The 30th annual WWE Survivor Series event takes place this Sunday night, Nov. 20, at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. The show will feature three Raw vs. Smackdown Live elimination matches, two title matches featuring a Raw wrestler taking on a Smackdown wrestler and, of course, the highly anticipated showdown between Brock Lesnar and Bill Goldberg.
I’m excited for the show because of the possibilities that exist in the elimination matches. Could they have been booked better with stipulations put in place to set up repercussions for the losers? Sure. We want to see rewards for the winners and punishment for the losers. Instead, WWE keeps pushing things like who the captains of the teams are, as if fans are meant to care about stuff like that. The idea of the Survivor Series is still a concept that can work. I just wish WWE promoted the show in a better way.
The main attraction for a lot of people is the “Fantasy Warfare” (the phrase WWE keeps pushing) matchup between Brock Lesnar and Bill Goldberg. It’s a rematch of their encounter at WrestleMania 20, which came at a time when both men were leaving WWE. The crowd in New York City knew it, booed both guys and the match was a bust. Who knew that we would see it again over 12 years later? Pro wrestling is weird, my friends. Very weird.
Here’s a breakdown of Lesnar vs. Goldberg in five different categories, in order to tackle it from different angles.
It’s been a bit of a bumpy ride, but the build has gone well thanks to the entertaining segment from this past Monday’s Raw. The bumpy parts were things like trying to get Lesnar booed in Minneapolis when fans wanted to cheer him. Then there was Rusev being used as a sacrificial lamb who got beaten up by Goldberg easily.
Goldberg has impressed me with his promos, as well as his intensity. He always had the intensity, but was never known as a great talker. They have kept the premise simple with Goldberg talking about wanting to do this match for his wife and son, while Lesnar and his advocate Paul Heyman have advised Goldberg’s family to not watch the match because it will be a beating. It’s an easy story that works because Lesnar and Heyman are being disrespectful towards a man’s family, while Goldberg wants to shut them up because of what they said.
As I outlined in my Raw Reaction earlier this week, their segment worked because the crowd chanted “Goldberg” for much of it and Lesnar backed away from a fight the way a heel should. It left us wanting more. If you want to see a Lesnar suplex or a Goldberg spear, you need to watch Survivor Series because these guys didn’t touch each other once in the build-up to the match. That’s why I’d call it a successful build.
I’m intrigued by this aspect of the match because I’ll be in the Toronto crowd on Sunday and I know from being at Toronto shows that the fans don’t always give the reactions that WWE expects. It’s why WWE announcers have called Toronto “bizarro world” to try to explain why heels get cheered more than faces at times. It could be why it’s taken 10 years for WWE to have a pay-per-view in Toronto (Unforgiven 2006).
Goldberg may be booed by the fans in Toronto because most wrestling fans know that his stiff kick gave Bret Hart a serious concussion at WCW Starrcade 1999. Bret wrestled for about a month after that, but then his condition worsened and he was forced to retire. Fans are fickle and they remember that stuff. Goldberg and Hart have mended those fences. Goldberg has been genuine in talking about the sadness he felt when that happened. Hart seems to be on good terms with him based on comments I have read over the years. Fans may not be as forgiving.
As for Lesnar, when he made his UFC return in July, he posed with a Canadian flag and was announced as being from the province of Saskatchewan. His explanation at the time was that he lives there and it’s as simple as that. He moved there (from Minnesota) a few years ago and lives on a farm with his family. That hasn’t been something WWE has pushed, so what percentage of the fans will even know that Lesnar lives in Canada? We won’t have an answer to that.
Lesnar has mostly been a heel since his WWE return in 2012, but he was cheered after WrestleMania 31 in 2015 because of the “Suplex City, bi**h” comment he made during his main event match against Roman Reigns. It looks like WWE is positioning him as a heel again. However, those “Suplex City” chants are strong and they aren’t going to go away. Those chants make him a good guy to a lot of the fans as well.
