Excluding NXT Takeovers and the odd Wrestlemania card, WWE hasn’t inspired me with their booking choices for well over ten years. The bookings felt uninspired, like they’ve got an idea but they’re never able to churn out a totally compelling card. Even during the first brand extension, WWE failed terribly with brand vs. brand shows like Bragging Rights. Remember Bragging Rights? Anyone remember a memorable Bragging Rights match? Aside from perhaps .. when Eve Torres kicked Zack Ryder in the nuts and cost his team? That’s all I can remember.
WWE hasn’t taken PPV seriously (excl. Wrestlemania) for years. Even bigger, more well-known events like Summerslam get lost in mediocrity. WWE wanted to introduce new PPV names, but found that no one really cared for them. Battleground? Really? Fast Lane? No. Roadblock? Lame. Payback? I guess so. Fans didn’t want this, they wanted Backlash to return. They asked for No Mercy. They wanted the classics to return and stay. And WWE thought about dropping Survivor Series in 2010, til fans spoke out and said outright that they love it and don’t want to see it disappear.
What happened to Survivor Series? Why has WWE struggled to book it accordingly? They’ve always kept the traditional Survivor Series elimination matches, but they don’t usually amount to anything. No one benefits, or loses out. It’s been a throwaway PPV for the longest time, at least since Team WWF defeated The Alliance (WCW/ECW) in 2001. I can’t remember other Survivor Series too clearly. When I think back, all I can remember is Kurt Angle screwing The Alliance by hitting Austin with the belt, leaving The Rock to pick up the win for Team WWF. How bad is that? That I can’t remember much else? A little white lie though .. I do remember last years event.
I noticed WWE really, really wanting Survivor Series to be memorable. How did they manage it? Well they focused heavily on the brand split, pitting Raw against Smackdown in a war or supremacy. I’m surprised it took them all these years to figure it out, but it worked. The women from Raw beat the women of Smackdown Live. The Miz kept the IC title on Smackdown by beating Sami Zayn. 5 tag teams from Raw defeated 5 tag teams from Smackdown. In the second main event, Team Smackdown beat Team Raw in a match which lasted almost an hour. And as we can all remember, Goldberg destroyed Lesnar in 1 minute and 26 seconds; a fight which was heavily talked (praised & criticized) about for the next few days.
WWE’s gone all in this year, almost every match has importance. I’d like to leave some of my predictions, but I don’t make a habit of getting them all right so don’t be afraid about potential spoilers.
- IC Champ vs. US Champ – It’s not received as much attention as some of the other matches, but The Miz vs. Baron Corbin is an intriguing pairing. Not only are they both heels, they’re at different points in their careers. The Miz is the wily veteran, capable of provoking cheers when he gets ‘real’ on the mic, but he can get the same people to boo just as quick. Nothing like Corbin, who is struggling to get any reaction whatsoever. The logical choice to win is The Miz, however, if WWE wants to take Corbin seriously, he needs a victory. But not just any old victory .. he needs to win in a way which automatically makes The Miz the biggest babyface in the world. Will Corbin still be in the doghouse? Or will The Miz help his career?
- The Bar vs. The Usos – Again we’ve got a heel vs. heel match, so it’s not going to be easy for the audience to decide who they’re supporting. Regardless of this, it decides who the best tag team is in WWE, and I think they’ve both been mighty impressive in 2017. I’m going with The Bar, just because they’ve been in the mix fighting guys like The Shield and The Hardys while The Usos are not quite there .. but they’re certainly the most improved team this year.
- Goddess vs. Queen – What does it tell you when Nattie gets the belt taken off her just before the PPV? It tells us no one (on Smackdown Live) except Charlotte is ready for Alexa Bliss. It’s an intriguing match, because Charlotte is the face .. and it’s weird for me, so totally weird, but if anyone can play the heel to her face it’s Alexa. It’s difficult to pick a winner .. but I’m hoping Asuka makes her presence known. What I’d like to see is Asuka cost Alexa the match so they can start feuding, but I understand WWE might think she’s not ready yet. Charlotte is the favourite, but I don’t think it will be a clean match.
- Raw Women vs. Smackdown Women – I don’t understand why Alicia is the captain of Team Raw other than to ensure she’s in the team (who in their right mind would pick her?). The Smackdown side losing Charlotte is massive, and I can’t see the team of Becky Lynch, Carmella, Naomi, Tamina, and Natalya as a credible threat. Look at the Raw side .. a beast in Nia Jax, a quality double act in Bayley & Sasha, the undefeated former NXT Champion Asuka (who could take all of Smackdown on by herself), and the unpredictable captain Alicia Fox, makes a team which definitely has an advantage. I’d be shocked if Smackdown won this.
- The Shield vs. The New Day – As The Shield got their reunion cut short due to Roman’s illness, Survivor Series is when they get to return in full force. The New Day can afford to lose, The Shield can’t. Even more so after Ambrose and Rollins lost the tag team titles. The Shield has to show they are the dominant team, but of course, The New Day won’t make it easy. Just like the Smackdown women, I’d be shocked if The New Day found a way to stop The Shield on their 5th anniversary.
- Team Raw vs. Team Smackdown Live – I love everything about this, it’s such a stacked Survivor Series match. The chemistry between the leaders Kurt Angle and Shane O’Mac is still as prevalent as it was so many years ago. Randy Orton and John Cena are proven commodities, while Bobby Roode & Shinsuke Nakamura are newer, but that can make them more dangerous as they want to prove they belong with the big boys. Strowman, Balor, and Samoa Joe are at the top of their games, and are looking to prove Raw is the biggest, and best show. With the stipulation that Kurt Angle will lose his job if Smackdown wins, Triple H becomes a question mark. Will The Game’s actions against Jason Jordan affect him? Will Jordan feel the need to interfere on Raw’s behalf? Only to mess up and get his father (or Triple H) eliminated? What if Jordan purposely turns on Kurt? Smackdown is more united, while tensions have been easy to spot in Team Raw .. so Team Smackdown is the favourite in my opinion.
- Beast vs. Phenomenal – Had someone said to me a few years ago that AJ Styles would be facing Brock Lesnar in the main event of a WWE PPV in a champion vs. champion match .. I’d have asked for some of what they’d been smoking. I’m totally hyped for this, it’s one of those dream matches everyone wanted to see after he debuted last year. They’ve already done it justice with the promos, with AJ saying he knows he’s the underdog and wouldn’t have it any other way. Much like with Goldberg, Lesnar could underestimate his opponent and make mistakes. AJ has vast amounts of experience, but he’s never come up against anyone with the raw intensity and brutality of The Beast. And to think .. it was originally meant to be Lesnar vs. Mahal, but I already talked about this in my latest piece on AJ. Lesnar is probably going to win .. but if not, there will be a lot of interference which helps AJ overcome The Beast. I’m going with Lesnar for the win .. although I’d prefer to see AJ pick up the biggest ‘W’ of his WWE career.
And this is why Survivor Series is the one of the best built events for over a decade. Almost every match is important, or can possibly lead to something down the road. There’s no clear favourites; and I like that. WWE has finally figured out how to use the brand split to enhance their PPV, and if Survivor Series is going to be anything like this in the future, it will potentially become the third most anticipated PPV (over Summerslam) of the year behind the Royal Rumble & Wrestlemania. Thanks for reading everyone!