10 Things We Learned From WWE Survivor Series 2012

The one where The Shield debut...

In the moment, it seemed like a pretty nifty way to debut three wrestlers that each had promise. Rather than put eight generic, featureless hopefuls on some NXT game show, each in short trunks and little distinguishing traits otherwise, WWE had Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, and Roman Reigns storm the ring during the WWE Championship match and wipe out challengers John Cena and Ryback. Bedecked in all black, the three men came off rather cool and dangerous, creating instant intrigue.

The three men that would come to be known as The Shield salvaged what was largely an average and forgettable Survivor Series 2012, becoming by and far the biggest talking point of an event that didn't suck, but wasn't anything special, either. The two elimination matches were quite good, and the WWE Championship main event, with CM Punk surviving to make it one year with the gold, were enough to keep the show out of the cellar.

But really, the show is only notable for the debut of The Shield, as the trio follows in the footsteps of The Undertaker and The Rock as everlasting stars that made their debuts on the Survivor Series stage. So much of WWE in the last six years has focused on the exploits of Ambrose, Rollins, and Reigns. Especially Reigns.

10. Blame It On Football


Shortly after WrestleMania XXVIII in April 2012, it was announced that the 2012 Survivor Series would be taking place in the city of Pittsburgh. The Steel City had a rather rich WWE heritage, with events like SummerSlam 1995 and King of the Ring 1998 taking place in town, and their most recent prior PPV had been the Bragging Rights event in 2009.

By the end of May 2012, plans to hold the event in Pittsburgh would change. Somebody apparently didn't check the NFL schedule, because on the same night as Survivor Series, the hometown Steelers would host their bitter rival, the Baltimore Ravens, at Heinz Field, right next door to the arena. Rather than try to compete locally with a highly-anticipated game, WWE opted to move Survivor Series. However, they *would* bring the Royal Rumble to Pittsburgh in 2014, though I'm not quite sure that counts as "compensation". They've since paid the world back by pretending an Intercontinental title match was a Royal Rumble.

9. Low Level Indy

The city of Indianapolis has been intertwined with some iconic WWE moments, including Andre the Giant's controversial 1988 WWE Championship win, and the spectacle that was WrestleMania VIII. Three-quarters of the Big Four pay-per-views have taken place in "Naptown" (Royal Rumble being the exception), and Survivor Series would come to Indianapolis for the first time in 2012, once the decision was made to move the event from Pittsburgh.

Maybe they should've steered clear. The event only drew 8500 fans to Bankers Life Fieldhouse, little more than four years after the 2008 SummerSlam drew almost 16,000 fans to the same building. A near 50 per cent drop in four years is quite staggering, as is the fact that, according to Dave Meltzer, there was at least one considerable section of fans that reportedly got in for free. How a mighty November tradition had fallen.

8. Such Indecisiveness


The pre-show match at Survivor Series 2012 saw Santino Marella and Zack Ryder do battle with Heath Slater and future WWE Champion Jinder Mahal (man, that feels like forever ago), with their 3MB teammate Drew McIntyre prowling at ringside. The match was just your typical light-hearted throwaway bout to get the crowd warmed up, but apparently, it went through several changes.

Originally, the match we got was what was planned. However, according to Dave Meltzer, late in the week prior to the event, Justin Gabriel and Tyson Kidd were slotted in as 3MB's opponents. Marella and Ryder were apparently going to be used in the PPV opener instead, though WWE changed their mind once more, reverting to the original plan of Marella/Ryder vs. Slater/Mahal. And you think booking the main event scene can be headache-inducing.

7. Pleasant Surprise


Kidd and Gabriel did, in fact, take part in the official PPV opener, teaming with Rey Mysterio, Sin Cara, and Brodus Clay to take on Tensai, The Prime Time Players, Primo, and Epico in a traditional Survivor Series match. Hey, you know me, I'm all for more traditional Survivor Series matches, and I'd have happily looked forward to this match - if I even knew it was going to happen.

Yes, this 18-and-a-half minute match, featuring a genuine star like Rey Mysterio, wasn't even advertised. The match was simply thrown in, perhaps to further justify the Survivor Series name. It seems weird that a 20-minute block of time was apparently unoccupied before someone decided to just send ten guys with little tangible story connection out there for a lengthy match. But hey, more classic Survivor Series matches is a good thing.

