This weekend, WWE presents the 30th edition of one of their longest-running PPVs, Survivor Series. This year, for the first time in nearly twenty years, the show will fly north of the border, coming from Toronto, Ontario. And as an additional treat, the night before Survivor Series will feature the latest live special from NXT, expanding the festivities to an entire weekend. With two big shows, including a cross-brand PPV with Raw and Smackdown in direct competition, there could be a lot going on during what’s sure to be a series of interesting events. In advance of the combined TakeOver/Survivor Series PPVs, we’ve got some thoughts and predictions about what might go down!
You can see the entire card for Survivor Series and TakeOver right here.
First off, let’s start with NXT TakeOver: Toronto, the newest in a string of specials for WWE’s highly acclaimed developmental system!
If you thought fans were giving Bobby Roode large ovations before, we’re going to bet that you haven’t heard anything yet, as Roode steps foot into his hometown of Toronto for the first time as a member of NXT, in front of a rabid fanbase that hasn’t had a TV taping in years and no PPVs in even longer, with a theme song that just begs to be sung along to. Frankly, fellow Canadian Tye Dillinger is the only possible opponent for Roode, simply because it would be impossible for anyone else to even have a chance to get cheered against Roode, and Dillinger is just sympathetic and local enough, with another gimmick that fans really like to play along with, that he’s got the best shot out of anyone. Frankly, the match in this case is almost irrelevant, and we wouldn’t be shocked if it went on first, just so the fans can be whipped into a frenzy right off the bat.
Setting The Bar High
NXT does a lot of things right, and one of those things is that, if you have to have a rematch to a great wrestling match, you up the ante by making the wrestlers involved wrestle even more. That’s why Bayley-Sasha II was an Iron Man Match, and that’s why the preferred rematch when you’re facing The Revival is 2/3 Falls. At TakeOver: Brooklyn, #DIY and the “Top Guys” of NXT had an incredible match that continued to show that Dash and Dawson are exactly what they claim to be: the revival of old-school tag team wrestling. And there’s nothing more old-school than 2/3 Falls, especially when you have two teams which could literally push this past a thirty minute nailbiter. Survivor Series will have big prestige matches like Lesnar-Goldberg, traditional Survivor Series match, and the rematch between Shinsuke Nakamura and Samoa Joe. But if you’re asking us what the best match of the weekend is shaping up to be, look no further than #DIY and The Revival. Now clink me!
No Dusty Finishes Here
The 2nd Annual Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic has been plagued by injuries, leading to a herculean effort from WWE’s video editing and creative teams to patchwork together the later rounds of the tournament out of house show footage, which has worked out fairly well, even if it did involve forcing Roderick Strong and Shane Thorne to wrestle a 1-on-1 match to determine who moved on, then immediately following it up by allowing The Revival to forfeit their spot completely on the same episode. It also suffered a little due to many of the teams consisting of patchwork squads made up of Cruiserweights (although not, of course, from an in-ring standpoint), as well as a couple made up of Performance Center wrestlers who hadn’t actually debuted yet. We’ll give them credit, at least this year the final four teams were all regular pairings, and if we can’t have our Aries/Strong vs #DIY indie dream match, well, it makes sense to use the tournament as a vehicle to continue the domination of the Authors of Pain. TakeOver feels like it might be a little face-heavy with victories elsewhere in the card, and since we expect #DIY to emerge from their match as the NXT Tag Team Champions, it makes sense that Akam and Rezar win the Dusty Cup to become their obvious next challengers.
Win Or Go To The Main Roster?
We said this before TakeOver: Brooklyn as well, so since we were wrong then, we’re going double or nothing here. Joe and Nakamura are pretty much at their point of no return, because once things are so heated that you have to have a contract signing in two different parts of the arena to keep them separated, we are way past “this promotion isn’t big enough for the both of us”. The only way both men remain in NXT through the holiday season is because it’s likely there will be another TakeOver event at the Rumble, and that would give them a short enough time to build to a “Loser Leaves NXT” match, then have one or the other debut in the Rumble the next day. But keeping them together in NXT seems like a bad plan, as their feud has reached an obvious conclusion and there are other challengers waiting in the wings (specifically, Bobby Roode, which has us putting money on Nakamura winning), so it wouldn’t shock us if Saturday is the last match in NXT for one of them (probably Joe).
Now, let’s move on from NXT to the main roster, and talk about Survivor Series itself.
Why Moving The Cruiserweight Division To Smackdown Makes Sense
It seems ridiculous to move an entire division of wrestlers between brands only a few months into the brand extension, but this is the situation we find ourselves in now. The division, much as we don’t want to admit it, has failed as part of Raw, but would hopefully flourish if moved wholesale into its own universe, represented by Live 205. As much as it sucks to take the title off Kendrick so quickly, it’s a means to more profitable ends for everyone involved. Plus, it seems ridiculous to debut a new Cruiserweight show that films in the same arena as Smackdown and not just move the division over entirely. The travel complications for the Cruiserweights alone would be ridiculous, since Smackdown and Raw no longer necessarily tape shows in even the same part of the country anymore. Plus, quite frankly, it has always made no sense to have Kalisto on Smackdown where there are no cruiserweights at all, because you need to let him wrestle a bunch of guys his own size and show how exciting he can be before you try and make him the next Rey Mysterio and have him move up to fighting bigger wrestlers. Hopefully WWE also pulls a handwave and moves Neville over with the division as well.
