Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Survivor Series 2013 preview

Survivor Series used to be considered one of WWE’s Big Four shows. It’s difficult to say when it lost the spot. It could have been when the In Your House project began in 1995. It might have been at the 1998 edition when the elimination tag matches, the show’s original “USP”, were replaced by an unwieldy tournament to crown a new WWF champion. It may even have been as early as 1993 when King of the Ring was upgraded to pay-per-view status. Or perhaps the event’s image simply never recovered from the events of the 1997 edition.

Ultimately it doesn’t really matter. Survivor Series is an event passed its best, with a format that most are either not interested in or actively dislike.

I think there’s potential left in the ten (or eight, “tradition” varies) man elimination tag matches .It would take very little effort from WWE to create feuds amongst its mid-carders, making a reason to book one of the multi-man matches. It’s not the most wonderful format in the world but it could be used to create some interesting scenarios, much as the Royal Rumble still can.

This year’s event is not likely to be the one that sees the beginning of a new trend in this area. There are two traditional Survivors matches. The first is a stacked affair pitting Kaitlyn, Alicia Fox, Rosa Mendes, Aksana, Summer Rae, Tamina and Divas champion AJ Lee against The Funkadactyls, The Bella Twins (get on board the Bella Babyface Express), Eva Marie, JoJo and Natalya. The second will see The Shield and The Real Americans take on The Usos, Cody Rhodes, Goldust and Rey Mysterio.

Let’s deal with the Divas first. Eagle-eyed readers will have spotted that the match will see besties-turned-rivals Kaitlyn and AJ Lee on the same team. This could have meant something if WWE had put some effort in. In fact it’s exactly the sort of thing I was talking about above. That this match is simply a case of cramming every woman on the roster into a match and splitting them into Total Divas stars and non-Total Divas stars shows just how little effort WWE puts into the middle of the card. This attitude is nothing new, but it’s still depressing.

The ladies have so many people in their match that’s it’s unlikely anyone will get to have a standout performance. The best booking idea would be to have Tamina dominate everyone on the Total Divas team without needing to tag out. That would keep the running time of the match low (and you know that’s going to be an issue with this match) and make Ms Snuka look fearsome. I can’t see it happening though. We’ll get a more traditional approach.

The other traditional match could be considered promising thanks to the involvement of a variety of hot acts. Cody Rhodes and Goldust are, as has been noted on this blog before, a massively popular team. I wouldn’t be surprised to see either or both of them get a lengthy showing and possibly even survive until the end. Swagger is the weak link on his team but in truth he’s not that bad. He’s simply overshadowed by everyone around him (and I’m including Zeb Colter in that).

The Usos are, unfortunately, non-entities. They get decent reactions when they enter but audiences seem to switch off during their matches. They’re not bad or boring but they are bland. Perhaps they’ll enjoy a boost in popularity thanks to the affiliations they’ll enjoy in this match. Don’t get your hopes up though: these affiliations have been going on surreptitiously for a while now and they’ve had no effect yet.

Then there’s Rey Mysterio. This is the man who’s missed huge chunks of the last two and a half years to various nagging injuries and phantom personal probs. ‘Mr 619’ stated before this most recent comeback that he wanted to prove he was better than he’s ever been and have the greatest run of his career. Rey is not only banged up after two decades of wrestling but he’s accomplished an awful lot previously. I can’t see him equalling the in-ring height of his WCW cruiserweight division heyday, recapturing imaginations as he did when he made his WWE debut, or scaling the card to become a regular in the main event picture again (he’s become too unreliable for that). I can’t see this becoming the defining run of his career.

The men’s match has several people that could stand out. I’ve already mentioned Cody and Goldy getting the star-making treatment. I could also see Rey being given time to enter a gutsy performance against long odds as a way of ham-fistedly reminding everyone that he’s an underdog that gets the job done. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Roman Reigns given the one against many shtick either: it would give him a Career Moment™ and test him out in a role where he’s not obviously a monstrous, roaring heel. I could also see it being given to Cesaro: a dominant showing here could be used to set him up as an opponent for John Cena at TLC. At the very least I can see a sequence where he performs the Big Swing on several guys in a row, or perhaps on two men at the same time.

Predicting winners for these sorts of matches is tricky because there are so many things that can happen. As far as winning teams go I’ll select the Total Divas in the ladies’ match, with Nikki, Brie, or both being among the survivors, and the heels in the guys’ match. The women’s match is inconsequential so it doesn’t really matter who wins and I think we’ll see Colter and co win their match because it allows for challengers to be set up for the tag team championship, along with possibly prepping ‘The Swiss Superman’ for something.

Meanwhile, in the main event, eight time WWE champion Randal Keith Orton will defend against former two time champion Big Show. The match itself is not that peculiar. Show and Orton have both been on the roster for a long time and have wrestled each other many times before. Their exchanges have never been spectacular or noteworthy, they’re just the sort of thing that crop up in a company like WWE from time to time.

What is peculiar is how the match came about. Big Show was drafted into the feud between The Authority (not the Warren Ellis-created supergroup, the McMahon family heel stable, obvs) as a bit part player, playing a reluctant enforcer and being humiliated by Stephanie. His role grew in prominence, seemingly by happy accident, thanks to the positive reaction of crowds around the US.

