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Preview and Predictions for WWE’s ‘Survivor Series’: Can the Show Overcome Its Stale Concept?

The brand-vs.-brand gimmick isn’t nearly as interesting as it was in 2016, but the matches at the top of the card provide plenty of reason for optimism.

Five years since the brand split was reintroduced, WWE’s “brand warfare” concept for Survivor Series is starting to feel stale.

The Raw and SmackDown rosters will again face off as this year’s Survivor Series takes place in Brooklyn on Sunday night. Despite a couple of standout matches, the pay-per-view’s theme and a lackluster build have made the card difficult to care about.

Brand warfare was definitely a good idea at one point. It helped add life to Survivor Series after WWE brought back the brand split in 2016. As WWE’s longest-running PPV besides WrestleMania, Survivor Series is a show that carries so much nostalgia. It should always be an important part of the WWE calendar. But the event had fallen well behind WWE’s other “Big Four” PPVs and was only being included in that category because of its historical significance. While it still wasn't on the same level as WrestleMania, the Royal Rumble or SummerSlam, the Raw vs. SmackDown theme initially gave fans reason to care about Survivor Series again.

Matches like Brock Lesnar vs. AJ Styles, Lesnar vs. Daniel Bryan, and Ronda Rousey vs. Charlotte Flair were examples of Survivor Series at its best. All three were dream matches that became a reality because of Survivor Series. NXT's inclusion in 2019 was also a highlight, helping Survivor Series stand out from anything else we get from WWE all year.

But last year’s Survivor Series and the build to this year’s PPV have been a step in the wrong direction. Some of that waning interest was probably inevitable. While the brand split was fresh in 2016 and Raw and SmackDown had started to develop their own identities, that has deteriorated over time. With wrestlers coming and going from each brand in the WWE draft every year, very few people feel like they’re actually tied to Raw or SmackDown.

WWE has exacerbated that problem by having Survivor Series take place so close to the draft. This year’s post-draft rosters only went into effect a month before Survivor Series. If viewers haven’t even gotten used to who’s on which brand, how could they possibly care about whether Raw or SmackDown wins? The lack of real stakes has also been a problem. Fans would be more invested if there was something tangible on the line instead of just bragging rights.

WWE is at a point where it has to decide if the brand-vs.-brand concept for Survivor Series can be rejuvenated or if it has run its course. If the theme is going to stick around, the stakes for the PPV need to be addressed. Even something like the winners of the Survivor Series elimination matches receiving title shots or guaranteed places in the Royal Rumble would help make the PPV feel meaningful.

For this year’s Survivor Series, the top two matches on the card should carry the show. Big E vs. Roman Reigns and Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair are both strong matchups featuring some of the biggest stars in WWE.

Here’s a full rundown of the card, along with predictions for each match:

Non-title match: WWE champion Big E vs. universal champion Roman Reigns

Big E and Reigns enter this match in their rightful spots as the top male champions on Raw and SmackDown. Reigns and The Usos have laid out Big E’s New Day stablemates Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston on SmackDown in recent weeks. With Big E on Raw, Survivor Series is an opportunity for him to get his revenge. He and Reigns should have a great match on Sunday.

The match presents a dilemma in that neither wrestler should really be losing right now. But Reigns is the most protected member of the WWE roster and shouldn’t lose until someone beats him to win the universal championship. Big E will likely be kept strong even in defeat.

Prediction: Roman Reigns wins

Non-title match: Raw women’s champion Becky Lynch vs. SmackDown women’s champion Charlotte Flair

Due to the real-life issues between them, Lynch vs. Flair is the most anticipated match of the night. The two got into a legitimate backstage confrontation following an awkward title exchange that didn’t go according to plan on SmackDown last month. Lynch and Flair have had great matches against each other in the past, but their personal animosity adds an element to this meeting that hasn’t existed before.

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Lynch and Flair used to be best friends. Their issues with each other are real, but it also makes sense to use the situation to help generate interest in this match. It blurs the lines between story line and reality and makes fans wonder what’s kayfabe and what isn’t.

It wouldn’t be a surprise if Lynch vs. Flair ends without a definitive finish. But whether it's by cheating or some other method, Lynch getting one over on Flair is the right outcome.

Prediction: Becky Lynch wins

Men’s five-on-five elimination match: Team Raw (Seth Rollins, Finn Bálor, Kevin Owens, Bobby Lashley and Austin Theory) vs. Team SmackDown (Drew McIntyre, Jeff Hardy, Xavier Woods, Baron Corbin and Sheamus)

The stories for both of this year’s traditional Survivor Series elimination matches have revolved around whether or not team members will be able to co-exist. Raw’s men’s team in particular is loaded with heels and hasn’t been able to get along leading into Sunday.

On the other side, Team SmackDown currently has three babyfaces and only one heel. Drew McIntyre should get the victory for his team, further setting him up as a future challenger for Reigns’ universal championship at either the Royal Rumble or WrestleMania.

Prediction: Team SmackDown wins

Women’s five-on-five elimination match: Team Raw (Bianca Belair, Rhea Ripley, Liv Morgan, Carmella, and Zelina Vega) vs. Team SmackDown (Sasha Banks, Shayna Baszler, Shotzi, Natalya, and Toni Storm)

The duo of Carmella and Zelina Vega will likely create problems with the babyfaces on Team Raw, while Sasha Banks and Shotzi’s feud will cause trouble for SmackDown. That feud will end up being the reason for Team SmackDown’s loss, with Bianca Belair and Rhea Ripley leading the way for Raw.

Prediction: Team Raw wins

Non-title match: Raw tag team champions RK-Bro (Randy Orton and Riddle) vs. SmackDown tag team champions The Usos (Jimmy and Jey Uso)

RK-Bro vs. The Usos is a sleeper candidate for match of the night on Sunday. A split between Orton and Riddle might be inevitable at some point, but it’s too soon to start breaking up a tag team that’s working so well. They should defeat The Usos here.

Prediction: RK-Bro win

Non-title match: United States champion Damian Priest vs. intercontinental champion Shinsuke Nakamura

Damian Priest has been far more protected than Shinsuke Nakamura as champion and has more potential to become a main eventer in the immediate future. Priest winning is one of the easiest calls on this card.

Prediction: Damian Priest wins

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