Last week on Raw, the locker room was under siege at the hands of the Smackdown roster. Finally, we are actually getting a brand battle for Survivor Series. This is really the only way to handle the Smackdown vs. Raw premise. The occasional contest to decide which is the better show only makes sense if we’re really to believe they’re in competition with each other. But as much as I enjoy a good “invasion” angle, we’re still lacking anything resembling a motive.
I swear, if they use “bragging rights” as a copout, I won’t be invested. I’m still not even sold on the whole notion that superstars have pride in their brand. Why would they? Where’s the incentive? Especially in a world where we have a “Superstar Shakeup,” there’s no reason for brand loyalty. Are we to believe that athletes can be traded back and forth between teams and still remain completely devoted to said team? That certainly doesn’t happen in real sports ...
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We witnessed heels and faces putting their differences aside to unite as a brand and attack Raw superstars. Why? If Smackdown wins at Survivor Series, do they get paid more? Does Smackdown take Raw’s third hour? If the WWE Universe is going to buy into this feud, we need a little bit more than the fact that one is on Monday and the other is on Tuesday. The simple idea of red team vs. blue team may work in politics, but it has no place in something as sophisticated as sports entertainment. So, to make Survivor Series interesting, there needs to be a prize. In theory, if one show wins, maybe their credibility will rise, they’ll receive higher ratings, thus better sponsorship, which would lead to superstars being able to negotiate better contracts. Now that’s an incentive! But it needs to be said and not assumed.
Despite there being little reason for Smackdown to brutally assault Raw, the Champion vs. Champion match is a great idea. Smackdown’s WWE Champion, Jinder Mahal challenged Raw’s Universal Champion, Brock Lesnar to a match at Survivor Series. At least this one has some weight to it. The idea being that Jinder Mahal isn’t very well respected as a champion (which is mostly true at this time) and wants to prove himself to the WWE Universe by defeating Brock Lesnar at a major payperview. It all makes sense and I’m sold on it. Considering Jinder is getting better on the mic, this isn’t just a test for his in-ring ability, but a test for how his promos fare against Paul Heyman, as well. Sooner or later, they’ll have to be in the same ring, and it will make for a fun dynamic. It’s also a great opportunity for Brock to throw around the Singh Brothers.
Along with the men’s Smackdown vs. Raw match at Survivor Series, they’ll also be holding a women’s team match. It’s been a long time since Survivor Series actually had a few decent elimination matches between Raw and Smackdown. Hopefully in due time we’ll have more of a reason to watch. Hell, I’d be happy if the winners all get new cars. Just give them any reason at all to fight for their brand besides “just cuz.” Other inter-brand matches will include Women’s Champions clashing when Alexa Bliss takes on Natalya. We also have US Champion, Baron Corbin taking on Intercontinental Champ, The Miz. And finally, Tag Team Champions will battle when Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins face off against The Usos. It’s not the Shield vs. New Day match I was hoping for, but it seems Roman Reigns’ absence put the kibosh on that.
Looking at it on paper, there are way too many champions. Unfortunately, I doubt any of that will be remedied at Survivor Series by having some title unification matches; which, once again, would be a great incentive. Hopefully we will see some decent cross-brand build up for some of these matches, because otherwise it falls flat and feels meaningless. But hey, I’ll take this card and these stipulations at Survivor Series over Bragging Rights any day.
Nathan Burke is a standup comedian based in Boston and can be found on Twitter @IamNathanBurke