Let’s have a quick lesson on some recent WWE history.
- AJ Styles claims WWE Title Nov. 7, 2017
- Daniel Bryan claims WWE Title Nov. 13, 2018
- Drew McIntyre claims WWE Title Nov. 16, 2020
There are surely other instances of mid-card championship switches, but we’ll focus just on these. However, all of these do have that single element of occurring approximately a week before Survivor Series in each of those years. This isn’t anything you don’t already know, and surely are rolling your eyes toward. Both at me, pointing out the obvious, and secondarily WWE going back to the well with their old playbook to build suspense for one of their tentpole events of the year.
Growing up, Survivor Series was always one of the most fun events because it was unique and offered odd couple matchups and pairings you wouldn’t otherwise think to see, like Hulk Hogan, Jake Roberts and Demolition… OK. How about the Ultimate Warrior, the Road Warriors and the formerly “Modern Day Warrior” Kerry Von Erich? They competed opposite to Mr. Perfect and 3-headed Demolition in 1990. Those classic elimination matches were the backbone of the event. In the early years what would happen is the survivors of each match would be pooled into a battle royale at the end of the show to declare a sole survivor. Now, however, Survivor Series is just the “one time of the year where Raw and Smackdown’s elite stand toe to toe to declare brand supremacy,” or something along those lines.
Even as the elimination matches became less and less of a focus to incorporate more championship matches, the events as a whole have featured countless memorable moments showcasing talents like Undertaker, Bret Hart, HBK and Austin, as well as the debut of Sting in 2014. And where in the past we’ve stood witness to great moments, now that the brand supremacy angle has become normalized all we can do is sit through the month, wait for titles to switch hands and stand idle as stories are paused until after the pay-per-view. Over the last several years, despite the 2019 edition being enjoyable, the show has become more and more predictable; offering very little of interest and too little in terms of stakes.
Although it’s often as futile to argue criticisms about WWE to diehards as it is to convince wayward WWE ex-pat fans that it isn’t all bad, the middle ground offers the best of both worlds… or casts you as a near-senile old-timer sitting on the porch sipping some disgusting lager while reminiscing about the old days, in their eyes. Nonetheless, Survivor Series’ 2020 booking has no defense, especially coming off a great show in 2019. It’s become a supershow in effect, pitting champions against champions, and typically puts a collective of teams whose members loathe each other and can’t work cohesively together. Then at the end of the night, they tally up the wins and losses, and whichever team won the most gets bragging rights; acting like they won an elementary school spelling bee inside their own classrooms. There are just better ways to book the show to make it mean something again.
Given Survivor Series’ proximity to the Royal Rumble, straight away they can connect the two by adding stakes directly to the Rumble. With the focus on title superfights, a number of talents are left off the show, ranging from the members of Retribution who aren’t useless to the Hurt Business and beyond. Feel free to disagree, but there’s some value in adding to the overall total of elimination matches with lower-mid card wrestlers. All you need to do from that point is revive the end-of-night sole survivor battle royale pitting anyone who wasn’t eliminated into a contest for survival. And then to make it worthwhile, the winning participant would move on to the Rumble in the #30 spot or something along those lines. Adding a set of stakes to the show would help rejuvenate the show’s branding, in addition to continuing stories through the show for the sake of making the event worth your time as opposed to recycling the same ideas from prior years. Because at it is booked from year to year, it’s a waste of an event, which is unfortunate.
Drew Takes Orton’s Title While His Morning Coffee is Still Hot
Part of the reason for the quick history lesson at the beginning was because for the third time in four years the WWE title changed hands just before Survivor Series for the sake of the brand vs. brand title matches. This does feel different at first glance, however it’s worth riddling this move with all the necessary questions you’d think to ask in a situation where keeping the belt on McIntyre would have just made more sense as opposed to losing it just three weeks ago.
As with most WWE items these days, it is what it is, and now we have Roman Reigns clashing with McIntyre. This is odd considering you could argue — wrongly, apparently — that the belt was taken from him to protect him from the inevitable loss to Reigns. There’s no debating Orton can take such a loss because he’s one of WWE’s bulletproof stars. So, then why the pivot?
There are a lot of factors to consider. Recent reports still peg Orton and Edge for WrestleMania, and it only seems logical to make it for the title to give Edge the most WrestleMania of WrestleMania moments possible. However, reports have also surfaced citing that Edge’s recovery is going slowly. So who’s to say how that is affecting plans? Because if it is, with the feud doing as well as it is, extending it into the Rumble could make sense.
My working theory at the moment is that McIntyre and Roman will have their match as planned, but Orton will likely interfere and cost Drew the match. Thereby you protect him, keep Roman strong and add a little bit of fuel to Orton and Drew’s tiff; it can be assumed at this point, with the HIAC finality being devalued, this will go on to the Royal Rumble in some form.
The one caveat is that they’ll have to do something with Miz and the briefcase at some point, so Miz actively being in the mix is possible if not very likely. Alternatively he could be used to protect Drew too if he were to cash in following whatever happens during McIntyre’s match with Reigns this Sunday. Then you can focus on Miz-Orton-Drew for the immediate future. With signs still pointing to Edge and Orton, the title would enhance the match. While it may not be needed, it also won’t hurt and will differentiate that match from their other contests from the first few months of 2020.
In a very, very, very rare stroke of good booking, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what’s going down within the WWE Championship picture; there are multiple avenues to travel down even if Orton exiting the Rumble as champion is the end result.
Above all however, if this plays out as it seems like it may, having Reigns defeat Drew uncleanly will indirectly set up a future match between the two. Unfinished business has an interesting way of being settled in WWE with WrestleMania just around the corner.