Sunday 9 November 2014

Survival of the Fittest

I'd love to be able to start this off by tying together the title I've chosen and the fact that I'm writing in part about a faction that spun off from the Evolution stable wrestling at a show called Survivor Series. But I'm not clever enough to pull it off. Let's just pretend I've done it. Or, at the very least, give me credit for a decent title.

Today's topic is the Survivor Series main event. A traditional team versus team match has been announced, pitting wrestlers representing The Authority against wrestlers willing to stand alongside kid-friendly do-gooder and all-round nice fella John Cena. Originally it was just for bragging rights but a surprise return from Vince McMahon on the November 3 RAW changed all that. Vinnie Mac announced that if The Authority's team loses Triple H and Stephanie will no longer be The Authority. He didn’t actually clarify what he meant by that and we've been left to assume that means they'll no longer be in positions of power, but it's hard to see how that could be implemented in storyline terms. Not that that matters.

So far two men have been announced for each team. Cena's gang currently consists of Cena (obvs) and Intercontinental champion Dolph Ziggler while The Authority will be represented by Kane and 'Mr Money in the Bank' Seth Rollins. That leaves each team with three slots and two weeks of TV to fill them.

Triple H has approached Ziggler about switching allegiances and offered spots on his team to Mark Henry, Rusev and The Ryback. Only Ziggles has given an answer, telling the boss that he’ll stay put on Team Cena. So far Big Show is the only guy who has offered his services to Cena.

From that list Big Show and Henners both seem likely to be involved in the match. They're upper mid-card guys who would help give the match the star power and feel of importance it needs. Plus they're feuding, so it would be natural for them to face off at the pay-per-view in some fashion. A tag match is preferable to a dreary singles clash.

A natural choice for Team Authority.
Rusev was apparently due to face Sheamus for the United States championship at Survivor Series before the match was brought forward to the post-show spot of the November 3 RAW. That move seems like it was designed to attract subscribers to the Network as it aired live and exclusively there but it's also possible that it was moved off the pay-per-view because it had been decided Rusev and Shaymo would be involved in the main event instead of having their own bout. In kayfabe terms it's easy to see why Trips would want Rusev on his team: the guy's a hoss who hasn't been cleanly defeated yet. Meanwhile all WWE babyfaces get on so it's easy enough to imagine Sheamus getting tapped for Cena's team. Plus, again, they're feuding.

But it's at this point I mention the possibility of a swerve turn. Because there's no greater candidate for a turn right now than Sheamus and there would be no better place to do it than in the main event of a pay-per-view. He's become stale in his role as a face, having nothing fresh to offer and nobody interesting to work with. Siding with The Authority would be the ideal way to give him a refresh. Storyline-wise he could cite his loss of the US strap and the "opportunity" offered by (his one-time real life gym buddy) Triple H as reasons for turning. It would also, if his turn in the match were timed well enough, allow him to be presented as the man that kept The Authority in power. There would be genuine heat for that.

Ziggler's a candidate for the swerve turn too but he seems less likely. He's genuinely popular as a face, which can't be said for Sheamus, and it just seems a bit too obvious. Generally speaking WWE don't tease turns of this nature, which is what they've done by having 'The Game' attempt to woo Ziggler. The current storyline could actually make 'The Show Off' more popular if he consistently declines the offers and remains loyal to Cena and his other teammates. By demonstrating that he’s willing to stand up to the storyline avatars of everything wrong with WWE Ziggler would encourage the audience to continue supporting him.

Feed him a Survivor Series team.
Ryback could also be a potential turnee, mostly because it wouldn't be widely expected and he's proven he can work as a bad guy. That said, it's not likely. He's only just returned to action after spending some time recovering from an injury and switched back to being a good guy after a year and a half as an antagonist. It would be poorly timed. And it's tough to see where a heel Ryback affiliated with The Authority would go. A feud with Rusev, probably for the United States title seems a better fit for 'The Big Guy's' future.

I mention swerve turns because the match seems destined to feature one (although as it seems so predictable it’s not really much of a swerve). It’s a chance to freshen up storylines by having someone “surprisingly” defect to the dark side and hand The Authority the win, setting them up as the saviour of the faction. This, as already noted, seems like an ideal spot for ‘The Celtic Warrior’.

As things stand right now it seems reasonable to assume that everyone discussed above will end up on their proposed teams, primarily because if they don’t it will give us a rather ramshackle main event featuring bit-part players who make no sense in a high profile spot. Not that Ryback, Mark Henry, Big Show and Sheamus are all logical choices to headline a not-especially-special event right now, but they at least have credibility or a recently restarted push in their favour. Were we to get the various singles matches instead Survivor Series would look distinctly average as a show and we’d end up with the likes of the Usos tagging with Cena because they’ve been presented as his buds in the past. And nobody wants to see the Usos in a pay-per-view main event.

