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10 Things We Learned From WWE Survivor Series 2015

The one where Sheamus took Roman Reigns' WWE title...

Hearken back 17 years to the 1998 Survivor Series, when 14 men vied for the WWE Championship in a one-night, winner-take-all tournament. The scheming, plotting, twisting, turning, and swerving left us all astonished as the night drew to its double-cross crescendo. By comparison, the 2015 Survivor Series, where the same championship was at stake among the final four combatants of a tournament, didn't feel quite as scintillating.

Granted, the 2015 tournament was never meant to happen, and only came about out of necessity. But it does demonstrate the stark difference between the two eras: one was exciting, intriguing, and chaotic, and the other just felt like business-as-usual, taking for granted the forum it has to enthral millions of viewers. Perhaps because WWE braintrust knew they could still run the same planned ending to the show (Sheamus' cash-in), that they didn't go for the creative overhaul. I get that, but this night should've probably felt like a bigger deal.

The lifelessness of the period may be best encapsulated in this one show. While Survivor Series 2015 isn't the worst event bearing the name, it felt like a colossal missed opportunity, a chance to really go full-throttle, capturing the imagination of its audience. Instead, high stakes didn't feel all that particularly high.

10. Heightened Awareness


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The day before the event, The Federal Bureau of Investigation released a statement, saying: "The FBI is aware of reports of an alleged threat that includes an Atlanta, Georgia venue and event. While we take all threats seriously, we do not have specific or credible information of an attack at this time."

The group ISIS was associated with the rumoured threats, though nothing would come of them. Survivor Series went on as planned, with extra security at the event, and more thorough searches of attendees conducted. Aside from the heavier security presence, and Lilian Garcia singing the Star Spangled Banner at the open of the TV broadcast, Survivor Series felt like a normal pay-per-view. No mention of the alleged threats were made during the PPV.

9. Swiss Missed


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Seeing as only one elimination match was scheduled for the main card of Survivor Series, one with a heavy midcard presence, WWE decided to throw in a second Survivor bout for the Kickoff show. Names like The Miz, Goldust, Dudley Boyz, Cody Rhodes, and others were thrown into the hastily-assembled pre-show opener, adding a little classic flavour to the event.

One of the names originally set for the match was Cesaro, fresh off of a tremendous match on Raw against Roman Reigns (more on that in a bit). "The Swiss Superman" would be taken out of the match with a bad shoulder, and ended up having surgery to fix his rotator cuff. Cesaro would not return until just after WrestleMania 32, one of many dynamite talents to not compete on the big stage.

8. Brothers Gotta Fight


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One night following the Hell in a Cell 2015 pay-per-view, Roman Reigns won what amounted to a mini-tournament in order to earn a shot at Seth Rollins' WWE Championship at Survivor Series. The two had been at odds since Rollins' shocking heel turn almost a year-and-a-half earlier, and the match would have truly been a long-simmering issue coming to a head.

Of course, that was not to be, for reasons that are hardly secret. A week-and-a-half after the match was made, Rollins blew out his knee during a live event in Dublin while wrestling Kane, his limb bending awkwardly during a Sunset Powerbomb spot. The ACL and MCL in Rollins' knee were both torn, sidelining him for more than six months. The belt had to be vacated, because if there's one thing that WWE won't tolerate, it's a titleholder that sits home for months at a time.

7. The People Have Spoken


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The 16 November 2015 episode of Monday Night Raw was devoted to the quarter-finals of the WWE Championship tournament, with Reigns, Dean Ambrose, Kevin Owens, and Alberto Del Rio emerging to the semis over Cesaro, Dolph Ziggler, Neville, and Kalisto, respectively. While picking the winners of those four matches hardly seemed difficult, the fans heavily backed one of the eventual losers.

A WWE.com poll conducted earlier that day asked fans who they wished to see win the tournament out of those eight men. The winners of said survey was Cesaro, who would be downed by Reigns in an excellent 20-minute bout. Perhaps it was more spite than anything else, though Cesaro has always had a considerable fanbase. Chances are, though, that much of those votes had to do with wanting his opponent that evening to do the job.

