined in typical mid ’00s throwaway fashion at next year’s show.
It’s really kind of too bad that WWE started playing up the RAW Vs Smackdown rivalry way too late. By the time, WWE explictly tried to paint the two shows as its separate entities, I think the jury was already decided and the WWE Universe, rightly (probably) or wrongly, decided that the brand split was guilty of sucking. If they had attempted a RAW Vs Smackdown Survivor Series two years earlier, I think it would’ve been far more effective. At that point, there was somewhat of a distinction in the styles of the two shows (Smackdown! being more workrate oriented and RAW being more storyline driven) but by ’05, RAW & Smackdown were about as different as Coke & Pepsi. Fairly similar color scheme to those two actually.
That being said, this was a good show and it was well executed (except for the Teddy Long-Eric Bischoff match, which I wish I could scrub from memory) in its presentation for the most part. While there weren’t any blowaway classics, everything except for the aforementioned GM Vs GM match, was at least decent and there were several matches that were pretty damn good. I guess that sums up a lot of mid ’00s WWE (or maybe WWE post ’02 period) is that there’s a lot of mistakes made day to day but somehow, they could bring it together reasonably well for major events. Then completely blow it again on next week’s TV!
Next Time on Ten Years After… The Undertaker returns to the Devil’s Favorite Playground, Hell in a Cell to take on his enemy Randy Orton. Plus it’s Champions Vs Champions (and another Smackdown! Vs RAW supermatch) as WWE Tag Team Champions Rey Mysterio & Batista take on World Tag Team Champions Big Show and Kane in a non-titles match! Join me as I recap the last pay per view of 2005, Armageddon!