The 35th annual Survivor Series takes place Sunday night from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY. For the fourth consecutive year, WWE has taken the “Champion versus Champion” approach, with the RAW and SmackDown brands’ titleholders squaring off. Plus, we’ll see a men’s and women’s version of a traditional five-on-five Survivor Series elimination match.
A Battle Royal was tossed in this past week, with no particular prize for the winner but a pay-per-view check they wouldn’t have received otherwise.
The hype for this show has been on the quiet side. In fact, it was barely mentioned until recently. Luckily for us, someone in WWE looked at a calendar and remembered this show was coming. With just under two weeks to go, they began building to it with a couple perfunctory angles.
Universal Champion Roman Reigns will meet WWE Champion Big E. RAW Women’s Champion Becky Lynch will face SmackDown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair. Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura will take on U.S. Champion Damian Priest. The RAW Tag Team Champions, RK-Bro, will go up against SmackDown Tag Team Champions, the Usos.
The men’s elimination match will pit RAW’s Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, Finn Balor, Austin Theory and Bobby Lashley against the SmackDown team of Drew McIntyre. Jeff Hardy, Xavier Woods, Sheamus and Happy Corbin. On the women’s side, we’ll see Bianca Belair, Rhea Ripley, Liv Morgan, Carmella and Zelina Vega versus Sasha Banks, Shayna Baszler, Shotzi, Natalya and Toni Storm.
With no real stakes in the elimination matches and no titles on the line, the Survivor Series has become a detour on the way to other things. While the show has a standalone feel to it, there is some intrigue. The most anticipated match is probably the one that grabbed headlines for something that happened away from the cameras.
BECKY LYNCH VS. CHARLOTTE FLAIR
After the poorly-conceived title switch between these two on Oct. 22, there was a confrontation backstage between Flair and Lynch. Some things happened during the segment on TV. Flair’s title was tossed on the ground, Lynch’s was thrown at Flair and both women were angry at one another.
This would be an interesting match anyway, as both women are good workers and used to working in big-match situation. The backstage intrigue adds an extra layer for fans who are aware of it.
Both are professionals. We won’t see anyone go rogue here and try to start a real fight. But Vince McMahon could be tempted to do some sort of angle taking advantage of the situation. The legendary Montreal Screwjob took place at Survivor Series in the 1997 match between Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart. They did not get along onscreen or off back then, and McMahon has brought uncomfortable personal situations into angles before.
Still, both women have other challengers on the horizon and their own shows to headline. The smart move from WWE would be to just have a really good match here and move on.
ROMAN REIGNS VS. BIG E
There is the potential for a moment here. A win for Big E would move him into an elite category as a champion without taking the title off Reigns. It would also give the fans a moment of true celebration after what will likely be a very good match.
And therein lies the problem. WWE’s philosophy over the last few years has been heat, heat and more heat. Babyfaces are often booked to fail in fair fights or look stupid, which is why so few are truly over. Plus, Big E stood tall at the end of the go-home show. Standing tall at the end of a go-home show is usually the kiss of death.
It’s unlikely anyone but Brock Lesnar or the Rock (if they can work something out for a dream match) will be beating Reigns. They could use the Usos as Roman’s flunkies to save some face for Big E, but Reigns is a big favorite here.
RK-BRO vs. USOS
This one has had little buildup and the winner will have little consequence. The Usos’ primary job is to assist Reigns – or take beatings on his behalf from babyfaces. They have been terrific in that role. The fact they are an excellent tag team is a nice bonus.
This match should be very good. McMahon loves to put over Randy Orton, so if Reigns is booked to beat Big E, an RKO is a possible finish to keep things “even” for Roman’s heel group.
DAMIEN PRIEST VS. SHINSUKE NAKAMURA
While the tag team match had precious little buildup, this one has had zero. The WWE website states this matchup is “guaranteed to become an instant classic.” It will probably be all right. But it will just be a match on a show, with nothing really to come from it after unless there’s a run-in from someone to set up challengers down the road.
That might not be a bad idea for Priest, who has a title but not a lot else going on at the moment.
SURVIVOR SERIES MATCHES
We’ll lump these two together because they both have the same mission. With nothing on the line in terms of which show wins the matches, the real stories told are intra-team. These matches will be all about who gets along and who doesn’t. Someone is likely to turn their backs on their teammates to further or create feuds.
Whoever wins these matches, or looks good by eliminating multiple opponents, can get a boost. They can hold up their Survivor Series accomplishments as further proof they should be the next challenger to their brand’s champion.
For the men, that could mean Rollins, leading into the January pay-per-view for Big E. It could also be McIntyre, lining him up for Reigns. Owens and Balor could be on a collision course, while Lashley needs something to do going forward.
On the women’s side, Shotzi and Banks could tangle, leaving the door open for Storm. Flair declined a match with Storm on Nov. 12, so a good showing here could force Flair’s hand in storyline. Storm would be an excellent addition to the top-level matches on SmackDown. She’s among the very best workers and the brand needs good babyfaces.