Sunday night's WWE Survivor Series pay-per-view from St. Louis was touted as being a game-changer, as the main event pitted Team Cena against Team Authority, with the stipulation that the Authority would be removed from power if they lost, while Team Cena would be fired if they lost.
With only five matches announced ahead of time and only two seeming interesting, the end result was something ... well, transcendent, for lack of a less hyperbolic word. Here's what we learned from a Survivor Series that surpassed all expectations.
WWE Tag Team Championship Match: The Miz & Damien Mizdow def. Goldust & Stardust (c), Los Matadores, and The Usos
The Miz and his stunt double, Damien Mizdow (née Sandow) won a wild Fatal 4-Way match when Mizdow tagged himself in to pin Goldust after an Uso splash off the top rope, ending the two-month title reign of Goldust & Stardust.
What we learned: The tag team division is alive and well! It would be more alive and well if there were more than four teams, but considering there were only two teams last month, this is a significant trend in the right direction. Mizdow proved once more that he's the most entertaining act in the company right now; what's more, the WWE audience is rabid for him. His eventual split with Miz will be huge and hopefully they don't rush it. We'll get at least one month of Miz and Mizdow defending the titles before Mizdow finally realizes he'll be better off on his own. It should be a good time.
Natalya, Naomi, Alicia Fox & Emma def. Paige, Cameron, Summer Rae & Layla
In a traditional Survivor Series elimination match, Natalya's team ran through Paige's team, with Paige putting up a valiant fight before being eliminated by Naomi for the clean sweep.
What we learned: Sometimes the WWE can remember that women's wrestling ALSO has a long and storied history. Jerry "The King" Lawler referenced Aja Kong during this match and I almost fell off the couch in surprise. It's sad that it feels noteworthy and important when the announce team isn't a raging garbage fire during a women's match, but this is the bed we made.
For better or for worse, this was a nice long Divas match where every participant got a chance to both sell and be on offense. It almost felt like an important step in conditioning the audience to get ready for longer, better women's matches before the supremely talented NXT women arrive on the main roster. But that could also be wishful thinking on my part.
This match was surprisingly, thoroughly entertaining with a lot of little bits of business. My personal favorites? Summer Rae suddenly being terrified of getting hit, and Layla doing an "Arrested Development" homage with a bad chicken impression. I also loved Emma getting a for-real showcase for the first time since her shoplifting incident. The world needs more Emma.
Bray Wyatt def. Dean Ambrose
Near the end of an intense, fantastic match, Wyatt got on the microphone and pleaded with Ambrose, saying no one in the WWE can touch them and that they could rule the world together if they wanted. He then gave Ambrose a chair and offered him the same opportunity he offered John Cena months ago, giving him the chance to "punish him." Ambrose took it, hitting Wyatt with the chair to draw the disqualification. Ambrose continued the beatdown after the bell, putting Wyatt through a table and covering him in chairs.
What we learned: As many have known for a long time, Wyatt and Ambrose are the class of the next generation of WWE Superstars. They came through big time in a showcase for both of them and the crowd is still white-hot for Ambrose. During the extended post-match beatdown by Ambrose, the announce team acted disgusted by Ambrose, which made it seem like this was an attempt at a Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart-type double-turn that the crowd didn't pick up on. I don't really think that was the intent, but it will be very interesting to see where this feud goes from here, as there's no way this is over. Personally, I hope these two join forces and run roughshod over the rest of the roster, but that's likely not in the cards.
Adam Rose & The Bunny def. Heath Slater & Titus O'Neil
In a last-minute addition set up via backstage antics, The Bunny picked up the pinfall victory for his team after ignoring the commands of Rose.
What we learned: "Slater Gator" now has theme music! RIP "3 Man Band/One Man Band" music. Also, the announce team officially announced, in canon, that The Bunny is a man in a bunny suit, not a shoot anthropomorphic rabbit. So that's kind of sad. And the slow burn toward the Adam Rose heel turn continues. At this point, they may never reveal who's in the bunny suit. Not that it matters much, anyway.
Divas Championship Match: Nikki Bella def. AJ Lee (c)
Nikki pinned AJ with the Rack Attack in just 34 seconds to win the title. It's the first Divas Championship reign for a member of the "Total Divas" cast. Which is actually notable.
What we Learned: Brie Bella (currently serving as Nikki's personal assistant until December) appeared to turn heel, distracting AJ with a kiss in an echo of AJ distracting Daniel Bryan with a kiss and leading to his 18-second World Heavyweight Championship loss to Sheamus at WrestleMania 28. This will fuel speculation about AJ leaving WWE (she isn't), but we'll have to wait until Monday night (at the earliest) to see how this Brie/Nikki business is going to shake out.
Team Cena (John Cena, Dolph Ziggler, Big Show, Erick Rowan & Ryback) def. Team Authority (Seth Rollins, Rusev, Mark Heny, Luke Harper & Kane)
In one of the best WWE main events of the year, Dolph Ziggler was the sole survivor of this traditional Survivor Series elimination match. Big Show turned on John Cena to align himself with the Authority and left Ziggler in a one-on-three disadvantage, but Ziggler eliminated Kane and Luke Harper by himself. Triple H, Stephanie McMahon and the rest of the Authority used every trick they had to try and cheat to win and stay in power, but just when they had the win in hand, Sting made his debut and stepped into a WWE ring for the first time ever. He hit Triple H with the Scorpion Death Drop, put Ziggler on top of Rollins and helped Team Cena to victory.
What we learned: They just might be serious about Ziggler this time. As expected, Team Cena won, but not at all in the way anyone expected them to win. Cena didn't eliminate anyone and was one of the first eliminated, leaving the spotlight (almost) entirely to Ziggler. This would have had a lot more impact if Sting wasn't involved, but WWE succeeded in making Survivor Series feel truly important.
Cena will likely have beef with Big Show now, so he may have a mini-feud with the world's largest athlete before getting his next title shot at Brock Lesnar. Sting's presence and interaction with Triple H all but assures that the two will face off at WrestleMania 31. WWE can do anything they want with Ziggler now; the only question is whether they'll do anything at all with him. Who will replace the Authority in power? Vince McMahon?
As I said, pretty much everyone in the world expected Team Cena to win, but no one expected the result could feel so fresh and invigorating and leave the door open for so many possibilities going forward. The table is set for a hundred possibilities. For the first time in a long time, I'm excited to tune into "RAW" and see what's coming next.