By Matt Straub and Brad Carroll
A month ago, WWE threw together a Pay-Per-View card at the last minute because an illness tore through the company, causing two big names to be lost from top matches less than a week before the show, meaning the company couldn’t even rush an angle on to television to explain the absences. They pulled off a good show, and got well-deserved credit. This Sunday’s huge Survivor Series card has been thrown into upheaval in recent days not because of last-minute adversity, but because the writers treated this show like a kid who studies the night before the test. They realized they were screwed and tried to cram and put something together to fix it before the fans grade their work on Sunday.
In the end, it worked out. Survivor Series is now an infinitely better show than what was first announced. This time, however, WWE deserves no credit for the changes, only scorn for trying to feed us garbage in the first place. The entire concept of the Raw vs. SmackDown theme, which should provide some excitement with new stories, is hurt by the matches all being non-title, but at least there are some things to see.
Here’s a look at the new card, which gives us some good matches, some interesting names, and Enzo Amore.
WWE Cruiserweight Champion Enzo Amore vs. Kalisto (Kickoff Match)
Straub’s Breakdown and Pick: In a way, I’m happy for Enzo. He’s found a niche on 205 Live as the only semi-interesting thing on the show. That’s not saying much, however. It’s like if I were to be the most handsome guy in the room. If true, the room is full of some ugly guys. Still, Enzo’s PPV history before he got shuffled to the cruiserweights was notable for the time he knocked himself unconscious and for getting buried in a match which was ruined because his opponent got hurt after pummeling him. Now he’s a champion. He’s defending the belt against Kalisto, who, if you haven’t seen him, is like Rey Mysterio without the personality. So, he’s basically Sin Cara without the botches. Enzo has to win to end this feud and move him on to the next thing, whatever that may be. Maybe he’ll let his new sidekick talk as part of his new angle. How am I doing? Awful. I just spent five minutes writing about Enzo.
Carroll’s Breakdown and Pick: If Straub already spent five minutes writing about Enzo Amore, I feel no need to go into overtime, although I guess the seconds are adding up just typing this sentence. Anyway, Enzo, as annoying and unlikable as he is, should and will win this match and move on to a different challenger. Maybe it will be a returning Neville, who I hear has possibly patched things up with WWE and is set for a return, although he’d be better on the main roster instead of wasted on 205 Live. Maybe it will be someone from NXT. Maybe it will be Pete Dunne again, this time for real. Maybe it will be someone currently on the roster and we’ll all be bored as always with the division. It turns out I needed overtime after all, but at least it’s not all about Enzo.
Intercontinental Champion The Miz vs. United States Champion Baron Corbin
Straub’s Breakdown and Pick: I’ll start as always with the disclaimer: I know the Miz to be a good guy, and I’m biased. With that said, he deserves so much better than this. He has been a featured player on Raw of late and has consistently put forth some of the most interesting television the show has produced in recent weeks. His reward? A match with Baron Corbin. Like Enzo, I’m happy for Corbin, who seemed on the verge of being wished well in his future endeavors after losing the MITB briefcase, but now has a belt and a spot against one of the biggest names on the other show on a big card. If Miz can make Corbin look good he is a star. Miz wins and hopes or something better soon.
Carroll’s Breakdown and Pick: This is the problem with having champion vs. champion matches with each wrestler being on a different show … how in the world can you have one of them lose clean and still have a legitimate reign as a champion when it’s all over. But you would have to believe WWE is going to have at least two of the four matches end with a clear winner, with one coming from SmackDown and the other coming from Raw. The other two, likely Brock Lesnar vs. AJ Styles and Alexa Bliss vs. Charlotte Flair, will get the screwy treatment, where a winner is crowned but questions remain, keeping both titles and both champions strong. So, I like The Miz to win this match clean over Corbin, as the Lone Wolf can absorb a loss and keep on going over on SmackDown without losing any steam. Miz needs the win just to keep his momentum going, and with the Miztourage lurking, he can also win with some help that typically plays into his matches anyway. But this is an easy call to have a clean winner.
