By Matt Straub and Brad Carroll
Survivor Series used to be one of the biggest shows of the year. It still is in terms of prestige, but ever since WWE has gone with brand vs. brand for the format, the idea has been to get everyone out of the matches without losing their heat. The result is a series of matches between big stars which feel like NFL preseason games: you just hope no one gets hurt.
WWE has had awful luck with injuries in the last few months, which has caused big problems for this card even before we get to the bad concept that hurts the night even more. Only the men’s elimination match has any drama to it. Everything else on this show feels like an episode of Raw in that it’s only here to get us onto the next thing.
So, if we haven’t sold you on investing four hours of your life in something which largely won’t matter, let’s break down the lineup and talk about what could be good. Oh who are we kidding, we’re going to tear this thing to smithereens. Hey, it can’t be worse than Crown Jewel, right?
Universal Champion Brock Lesnar vs. WWE Champion Daniel Bryan
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: Wrestlers care about two things: drawing money and drawing reactions. The second leads to the first. If you can’t draw reactions, you can’t draw money. There was a time when Daniel Bryan drew the biggest reaction in the sport. While I’d rather watch paint dry, the rest of the wrestling community was going crazy for Bryan during his heyday, to the point where his “yes” chant became so ingrained in society it’s still done today at other sporting events. Now, Bryan is back, years after that heyday, and months after WWE booked him into a hole he likely won’t get out of. There was never better evidence of this than when he won the WWE title on Tuesday night. At the conclusion of his win and apparent heel turn, there was dead silence. No booing. No cheering. No piped in noise WWE is often accused of adding to its broadcast with “sweetening.” The one thing WWE superstars can’t have is silence, and it was deafening for Bryan. Now WWE, which gave Bryan the belt long after anyone wanted him to have it, goes up against Lesnar in a heel vs. heel match between two wrestlers no one cares about. The only interesting thing about this match is speculating as to why WWE has either guy in it. Lesnar apparently got the belt after Roman Reigns had to give it up because WWE doesn’t trust Braun Strowman to show up on time for appearances and wanted to scare him straight by halting his push. The problem with this theory? He was the main participant in the opening spot on RAW Monday. So while it could be part of it, there has to be more to the story. I still think WWE wants the mainstream attention of having its champion in a UFC ring this winter. There’s even talk of Lesnar bringing both belts with him when he fights Daniel Cormier, and talk that Cormier could do a return appearance on RAW down the line. I hope this is the answer, because nothing else makes sense. It’s also why he’ll win Sunday. As to why Bryan beat Styles… um… uh… Brad? Anything?
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: I really don’t understand, or even really like, WWE anymore. I really don’t. There was two things I was looking forward to seeing at Survivor Series (the only two things, and honestly, I have no idea why Straub believes the men’s elimination match is so special. Maybe I’m missing something, but really, who cares who wins?). Those two were Becky Lynch destroying Ronda Rousey in some way and getting out of there without losing and AJ Styles facing Brock Lesnar in a rematch of their epic clash from a year ago. That’s it. And guess what? Both have been taken from me, leaving me with zero reason to watch this show. Becky Lynch is out because Nia Jax is terrible at everything, including knowing you don’t punch someone square in the face with your full force in the wrestling ring. Becky is the only thing completely right with the WWE and we won’t get to see it continue on Sunday. AJ Styles isn’t even on the card now because WWE turned Daniel Bryan heel and had him win the championship on SmackDown this past Tuesday, ending Styles’ 371-day title reign in the process. Why? Well, Bryan apparently went to Vince McMahon and asked to turn heel and win the title that way. It’s actually a genius move for Bryan because, as Straub points out above, he had no juice left in his character. Nobody cared about his matches. Nobody cared about him winning or losing. He was boring and the fans saw it and responded with silence. They did so again when he won the title Tuesday night. Bryan can talk the silence away by saying he shocked everyone with the heel turn, and he did, but make no mistake, this was a career-saving, selfish move by Bryan. He saved his career, but it came at the expense of Styles. So, Bryan faces Brock Lesnar in a “dream match” at Survivor Series. Well, not in my dreams, but maybe some of you out there. Me? I don’t care one bit about it. Bryan was already acting like an arrogant jackass heel while he was a face, thinking he was cool I’m sure when dealing with The Miz, who is everything Bryan’s isn’t right now, except champion, so it’s not too much of a stretch for him to go to the dark side. I just don’t know who it benefits, besides the selfish Bryan, o course. Certainly not the fans. Certainly not the Survivor Series card. Bryan hasn’t impressed me one bit in his matches since returning and I don’t believe that will change against Lesnar, who really needs to be motivated to have a good match. Styles brought that out of him. Can Bryan? I don’t think so. It’s too bad. My guess is AJ Styles costs Bryan the match and Brock Lesnar wins, which keeps Bryan clean in the process. As for Brock showing up in the octagon with the Universal championship, there's no chance of that happening. That title will be on some ranch in the middle of nowhere if and when Brock faces Daniel Cormier for the UFC title.
