10 Things We Learned From WWE Survivor Series 2016

The one where Goldberg beat Brock Lesnar really quickly...

"Fantasy Warfare Just Got Real". The tagline seemed to be a curious one for Survivor Series 2016, considering that the advertised main event featured two part-time wrestlers (one of whom hadn't wrestled in more than 12 years) having a long-belated rematch of a showdown that massively disappointed the first go-around. In a perfect world, Brock Lesnar vs. Bill Goldberg would be the prototypical clash of the titans, but headed into the show, they were 0-1 in matching magic.

In spite of the fact that Survivor Series was an excellent show up until the main event (with three good-to-great elimination bouts and two exciting title matches), it was the ending that dominated most of the post-mortem chatter: Goldberg crushed Lesnar in less than 90 seconds. On the bright side, at least the 2016 match was only 10 per cent as long as the WrestleMania XX slog. Conversely, the way the match played out was a surprise for almost everyone watching, and the consensus was that it wasn't a good surprise.

While Goldberg/Lesnar didn't exactly capture the imagination during their redux'ed feud (despite their WrestleMania 33 fight being the best five minute match ever), the 2016 Survivor Series deserves consideration among the pantheon of November classics. WWE made the heritage of the event mean something once more.

10. Split Squads


Because of WWE's reversion to the brand extension concept in July of 2016, Survivor Series would see Raw and SmackDown pitted against each other, with men's, women's, and men's tag team bouts seeing red shirts scrapping against blue ones. Additionally, the two title matches (The Miz vs. Sami Zayn for the IC belt, and Brian Kendrick against Kalisto for the Cruiserweight) each had brand-centric implications.

Even though the original brand split existed in half-assed form until the summer of 2011, this was actually the first Survivor Series to make use of the "brand vs. brand" concept since 2005, when Raw and SmackDown warred in three different bouts, including the survivors main event. In between time, in 2009-10, the ill-fated Bragging Rights pay-per-view tried to mine some juice out of the brand war, but wasn't long for the world.

9. It's Her Nature


Among the previous women's elimination matches, there were some excellent showings (the 1987 and 1995 matches) and there were some less-impressive ones (2008 and 2013). The 2016 women's survivor match is definitely on the higher end, as the median ability level of the participants, plus a fair amount of time with which to work, made for a very good PPV opener.

Charlotte and Bayley would ultimately survive for the Raw brand, giving Charlotte a very unique distinction: she is the only daughter of a previous Survivor Series elimination match survivor to survive one herself. Natalya never had that opportunity, as "The Anvil" never survived any such match in his day. Same goes for Carmella, whose father (early-90s prelim wrestler Paul Van Dale, who was Razor Ramon's first TV opponent) wouldn't have either.

8. Turn Back The Clock


This entry is near and dear to me, as a longtime Survivor Series advocate and apologist. As someone who heralds the 1987-88 shows like they're the holy grail of Turkey Day wrestling (and they are), I've long clamoured for WWE to give us the old five team vs. five team match once more, as something of a nod to those magical kayfabe days. And they apparently heard me.

The 20-man elimination match from the 2016 show was the first survivor match with that many participants since 1988, when teams like Demolition, The Hart Foundation, The Rockers, and The Brain Busters spruced up WWE programming with their performances. Admittedly, it'd have been hard in eras with much fewer tag teams to pull off this concept (good luck doing 1995), but it was nice to see this callback.

7. Life Of Brian


It's not every day that you see a 12-minute Cruiserweight title match on the main show of a major pay-per-view. The Brian Kendrick brought the gold into the 2016 Survivor Series, and The Man with a Plan escaped with the gold via DQ against Kalisto. Kendrick's most recent WWE tenure was beginning swimmingly enough, though his previous run as partner of Paul London at least had a lengthy Tag Team title run.

Somewhat amazingly, though, despite having WWE runs in 2003-04, as well as 2006-09, this was only the second time that Kendrick wrestled on the main broadcast of a Big Four PPV. Previously, Kendrick's only other brush with that kind of spotlight was his 15-second performance in the 2009 Royal Rumble match, in which he quickly pushed out Kofi Kingston, before getting launched over the ropes by Triple H.