Why Moving The Intercontinental Title To Raw Makes Sense, Too
We know, having both the US and Intercontinental Titles creates an imbalance between the brands, but the fact of the matter is, once we’re finished up with Dolph Ziggler and The Miz, it becomes glaringly obvious that Smackdown doesn’t actually have a midcard, while Raw has bodies to spare and could easily have challengers for both titles. Smackdown’s roster has just enough women for a division, and somehow ended up with a bunch of actual tag teams, which is an unexpected bonus, but in the role of “guys who couldn’t just as easily slide into a slightly larger main event scene instead if no midcard title existed”, you’ve got…Curt Hawkins and Apollo Crews? Maybe? It’s not a knock on Smackdown’s roster, as they’ve done a very good job moving pieces around to hide the fact that they have to use pretty much everyone on the roster on a weekly basis to fill a two-hour show, but they can’t keep it up without external reinforcements (in the form of the Cruiserweights), and/or losing the title that they don’t have enough bodies to realistically support anyway. Plus, Sami Zayn can get a big win in his home country, and you know how WWE loves to do those, right? Right?
Can Reality Match Nostalgia?
One of the things that people often fondly remember the incredible 10-team, 20-man Survivor Series matches from the early years of the PPV. And after many, many years, WWE finally has decided to bring it back, made easier by the fact that both brands actually have a half-dozen tag teams. Now, teams like The Hype Bros and The Shining Stars aren’t exactly getting to see The British Bulldogs, Demolition, and The Hart Foundation, but there’s definitely some talent that could turn this match, which promises a mass of humanity and lots of confusion, into a good exhibition of wrestling and not just a spectacle. We’re looking mainly at American Alpha, which have kind of fallen into the background lately and don’t deserve to. This match has a chance to let them grab the spotlight, especially since we’d put a significant wager on Gallows and Anderson costing Raw the match somehow. If Smackdown’s going to win, they might as well showcase their best stuff at the same time.
Having Cake And Trying To Eat It
In theory, the idea of the brands competing against each other at Survivor Series makes sense, and the traditional Survivor Series match is basically set up for two opposing teams to face off in a winner-take-all match of some sort. The problem is, the reality of what we’ve gotten is people who were literally just involved in blood feuds, some of whom will literally be fighting each other on Pay Per View two weeks after Survivor Series (just a reminder, TLC is on December 4th), suddenly standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the name of “brand unity”. At least Stephanie has implied that their future employment is on the line, but during the final week before Survivor Series, suddenly everyone on both sides is on the same page and winning matches as cohesive units, and you know almost no tension will bubble over during the Survivor Series matches themselves because WWE isn’t creative enough to tell stories like that anymore. Sure, people will blame each other on the post-PPV TV shows, but the brand extension is only a few months old, it’s ridiculous to believe that anyone is particularly attached to their side, at least to the point that they’ll suddenly forget that they hate half of their teammates. In the case of Raw, losing and getting fired might actually be preferable, because they could go to Smackdown and not get yelled at by an insane dictator and her disturbingly rambling GM every week.
No Consequences For Failure
The big problem with the idea of Survivor Series being about brand warfare is that it’s not. Sure, the Intercontinental and Cruiserweight title might (and should) switch sides, but ultimately, the rest of the show, with its trio of Raw vs Smackdown matches, doesn’t mean anything. Whichever team wins the majority of the Survivor Series matches gets nothing, and the losers suffer no punishments. There isn’t even a trophy that we’ve been made aware of at this point! At Survivor Series, one side will “win”, and a McMahon will get to gloat, and then everyone will go back to their separate corners until the Royal Rumble, where Raw and Smackdown Superstars will actually compete head-to-head in a match where there are actual stakes in play in the form of a WrestleMania title match. Wait, you believed Michael Cole when he kept repeating that Survivor Series was the only PPV where the brands were in direct competition?
Don’t Bring Up Montreal (They’re Totally Going To Bring Up Montreal)
We’re not sure how, or when, or why, but at some point in this PPV, probably at a climactic moment in one of the Survivor Series matches, we’re going to see yet another version of the Montreal Screwjob. Actually, we’re pretty sure we know why, and it’s because WWE simply can’t help but bring it back up whenever they’re in Canada (which is part of the reason why they haven’t run PPVs in Canada in years). Throw in that this is Survivor Series, returning to Canada for the first time since 1997, and you can even picture the lightbulb going off in Vince McMahon’s brain. The obvious place to do it would be in the men’s Survivor Series match, which will undoubtedly decide the “winner” of the PPV, but we’ll put money on a dark horse and say that “Coach” Natalya, scion of the Hart family legacy, might double-cross her own team in some way that could cost them a victory.
Please Don’t Suck
Aside from the ridiculous mess of a bad idea in Minnesota, WWE has done incredibly well booking the Goldberg-Lesnar matchup, to the point that people are incredibly behind Goldberg, and actually anticipating this match between a 49-year old who hasn’t wrestled in over a decade and a guy whose recent matches have basically become routine. At this point, the only thing we can do, as people who still remember the massive abortion that was their first encounter at WrestleMania XX, is to beg both men to do their absolute best to try and make sure this match justifies all the work that’s been put into it. It would be absolutely awful to have WWE do something right, book a feud this effectively, only to have the end result be a ten-minute snoozefest that actually gives us fond memories of twelve years ago. We don’t care what has to be done, WWE, Lesnar, and Goldberg need to make sure that this match does not suck.