This year’s Survivor Series is a notable WWE pay-per-view for a number of reasons. Unfortunately none of those reasons are to do with the quality of current storylines or a hotly anticipated match. Those are things WWE should be striving to provide, because they’ve put themselves in a position of having to rely heavily on their Network, and the Network is ultimately going to succeed or fail based on giving people reason to invest in the WWE product. And what the sort of people willing to pay for subscriptions to a wrestling-themed streaming service are going to invest in is strong storylines and hot match-ups.
Instead the 2014 Survivor Series is notable for being the first pay-per-view WWE has ever produced that will be available for free (making the already iffy pay-per-view label even stranger). The reason for this offer is to attract subscribers to the Network. It’s a good idea in theory (as I’ve written here). Giving away what is generally thought of as a major event (thanks to the days of the Big Four which actually ended nineteen years ago) for free is a excellent way of enticing people to sign up to the Network, and once they’re signed up they can be persuaded to remain signed up after the show.
But this ploy is only going to work if Survivor Series has a good enough card to encourage the initial sign-ups and the content of the Network is sufficiently enjoyable to keep people hooked. I can’t speak to the latter because WWE and Sky have gone full on heel and halted the release of the Network in Britain and Ireland. But I do know that they haven’t managed the former.
There are two matches announced for Survivor Series that could be considered big. The first is the traditional ten man elimination match. The second is Dean Ambrose versus Bray Wyatt. The tag match has been hyped well (thanks mostly to the sterling November 3 episode of RAW) and has significant storyline implications. But the trouble it has is that nobody really expects it to be much good. It is not hotly anticipated. I mean, how can it be with Mark Henry, Big Show, and Kane involved? Ultimately all the storyline implication means is that we’ll get a hot finishing sequence as we’re kept guessing as to who will win and how.
This match does few favours for the rest of the card. It’s deprived us of a number of logical singles bouts. While the likes of Rusev v Sheamus and Big Show v Mark Henry wouldn’t have been anything particularly amazing they would have at least had meaning to them. Their addition to the main event would have been ideal if WWE programming were brimming with exciting rivalries to fill the undercard.
But it’s not. So we have a top-heavy show with everyone of note piled into one match in the hope that it will appear exciting and momentous enough to encourage people to take advantage of the Network’s free month offer. I’m sure it’ll get some people. I’m just not sure it will be as successful as a more even card would be.
Ignoring how important it is to the Network and the fact that it’s depriving the show of some logical singles matches the ten man tag looks good. If nothing else it will be interesting to see how the thing’s structured, as is usually the case with matches like these. It seems safe to assume that Kane, Henry, and Show will not play major roles and will be amongst the first out, because they’re not as important to current plots or future plans. To a slightly lesser extent the same probably holds true for Luke Harper and too.
What’s interesting when noting that is that three of those four names are on The Authority’s team. Assuming those four are the first out (unlikely, as it’s probable at least one major name will go before all four are gone to help with the pacing, but bear with me) it would leave Cena and his gang with a four on two advantage. That would seem like a natural time for WWE to implement their seemingly inevitable swerve turn (written about in greater detail here).
This is what this year’s Survivor Series main event is about for me. Who’s going to defect from Cena’s team and help The Authority stay in power and, to a lesser extent, what is the finishing sequence going to be? I’m expecting The Authority to win because what sense would it make for them to lose and not be in charge of RAW? Sheamus strikes me as the likeliest man to turn because his character is in desperate need of a change and he seems like a natural choice for a placeholder feud with Cena before he challenges Lesnar for the world championship at Royal Rumble at the end of January.
But he’s not actually a part of the match. It’s still possible he could turn, coming in to replace someone who’s suffered a mid-match injury before shockingly double-crossing Cena and Brogue kicking one of his team mates to help out Team Trips.
Shaymo isn’t the only guy we could see running in on the Survivors main event. Bad News Barrett has been announced for the event but we don’t know what he’ll be doing. Roman Reigns could be closer to recovering from his hernia surgery than we’ve been led to believe, setting him up as some sort of saviour for Team Cena. There’s Randy Orton too. He was written off TV to star in a WWE Studios movie a few weeks ago but a one night return before coming back full time in a few weeks isn’t out of the question. With Survivor Series being held in his hometown of St Louis it would be mad for WWE not to use him in some capacity, even if it’s a post-match run-in.
It would make sense for Seth Rollins to be amongst the surviving members of Team Authority. He’s been set up as the top active heel on the roster and is consistently booked as the man who wangles his way through tough spots, always just managing to come out on top. It wouldn’t need to be clean, but Rollins getting the final and deciding pinfall on Cena, ensuring his mentor stays in control, would be a perfect way to get more heat on him.
