About five months ago, my fellow co-editor here at Daily DDT, Raphael Garcia, argued that it’s time to stop looking at WWE as a wrestling-first promotion. The 2021 Survivor Series proved why that approach is the right one to take.
In fact, it’s probably time to take that a step further: Survivor Series showed that it’s time to stop looking at WWE as this haven for good storytelling. At this point, the company is basically a content mill that now concerns itself with the aesthetics of a major league promotion in lieu of substance.
Now, this doesn’t mean that Survivor Series didn’t give fans anything to enjoy (there were even things to enjoy about the bad stuff), the overwhelming amount of dreck was hard to ignore, particularly these things.
These are two of the things that went wrong at Survivor Series 2021.
Lots of ads and product placement
Sure, WWE didn’t deliver on bringing The Rock in for Survivor Series despite strongly hinting that he would be there, but don’t worry, WWE found the perfect substitutes for “The Great One”: A golden egg and stale pizza!
The pizza — courtesy of Pizza Hut — received prominent screentime during the dual-branded battle royal won by Omos. You know, that battle royal that WWE hyped up as a tribute to The Rock. So, if you were expecting so see the former WWE Champion come out to confront the winner, sorry. But hey, at least you got to see contrived camera shots of ice cold pizza interrupt an anticlimactic match (once you saw Omos as an entrant, you knew what was going to happen).
At least that only lasted for one match. The golden egg, on the other hand, received multiple segments spread throughout the pay-per-view. Worse yet, it looks like the egg — a prop from The Rock’s new movie, Red Notice — will become the central focus of a Whodunnit storyline after someone stole it midway through the pay-per-view.
Ah yes, because that’s what WWE’s television product needed, a mystery over a meaningless trinket from an apparently underwhelming movie.
So, to recap, WWE failed to deliver on something it strongly hinted at (it didn’t “officially” advertise it, but it was clear that it used the possibility of Rock showing up to hook people in), and instead bogged down the show with empty product placement.
And this is supposed to be the company that’s above being “scammy” pro wrestling?
Another indicator of WWE’s lacking interest in telling compelling stories were some of the finishes on this show. Damian Priest vs. Shinsuke Nakamura set the tone for this nonsense when Priest hit Nakamura with Rick Boogs’ guitar to draw the disqualification, a move likely intended to paint Priest as a heel, but it’s hard to blame him for getting tired of Boogs shredding those strings everytime the US Champion had the advantage.
Thankfully, most of the matches on the main card ended with definitive outcomes, but evien that the two elimination matches left the door open for more finishes, you knew that WWE couldn’t help but throw in some wackiness.
To be fair, Kevin Owens getting intentionally counted out fit with what his character has become, but booking a double-countout elimination for Drew McIntyre and Bobby Lashley reeked of “well, we can’t have either of these guys get pinned”, even though scripting McIntyre to get some semblance of revenge over his old rival would’ve worked fine.
And let’s not get started on them booking another countout in the women’s match to “protect” Sasha Banks and set up future matches with the three heels who essentially booted her from the match, even though said finish (which WWE further tarnished by having Banks break the count several times before the baddies walled her off) reflected poorly on her already-flimsy babyface character.
Seriously, why can’t WWE ever get babyface Sasha Banks right?
Anyway, these are the sort of decisions that keep fans from caring about most of what these talented performers execute on screen. WWE’s refusal to book decisive winners and losers, even in ultimately pointless tag team matches, inform the audience that nothing their watching matters in the larger context.