WWE will hold their final “big four” pay-per-view of 2014 on Sunday with Survivor Series, emanating from the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri. While the company has been plagued by what is now widely-referred to as a “creative rut” (thanks to the great Mike Mooneyham), the programming has been noticeably better in recent weeks.
For one, the Survivor Series gimmick is alive and well after being used for midcard bouts the past several years. In fact, one has to go back 9 years to Survivor Series 2005 to find the last time the Traditional 5-on-5 tag team elimination match headlined the pay-per-view. While the gimmick has been used, a very valid argument can be made this year’s Survivor Series main event has had some of the best build with intriguing side stories. It’s a good thing because Survivor Series 2014 is perhaps one of the most important WWE pay-per-views in the company's history because it is available for free for anyone that wants to watch on the WWE Network.
A free pay-per-view has left some under the assumption it will give WWE an excuse to “mail to in,” while my stance is the exact opposite. The fact that Survivor Series is free will mean WWE will need the strongest effort possible to entice free signups to become paid subscribers for WWE TLC in December and beyond. More eyes will be on this show and WWE will have to make sure their capabilities for their over the top service can handle the influx in traffic.
The consensus prediction coming from our readers is that the outcome of this year’s Survivor Series main event is obvious and while it’s hard to envision a scenario where Team Cena loses, there are several points to examine and ramifications both kayfabe and legitimate to discuss.
The end of The Authority?
My biggest complaint with the on-air roles of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon — as The Authority — has been their overwhelming amount of power, where they’ve been booked unstoppable in storyline. The stipulation to Team Authority vs. Team Cena — as announced by Vince McMahon — is that if Team Cena goes over, The Authority will no longer be in power.
This has resulted in widespread speculation as to the future of the power couple that has dominated main event storylines over the course of the past year. Will WWE write Triple H and Stephanie McMahon off TV to give them a break and finally provide a viable resolution to the heel faction? Or will The Authority “lose their power” and set up an abandoned storyline — one where Vince McMahon returns and battles Hunter and Stephanie for “control of WWE" — culminating with a Team Vince vs. Team Hunter main event at Wrestlemania 31 next year? This was at one point in the works for Wrestlemania 30 this year.
No WWE World Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar means…
As we discussed at length in the latest WNW Premium Mailbag, this year’s Survivor Series main event features an opportunity for Dolph Ziggler, Erick Rowan, Ryback, Seth Rollins, Rusev and Luke Harper to make the jump from the midcard to the main event. Wrestlemania season is quickly approaching and it’s a time when the main event spots will be limited so another very attractive element of this year’s pay-per-view is proverbial midcard talent finally getting the opportunity to headline.
Seth Rollins is already being portrayed as the top member of Team Authority and has all but made the jump from midcarder to main eventer. He’s a top heel and while WWE’s depleted roster has helped get him there, he’s got all it takes. He’ll have to convince Vince he can stick as a “smaller guy” but he has the opportunity on Sunday to do just that and even be thrust into the WWE World Heavyweight Championship picture when no one is looking (Money in the Bank briefcase holder).
WWE seems to have finally gotten the memo on Ryback, he’s gotten a second chance that most don’t get. Can he break out without reigniting the dreadful ‘Goldberg’ chants? From what we’ve been told, Ryback has been a “good soldier” in the back and seems to have learned from past dealings that garnered the perception that he was arrogant. If WWE can “stay the course” with him long enough, there is a real opportunity there.
Dolph Ziggler has been featured more after aligning with John Cena but his past reigns (there were two, look it up) as World Heavyweight Champion seem like an eternity ago. Now, Ziggler has the chance to work in the main event and “steal the show” with his stellar in-ring work. If anything else, Survivor Series is a “proving ground” for Ziggler. He can prove to the fans and to WWE officials that he belongs in a pay-per-view main event, regardless of how he’s booked.
Rusev has already gone further than I thought was possible under the Russian-not Russian gimmick but while the gimmick garnered him immediate cheap heat, his in-ring ability combined with Lana’s brilliance on the mic has made him more than just a “flash in the pan.” Now, it’s time for his first main event on pay-per-view and possibly setting up something more. We’ve already heard rumblings that Rusev could be the 2015 version of Bray Wyatt in that he could be in line for a big program at Wrestlemania (Cena vs. Rusev?!). Survivor Series will serve as a litmus for his ability to work in the top of the card.
If the “set free” vignettes weren’t evident enough, giving Luke Harper a singles title before Bray Wyatt was a way to get people’s attention. Vince actually sees Harper as the “biggest star” out of The Wyatt Family and it’s clear he’s getting a chance to show in WWE what got him signed in the first place. Critics will point to Harper being far from Bray on the mic but the fact of the matter is it’s him — not Wyatt — getting the opportunity as an undercard champion that’s on Team Authority. He’s being booked with confidence, is it sustainable?
When one door closes…
Another door has been opened by the last-minute addition of Erick Rowan to Team Cena. Sheamus was originally in the plans to participate as a member of Team Cena but an injury situation has left him off the pay-per-view. Now with no build or backstory, Rowan winds up seemingly miscast on a team of babyfaces. The note to make here is that Rowan is getting an opportunity to work in a pay-per-view main event without being the odd man out. We’re told Hunter is #TeamBray, while Vince is #TeamHarper. It was evident from the vignettes that Rowan appeared the odd man out but now there is an opportunity.
A homecoming turn for Randy Orton?
Randy Orton was written off WWE TV via a Seth Rollins Curb Stomp earlier this month so he could film his starring role in The Condemned 2. While filming just began last week and such roles usually require an estimated month of absence from the road, WWE has an opportunity to bring Orton back in his hometown of St. Louis to go after Seth Rollins. There is a clear creative plan to do Orton vs. Rollins and with Randy on the edge of a babyface turn, a surprise Survivor Series run-in, where he’ll generate a pop like nowhere else, seems like the place to lay the groundwork for such a turn.
Whether or not WWE pulls the trigger is another story but it seems everything is in place should WWE choose to execute such a plan.
All and all this year's Survivor Series is one of the most important pay-per-views in WWE history. It single-handily can help bump up the subscription numbers on the WWE Network and it's refreshing to see the company actually utilize the traditional Survivor Series match in the pay-per-view's main event that is meaningful and intriguing. The build for this show has been good and even as random as some of the pairings might be (Rowan on Team Cena, Mark Henry & Rusev together on Team Authority), there are opportunities for midcarders to make the jump to the main event. All at a time when it's now or "after" Wrestlemania season before making such an impact.
We stand to see the end of The Authority angle, the groundwork for a "power struggle" program or maybe a swerve and something completely different. Even then, Orton looms as a possibility and we all have a reason to be interested in Survivor Series. This is a a pay-per-view where WWE has seemed to get a lot more right, at a time when they've done so much wrong. The past two months have featured some dreadful programming but Survivor Series can be the turnaround that takes us through the end of the year and right into Wrestlemania season.