View Full Version : Smark is the New Mark- Revivor Series

11-15-2018, 03:23 AM
Good choice, my dear reader. Thanks for coming back for the second ever edition of the relaunched "Smark is the New Mark." It's a big milestone for me. This week, we're going to talk about Survivor Series, for those of you who are bad at making inferences. But, before we do that, there's a TON of happenings in the world of WWE that just has to be addressed. But to be honest, there's just not enough time I can spend diving deep into each one. Here on "Smark is the New Mark," we're only going to talk about things that help me effortlessly put digital words to digital paper. So what we'll do first is something of a lightning round. It's like my own personal twitter feed for wrestling thoughts that I just am not going to expound upon. If it's a big hit, and we make it to a third edition, I'll bring it back.

Daniel Bryan is the WWE champion. Appreciate that. One year ago, we had no idea he'd even be back. He first won the title as a heel. He is now a heel. I'm fine with that. Daniel Bryan stood out in 2013 because he was far and away better than most of his peers. This is a very different company, now. His rise back to the title as a babyface would never top his WM 30 triumph. Done.

I realize that Braun Strowman and Becky Lynch are two of the most popular stars in WWE right now. But remember that few people gave a fuck about Becky until WWE started positioning her in a way to make you give a shit. There are other wrestlers in the company right now that could get just as hot as she is, if they were allowed to do so. Same with Strowman. People want Strowman to win the Universal title. A huge win for WWE and Vince, right there. Because they've made you forget that he is really not very good in the ring. When WWE starts booking someone, and you invest in them, realize that it's incredibly asinine to complain about how they're booked. Because there's other wrestlers just as talented that you don't care about, because WWE hasn't booked them well.

Also, realize that WWE doesn't give a shit about what you think of the way they run their company. They present on TV and PPV what they want to be seen in a fictional light. You are not owed an explanation for the ethics of booking. When they use Roman Reigns' leukemia to heat up Ambrose, it's genius. Because if you don't let yourself be a fan, you feel outraged with them instead. The lesson here is that you should probably save yourself a headache, and start watching a fan instead of an insider. If you're going to analyze booking, might as well be able to take your emotion out of it. Because the emotion generated by the fiction is and has always been the blood of Vince McMahon's company.

I'm incredibly sad to hear about Roman Reigns. My sister had leukemia. I wish him the best. It's a shame that his legacy, as it stands, was that many fans just couldn't embrace him, which ultimately delayed his story arch time and time again. The entire time, AJ Styles comfortably took the mantle of the now imaginary throne as, "The Guy." AJ Styles has been presented as a more consistent figure at the top of the mountain than Roman ever was. Roman Reigns spent his career suffering from resentment built up in anticipation of what fans thought he would be, not what actually ever materialized. I hope he recovers soon, and fans like us can realize what we had with him. Because trust me, when it comes to Roman or Strowman, and give it time, you'll wish you had Roman back. Guy had it all.

ALRIGHTY THEN. That was more long winded than it was intended to be. Whatever.

TIME FOR THE MAIN COURSE. First, let's get conceptual, then we'll get concrete and talk about this year's card. Listen, I've always had an affection for Survivor Series in the way some fans have for the Rumble. I love elimination matches, particularly the Survivor Series tag matches. They contain such an ability to surprise you at any given moment. They create drama, and keep you on the edge of your seat. It's like watching a thrilling sports game that you know is going to come down to the wire. Advantage swings one way, then the other, and everybody loves a good comeback. On top of that, they've always been unpredictable to me. Oddly enough, it seems as though the stronger-looking team often loses just as much as they win. It's a thing, trust me. But the biggest thing the matches themselves do is they contain an entire range of possibilities for the story to play out. Watching those stories unfold is the most fun part of these matches. For me, it's just as fun as the Rumble, because every moment in these matches has consequence, and the tide can turn in an instant.

