WWE is in a very good position right now when it comes to an upcoming War Games match at Survivor Series.
The original line of thinking was that The Bloodline would be involved in the match. Then, when the group saw their membership numbers dwindle, the easy assumption was that we would get a good old fashioned “Raw vs Smackdown” War Games. When it looked like we were going to see some sort of working relationship between The Bloodline and The Judgment Day, people began to make assumptions that the groups would form a squad for War Games to battle some of their many, many rivals on the roster. Now, with Raw and Smackdown having their own dedicated General Managers that are having on-screen tension (along with Adam Pearce’s “let the games begin” tease), people are starting to swing back in the “Raw vs Smackdown” direction.
It’s good to have options.
However, there’s an old adage in (American) football that says “if you have two Quarterbacks, you have none.” The line of thinking there is that a team wants a clear-cut, surefire, bonafide stud at Quarterback. If there’s any sort of controversy about your team’s QB, that is an indicator that the player chosen for that role isn’t a clear-cut, surefire, bonafide stud.
That carries over in wrestling, especially when it comes to the build for major events. As an example, let’s use WrestleMania. A lot of people believe that a WrestleMania main event should become very clear months in advance, even if it hasn’t been officially mentioned on television yet. Then, as the time draws nearer and nearer to WrestleMania, that clear-cut, surefire, bonafide stud of an idea should be obvious, even on television. Hulk Hogan vs Andre The Giant. Shawn Michaels vs Bret Hart. Steve Austin vs The Rock. Hulk Hogan vs Randy Savage. The Rock vs John Cena. These were all matches that, directly or indirectly, were made obvious well in advance of the WrestleMania shows where they happened. The fans wanted to see the matches, and the company had no problem making the matches happen.
We don’t really have that with War Games this year. That’s particularly concerning, as Survivor Series takes place 26 days from the date this column is posted. Does the fact that WWE has two (or more) War Games match ideas for Survivor Series mean that WWE actually has zero War Games match ideas for Survivor Series? Let’s take a look.
What about a match involving The Bloodline and The Judgment Day teaming up? The first thing to look at in that scenario is how easy it would be to set up. How many hoops would we, as viewers, need to jump through? Would there be any major plot holes that need to be ignored? The Bloodline are Smackdown wrestlers, but now that Damian Priest and Finn Balor are the Undisputed WWE Tag Team Champions, they are free to appear on whatever show they want to, so there’s no problems there. Not that WWE has shown any desire to keep their rosters apart, anyway, even after the Draft that was supposed to do just that.
Roman Reigns, Solo Sikoa, Jimmy Uso, Damian Priest, and Finn Balor on one side? Does that work? There’s star power and a sensical storyline connection there.
The other side of the equation might require a little more thinking. Last year’s War Games match involved The Bloodline taking on Sheamus, Butch, Ridge Holland, Drew McIntyre, and Kevin Owens. One obvious change from last year is that Sami Zayn and Jey Uso are no longer Bloodline members, and they would probably be members of the face squad this year. They’re both members of the Raw roster, but that’s where WWE’s lack of concern about the brand split works in the match’s favor. Do we get Kevin Owens opposing The Bloodline for the second straight year? People would cheer for that, but we JUST had the team of Owens and Sami Zayn split up by the trade of Owens to Smackdown, so it would be hilarious/sad/ridiculous (depending on your personal opinion) to have them teaming up again mere weeks later.
Then, of course, you have Cody Rhodes. The connection is right there in everyone’s faces… Dusty Rhodes is the man who created the War Games match 36 years ago. Cody hasn’t had the opportunity to participate in a War Games yet, as he was on the shelf with his torn pectoral last year. If there’s anything resembling a “sure thing” this year, it’s that Cody is going to be on a War Games team if he’s living and breathing when November 25th rolls around.
For the sake of this argument, that’s four names on the face side. The logical fifth member would be LA Knight, three weeks removed from his Undisputed WWE Universal Title shot at Crown Jewel. Fans in attendance at the Allstate Arena that night are going to want to see him here, no matter the outcome of his Crown Jewel match.
Cody Rhodes, LA Knight, Jey Uso, Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens vs Roman Reigns, Solo Sikoa, Jimmy Uso, Damian Priest & Finn Balor
How does that look?
