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Weekend Exit Survey: Surviving a stake-less weekend of pro wrestling

This weekend was another that was much bigger than usual. On top of the usual SmackDown, Rampage, and Strong, we had New Japan’s concurrent Best of Super Junior & World Tag League shows and WWE’s Survivor Series.

Can we get a BOSJ/WTL vibe check?

That’s the problem with this year’s tournament. It just isn’t a great vibe. Sure, the wrestling on the cerulean blue is high-level as it always is, but some of these cards in the real guts of the tournament are quite dry. The shows without commentary are even drier. I can still appreciate the work in a quiet atmosphere, but the crowd noise has never made a match worse (except for Seth Rollins vs. Dolph Ziggler in that Iron Man match in Pittsburgh a few years back).

As of this writing, 76.2% of Japan’s population are fully vaccinated. I understand COVID can still be transmitted between vaccinated people but even with everyone masked up and spaced out, surely it won’t be much longer before it’s safe for the folks in attendance to hoot and holler at the wrasslers?

I’m sticking with my picks of Hiromu Takahashi and Guerrillas of Destiny to win their respective tournaments. Neither are atop the standings but it’s still early on. I wish FTR were in World Tag League. 

How effective was the go-home segment on SmackDown?

I can’t remember the last time one of the big four/five PPVs was promoted so poorly. If you include Money in the Bank in the higher tier of WWE PPVs, as I do, Survivor Series has felt like the fifth most important. There’s a universe where SmackDown vs Raw matches are a big deal but when everyone has just switched brands a couple of weeks ago, and when there are no stakes, why should I care? It’s just the Exhibition Series. 

However, making the most of a less-than-ideal situation, Big E and Roman Reigns raised my excitement by about 12% with what closed SmackDown. Big E looked every bit as legit as he needed to go into a singles showdown with the most dominant world champion in WWE since Brock Lesnar. E forced Reigns to retreat in an effort to make the audience think he could actually beat Reigns. Something you run into when you have a monster champion a la Lesnar, John Cena, Triple H, is that it gets to a point where you have a hard time building worthy opponents.

Big E, like Roman Reigns, is a world champion carrying the historically more prestigious belt but is the B world champion right now. The problem with having two world champions is that one will always be beta. It was JBL in 2004, it was CM Punk in 2008, it was any of the many World Heavyweight Champions in 2012. For this reason, I hate having two world champions, there should be one alpha of each division and nobody else. 

UPDATE: The match went pretty much how I thought it would. They had a great outing and it was one of the best matches of Big E’s career. Reigns continues to deliver in the main event spot time after time. 

What is AEW Rampage missing?

To say Rampage as a series started off hot is an understatement. On just the second episode of its life, we had the debut of CM Punk after seven years away from the sport. It’s unfair and just silly to hold it to that sort of standard because this is a moment that is basically impossible to recreate, but Rampage could still be appointment viewing but it isn’t. A Friday night fight night is something this show needs to go for. Three matches, a couple of promos, bang bang. 

I think they need all three matches to be guaranteed bangers to maintain a quick pace. A match like Orange Cassidy vs Jack Evans isn’t exactly a sleep-fighter. You need high-octane wrestlers having high-octane matches. It should be a showcase for younger wrestlers having engaging grudge matches or title matches. If Rampage stays on TNT, there’s no reason to not have a TNT title match on every other episode, and Sammy Guevara wrestles the perfect style to be defending his strap in super-engaging Friday night bouts. Maybe I just want a 2021/2022 version of the John Cena US title open challenge. THAT was appointment viewing. 

What was the match of the weekend?

For me, it was Becky Lynch beating Charlotte Flair in the opener of Survivor Series in Brooklyn. I’m sure Kieran Culkin in the crowd agreed that these two tore the house down in an appropriately ugly fight. This match had elements of a brawl and was worked in a way that smarter fans might think they’re having trouble working together. 

Flair and Lynch laid it in, talked their shit, and proved why they’re at the top of the food chain. It was two heels in there but the Brooklyn crowd loved Becky Lynch. This match easily could’ve gone on last had the finish not been what it was. It was clear that they wanted to protect Charlotte Flair but still just felt cheap. This was also my most anticipated match coming off the infamous belt exchange segment as well as each of their subsequent comments toward/about each other in various outlets. 

What stakes could improve the Brand vs. Brand aspect of Survivor Series?

Who am I supposed to root for when SmackDown is up against RAW? Do I root for SmackDown because it’s a higher quality as a television show? Do I root for RAW because it’s the flagship show? Do I pick between Disney and NBC Universal? The creative team needs to figure out what it means to win. 

I think one of the best possible prizes would be for the winning brand to pick from the last ten spots in the Royal Rumble. There’s really nothing else feasible. What else is there in this Mickey Mouse promotion that can be awarded to a whole brand?

If RAW and SmackDown are each going to have their own set of champions, you could have a five-match structure:

  1. Team SmackDown (Captained by the Intercontinental Champion) vs Team RAW (Captained by the United States Champion) in a 5-on-5 elimination tag. 
  2. Team SmackDown vs Team Raw in a 5-on-5 elimination tag. You’d have the Women’s Tag Champions be the co-captains of whichever brand they’re a part of. 
  3. SmackDown Tag Team Champions vs. Raw Tag Team Champions.

Main Event options:

  1. SmackDown Women’s Champion vs RAW Women’s Champion. 
  2. Universal Champion vs WWE Champion.

With all that being said, I’d way prefer it if there was one men’s world champion, one women’s world champion, and one set of men’s tag team champions across the two brands. Then you can do a three-match structure for the Rumble spots. 

  1. Intercontinental Champion vs United States Champion. 
  2. 5-on-5 men’s match. 
  3. 5-on-5 women’s match. 

Either way, Survivor Series desperately needs much higher stakes in its current form.

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