Happy Monday, TJRWrestling faithful! It’s the week of Survivor Series and there’s a lot to cover – so let’s get to it. Welcome to the Week In Preview for World Wrestling Entertainment, November 12th 2018.
Raw (Sprint Center, Kansas City MO)
Announced: Appearances by Stephanie McMahon and Brock Lesnar have been announced by WWE, as well as Alexa Bliss announcing her Survivor Series team picks.
What to expect: The very least we should expect from Raw tonight is to confirm its teams for Sunday’s traditional five-on-five elimination matches. Bliss will end up perming five from Alicia Fox, Mickie James, The Riott Squad, Bayley, Sasha Banks, Natalya, Nia Jax, Ember Moon and Tamina. Ruby’s trio and Tamina look like outside bets, while whether Bliss can lever her buddies Fox and James in ahead of the other five may be a central plot point. Kurt Angle might remain a candidate for one of the two spaces on the men’s team. Don’t bet against Bobby Lashley vs Finn Balor happening (again) to fill the other one. The entirety of Raw’s tag team quintet will also need to be announced. Is this one of the things Stephanie McMahon will be taking care of? Probably. She’ll also probably be criticizing her brother for winning the ‘World Cup’ tournament at Crown Jewel and threatening to sack someone if Raw doesn’t bring home a crushing victory at Survivor Series.
Some quick notes on other points that should be followed up tonight: Seth Rollins may be more preoccupied with Dean Ambrose than his Survivor Series opponent, Shinsuke Nakamura. AOP were supporting actors to the Rollins/Ambrose drama when they became new Tag Team Champions last week, so a segment to properly establish them is likely. Ronda Rousey will likely shoot back in what’s been an entertaining war of words with Becky Lynch. Ember Moon will probably seek some payback on Nia Jax after Jax’s heel turn, while Ruby Riott breaking Natalya’s dad’s sunglasses – random as it was – will probably also get revisited. Baron Corbin, if he isn’t being set arbitrary performance targets by Stephanie McMahon, will probably be trying to rile up or avoid both Kurt Angle and Braun Strowman. Finally, a potentially important note: SmackDown doesn’t have a house show scheduled tonight – so the chances of some of Team Blue showing up here on the go-home Raw before Sunday is pretty high.
Spotlight: What’s the plan with Kurt Angle right now? The last couple of weeks haven’t been the best for the Olympic hero and Hall of Famer. Having talked a big game ahead of Crown Jewel and (as an iconic name in front of a Saudi audience that had requested them) looking set to be a key player in the ‘World Cup’ tournament, he was put away by Dolph Ziggler, relatively clean, in eight minutes. Then last Monday, things got worse. Angle took a strong loss to Drew McIntyre, with McIntyre putting him away with an Olympic Slam and Ankle Lock. Angle tapping out to his own signature moves proved two things: Drew McIntyre, firstly, looks a very good bet to be among the talents stepping up in WWE’s ranks in the indefinite absence of Roman Reigns. Kurt Angle, secondly, isn’t presented as being as invulnerable as fellow legends of a similar age (such as Triple H or even Kane).
I have conflicting feelings about this. On the one hand, this is probably the way things should be; Angle is a part-timer and, by any objective measure, past his prime. To not accept these facts of nature would lead to…. Well, would lead to the elevation of pedestrian tag team matches to main events in Saudi Arabia, or an increased chance of featured spots at WrestleMania going to part-timers. The recent Evolution pay-per-view had it right, with Trish Stratus and Lita opening the show in a low-key tag match; one doesn’t put Trish in with Ronda Rousey and expect the audience to suspend disbelief. On the other hand though, this is the kind of treatment the likes of Triple H and Kane get. It can also go too far the other way. Ziggler and McIntyre have already beaten Angle with so much ease, Baron Corbin will look more of a mug than usual if he loses the match we’d have to assume is coming between them before long.
I’m not asking for Angle to work a full television schedule in 2019, nor am I particularly keen to see an abbreviated retirement tour (though of the two, the latter seems more likely right now). Something in between seems reasonable to expect, where Angle will be able to tick a few more opponents off his bucket list in WWE before hanging up his boots. Ambrose, Rollins, most of the main guys from SmackDown – not having a match with Daniel Bryan would be a crime – would be examples, but could there be any doubt how this Kurt Angle would fare in those matches? If Angle’s retirement is likely to come sooner rather than later, I’m all for him doing so in a well-developed storyline that sees him rage against the dying of the light. However, I’d like to see a few final dream matches between now and then that aren’t as one-sided as last week’s defeat to McIntyre suggests they should be.
SmackDown Live (Enterprise Center, St. Louis MO)
Announced: Nothing announced at time of writing.