Some of you are thinking something right now, and let me address that immediately. Even if CM Punk is returning to WWE, it might not happen at Survivor Series, even if it’s in the Chicago area. If Punk’s WWE return is happening at Survivor Series, you have to assume it will be a surprise. The event is already close to being fully sold out, so it’s not like Punk’s return needs to be announced ahead of time to push ticket sales. I just don’t see any chance of Punk being involved in War Games this year. If you want to say he returns after the match to confront Roman Reigns or something, I’ll allow you to have that.
Actually, some of you are thinking about something else, so I’ll address that, too. Yes, John Cena is a better “fit” for the face team than Kevin Owens is at the moment, simply based on current feuds and stories. I won’t deny that at all. Owens is listed, though, because I don’t know about Cena’s schedule and what he can, and can’t, do. Obviously, all pro wrestling carries an inherent danger with it, as anyone can get hurt doing even the most basic of things in a match. However, Cena is pretty clearly only back in the ring because of the strike in Hollywood. Therefore, there’s a lot more on the line with him when it comes to staying as safe and as injury-free as possible. Putting him in a War Games match increases the chances of him getting hurt, and is he willing to roll the dice with that in the event that the strike ends soon and he’ll need to return to making movies? Eh, just because it looks better on the marquee, let’s make the switch for now…
Cody Rhodes, LA Knight, Jey Uso, Sami Zayn & John Cena vs Roman Reigns, Solo Sikoa, Jimmy Uso, Damian Priest & Finn Balor
Nothing against Kevin Owens at all, but that looks so much better on paper. It may or may not make the match itself better, but having Cena instead of Owens is going to make the interest level in the match higher, and garner a bigger reaction from the live crowd, and that’s worth it to me.
If you think there’s too much star power in one match, and how that could potentially hurt the overall value of the rest of the card, look no further than last year’s edition of Survivor Series. There were only five matches on the entire card, with two War Games matches (the aforementioned Brawling Brutes squad vs Bloodline squad, and a women’s match featuring Bianca Belair’s team vs Damage CTRL’s team) each going nearly 40 minutes in length. The rest of the card featured a singles match with nothing on the line, a Smackdown Women’s Title match, and United States Title Triple Threat. That’s it. The show didn’t need to feature ten matches. Yes, the match I have listed features a lot of the top names on the roster, but if you’re looking to fill out the rest of the show, look at who isn’t listed there. The current World Heavyweight Champion, the Intercontinental Champion, the United States Champion, the NXT North American Champion that just so happens to be a main roster talent, the Women’s Tag Team Champions, the Women’s World Champion, the WWE Women’s Champion, and much, much more. Hell, you might even take some of those women away to put them in a women’s War Games match, and you’d still have a ton of talent left over.
If WWE wants to go the “Raw vs Smackdown” route for War Games, that complicates things a bit and would require the opposite booking order. With the other option, you put the War Games match together, and then you look at the rest of the roster and build the rest of the card to whatever level of stacked you desire. For this option, you almost have to put the non-War Games matches together, and then go from there.
In many other years, a main roster War Games at Survivor Series would’ve seen an easy fantasy booking option, even if it didn’t actually happen… Raw’s world champion, Raw’s midcard champion, Raw’s tag champions, and maybe a wild card if you’re going five-on-five vs Smackdown’s world champion, Smackdown’s midcard champion, Smackdown’s tag champions, and a wild card. With WWE’s tag titles being unified, that puts the ixnay on the easy fantasy booking.
Do you have the World Heavyweight Champion on Raw’s team and the Undisputed WWE Universal Champion on Smackdown’s team? If so, that obviously means neither title is going to be on the line on the rest of the show. Same goes for putting the Intercontinental Champion on Raw’s team and the United States Champion on Smackdown’s team.
We’ve seen early reports that said WWE didn’t want to go with the “World Champion vs World Champion” singles match that we’ve seen them do in some recent editions of Survivor Series. It was reported as if the idea was that they wanted to keep Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins apart, either because they’re saving it for something down the road again, or because they feel they’ve gone to that well enough. If we’re to assume that also means they don’t want a Seth-led team to battle a Roman-led team in War Games, that means one, of both, champions wouldn’t be involved in the match if the company uses the “Raw vs Smackdown” format.