Raw Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey vs. Charlotte Flair
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: I never thought the match many consider the favorite to main event WrestleMania at the Home of the Jets could be thought of as a damn shame, but that’s where we stand right now. This was supposed to be Ronda vs. Becky Lynch, but Nia Jax tore part of Lynch’s face off with a punch Monday, leaving Lynch unable to go. WWE can’t catch a break with injuries, going all the way back to the show all but canceled because everyone had Mono from Alexa Bliss to Triple H to Lynch. If you have to lose one of your biggest matches for a huge show this is one heck of a backup plan, but it loses much of its luster with no build for it. The only thing that makes sense is to have Lynch interfere so there’s no clean winner. Rousey can then go back to chasing Lynch, and we’ll still want to see Ronda and Charlotte at Mania. What doesn’t make sense is Becky and Charlotte hugging when Lynch named her the replacement for Sunday. The two are best friends in real life, but just finished one of the most intense feuds the company has delivered in years. Now they’re supposed to be fine with each other again? I’m not a smart man, but I hate when WWE treats me not only like I’m an idiot, but as though I can’t remember what happened a few weeks ago. At least have Lynch cut a promo about learning what Charlotte means to her through all the fighting, or being swung by Charlotte being the one to have consoled her when she learned she couldn’t fight Sunday. Anything. Just don’t randomly make them friends again. I have a DVR and a memory. Charlotte by interference.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: First, yes, the hug was weird. Definitely. Now, let's jump in. Becky Lynch is the greatest thing going in WWE right now, and the best thing to come along in a long, long time. She’s been so good there are no adjectives to accurately put it into perspective. Lynch is The Man, and it’s not just a catchphrase, it’s the truth. She’s the MVP of the entire brand. It’s why it sucks so bad that she can’t wrestle the biggest match of her career. A match, by the way, that I wouldn’t have been surprised one bit if she won. Lynch made that thought possible with an amazing array of wrestling ability, mic skills, and a Stone Cold-esque attitude that has gripped the entire WWE Universe and made her a gigantic star. One positive to come out of this is WWE now is likely forced to hold off this feud with Ronda Rousey until WrestleMania, as right now, nobody cares about Ronda facing Charlotte, and nobody will care about that match the second time around at Mania. Everyone wants to see Becky Lynch face Rousey, and beat her, so I’d expect that match to not only happen at WrestleMania but headline it as well. Unless WWE decides to ruin this amazing build. Which they probably will. The consolation prize to Lynch-Rousey is Charlotte-Rousey and a whole lot of disappointed viewers. Rousey will win clean and send Charlotte down a rung or two. She won’t have much to do on SmackDown anyway, as Becky will be the face that runs the place for several months. Rousey, meanwhile, gets the win to keep her undefeated streak going. Something that won’t end until, yep, Becky beats her clean at WrestleMania. I can’t wait for that show and that moment.
Intercontinental Champion Seth Rollins vs.
United States Champion Shinsuke Nakamura
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: Seth Rollins is involved in an intense feud of his own against his former Shield brother, Dean Ambrose. Rollins has spent the last few weeks chasing Ambrose, and Ambrose delivered an emotional promo Monday which ended with him throwing his Shield vest into a flaming waste bucket. Why he poured gas on the jacket when he already had a fire going I don’t get, but that’s not important. What matters here is Rollins finally getting to fight Ambrose this Sunday at Survivor Series. Wait…what? That’s not the match? Oh. Rollins vs. Nakamura could be fantastic in the ring, though I refuse to get my hopes up for anything Nakamura does after his awful series with Styles. The problem is WWE has made this match less than an afterthought. The problem with having this show be entirely brand vs. brand is there are too many matches where WWE doesn’t want to hurt either guy by having him lose clean. At least there’s an easy out here. Ambrose costs Rollins the match. It will advance the story, but it’s an angle which belongs on RAW, not one of the four biggest shows of the year.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura has a title? Who knew? The WWE has buried him so much it’s a shock he actually holds a championship, let alone be in one of the featured matches at Survivor Series. But I doubt it was by design that he’s in this match, as the SDLive writers probably didn’t even realize he was the US champion and were like, oh crap, that's right, we still have Shinsuke on the roster, and oh crap, he's a champion?!?! That’s what happens when you get buried, people forget, even those in charge. Seth Rollins is feuding with Dean Ambrose for reasons I don’t understand. Rollins did the same thing Ambrose did, and worse, as he turned on both Ambrose and Reigns, so if anyone should just say, yeah, OK, you got me, on to the next one, it’s Rollins. I have no interest in the Shield, or Seth Rollins or Dean Ambrose. And if this counts as the biggest feud on Raw, well, you know why I have a hard time staying awake every Monday during the three-hour snoozefest. Rollins is going to win this match clean, and I’m sure Ambrose will show up and beat up Rollins afterward, and people will boo. I’ll be booing the lazy writing the whole time.
Women’s 5-on-5 Traditional Survivor Series Elimination Match
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: A few random observations here if I may. First, Raw’s team has neither Sasha or Bayley. Seriously, someone in creative thought we’d rather see Natty, Tamina, Nia and Ruby than Sasha or Bayley. Mickie is a legend and is a fine addition, but the others are awful. Bliss being out potentially long-term is an awful break for WWE, so maybe creative decided to hold out its other good female wrestlers in protest. They didn’t even bother replacing Charlotte, who got the last-minute promotion, on SmackDown’s team. This is one of those, “we have to have an elimination match on the card because we always have one here,” match. Raw wins for reasons I’ll get to later, but no one will care. The fans will show the same lack of interest in this match the writers have.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: The Raw women's team is a complete joke, right? No, really, it’s gotta by a joke. Is it April? Natalya? Tamina? Nia Jax? Are you seriously putting them on one team? My God, you mean it’s real? Help us. Alright, for once, positive take ... this could be the WWE’s chance to give some juice back to Asuka, the one who has been ruined the most by the company since her loss at WrestleMania. I still can’t get over how much WWE buried Asuka, who has no direction and has lost everything she had going for her coming in from NXT and even winning the Royal Rumble. Can it turn around here? It should, as Asuka is the only woman on both brands worthy of winning and being a survivor. That’s what WWE should do. However, they won’t, and Tamina (seriously?) and Nia Jax will be the last two survivors.
