Lutz's Blog: Booking the WWE Survivor Series that younger fans have been deprived of
By Jeffrey Lutz
One of the greatest memories of my wrestling-watching childhood was eagerly awaiting Survivor Series elimination tag-team matches, which always delivered on the hype WWE and I gave them. To this day, I hold a soft spot in my heart for Survivor Series 1990, which included the debut of The Undertaker, featured a one-time-only match between all the survivors and wasn't even ruined by the (fortunately) one-time-only appearance of the Gobbledy Gooker. At least until he (it?) appeared again at WrestleMania 17.
A few years ago, Vince McMahon declared on a WWE shareholders conference call that the Survivor Series concept had become obsolete. Nevermind that WWE hadn't remained true to the concept for many years, McMahon had his mind made up and Survivor Series would be discontinued, essentially negating two decades of Thanksgiving-time tradition.
McMahon never followed through on that declaration, keeping Survivor Series around as one of WWE's "Big Four" pay-per-view events -- in name only, of course. WWE's belief that fans no longer appreciated the original concept of the event has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. WWE has stripped Survivor Series of its identity, instead opting to give that identity to second-tier pay-per-views like TLC, Elimination Chamber and Hell in a Cell. Night of Champions has more-or-less replaced Surivor Series in the PPV hierarchy.
This year, WWE has appeared particularly committed to forcing Survivor Series to lose whatever was remaining of its luster and aura. The event has received little hype, and that's definitely not because the matches are hyping themselves. The title matches -- Big Show vs. Randy Orton and John Cena vs. Alberto Del Rio -- feel like Royal Rumble bouts included on the card because the rumble match sells itself.
Unfortunately, nothing on this card, at least so far, is selling itself. No one expects an impressive effort from an organization that has refused, declined or been unable to put its best pay-per-view foot forward for the last several months. WWE seems to be lazily biding its time until WrestleMania season, when poor writing and booking will be offset by the legends and part-timers who own a novelty factor that can make up for horrible storytelling.
Survivor Series, though, should be either part of the build to WrestleMania or the conclusion to the summer/fall storylines. WWE, however, is treating Survivor Series as a purgatory between those two periods. Survivor Series needs to regain the excitement it once gave fans like myself, and younger fans deserve to have their childhoods positively affected by memorable elimination matches.
With that in mind, I have organized a card featuring only elimination, four-on-four matches, just like in 1990. The card I put together isn't perfect, but it's pretty damn good and far better than what WWE has given us so far. I'm not much into fantasy booking usually, but this was fun to do. I thought about it a lot, changed things around several times and came up with something I believe is quality. Without further ado:
1. Big Show, Big E Langston, Cody Rhodes and Goldust vs. Randy Orton, Dean Ambrose, Bray Wyatt and Kane: This match serves a purpose of elevating Big E Langston into the main-event picture, at least in the minds of fans if WWE isn't ready to pull the trigger on a major push for Langston. It also plays on the possible tension between The Shield and The Wyatt Family by putting their leaders on the same team. The non-participating, accompanying members may even have a physical confrontation outside the ringer. Furthermore, it puts Orton and Big Show in the ring together without necessitating a WWE Championship match that almost no one cares about. Maybe WWE would finally getting around to addressing Wyatt's relationship with Kane.
2. John Cena, Dolph Ziggler, Jimmy Uso and Jey Uso vs. Alberto Del Rio, Damien Sandow, Antonio Cesaro and Jack Swagger: Another droll title match we won't have to suffer through and another match that puts its participants, Cena and Del Rio, in the ring together and maybe even strengthens the build for a future showdown. Cena would probably be the sole survivor here, but WWE could and should take the opportunity to highlight Sandow and Cesaro, two future main-eventers if the roster includes any. Ziggler back at the top of the card, with a rub from Cena that he shouldn't need, may begin his rebuild, and The Usos get firmly established as a top-level tag team.
3. C.M. Punk, Daniel Bryan, Ryback and R-Truth vs. Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Luke Harper and Erick Rowan: Ryback and R-Truth might not be the best partners for two massive fan favorites such as Punk and Bryan, but this is a third match with tremendous star power that can forward more than one angle. It keeps Punk and Bryan away from Wyatt until their eventual showdown, it forces another partnership between The Shield and the Wyatts before a possible WrestleMania match between the groups, and it produces strange bedfellows in Punk/R-Truth and Ryback, who have all had recent encounters. This match could also be used to highlight Reigns, who has the potential to be The Shield's breakout singles star at some point. I went back-and-forth on including the Usos here, but settled on Ryback and R-Truth because of the storytelling it enables.
4. Kofi Kingston, Tyson Kidd, Darren Young and Titus O'Neil vs. The Miz, Curtis Axel, Brodus Clay and Sweet T: Not much of a match, but it could cement The Miz's heel turn. He teamed with Tons of Funk on TV last week (or so I read), so their partnership here isn't completely random. O'Neil is charismatic even if unpolished, and the athleticism of Kingston and Kidd would make this match more than simply a throwaway.
5. Santino, Justin Gabriel, Diego and Fernando (Los Matadores) vs. Fandango, Heath Slater, Drew McIntyre and Jinder Mahal (3MB): Definitely a throwaway, filler match, but one that might be necessary to serve as a buffer between the bouts on the top of the card. Something for the kids -- maybe El Torito could be this generation's Gobbledy Gooker!
6. Brie Bella, Nikki Bella, Natalya and Naomi vs. AJ Lee, Summer Rae, Tamina Snuka and Alicia Fox: The obligatory Divas match. Another filler/buffer contest, but could go eight minutes or so to showcase the work of Tamina, Natalya and the underrated and unrefined Naomi. Another plug for the surprisingly entertaining Total Divas.
Jeff Lutz has written for the Wichita Eagle newspaper in Kansas for over a decade and debuted with Prowrestling.net on November 4, 2012. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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