The cynic in me feels that he may have been given every chance to succeed. Having him make the save for Daniel Bryan and being presented as an incredibly sympathetic figure week after week gave him every chance to overshadow the man fans really wanted to see in main events. I got the feeling that the writing crew weren’t fully committed to Bryan, but ultimately I think that’s unfair: Bryan headlined four straight shows, won the WWE championship twice, was presented as the biggest star in the company, and has been moved into a prominent role with a hot act during WWE’s quiet months. He had his time on top and is being given a well-timed cooling off period to prevent audiences becoming bored of him.

Big Show v ‘The Viper’ is unlikely to be the best match on the card but I don’t think it’s going to be bad. Usually I’d be remarking that Show is the man likely to hold a match down but here I don’t think that’s the case: he’s been very reliable throughout the year (and for much of last year too). It’s ‘The Apex Predator’s’ involvement that concerns me. The guy’s practically a charisma vacuum. He has little real heat and hasn’t put on a truly excellent match with someone of lesser ability than him (which Show, technically, is) for a long time.

I’ll be surprised if ‘The Giant’ wins the championship. Popular as he is I don’t think WWE are interested in taking the championship off of Orton. Now that he’s finished with Bryan I think he’s going to be champion until Royal Rumble at the earliest.

The John Cena v Alberto Del Rio World Heavyweight championship rematch is viewed by most as predictable. I find it hard to disagree. Cena losing the title back to Del Rio after only four weeks just doesn’t seem like something that will happen. Beyond keeping the feud alive it would serve no purpose, and the feud can be kept alive without it.

It’s tough to know what’s coming up for both men after SS. Their feud could continue until TLC although that’s unlikely. Cena won the first match of the programme clean and so Del Rio would need to in the second, either clean or by disqualification, to set up a third. That doesn’t seem likely. The rivalry could continue with Damien Sandow added to proceedings, but he’s done nothing of note since the week he unsuccessfully cashed in. That failure could have been used as the beginning of a push but the chance has already gone.

The final idea is one I’ve already touched on. That’s to move Cena into a feud with Antonio Cesaro. That would continue the trend of TLC being a show where WWE experiment with new guys in headline spots and would give us something interesting to watch for the next month. It would keep Cena busy into the New Year (because the payoff would probably come in early January) and would give Cesaro a chance to prove his worth. The only bad point is that it would leave ADR without anything obvious to do. Perhaps that’s a price that WWE are willing to pay.

Cena and Del Rio will undoubtedly base the match around Cena’s injured elbow again. That worked well last time and if they can come up with a fresh spin to accompany their proven success story I think they could be one of the highlights of the show. Cena to retain.

The final announced match is CM Punk and Daniel Bryan taking on Erick Rowan and Luke Harper of the Wyatt Family. If there’s one match likelier than the rest to steal the show this is it. Bryan’s popularity may have diminished ever so slightly over the last few months but he remains immensely over. As does Punk, despite a string of below average pay-per-view outings during his much ballyhooed breakup with Paul Heyman.

Erick Rowan is still a bit of an unknown quantity. He’s wrestled few televised singles matches and I’m not at all familiar with the work he apparently did in Japan before heading to NXT. Luke Harper, on the other hand, I think is great. He throws a mean clothesline and has nailed the WWE requirement of selecting an interesting move, the alligator roll, as a match signature.

I think this match will be fun. I’d love to say that Bray’s boys will go over but I don’t expect it to happen. I think they’ll get some close calls but it will ultimately go to the two former WWE champions. I get the feeling that their pairing could be a long term thing or the start of a lengthy storyline so giving them a loss on their first pay-per-view  together would be peculiar.

All this and there are still plenty of names left without announced matches. Dolph Ziggler and Damien Sandow are the obvious names to mention because they have, at one time or another, been on the cusp of big things this year. Their standings have taken a tumble but with space left on the card they’re both still prime candidates to make “unscheduled” appearances.

While they’re not quite on the same level as ‘The Show Off’ and ‘The Duke of Decency’ 3MB have consistently grabbed screen time over the last couple of months. Their recent gimmick of changing their ring attire and altering their name (The Union Jacks and The Rhinestone Cowboys) has been amusing and they seem like ideal candidates for a filler Survival match. As do Los Matadores. R-Truth and his newly introduced partner Xavier Woods, Ryback, Curtis Axel and new Intercontinental champion Big E Langston. Some or all could be chucked into a ten man tag match or they could be spread out across a few singles matches. I’m convinced we’ll see some of these guys wrestling.

Survivor Series does not look like the most appealing WWE pay-per-view of the year. But it does have some pretty stiff competition in that area, and nothing about it makes me think it will be dreadful. If the show is used as a means of making guys like Rhodes, Harper, Reigns, Cesaro and Big E look like stars I think it’ll be on the right track.

Predictions summar:
Randy Orton to defeat Big Show
John Cena to defeat Alberto Del Rio
CM Punk and Daniel Bryan to defeat The Wyatt Family
The Real Americans and The Shield to outlast Cody Rhodes, Goldust, The Usos, and Rey Mysterio
Team Bella to outlast Team AJ Lee
The Miz to defeat Kofi Kingston

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