Survivor Series Showdowns: Spotlight on Champion vs Champion Matches

Survivor Series: Big E vs Roman Reigns
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November 21’s Survivor Series event marks another installment in one of World Wrestling Entertainment’s longest running pay per view series. However, its received little build up or fanfare on WWE’s flagship shows, Monday Night Raw and Friday Night SmackDown, until two key match-ups to be featured at the event were announced this week. True to the event’s theme of ‘blue brand vs. red brand’, Survivor Series 2021 will see two champion vs champion matches: Raw women’s champion Becky Lynch vs SmackDown women’s champion Charlotte Flair, and WWE champion Big E vs. WWE Universal champion Roman Reigns.

Lynch vs. Flair

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Amongst the annals of stored WWE rivalries, that of Lynch and Flair is sure to go down alongside the 1990s saga of Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. As with Hart and Michaels, the story of Lynch and Flair is one wherein professional rivalry and complicated interpersonal ties are inextricably interwoven. Lynch’s heel turn launched her popularity into almost unprecedented heights for female pro wrestling talent, but hers’ and Flair’s names were still linked in pro wrestling history in 2019 when they, along with Ronda Rousey, became the first women to main event WrestleMania at WrestleMania 35. Depicted as both friends and rivals, the two performers are synonymous with each other from their long and sometimes competitive association and many in-ring encounters.

The specter of Lynch dogged Flair throughout mid-2021 when Lynch’s return to work after parental leave was imminent and crowds were just being welcomed back to live WWE shows. Chants of “We want Becky!” rang from the crowd during Flair’s Money in the Bank match versus her rival for the Raw women’s championship, Rhea Ripley. Since returning to active duty in WWE at August’s SummerSlam, Lynch has focused most of her energies on Bianca Belair, but one more dance with Flair comes just as speculation about how the two performers feel about each other personally is once again a hot topic. WWE is clearly courting the intrigue by arranging this bout between the two as a Survivor Series headliner.

The Raw championship is iconically linked to both women, pivotal as it was to their program with Rousey and their WrestleMania milestone, plus Lynch’s imminence afterward.  The tension between the two when they swapped the Raw and SmackDown belts on October 22’s Friday Night SmackDown was palpable, and the segment continues to spark controversy and speculation in the weeks that have followed.  While they’ve faced each other often in the past, the deep layers of their relationship and the audience’s perception of, and speculation about it give their story a second wind. Flair’s impressive athleticism and Lynch’s engaging tenacity are sure to make their match a highlight of Survivor Series 2021, whilst audiences try to guess what’s a shoot and what’s a work in the Superstars’ every word and gesture. This match needed little build-up, because the draw is the intrigue between Flair and Lynch themselves.

Who’ll Win: With Lynch on top of the women’s division, it’s unlikely she’ll suffer a loss on a major pay-per-view. She’ll take the victory, whilst Charlotte’s loss will be fodder for taunts from her SmackDown rival, Sasha Banks. As they are on different brands, this may be the last encounter for a while between Lynch and Flair, but WWE has certainly struck while the iron is hot by pairing the two up again after the belt swap brouhaha.

Big E vs Roman Reigns

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The champion vs. champion match between Big E and Roman Reigns is an extension of the renewed rivalry between The New Day and The Bloodline. This development was first teased even before WWE’s draft landed Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods  in Jey Uso’s and Jimmy Uso’s crosshairs on SmackDown. The Bloodline and New Day faced off on September 20’s Raw, with the Bloodline scoring the win largely due to interference from a raging Bobby Lashley.

Big E’s WWE championship reign has been met with ardent enthusiasm from WWE fans, but storyline wise its spinning into butter. There is perhaps no more familiar or likeable WWE Superstar, and therein lies the problem: its hard to credibly believe in someone as Falstaffian as Big E having enmity with anyone, nor is it possible to tap into retroactive continuity to drum up an unsettled score from his past, such as AEW crafted with Eddie Kingston’s and CM Punk’s war of words over Punk’s perceived slights towards Kingston on the indie circuit back in the day, ahead of their own ppv event Full Gear. While Big E has been a singles competitor before and first attained the Intercontinental Championship back in 2014, he is far more well known as a member of the New Day, and whatever rivalries he has been involved in have been in that context. As Kevin Owens and Seth Rollins run through each other battling to be Big E’s antagonist for the WWE championship, Big E is still operating as a tangential member of the New Day in this encounter against Reigns.

Who’ll Win: As with Lynch in the women’s division, Roman Reigns is undisputedly on top of the company. So much of his “Tribal Chief” character’s credibility depends upon his invincibility in the ring, juxtaposed with moments of doubt and the struggle to visibly repress it. There isn’t much chance that even WWE will dent the polish of one of pro wrestling’s most compelling characters at the moment when they rely so heavily on Reigns for weekly television views. Reigns will win on pay per view as he usually does, but Big E is also a valued asset and will have some impressive spots showing off his prodigious strength and newfound competitive grit. Its highly likely that rather than a clear cut loss for Big E, the match will end inconclusively in a fray between factions, the New Day and the Bloodline.