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RAW Deal: Survival of the fittest

The more I think about it, the more I like the setup of this year’s Survivor Series.

What they liked doing before was either a) slapping a huge storyline around two feuding superstars and building a big Survivor Series match around it, or b) throwing together a random 5-on-5. 'A' happens when you have big moments like Team Cena vs Team Authority, or Team Bischoff vs Team Austin. 'B' happens more often, with the earliest Survivor Series event having 10-man tags for the sake of, or a bunch of faces are grouped together to fight a team of the heels they’re currently feuding against. 

Last year, the idea of the elimination tag match was completely put on the sideline as the vacant WWE Championship was front and center, with a completely random Survivor Series match being made on the spot.

This year feels like it’s another set of thrown-together Survivor Series matches. It’s not hard to see why—the New Brand Split is still in its infancy, and there wasn’t that much time to build up at least 8 or 10 men in each brand to deliver one good elimination tag match each. So they go with the built-in story, the easiest to turn to: brand warfare, highlighted once upon a time when brands were at their most hostile. When they had to make a separate, although redundant event called Bragging Rights for it.

At first, I didn’t have much to think of it. My first real Survivor Series was 2003, so I was brought up on the Bischoff/Austin and Angle/Lesnar storylines, and both were very well-executed. We were spoiled again when Team Cena vs. Team Authority happened a couple of years ago. I always thought that Survivor Series was the best place to blow off big feuds by putting them in 10-man skirmishes—the possibilities were really endless. The thought of reverting to brand warfare just seemed uninspired.

But the more I thought about it, and the more I watched the shows go about the three big matches, the more it made some sense to me. It’s not perfect—far from it, as WWE tends to be—but there’s a great idea in there, a solid mold from where stories can organically spring up from every year. Should they write it like this every year, that is.

I’ve mentioned that the best drama in pro wrestling comes whenever they stick to the rules, or a simple format, like they were actual sports leagues. This is why the Cruiserweight Classic was such a success, and why the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic came back for another year, and why the King of the Ring tournament works in theory. People like organized things, because rules and restrictions breed creativity, and creativity breeds drama one way or another.

Think of it this way. Let’s take a look at Team SmackDown: it’s a volatile mix of personalities, with AJ Styles, Dean Ambrose, Randy Orton, Bray Wyatt, and Shane McMahon. (We’ll talk about that later.) Right now the feud is AJ Styles vs Dean Ambrose (with a side of James Ellsworth), and Randy Orton vs Bray Wyatt, but from their single interaction as a unit on Survivor Series could spring, in the best-case scenario, a number of possibilities. We could get hints of AJ Styles vs Bray Wyatt, AJ Styles vs Randy Orton, Dean Ambrose vs Randy Orton. Had Baron Corbin stayed on the team, he would’ve made previews of the freshest matchups among the others on the team.

And the fact that both brands are competing for superiority already elevates the status of Survivor Series again. Even if there aren’t any tangible stakes for both sets of authority figures, the metaphorical stakes are still enough, a strong enough reason to write a story around. But imagine if the winner of Survivor Series gets like a #1 draft pick in a yearly draft? What if every year, there was a pool of five or six NXT prospects for the brands to draft from? Imagine the millions of possibilities available if they just stuck to a format that seemed legit.

It’s really what this year’s Survivor Series represents—less on the actual idea, but a lot more on the different possibilities ideas like this can bring. It’s a tall order considering how inconsistent WWE creative could be, but it doesn’t hurt to be a little optimistic.

And now, a quick word on Shane McMahon

If you didn’t know already, Shane McMahon replaced a kayfabe-injured Baron Corbin on Team SmackDown. I still don’t know what the direct endgame is for this move, only that it has to do with the inevitable Brock Lesnar feud for which they planted the seeds at SummerSlam. I’m not sure how it’s getting there at all, only that it is.

It obviously puts Team SmackDown at a creative disadvantage. Shane McMahon is not a good addition that matches up with the team full of legitimate wrestlers on RAW. The onscreen booking doesn’t even support this—remember, he lost to Undertaker at WrestleMania, and he ate an easy F5 from Lesnar at SummerSlam. It even makes both him and Daniel Bryan look like terrible showrunners when they have guys like The Miz (even though Bryan has a personal vendetta against him) and Apollo Crews waiting in the wings, if they really didn’t want to run with Corbin. So many opportunities blown.

Do you listen to podcasts? Would you want to listen to a local podcast about pro wrestling? If the answers to those questions – especially that last one – are yes, then you should check out the cleverly-named Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast, featuring Mellow 94.7 DJ and PWR General Manager Stan Sy, wrestling writer and Wrestling God Romeo Moran, and all-around multimedia person and former voice of PWR Raf Camus! This week, the boys go all in on this past week of terrible political and social events, including Marcos and Trump! –