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Survivor Series 2017- Return of the Big 4?

Hey guys, welcome to the return of The Arena! It's been a minute, but I felt compelled to write about the upcoming WWE PPV, Survivor Series. Depending on where you are in the world, it happens this Sunday (America) or Monday morning (Australia). Now, in the last two weeks, a significant amount of changes have happened to the card. The last Raw PPV, TLC, also had some big time late changes, but those were necessitated to due the viral infections of Roman Reigns and Bray Wyatt. This time, the changes have been made to *gasp* put on a better event for the paying customer! We're going to examine the awesomeness that is about to take place in a few short days, but before I write about that, I want to look at something bigger- The Big 4.

Historically, the Big 4 refers to the four biggest PPV events on the WWE calendar- Royal Rumble, Wrestlemania, Summerslam, and Survivor Series. In recent years, WWE have not placed as much focus on the Survivor Series event, and there have been persistent rumours of the 'Series demise, with Vince and co. opting to put more star power and creative focus into the Money In The Bank PPV instead. Outside of the big Team Cena vs. Team Authority match 3 years ago which saw the long awaited WWE debut of "The Icon" Sting (that's the former WCW star, not the singer), the Survivor Series cards during the 2010s have not been the biggest, the most star studded, or even a desired match up by fans in general. Let's have a little look through the years:

2016- Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar. Seems like a hell of a match, right, so what am I whinging about? Bill Goldberg's return to WWE after 14 years tied into the release of the video game WWE 2K18, in which Goldberg was the special pre-order bonus, much like Warrior, Sting and Brock himself. Since we hadn't seen Big Bill in a ring for so long, we didn't know what to expect. Well, what we got was 1:26. Goldberg squashed Lesnar. It was a moment for sure, but as a PPV main event, not that satisfying. It turned out to be Part 1 of a story that culminated at Wrestlemania 33, where Goldberg, who had adequate time to train, and Brock put on the barnburner many were hoping for in November. Elsewhere, Team Raw vs. Team Smackdown took literally an hour to make up for that, but there were little storyline stakes outside of the half-assed "brand supremacy" concept, and as such, I remember very little about that match a year later. Braun Strowman killed James Ellsworth (not really) so that was fun, and Roman Reigns killed Shane O Mac (almost really), which was scary.

2015- WWE shifted focus away from the traditional Survivor Series elimination matches in order to run a piss-poor recreation of 1998's Survivor Series Deadly Game tournament, conducting a mini-tournament for the WWE Champion. On paper, the matches themselves were really good, but delivered like the lamest TV match possible, and it ended with Sheamus cashing in his Money In The Bank on Roman Reigns. Elsewhere, Kane and Undertaker squashed the Wyatt Family. Nice to see Taker on the 25th anniversary of his debut, but he and his brother put another nail in the coffin of the career of the promising and unique Bray Wyatt.

2014- I mentioned Team Cena vs. Team Authority being big. The debut of Sting, Dolph Ziggler looked like a million bucks, and the result forced the Authority out of power.

...They were back two weeks later. Ziggler's performance was basically forgotten about, and the rest of the card was pretty woeful, looking back at it. Adam Rose and The Bunny vs. Slater-Gator? AJ Lee vs. Brie Bella? The one good undercard match, Ambrose vs. Wyatt, ending on a DQ. If it seems like they weren't trying, it's probably because they weren't.

2013- Orton vs. Big Show for the WWE title. Need I say more? For anyone who think the whole Daniel Bryan story at Wrestlemania 30 was planned to happen, watch this event and the build up. They had Bryan screwed out of the WWE title on multiple occasions, and instead of DB getting his revenge, the giant took over and even hijacked Bryan's famous "YES!" chant! The match quality was shite, and the crowd reaction was not kind.

Elsewhere on the card, Total Divas vs. "True Divas", Ryback vs. Mark Henry, and Big E vs... Curtis Axel. Ugh.


So, with all that negativity and seeming lack of effort, what has caused WWE to put so much effort into this star-studded card this year? Well, first of all, it wasn't always like that. A few weeks ago, the main attraction was Brock Lesnar vs. Jinder Mahal in a champion vs. champion match. Mahal is one of the main reasons my interest in WWE waned somewhat over the past several months. I've still watched, but I haven't enjoyed it for a while, in fact, I've gotten more enjoyment by going on the Network and binging shows through the 2003 archives- The Rock and Stone Cold just returned and Wrestlemania XIX is right around the corner! But I digress. Jinder Mahal has been an unequivocal failure as WWE Champion, to the point that they had to cancel one of the India shows because it wasn't selling enough tickets. Hence, Jinder dropped the WWE Title last week, and Survivor Series is now main evented by a personal dream match of mine- Universal Champion Brock Lesnar vs. the new WWE Champion, the Phenomenal One, AJ Styles!