Women’s 5-on-5 Traditional Survivor Series Elimination Match
Straub’s Breakdown and Pick: With Charlotte on to better things already (more on that in a moment), team SmackDown will have a mystery entrant in this match. If they planned to put Natalya in the spot they would have just said so, so I’m expecting the arrival of someone from NXT here. This leads me to think SmackDown is getting the win. Raw’s women don’t need the push from a win here as they’re already stars (Alicia might have become one this month with some great comedy work and a spectacular captain’s hat), while SmackDown could always use a boost. As long as they don’t bury Asuka, it’s hard to imagine this match mattering except for that potential debut. Team Blue evens the score from last year.
Carroll’s Breakdown and Pick: Straub’s correct (mark it down, because it doesn’t happen often), there will be a surprise entrant for Team SmackDown in this match, but I don’t believe it will be from NXT, but rather turn out to be Nikki Bella, who unless she is still unable to wrestle because of injury, makes perfect sense to bring into the fold. If Bella isn’t able to return, and honestly I have no idea of her status, it could be Paige making her triumphant return. And, finally, if she isn’t ready to debut, then it makes sense to promote someone from NXT and go that route. I hope I didn’t lose you along the way, but there are no obvious answers, which is good. Whomever SmackDown decides to bring in, it won’t matter, because there is no other choice but to have Asuka destroy everyone and, likely, be the lone survivor. That would make the most sense for her continued character development. Plus there isn’t really anyone on either side that needs protecting, with the lone exception of possibly the surprise entrant. Raw wins again, which means I have to figure out a way to even things out from here.
Raw Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss vs. SmackDown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair
Straub’s Breakdown and Pick: WWE did the right thing in getting Charlotte out of the tag match and into the champion vs. champion match against Alexa Bliss. That will now be a much better match in the ring, and WWE has two big names fighting in a match which people will actually watch. Alexa and Natalya, on the other hand, would have been a human bathroom break, to steal a line from the Miz. The issue is how late in the build they made the move. They now have no time to create a rivalry, and missed a huge chance to capitalize on all the free publicity they got from ESPN’s documentary on Ric Flair. There were a million ways to make that a good build, but instead they did it at the last minute. At least we’re almost guaranteed a good match here. Charlotte is phenomenal, and it will be fun to see if she can recreate the magic she had with Sasha against a new opponent in Alexa, who is breaking out rapidly. It doesn’t feel important because of the sudden nature and because no one can lose their belts, but maybe it’s the start of something bigger in the future. Charlotte wins due to some type of interference so no one is hurt and Alexa has something to whine about on Monday.
Carroll’s Breakdown and Pick: While Charlotte was lost in the shuffle of the Superstar Shakeup way back when, as her move from Raw to SmackDown resulted with her doing nothing important until she won the title from Natalya Tuesday night, Alexa Bliss stepped up and became the MVP of the entire women’s division. She’s not the best talent in the division, but there is no way she wasn’t the most important and valuable during this run. Bliss is great in every way. Charlotte is really great in every way, too, and the WWE had to finally realize they were wasting her on SmackDown and corrected the error with the title switch, even if it came way too late. This should be an exciting match and one which will end with SmackDown finally getting on the board with a Charlotte victory. And the more I think about it, the more I believe WWE might make this a clean win, too. Bliss can, after all, claim she wasn’t ready for the opponent switch on Raw the next night, which will make sense and keep her strong in the process. For Charlotte, she rises to the top of SDLive, where she should be, and hopefully a feud with Becky Lynch happens from there, as they are clearly the class of the Blue division.
The Shield vs. The New Day
Straub’s Breakdown and Pick: WWE also rushed Roman’s return and the build to this match. Yes, all the changes have made the last few weeks of TV compelling, but they didn’t really help make us want to watch the PPV. WWE would have been better off making this card in early November and hyping it all month. Instead, they made a bad card and rushed to fix it when the fans hated it like nothing they’ve hated since… hey, Roman is back! You know how you can tell how over the Shield is? Roman didn’t get booed the other night, and won’t Sunday. The Shield is so cool, it made people stop hating Roman Reigns. Well, probably not Brad, but his turn is coming in a second. WWE didn’t do right by Rollins and Ambrose while they were short-handed, but the duo managed to overcome bad booking and survive until now, when they can begin the push they were supposed to get a month ago. This match should be fine, but we missed out on some good TV between these two teams. The Shield wins while New Day’s precarious lack of a real direction continues.