So, needless to say I look forward to Survivor Series every year. But starting in 2006, I began a long drought of disappointment with the annual event. The staple of the fall classic always works best when the 5-on-5 matches take center stage. But for years, we got throwaway versions of the match that, while there were good versions, were missing a sense of importance. High stakes in these matches is what's become the pinnacle of drama in WWE's history. Team Alliance vs. Team WWF. Team Austin vs. Team Bischoff. Team Orton vs. Team Triple H. You get the idea. It wasn't until 2014 that we got a return to form with Team Authority vs. Team Cena. Going into that match, Ziggler had begun to rise back from obscurity, and I was rooting for his success at every turn. Going into that match, I really only cared about Ziggler. I kept thinking to myself, "once Ziggler is eliminated, I'm not going to be into this match at all." What followed was one of the most satisfying experiences I've ever had watching any match. Ziggler, the guy who wasn't supposed to win, who kept hitting the glass ceiling, somehow overcame 3 men and a whole cast of characters to stand tall at the end of the night. You see, another strength of this event is that it's a damn good time of year to elevate someone. Historically, it doesn't always work out, but for one night, it can give you a glimpse of something special. And it happens right before your eyes as the match unfolds. Not week to week, as most pushes do. I like the idea that on one night, a guy can go from just being a guy, to feeling like something special. Roman, Kofi, Ziggler, Hardy, Cody Rhodes...all felt like they were on the cusp of something special after wins at Survivor Series.

Up until 2014, it's felt like a throwaway event. But in the last few years, it's been one of the biggest talking point events each year. And that's because the high stakes feel of the event has returned. Each year since 2014, we've felt like we're about to see something special. And in the past two years, it's had a sense of uncertainty and chaos surrounding the card, with championships being won and lost, changing up the card completely. I'm totally okay with that. It's now taken on the "Raw vs. Smackdown" theme, which isn't exactly something that gets fans excited, but it produces an enormous unintentional benefit: Dream matches. Earlier this year, Styles vs. Nakamura was billed as "The Dream Match." But it underdelivered. Why? Because the story had to continue, and the first bout had to exist in the larger context of being one chapter in a feud. That doesn't happen at Survivor Series. Which boils each bout down to one purpose: let's find out who's better. And it does it with the benefit of giving us matches we aren't likely to see again, at least not soon. Not only this, but it gives us 5-on-5 matches that are incredibly unique, with heels and babyfaces on each side. This makes for excellent storytelling and sense of character development. It's why the 2016 men's version worked so well, as the match had to address the relationships between the competitors and teammates equally. It's also why I was AMPED UP for the 2017 version, which I thought was going to be an epic on the same level of it's predecessor. I was crushed by the execution, to say the least.

This year, we're getting THREE DREAM MATCHES. Rollins vs. Nakamura. Flair vs. Rousey. Lesnar vs. Bryan. Take a moment to appreciate that. If you can't, I don't know if you can be pleased. If you always save matches that COULD be on Wrestlemania for Wrestlemania, then you don't rebuild the excitement and reputation for Survivor Series. It's that simple. If you don't put something special on the card, it doesn't feel special.

That being said, let's look at the card really quickly.

Seth Rollins vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
I think this could be the match that we thought we'd get from Styles and Nakamura. I see this being an opener, and I think Nakamura is going to win, as Smackdown needs a point here that it can't get elsewhere.

20 Man Tag Teams Tag Team Elimination Match
If you are one of the people advocating for women's tag titles, this match is the greatest argument against it. I think women's tag division is going to laughably weak, considering the state of each brand's tag division as it is. I hope the Revival gets to shine a bit, but I think this one is pretty obviously going to Smackdown, with New Day and The Usos being the only franchise teams present, and both on the same side. I'm looking forward to this, though, as the 2016 version was pretty enjoyable. Another point for Smackdown.

Brock Lesnar vs. Daniel Bryan
I feel strange about this one. When Styles vs. Lesnar was announced, I was excited. Because I thought Styles had a serious chance, unlike last year. When AJ pulled the Paul Heyman line, "That's not a prediction, that's a spoiler," I became even MORE excited. When Heyman went to deliver the line on Raw, and was interrupted before he could finish, I became THRILLED. Because I thought: AJ's going to win. And then Daniel Bryan won the WWE title, thereby undoing the conundrum of not redoing the same result, but not beating Brock. And in that desire to see a smaller wrestler beat Brock, I was disappointed. Because I know Bryan isn't going to win, here. Nevertheless, it's a match we never thought we'd see, and I'm counting my lucky stars that we finally get it. How will it play out? I have no idea. I'm cautiously optimistic that it gets the chance to be what we've always wanted it to be, but I also think it could disappoint if it doesn't ignore the fact that Bryan is now a heel. Because heel Bryan gets squashed here. Let's hope that's not the case. Point for Raw.

