Survivor Series is less than a week away and absolutely no one is talking about it. I normally wouldn’t advocate for an “off-season”, but it seems that oversaturation and fatigue may be at play here. With Crown Jewel and Evolution being monster events at a more quiet time of year, it looks like wrestling fans are using Survivor Series as a reset before gearing up for WrestleMania season.
I want to focus today’s column on the two matches that have most peaked my interest – Brock Lesnar v A.J. Styles & Becky Lynch v Ronda Rousey. Before I do, some quick thoughts on the rest of the card:
I’m interested in seeing what Seth Rollins can pull out of Shinsuke Nakamura at this point. Nakamura’s matches have largely tanked, even against the likes of A.J. Styles. If Rollins can get something stellar out of him, it will further cement his argument for being the best worker in the WWE. As for the outcome – anything works. Nak could use a clean win to give the U.S. belt the legitimacy it has lacked as of late. Rollins can use a win to further his current momentum. A dusty finish with Nak winning due to interference from Dean Ambrose is definitely on the table. All of those options are acceptable to me – I’ll go with a clean Seth win and shenanigans from Ambrose post-match, not affecting the outcome.
None of the Survivor Series elimination matches are particularly compelling this year. The tag team match looks like an excuse to showcase the Usos and The New Day. Both Nia Jax and Braun Strowman HAVE to win in order to further their respective storylines with Ronda Rousey and Brock Lesnar/Baron Corbin. There isn’t a lot of drama to be had with any of these.
While heel v heel matches generally don’t do it for me, I’m expecting AoP v The Bar to be quite good. AoP have shown in NXT that they can have great matches with the right dance partners. The Bar always bring it and I think Cesaro in particular can excel against wrestlers of their size. The outcome isn’t really in doubt. AoP is likely to win as they are brand new champs and need to be booked strongly.
I’m completely invested in Buddy Murphy defending his cruiserweight title against Mustafa Ali. Ali has been the most consistent performer on that show and I feel like Survivor Series is finally his time. I only wish that this match were taking place in front of a red-hot NXT audience instead of a main roster audience that is likely to be apathetic towards the performers.
Despite what I’d consider a ho-hum undercard, I am finding the top of the Survivor Series card to be fascinating. Unfortunately, the WWE has booked themselves into a corner with both Brock Lesnar v A.J. Styles and Ronda Rousey v Becky Lynch. With that in mind:
The Eternal Optimist Presents: Survivor Series – The Struggle To Book Lesnar/Styles & Rousey/Lynch
Brock Lesnar v A.J. Styles – Can Either Man Afford To Lose?
Brock Lesnar v A.J. Styles was one of my favorite matches of 2017 and EASILY the most compelling Brock Lesnar match in recent memory. I left that match wanting to see it again but never thought we’d get it. Needless to say, I’m head over heels to see this match happening at this year’s version of the event.
Unfortunately, the timing of the rematch seems to have put the WWE in a situation where neither man should lose. A.J. Styles can’t lose to Lesnar two years in a row. If he does, the WWE Title’s prestige drops tremendously. The WWE title has largely been treated like a mid-card championship for the duration of A.J.’s current run. If the WWE doesn’t put A.J. over Lesnar, you can pretty much flush any hopes of rehabilitation for the title down the toilet for the foreseeable future.
On the other hand, Brock Lesnar can’t lose either. It’s clear that the WWE put the Universal Title back on him because they simply don’t have any faith in anyone on the Raw brand to carry the strap in Roman Reigns’ absence. Brock Lesnar is unique in that wins and losses absolutely matter. His entire brand and mystique is based on being invincible. The WWE needs to keep him strong in the hopes that the wrestler who finally beats him for the Universal Title becomes a star in the process. Thus, at least in the eyes of the WWE, Brock Lesnar losing isn’t an option.
So where does that leave us? I suspect that Styles once again gets the short end of the stick. While myself and many other fans feel the need to re-establish credibility in the WWE Title, the company just might not care. With Becky Lynch emerging as the can’t miss superstar that she has become, the brass might consider the WWE Title the second most important belt on the brand. Accordingly, they might rather keep Lesnar strong without regard to the downstream effects on Styles and the WWE Championship.
Brock Lesnar v Roman Reigns has taught me that the WWE gives zero f*cks when it comes to having a wrestler get their “win” back. As much as I hate to say it, I think it’s a rinse and repeat result from Survivor Series 2017. Brock Lesnar takes it home.
Ronda Rousey v Becky Lynch – Can the WWE salvage Ronda Rousey?
Ronda Rousey v Becky Lynch has equally problematic booking issues as Lesnar v Styles but for a completely different reason.
The issue with Rousey v Becky doesn’t revolve around who should win. The answer is obvious. Ronda Rousey can’t lose and Becky Lynch has reached a status where she’s completely bulletproof to wins and losses. In fact, I’d argue that she’s become such an underground cult-like antihero that a loss here would only further her support much in the same way that Daniel Bryan’s lack of inclusion in the 2014 Royal Rumble did for him.
Becky Lynch will be just fine regardless of the outcome on Sunday. All of the issues surrounding this match stem from the impact that is already has had on Ronda Rousey and the continuing impact that this storyline will have going forward.
The WWE has correctly understood that Rousey needs to be the featured act on the biggest of stages for obvious reasons. She’s a global superstar and will bring attention to those events that wouldn’t be there otherwise. While I think that Rousey could handle a heel turn quite well, she’s not as good of a brand ambassador as a heel as she is as a face.
Because of this, WWE has been VERY careful to protect Ronda with her booking. She’s faced Alexa Bliss, Nia Jax, The Riot Squad and The Bella Twins. These were all safe bookings, the type that would allow her to continue to be cheered despite the WWE audience’s penchant to rebel against a mainstream star of her stature on the fast track to WWE success.
The WWE took that theory and lit it on fire by pairing her off with Becky Lynch. Becky Lynch is radioactive to any female superstar that is expected to be cheered. If you’re a face and your name gets called to be opposite Becky Lynch, your days of fan support are OVER. It’s not Ronda’s fault. Although some of the content of her promos has been questionable at best, she’s performed them admirably. She’s just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The WWE needs to figure out how to get past the Becky match without a full-time and permanent revolt against Rousey. The options are limited. Rousey losing isn’t an option. A clean Rousey victory really doesn’t work here either.
On a recent episode of “The Ross Report”, Jim Ross suggested that a happy medium would be to follow in the footsteps of Bret Hart v Steve Austin at WrestleMania 13 and have Becky Lynch pass out while in Ronda’s arm bar. This sounds like a solid idea on paper, but there’s an issue with that logic. Bret Hart turned heel as a result of that storyline, and the WWE is not interested in turning Ronda in any way shape or form.
I’ve been grinding the gears inside of my peasant brain to come up with something that works. The only reasonable outcome to save fan support for Ronda Rousey is a non-finish. Heel wrestlers from both Raw and Smackdown can come out and attack both superstars, leading to a no contest. Becky and Ronda can fight them off and be left battered and bruised in the middle of the ring. A simple head nod signifying that “game recognizes game” can occur, and Rousey and Lynch can both go on their separate ways.
The WWE needed a main event to Survivor Series and they couldn’t avoid this match unless they took the belt off either Rousey or Lynch, something that wasn’t in anyone’s best interest. The WWE has already painted themselves into a corner – they need to figure out a way for Rousey to escape unscathed. This should do the trick.
That’s a wrap kids. Agree or disagree with my thoughts on Survivor Series? SOUND OFF BELOW!
I can best be reached on Twitter @The_Eternal_Optimist. Thank you for reading.