Carroll’s Breakdown and Pick: So, I guess New Day are the heels here? Which tells you all you need to know about how the WWE and Vince McMahon views the two shows. The New Day, an obviously popular team, will be seen as the bad guys simply because they are on SmackDown, and therefore the lesser show to Raw, which will have everyone falling head over heels in love with The Shield at Survivor Series. And, for the record, and Straub might haven’t heard it because of his cat-like screams when Roman Reigns re-debuted on Raw, but there was boos when he finally emerged behind Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose. I will say this, though, it’s pretty obvious when the three are together that Reigns is the special attraction, which is great if you love Reigns and not so much if you favor Rollins or Ambrose, who are completely overshadowed. The whole Shield thing doesn’t really make any sense anyway and the “feud” with the New Day proves it. Just throw the six of them in a match so they have something to do on a PPV. That’s it. We all know who’s going to win, and it’s the Shield, but what's the point? What exactly are the Hounds of Justice doing here? And what justice are they trying to protect or deliver? And how is it legal for three members of the Shield to beat up the Miz in the ring at once during a match this past Monday on Raw? I'm losing my way, which is exactly what the WWE has done with the Shield.
Raw Tag Team Champions Cesaro & Sheamus vs. SmackDown Tag Team Champions The Usos
Straub’s Breakdown and Pick: I actually feel bad for Brad’s favorite team here. They became the only team I can think of who won titles in order to receive a demotion. WWE needed the titles off the Shield so they could fight as a trio against the New Day, which is a much more important match. The Bar (by the way, they stole that catchphrase from a truck commercial) certainly won’t complain about getting the belts back, but this is actually a lesser match. This is a tough clash of styles, but The Bar should be able to make it passable. I want to pick the Usos here to keep the overall score close, but I just don’t see it. One more for Team Red.
Carroll’s Breakdown and Pick: I don’t see this as a demotion at all, but rather an admission by the WWE that Rollins and Ambrose were miscast as tag team champions, which I wrote in our preview before they won the titles in the first place. Sheamus and Cesaro deserve the titles and are the right team to hold them. The Usos were better when they were feuding with the New Day, which brought out the best in them. Lately, it seems they are bored with the rest of the division they have to wrestle, and nobody can blame them. Going from the New Day to Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable just isn’t the same. In a typical tag team match I’d go with Sheamus and Cesaro, but with SmackDown needing a win to cut into Raw’s overall advantage, the Usos is the pick here. It's not great match analysis, but it's needed, since now it'll be Raw 3, SDLive 2.
Universal Champion Brock Lesnar vs. WWE Champion AJ Styles
Straub’s Breakdown and Pick: I hate to say it, but I don’t think this is the main event. What it is is an admission by WWE that their long-term money grab in India was a disaster. So few people bought tickets for one of the shows in next month’s India tour that WWE canceled it. Jinder Mahal, once thought of as a lock to keep the title so he could carry it to India, isn’t even advertised for Survivor Series. He’s also not even fighting for the belt in India, instead wrestling Triple H. Plans can always change, and I think he makes a run-in Sunday, but WWE’s about face here is stunning. It’s the right thing to do, since it’s clear Jinder made the company zero dimes, but I still can’t believe they did it after all the work they put into the India push. My other problem here is I think people are wildly overestimating how good this match will be. Styles is great, but Brock doesn’t move like he used to. Ten years ago, this could have been special because Brock was special. Now he just suplexes people. He also won’t allow himself to take too much punishment, and a lot of it wouldn’t be believable anyway. This match is short, and AJ gets screwed somehow, which keeps both champions strong. If no one can win a belt, that’s what you have to do. Just get both wrestlers out of there with their momentum intact.
