Happy Monday, TJRWrestling faithful! The battle for brand supremacy is over, Shane-O-Mac got his bell rung and Bill Goldberg wrestles like my CAW (Maxibon) does in the 2K games; continuously Spear from the first bell until you’ve got a finisher stored. Always works. Welcome to the Week In Preview for World Wrestling Entertainment, November 21st 2016.
Raw (Air Canada Centre, Toronto ON)
Announced: The New Day (c) vs Sheamus & Cesaro for the World Tag Team Championships.
What to expect: After Raw’s men lost their traditional Survivor Series elimination match last night, will Stephanie McMahon hold good on her assertion that their jobs may be forfeit? Will we learn more about what carrot she dangled in front of Seth Rollins to have him take part? Brian Kendrick retained his Cruiserweight Championship for the red brand, so presumably it’s back to business for the division tonight – Rich Swann looks likely-going-on-certain to be the next challenger.
Charlotte smoked Bayley after both women survived their elimination match last night, to give their budding rivalry a big personal edge. That’s likely to be the focus of the women’s division tonight. The tag titles match will see unsuccessful Survivor Series captains The New Day face sole survivors Sheamus & Cesaro. With the reigning champs now within touching distance of Demolition’s record, a title change seems unlikely. Finally, WWE.com is speculating whether Brock Lesnar or Goldberg will have anything to say about last night’s remarkable main event. Neither man has been formally announced at time of writing, but it’s certainly possible.
Spotlight: Mostly this is a general thought-dump on Survivor Series, but some of the issues I had with it disproportionately affect the Raw brand.
Firstly from the point of view of the narrative, there’s not a huge amount of momentum coming out of this event for Raw’s superstars. Charlotte and Bayley are the significant exception, and we have a tag titles match booked for tonight as a reward for Raw’s other survivors, but otherwise….. Braun Strowman was eliminated by a comedy mascot against whom comeuppance a) is pointless and b) has already been served. Kevin Owens got DQd after a rush of blood to the head. There was a minor collision between Luke Gallows and Enzo Amore that led to The Club being eliminated. Everybody else on Raw’s elimination teams got eliminated with little or no consequence.
Compare that with SmackDown (see the preview below). I know the blue brand has a pay-per-view in only two weeks, but that’s no excuse for Raw to have no narrative progression. Do we really believe Steph is going to sack the whole men’s singles team tonight? Raw failed to gain the Intercontinental Championship, but kept the cruiserweight division – which is stale as anything right now – minus Kalisto. Hope you enjoyed that Spanish Fly off the apron while it lasted.
Then we need to mention some issues with timing.
When you announce your pay-per-view as a four-hour show, and then it runs less than three-and-a-half hours, and you’ve persevered with a two-hour (to the minute) kickoff show, you’re likely to invite questions. I realise it makes narrative sense not to start the main event at 3:55, when the idea is that everyone’s shocked by it being so short – but 3:40 or thereabouts would’ve been fine. I don’t think anyone was expecting it to run 30+ minutes. So yeah, I have questions, please and thank you.
There is no excuse – none – for having the men’s singles elimination match run 53 minutes and the women’s match run through eight eliminations in just 18 minutes. Not when you have probably the most talented women’s roster in your history in the ring and 15 dead minutes you can’t defend at the end of your show. It seems novel to say an 18-minute women’s match felt rushed, but they could’ve given it more attention. Why not have Nia Jax spear Naomi through the barricade for the countout, rather than being dropped off the apron and that’s it, we need to move on, thanks for coming? Could the impressive Jax not have monstered SmackDown’s women a little longer, to really put her star in the ascendency? Why not extend the finishing sequence and tease more tension between Charlotte and Bayley? Why is Sasha Banks getting pinned off a rollup?
The tag teams got a fraction longer, at 19 minutes (seriously, how’s that Women’s Revolution going, WWE?), but that brought similar compromises. I like Breeze and Fandango, but realise their role is a comedy team – but what’s achieved by your soon-to-be-all-time record breaking tag team, The New Day, being eliminated after one minute? Those guys are one of Raw’s most popular attractions. Either of these elimination matches could’ve been made into mini epics with another ten minutes, but weren’t. And this looks even more disappointing in retrospect when you consider the substance of the main event.
So let’s talk about the main event.
The more I’ve thought about this, the more I like it. Brock Lesnar’s presentation has been excellent, but his character and his work have been becoming stale. Yes, had he continued indiscriminately beating people to a pulp until somebody from this latest generation of talent stood up to him, it would’ve been great for that guy. But it would’ve been dull as ditchwater for us watching to get there. Having Lesnar fall victim to his own hubris – more than anyone in WWE has in recent memory – is exactly what the character needed. And it’s much better than having Goldberg huff and puff through an uncomfortable 20 minutes just to give Lesnar his win back.
Might’ve sucked a bit if you paid to watch it live though; perhaps we should approach it like an MMA fight, where bouts can finish quickly and brutally and that’s part of the attraction. You know, those MMA fights we’re constantly being told the WWE doesn’t see as direct competition for its audience.
But now Lesnar’s bubble has been punctured and we’ve heard Bill Goldberg will be coming back for more, this is at least one part of Raw programming that promises to be different and interesting as we move towards 2017.
SmackDown Live (Canadian Tire Centre, Ottawa ON)
Announced: Pretty sure I didn’t miss anything in the Survivor Series whirlwind, but nothing formally announced so far. We were kinda spoiled with announcements for last week’s 900th episode anyway!
What to expect: Catch your breath, because the blue brand’s TLC pay-per-view is in two weeks – and there’s a lot going on. AJ Styles and Dean Ambrose were partially responsible for each other’s eliminations last night, and may face a grilling from Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon (well, okay, maybe it’ll only be Daniel Bryan tonight) before their forthcoming title match. Alexa Bliss will likely be finding out when her promised rematch with Women’s Champion Becky Lynch will be (also probably at TLC).
