Survivor Series Observations

Survivor Series: The stars shone bright, deep in the heart of Texas

Survivor Series: The stars shone bright, deep in the heart of Texas
Survivor Series closed with an eventful Men’s 5-on-5 match. Photo by WWE.com

Toyota Center was the home for Survivor Series last night, and the talent showed just why this event is considered one of “the big four”.

There were some fun matches on the pre-show, but once the main card got started, there was no slowing down.

The Shield took on The New Day in a match between the two most important factions of this generation. Of course, Kofi and The New Day made jokes about “neutering” The Hounds of Justice, but The Shield got the last laugh when they Triple Power Bombed him from the middle rope to win the match. Everything considered, this match lived up to its hype. Could it have been better? Probably, but it did its job setting up the rest of the show.

The first of the two 5-on-5 matches saw the Raw women’s team defeat that of SmackDown. From Becky Lynch being the first wrestler eliminated to Tamina coming out looking like the strongest woman on the blue team, this match was full of surprises. The big star of this match was, of course, Asuka. The Empress of Tomorrow submitted both the former SmackDown champion, Natalya, and the woman who contributed to three eliminations, Tamina, for her team to win the match.   

Baron Corbin’s victory over The Miz was the first win for SmackDown Live for the night. Afterwards, he mocked Miz and the fans saying that he shut all of them up.

The Bar and The Usos faced off in another clash of champions. Personally, this match was one of the ones I was looking forward to the most. These two tag teams have developed great characters and have, without a doubt, earned their respective Tag Team Championships. The false finishes sold the match, and the ultimate payoff was the diving tag by The Usos that sealed their win.

Charlotte took on Alexa Bliss in the match between the two women’s champions. Bliss attempted to go for the Twisted Bliss, but she would miss and end up submitting to Charlotte. This win gave SmackDown the lead over Raw three wins to two.

That score, and considering who he was facing, made it obvious AJ Styles was going to lose his match against Brock Lesnar. That being said, this match delivered. Of course, Lesnar dominated the early parts, but Styles saw an opening and completely took over. Unfortunately for him, he went to the cookie jar one time too many, as he was caught midair by Lesnar who, then, put him over his shoulders and hit him with an F5 to win the match.

Survivor Series closed with the Traditional Men’s 5-on-5 match. Entrance after entrance, the crowd erupted for the participants of this match. They kept fans on the edge by teasing them with different face-offs. Strowman eliminated both Nakamura and Roode and things got rolling for the Raw team. The tension between partners like Samoa Joe and Finn Balor, or Angle and Triple H, caused them to get in each other’s way. Eventually, Shane McMahon was the final competitor left for SmackDown. He faced the tough task of trying to win against Triple H, Kurt Angle, and Braun Strowman. Triple H got frustrated with Angle’s inability to put away McMahon, so he hit him with a Pedigree and placed McMahon on top of him. Once Angle was eliminated, Triple H took matters into his own hands and eliminated McMahon to win the match for Team Raw. His partner, Braun Strowman, was not impressed with Triple H's actions. Strowman hit him with two Running PowerSlams to close out the show. After Survivor Series was off air, Stephanie McMahon came out to help her husband back up after Strowman’s attack. To the delight of the crowd, Triple H could not stand up straight, and eventually crashed into a teleprompter.

Highlight of the night

Braun Strowman was not having any of Triple H’s shenanigans. Him Powerslaming his teammate was awesome. Triple H’s commitment after the show, though, was the moment that went viral. His commitment to sell Strowman’s attack led to him throwing himself into a teleprompter. It was truly memorable.

Survivor Series proved to be a good show. Although there was never a real moment where it felt like it peaked, there was more than enough to remember this show by. What sticks out the most to me is how much this proves to fans the brand split that started in 2016 is still working. Matches like The Bar vs The Usos, or Charlotte vs Alexa Bliss showed us how far these entertainers have come since then. The Usos would have never grown their “Uso Penitentiary” characters without the brand split. The Bar would never exist, period. Alexa Bliss’ rise probably does not happen as quickly as it did without the brand split. The fact of the matter is, having two brands has allowed the two shows to develop new stars, and those new stars helped Survivor Series feel as important as it did.

Monday Night Raw will be live from Toyota Center tonight. If you haven’t bought tickets, you should. The post Pay-Per-View Raw’s always deliver, tonight should be no exception.

 

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The Astros are back in action Friday night against the A's. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.

