10 Things We Learned From WWE Survivor Series 2009

The one with the Shawn Michaels, Triple H, John Cena main event...

For some reason, I tend to look back at Survivor Series 2009 with plenty of fondness. With two good World title matches (one of which being great), two very good elimination bouts, and a well-done angle in which the crowd cheered instead for the hometown heel, it was a fun night that didn't try to insult your intelligence. Some pay-per-views try too hard to shock you whilst building to the future. This was more a night of self-contained enjoyment, though it did build up some fresh faces.

Perhaps what was most fun about Survivor Series is that it felt like a respite from what WWE had become in 2009. Between the endless deluge of one horrid guest host after another (Bob Barker and Shaquille O'Neal exempted), as well as the sudden rise of "gimmick PPVs" that shoehorned speciality matches into angles that weren't worthy or ready for them, Survivor Series was simple and quaint. Sometimes, especially around a busy family holiday like Thanksgiving, you need simple and quaint.

My only regret is that Jesse Ventura hosted Raw the next night - he should have been here instead, doing commentary just as he had done at the first three Survivor Series. How my nostalgic heart would've grown three sizes that night.

10. Three's A Crowd


Just like the prior year's show, the 2009 Survivor Series would feature three elimination matches. Each was an upgrade over the 2008 fare, with a slightly-better women's match, as well as two men's matches that got new stars over, while telling very good stories (particularly Kofi Kingston's valiant comeback in putting away CM Punk and Randy Orton to build a push that sadly died out quickly).

The 2009 show would be the last to feature three or more elimination matches for seven years. The next two would downsize to one apiece, while 2012-15 gave us two elimination matches each. And you know, I can live with three. We're never getting six again, such was the case of 1990, so I'll take whatever I can damn well get.

9. Practically Giving Them Away


The 2009 Survivor Series drew 12,500 fans to The Verizon Center (today Capital One Arena) in Washington, DC. The US nation's capital had long been a stronghold for the northeast-based WWE, but you could hardly tell that in 2009. Bad economy, a drop in fan interest, et al, were contributing factors to WWE having trouble filling the same building that housed more than 18,000 fans for SummerSlam 2005.

According to Dave Meltzer, WWE even went as far as lowering the bottom ticket prices to $20 each, to try and increase walk-up sales on the day of the event. More troubling was the fact that this was supposed to be one of WWE's "Big Four" events, with a history that predates the Royal Rumble and SummerSlam. Later on, this list will explore just how dismal the numbers *really* were.

8. Helping Hand


The night after Survivor Series, fans were graced by guest host Jesse Ventura calling the main event alongside a tuxedo'd Vince McMahon, as though it were a 1987 Saturday Night's Main Event taping. During the match, printouts of different wrestlers were visible in front of Ventura, as he didn't keep up with the product, thus he used "cheat sheets" to get him up to speed on the wrestlers he was discussing.

According to Meltzer, Jerry Lawler used those same cheat sheets at Survivor Series, as well as other major pay-per-views, due to the fact that he didn't keep up with the goings-on on SmackDown or ECW. Given how superficial episodes of Raw had become with the fawning over of guest hosts that didn't give two licks about wrestling, a veteran commentator not doing his homework seemed to be the least of their worries.

7. Changing Of The Guard


It seemed like a rather innocuous Survivor Series elimination - young Sheamus charges up and Brogue Kicks veteran mauler Finlay into oblivion, sending him packing five minutes into the opening match. There was nothing out of the ordinary there, just an older wrestler giving the rub to someone in the midst of a major push - it just so happened that the men involved were both born in Ireland.

What *did* make the moment interesting is the coincidence. It just so happened to be Sheamus' first-ever WWE pay-per-view match, while also marking Finlay's final pay-per-view bout. It was probably intentional, but there's something poetic about Sheamus taking over as the resident Irish ass-kicker, forcibly taking the throne from a roughneck like The Belfast Bruiser.

6. Future Greatness


It didn't take long for Sheamus to get the rocket push. Three weeks after Survivor Series, at the TLC PPV, he narrowly defeated John Cena in a tables match to capture the WWE Championship in what was viewed as a major upset. Sheamus wouldn't be the only member of his team to have future success at that level, either.

