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With Seth Rollins' injury throwing the original Survivor Series plans into the wood chipper, WWE had to create a new event almost from scratch. To their credit, their response of having a world title tournament that will culminate in two semi-final matches and a final championship match at Survivor Series, has perked up some interest in what decisions the company is going to make. Three out of the four remaining wrestlers in the tournament have never held the WWE World Heavyweight Championship before, so chances are we are going to see a first time champion on Sunday.
The first semi-final match is between prohibitive favorite Roman Reigns and Alberto Del Rio. So far Reigns has had one very bad match in the tournament (against The Big Show) and one very good match (against Cesaro). If the goal of the tournament was to get Reigns ready for the world title, I'm not sure if those two matches were very successful. Nobody expected Big Show to defeat Reigns, so it was just another predictable match with Roman Reigns that was not very good. That is not the most efficient first round matchup they could have had for him.
The victory over Cesaro on Sunday helps him in the sense that it proves he can have a good match with a good opponent, but realistically fans should have already known that. Reigns' biggest issue is that hardcore fans, fans who make up a more sizeable portion of WWE's audience then what they care to admit, don't respect Reigns. They do respect Cesaro, so Cesaro got a lot of cheers during that match instead of the future face of the company, and there was a lot of complaining from fans that Cesaro should have won the match because he is clearly the superior wrestler. The victory over Cesaro only increased Reigns' biggest problem and that is that a substantial part of the audience believes that he is going to be pushed at costs over all other wrestlers.
The match with Del Rio on Sunday should be a happy medium. Del Rio is a very good worker like Cesaro, but fans don't really care all that much about Del Rio one way or the other. It is sufficient to say that not that many people will be complaining about how Del Rio should have won their match. Reigns is clearly going to win this match, even if he doesn't end up winning the title at Surivor Series, there is no realistic booking situation on Sunday that doesn't at least have Reigns in the final. For that reason, I can't get too excited about the match because it is just obviously another stepping stone for Reigns on his path to the championship match.
The other semi-final match is much more interesting, between Dean Ambrose and Kevin Owens. The question that will have to be answered in this match is: Does WWE want to do Ambrose and Reigns right now? Considering the lack of top level feuds and star power on Raw currently, it would make sense to pull out one of their biggest prospective feuds. The issue for me is that I'm not sure if Reigns is over enough to warrant the feud. If Ambrose turns heel on Reigns, as many have predicted, I don't think Reigns is a popular enough babyface to hold off Ambrose's heel turn. By that I mean that if Ambrose were to turn heel and screw Reigns and win the title, Reigns has so many detractors and Ambrose has so many supporters that Ambrose would become the biggest babyface in the company if he did such a thing. The worst thing for a babyface to be is to be in the ring against the heel and the fans want the bad guy to win more than they want the hero to. I don't know if WWE wants to bury their golden boy at the top of the card like that.
The safest way for WWE to make Reigns champion would be for Owens to defeat Ambrose and then have Reigns beat Owens in the main event. I find Owens and Reigns to be just as intriguing as Reigns and Owens, mainly because Owens is a far better worker than Ambrose and I think he has the most potential as champion. If I was booking the show, I would have Owens defeat Reigns in the final, and do an Owens vs Reigns feud. Owens is the most capable man both in the ring and on the microphone on WWE's roster right now and as a heel can certainly carry the belt. It will give Reigns a natural foil and they can work a good feud between the chosen one and the anti-hero.
What I don't want to see is The Authority be involved with the finish, all though Raw has been hinting that they are going to be. The Authority are just a dead storyline to me, they haven't had an interesting segment since Seth turned on The Shield and they have been treading water as mediocre heels that occasionally cut babyface promos ever since. Them recruiting a new champion to groom (who would ultimately feud with Rollins once he returns) would just prolong the agony that is watching a 20 minute nothing promo from Triple H and Stephanie McMahon at the beginning of every Raw. Unfortunately, The Authority seemingly always have to be involved in big storylines and since them not being involved in the crowning of a new champion would involve them being out of the spotlight, we will likely see them have a hand in the result of the main event. My prediction is that Reigns defeats Owens in the final, clean and in the middle of the ring after The Authority tries to interfere and then The Authority spends the next year trying to get the title off of Reigns.
With the top three matches on the show involving the world title tournament, the rest of the card is looking pretty flat. The Brothers of Destruction are teaming up perhaps for the last time to take on The Wyatt Family. The only reason I can see this feud happening is because WWE wanted to milk the hell out of this being the 25th anniversary of The Undertaker's debut in WWE. Normally after The Undertaker suffers a huge loss like he did to Brock Lesnar at last month's PPV, he takes a lot of time off before returning. It is very strange to see him immediately thrust into a feud that doesn't really need to happen, especially in this stage in his career where 'Taker hardly wrestles at all. I think The Undertaker and Kane go out on top and defeat The Wyatt Family in a forgettable match.
The Divas Championship will be on the line when Charlotte defends against Paige. I think this feud has been probably the best Diva's storyline in a while. Paige has become very good at cutting promos and while Charlotte has left a lot to be desired, I have faith that they can turn out a pretty good match at Survivor Series.
What I don't find acceptable is that despite this feud having a lot of material to work with, mainly Paige being upset that Charlotte is getting credit for the Diva's Revolution, which Paige sees as her creation, WWE went for the cheapest heat possible, bringing up Reid Flair's drug overdose in a very uncomfortable moment on Raw. Despite having plenty of different directions to go in for their feud, the creative geniuses at WWE took the lowest, laziest route to try and get some heat on Paige, which she was perfectly capable of doing without having to bring up recent family tragedies. Charlotte was clearly uncomfortable talking about it and according to Ric Flair, he was never asked about the segment beforehand. WWE has sent out claims that it was all Charlottes' idea and she pushed for it, but that doesn't smell right to me. This is a Vince McMahon/Triple H/Michael Hayes booking idea and I find it hard to believe that they were bullied into the segment by someone who hasn't been on the roster for more than a handful of months.
What is ironic about the whole segment is that the very next day WWE had Charlotte go on ESPN for their little segment with Jonathan Coachman. WWE craves the respect of the mainstream media and trumpet any coverage they get from it, but what they seemingly don't understand is that sleazy segments like this are exactly why the mainstream media doesn't respect professional wrestling as a legitimate industry.
The most recently announced match on the card will by Tyler Breeze taking on Dolph Ziggler. This could actually end up being the best match on the card, considering both men are good workers and either man stands a chance at winning the match, making it the most unpredictable match on the card.
There will also be a traditional Survivor Series 5-on-5 elimination tag team match on the show. Who will be in it? Why, WWE hasn't bothered to tell us, even though all of their programs leading up the show have already aired. It's funny that last year Survivor Series was built on the 5-on-5 concept, yet the very next year it is a complete afterthought. Thankfully, I don't think the rest of the show will be an afterthought, mainly because WWE has such a lack of star power that in the main event their hands are tied to the point that they actually have to try something. Even if Reigns beats Owens cleanly in the ring for the championship, that is still someone new as champion, which is a refreshing step for WWE to take.
You can watch The Survivor Series this Sunday on the WWE Network. New subscribers can sign up for the WWE Network by clicking here and get their first month for free, which includes the pay-per-view this Sunday.