6. No Respect For The Crown


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Despite numerous ill-timed injuries, the six-year main roster run of Wade Barrett could hardly be considered a disappointment, seeing as he held the Intercontinental title on five occasions. Still, his lofty promise went at least somewhat unfulfilled, and when Sin Cara eliminated him at the start of the five-on-five Survivors match in 2015, the writing seemed to be on the wall.

That would be the last official pay-per-view match that Barrett would compete in for WWE (the March 2016 Roadblock doesn't count, as it was a Network exclusive). Barrett would kick around with the League of Nations until the spring, usually in a cornerman capacity, before getting released in May 2016. Since then, Barrett has surfaced in places like World of Sport and Lucha Underground.

5. Scratch That From The Record


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Hard to believe three years have passed since this particular controversy. WWE Divas Champion Charlotte was set to battle Paige at Survivor Series, and in terms of getting personal, their angle would go from zero to 60 as a result of one poorly-thought-out TV angle. Paige would insult the memory of Charlotte's deceased brother Reid, who lost his life to a drug overdose in 2013. The backlash was swift.

After that regrettable bit ran, WWE quickly erased all mentions of it from the storyline. Commentators would not reference the remarks, nor would the pre-match video packages display that moment in any form. The stunt "won" Worst Promotional Tactic in the 2015 Wrestling Observer Newsletter awards, and it was later revealed that permission was not granted from Reid's family to mention him in that fashion.

4. Family Splatters


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Aside from the tournament to crown a new WWE Champion, the hype surrounding Survivor Series 2015 focused on a special appearance by The Undertaker, commemorating 25 years of wreaking havoc and causing destruction inside of WWE rings. For the occasion, Undertaker teamed with sometimes-estranged brother Kane, taking on Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper.

It would mark the first time in 14 years that Undertaker and Kane would team up at a pay-per-view. Previously, The Brothers of Destruction last came together on PPV as part of Team WWE, for battling The Alliance in the main event of the 2001 Survivor Series. Going back slightly further, their last previous Survivor Series match as a duo came against Kronik at Unforgiven 2001, a battle that may actually be better than their narco-thon against DX at Crown Jewel.

3. Death Turns Silver


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Luke Harper was just shy of 11 years old when The Undertaker flipped Koko B. Ware upside down at the 1990 Survivor Series, before planting The Birdman with a neck-crunching Tombstone. Harper met the same fate at the 2015 event, bringing Undertaker's WWE career full-circle, as he would pin someone with that finisher at Survivor Series events 25 years apart.

And it literally *was* the anniversary. The 1990 Survivor Series took place Thanksgiving night 1990, which was 22 November. With Survivor Series moved to Sundays as of 1995, the 2015 event happened to also fall on 22 November, meaning that said 25th anniversary actually *did* occur exactly 25 years later to the day of Undertaker's first televised WWE match. Undertaker actually filmed his first matches with the company days before Survivor Series (to be aired in December 1990), but we can ignore those.

2. Shameless Sheamus


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After some false starts and delays, it finally happened - Roman Reigns became the WWE Champion, outlasting best buddy Dean Ambrose in the tournament final, in order to capture the gold that seemed to be his destiny. His celebration lasted a mere matter of minutes, as Sheamus came charging in with his briefcase in hand, unseating the new champ to win the belt himself.

To date, it is the only Money in the Bank cash-in that has ever taken place at a Survivor Series. The Miz came close when he caught Randy Orton unawares the night after the event in 2010, but only Sheamus can claim a cash-in at the PPV. As of said cash-in, the only piece of the Big Four to not have any form of MITB cash-in is the Royal Rumble.

1. Monday Night Massacre


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The reception to Sheamus as champion, and Reigns as his "underdog" challenger, made for some ill-received television over the next several weeks, though the momentum would seemingly shift once Reigns bucked up and conquered him mightily on the 14 December Raw. Until then, fans seemed to have little interest in the Sheamus-Reigns program.

Usually a Raw the night after a major pay-per-view does a respectable number, but not this time. Raw on 23 November 2015 did a measly 2.15 rating, the lowest non-holiday rating for any Raw, since February 1997, almost 19 years. Since then, Raw's numbers have gotten even worse, and a 2.15 rating would seem like the glory days. Raw was matched up with an intriguing Monday Night Football game (the then-undefeated New England Patriots were in action), so that surely played a part, but still - it's the night after Survivor Series, and cares were not to be found.

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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.