Because of that, I’ve seen a lot of people say that Rollins should lead a Raw team in the match, while Roman defends his title against LA Knight in a rematch after what will probably be a Crown Jewel match that ends with shenaniganery. It makes sense, but… I have accepted the fact that Roman Reigns isn’t losing before WrestleMania, so how many times do you want LA Knight to lose to him? A loss at Crown Jewel, another loss at Survivor Series, and then what? Another loss on Smackdown somewhere? Is that any way to treat the man many feel is the next megastar on the roster? Knight can continue feuding with Roman and The Bloodline, especially if Crown Jewel doesn’t end cleanly, but there’s no need for him to rack up the losses right now.
It isn’t even a guarantee that Roman Reigns will wrestle on the show! Chances are, you’ll see him, as Survivor Series is still one of the biggest events of the year, but Roman has only wrestled on six out of nine pay-per-view events in 2023, with Crown Jewel coming almost three full months after his match at SummerSlam. He has only wrestled ten times in 2023, and that’s counting house show matches.
What I do know is that I want to see someone like Ricochet or Montez Ford in this War Games match, simply because of the jaw-dropping offense that they’d be capable of doing. Dragon Lee is in the same category, but I’m thinking it might be too early for him to be featured with this type of spotlight. People I would also like to see involved if WWE goes with the brand supremacy route are Chad Gable, Ivar, Santos Escobar, Kofi Kingston, Shinsuke Nakamura, or Bronson Reed.
More than anyone else, though, I would like to see Gunther in a War Games match. He’s already one of the most dangerous men to ever step foot inside a wrestling ring, so can you imagine how much more dangerous he could be inside of that War Games structure?
I think a very interesting and intriguing story could be having Seth Rollins being named the Raw captain for War Games, and then Gunther finding his way onto the team, either through a qualifying match or simply Raw General Manager Adam Pearce wanting as much firepower on his brand’s team as possible. The on-screen interactions between Rollins and Gunther would be fun, and would help build to a future main event run for Gunther that everyone knows is coming sooner than later.
Let me throw a “Raw vs Smackdown” War Games lineup together quickly. How about…
Seth Rollins, Gunther, Ivar, Chad Gable & Kofi Kingston vs John Cena, LA Knight, Rey Mysterio, AJ Styles & Santos Escobar
On paper, that’s nowhere near the Bloodline match I mentioned earlier when it comes to star power, but I don’t think the match quality would be affected very much, if at all. Again, that was just me throwing some names in that would be interesting to me, but if you wanted extra star power, it wouldn’t take much. Subtract Escobar and add Bobby Lashley or Kevin Owens on the Smackdown side. Take out Ivar or Chad Gable and add Sami Zayn or Drew McIntyre. There’s literally 20-something names on each brand that you could make cases for here. As I said before, it really comes down to how loaded WWE wants to make the entire card. Do they want big names and/or champions in other matches? Are they going to go with a “lesser” card like last year’s Survivor Series, assuming that War Games will carry the interest?
This is a fascinating time for a War Games build, no matter what direction the company decides to go in. I’ve done all this typing, and we haven’t even built a potential women’s War Games match, in the event that we’re getting two War Games matches like the last four WWE/NXT shows that featured the match type. I could end up making this column twice as long if I covered all the options, and I don’t want to do that, so now…
I turn things over to you. What do you want to see out of War Games this year? Would you rather see the “Raw vs Smackdown” format, or one main dedicated storyline, whether it’s The Bloodline or not? If you want, you can even give me the full lineup of the War Games match(es) that you want to see at Survivor Series. As always, you can hit me up in the comments section below, or on Twitter (@HustleTheSavage), and let me know what’s on your mind.
Now, let’s get to my Weekly Power Rankings, before I close things out with the playlist of songs I’ve been listening to during the creation of this column.
Weekly Power Rankings
MJF vs Kenny Omega: When it was announced, I think most people expected something that would be on the shorter side, and that would feature a ton of interference, so you could “protect” this matchup. These two had never faced each other before, so it could’ve been viewed as important to keep their first “real” match on a major pay-per-view instead of on a random episode of Collision. What we ended up getting was another instant classic for both men. Yes, you can argue about putting this together in a few days for a show that will almost undoubtedly feature a very low viewership number. However, the match was incredible, and I want to focus on that. The roll that MJF is on right now will be talked about for a long, long time. His critics wondered if he could work face, and he has proven that he can be one of the top faces in the business. The critics also wondered if he could have as much impact with his in-ring work as he does his promo and character work, and all he’s done is having Match Of The Year contender after Match Of The Year contender. It has been a beautiful thing to witness.