But, that's not all. Survivor Series is built around the rivalry between Raw and Smackdown, and this time, we have both big stars and stories to carry this through. Check this line up out:

I mean, that is two all star teams! You have the Raw GM and the Smackdown Commissioner going head to head as team captains, oh, and they just happen to be Kurt Freaking Angle and Shane O Mac, who had one of the most classic battles of the famed Attitude Era in addition to their more recent history. And over Kurt's left shoulder, well that's the COO of WWE, apparent heir to the throne, Triple H! He took Jason Jordan's spot last week on Raw, and appears to be inserting himself in the storyline where his wife, Stephanie McMahon, is questioning Kurt's aptitude to be Raw General Manager. And just to fill in all the gaps, Triple H is the brother in law of Shane McMahon. There's potential in-fighting in both teams. Balor and Joe have gone at it over the past couple of weeks, and on the Smackdown side, you have Bobby Roode and Shinsuke Nakamura, who feuded bitterly over the NXT Title earlier this year. Then there's the wild cards- on Raw, the Monster Among Men, Braun Strowman. He's shown himself to be volatile and the antithesis of a "team player". On the Smackdown team, "free agent" John Cena has decided to rep Team Blue, even though his last appearance was on Raw. What role will he play?

Oh, I left someone out. It's just 13 time WWE Champion, Randy Orton. No big deal. Just one of the most prolific Survivor Series elimination match competitors of all time. Look for a sweet RKO out of nowhere to help the Viper leave his mark on this one.

So in case you can't tell, I'm as excited as I have been in a long time for a WWE PPV. The new Brock vs. AJ main event is mouth-watering. I know Brock hasn't always brought his A game for his matches in recent years, but I feel like he turned a corner in 2017. His matches with Goldberg, Samoa Joe and the Summerslam Fatal 4 Way were top notch. Brock vs. Braun fell short of my expectations, but it was still better than the abomination that was Brock vs. Ambrose at WM32. The promo that Daniel Bryan and AJ Styles gave on Smackdown gives me hope that they're going to go all in with a high quality match, what with the talk of "dragging Brock into deep waters". The prospect of Brock vs. AJ getting 15-20 minutes is amazing.

I could sit here and break down the entire card and how much I love it all, but then we'd be here all day. So I'll just say that in addition to the top two matches I wrote about above, we've got Usos vs. The Bar, Shield vs. New Day (I did prefer the original Usos vs. Ambrose/Rollins, but the new matches are still great) and the recently added Alexa vs. Charlotte. Alexa is still a work in progress as a wrestler, but every time she's been in the ring with a Horsewoman, she's stepped up.

Going back to the question of why WWE loaded this card up so much- and changed it so drastically from the original line-up- I think WWE are more aware than they let on about fan criticism. The Survivor Series card drew criticism, but I think it goes bigger picture than that. Looking at the Big 4, they haven't delivered this year for the most part. The Royal Rumble was excellent, but Wrestlemania was a mixed bag. I loved it because I was there, but once the euphoria of being in that atmosphere for the first time wore off, I can acknowledge and agree with the criticism that the show was too long (the crowd was tired as fuck by the time Taker vs. Reigns happened) and also that the show was split into a strong first half and a pretty lacklustre second half. And then Summerslam was fairly awful across the board. the Ambrose/Rollins tag match and the Fatal 4 Way were great, but it was nowhere near enough to save an eight hour show that had some shit matches and booking decisions.

So combining the criticism of other Big 4 shows this year with the distaste for the original direction of this Survivor Series show, as well as fan negativity towards the de-emphasis on Survivor Series itself in recent years, I feel like WWE were forced in a sense to step things up. Enter Triple H. Enter John Cena. Enter new WWE Champ AJ Styles. This is what happens when WWE uses their loaded roster to its fullest effect. Time will tell if the show is as great in practice as it is on paper, but I'm highly optimistic. For the effort they've put into pleasing the fans, they deserve the Network subscriptions and PPV buys. Bring it on!

Until next time, take care,


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Image of Mick Robson, founder of The Arena Media

Mick Robson is a freelance writer from Australia. A lifelong fan of pro wrestling and MMA, he endeavours to bring that passion through his coverage in news, reviews and opinion pieces.

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