Anyone who knows me would know that I love my overly gimmicky crap in wrestling. Of course, it has to be done right. And to any wrestling purists out there who think that colorful gimmicks can’t work in today’s wrestling landscape need only to look to the successes of The Wyatt Family and The New Day: two factions that are arguably the highlight of Monday Night Raw each week.
Factions, or stables, are a great way to push talent who are similar in some ways, or at least share a common goal. One popular angle is the revolutionary type of faction, where the goal is to “shake the foundation” of whatever organization they’re a part of, and to disrupt the status quo. I’m a fan of this kind of faction because they are usually born out of an overall dissatisfaction among the audience. When the audience has universally decided that the product has become stale, sometimes a shred of hope will arise to make a big impact on an otherwise dull show.
Most recently, we can look at attempts made by The Nexus and The Shield, two groups of early NXT rookies who were coming in to change the way top talent were protected, make room for younger athletes, and to tear down the old guard, in so many words. The NWO was most likely the most popular variation on this idea, and when factions battle, it can be an intriguing conflict of ideals. I love faction battles, and the best stage for the culmination of a feud between two factions is Survivor Series...or at least it used to be.
Back in the late 80s and early 90s, Survivor Series was a full card of stable vs. stable matchups. Then, it was a matter of matching up bad guys vs. good guys. The Heenan Family was usually a no brainer (pun intended) of a heel team, as well as some less obvious, but memorable pairings, like the teams of Rude’s Brood, The Dream Team, and The Hulkamaniacs. In the grand scheme of storytelling, these matches didn’t really mean anything. They were just fun heel vs. face elimination matches. A Survivor Series staple.
Into the late 90s, this match type because less popular, as people wanted to see more storydriven matchups in singles competition, in an era dominated by fan favorites, such as Steve Austin and The Rock. Shortly after this was around the time that WWE started using the term “Traditional Survivor Series Match.” A term that I loathe.
It’s Survivor Series. You’re having a Survivor Series match. The way God intended. To add insult to injury, the Attitude era was overflowing with popular factions. The Brood, The Corporation, The Nation of Domination, The (new) Legion of Doom, The Ministry of Darkness, The Hart Foundation, and Degeneration X; and to a lesser extent, The Oddities, The Job Squad, and The Disciples of Apocalypse. Did I leave any out? Probably.
However, in perhaps the greatest boom period of factions, the “Traditional” Survivor Series Elimination matches were put on the back burner, to the point where they were almost buried in the undercard. Even WCW was having better faction matches at their rival payperview, Fall Brawl, with their “War Games” matches. This was one of the things that WCW did very well at this time, utilizing storydriven elimination matches between Team NWO against The Four Horsemen or Team WCW.
But WWE’s original version became a match reserved for wrestlers who weren’t involved in a major storyline, far, far away from the main event. Ironically, in maybe the greatest fieldtilled for 8 or 10man tag matches, the Survivor Series match was dying a gimmicky death (See: “Gimmicky death: Al Wilson, Katie Vick, Vince McMahon limousine explosion, et al.).
There would seem to be a ray of hope when WCW was sold to Vince McMahon and The Alliance (storylinewise, led by Shane and Stephanie McMahon) was born. The Invasion period was perfect for a big old faction match. The WCW vs. WWE? Could you ask for anything more? Of course, the WCW team would end up requiring assistance from ECW for no apparent reason, and the Invasion storyline would turn out to be a flop, mostly due to the fact that most of WCW’s top stars were still waiting out their old contracts. Fortunately, they did take the opportunity to have a Survivor Series Elimination main event between Team WWE and Team Invasion, which would be the last time the “Traditional” match would serve as the main event of Survivor Series.
But with a now enormous roster of performers from three different organizations, the idea to split talent between Raw and Smackdown presented itself, in an effort to recreate an artificial competition for ratings that had made WCW and WWE so popular during the Monday Night Wars was put into effect with a companywide draft. There was no real allegiance or ideology behind each roster outside of one team wearing red “Raw” shirts and the other team wearing blue “Smackdown” shirts. But okay, we have our distinctive teams and high school me was okay with that. For whatever reason, A Raw vs. Smackdown main event would not happen at Survivor Series until 2005. But hey, at least it happened. At least it sets a precedent for future Survivor Series’ to have a team elimination main event. So, now the time is ripe for a big Raw vs. Smackdown team elimination match to culminate every year at the payperview event known specifically for big team elimination matches: BRAGGING RIGHTS!
What? Why? We already have a thing for that! It’s called Survivor Series! Why are you taking the Survivor Series stipulation away from Survivor Series? And so, Team Raw would battle Team Smackdown at Bragging Rights. It would be like taking the Royal Rumble match off of Royal Rumble and having it at Backlash. Also, “Bragging Rights?” If you win, you get to brag about it? You may not win a title opportunity or even a date with Dawn Marie, but you sure can brag about it! Good grief.
Thankfully, Bragging Rights wouldn’t last very long in the annual schedule, but Survivor Series still wouldn’t have a meaningful team elimination main event until last year’s Team Cena vs. Team Authority. And then Sting showed up! Oh yes. I was a happy boy at Thanksgiving 2014.
But anyway, why would I bring all of this up AFTER this year’s Survivor Series? Because I have a bone to pick. For whatever reason, on last week’s episode of Raw, just a few weeks after Survivor Series, they decided to open the show with a giant 12man (4 teams of 4) tag match. This was the Survivor Series match I would have loved to see at the actual event, and it would’ve been perfect timing. Seth Rollins had been injured and they had to scrap together a tournament for the main event anyway.
The Dudley Boys (Boyz?) has just realigned with their old ECW pals, Tommy Dreamer and Rhyno to battle The Wyatt Family. A new team of Sheamus, Alberto Del Rio, Rusev, and Wade Barrett formed as The League of Nations, feuding with Roman Reigns, The Usos, and Dean Ambrose. Two matches that would have made for lovely “Traditional” Survivor Series matches. But alright...the timing was off. Maybe this big 4 team match on Raw was a
consolation from WWE; sort of their way of saying, “Hey, we know this would’ve been cool at Survivor Series, but the timing wasn’t right. Here it is on monday night. Our sincerest apologies.” Okay, WWE. I accept your apology. Just don’t let it happen again. Next year, give me my
big elimination tag match at the correct payperview, and don’t tease me with it weeks after the fact. That isn’t so much to ask. I wish you the best of luck in your future Survivor Series endeavors.
Nathan Burke is a Boston standup comedian and unabashed wrestling fan. He will be hosting shows at the Comedy Studio in Harvard Square throughout the month of December.