Survivor Series isn’t what it once was. The traditional five-on-five matches are now almost an afterthought, and the WWE was ready to abandon the name earlier this year before reversing course during the summer.

Yet there was still a fairly strong survival theme built into this year’s event at Miami’s American Airlines Arena thanks to the plight of reluctant Nexus member John Cena. In a rare case of a guest referee overshadowing the participants in a title match, Cena vowed to do the right thing while officiating the bout between WWE Champion Randy Orton and challenger Wade Barrett despite the stipulation that he would be fired from the WWE if Orton retained.

Orton and Barrett started off the match with a good old fashioned staredown. Barrett beat Orton into the corner, but the champ turned the tables.

Cena stuck to his promise of calling the match down the middle, admonishing Barrett. This allowed Orton to connect on a drop kick. The fight spilled to the floor, as Barrett beat Orton into the apron and security barrier. The champ was then thrown into the steps.

Back in the ring, Barrett broke out the fisticuffs and went for a pin. The champ kicked out at two. Orton broke a headlock but ran right into a knee. Orton recovered and unloaded with punches of his own, and a series of clotheslines took Barrett to the mat. Orton then dumped him from the ring with another clothesline.

Outside the ring, Barrett drove the champ into the ring post, but the challenger made a crucial mistake trying to get Orton back in the ring. Orton connected with a back breaker, but Barrett kicked out of the pin.

Barrett exploded out of the corner with a clothesline and dropped an elbow from the second rope. Barrett slammed Orton to the mat with a pump handle but couldn’t get the pin. Barrett hit a side slam, still to no avail. Barrett argued with Cena, allowing Orton to recover and clock Barrett with an uppercut. The champ followed with an elevated DDT. Orton slapped the mat, but Barrett rolled out of the ring.

Orton gave chase, allowing Barrett to knee Orton in the head and then hit the Wasteland. Barrett made the pin, but Orton grabbed the ropes. Barrett argued again and decided to slap Cena.

Cena had enough and shoved Barrett, unfortunately right into an RKO. Orton covered and Cena counted to three, giving Orton the win.

After the bell, Orton and Cena fought off the incoming members of Nexus. Cena presented Orton with his title and hugged his former rival. Orton walked to the back, while Cena took off all his arm bands, saluted the crowd, thanked Michael Cole, thanked the fans at home, ran through the crowd, and finally headed to the back.

The next WWE pay-per-view is TLC on December 19.

If you’ve been with us for the past few years, you know the drill by now. Nick’s comments will be in plain type with Dale’s remarks in italics.

Daniel Bryan (champion) vs. Ted DiBiase w/ Maryse (challenger) – US Title Match

Even in the three-man booth, Michael Cole continues to bury Bryan. The US champion connects on a suicide dive, and then follows with a missile drop kick back in the ring. Bryan drops DiBiase with a superplex after crotching him on the top rope. Bryan applies the Lebell Lock and DiBiase taps.

Winner … and still U.S. Champion … Daniel Bryan at nine minutes and 59 seconds

Match Rating: 6/10

After the match, as Bryan is leaving, The Miz bashes him in the head with the Money in the Bank briefcase. Miz crashes the ring with Alex Riley, comparing the Miami Heat to the Nexus. He also compares Wade Barrett to LeBron James because they both feel that they are entitled to a title.

That was a weird promo because Miz was doing the stereotypical heel thing by running down the local sports team, yet the Heat are actually this year’s heels of the NBA outside of Miami. Elsewhere, Sheamus laughs off the suggestion that he has been bullying John Morrison. He does want to break him though, physically and mentally. SLAM! Wrestling (U.S. branch) timekeeper Brian Whorl also thinks Sheamus looks less pale than usual, but I suspect it’s just the backstage lighting.

Sheamus vs. John Morrison

Morrison stuns Sheamus early by kicking him out of the ring and hitting a plancha over the top rope. Morrison fights Sheamus off the top rope and hits a flying cross body; Sheamus rolls through, picking Morrison up and slamming him to the mat. Morrison ducks the Brogue Kick and hits an enzuigiri. Sheamus chops Morrison off the ropes and locks in a single leg Boston crab. Morrison gets to the ropes to break the hold. Sheamus stops Morrison from hitting Starship Pain but gets caught in the ropes after missing a kick. Morrison takes out Sheamus with a flash kick and a knee to the face. Morrison covers for the win.

That actually looked more like a running crotch to the face to me, but whatever it takes to get the win, eh?

Winner … John Morrison at 11 minutes and 11 seconds

Match Rating: 6.5/10

Despite being told that Cena’s predicament is none of his business, R-Truth has an idea: What if something accidentally happens to Randy Orton? Cena doesn’t like it. He is going to call the match down the middle, because he wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he doesn’t.

Dolph Ziggler w/ Vickie Guerrero (champion) vs. Kaval (challenger) – Intercontinental Title match

Cole calls Kaval an internet darling, which is probably a derogatory statement coming from him. Ziggler keeps Kaval grounded for several minutes, but the challenger rallies with a series of kicks. A springboard moonsault and a painful looking cartwheel kick both earn Kaval near falls. Kaval misses a move off the top rope and looks like he almost destroys a knee landing on his feet. The wrestlers trade two counts with a Zig Zag and a springboard enzuigiri. In kind of a disjointed ending, Ziggler rolls up Kaval and grabs the tights (sort of) to get the pinfall. Not bad, but several spots seemed just a hair off.