Kazuchika Okada & Orange Cassidy vs Bryan Danielson & Claudio Castagnoli: We got Danielson vs Okada at Forbidden Door, and it led to Danielson suffering a broken arm and needing to miss two months of action. Less than two months after returning, we got Danielson and Okada in the same ring again… and it led to Danielson suffering a broken orbital bone and will require him to miss at least two more months of action. The rumor is that we’re getting Okada vs Danielson at New Japan’s Wrestle Kingdom 18 on January 4th. As much as I am looking forward to that, perhaps we shouldn’t tempt fate and risk Danielson getting injured yet again. I’m obviously half-serious there, but the man only has a limited amount of time left in his career. Having to keep spending chunks of it on injured reserve doesn’t seem ideal.
Becky Lynch vs Lyra Valkyria: I’ve been telling you for a while now that Shawn Michaels views Lyra Valkyria as a major star for NXT, and here’s the proof. After an incredible match, Lyra is the one to end Becky Lynch’s fun NXT Women’s Title reign. I don’t think Lyra is quite connecting with the NXT audience the way she should be to match up with the push she’s being given, but if she keeps putting on performances like this, look for that to change.
Kyle Fletcher vs Konosuke Takeshita: Oh, hey, another really good singles performance from Fletcher, who continues to make the most of his bookings while his tag partner, Mark Davis, is out with a wrist injury. On the other side of the ring… oh, hey, another really good singles performance from Takeshita, who continues to show the world that he will/should be an AEW World Champion in 2024.
MJF vs Juice Robinson: Even with the bump in the road that they hit during the build to this match (how big of a bump depends on your personal point of view), this was still a lot of fun. Juice Robinson’s character isn’t for everyone, but when his number is called on, he is consistently able to deliver quality matches, whether it’s with AEW or New Japan.
Sami Zayn vs Drew McIntyre: There seems to be a lot of jogging in place when it comes to Drew McIntyre right now. We’re waiting to see if he turns heel or not, but we’re also waiting to see if he’s in the final stretch of his time with WWE. His contract was originally set to expire at the end of 2023, but some injury time was tacked on, which has him currently contracted to WWE until just after WrestleMania 40 in April 2024. He’s still a really good worker, but fans are waiting for WWE to give him something more substantial to do right now. It feels like we’ve been teasing a heel turn for months now.
Dragon Lee vs Cedric Alexander: This was Cedric’s longest televised match in over nine months. Sure, he doesn’t exactly have a ton of appearances in that span, but I’m trying to find the positive here, okay? Triple H has proven himself to be a much bigger fan of Cedric than Vince McMahon was, so we’ll see what the man’s future holds. Performances like this only show that he deserves more than he’s been getting.
Mike Santana vs Ortiz: Their real-life friendship coming to an end and leading to a bitter dislike (hatred?) of each other has been well documented. Even when they returned to AEW to work along side each other, they couldn’t even make eye contact. It was sad. While there’s no telling if their relationship can be repaired, it’s at least promising that they’ve been able to make the decision to feud with each other on television. Their promos against have each other have, obviously, been full of real emotion, and this match was full of that real emotion, as well. It looked like they hate each other, because they very well might. It makes for entertaining viewing, but again, it’s still sad.
Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods vs Chad Gable & Otis: I’m interested to see Akira Tozawa being a part of the Alpha Academy stable. I would love to see Tozawa be able to keep the comedic side that he has been excelling at recently, but also becoming more of a serious in-ring performer. Most of the WWE Universe has no idea what he’s capable of in the ring, because they haven’t been given an opportunity to see him as more than a joke. He’s in the perfect spot for that right now, as both Chad Gable and Otis have been able to keep the comedic side to their act while growing in the ring as legitimate threats. We’ll see, I guess.
Jey Uso vs Damian Priest: The “I trust Jey Uso now/I still don’t trust Jey Uso” World Tour continues on. He continues having really good matches, but holy shit, the aftermath to SummerSlam has been an absolute nightmare for WWE programming and the ability to move forward. We’re all trapped in quicksand and unable to go anywhere.
AR Fox vs “Switchblade” Jay White: The next challenger for the AEW World Title or the man who has never won a singles match on AEW television… not exactly a surprise who won this one. It has become a bit of an AEW speciality these days, but in regular fashion, the matches continue to be a ton of fun, so they keep happening. This was no different.