6. Dimming Rey


Mysterio's team would end up being victorious in the opener, as every member of his team (sans Brodus) managed to survive. It marked the third time that Mysterio survived an elimination match at the event, after having previously done so in 2008 and 2010. It would, however, be a sight that we wouldn't get to see much of for a long time.

The win was Mysterio's final PPV victory in WWE before leaving the company in February 2015. The accumulation of injuries saw Rey perform sparsely in his last two years with the promotion, and in fact, he would not have another one-on-one match on PPV for the rest of his tenure. Mysterio's World Cup first-round victory over Randy Orton at Crown Jewel in 2018 marked his first WWE PPV win since Survivor Series 2012.

5. Heavy Changes


Coming off of the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view, the original plan for Survivor Series would see the event headlined by a 10-man elimination match, featuring CM Punk as the heel captain, with Mick Foley managing the babyface contingent which would have included Punk nemesis Ryback. Of course, plans later changed, as Punk would defend the WWE Championship against Ryback and John Cena in the main event.

Internally, plans changed due to the idea that having a traditional Survivor Series match headline the show, especially without any high stakes (and no WWE Championship match) would probably do poorly on pay-per-view. Dave Meltzer has said that this really is the main reason why Bragging Rights (which centered around a Raw vs. SmackDown elimination match) was scrapped as a concept.

4. Holding Off


The insertion of Cena into the Punk/Ryback feud and WWE title match wasn't all that far-fetched - he and Punk had drawn with each other at Night of Champions that September, and Cena was always a perpetual contender for the belt anyway. Plus, it makes sense to put the top star in the title match to try and boost the buyrate.

But what *would* Cena have done, had Punk and Ryback wrestled in the elimination match, as was planned? The original idea for Cena was to pit him against Dolph Ziggler, an idea that would eventually come to fruition at TLC in December, with Ziggler's Money in the Bank briefcase literally up for grabs. The reshuffling saw Ziggler slotted in as the heel team captain, while his match with Cena was put on ice.

3. Rocky Rhodes


Ziggler's teammates at Survivor Series included Alberto Del Rio, Wade Barrett, Damien Sandow, and David Otunga, which feels especially weird, seeing as how the latter four no longer wrestle for WWE. In regards to Otunga, the future SmackDown announcer wasn't even originally booked for the match, and the man he substituted for is also somebody no longer with WWE.

That man, as the title implied, is Cody Rhodes. The future part of the driving force behind All In was injured five nights before the PPV, during a match in which he and Sandow challenged for Daniel Bryan and Kane's WWE Tag Team titles. Rhodes landed badly off of a backdrop, sustaining a concussion, separated shoulder, and additional muscle tears. Amazingly, Rhodes would only be out of action for about four weeks.

2. Unnecessary Accessories


When The Shield made their big debut during the triple threat WWE Title match, Ambrose, Rollins, and Reigns stormed the ring dressed in all black, looking like assassins half-wearing casual attire. It wasn't a bad look, but it lacked the authority of their Kevlar vests and tactical gear. And the look we got was much better than what we *almost* got.

According to Reigns in a 2014 interview, the three men were supposed to hit the ring wielding large fibreglass riot shields that literally had "SHIELD" written on them. For Reigns, the concern was that carrying these cumbersome objects could prove problematic, and he imagined potentially getting stuck under the bottom rope during the grand entrance. It could've been a Shockmaster moment, possibly. Reigns noted that it was Vince McMahon himself who suggested they ditch the props, thinking that the shields made them look like cowards instead of fearsome brutes.

1. With A Thud


Card shuffling, lack of fresh ideas for matches, lack of delectable feuds - all could easily be blamed for Survivor Series 2012 doing poor in the area of ticket sales. The interest just wasn't there, even if Punk reaching one year as WWE Champion was something of a special achievement. The home audience concurred with the subdued, apathetic Indianapolis-area fanbase.

Survivor Series 2012 did just 208,000 buys, the fourth lowest in the history of the event (pre-Network) to that point. Seeing as how the 2009 event's 225,000 buys almost got Survivor Series kicked off the schedule for good, that should give you an idea of just how diminished interest in the event, and the prestige *of* said event, were. It was the lowest Survivor Series buyrate since 1996, with 1995 and 1993 being the only other ones worse.

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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.