Generally, the fall has always been the downtime on the WWE calendar. Before SmackDown on Friday nights became the A-show, WWE was happy to cede the floor to Monday Night Football and let its booking from September through the end of the year get even lazier and more banal than it normally is, which is saying something.
The anchor of this season of “meh” was, and still is, the Survivor Series PPV, which takes place Sunday. I wrote last year about how the build to the show and the show itself were borderline nonsensical and definitely a waste of time. Ever since the company split its roster into two, it has positioned Survivor Series as a battle for “brand supremacy” between Raw and SmackDown, which no one on Earth can figure out why they should give a flying fuck about, nor has WWE ever tried to offer why that matters. It’s not like WWE markets Raw vs. Smackdown at any other time, or tries to get fans to declare loyalty to either or to whip up any sort of excitement or rivalry. They want you to watch both shows. There is simply nothing at stake, and wrestling without stakes is a drag brunch with no drag and no brunch.
It appears that even the wrestlers themselves have gotten so bored and/or confused by this whole thing that they haven’t hesitated to say so.
Here’s Becky Lynch in an interview with Vicente Beltran about the lack of any payoff or reason for any of this happening:
“Yeah, I mean, that would be helpful. The whole brand supremacy is a little outdated. But at the same time, we’re all competitors, and you always want to be the best, and whatever it is, whatever carrot they dangle, you always want to be the best. Whether it’s, ‘here, the winner gets a freakin banana.’ Like, ‘well, I want that freakin’ banana. I want to prove that I deserve that banana.’ So you always want to be the best, so I think whatever the logic is, you can make it work when you’re a competitive human, which we all are. You don’t get to WWE if you’re not competitive.”
She’s right, and even this “banana” Lynch mentions is something that WWE hasn’t been even able to produce. Just give them something, even a stupid trophy that they could use in the future to add to other stories would be helpful. Survivor Series can create some good matches, and Becky vs. Charlotte will be that just because both are so good, but nothing will come from it. It’ll just be over.
Xavier Woods even had an idea to fix it:
“The losing team, Raw, obviously, should have a five-way elimination match fighting for spots one through five in next year’s Royal Rumble,” is the idea Woods put forward. In turn, the winning team, who he believes will be Team SmackDown, would have a five-way elimination match at some point after the show to determine spots 26 through 30 in the 2022 Royal Rumble.”
Now here we go. This gives the Survivor Series matches — the five-on-five elimination contests — actual stakes and a reason that anyone in the match would actually care. It gives each show something to promote in the dead space between Survivor Series in November and Royal Rumble in January. It ties into the next big PPV (though WWE is running one on January 1st now). The “brand supremacy” actually matters in this scenario, because one brand is getting the sweetheart Rumble spots while the other is getting the absolute worst. Even if storylines have teammates on each side hating each other’s guts leading into Survivor Series, here’s a pretty big goddamn carrot for them to put that aside for one match. It makes all the sense in the world… which is why WWE will never do it.
Survivor Series suffers from the same issue that so much of WWE booking does, which is if they show no inclination to care about it, why should we care to watch it? This year’s build has been particularly insipid. First, they just announced the teams on Twitter a couple of weeks ago, and then shows in the interim have changed those teams for reasons no one can figure out. Why did they bother announcing them then? Dominik Mysterio was announced originally for the Raw team, and then GM Adam Pearce replaced him with his father, Rey, claiming that the rest of the team members were former world champions and Dominik wasn’t. Then on Monday, Rey was replaced by Austin Theory, who is not a former world champion. Just what the fuck? (Even though I’m always for removing Dominik from my television, as he has all the personality and magnetism of asbestos).
Pearce himself has aligned with Raw, again for reasons that were never stated. He just is, even though both he and Sonya Deville have been working as the co-GMs across both shows for months now. Fans would ask what is even going on, except they gave up caring and aren’t even interested in finding out the answer.
I’m sure both Woods and Lynch have given up hope that their suggestions and frustrations will lead to any change, but it is rare for talent to openly speak up about the inanity of the company’s booking. Lynch and Woods certainly are two of the most “made” wrestlers in the company, and have the platform to make their thoughts known, but rarely do so. Which has to be an indication of how bewildered and disappointed the locker room is about whatever it is WWE does for this time of year.
This is where I could try to connect WWE’s wrestlers seeing the lively, original, and galvanizing booking that goes on with AEW, and that added dissatisfaction with not getting to do stuff like that has forced them into the rare air of speaking publicly, but let’s leave that for another day.
The answers are simple, and all Vince McMahon has to do is listen to some of his biggest stars who want nothing more than the product to be good and be involved in matches and stories that people enjoy. But it’s always been that simple, and yet nothing ever changes.