Carroll’s Breakdown and Pick: This is a dream match in a lot of ways, and one nobody thought would happen, especially with Brock Lesnar’s limited schedule and the fact AJ Styles was battling for mid-card titles until recently in addition to being on a whole different show. Now, will it be a five-star classic? No. But it should be a real good match, because Styles can carry anyone to a real good match, even Lesnar. And remember, Lesnar and Goldberg’s last match was actually a lot of fun, even though it wasn’t a technical masterpiece. Plus, when Lesnar's motivated to do a great job, he can pull out all the stops, and I believe he'll be motivated to face Styles, who is the best wrestler in the company. To trend back to Straub's point about Jinder Mahal, it doesn't seem like the right time to take the title off him, not because of his talent level, because there are a lot of guys better, but because he's actually the one who started this whole champion vs. champion thing in the first place. He's the one who stepped up and challenged Lesnar to a fight, and for once, Mahal actually seemed ready for the moment. But WWE thought differently and pulled the plug on the former champion, without much fanfare at all. Heck, Mahal isn't even part of the show. Yes the India plunge was a horrible failure (which also could have something to do with the reported high ticket prices), but I would have waited a bit more before burying Mahal. I hope he doesn't make a run-in in this match, because it would continue to ruin his already destroyed momentum, and it would make this match worthless in the end, which it probably will be anyway, as I can't see either Lesnar or Styles getting pinned. (Although the reality of Lesnar pinning Styles after an F-5 is completely in play). With all that written, I don't see this match ending on the level, as Lensar can't lose and if Styles did lose it would destroy SmackDown's future. So, something crazy happens where the match ends in a no-contest. How's that for a prediction?
Men’s 5-on-5 Traditional Survivor Series Elimination Match
Straub's Breakdown and Pick: WWE went for names over talent here. This helps the bottom line, as the match will draw more casual fans now, but it’s the perfect example of WWE failing to elevate its younger talent. The final four in this match will be a guy who isn’t a wrestler and an admitted part-timer against another part-timer, this one with a broken neck, and the actual COO of the company. Triple H has been wrestling a lot lately on the overseas tour, which now looks like it was more to get him in shape for Sunday than to cover for Reigns being out. Hunter’s removal of Jason Jordan from Team Raw probably becomes a factor. WWE might as well turn Jordan heel since everyone hates him. I think he comes out and costs Kurt Angle the match, which sets up a long story on Raw where Angle gets removed as GM. Eventually we get Triple H vs. Shane McMahon at WrestleMania, which might be interesting only because the two dislike each other in real life, and Shane jumps off of something. In the meantime, Finn Balor, Braun Strowman, Nakamura and Samoa Joe get reduced to afterthoughts in this match. Bobby Roode doesn’t even get that much, which is a shame. Bray Wyatt, who I admit looked Monday like he’d gained 100 pounds during his absence, sits this one out entirely. Shane pins Angle to end nearly five hours of wrestling from kickoff match to last bell and WWE misses another opportunity to build the future.
Carroll's Breakdown and Pick: With the Shield and Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn out of play for this match, I don't believe the WWE could have done better putting together the teams, contrary to what Straub says. I don't think anyone, except maybe Straub, who may have his latest man crush, wanted to see Jason Jordan in this match, as he simply didn't deserve it. Not to mention the fact he's boring as hell, which is why the fans boo him to death. But yes, Straub is right in one instance: The match does expose the fact the WWE still has to rely on Shane McMahon, Kurt Angle and Triple H to carry big matches. Out of the 10 wrestlers in the match, just five have actual futures with the company, even if the WWE is sure to ruin Shinsuke Nakamura, Bobby Roode, Finn Balor, Samoa Joe and even Braun Strowman. But I will say everyone wants to see the Raw guys in this match. For SmackDown, very few people want to see Randy Orton and John Cena once again. From a pure talent standpoint, it's pretty obvious Raw would win this match. But there's also the fact SmackDown, at least according to my predictions, would need to win in order to tie the overall record in the show (if Lesnar-Styles has no real winner and the WWE actually cares about such a thing). So, I have to go with SmackDown to win, even though it's against my better judgment. Shane McMahon will likely be the sole survivor, even though it wouldn't make any sense in reality. I'm not confident at all, as I keep thinking Triple H and Angle will be the final two remaining. Maybe it comes down to Owens and Zayn finally helping SmackDown. Either way, hopefully it's a great match and a great event overall.