Charlotte Flair vs. Ronda Rousey
I don't really know what to say about this one. If you're a fan of Becky, this is best case scenario for her. Because Becky would've lost this match. This has been THE match that we've speculated would happen at Wrestlemania, the biggest women's match that can happen in WWE. And it's happening at Survivor Series, with very little build. I'm fine with that. Because I don't see a natural story between Charlotte and Ronda that would really resonate as much as the one with Becky and Ronda has. So if you take this match off the table, the Becky match gets saved for later. Fine by me. Ronda's not losing this, either. How she wins, I have no idea. It might be a good time for Ronda's friends to show up. And I'm also not sure if this will live up to the in-ring expectations, either, considering Ronda's best matches have reportedly had to be practiced thoroughly beforehand. I hope they deliver. Savour this one. Point for Raw.

5 on 5 Women's Tag Team Elimination Match
I'm going to do a little reverse booking on this one, and assume that Smackdown's women are going to win. I think that was definitely the plan before, with Charlotte as captain. And I still do. I think WWE needs to split wins in the tag and women's division so as not to bury either brand's division, but then again, they usually find another way to bury the divisions anyway. The Raw side is mostly heels, which is telling. Raw didn't put its best women in this match. It put a collection of women that you'd root against, and Natalya. Which means we're supposed to root for Smackdown. So, go Asuka. Point for Smackdown.

AOP vs. The Bar w/ Big Show
Well, this is interesting. I was convinced that The Bar would ultimately be the ones to beat The Bludgeon Brothers, becoming faces by proxy with a series of hard-hitting matches. Rowan's injury may have changed that plan. So here we are. I expect The Bar to play the babyfaces here against the larger AOP, which should be fun for one night only. But AOP desperately need this win for credibility's sake. The Bar will be fine, and will look vulnerable going into a feud with the Usos after this. I think. Point for Raw.

Buddy Murphy vs. Mustafa Ali
I almost forgot about this. I hope they aren't used as a cooldown match, and can actually have another lights-out match. I said, "I hope." I expect this to be a step down from their previous bouts. These big 4 showcase matches aren't really showcases at all. They really underplay the quality of what's going on in 205 Live. Anyway, I expect Buddy Murphy to win. Point for 205 Live.

5 on 5 Men's Traditional Tag Team Elimination Match
SUPER GLAD that WWE has learned their lesson by not putting a bunch of part-timers in this match. I mean, Shane's in there, but Shane was in there for the 2016 version, and he didn't hurt the match much. I hope he takes a backseat here. I am looking forward to this, but I'm already convinced that I know how it ends. Drew McIntyre is going to look like a break out star in this one, murdering most of the Smackdown side. I expect Braun and Joe to be out early, so as to balance out the teams into a a clear divide of Smackdown being the faces and Raw being the heels. I think this should take a page out of 2013's playbook and have Ziggler and McIntyre deal all the killing blows to Team Smackdown. I wouldn't be surprised to see Ziggler actually survive the match, but expect the focus to be on Drew. Braun will still get what he wants, as promised by Stephanie. Point for Raw. Game, set, match.

That's how I see it shaking out. But then again, I also thought Miz would win the World Cup. Boy, was I ever wrong. As turned off as I was by Crown Jewel, I'm amazed at how enthusiastic Survivor Series has made me. If WWE can keep up this trend for years to come, I think we may be looking at a new "Smark Wrestlemania." And that's a great line to linger on for me to make my exit. *backs away slowly*

11-15-2018, 07:17 AM
Be excited that Shane is in the 5 on 5 match. After all, he is the best in the world.

I've always thought that doing the Raw v Smackdown thing was a total cop out for Survivor Series. This line is something I'd never considered though:

It's now taken on the "Raw vs. Smackdown" theme, which isn't exactly something that gets fans excited, but it produces an enormous unintentional benefit: Dream matches. Earlier this year, Styles vs. Nakamura was billed as "The Dream Match." But it underdelivered. Why? Because the story had to continue, and the first bout had to exist in the larger context of being one chapter in a feud. That doesn't happen at Survivor Series. Which boils each bout down to one purpose: let's find out who's better.

I'm going to bear that in mind whilst watching this years version and see if it changes my mind about the over use of brand supremity.