Dax Harwood vs Ricky Starks: I’m still not sure that I’ve seen a bad Dax Harwood match in AEW. It doesn’t matter if he has a tag partner or not. He just goes out there and delivers high quality performances. All credit to him. He has earned it.
WWE Attempting World Domination: 2023 has seen WWE leave the continent of North America for Backlash (Puerto Rico), Night Of Champions (Saudi Arabia), Money In The Bank (England), and the upcoming Crown Jewel (Saudi Arabia again) event. That’s not even counting their trip to India for the Superstar Spectacle show, and it isn’t counting their house show tours, either. We already got the news that February 2024 will see them travel to Western Australia for Elimination Chamber, and now comes the news that they’ll be heading to Germany in August for Bash In Berlin, a new pay-per-view. Is that not enough? It is also being reported that the 2024 edition of Backlash could be coming to us from Paris, France. If you live outside of North America and have been dying to have WWE hold a major event in your home country, this is an exciting time for you. Who’s next? Japan? Italy? Samoa? The moon?
“Hangman” Adam Page & The Young Bucks vs The Hardys & Brother Zay: It’s still crazy to see Matt Hardy, Jeff Hardy, Matt Jackson, and Nick Jackson in the same ring at the same time in late-2023. I’m not sure how many more opportunities we’ll get to see them work against each other, but here we are.
Becky Lynch vs Indi Hartwell: “The Man” had one job… to go out and raise the profile of several women in NXT by having fun matches with them. She succeeded. Even when she won, her opponents looked great, and their stock was higher than it was before the match began. What a pro.
Cleveland, Ohio: This year’s SummerSlam was held in what might very well be the worst “big city” in all of America… Detroit, Michigan. Not wanting to miss out on the opportunity to keep the streak going, it appears that the 2024 edition of SummerSlam will be held in what might be the second worst “big city” in all of America… Cleveland, Ohio. Good news for residents of Oakland or San Francisco, California… SummerSlam might just be coming to your neck of the woods in 2025!
Tony D’Angelo & Channing “Stacks” Lorenzo vs Andre Chase & Duke Hudson: The match itself was good, but I like that this title change was something of a “reward” for Andre Chase after the effort he has been putting in, turning what should’ve been a do-nothing and go-nowhere character and turning it into one of the most over acts in all of NXT.
LA Knight vs Jimmy Uso: The end of this year’s SummerSlam only looks worse and worse with each passing week. I still have no idea what the hell WWE is doing with Jimmy Uso. He’s still capable of fun matches, but beyond that, everything they’ve done with him since that August night has been really lame.
Mark Briscoe: He made his return after missing about four months due to requiring surgery to repair an injured knee. Even better, his return was apparently ahead of schedule, as there was initial suspicion that he would miss the rest of 2023. It’s good to see him back, and he will be a benefit to AEW and RoH.
Roxanne Perez vs Kiana James: The match was a little corny at times, but that was due to the SUPER SPOOKY Halloween structure, and not due to anything either woman did. It’s crazy to me that it has been seven months since Roxanne dropped the NXT Women’s Title. It feels like it has been much longer than that. You have to assume that she’s going to be back in the mix for a title soon.
This Week’s Playlist: “Boss Talk” by Paul Wall, Trae Tha Truth & Killa Kyleon… “One Me” by Key Glock… “Last One Left” by Brent Faiyaz, Missy Elliott & Lil Gray… “Belong To You” by Brent Faiyaz & Babyface Ray… “Juice 2 Me” by Taking Back Sunday… “Nothing” by Carcosa… “Alone” by Prospective… “Journey To Rebuild” by Lies We Sold… “Crazy Rap (Colt 45 & 2 Zig Zags)” by Afroman… “I’m Bout It, Bout It” by Master P & Mia X… “Down 4 My N’s” by Snoop Dogg, C-Murder & Magic… “It Ain’t My Fault 2” by Silkk The Shocker & Mystikal… “How Ya Do Dat” by Young Bleed, Master P & C-Loc… “Wobble Wobble” by 504 Boyz… “Sky Walker” by Miguel & Travis Scott… “Hypnotized” by Big Gemini… “House Of The Rising Sun” by The Animals… “Panama” by Van Halen… “Comfortably Numb” by Pink Floyd… “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath