WWE Survivor Series 2018
November 18, 2018
Los Angeles, California
Watch: WWE Network
Meet our previewers
- Barry Hess: He’s the Sole Survivor of the VOW Survivor Series team. Follow him on Twitter @BFHess171 and check out his new project Wrestling With Art.
WWE Cruiserweight Championship
Buddy Murphy © vs. Mustafa Ali
Barry Hess: I still do not watch 205 Live. I don’t understand why this roster hasn’t been integrated into Raw, SmackDown Live or NXT-proper yet. I caved and started watching NXT UK, but I’m not budging on this one. Sorry.
5-on-5 Survivor Series Elimination Match
Team Raw (Bobby Roode and Chad Gable, The Revival (Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson), The B-Team (Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel), Lucha House Party (Lince Dorado, Kalisto, and/or Gran Metalik), and The Ascension (Konnor and Viktor)) vs. Team SmackDown (The Usos (Jey Uso and Jimmy Uso), The New Day (Big E, Kofi Kingston, and/or Xavier Woods), Sanity (Alexander Wolfe, Eric Young, and/or Killian Dain), Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, and The Colóns (Epico Colón and Primo Colón))
Barry Hess: I actually enjoy the Raw vs. SmackDown Live dynamic that has come to define Survivor Series since the brand split was reinstituted a few years ago. Sure, it’s goofy because nobody is actually invested in the success or failure of brands over people (nor should they be). Sure, Raw and Smackdown Live characters intermingle at various other shows throughout the year. Sure, it creates head-scratching scenarios where faces and heels suddenly work together or are weighed down by the tired ‘How can they possibly coexist?’ plotline. But it’s the Thanksgiving season and there’s a fun Turkey Bowl-type feel to the proceedings that I find enjoyable on a superficial level.
It’s always amusing to see how 18 wrestlers manage to fit around the ring during these tag team elimination matches without getting in each other’s way or getting in the way of the two guys in the ring (yes, I’m easily entertained, I get it.) Like battle royales, match structure is so very important in traditional Survivor Series matches. These are lengthy matches with a lot of moving parts and they need to have the right mix of ebbs and flows otherwise they can be incredibly boring. There are enough strong workers on both sides for this to be a good match. I’m eager to see how The Revival and The New Day play off each other. I’m also interested to see how Lucha House Party factors into things. This would also be a perfect opportunity to allow Chad Gable to shine if they so choose. The schoolboy roll-ups will be fast and furious with B Team in there, and I honestly forgot teams like Sanity and The Colons were even on the roster at this point. I’m guessing the outcome of this match will be tied to the AOP vs. The Bar match with each brand earning a tag team win in order to build the drama (and I use that phrase very loosely) for which brand will earn supremacy on the night. Predictions: Team SmackDown Live
Champions vs. Champions
AOP (Akam & Rezar) vs. The Bar (Cesaro & Sheamus)
Barry Hess: It feels like The Bar is on the back end of their run as a team. I enjoyed most of their work the past few years, but the act has turned pretty stale as of late and I don’t think there’s much else for them to do of any value, including an impromptu and needless alliance with Big Show. I don’t need Big Show on my screen in 2018. Let’s put him in the Hall of Fame in 2019 and let him move on as a brand ambassador or something. If you want to get really depressed go back and watch any of AOP’s TakeOver matches. These guys have been done no favors on the main roster and have really suffered from the stop/start style of booking on weekly TV. Maybe a long dominating run as tag champions will turn things around, but the tag division isn’t treated with any value anyway so I doubt it will matter. Sad. Predictions: AOP
5-on-5 Survivor Series Elimination Match
Team Raw (Mickie James, Nia Jax, Tamina, Natalya, and Ruby Riott) (with Alexa Bliss, Liv Morgan, and Sarah Logan) vs. Team SmackDown (Carmella, Naomi, Sonya Deville, Asuka, and TBA)