Men’s 5-on-5 Traditional Survivor Series Elimination Match
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: The Raw side has some interesting stories. Can Braun co-exist with his former teammates, Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre? Will Baron Corbin accidentally hurt his team trying to interfere? Will Strowman live up to his word to keep his focus on this match and not Corbin? Can Lashley look like he belongs with this group and elevate himself? Will WWE remember Finn Balor is on the team and give him something to do in the match? SmackDown has two questions. First, what will Shane try to jump off of or in to? Secondly, how did SmackDown manage to make Samoa Joe and The Miz, two guys who should be in the title picture, so irrelevant they’re standing next to Jeff Hardy and Rey Mysterio? SmackDown will win because Raw won the last two years and there are too many combustible parts to the red team. Someone will turn on another guy, or there will be an accident which causes two teammates to fight and forget the match. Shane, being the best wrestler in the world, will get the last elimination.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: I think Straub’s breakdown needs some editing, as his first sentence should actually read: "The Raw side has no interesting stories." That's an easy place to start. I’m starting to think I’m just a tad bit of a curmudgeon, because everything happening here is pissing me off, and it has nothing to do with Straub, who typically draws my ire in one way or another. Looking at the teams, Raw has to win, don’t they? Braun Strowman isn’t going to be eliminated, unless it’s a countout, and neither is Drew McIntrye, unless it’s a weird sequence. The rest nobody will care about. Shane McMahon and Rey Mysterio will likely be the last two remaining for SmackDown. Rey will go down from there, leaving Shane to get obliterated by Braun and McIntyre, leaving the two survivors from Raw. After the match, you know Braun and McIntyre will brawl to finish things off, setting up a mega feud down the line, you know, while the Universal title is off in Canada somewhere.
Raw Tag Team Champions AOP vs.
SmackDown Tag Team Champions The Bar (w/ Big Show)
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: So Big Show is back and friends with the Bar now. That’s exciting. My guess is he costs the Bar the match, giving them a feud for the future and a reason, as with all these matches except the eliminations, for both teams to stay strong. The AOP’s push just started, they need a win here. They’ll get it.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: We’ve kept you long enough, so we’ll pick up the pace from here. The Authors of Pain (why do they have to be just AOP?) will get the win, as they need all the momentum they can get as new entrants to Raw and even newer tag team champions. The Bar are already awesome and can absorb the loss with no damage at all. Sing it with me ... hey, hey, hey, Sheamus and Cesaro.
WWE Cruiserweight Champion Buddy Murphy vs. Mustafa Ali
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: Murphy just got the belt and won’t lose it so soon. Other than that I have nothing to add about this dreck, other than to say 205 Live should have died months ago. Before I yield the balance of my time here then, I’d like to mention again that the Boston Red Sox won the World Series. They need to fix their bullpen this winter, and they will. The Yankees will significantly boost their rotation (and will not bring in Manny Machado), so next year will be fun again.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: World Series? Is that over? Had no idea. Anyway, Buddy Murphy wins for the same reasons we pointed out for AOP. This has to be on the Kickoff Show, doesn’t it? And Straub says 205 Live is still a thing … is it really?
10-on-10 Tag Team Traditional Survivor Series Elimination Match (Kickoff Show)
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: SmackDown wins, but we all lose for having to sit through this garbage. I refuse to devote any more time to this dreck. I’d rather talk about Todd Bowles. Oh, that might be a fun way to end this. I’ll get Brad going. You guys deserve some entertainment for making it this far, and we’ve reached the point of the preview where the matches won’t help. Hey Brad, Todd Bowles is still the coach of the Jets, will be for the rest of the year, and I even heard a rumor they might keep him if they end well, since he had a rookie QB. Thoughts?
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: How bad is this match? It involves the Colons, the Ascension, The B Team, the Luchas, and whatever Bobby Roode and Chad Gable call themselves. Yes, that's really, really, bad. Gable and Roode lead their team to victory. But you'll have to let me know on Twitter (@bradgameday) who really wins because there’s no chance in hell I’m tuning in for the Kickoff Show, especially when it’s promoting this waste of time. Todd Bowles? What’s a Todd Bowles? Oh, that’s something you flush right? Right down the toilet. In a couple months. Can’t wait.