The Astros need to whip up on the Oakland A’s this weekend in California as they did in sweeping four from them last week at Minute Maid Park. That was the start of a homestand which ended up with seven wins in 10 games. That goes down as a successful homestand, especially since it felt like the Astros’ prior winning homestand came while Donald Trump was President (it actually started in late July). Still, 7-3 doesn’t feel like a smashing success with it ending by dropping two of three games to the lowly Los Angeles Angels.

It is not exactly with bated breath that anyone should be waiting on Jose Abreu’s return to the lineup, but it’s coming. It should not be on this road trip. After the three games with the A’s the Astros move up the coast for a big four game set with American League West leading Seattle. The M's start all right-handed pitchers. That is no time to sit Jon Singleton to see if Abreu has managed to pump a few drops of gas into his tank while spending the better part of this month at the Astros’ minor league complex. It’s not as if Singleton has been stellar since Abreu’s departure, but by comparison, he’s been Lou Gehrig-esque. The series with the Mariners isn’t make or break but the Astros are strongly advised to get at least a split. That it should be Framber Valdez starting the opener Monday night doesn’t breed tremendous confidence, coming off his meltdown outing against the Angels. Another start, another opportunity.

The Mariners are at the Nationals this weekend, starting it a mere four and a half games ahead of the Astros. In four of the five other divisions the Astros' 22-28 record would have them at least 10 games off the lead.

One step forward, two steps back

Speaking of washed-up first basemen, Joey Votto should be a future Hall of Famer. The 40-year-old Canadian is trying to make it back to the big leagues via the minor leagues with the Toronto Blue Jays. Votto was an absolutely tremendous player with the Cincinnati Reds. As the Beastie Boys said, “Ch-check it out.” Over Jeff Bagwell’s first ten seasons with the Astros he hit .305 with a .417 on-base percentage and .552 slugging percentage, yielding a phenomenal .970 OPS. Over Votto’s first ten full seasons with the Reds: .313/.429/.540 for an exactly phenomenal .970 OPS. Where am I going with this? Read on!

Votto had phenomenal strike zone and bat control. He turned 30 during the 2013 season. That year Votto had 581 at bats. He popped out to an infielder once the entire season. Alex Bregman turned 30 the third day of this season. Bregman popped out to the shortstop four times in the Angels series. So much for Bregman’s “knob past the ball” epiphany that saw him hit three home runs over two games last week. Going into the weekend Bregman has one hit in his last 23 at bats. His season stats continue to be pitiful: a .209 batting average and .607 OPS. Bregman has only struck out once in the 23 at bats of his latest deep freeze. It’s that so much of his contract is feeble. There is a lot of season left for Bregman to build up to decent numbers, but one-third of the regular season will be complete after the Astros play the Mariners Monday night.

While Bregman’s season to date has basically been one long slump, Jose Altuve is in a funk of his own. Since blasting a homer Monday, Altuve is hitless in 12 at bats. Mini-slumps happen to everybody but Altuve’s woes trace back farther. Over his last 15 games, Altuve is batting .175. He last had more than one hit in a game May 5. He’s also drawn just two walks over those 15 games. It’s tough to ever sit Altuve, but he’s probably playing a little too much. Altuve turned 34 earlier this month. He has started 48 of the Astros 50 games at second base. Mauricio Dubon should be getting a start per week at second (and probably another at third given Bregman’s level of play). Over a full season not playing the field once per week still means 135 starts. Altuve should mix in some more at designated hitter (he has just one DH game so far this season). Wear and tear is a real thing, players don’t grow less susceptible to it as they get to their mid-30s.

King Tuck

On the flip side, Kyle Tucker! So far this season, he’s making himself as much money as Bregman is costing himself. Only Shohei Ohtani (1.069) starts the weekend action with an OPS higher than Tucker’s 1.060. The law of averages dictates that Tucker won’t finish as high as 1.060, but if he does, it would be the greatest full-length season offensive performance in Astros’ history. Jeff Bagwell posted an absurd 1.201 OPS in the strike-shortened 1994 campaign. Yordan Alvarez came in at 1.067 in his 87 games played rookie season of 2019. Lance Berkman’s 2001 was a monster. Enron Field was more hitter-friendly then than Minute Maid Park is now, but Berkman’s numbers were “Oh My Gosh!” spectacular. .331 batting average, 55 doubles (second in franchise history to Craig Biggio's 56 in 1999), 34 homers, .430 on-base percentage, .620 slugging percentage, and 1.051 OPS. And that was just Berkman’s second full season in the majors. Lance finished fifth in National League Most Valuable Player Award voting. Giant-headed Barry Bonds won MVP with his 73 home runs among other sicko stats.

* Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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