Sports. Honestly. Since 2011

What Survivor Series needs to do to survive the Modern Era

Brock Lesnar might be helping bring the Survivor Series back to its former glory.

The absence of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at this year’s Survivor Series has caused WWE to rely on other feuds for the main event. While they could have easily had John Cena vs Seth Rollins, Randy Orton vs Seth Rollins, or even Dean Ambrose vs Bray Wyatt as this year’s main event, WWE has opted to have the marquee match be a traditional Survivor Series tag team elimination match. It has been nine years since the last time a Survivor Series was capped off with an elimination tag team match. For my money? That’s too long.

Once upon a time that was all the event was; a series of four on four or five on five elimination tag matches. At that time it was enough. The only other pay-per-view the then-WWF had was WrestleMania, so having an event that showcased tag team wrestling set it apart, and made it unique. It also meant getting the most out of the roster, with many feuds being included in any one given match.  The early years of the event usually featured 40 – 50 wrestlers, the only other event that sees that many bodies is the Royal Rumble, a perennial favourite event for many fans.

Why then, in recent years, has the Survivor Series lost its lustre? It could be the gradual shift to a traditional pay-per-view event format, with the inclusion of only one or two traditional elimination matches. I still remember my disappointment when WWF began announcing the card for the 1992 Survivor Series, having only one elimination match and including just 28 wrestlers. A decent turnout from the roster, but compared to the 40 or 50 from years past, it seemed rather small. Thankfully 1993 saw them return to the traditional format, but in 1994 singles matches slowly began to trickle back onto the card and over the years the traditional elimination matches became fewer and fewer with only one or two on the card, and usually containing divas or mid to lower card wrestlers.

In 2010 WWE had even flirted with the idea of eliminating The Survivor Series altogether (1998 did see the “Deadly Games” tournament instead of traditional elimination matches), replacing it with a different event that no doubt would have had some buzz word name like “Over The Edge” or “Payback” but ultimately would have been no different than any other generic pay-per-view throughout the year. Thankfully they changed their minds, but I often wonder if fans realize how close we came to losing, not just one of the original four WWF pay-per-views but the second longest running, after WrestleMania.

Part of the reasoning for the potential cancelation of Survivor Series in 2010 could have been due to WWE Bragging Rights. The 2009 and 2010 pay-per-view took place in October both years, only one month before the Survivor Series. Although, only the 2010 edition of Bragging Rights had a 14 man elimination match, the 2009 event still had a 14 man single fall tag team match. To have these massive tag team matches so close to the Survivor Series, it’s understandable that fans would tune out, it was team battle overload. However, as WWE looked at the chopping block, it was Bragging Rights that met its demise after 2010.

Having a traditional elimination match be the main event for the 2014 edition of Survivor Series is certainly a step in the right direction to bringing the event back to a place of prominence, but will it be enough? I’m not saying turn the entire card back into a show of only elimination matches. While that is something I would like to see, I know that not every fan sees it that way, but I am certainly in favour of a 50/50 split with maybe three traditional elimination matches and three or four standard matches. However, in a time of instant gratification and every event having to mean something more, just having the elimination matches and honouring the past may not be enough.

In recent years, no match concept has skyrocketed in popularity quite as quickly as the Money In The Bank, and it is understandable why. There is always a buzz, an electricity in the air, when someone is cashing in their Money In The Bank contract. Whether heel or baby face, whether fans want to see the champion dethroned or not, it is exciting, and while the act of cashing in could come at any time throughout the year, the genesis of it comes from the event, and the Money In The Bank match itself. It often reminds me of the Royal Rumble, with the similarity of the winner gaining a World Title opportunity, and has me wondering if the Rumble would have stayed as popular as it has been had that rule not been instituted over 20 years ago.

Does the Survivor Series need a further stipulation to stay relevant? History and nostalgia may not be enough for the second longest running WWE pay-per-view. As Cells and Chambers begin to take a greater focal point, the former Thanksgiving night tradition might have to up the ante, maybe an incentive for the sole survivors, or a gimmick match for the World Championship. 2003 did a good job upping the ante by giving the winners of Team Bischoff “favours” for allowing him to keep his GM job away from Stone Cold Steve Austin.

Wrestling is constantly evolving, and maybe an event like Money In The Bank is the way to go. It adds excitement, the thrills that come from a multi-person ladder match, and has big ramifications that could be felt at any point during the year. I’m not arguing the popularity of Money In The Bank, I’m simply a fan who grew up in the 80s with traditional Survivor Series matches, and I don’t want to see that history get brushed aside in favour of something with more flash.

Having a traditional elimination tag team match as the main event of this year’s Survivor Series certainly makes me happy, and with the stellar performances in the tag team division over the last couple of years, gives me hope for the future of the event. Flash can be nice, but it still needs substance. On the other hand, tradition is all well and good, but it still needs to be relevant. The Survivor Series has a rich history, and if the WWE can tweak it so the same excitement of Money in the Bank can be found in the traditional matches, Survivor Series will continue to survive for years to come.

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