In fact, all four of his teammates would hold World titles of their own one day. Jack Swagger captured the World Heavyweight belt shortly after WrestleMania XXVI, The Miz won the WWE belt the night after Survivor Series 2010, and Dolph Ziggler had two World Heavyweight title reigns, the first in 2011. Drew McIntyre hasn't held a World title in WWE (yet) but did have a three-month reign as TNA World Champion in 2016. But at the time, none of the five had reached the apex.

5. Collateral Damage


This entry discusses a moment of reality in the kayfabe world, and how it was later undermined by a bit of silly insistence on WWE's part. In that opening match, referee Scott Armstrong caught an errant knee to the head from the powerful Sheamus. The blow left Armstrong legitimately concussed and wasn't a planned spot. He had to give an "X" symbol - for himself, instead of one of the competitors.

Armstrong was quickly replaced by another official. Later on, when filling the audience in on the condition of Armstrong, the announcers did not mention him by name, due to some arcane policy WWE had at the time about keeping the referees nameless. Instead, the audience was told that "the referee" had sustained a concussion. Why? Your guess is as good as mine.

4. Devoured Quickly


With the event taking place in his native Washington, DC, the suddenly-heel Batista found it hard to get booed while mauling Rey Mysterio, who was "SUPPOSED TO BE (his) FRIEND". The post-match assault on the much-smaller Rey Rey should have earned brawny Batista some genuine heat, instead of chants of "one more time!" Next time, hold the show in Des Moines or something.

Originally, the feud was supposed to have gone on longer, but Mysterio was due to have his knee scoped. The potential for a lingering injury led to WWE rushing the angle, and having Batista decisively crush Mysterio in the manner that he did. Mysterio would actually be back in action by mid-December, but by then, Batista was already in the midst of his brief rivalry with Undertaker for the World Heavyweight title.

3. Giant Pains


Mysterio wouldn't be the only mending wrestler on the show. The triple threat World Heavyweight title match pitting Undertaker against Jeri-Show partners Chris Jericho and Big Show ended up being a pretty good match, even if all most people remember is Jericho giving a brief but emphatic lesson to a loud fan that didn't know one Canadian city from another.

Show had a pretty good laugh at that moment of improv, but two days later, wouldn't be so mirthful. He would have arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, which mostly sidelined him for a number of weeks, save for doing brief work in tags with Jericho. The two would drop the belts to DX at the TLC PPV in December, which was the most physical performance Show had given since the surgery.

2. Showstopper's Last Chance


The main event was quite an excellent battle, pitting WWE Champion John Cena against DX allies Triple H and Shawn Michaels in a triple threat match. Seeing Michaels and Triple H try to work in tandem at points, only to subtly (and even not so subtly) catch the other one napping, made for some good show-ending drama.

For Michaels, the match is somewhat historic, as it marked the last time he would ever wrestle for the WWE Championship. Michaels spent his last four months as an active wrestler teaming with Triple H, while chasing after Undertaker's streak with Ahab-like focus, before calling it quits at WrestleMania XXVI. Of course, I say this now, but he'll probably wrestle AJ Styles or somebody at next year's Greatest Judgment Day pay-per-view, for a pretty nice payday.

1. A Punishing Plunge


Earlier on, I wrote about the troubling ticket sales for the event, and how those weren't the only disturbing numbers for Survivor Series. The pay-per-view audience was much, *much* smaller than had been the case for most recent Survivor Series, and when the final numbers came in, it painted a very bleak picture.

The 2009 Survivor Series did a mere 225,000 buys, the lowest since 1996, making it the fourth least-bought Survivor Series of all time to that point (and down 29 per cent from the previous year). A contributing factor may have been the UFC 106 PPV the night before, headlined by a Tito Ortiz/Forrest Griffin rematch, won by Griffin, which did 375,000 buys. Perhaps WWE should count their blessings: had box office king Brock Lesnar competed as originally scheduled (before pulling out due to illness), UFC may have slaughtered Survivor Series even more.

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Justin Henry

Written by Justin Henry

In addition to writing lists and commentaries for Cultaholic, Justin is also a features writer and interviewer for Fighting Spirit Magazine, and is co-author of the WWE-related book Titan Screwed: Lost Smiles, Stunners, and Screwjobs.