The fans may be the biggest story of this match. If they cheer the heel Lesnar and boo the face Goldberg, it could hurt the reaction that WWE wants.
I have some concerns about the quality of the match because their performance at WrestleMania 20 in 2004 was poor and the crowd hated the match, in part because both guys left the company that same night.
Goldberg was a below average in-ring performer who got by on having short matches where his power offense drew big reactions from the crowd. When he was forced to have longer matches, his limitations were often exposed. If you’re looking for a classic Goldberg match on WWE Network, let’s just say it will be difficult to find. His best moments like beating Hulk Hogan for the WCW World Title were great, but the match was boring.
Lesnar is pretty good in the ring, but in the last year, his style has changed. He doesn’t sell that much, he throws a lot of suplexes and the pace is a lot slower than it used to be. I preferred his 2012 Extreme Rules match against John Cena and his 2013 SummerSlam match against CM Punk over his singles matches in the last year. I don’t think he’s “lazy” like some people might think, but he has definitely changed his style. Lesnar is booked like a dominant force who legitimately gave Randy Orton a concussion at SummerSlam because WWE instructed him to hit Orton with legit elbows and somehow Orton was okay with it. The whole thing looked so legit that Chris Jericho nearly got into a fight with Lesnar about it until he was told it was part of the story.
It’s not known how much Goldberg has been in the ring to take bumps to get his body used to it again. In an interview this week with NBC Sports, he said “my body feels horrible” after beating up some indie wrestlers dressed as security on Raw. If his body feels horrible without taking any bumps, how will it feel when Lesnar is throwing him around the ring with hard German Suplexes that can often lead to painful landings on the head, neck and shoulders? I think that’s a cause for concern, although Goldberg looks to be in great shape at 49 years of age. I think we should assume that he’s going to be ready for it.
They will probably get 10-15 minutes to tell their story. It’s unlikely to go 20+ minutes with the styles they have. They’ll probably brawl around the ring quite a bit because it’s not going to be a match where you see chinlocks in the ring to kill time. I can see both guys hitting finishing moves with each of them kicking out.
It won’t be as bad as the haters think, yet I doubt we will see anything resembling a match of the year contender either. Their star power will carry the match more than anything. I expect it to be average in terms of quality.
I also think it may take place in the middle part of the show, rather than the main event. The men’s elimination is likely going 30-40 minutes and features a lot of star power. I would put that match on last, even though Lesnar vs. Goldberg is the real main event to a lot of people.
Where they both go after Survivor Series is important because it helps to determine the winner. When Goldberg said that he accepted the match a few weeks ago, he said “you’re next” to Lesnar and said “you’re last.” That likely means this is the last match of Goldberg’s career. That could change based on things like performance, crowd reaction and how he feels after it’s over. I just think he’s back for the one match and the next time we see him will be as one of the main guys at the 2017 Hall of Fame ceremony.
As for Lesnar, his WWE deal lasts until 2018 at least, so he’s going to be around for a couple of more years. He may be a part of the Royal Rumble match or could be in another match at that show. A WrestleMania 33 match is expected to happen as well. There are some rumors that it could be against Shane McMahon. I’m not sure if I believe that, but we could see them further that story at Survivor Series in a backstage altercation. If it’s not Shane, then it could be a number of different people on the Raw brand. It’s safe to say that Lesnar will be a major factor in WWE going forward.
Look who is on that WrestleMania 33 poster from WWE’s WrestleMania Facebook page. There’s Lesnar. No sign of Goldberg.
The last time Lesnar lost a match clean by getting pinned or submitted was WrestleMania 29 in 2013 against Triple H. He has failed to win triple threat matches since then, but he was not involved in the pinfall in those matches. Is Goldberg the guy to end that run? I doubt it. It should be a victory for Brock Lesnar thanks to a devastating F5. It may actually take two or three of them to put away Goldberg.