Barry: The women have been on a roll lately and I hope that positive momentum continues. This match is the closest of the traditional elimination matches on the card with a clear face/heel dynamic between the teams. Of course, Natalya really stands out as the lone face on Team Raw; I would have preferred to see a second member of the Riott Squad or Alicia Fox round out a straight heel team. Team SmackDown is currently one member short due to the changes to the card forced by Becky Lynch’s injury. I’m thinking Lana will be the replacement, which is fine because her shortcomings can be hidden in matches like this. I’d really like to see Asuka and Ruby Riott have a nice go, that would be fun. I’d also like to see Sonya Deville get a chance to stand out. I expect quite a bit of ‘story’ in this match, particularly on the Raw side because of the Natalya/Ruby issues. Outside of advancing the brand supremacy narrative, this match feels like it will be a device to advance Nia and Tamina as the new powerhouse female team as Nia’s championship opportunity looms in the near future. I’m thinking the duo destroys everyone before getting DQ’d or counted out or something to that effect. Lots of solemn staring at each other as well. Can’t forget the staring. Asuka should be the sole survivor here…Asuka should be so much more in general. Predictions: Team SmackDown
5-on-5 Survivor Series Elimination Match
Team Raw (Dolph Ziggler, Drew McIntyre, Braun Strowman, Finn Bálor, and Bobby Lashley) (with Baron Corbin and Lio Rush) vs. Team SmackDown (The Miz, Shane McMahon, Rey Mysterio, Samoa Joe, and Jeff Hardy)
Barry Hess: Where to begin with this mess? Is Dolph Ziggler a heel or a face? Is Drew McIntyre a heel or a face? I seriously have no idea. I’ve thought about it more than any sane person should think about such things and I still have no idea. The Dogs of War were definitely heels before McIntyre stepped up to Braun Strowman and split up that group dynamic. The week before the unfortunate announcement of Roman Reigns’ illness it felt like Drew and Dolph had morphed into badass tweener-type characters, while Strowman morphed back into the pure monster heel character. That was just two weeks ago and somehow Strowman is now the babyface on a journey for vengeance after getting screwed out of the Universal Championship at the Crown Jewel event held at a yet to be disclosed location, somewhere between Parts Unknown and Truth or Consequences. Meanwhile, Dolph acts like a heel on Raw, but he’s the sympathetic figure in relation to the Raw vs. SmackDown story after getting screwed over by Shane McMahon in the World Cup finals. This is all ridiculously confusing to even describe on paper, let alone to absorb in a manner that is even the slightest bit entertaining or compelling.
If you read my work you know I’m all for shades of grey in favor of cookie-cutter character types, but characters falling within a grey scale still need to exhibit some sort of fundamental truths; a set of core personality traits or a moral baseline that provides the audience with some sort of compass while navigating through a story. When that compass doesn’t exist you get what we have now: a confusing blend of nonsensical characters and plot lines. Imagine watching any other show on television where you constantly have no idea how to feel about the actions of the main characters. It’s an insane scenario to even think about because it just wouldn’t happen.
Anyway, Strowman is the clear focus of the Raw team as Stephanie McMahon’s mercenary and he’ll likely be the primary focus of this match. At least that could make for some entertaining moments as his plunder spots are usually fun. He’ll have the opportunity to throw Rey Mysterio and Jeff Hardy around, which will make for some great visuals (just don’t ask Miz to catch them!). Bobby Lashley and Finn Balor feel super out of place in this match as does Samoa Joe. I have no idea what to expect from Shane as he is in a weird tweener’ state as well.
If there’s one positive I’ll mention, I do like the fact that SmackDown has fallen short each of the last two years in this annual Survivor Series narrative. It’s a storyline that could bare some fruit a few years down the line similar to a one-sided college football rivalry finally going the other way or something to that effect. All in all, the actual match itself could be good in a vacuum, but the story is so confusing right now it’s hard to see this as anything but an absolute disaster. Predictions: Team Raw
Champion vs. Champion
Brock Lesnar vs. Daniel Bryan
Barry Hess: Well this is, uh, unexpected. Daniel Bryan’s 2018 has been eventful if nothing else. I completely understand why he was used the way he was before re-signing with the company. You can argue that they shouldn’t have put him back on TV until he resigned and you’d be correct, but they did and we got the boring little guy beats big guy story with Big Cass, the worthless Team Hell No nostalgia story with Kane and the watered down version of the Talking Smack feud with The Miz. Now that he re-signed, however, I don’t understand why we aren’t getting the obvious hero’s journey story just begging to be told. We all know what that story should look and feel like so there’s no need to lay it out.
