Changes Afoot In WWE? by Matt Corton

Funnily enough, this is what people have been requesting for years – a Survivor Series that is jam-packed full of classic survivor series matches. The only problem is that none of them really mean anything.

The WWE is taking us back on a journey. The presence of The Undertaker at this past SmackDown reminded us that this was where his legend began. This is the WWE harking back to its history in its own tunnel-vision way.

It’s events like the birth of The Undertaker that WWE likes to remember, when it suits. Another recent memory is that of Demolition’s 478-day title reign. Obviously, WWE has only remembered Demolition in order for New Day to defeat their record and become the longest-reigning tag team champions in history. It suits WWE to have New Day hold the record, so they remember Demolition.

Not that WWE has ever explicitly forgotten Undertaker’s birth, of course – what it has forgotten is that Undertaker proclaiming that the SmackDown team better win or else isn’t enough. Not by a long shot.

It might mean a lot to the wrestler’s involved that Undertaker will be coming after them should they not be successful, and it would certainly make for a hugely entertaining story with the Deadman seeking vengeance on each member of the losing team one by one – that’s certainly something I’d love to see.

But why are only the main event men subject to the Undertaker’s wrath? Why not the tag teams or the women or perhaps most significantly to SmackDown’s future, Kalisto and The Miz? Surely a match fought only for prestige such as the main event men’s match comes way below SmackDown’s retention of the InterContinental Title and acquisition of the Cruiserweight Division to Undertaker? Those two things have real impact, real meaningful consequences for the future of the show but Undertaker is interested in the prestige only.

Which kind of reflects Undertaker’s whole career. The prestige of The Streak was everything to Undertaker. It makes perfect character sense that he would care more about the way in which the guys at the top of the card performed than anything else.

Which means it also makes perfect sense that Undertaker would seek further meaning to his career now The Streak is over. For over a decade, Undertaker has been defined precisely by Wrestlemania. His entire legacy was built around The Streak, indeed in the latter stages of career it’s pretty much all his career was.

It makes perfect sense for the Undertaker to have a change of heart now his legacy lies in tatters at Brock Lesnar’s feet. He’s had wins over Bray Wyatt and Shane O’Mac since then sure, but it’s like using a broken arm. It’ll still get the job done, but you feel it for the rest of your life on a cold day. You need to take your mind off it with something else.

Something to help you forget, just as WWE has done with Demolition. So perhaps there’s a method to WWE’s selective, sometimes aberrant memory – it constantly has to try and find a new legacy for itself once the last one has been sacrificed on the altar of entertainment.

Undertaker has one last chance to define his legacy outside of Wrestlemania and perhaps he feels, now he has tied himself to the blue brand, that as he’s not going to be concerning himself with the IC title or Cruiserweight division, they don’t actually matter to him. What matters is the legacy of the show, that the prestige of what is now ‘his’ show remains intact, just as his Streak did not.

So where does that leave Undertaker? Well, let’s play out three scenarios.

Firstly, the one we’ve already mentioned and the one which is my favourite – SmackDown lose and its avenging Deadman comes looking for each of them in turn. If played right, this is a few months’ worth of storytelling on a plate as he battles to take down each of them, one by one. Undertaker going through Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt, Dean Ambrose and AJ Styles before coming for Shane O’Mac himself, is one I definitely want to see, much as I don’t want to see the actual match between Shane and ‘Taker again.

However, I don’t think there’s a chance of this happening. The storyline developments on Raw, with a possible fracture between Owens and Jericho, plus Rollins, and a fired-up Strowman running a wrecking ball of his own should they lose, not to mention The Authority’s wrath in the shape of Stephanie, I think means WWE thinks there’s more mileage in Raw losing than SmackDown.

Secondly, there’s the IC title staying on SmackDown. This is what I think will happen – and I think it’s the wrong choice. I don’t think a 2-hour show needs more than one main title. I think with the World Title, Tag Titles, Women’s Title and Cruiserweight Title, you have a show that’s not only brimming with title belts, but which is significantly enlarged by the entire division coming their way, plus a ready-made feud with Kendrick seeking revenge on Kalisto for taking his title.

People may think that Raw having the Universal Title, US Title and IC Title, plus Tag Titles and Women’s Title is too much – but it’s the same amount of titles they had before. Not only that, but Raw is a three hour show, with a slightly larger roster. There’s plenty of time to fit five titles on the show and more scope for different people going for different titles. Who exactly is Miz or Ziggler going to feud with for the IC title once they have finished with each other? Corbin? Crews? Swagger? None of them are ready for that, for a title shot. None of them are ready yet to be a champion. There just aren’t the bodies there to make a success of that title.

You don’t build up characters by having them hold titles – you build up characters who then get to hold the title and elevate its status or maintain its status. If the title defences start becoming hollow, see-through defences against challengers who aren’t or who don’t seem ready, then that does not elevate the title, it diminishes it.

Thirdly and finally, there’s the entire Cruiserweight division moving to SmackDown. Surely this is by far the best thing that can happen? They are nigh on being buried on Raw, in short matches and with no character development. Yes, SmackDown is only a two hour show but we’re only a few months into the brand split and I think the roster on the blue side is already starting to look pretty thin with not many more opportunities for fresh match ups outside of the World Title picture.

So does all of that mean I’m looking forward to Survivor Series? Well actually, yes it does. Because in the last week or so WWE has actually pulled out some pretty serious consequences to winning and losing which is something I think the show would have otherwise lacked in a very noticeable way. I think it also provides a few opportunities for the shows going forward that I think will improve both red and blue brands with bodies on SmackDown and an enlarged pool of IC title challengers on Raw.

All WWE has to do now is make the brave choice – and if they weren’t going to make at least one change, with the IC title or Cruiserweights changing hands – or both – then I don’t know why they would have come up with those specific stipulations – and I’m quite excited to see on Sunday which way they go.

What do you guys think? Do you think there’s a chance they switch things up, and if they do, do you think they should?