WWE seems to have put a lot of effort into making Survivor Series work so far, transforming a decidedly lacklustre card into one that should easily make for the best pay per view of the year. Fans are rightly excited, but WWE has a long history of taking something that should have been great and making it less than it could have been, so caution is required. Bad booking can undermine even what should have been the greatest of matches on paper.
While obvious booking decisions like Enzo Amore retaining the Cruiserweight Championship and the Shield going over the New Day are almost certainly assured, others are dicier. To make the most out of what should be a great pay per view, WWE must avoid making the following errors.
Mistake 1: The Usos Losing
The Usos have been one of the best acts in WWE all year long and certainly the greatest tag team. Their fantastic feud with the New Day single-handedly carried SmackDown during its darkest months this summer.
While the Bar (Sheamus and Cesaro) are a great team in their own right and could certainly use some momentum given the thin state of Raw’s tag team division, a victory for the Usos here would cement their place as the year’s most formidable tag team, a spot they’ve earned. It would elevate the titles they hold even more and make what’s already a hot tag team division on SmackDown even more so.
Raw’s tag team division is in need of a great rebuilding and a mere victory by the Bar here won’t help to solve its long-term problems.
Mistake 2: Asuka being eliminated
While the presence of Asuka very likely means that Raw’s women’s team will triumph at Survivor Series (and was reportedly one of the reasons WWE decided to have Natalya drop the SmackDown Women’s Championship to Charlotte), you never know for sure. A count out or disqualification isn’t out of the question. This would be a grave mistake.
Asuka’s main roster rollout hasn’t gone perfectly. She needs some momentum and Survivor Series elimination matches can be a very good way of building it. Asuka should be the killer she was advertised as, rampaging through SmackDown’s team and scoring a come from behind victory for team Raw as the sole survivor in the match.
Establishing a force of destruction has worked wonders in both past and present (see: Braun Strowman) for compelling wrestling television and it would be the next step up in WWE’s much-ballyhooed “women’s revolution/evolution.” That’s a role for Asuka to play. Whoever winds up returning for team SmackDown (Paige or Nikki Bella are the current favourites) doesn’t alter this dynamic. It’s especially important with WWE’s audience now being 40% female.
To establish Asuka as the women’s division’s destructive impulse, she needs to be the star of this match. Anything less is an atrocious long-term mistake. Given the rumours of the bookers fretting and changing the card because of Asuka’s presence here, that might not be likely, but again, you never know.
Mistake 3: The Miz squeaking out a win
The Miz is immensely more entertaining than Baron Corbin, but he’s an established veteran who’s been doing this for a long time. Baron Corbin is still very new. Now in the right place as United States Champion, he nevertheless still needs some momentum, and Survivor Series is the place to give it to him.
If the point of his title run is to see if he has what it takes to be a main event player sometime next year, he’ll need to come off a few big wins and see if his act clicks. This would be the highest profile win of his reign to date.
Baron Corbin should find creative and dominant ways to deal with the Miztourage, then follow it up with a victory over the Miz, who will essentially be acting as the babyface in the match, to see if it gets him over any further.
Mistake 4: Carmella not cashing in Money in the Bank
I expect Charlotte Flair to beat Alexa Bliss in their champion vs. champion match. The sudden title change sets such a victory up. Yet, the match itself isn’t the only story here. Carmella still looms with her Money in the Bank contract and if ever there were a time for her to make huge impact cashing it in, the time would be now.
With the release of James Ellsworth, Carmella’s act needs a tune-up. He was the reason for most of her heat, and without him, she could easily flounder. Cashing in here, after Charlotte had such a touching moment with her father only days beforehand, would generate nuclear heat and give the babyface a need for revenge. It would be the perfect WrestleMania feud, though with the Horsewomen match purported to be happening there, it might have to be put on hold.
Either way, it would establish Carmella as the top female heel on SmackDown, a position she’d be unlikely to obtain otherwise in the absence of Ellsworth. I normally dislike WWE’s obsession with cheap heat, but this is a time where it actually makes sense.