What to expect: Daniel Bryan’s meltdown at the end of last week’s SmackDown, where he attacked his Survivor Series co-captain The Miz and (less deliberately) Shane McMahon will probably be addressed. The question, as with pretty much all Survivor Series teams nowadays, will be over whether they can co-exist. Randy Orton apparently continuing to target Rey Mysterio may also be an issue for Team Blue’s male quintet (at present Mysterio’s on the team, while Orton isn’t). The women’s five should also be finalized here, with the two question marks to resolve being whether Charlotte Flair will turn up to lead the team and if Mandy Rose will continue to kick up a stink about Sonya Deville making the cut and her being left out.
The Usos should add three more tag teams to their Survivor Series line-up, joining The New Day. As with Raw, there aren’t an excess of teams on SmackDown that would make the picks any surprise; Gallows & Anderson, The Colons and SAnitY seem to be the only teams who aren’t The Bar or dealing with injury problems. If SAnitY is one of the picks, it would be a welcome continuation of the introduction of Nikki Cross to Tuesday nights. Becky Lynch and Shinsuke Nakamura may also address their opposite numbers from Raw one more time before Sunday; similarly to tonight, there’s no house show booked for the other brand, so the chance of cross-promotional appearances here are again fairly high.
Spotlight: When Becky Lynch says she’s “the talk of the entire industry” it seems very difficult to disagree. Last week’s ‘here I am’ promo was the latest of a series of red-hot performances that have seen a resurgence in her character. She is bolder now, more confident, speaking with more conviction and taking more risks. For example, after Nikki Cross came out to accept her open challenge last week (and if you weren’t familiar with Cross, by the way, she’s great and will surely be a subject for another week’s column), Lynch’s “the champ doesn’t play, the champ fights” line certainly didn’t sound like it was part of the first draft. Every promo is the promo of Becky Lynch’s life right now and she is pushing every opportunity she gets to the limit. If we were unsure what ‘grabbing the brass ring’ looked like – and let’s face it, that’s been an infamous study question ever since the phrase entered wrestling jargon – this is probably a sound illustration.
I mentioned this in passing the week before Evolution, but when Alexa Bliss ended Becky Lynch’s previous championship reign at TLC in 2016 it was – in my opinion – due to Bliss becoming too strong a character to leave out of the picture. Watching Lynch now, having had to wait nearly two years for another run with the title, in that light is interesting. Her first reign was pretty unremarkable, likely through little fault of her own; she was no doubt playing a role as written and directed. Then somebody snuck up from behind, outshone her on television and took her spot. Lynch’s work now is that of a woman who knows what it’s like to wait for another chance and is determined not to surrender her spot again without a fight. Nobody’s going to outshine her this time. Not Nikki Cross, not Seth Rollins on Twitter, not Charlotte Flair and not even Ronda Rousey.
This maximum attack mode by Lynch has made a match this Sunday that might’ve been a foregone conclusion into a real talking point. Can she hand Rousey her first loss in WWE? The promos by both women – but Lynch especially – over the last couple of weeks have elevated the champion vs champion bout to the point where it’s being talked about as a possible main event. As for Lynch’s chances of winning it, my feeling is that a couple more weeks of build would’ve been to her advantage. In the hierarchy of WWE’s female talent right now, Rousey is a step up from Flair while Lynch remains an emerging force; I still believe Rousey vs Flair is the WrestleMania feud the company has in mind. Though I’m among many who think Lynch would be the right winner at the right moment this Sunday, she may have to settle for carrying Rousey to her best singles match by far and only coming close. Even that, however, would enhance her reputation further.
Also This Week
Relatively big week for Mixed Match Challenge (Tuesday Facebook Watch/Thursday WWE Network), with Bobby Lashley & Mickie James vs Braun Strowman & Ember Moon, and The Miz & Asuka vs AJ Styles & Charlotte Flair. All four pairs are currently unbeaten in the tournament. On 205 Live (Wednesday, not live) it’ll be Cedric Alexander vs Lio Rush and a tag match pitting Akira Tozawa & Brian Kendrick against Drew Gulak & Jack Gallagher.
Two new episodes of NXT UK (Wednesday) each week seems to be a fixture now. The announced highlights for this double-header include the launch of the brand’s Women’s Championship and the start of a tournament that’ll end in its awarding. Tyler Bate vs Ashton Smith is announced for the first episode, Trent Seven facing off with Zack Gibson is being trailed for the second.
Bianca Belair vs Mia Yim is set for NXT (Wednesday) along with a singles match between one competitor from each WarGames team for the right to carry a numbers advantage in Saturday’s match. NXT TakeOver: WarGames II (Saturday) comes from the Staples Center and looks like setting a very high bar for Survivor Series the following night. The official card at time of writing is:
- Undisputed ERA vs Ricochet, Pete Dunne & The War Raiders (4-on-4 WarGames Match)
- NXT Championship: Tommaso Ciampa (c) vs Velveteen Dream
- NXT Women’s Championship: Shayna Baszler (c) vs Kairi Sane (2-out-of-3 Falls)
- Aleister Black vs Johnny Gargano
The customary fifth match that should join those is Matt Riddle vs Kassius Ohno, but even before that presumably gets confirmed in the coming days this is one of the strongest TakeOver cards NXT has ever produced. It almost feels unfair to focus on any one of the above four matches, all of which would’ve had the potential to be the best match of the weekend if the quality of the rest of the card wasn’t narrowing everyone’s odds by necessity. Survivor Series doesn’t look especially bad, but it’s a safe bet this’ll be better.