As for the other eliminations... well, I’ve already written it’s hard to say what will happen. Rusev and Ryback seem likely to receive the standard Survivor Series trick of a double count out elimination as they brawl to the back. That would keep ‘The Bulgarian Brute’s’ unpinned and unsubmitted streak alive, protect the recently repushed ‘Big Guy’ and create a reason for Rusev versus Ryback at TLC in December. Ziggler eliminating Harper seems plausible as it would prove ‘The Show Off’ can beat him and didn’t deserve to lose the IC strap on RAW (not that anyone would consider that match fair anyway). Henry and Show seem likely to be tied to one another in the bout. Henners getting eliminated by Show before attacking him unfairly afterwards to set up ‘The Giant’s’ elimination seems simple enough.
Ultimately I think the bulk of the match will revolve around Cena, Ziggler and Rollins. It’s possible another heel will last into the final stretch to make things more even. If so it should be Harper or Rusev to get them some credibility. But it will probably be Mark Henry.
All in all there’s a lot that can be done with the ten man main event so it’s unlikely to be boring. But it’s not looking like an all-time classic match. With the result obviously playing a factor on the opening segment of the following evening’s RAW the promise of an unpredictable but sloppy match likely won’t be enough to convince that many people to check the show out.
The Ambrose v Wyatt match is the second biggest match on the card because of how over the two men are, not because of how it’s been booked. Because it’s been booked pretty poorly. Wyatt has again fallen into the trap of not making it entirely clear what his issue is (as happened with Jericho). I’m fine with his promos being heavy on nonsense, but he should at least try to get across what he wants with the people he’s targeting. Ambrose has done his best to salvage things, but when he’s been booked opposite a man who can magically teleport around an arena there’s only so much he can do. It’s another match hard to describe as hotly anticipated.
That said the match could be excellent. ‘The Lunatic Fringe’ has had some superb matches opposite Seth Rollins this year. ‘The Eater of Worlds’ has been hampered by peculiar booking choices but he didn’t do horrible work opposite John Cena in the spring and he had a belter against Daniel Bryan at the Rumble. They seem like guys who’d have good matches together. Hopefully they do.
I’ll go with Wyatt as a winner via nonsense, because that would be the easier way of keeping the programme alive for another month. It could just as easily be Ambrose though.
The rest of the card is, as already stated, not exactly stellar. The highlight is probably the four-way tag title match in which Goldust and Stardust will defend against the Usos, Los Matadores and The Miz and Damien Mizdow. Yes, another PPV meeting for the dusts and Rikishi’s lads. It’s not exactly revolutionary stuff, is it? Los Matadores should spice things up and Mizdow’s involvement should ensure the crowd are hot (although I’m concerned that El Torito being there will mean we get Hornswoggle as MiniMiz again). The tag scene could do with a change and Miz and Mizdow would benefit from getting the straps. It might be wishful thinking but I’ll pick them as winners.
The other two announced matches are Divas matches. First there’s the obligatory time-filling elimination tag bout pitting Team Paige, consisting of Paige, Cameron, Layla and Summer Rae, against Team Fox, consisting of Alicia Fox, Emma, Naomi and Natalya. If it comes down to Paige and Natalya we could be in for a treat, but that’s not likely. Paige should win though, seeing as she’s easily the most heavily pushed of the eight ladies.
The other Divas match will see AJ Lee defend the championship against Nikki Bella. I think if this match gets some time it could be very good. AJ generally gets responses from audiences while Nikki is over as the company’s premier in-ring villainess, and both can turn out solid matches when they’re awarded the time to do so. With the list of matches pretty slender there’s a good chance they’ll get in excess of ten minutes.
It’s tough to pick a winner. There are rumours floating around (but not for the first time) that AJ will be leaving WWE shortly after the show. That would make it sensible for her to lose the gold to Nikki, who could then resume her feud with sister Brie. The trouble with that is that Vince McMahon has apparently decreed that no member of the Total Divas cast is to win the Divas championship, because it creates inconsistencies with the two shows (what with TD being filmed months in advance). The show may not be on the air right now but putting the title onto Nikki would still put WWE in a tough spot regarding Vince’s clause because the only person she could logically drop it to is also a member of the cast.
I’m going to ignore the Total Divas aspect (not least because practically every woman on the roster is on the reality show anyway) and pick Nikki to win. Brie still being her assistant just sets up a very obvious scenario: Nikki forces Brie to help to win the championship, adding another layer to Brie’s quest for revenge once the assistant stip comes to a close.
On the whole Survivor Series looks quite good. All the matches should have something to offer and the main event guarantees at least one major storyline development. While I don’t think it’s the best card to encourage Network sign-ups it certainly won’t actively discourage people from subscribing. With this card it seems as though WWE is moving in the right direction. But it doesn’t seem like they’re doing so quite fast enough.
Predictions summary:Team Authority to defeat Team Cena for control of the (WWE) universe
Bray Wyatt to defeat Dean Ambrose
The Miz and Damien Mizdow to win the tag team championship
Nikki Bella to defeat AJ Lee for the Divas championship
Paige to be the sole survivor in her Survivor Series match
Team Cena members:John Cena
Team Authority members:Seth Rollins