Mistake 5: Jason Jordan not turning heel
Most of us saw this coming as soon as it was announced in July, but Jason Jordan being the blue chipper babyface illegitimate son of Kurt Angle just isn’t working. He’s like Rocky Maivia, but blander. We saw the results in emphatic fashion this week on the go-home Raw, where Triple H, supposedly a heel, took Jason Jordan out of Raw’s men’s team, put himself in his place, and Pedigreed him for good measure to the universal acclaim of the crowd.
Now off the Survivor Series card, Jason Jordan needs to work himself into the event anyway and turn on his “father” as well as Triple H, assisting team SmackDown in eliminating them from the match. Not only would it give his act a much-needed makeover, but it would also throw a new wrench into the power struggle on Raw.
Another side benefit would be that it would eliminate two older part-timers who don’t need the spotlight as much as other guys in this match, which leads me to my next point.
Mistake 6: Braun Strowman not dominating
He got eliminated relatively early in last year’s match, but this year’s Braun Strowman is very, very different from last year’s. The Braun Strowman of 2016 was still trying to establish himself as a top singles competitor. A year later, he’s arguably WWE’s biggest full-time star.
He’s also the youngest person in the match. In fact, he’s the only one closer to 30 than 40, with many of his peers nearing 50! While the match is full of star power, it has a combined age of a whopping 405, with an average age 40.5.
In truth, though the match is a huge short-term draw, it’s indicative of a long-term problem WWE has often failed to fix – creating younger stars that can replace the ageing veterans.
With all this in mind, it’s imperative that Braun Strowman be the star of this match. The multi-man environment is where he shines brightest, too. No one has forgotten his starring performance at this year’s deliciously chaotic SummerSlam main event.
He should go on a similar tear, and an elimination of John Cena would help him in a huge way. In truth, he should be the sole survivor in the match, but not without some help. Someone can stop his momentum somewhere, but just as it seems SmackDown is about to triumph over the monster.
Mistake 7: Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens not costing SmackDown the match
Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens should interfere at the very end and cost the blue brand the victory. Off the Survivor Series card, they’ve certainly shown their disgruntlement in the last few weeks, climaxing on the go-home show when they abandoned SmackDown during Raw’s invasion. This will surely earn them many enemies, but to increase the heat on them that much further, they must commit the ultimate act of treason.
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn acting as the proverbial, if a bit annoying rebels to Shane McMahon’s authority has been immensely entertaining, and there’s no reason to not continue this program all the way until WrestleMania, which would strengthen further an already brightening picture on SmackDown. This would be the next logical step and it would be an atrocious mistake not to have it happen.
Mistake 8: Jinder Mahal interfering in a dream match
The ongoing flat performance in India, combined with a poor reception to the initial Survivor Series main event, finally led WWE into doing what should have been done months ago in having Jinder Mahal drop the WWE Championship to AJ Styles. This gave us a dream match we never thought we’d see in Brock Lesnar vs. the Phenomenal One.
The promos given by Paul Heyman and Daniel Bryan, respectively, weaved a fantastic tale of speed against power. Would it be Brock Lesnar running roughshod over the Phenomenal One and flattening him with brute strength? Or would it be an encounter where AJ Styles avoids the might of the Beast Incarnate and takes him into deep waters where he eventually drowns? If that’s the kind of match we wind up seeing, it could easily be one of the best of the year.
Jinder Mahal spoiling it, as some have surmised, would be terrible. You don’t spoil a dream match for the sake of a rematch with someone who never got over as champion. There’s time for that later.
Even though I certainly expect Brock Lesnar to win this match, AJ Styles taking him to his limit would make the new WWE Champion look strong anyway. It would also make the Beast seem truly vulnerable for the first time all year, a vulnerability that could be used to enhance the story behind the inevitable showdown with Roman Reigns.
Jinder Mahal adds nothing short or long term and should be kept comfortably away.