The Hits & Misses Of Survivor Series

The WWE staple of the fall season took place with Survivor Series in Chicago, and it’s not only the final “big” pay-per-view of the year, but also the last PPV before the eventual kickoff of Wrestlemania season in 2024. Ironically, All Elite Wrestling hosted Collision in conjunction with a special Saturday edition of Rampage in Pittsburgh as well. As you might’ve read prior to this, the great Pat MacLaughlin and I have attended the four previous Dynamite tapings at The Peterson Events Center, the venue where the Pitt Panthers play basketball. However, with how slapstick the AEW product has been, the upcoming holidays, and the fact there was already a signature event on the same night, we declined to attend Collision. It’s not so much that I thought it was going to be a subpar event in terms of in-ring quality, but the fact that almost nothing was advertised in advance, the usually hefty ticket prices didn’t seem worth it without a solid selling point. Throughout the holiday week, I kept an eye on ticket prices and was somewhat shocked at not only the amount of seats that were left, but also the type of seats that were still available. For example, our usual seats of “ZOO F,” the lower level section right above the floor sears, were tickets that you had to have the presale password for to have a reasonable chance to secure, were still listed for Collision just two days before the event. Earlier this week, there was actually a $10 ticket deal announced for the show, but even that didn’t seem to move tickets, which says more about the Ticket Master system than the ability for the promotion to sell seats. Sure, the tickets would’ve been just $10, but then you have to factor in the $25 in Ticket Master fees. After that, you have to add in the cost of parking once you get to the venue and then if you purchase a $6 Coca Cola, the two tickets you bought for $20 become a $100 cost for the total experience so it’s a quick jump from $10 per person to $50 each for the “bargain” tickets at the event.

Granted, All Elite Wrestling will be fine without Mac and I in attendance, but I think the situation is somewhat of a microcosm as to why AEW has struggled to move tickets recently, specifically for the Saturday night show. As I wrote before the debut edition in June, the addition of another weekly TV show is more than just twice the amount of weekly shows booked for the scripting of the organization, but it also doubles the amount of tickets that the company had to sell each week. Taking into account inflation and the uncertainty of the economy, its tough to expect fans to buy tickets to a major wrestling show more than once or twice a year, especially with the extra costs that we discussed earlier. There are only so many markets that All Elite Wrestling can run for its television and thus they are only so many fans within those markets that can reasonable purchase tickets for certain events.

In this case, it’s much more affordable for the wrestling fans in Pittsburgh to watch Survivor Series on Peacock than to spend the hefty amount of cash on Collision tickets right before the holidays.

Anyway, the show kicked off with the women’s War Games match, the usual format for the PPVs that have a pair of gimmick matches on the card with one to open and then one to close the show. With just five matches on the card, pacing becomes very important, especially with two longer gimmick matches since it becomes a priority to prevent the presentation from dragging to avoid a tedious viewing experience. The problem with the war games concept that can sometimes be encountered is that the segment can become very formulaic since the rules of the match lead to a specific structure. Perhaps, that’s why weapons were introduced into the match early to avoid a carbon copy of other War Games matches in the past or even the main event later in the night.

The contest went about 35 minutes so there was a lot of action, but the biggest takeaway is that this was yet another example of how much depth the women’s division has right now. The highlights were probably Iyo’s insane dive with the trash can from the top of the cage and then the moonsault that Charlotte did off the cage. Backy Lynch got the win when she pinned Bayley after a leg drop through a table.

The IC title match was decent, but it appeared like there was too much of a character clash in some ways. By all accounts, the real-life Mike Mizanin is a great guy, but his character was always tailor-made for a heel persona. It was somewhat odd to see him cast as a baby face on-screen and the narrative seemed a little forced. Plus, he was used regularly as one of the heels that was foiled in comedy segments and he did very well in that role, but it was difficult to view him as a legitimate threat to championship after Gunter had such a dominating reign. Along with the narrative of the match being somewhat forced, the action itself was partially forced as well. Again, The Miz character was a secondary comedy act prior to this so it wasn’t realistic to see Gunther selling as much as he did for him. The bout went about 15 minutes, but it would’ve made more sense for this to be an almost one-sided five minute match where Gunther dominated most of the segment. Gunther retained, which was a smart decision since he’s the first wrestler in several years to bring a notable level of prestige back to the championship.

Dragon Lee vs. Santos Escobar was a match that I was looking forward to, particularly because the direction of the storyline could position Dragon Lee to be elevated to a higher spot on the card. As I’ve written previously, while there will only be one Rey Mysterio, I really think that Dragon Lee has the ability to be used in the “Mysterio” spot so to speak in terms of the top Hispanic star in the company. Rey being used as an on-screen mentor or manager for Lee might be a good way to keep him on television without the risk of more injuries. Don’t get me wrong, Santos Escobar is a really solid talent, but at almost 40, he’s undoubtedly at the latter stages of his career. On the flip side, Dragon Lee is more than a decade younger so it makes sense for the WWE to invest in him as the next major lucha star because it maximizes the amount time that he could draw money for the company.

The match itself was somewhat surprising, as it was rather brief with only about seven minutes given on the card and the finish was abrupt. While it had its moments with Dragon Lee’s dive and a few other aerial maneuvers from both competitors, I expected more from this segment. Instead of a lucha showcase, it was more of a storyline based bout with Escobar really emphasizing the heel tactics, which is fine, but given the ability of these athletes, this seemed like a missed opportunity for the in-ring quality it could’ve added to the show. Plus, Escobar winning a short match in abrupt fashion didn’t really do anything to establish Dragon Lee so it will be interesting to see the direction of the storyline after this pay-per-view.

The Women’s title match was fine, but at roughly ten minutes, it was basically just an average match that was used to pace the card. Zoey went from being Trish’s sidekick to a title challenger rather quickly without much character development so the result was obvious. Rhea Ripley retained and this was more of a TV match than anything else.

Similar to the hurdles of War Games concept, the men’s match had them emphasized more than usual because the action of the contest for the vast majority of the segment was basically cannon fodder since it was built around the return of Randy Orton. You more or less knew that nothing of consequence was going to take place until Orton was in the ring. The tease of the MIB cash-in was well done and added some intrude to the conclusion. After Orton’s appearance, the match went to the finish quickly and it allowed for the ability to maximize the impact of the return. Cody got the pin for his team to get the win.

Overall, Survivor Series was fine and a mostly solid event with some quality bouts and only a few misses with how the card was formatted. The post-match return in Chicago was interesting, but that subject will be covered in its own article. One thing is for sure, the wrestling world will be talking about WWE and it sets the stage for some intriguing possibilities next year.