Assuming we get the most sensible route we would get John Cena, Dolph Ziggler, Ryback, Sheamus and Big Show versus Seth Rollins, Kane, Rusev and Mark Henry. The fifth Authority team member? Triple H, of course. Considering his position as the boss is on the line it would be incredibly strange for ‘The Cerebral Assassin’ to not lace up the boots and fight for his own destiny.

But this isn’t definite. There are still various names that could end up playing a part in the match in place of some of te guys named above. Most notably there’s Randy Orton. The former Authority centrepiece was marginalised by Seth Rollins over the course of a few months, culminating in the two coming to blows a couple of weeks ago. The November 3 RAW saw Triple H regretfully give the order for Rollins to Curb Stomp ‘The Viper’ on to steel steps, but only after desperately trying to keep him on side and realising he wasn’t able to.

This officially turned Orty face and set him up as a potential member of Team Cena (and wrote him off TV to star in The Condemned 2: Desert Prey (I wish I was making that up) just after he’d becoming interesting for the first time in over a year). It’s unlikely we’ll see him confirmed for the team before the show, but he could make a “surprise” appearance as a mystery partner or last minute replacement. Even if he doesn’t do that a run-in from him seems likely as Survivor Series is being held in his hometown of St Louis. If WWE have him fail to appear entirely they’ll have missed a golden opportunity to solidify his new status as a good guy.

But Orton isn’t the only man who could take the mystery partner spot. Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan are both big names currently on the injured list. The most recent word on Reigns is that he’ll be back in time for the Royal Rumble and will probably return to the ring in December or January. But it’s worth noting that when Reigns was scrambled off TV in mid-September there was talk of him being back in six to eight weeks.

Wash your hair before you get back, Roman.
The December or January target seems more realistic but it’s not beyond WWE to distribute false information on return times. It keeps people guessing and makes the wrestlers look that little bit more impressive when they return ahead of schedule. It’s a trick they’ve employed for Cena several times over the years. With Reigns being hailed as the next leading man we should expect him to start getting the same sort of using chicanery usually applied to Cena at some point.

Bryan’s a trickier proposition. Partly because WWE would be less-inclined to protect his image (he is, after all, the man the people wanted them to push ahead of bright young upstart Dave Batista) and partly because his injuries are more serious in nature than Reigns’s. He underwent neck surgery over the summer and there’s been talk since that he will need a second neck surgery, a surgery on his arm, or perhaps both surgeries.

It’s not impossible that WWE have kept a D-Bry recovery and an imminent return to action secret. But it’s not likely, especially when looking at him in recent videos of him celebrating with baseball personalities.

The final injured man who could feasibly pull off a meaningful surprise return is Bad News Barrett. He’s been benched since late June following an incident involving a barricade and ‘Mr Safety’ Jack Swagger. Before that he’d been on quite the roll, producing quality matches and getting encouraging positive reactions despite allegedly being a bad guy. His injury couldn’t have come at a worse time. And the worst part is that it wasn’t the first time an injury has halted a Barrett push.

It was originally said Bad News would be back in the ring by November. Then  December got thrown into the mix. Because he’s not as big a name as Reigns and Bryan there hasn’t been as much said about his recovery. The likelihood is that he’s not particularly close to a return but if anyone currently injured could be prepped for a genuine surprise return it’s Barrett, by virtue of him being a mid-card name.

Were he to return he could be used on either team. He never officially turned face so he’d fit in on Team Authority. But he was very popular when he separated his shoulder so it would make sense for him to be used as a babyface, and there would be no better way of turning him than pitting him against The Authority.

These options are what makes this year’s Survivor Series main event so interesting. It’s not clear what we’re going to get and there’s a chance WWE could keep us getting right up until bell time if they chose to take the storyline route of not many people being willing to stand alongside Cena. It’s also nice to see a main event that means something. The stipulation that The Authority must win was a simple addition but one that makes the match far more interesting than it would have been otherwise and creates possibilities for post-Survivor Series storylines.

The only negative is that so many of the company’s most over performers will be sucked into one match, leaving the rest the rest of the card sparse. Aside from Dean Ambrose v Bray Wyatt there aren’t really any other meaningful matches WWE can promote. That said it’s a chance for them to make use of their large roster. Miz and Damien Mizdow could be put in a meaningful match. Adam Rose and The Bunny could have a showdown and The Bunny could be unmasked. A second Survivor Series match featuring NXT wrestlers could be added to the show.

A strong undercard is what the show needs, but whether it gets it or not the main event and any associated turns, returns and angles are what the show will be remembered for. I hope whatever’s planned is satisfying.

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