This year’s Survivor Series was undeniably better than a lot of recent WWE pay-per-views. Most of the WWE’s top talent was featured, unlike some recent pay-per-views, as both the Raw and Smackdown rosters were included. But a few tweaks in the creative could have turned this good pay-per-view into a great pay-per-view:
– Babyfaces & Heels – This year’s Survivor Series presented a return-to-form in having the event be centered around five-on-five matches. The first few Survivor Series shows were formulaic in being good guys against bad guys. This year’s matches had babyfaces and heels teaming together, with Raw and Smackdown allegiances being the focal point of the matches. While a lot of the current falls into “tweener” territory, this lack of story-building — on top of this being a “smart” crowd that cheers a lot of talent that it is not supposed to — can make things confusing. The WWE audience has not been conditioned to favor Raw or Smackdown, therefore, it was unclear as to who they should be cheering for at times. This could have been fixed with a storylines that clarifies one of the two shows as “good,” or by making an all-heel or all-babyface team in some of the matches.
– Inconsistent Branding – Some of the talent wore their brand’s shirt throughout the match, some of the talent did not wear their brand’s gear at all. If everyone is supposed to be united on behalf of their brand, and their General Manager has been emphasizing the importance of representing their brand, then why are some people not required to wear their brand’s shirt or colors? Shane is the flag-bearer of his brand and does not wear the shirt or colors of his Smackdown Live. Very minor complaint, but WWE has always been very savvy when it comes to branding.
– A Lack Of Title Changes – In the weeks leading up to Survivor Series, insiders thought that the Intercontinental Title was coming to Raw and the Cruiserweight Division would be heading to Smackdown Live, per match stipulations. Neither of these things happened. The Intercontinental Title changes hands on Smackdown Live just a few days ago, so it is not as if title changes happen so infrequently that Survivor Series is not special enough.
– A Lack Of Historical References – It was referenced several times within the commentators that this year’s Survivor Series was the first edition of the event to take place in Canada in nearly 20 years. The last time around, in 1997, of course was when the Montreal Screwjob took place. The Screwjob has been referenced in other WWE pay-per-views — notably when Charles Robinson gave Charlotte a false victory earlier in the year — but this would have been a great opportunity to work it into a storyline. Also, there is a lot of top Canadian talent on the current WWE roster (e.g. Chris Jericho, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Natalya), so it’s a wonder why — Maryse aside — none of the Canadians came out looking especially strong tonight.
– No Surprises – Results aside, where were the surprises tonight? No one returned to action that we had not expected; The Undertaker’s return on Smackdown Live had promised that he was no longer going to be defined by Wrestlemania. No NXT call-ups happened. No titles changed hands. No new storylines started up; James Ellsworth and Braun Strowman already had their beef, as did Bayley and Charlotte, as did Baron Corbin and Kalisto.
– Roman Reigns – No one can deny that Roman Reigns is full of charisma, a great athlete, hard-working, or very committed to the WWE. Even though he is being booed by the majority of every crowd, the WWE is still booking him as a babyface. It’s been nearly two years since Reigns was infamously booed at the Royal Rumble in Philadelphia. Is the WWE intentionally-trolling its fanbase?
However, on the positive side of things:
– Unpredictability – For the most part, no one knew for sure who was going to win the majority of tonight’s matches. The WWE did a great job in emphasizing that anything could happen. And the results of the last match certainly captured that; then again, does it make sense for Brock Lesnar to have been squashed just a few months after winning a legit UFC match and after squashing Randy Orton in a few matches?
– The Announcing – Aside from overhyping mentioned above, the announcers did great in playing up the rivalry between brands. The zinger about David Otunga being “Jennifer Husband” was great.
– James Ellsworth – Ellsworth was used very well tonight. He took an incredible bump off the stage. In addition, he got an organic chant during the match.
– Shane McMahon – His first match since Wrestlemania had his expected off-the-top-rope high spot. If you appreciate Shane as a stuntman, then you should have appreciated that. That second off-the-top-rope high spot, it’s too early to tell how hurt Shane is, but it was also impressive.
Overall, great job, WWE. A pay-per-view like this makes me want to watch both Raw and Smackdown this week to see what is going to happen with both brands.