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On paper, Survivor Series has to be one of the lamest PPV cards WWE has ever put on. For the first time in a long time, WWE is promoting a major event without any world title match, any women's championship match and no tag team title match. Instead WWE is building the event around the "dream" match between Goldberg and Brock Lesnar, as well as the rivalry between SmackDown and RAW. Is that enough to make the PPV very exciting? It is hard to say that it does heading into Sunday.
I already wrote about Goldberg and Lesnar last week so I won't elaborate that much here. I wouldn't have very high expectations for the match, after all Goldberg is nearly 50 years old and despite the fact that he appears to be in great shape, he hasn't wrestled in over a dozen years. However, I think at the very least it will be entertaining as a spectacle. Goldberg has proven during his recent appearances on RAW that the crowd is still really into him; although the historically unpredictable Toronto crowd might react differently. Brock is always going to be over as long as he is destroying people, so at the very least the crowd should be hot for it. WWE has a lot of time to figure out what they want to do with the match so hopefully they have a lot of smoke-and-mirrors to make the match seem better than it actually is. In a lot of ways I think it will be like The Undertaker and Shane McMahon match from WrestleMania where it won't technically be very good but because the crowd is hot and they will do some cool spots it will come off as a fun match.
But Goldberg vs Lesnar is only one match, the rest of the show is being built around RAW and SmackDown engaging in matches that pit one brand against the other. There are several problems with this concept, but ultimately the issue is that nothing really feels at stake in these matches. I appreciate that they are trying to bring back the importance of the 5-on-5 elimination matches, but at this point unless something really important is on the line it feels like a dated concept. Just two years ago they had a really good traditional Survivor Series match where if The Authority lost they would be out of power. Of course WWE ruined that by having The Authority lose the match only to regain power two weeks later, but the point is the match felt important because something important was actually on the line.
WWE has hyped the SmackDown vs RAW matches as a battle for brand supremacy, but the problem is nobody really cares about brand supremacy. It isn't like there is a huge divide between SmackDown fans and RAW fans, they are the same fans. This was highlighted on RAW when Shane McMahon said that SmackDown was the better show and the live crowd (that was at RAW) cheered. The reason any team sport generates interest is because there are fans on each side that support their team. If the fans don't care about either side becoming the "superior" brand then there is no point of them even having the matches. Who cares if SmackDown wins? Any fan that follows the product knows that WWE values RAW higher than SmackDown because they remind you that RAW is the "A" show every single day.
Even with the disinterest in the battle for brand superiority, the matches could still be interesting from a novelty standpoint because they mix the RAW and SmackDown wrestlers for the only time of the year. That doesn't really matter this year though, because the brand split is so new that none of the matchups are really that exciting. On Monday they were hyping the main tag match as all three members of The Shield being in the ring at the same time—which is ridiculous because we have seen that a bunch of times since they split up. In fact just a few months ago at Battleground the main event was a WWE Championship Triple Threat match between all three ex-Shield members; so how exactly are we supposed to be that excited about them being in a 10-man tag match against each other? The same can be said about the other matchups; Becky Lynch and Charlotte and Sasha Banks all in the same match together? Gee, what a novel concept! Also, I've never seen The Usos and The New Day wrestle each other before; that is something new and fresh!
The other matches on the show are singles bouts, but also have some baffling booking going on. The Cruiserweight Championship is on the line in a strange match that will mean the entire cruiserweight division will head over to SmackDown if the SmackDown wrestler, Kalisto, wins the match. For some reason the cruiserweights are really worried about going to SmackDown; even though the storyline right now is that SmackDown is the land of opportunity and different wrestlers can get over there while RAW is a playground for Stephanie McMahon. With T.J. Perkins losing at Hell in a Cell in terrible fashion and the crowd remaining apathetic to a majority of their matches, WWE really could not have done a worse job booking the division. With the introduction of the cruiserweight specific show on the WWE Network; WWE 205 Live, I wouldn't be surprised to see the division begin to be phased out of RAW all together.
There also was supposed to be an InterContinental Championship match between Sami Zayn and Dolph Ziggler with Zayn taking the championship to RAW if he wins. Strangely, WWE decided to have The Miz win the IC Championship on SmackDown, meaning it will now be The Miz vs Zayn. That is disappointing because Ziggler and Zayn were poised to have a potentially show-stealing match at Survivor Series and replacing Ziggler with The Miz is a definite step down. The only reason I could see them doing this is because Zayn is going over and they want him to take the championship from a heel; but god help SmackDown if they lose the InterContinental Championship. Maybe they lose the InterContinental title but gain the cruiserweight division?
One last issue with the show is that WWE is starting it at 7 p.m., which means it is likely going to be a four hour show, if not longer. One of the big problems with SummerSlam was that it was way too long and that had a much more interesting card than Survivor Series. While I think in a vacuum the matches at Survivor Series could be good; the lack of stakes in most of them will likely submarine the show as fans grow impatient waiting for the main event.
Must Watch Matches:
Will Ospreay vs Fenix: **** - PWG Battle of Los Angeles Night One
Zack Sabre Jr. vs Tommy End: **** - PWG Battle of Los Angeles Night One
Pentagon Jr. and Fenix vs Chris Hero and Tommy End: ****1/4 – PWG Battle of Los Angeles Night Two
Ricochet vs Matt Sydal: **** - PWG Battle of Los Angeles Night Three
Pentagon Jr. and Fenix vs The Young Bucks: ****1/2 – PWG Battle of Los Angeles Night Three
Ricochet vs Will Ospreay: **** - PWG Battle of Los Angeles Night Three