After the match is over, look for Lesnar to leave the ringside area. The camera will focus on Goldberg, he’ll soak in a respectful ovation from the crowd (assuming they don’t hate him) and hug his family at ringside. It will give him that one last in-ring moment to savor.
Fans of Goldberg may complain about the idea of bringing him back just to lose his only match, but that’s how pro wrestling works. You should put over the guy that’s going to be there long term rather than the guy that’s there for one match. It just makes more sense.
Prediction: Brock Lesnar wins
Survivor Series 5-on-5 Men’s Elimination Match:
Team Raw – Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman vs. Team Smackdown – AJ Styles, Dean Ambrose, Bray Wyatt, Randy Orton and Shane McMahon
It’s a tough match to call because there are different reasons for different people to be the survivors in this match. A lot of guys could use the win and the “rub” of getting the victory in a match like this.
Historically speaking, champions tend to do poorly at Survivor Series events because WWE uses it to put over other talent. That’s bad news for Raw’s Universal Champion Kevin Owens and Smackdown’s WWE Champion AJ Styles. I think both guys are going to be long-term champions who hold those titles until WrestleMania. I may be wrong about that, but it’s a just a feeling I have at this point.
Bray Wyatt will be somebody to keep an eye on. His former protégé Braun Strowman is on the other side, so it will be interesting to see if they go after each other. Then there’s Randy Orton, who appears to be a Wyatt ally, but I have my doubts about that lasting long. It wouldn’t shock me if Orton were to drop Wyatt with a RKO to reveal that Orton is still a good guy after all.
There could be some problems between Owens and Jericho too. The “best friends” are likely going to have a feud at an event like January’s Royal Rumble or perhaps a month a later. If they had an accidental problem during the match that would be a way to start the issues between them.
I’m going with Team Raw winning the match with Rollins and Reigns as the Survivor Series. I think it will be something where one of them pins Styles, then Styles hits a cheap shot on his “partner” Ambrose, who he is rivals with. During this week’s Smackdown, The Undertaker returned and warned the team that if somebody costs them the match, they will have to deal with him. I think that’s going to lead to Styles vs. Undertaker at Royal Rumble, so that’s why I think Styles will cost the team.
The ending of the match is a Shield reunion that will be tough for Ambrose to survive. That will lead to Rollins and Reigns working together to beat Ambrose to win it for Raw.
Survivors: Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns of Team Raw
Survivor Series 10-on-10 Tag Team Elimination Match:
Team Raw – The New Day, Enzo Amore & Big Cass, Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson, Cesaro & Sheamus and The Shining Stars vs. Team Smackdown – Heath Slater & Rhyno, The Hype Bros, American Alpha, The Usos and Breezango
The rules for this match are that once one member of a team is eliminated, his partner is also eliminated. It’s not an easy match for WWE to book because they want to get all 20 guys in there at some point. That usually means a lot of quick tags early on and then the eliminations will come in a flurry.
My feeling for this match is that Smackdown’s tag team division could use some momentum. Specifically, I’m looking at American Alpha. I feel like they have been lost in the shuffle of late and they really shouldn’t be. They are a team that’s on the rise and are likely going to be the Smackdown Tag Team Champions at some point. In order for them to be seen as bigger stars in the eyes of the WWE Universe, a win in a match like this would really help them.
If the Raw side were to win, I think teams like Enzo & Cass and Gallows & Anderson could do well in this match. The New Day seems to lose all the time when their titles aren’t on the line, so I can see them falling short. I like the prospects of American Alpha as winners, so that’s my pick.
Survivors: American Alpha (Jason Jordan & Chad Gable) of Team Smackdown
Survivor Series 5-on-5 Women’s Elimination Match:
Team Raw – Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Bayley, Nia Jax and Alicia Fox with Dana Brooke in their corner vs. Team Smackdown – Nikki Bella, Becky Lynch, Alexa Bliss, Carmella and Naomi with Natalya in their corner
There’s more star power on the Raw side, but that doesn’t mean they are going to win. It could be argued that Smackdown needs the win more, so that’s a reason to put them over.
