It’s a Brand new Survivor Series — sort of.
WWE put a fresh wrinkle into the company’s annual Thanksgiving-time tradition, making Survivor Series about Raw vs. SmackDown vs. NXT. It’s allowed for some dream match combinations and added a little unpredictability to the three brand’s shows leading up the pay-per-view on Nov. 24 from Allstate Arena in Chicago (7 p.m., WWE Network).
The question is, what does this produce, especially with nothing but “brand supremacy” on the line. Does Survivors Series continue to be a showcase for mostly unique, exhibition-like match pairings or will the show produce tangible story arcs and character pushes when it’s over? At worst, this whole thing is a great way to get casual fans’ eyes on the NXT product as they continue their Wednesday night wars with All Elite Wrestling.
Here are five things to watch for at Survivor Series:
The best way to describe this Survivor Series is an All-Star game where superstars across WWE’s brands compete against each other. The issue, as its been for the past three years, is nothing is at truly at stake for the brands except bragging rights that maybe a small portion of the faithful NXT fans truly care about. This format with NXT has been somewhat refreshing, but maybe let the winning brand have the No. 30 entrant in the Royal Rumble or the winner gets to draft someone from the other two brands or the victors gets to challenge for a title on the other two brands at a time of their choosing. Anything is better than nothing at all.
Stake Her Claim
Becky Lynch vs. Shayna Baszler vs. Bayley in a battle of women’s champions has been the best built brand-centric match on the card. This feels like a big deal. Baszler carries herself like a star and feels like a legitimate threat to Lynch — more than anyone outside Bayley, Sasha Banks, Charlotte and Asuka on the main roster. Bayley not letting herself be forgotten in this feud fits her character. There is plenty to pay attention to with a possible Four Horsewomen vs. Four Horsewomen angle forming, maybe laying the groundwork for Lynch vs. Baszler in a future championship match or Bayley getting an uber push.
The two title major title matches — “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt (Universal Champion) vs. Daniel Bryan and Brock Lesnar (WWE Champion) vs. Rey Mysterio — have storylines revolving around family. Mysterio — in what could be a fun throwback match — is trying to get revenge on Lesnar for injuring his son Dominik and an attack on friend Cain Velasquez after beating him at Crown Jewel. Mysterio protected Velasquez by hitting Lesnar with a chair. This no holds barred match could be where this story culminates and Mysterio gets payback and a championship. This would allow Lesnar to go away for awhile, or the former UFC champion keeps steamrolling people.
The other match is a different type of monster vs. underdog storyline. The Fiend, making his first televised title defense, is looking to make Bryan pay for his 2014 betrayal of the Wyatt Family. It will be interesting to see how a ring tactician like Bryan attacks a challenge like The Fiend and if WWE brings back the annoying red lighting. This could just be a pit stop for both as Bryan is hopefully on his way to a feud with Shinsuke Nakamura.
The Strong Survive
This has been the least built match on the card until a little brawl on Friday’s SmackDown, but could steal the show because of the wrestlers involved. AJ Styles, Nakamura and Rodrick Strong have all spent a good portion of their career in Japan and know the strong style well. These three mid-card champions rarely have a bad match when given time and this one should look like nothing else on the card. There isn’t a wrong answer with who wins here, but WWE certainly has a chance to elevate Nakamura and his Intercontinental title — which was needlessly and terribly redesigned.
Make Your Show-case
After weeks of watching each brands talent fight all over the arena, a bunch of mishmosh teams get to go at it for the honor of their shows. WWE hasn’t given the audience enough real reasons to care about these matches.
The men’s match at least has the Triple H factor after he got in the ear of NXT alumni Seth Rollins and Kevin Owens and there is an inter-team feud between Romans Reigns and King Corbin.
On the women’s side, the Kabuki Warriors are wild-cards for Raw and Charlotte and Banks on opposite sides could be fun. Can people like Nikki Cross, Carmella, Dana Brooke or Lacey Evans uses this to help their characters take steps forward?
The NXT teams were not announced as of Saturday, likely the healthy bodies out of WarGames get to wrestle again. You figure Tomaso Ciampa will be on the men’s side after this staredown with Rollins on Wednesday. Rhea Ripley is a solid bet for NXT’s women’s side after pinning Charlotte Flair on Friday’s SmackDown.
Team Raw (Seth Rollins, Drew McIntyre, Kevin Owens, Randy Orton, Ricochet) over Team SmackDown (Roman Reigns, Mustafa Ali, Shorty G, Braun Strowman, Baron Corbin) and Team NXT (TBD), Mens
This match ends in one of the biggest pops of the night when Kevin Owens stuns King Corbin to win it for Team Raw. If NXT win, it will be Tomaso Ciampa taking care of Seth Rollins.
Team SmackDown (Sasha Banks, Carmella, Dana Brooke, Nikki Cross, Lacey Evans over Team Raw (Charlotte Flair, Natalya, Asuka, Kairi Sane and Sarah Logan) and Team NXT (TBD) Women
Adam Cole (c) over Pete Dunne, Kilian Dain or Damian Priest (NXT championship)
Cole opponent will be determined by a triple-threat match at NXT WarGames on Saturday. He has feuds with Ciampa and Finn Balor. They could show up after Cole wins.
The Undisputed Era over The Viking Raiders and The New Day
This is the perfect opportunity to get NXT and the Undisputed Era a win with two of it’s top guys in Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly. A New Day victory seems too predictable. Viking Raiders could work because of the way they’ve been booked on Raw, but NXT needs an early win to build on its threat.
Shinsuke Nakamura over AJ Styles and Roderick Strong
Nakamura and the Intercontinental championship is what benefits the most from a win here, especially if he’s hopefully headed for a feud with Daniel Bryan. Sami Zayn can milk the King of Strong Style winning and there could be plenty of outside interference.
Shayna Baszler over Becky Lynch and Bayley
The money here is in Lynch vs. Baszler somewhere down the line. So Bayley likely taps out to Lynch of Baszler or Baszler taps out Lynch, giving WWE something they can come back to when the time is right. The latter makes Baszler the bigger star.
Bray Wyatt (c) vs. Daniel Bryan (Universal championship)
Bryan will make desperate attempts to win, but The Friend is WWE’s meal ticket right now. He’s not losing. Let’s just hope they finally lose the red lights.
Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Rey Mysterio (WWE championship)
Mysterio winning would get a good pop from the crowd, especially if his son plays a role. Him becoming championship is not out of the question. Unfortunately this feels like WWE teasing it throughout the no disqualification match but Lesnar ultimately prevailing.