I realize there are many fans of WWE – without doubt a majority, likely some of you reading this are among them – who only watch Raw and SmackDown. If that’s you, find a mate who has the Network and invite yourself round or something. If you sat through Crown Jewel the other week, you owe it to yourself.
Survivor Series (Staples Center, Los Angeles CA)
Announced: As always, the card is subject to change and some details will be added during the week. Official matches and participants at time of writing are:
- Brock Lesnar vs AJ Styles
- Ronda Rousey vs Becky Lynch
- Seth Rollins vs Shinsuke Nakamura
- Women’s 5-on-5 Elimination Match: Team Raw (TBC) vs Team SmackDown (Asuka, Carmella, Naomi, Sonya Deville & TBC)
- Men’s 5-on-5 Elimination Match: Team Raw (Drew McIntyre, Dolph Ziggler, Braun Strowman & TBC) vs Team SmackDown (The Miz, Daniel Bryan, Shane McMahon, Rey Mysterio & Samoa Joe)
- Cruiserweight Championship: Buddy Murphy (c) vs Mustafa Ali
- 5-on-5 Tag Team Elimination Match: Team Raw (TBC) vs Team SmackDown (The Usos, The New Day & TBC)
- AOP vs The Bar
What to expect: The top matches on the Survivor Series card are all worth seeing – and will all more likely than not be good fare – but to a certain extent have built-in expectations that seasoned viewers might feel they need to overcome. The two big champion vs champion matches come with presumed favorites. A repeat of Styles vs Lesnar from last year’s event would ordinarily point to Styles getting his win back, but Brock Lesnar’s role in the company is anything but ‘ordinary’ right now. Lynch vs Rousey might be a little more up for debate, but the expectation of many will be that the two former UFC champs are locks to win. Then there’s the issue of the elimination matches.
The problem with running brand vs brand elimination matches is dealing with the internal team squabbles that come packaged with them. Here’s a quick three-point explanation of why those are inevitable:
- If you’re not currently a champion, this is effectively the top of the card – so the five/ten next most prestigious names on the roster(s) all tend to get inserted here, regardless of hero/villain alignment.
- Despite all the ‘brand supremacy’ posturing, WWE would never give their audience a proper, tangible reason to support one show over another – they’re in the business of getting people to watch both – so a simple face team vs heel team dynamic isn’t practical.
- The fact the brands barely interact from week to week or compete for any particular stakes mean that internal politics are pretty much the only stories going.
The men’s match will get the longest running time of any on the card and should be good, but the internal divisions are shaping up to be the worst; SmackDown’s team is co-captained by mortal enemies and spans the fullest range of good (Mysterio) to evil (Joe), while there’s already disharmony on Raw’s team between Strowman and McIntyre even before the final names are confirmed. The women’s match will be shorter (and there’ll be some pinfalls off roll-ups or secondary signature moves), but Team Blue had a Mandy Rose-instigated brawl at their announcement last week and there’s no way Alexa Bliss won’t end up leading a team that includes Bayley and Sasha Banks. As for the five-team-on-five-team tag affair? Well, in the 2016 match The New Day ate a pin within one minute (and weren’t even the first team eliminated), so set your expectations accordingly. At least it gets a few more guys on the show.
The undercard is a potential secret weapon for Survivor Series. A one-off Nakamura vs Rollins match should be a gift (particularly given the year Rollins has had for in-ring singles competition). Hopefully Dean Ambrose won’t make his inevitable appearance until after the match. Murphy vs Ali, who have been busting their asses on 205 Live, should make the most of a rare pay-per-view (and live!) opportunity. Even AOP vs The Bar is a fresh matchup that should provide some hard-hitting fun.
All things considered, this should end up being one of the better main roster shows of the year and certainly a step up from Crown Jewel. Be sure to check in with John and the guys at the end of the week for the full TJRWrestling preview.
Three Burning Questions
Some of this week’s most pressing but least publicized talking points. Throw down your answers in the comments section as usual!
- What do you think the future should hold for Kurt Angle?
- What chance do you think Becky Lynch has of beating Ronda Rousey this Sunday?
- Of the seven Raw vs SmackDown matches at Survivor Series, which brand do you think will win the most?
Until next week, strap in, enjoy the ride and remember to stick with TJRWrestling.net for your show recaps and analysis.