I really wish there was just one supreme hero-type character among the vast wasteland of flawed characters that currently inhabit WWE’s fictional universe. Someone I can unabashedly support each and every week no matter what. Someone that isn’t polarizing (on purpose or otherwise), booed ironically or perceived one way by children and another by adults. Instead, Bryan is now the third major babyface to turn heel in the last six weeks or so. It’s almost as if someone backstage said, hey look how hot Becky Lynch’s character got once we turned her heel. Let’s just do that with everybody!
Will Bryan be interesting as a heel, probably. But Bryan could be interesting wrestling a mop every week on television because he’s a talented performer. Was Al Pacino’s performance in The Godfather Part III good? Yes, it was. Did we need The Godfather Part III? No, no we did not. I would have much rather seen AJ Styles turn heel in this scenario. Sure, you’d still have three major characters turning heel, which in and of itself would impact how the story is viewed by the audience, but at least it would make sense within the continuity of WWE’s overarching narrative. If nothing else, Bryan will no longer be a defacto nostalgia act, which is basically how he’s been presented since the comeback.
As far as this match goes, I don’t know what to expect-like most Brock Lesnar matches. This feels like a big deal (as much as a match booked on less than a week’s notice can feel like a big deal), but I’d be surprised if we got some sort of instant classic just because that hasn’t been Lesnar’s style for a while (at least in singles matches). The match between Styles and Lesnar was probably Lesnar’s best singles match in years (in terms of in-ring output anyway) and I was honestly really looking forward to seeing that again. Without knowing where Bryan’s character is headed it’s difficult to predict how a clean loss would be perceived by the audience. I have no doubt we’ll find out though because Lesnar isn’t laying down here; no chance in hell. Prediction: Brock Lesnar
Champion vs. Champion
Seth Rollins vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
Barry Hess: This could be the match of the night or it could be woefully disappointing. I feel like my preview for every Shinsuke Nakamura match this year is exactly the same, but it’s legitimately how I feel. I’m not anticipating a clean finish, so in that respect it may be a waste of a great match if they are feeling motivated to do something special. I fully expect Dean Ambrose to interfere, but in a way that allows Nakamura to win, not something that will result in a DQ win for Rollins. Predictions: Shinsuke Nakamura
Ronda Rousey vs. Charlotte
Barry Hess: As unfortunate as Becky Lynch’s injury was, I can’t help but feel WWE got a huge Get Out of Jail Free card here. Since Ronda Rousey came into the mix the company has done well making her feel like a big deal and putting her in the best position to develop as a character. Then they put her in Lynch’s orbit, where she was on the brink of being swallowed up and disintegrated like a small star getting sucked into a black hole. That’s not a knock on Rousey as a talent, she’s just nowhere near the level of Lynch at this stage of her career, and pairing them together in a setting like this could have done irreparable harm in my opinion. Instead, we have something that should benefit both characters.
Becky passing the baton to Charlotte was a compelling moment that could have been even better had the execution been more reserved. Rather than the hug, the recent rivals could have taken a page from the Tamina and Nia Jax school of intense staring, maybe throw in a stiff handshake in for good measure. Nevertheless, Charlotte has been entrusted to be Lynch’s proxy, which makes the character instantly more likable. Just a few months ago this match would have felt like a match worthy of the main event of WrestleMania, but now it serves a much different purpose. Losing to Rousey will further the angle between Charlotte and Lynch as well as further Charlotte’s development as the queen who has fallen on hard times. This has potential to be another match of the night contender and I’m excited to see how it goes. Predictions: Ronda Rousey