Still with me? On we go. Nikki Bella was mysteriously knocked out before the women’s elimination match last night. Was it long-standing rival Carmella? Was it Natalya, in order to steal her place in the team? Baron Corbin cost Kalisto (and the entire brand) the Cruiserweight Championship because he gives zero shits, which you suspect is likely to come back to bite him on the ass. Miz has kept the Intercontinental Championship, for which Dolph Ziggler is likely to be due a contractual rematch. The Usos – SmackDown’s best performing tag team at Survivor Series – may have leverage for jumping to the front of the queue for a title shot. Finally, The Wyatt Family might be players on the roster again after delivering the only victory for Team Blue last night (although Randy Orton is about to have time off to become a dad again). Phew.
If you’re wondering who came out of Survivor Series as the ‘dominant brand’, it appears Tuesday nights are still the place to be.
Spotlight: The Undertaker’s return to WWE TV last week sounded awfully…. permanent, didn’t it? “WrestleMania will no longer define who I am,” he said. “I’m back, taking souls and digging holes.” It left a lot of people wondering exactly what he meant. Whether or not it means we’re less likely to see him at the showcase of the immortals is debatable, but it certainly seems to mean we’re more likely to be seeing him elsewhere.
He also told the SmackDown men’s elimination team: “If you fail, you will have reason to fear The Deadman.” Well, they managed to dodge that bullet last night – but it was no thanks to the actions of AJ Styles and Dean Ambrose.
Regular readers of these previews will know my predictions are fairly terrible, so it’s probably best we consider what follows fantasy booking. However, the guys on our Survivor Series preview came to the same conclusion I (and probably many of you) did after watching last week’s episode: Undertaker’s warning will probably lead to a match with AJ Styles down the road.
There was a lot of talk a few weeks ago about the Royal Rumble in January being held at the 50,000-capacity Alamodome in San Antonio, and whether local boy Shawn Michaels might consider coming out of retirement to be a big draw for the event. AJ Styles didn’t exactly disguise his desire to be HBK’s dance partner in that situation, and perhaps the speculation didn’t come out of nowhere. But if Michaels has no intention of returning to the ring – which seems likely – WWE powerbrokers may have something different in mind for Styles (presumably still the champion after TLC) at the Alamodome.
If you had to opportunity to book an AJ Styles/Undertaker match, you would take it. Why the hell wouldn’t you? It’s still a dream match and we know how well Taker works with smaller, athletic guys. Think back to those WrestleMania matches with Michaels and tell me you’re not excited about the idea of Styles/Undertaker. It would easily draw 50,000 in San Antonio. Easily.
Later the same night, John Cena would win the Royal Rumble and then you have a choice of two booking paths: Because it’s not WrestleMania, Styles can easily go over Undertaker (possibly clean) and Big Match John has to beat the guy who’s stolen his catchphrase and beaten The Phenom if he wants to tie Ric Flair’s record. Alternatively, you have Styles lose the belt (echoes of CM Punk and The Rock here) and Cena’s challenge if he wants to equal Flair is the small matter of beating The Undertaker at WrestleMania – which is widely believed to be a matchup WWE wanted to do last year.
Either way, this also means you don’t have to rush through Randy Orton’s dalliance with the Wyatt Family just to ensure Styles has another face challenger after Dean Ambrose.
Will all this happen? Knowing the dollar-store quality of my crystal ball, it’s not guarantee. But you suspect Undertaker wouldn’t have come out last week and said something like that unless there’s a clear and interesting plan already in place.
NXT (Air Canada Centre, Toronto ON)
As usual with their big shows away from Full Sail, NXT taped some matches before TakeOver: Toronto that will air this week. Nothing’s been announced formally in that regard, but last week’s backstage challenge from Liv Morgan, Aaliyah and Ember Moon to Peyton Royce and Billie Kay – ‘find a third person then come and find us’ – seems an obvious candidate as none of those women were on the TakeOver card. Those matches being taped at the start of the night with the crowd at its freshest won’t hurt the atmosphere. Otherwise expect replays of TakeOver and most of the ‘exclusive’ backstage videos from the event that you can already see on WWE’s YouTube!
What with this weekend just gone being a crossroads for all three of WWE’s brands, not to mention a bit of a marathon, I’m busily giving our weekly Bingo a hard reboot (and a slight rebrand). It’ll be back next week.
In the meantime, I’m calling a solid eight out of 25 for last week. Might end up being a nine, if John’s ratings for TakeOver beat those for Survivor Series once his reviews go up here at TJRWrestling this week. I’ve also decided Undertaker’s moment with Kane – which WWE put on YouTube but didn’t broadcast – was a dark segment and therefore doesn’t count. It appears Kane was headed to the ring afterwards, which may have been for a dark match but makes no narrative sense in what was broadcast. So no lines again this week. Close, but no cigar.
If you disagree, I’ve no problem with that – feel free to comment below and turn my opinion around – but it’s only a bit of fun after all. We’ll get a genuine Bingo win some week soon!
Three Burning Questions
Some of this week’s most pressing but least publicized talking points. Throw down your answers in the comments section as usual!
- Do you feel Brock Lesnar’s character has been hurt by last night’s loss, or does his comeuppance make him more interesting?
- Where does the Intercontinental Championship program go from here? Would you go back to Miz/Ziggler again?
- Was the order of eliminations in last night’s tag team elimination match drawn out of a hat or what? [I’m totally up for hearing the results if any of you want to draw names out of a hat now and share them.]
Until next week, strap in, enjoy the ride and remember to stick with TJRWrestling.net for your show recaps and analysis.