I think there are going to be some problems on both sides. Charlotte may do something to anger Sasha Banks while Carmella has had issues with Nikki Bella for months now. If you factor those feuds in, there should probably be something that happens where a teammate costs somebody else in the match.
I’m leaning towards the Raw team with an eye towards the future. Bayley is likely going to be Charlotte’s next major challenger for the Raw Women’s Title. In order to get her ready for that spot, she needs some momentum. I think Bayley will do well here. Nia Jax has been unbeatable so far on the main roster. Look for her to eliminate a couple of women on her way to lasting a long time. I think Banks may make it to the end as well, so I’m going with three women on the Raw side.
Survivors: Bayley, Sasha Banks and Nia Jax of Team Raw
In terms of match order, I’d put the men’s tag team match on first, the women’s match in the middle of the show and have the announcers hype that it’s 1-1 in elimination matches. Then they have the men’s elimination match to end the night.
Intercontinental Championship: The Miz vs. Sami Zayn
(Stipulation: If Zayn wins, then then the IC Title goes to Raw with him.)
I liked The Miz feud with Dolph Ziggler on Smackdown over the IC Title. I was surprised by the title change they did this week because I was excited to see Ziggler vs. Zayn. My guess is that WWE did the change so that the face Zayn is facing a true heel like Miz instead of a face vs. face match against Ziggler.
This feels like a title change to me because Zayn could use the boost of holding the coveted IC Title. I think WWE knows he’s going to get a massive ovation in his home country of Canada, so they will give him a chance to have a big moment for his first title win on the main roster. It would also mean the IC Title moves to Raw, at least for now, because that’s the stipulation. I’m not a fan of that because I think Smackdown should have the US or IC Title on their show. It wouldn’t surprise me if Zayn joins Smackdown as a free agent (they already had Jack Swagger do that) or gets traded there to even things out. He hasn’t done much on Raw, but on Smackdown, he would be seen as a much bigger star.
My Prediction: Sami Zayn wins the Intercontinental Championship
Cruiserweight Championship: Brian Kendrick vs. Kalisto
(Stipulation: If Kalisto wins then the Cruiserweight Championship and Cruiserweight Division goes to Smackdown.)
This is a tough call. There’s a new WWE Cruiserweight show called 205 Live that debuts on WWE Network on Tuesday, Nov. 29 at 10 p.m. ET. It’s a live show that will take place after Smackdown Live goes off the air. Due to that show being a reality, it would make sense to move the Cruiserweight division over to Smackdown. It doesn’t have to, though. They can still keep the division on Raw and the talent can be on the 205 Live show after Smackdown airs.
I’m going with a Kalisto win, even though it would seem like a bad move to an entire division of 15 or so wrestlers over to the show that has two hours of time. That move would mean Smackdown has more talent on a show that has fewer matches and less time. It would hurt Raw more than help it.
My preference is that the heels Miz and Kendrick win their matches. I just think both of them are going to lose because WWE wants to change things up.
My Prediction: Kalisto wins the Cruiserweight Championship
There are only six announced matches on a four-hour show. That may seem weird, but the Survivor Series elimination matches are all likely to go 30-45 minutes. There could also be some angles done to extend the show whether they are backstage segments or things that happen in the ring. We may see some more matches added to the show as well.
I think it will be a good event, but even in a best-case scenario, I doubt it’s going to be considered a classic event. I think NXT Takeover Toronto, which I previewed on Monday, will be a better show for matches. There’s more star power here and that will certainly help. My hope is that there’s a big angle that takes place that gets people talking after the show is over because WWE needs something important to happen.
You can watch Survivor Series on WWE Network this Sunday at 7 p.m. ET with an expected run time of about four hours. There’s a Kickoff Show starting at 5 p.m. ET because WWE thinks their fans want to watch six hours of programming in one night. Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy Survivor Series.