Winner… and still Intercontinental Champion … Dolph Ziggler at nine minutes and 34 seconds

Match Rating: 6/10

Jack Swagger and “Dashing” Cody Rhodes are about to get into it over Swagger’s choice of shoes when Alberto Del Rio arrives, flanked by Drew McIntyre and Tyler Reks. In his own charismatic fashion, Del Rio promises to buy everyone dinner if they beat Rey Mysterio’s team. And they are guaranteed to win since Del Rio is their team captain. Rhodes says he has to admit that Del Rio is good.

Alberto Del Rio makes Chris Masters’ arm a little longer.

Rey Mysterio (captain), Big Show, Chris Master, Kofi Kingston, and MVP vs. Alberto Del Rio (captain), “Dashing” Cody Rhodes, Jack Swagger, Drew McIntyre, Tyler Reks – Traditional Survivor Series Match

At the 5:34 mark, Del Rio holds MVP’s feet so he can’t kick out of McIntyre’s pin, and the hometown favorite is out. At 6:42, Masters taps to Del Rio’s submission move. Big Show decks Del Rio with a big right hand, but he had already tagged McIntyre. Del Rio is taken to the back and apparently out of the match. Rhodes gets angry about Kingston hitting him in the face and leaves the match momentarily to examine it in the mirror on the back of his jacket. Big Show hits him even harder when he returns, pinning him at 10:55. At 15:06, Kingston runs wild and ends up pinning Reks. Kofi doesn’t have long to celebrate, as he taps to Swagger’s Ankle Lock less than a minute later. At 17:31, Swagger gets hit with a 619 and Rey’s splash off Show’s shoulders, and he’s gone. That leaves McIntyre alone against Big Show and Mysterio. It doesn’t take long for Show to track him down and deliver a choke slam, and that’s all she wrote. Not a bad match for the only traditional five-on-five bout, and the crowd seemed to be digging it throughout.

Winners and survivors… The Big Show and Rey Mysterio at 18 minutes and 9 seconds

Match Rating: 7/10

Josh Mathews asks Randy Orton about John Cena. The champ is sick and tired of talking about Cena, and is instead thinking about how he will beat Wade Barrett.

Beth Phoenix lifts new Women’s champion Natalya on her shoulders.

LayCool (champions) vs. Natalya (challenger) – Two-on-One Handicap Match – Diva’s Title

My mom always told me to say something nice or not to say anything, so… I thought it was pretty funny during the feud leading up to this match when LayCool compared Natalya to her dad in the looks department. This one doesn’t last long, as Nattie makes McCool tap out to the Sharpshooter, capturing the gold. The heels try to physically express their displeasure at losing after the bell, but a returning Beth Phoenix makes the save. Despite Dale’s urging, Beth does not punk Natalya.

Winner… and new Diva’s Champion … Natalya at 3 minutes and 35 seconds.

Match Rating: 2.5/10

A video package recaps the feud between Kane and Edge. Do you think that when the WWE told Paul Bearer he would have an on-screen role again, they warned him that he’d spend most of his time tied up with Edge throwing stuff at him? I’m just wondering.

Kane locks down on Edge.

Edge (challenger) vs. Kane (champion) – World Heavyweight Title Match

Edge pushes a wheelchair out to the ring but does not produce Paul Bearer. This is a slow, slow match that drags some of the enthusiasm out of the fans at times. The action picks up later with a series of decent counters. Kane hits a choke slam only to see Edge kick out at the last second. The challenger hits the next move but can only drape one arm across Kane’s chest while lying on his back himself. The three count is made and the ring announcer calls Edge the winner. But wait: the ref shakes his head and hands the belt back to Kane. It turns out both men’s shoulders were down, so the match is a no contest. The fans boo the confusing ending.

Draw… and still World Heavyweight Champion … Kane at 12 minutes and 48 seconds

Match Rating: 4/10

Wade Barrett drops in on John Cena. Barrett reminds Cena that this is the arena where the Nexus made their mark. Barrett tells Cena to do his job and he will be free of the Nexus. Cena tells Barrett he knows exactly what he is doing.

Santino Marella and Vladimir Kozlov (challengers) vs. Justin Gabriel and Heath Slater w/ Nexus (champions) – WWE Tag Team Title Match

Maybe Kozlov is turning Santino into a serious wrestler. He dodges two quick attacks from Gabriel. Kozlov takes down Slater with a vicious clothesline and tags in Santino, who breaks out the Cobra. First he chases Nexus off the apron, but this allows Slater to attack and get the pin.

Winner… and still WWE Tag Team champions … Heath Slater and Justin Gabriel at 5 minutes and 9 seconds

Match Rating: 4/10

After the match, Nexus hits the ring, and the anonymous GM fires off an email. He just wanted to remind Nexus that they are banned from ringside. If anyone interferes the entire group will be suspended.

Wade Barrett (challenger) vs. Randy Orton (champion) – John Cena Special Referee – WWE Title Match

Winner… and still WWE champion … Randy Orton at 15 minutes and 14 seconds.

Match Rating: 5/10

Total Event Time: 2 hours and 50 minutes

Event Rating: 6/10