This week on SmackDown Live, Commissioner Shane McMahon and General Manager Daniel Bryan made a grandiose challenge. In the spirit of competition, heavy-handed as it may be, the leaders of the Tuesday night blue brand proposed not one, not two, but three Raw vs. SmackDown matches for the 30th annual Survivor Series event on Nov. 20. The inspiration for this appears to be the three Hell in a Cell matches that Raw will be producing at the eponymous event later this month.
While lofty and potentially exciting, three separate brand vs. brand Survivor Series comes with some consequences.
The problem with the challenge is the scope of wrestlers it covers. It could turn out to be an incredibly unique show. The three elimination style matches may be given a significant amount of time while WWE only tacks on one or two other matches to complement them. It could also turn out to be a disaster, with WWE using a ton of talent in those three matches, and still trying to run seven or eight matches in all.
Specific challenges were made: First, a five-on-five elimination tag match featuring five of Raw’s best men taking on five of SmackDown best men. Next, another five-on-five elimination tag, this time pitting five of Raw’s best women against five of SmackDown best women. Finally, the juggernaut, a five team versus five team elimination match. In total, that’s 30 Superstars being used in just three matches. Granted the Royal Rumble match takes at least 25 active roster members, but they also only go with a five-match card, and some of the wrestlers pull double duty.
For argument’s sake, let’s get into a bit of speculation. If each show is looking to put its best wrestlers in the brand versus brand matches, you have to expect that the teams will be led by their respective main event champions. That takes Kevin Owens and AJ Styles (or James Ellsworth if we are lucky) out of the conversation for title defenses. Wouldn’t you also want your other champions in the match as well? There go both Roman Reigns and Dolph Ziggler, along with four possible championship matches that will be off the table. The same would go for the women, meaning that Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks would lead the teams for their respective brands, and two more potential title matches are down the drain.
The same goes for the Tag Team Championship for both brands. In total there are only about 15 teams between both brands, with 10 of them being taken for the 10-on-10 match.
Given a bit of thought, the remaining matches would look grim and glum if WWE tried to put together an additional five or six matches using the leftover talent.
It all comes down to creating the matches from one of two mindsets. Do you book the matches from the perspective of the authority figures? If so, then you end up with the above scenario. If not, then there’s more to work with. By simply pulling just one of the champions out of the men’s match, an important undercard contest is opened up. Suddenly you have six matches, plus a traditional five-on-five elimination match for the kickoff show with all of the also-rans.
There is a possibility that WWE may decide to headline Survivor Series with the rematch between Brock Lesnar and Goldberg. In regards to timing, it makes sense. Survivor Series is a month and a half away. The challenge was laid out by Paul Heyman this past Monday night, and this upcoming Monday night Goldberg will return to Raw, presumably to accept. Video packages and a few doses of Paul Heyman can carry the build to the match on television for a few weeks leading up to the event itself.
If Goldberg’s offhand comment on SportsCenter was based in reality, however, he may not be in shape to get into the ring in under two months. At that point, WWE would probably save the match for the Royal Rumble. If they want to stretch themselves very thin and waste even more momentum, they could put it on the backburner until WrestleMania.
Of course, however, there is always a silver lining. In this case, WWE has the cruiserweights to fall back on. They can be used in a five-on-give traditional elimination match, or, because they have to be presented in a completely different manner (for reasons I can’t quite understand), some other type of multi-man match. That, plus a Cruiserweight Championship match, bolsters the card into five strong matches.
WWE has a chance to return to the true spirit of the Survivor Series concept. Team competition. But it won’t come without compromising the rest of the card.