Tonight’s Survivor Series event, the pay-per-view with the most history behind it, second only to Wrestlemania. The fall tradition was originally based around Thanksgiving, which was a staple of the pro wrestling calendar in the 80s. Much like Wrestlemania around the mid-point of the year and Summer Slam after that Survivor Series was considered the top show of the fall. The original selling point for the pay-per-view in the 80s was the tag matches that were assembled to represent all-star teams, but even as the concept evolved to allow for more continuity with the format, the traditional five-on-five tag was a fun match for the show.
Unfortunately, the 2019 edition brings with it mostly indifference as a product that didn’t have a clear direction for most of the year appears to be even more disjointed than usual ahead of this weekend’s events. First, I find the entire concept of “brand superiority” to be somewhat silly and illogical because it’s tough to sell the importance of a particular brand as the winner when it’s all under the same umbrella, which is part of the reason the original brand extension flopped. Are the fans really supposed to be sold on the fact that the brand that wins will make any difference in the narrative going forward? In theory, what is truly at stake with these matches?
Speaking of the brands, what was the point of the draft just last month if the next major angle was going to bring stars for every brand on each show? How exactly is anyone supposed to be considered “brand exclusive” when that was only actually followed for a few weeks? Remember how nonsensical things were with the wild card rule a few months ago?
When All Elite Wrestling was scheduled to debut on TNT, Vince McMahon wisely counted on Wednesday nights, moving NXT from the streaming WWE Network to USA, which put a similar style head-to-head with Dynamite. While this is an example of how competition fuels the industry, WWE brass might’ve jumped the shark when they shoehorned the NXT brand into the Survivor Series equation as an attempt to get those particular stars more main stream exposure to boost viewers on USA. An advertisement on Raw or Smackdown makes sense because it lets the biggest WWE audience know about the show, but this current angle with three brands has only further muddied the waters of already diluted programming.
The actual card is overbooked and too convoluted with three triple threat matches and two traditional Survivor Series tag matches. Won’t the third triple threat match on the card become too repetitive? Along with that, the existing feuds were more or less paused to book these tag matches, and the brand t-shirts during confrontations make the competitors look like brawling softball teams, it doesn’t emphasize some intense rivalry.
I’d rather not write something that sounds too negative, but in my opinion, the entire concept of brand vs. brand is lazy booking used as an excuse for a pay-per-view because the product has almost nothing truly compelling about it right now. Seth Rollins is presented as a whiny baby face and his tweets don’t do anything to help that perception. Bray Wyatt was arguably the most over performer on the roster until the historically terrible finish at the HIAC pay-per-view and then the title win was at a Saudi Arabia show nobody watched. Even as the Universal champion, how much momentum does The Fiend have right now? Daniel Bryan’s status as a heel or a baby face wasn’t established in recent weeks on Smackdown.
As far as a storyline, Brock Lesnar vs. Rey Mysterio has the most behind it and in theory, could be the best match on the show in terms of in-ring action, but after the one-dimensional monster push that Brock had, do you think Vince McMahon is really going to book Rey to win the title? Again, what’s at stake at one of the biggest pay-per-views of the year?
This is where the 50/50 booking and illogical storylines come back to bite the booking team. Most of the product has become repetitive and stale to the point where the audience knows that the results don’t really matter because there’s either going to be a rematch the next night on Raw or eventually the same angle will be recycled. All of this is an illustration of what happens when the results don’t matter, and that’s the perception that very few on the roster are over with the audience. The WWE brand and its stock holders get the push and the publicity. The individual stars are booked like interchangeable parts in the WWE machine so there’s a level of mediocrity in terms of the star power on the roster. If the stars were booked as important and the results of the matches had a direct impact on the direction of the product then the events that feature the stars would have a better selling point to try to get the audience to want to watch the to see the results.
The Survivor Series will probably be close to four hours because similar to the brand vs. brand concept being used as a crutch for lazy booking, WWE brass books longer shows to attempt to present them as “major events.” The translation of that is these marathon shows eventually drag at some point and there probably be a better quality presentation if the shows were kept at a more reasonable format. Adam Cole vs. Pete Dunne is scheduled for the NXT championship after Cole took an insane bump at the conclusion of the War Games match. Perhaps, Cole/Dunne won’t steal the show at Survivor Series because of the physical toll of the matches yesterday, but the NXT format provides an interesting example. Granted, the in-ring product is apples to oranges compared to Raw or Smackdown because it’s marketed toward a different demographic. However, the fact that NXT delivered a quality show within two and a half hours is proof that a four-hour show is required for a memorable event.
As mentioned previously, the biggest reason for the lack of hype for the Survivor Series is probably that nothing is really at stake. If Raw wins the traditional team match, what’s the difference? How does that change or progress the product compared to a Smackdown win? It’s disappointing and somewhat surprising that the WWE has three brands and dozens of wrestlers on the roster, but only a portion of them are over enough with the audience to make a different in the perception of an event because of the structure of the product.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
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