11-15-2018, 08:19 AM
I think the element of surprise you mentioned that this PPV can bring, is why trying to predict winners for this event is always daunting. WWE will be contrarian for the sake of it at least once. Im most intrigued by Bryan and Lesnar, as neither can truly suffer a pinfall here. It has to be interference or Bryan DQ, right? But do they really paint Lesnar as a face?!? So many questions on that match.

Anyway good write up here, welcome back to the CF.

Don Franc
11-15-2018, 02:41 PM
I must admit that I'm rather excited for this event as the matches on display are mouth-watering. Although, the execution has to be there. This card truly has the potential to be one of the best matches on the card. I'm not really feeling the tag elimination match because I feel it is too clustered. But maybe they could get rid of all the teams quickly and perhaps just have an extra 7 or 8 minutes of Usos vs Revival? It won't happen it that structure of the match would make it better in my view.

11-15-2018, 05:31 PM
Hammy!! Great to see you back, and with a really meaty (ha, ha) column as well. Lots of thoughts to share on this one...

I have mixed feelings about the Bryan stuff. I'm very stoked that he's world champion again, and I agree wholeheartedly that he's shown he can be an amazing heel, so I think it'll go well. It did feel very strange to hear about it though, both the title win and the heel turn seemed to come so completely out of nowhere. I think I'd have been more engaged with more of a build. There's not much reason to boo Bryan right now, and even though fans will likely cheer him no matter what, some kind of more overt reason would have been nice.

I feel like Becky has been ready for a bigger push for a while, but I definitely take your point that there are lots of people who could benefit from some better presentation courtesy of WWE. No argument there at all, it's one of their chief problems in my mind!

Now here's one thing we disagree on, I can't really get on board with WWE using someone's cancer as a way to try to build a storyline. I'm not saying it's wrong if you enjoy that kind of thing, but I don't think you can call it "genius" if it's put a bad taste in the mouth of a section of the fandom. I moved away from watching a whole lot of WWE a few years ago, and these attempts to do "shooty" storylines based around real life tragedies is one of the reasons, so I feel like it costs them at least a few fans. If your storyline needs to capitalize on real human suffering to get over, then it's probably not gonna be to my taste as a fan.

I definitely think Roman caught a lot of crap from stuff that wasn't his fault though, so we're on the same page there!

Ok, on to the main subject of the column... I'm a Rumble guy myself but like you I also have a soft spot for Survivor Series. When they're done well, the elimination matches really are a whole lot of fun. Like you, I was captivated by the early to mid 00s matches that were filled with strategy, character development, and consequence. I've been less excited than you about some of the recent versions, but I really appreciate them trying to give a bigger emphasis again, not to mention adding more matches for other divisions (the tag team ones are a personal favorite!). I do find it a bit disappointing when the results of the matches seem to have no consequence, for instance you mentioned that big win for Ziggler in 2014, and it sucks to look back and see how absolutely nothing came of it except that lousy (in my opinion) Sting/HHH match.

One thing I do have to strongly disagree on is that a first time match is likely to underwhelm because the story needs to continue. I think that's a major copout, even just this year you can look at the Ciampa/Gargano first match to see that's not the case. I'd Styles/Nak underwhelmed consistently because the story wasn't very compelling and because Nak has declined from where he was a few years back. First time matches can definitely deliver and have frequently over wrestling history, even if a rematch was planned to come soon after. Having standalone matches at Survivor Series does have some benefits, I agree, but I think they also run the risk of being exhibition-y and ultimately forgettable. Not always, but there's a risk I think.

Glad you shouted out Murphy and Ali, and the great work they've done on 205 Live. I think I've watched more 205 than any other WWE program this year, and I haven't regretted doing it. I agree that Ali and Murphy probably won't be given the time to deliver on the same level, and even if they do hit that same high level they'll almost certainly do it on the pre-show. Ah well, 205 remains WWE's best kept secret apparently.

Oh, and you say Shane didn't hurt the match in 2016... well he sure hurt himself, didn't he? ;) In all seriousness, hopefully they don't rely on the stunts he's getting way too old to do and we avoid another scary situation.

All in all, this was good stuff. You come across very strong with your opinions but that's not necessarily a bad thing, not everyone is going to agree but if you're giving forceful arguments then at the very least you'll always get some discussion! Really digging these, Hammy, I might suggest just a touch more proofreading but you're well on your way to making an impact around here.