It’s everywhere. You hear about it in ads, you see previews for it, and there are signs everywhere that it’s that time of year. Everywhere you look it’s red vs. blue with one loud, annoying person from either side running their mouths about how they’ll win. You get sick of it after all that time but there’s the one hope that after one day in November, it’s all going to be over. Us vs. them, the good side vs. the bad side (or the bad side vs. the good side depending on which side you’re on) but above all else, red vs. blue.
It’s Survivor Series time.
For the third year in a row, the theme for Survivor Series is going to be Monday Night Raw vs. SmackDown Live with a few more matches thrown in to pad out the card. Back in 2016, there were three matches with both shows presenting teams for a men’s match Survivor Series match, a women’s Survivor Series match and a tag team Survivor Series match.
The battle was over brand supremacy, with the bosses from both shows talking about how important it was for their show to defeat the other and wouldn’t you know it, Shane McMahon and Stephanie McMahon were the people getting a majority of the TV time. It might have been giving a pep talk, talking trash about the other show, or just being there for no reason other than they were an authority figure. As you can imagine, this got very tiresome very fast, but that’s never stopped WWE before.The follow up show in 2017 was even worse, with the shows invading each other (allowing the clips of said invasions to be played time after time, including during the pay per view itself) with the initial SmackDown Live invasion of Monday Night Raw being called Under Siege, which was said so many times that I kept expecting Steven Seagal to sue for royalties. Then we got to hear the score of the show all night, complete with a scoreboard showing the number of wins per show.
And now we’re getting it again this year, as we’ve already been told about the Raw Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey facing SmackDown Women’s Champion Becky Lynch, plus United States Champion Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Intercontinental Champion Seth Rollins. You can pencil in the World Champions facing off, plus a few elimination matches for old times’ sake. The only hope that I can have is to not have the McMahons or the General Managers bickering about whose show is best.
For the life of me I don’t get why this is supposed to interest me. All it really serves to do is create a pecking order of the champions in the company, showing you which belts mean more than their counterparts. That’s all well and good for the winners, but the losers have to go back to their regular shows having lost a big time match but still holding the title and claiming that they’re the best.
Well they are, as long as you don’t talk about the other half of the roster that you only bring up a few times a year. Notice that I said a few times a year, as the line of “they only fight each other once a year” is rather bogus, no matter how often it’s said. It’s the only time they fight, assuming you ignore the finals of the World Cup tournament, the Royal Rumble, and any other time when their paths happen to cross. If that’s your selling point, it might help if your selling point was actually realistic, and not the second time that the two brands are fighting each other in that very month.Back in 2009 and 2010, WWE tried the exact same thing with a pair of shows called Bragging Rights. There’s a reason there were only two shows: the core concept of the show, a battle between the two brands for the sake of winning a trophy that stopped meaning anything a few days later, had no meaning. There were other matches on the show, to the point where the BRAGGING RIGHTS matches didn’t main event the BRAGGING RIGHTS shows. The matches felt so worthless that they weren’t even going to main event the shows named after them. How much lower can you go?
The worst part is there’s a way to do this kind of match right. Back at Survivor Series 2005, the main event featured a Monday Night Raw vs. SmackDown Live Survivor Series match and it was treated as a major deal. Now why did this work? For me, it was due to the show having a regular card for the rest of the evening and one match that carried the story. It closed the show and was the undisputed top story coming into the pay per view. Throw in top stars (SmackDown World Champion Batista captained his team) and a big feeling and this is the best example of the concept ever done.So why are we doing this again? My guess is it’s because that’s what we’ve done before and it’s what we’re going to get again, because it’s an idea that “worked” before. How much thought did it take to come up with “Raw vs. Smackdown” and letting the McMahons talk for weeks? It’s not exactly something where the fans are going to benefit from the concept and you can almost guarantee that it’s going to be forgotten about by the time Thanksgiving rolls around the next week.
You could at least put a prize on the line. The winner’s show gets to headline the next pay per view. The winner’s show gets the #30 entrant in the Royal Rumble. The winner’s show gets to steal a talent from the losing side. The survivors on the winning team get a title shot. There are tons of ideas to pick from here and all of them are better than a grand total of nothing, which is what is likely to be the case here.
It also doesn’t help that there are so many other shows going on at the moment. This year’s Survivor Series takes pace on November 18, putting it without reasonable shouting distance of Super Show-Down, Evolution and Crown Jewel (not to mention Takeover: Los Angeles from down in NXT). You would think that might lead to a few stories to be told, but maybe creative is just spent from so much hard work. Like “these guys are old” and “this one is an all women’s show” or “here’s a tournament”.
The first Survivor Series was back in 1987 and had four matches. There was a midcard match, a women’s match, a tag match and a main event match. Each one featured multiple feuds and all of them helped move title feuds forward, with the women’s and tag matches featuring results that set up #1 contenders. Things might be a little more complicated now, but that kind of booking would work fine. It’s not like you’re asking fans to pay $50 to watch the show. It’s the same as you ask for Great Balls of Fire and this is a better concept.Survivor Series is supposed to be one of the biggest shows of the year but for some reason it’s become little more than a B level pay per view with the lowest level of effort possible being put into the creative aspect of the show. It feels like it’s more there for the sake of pushing the Brand Split, but the Brand Split is pretty firmly established and it’s not like these shows exist in completely different universes. Are there really few enough stories to have three or four elimination matches set up? It’s certainly a more interesting gimmick than Monday Night Raw vs. SmackDown Live and you might even get something out of it.
Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 50,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 5,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at kbwrestlingreviews.com, or check out his Amazon author page with 28 wrestling books. His latest book is the the Complete 2003 Smackdown Reviews.
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