6. Replaced By The Best


Shane McMahon's involvement in the men's five-on-five elimination bout would take a rather grim turn (more on that in a moment), but originally, he wasn't even supposed to be a participant in the match. The spot filled by The Best Wrestler on God's Green Earth was originally slotted to Baron Corbin, who seemed to have a pretty good reason for missing out.

Three weeks before Survivor Series, Corbin apparently injured his knee in an angle with Kalisto, which necessitated swapping him out in favour of the gallant, jeans-tucked-into-shoes boss of the blue brand. Then on the night of the PPV, Corbin runs interference in the Cruiserweight title match, without any apparent limp. Corbin could've made up for the gaffe by growling "Oh, that's right, I'm crippled" in Krusty the Clown's voice.

5. Knocked Silly


Wrestlers can get hurt from even the most mundane and ordinary of strikes and moves, so doing something more elaborate can pose many risks. Such was the case of Shane McMahon's attempt at a Coast-to-Coast Dropkick on Roman Reigns. The spot was to see Reigns spring up after McMahon's leap, then Spear the boss' kid out of mid-air. Well, that he did.

Problem was, the timing was a hair off, and instead of shouldering Shane in the abdomen, Reigns ended up catching him much higher, resulting in Shane being legitimately knocked out from the impact. A quick close-up of McMahon's eyes showed that "nobody was home", and the referee got him out of the match shortly after. McMahon did appear on SmackDown days later, but was kept out of anything physical.

4. Slithering To Victory


His 2017 would be filled with arson, superimposed insects, haunted houses, and Punjabi Prisons, which isn't exactly the heartiest of resumes. In late 2016, Randy Orton would prove to be at least somewhat interesting as the icy, compliant henchman of Bray Wyatt. The two would be the last men standing in the men's Survivor bout, giving SmackDown the win after Orton fed Reigns and Seth Rollins to his happy master.

With the win, Orton became the first man in Survivor Series history to survive five times (2003, 2004, 2005, and 2008 previously). He broke a tie with both Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior, who held four apiece (each survived twice in 1990). Orton, it should be noted, was also the last man eliminated in four other matches (2006, 2009, 2011, and 2012), making him something of a Survivor Series stud.

3. Grab Some Popcorn


My only real complaints about the 2016 Survivor Series concern the 20-man and 10-man elimination bouts, and they're the opposite criticisms - I wish about 10-15 minutes had been shaven off the latter, and given to the former (or split those 15 minutes and give some to the women's match). I don't mind long Survivor Series matches, but this was something else.

Enjoyable as the match was, the 10-man battle went 52:55, making it the longest match in Survivor Series history. That shattered the previous record of 44:57, which was set by the Team WWE vs. Alliance match from the 2001 event. The match was so long that the first elimination didn't occur until 16 minutes in. That's only 90 seconds shy of the entire length of the 10-woman match.

2. Don't Blink


Conversely, the match that went on last wasn't gonna nudge up against the 53-minute barrier. Goldberg killed and grilled Brock Lesnar in almost no time at all, startling everybody that was expecting something more of a "king of the monsters" slugfest. Lesnar was dispatched in one minute and 26 seconds, which isn't as quick as the McGregor-Aldo fight, but was hiccup-fast by WWE main event standards.

When you take out Money in the Bank cash-ins, as well as Hulk Hogan's win over an exhausted Yokozuna at WrestleMania IX, Goldberg/Lesnar is the shortest "booked" PPV main event in WWE history. The previous record was set by Steve Austin's win over Vince McMahon at St. Valentines Day Massacre, which only ran 7:56 when you take out the pre-match mauling.

1. The Man Sticks Around


The reason why Goldberg flattening Lesnar was so stunning was because most assumed that the WCW icon was only there to be fed to WWE's unbeatable monster, so that Lesnar could avenge his WrestleMania XX defeat in high-profile fashion. And it makes sense why most assumed that to be the plan - because at first, it was.

Goldberg was planned to be a one-and-done, to feed his aura and mythos to Lesnar, putting a king-sized notch in Brock's belt. But when Goldberg's Raw appearances proved to be beneficial to both interest and ratings alike, WWE made lucrative overtures to the middle-aged legend in order to get him to stick around. Thus, the planned one-and-done ended up being a chapter in a lengthier story.

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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.