By Chuck Carroll
The WWE Survivor Series card is loaded and could grow longer before Sunday’s show. WWE spent the past couple of weeks giving the projected card a major shakeup, likely in an attempt to generate more interest for the pay-per-view. After promoting the match heavily on-air and on social media, plans for a Brock Lesnar vs. Jinder Mahal match were scrapped when AJ Styles dethroned the modern day Maharaja to become the new WWE Champion. The prospect of a match between The Beast Incarnate and The Phenomenal One is much more enticing than one featuring Mahal, whose status now runs the risk of retreating to the level of his Three Man Band days, following his meteoric rise to champion.
According to multiple reports, WWE’s original plans for the match were to have John Cena serve as the guest referee to generate more interest. However, once the decision was made to pull the plug on the Mahal-Lesnar match altogether, “free agent” Cena was shifted over to 5-man Team SmackDown Survivor Series squad.
After employing the “break glass in case of emergency” tactic with Triple H to replace Roman Reigns on the recent international tour, The Game is now being pulled from the shelf, dusted off, and inserted into the traditional 5-on-5 Survivor Series match as a member of Team RAW. Triple H pedigreed his way on to the team, leaving Jason Jordan laying in the middle of the ring last Monday. It’s unclear whether this was the plan all along to set into a motion a feud with Jordan’s storyline father Kurt Angle.
At this point it’s anyone’s guess as to how else the card will be overhauled. A friend of mine recently quipped that at this rate Hulk Hogan could lace up his boots and return to WWE.
Survivor Series match predictions are quite literally coin flips, as the majority of matches are exhibitions. With the exception of the Cruiserweight Championship, the card is void of title matches despite the fact every champion on the roster is scheduled to wrestle. So we’re really flipping coins to make these picks.
Rolling Stone’s Aaron Oster and TV Insider’s Scott Fishman each have a shiny new quarter ready to toss high in the sky to try to pick winners. With just two pay-per-view events left this year, Oster’s correct pick percentage remains comfortably ahead in the 2017 standings. It’s going to take a miracle to overtake him, so we’re bending the rules and will be awarding bonus points for correctly forecasting which two competitors will be the final two in each of the elimination matches.
Champion vs. Champion Match
Universal Champion Brock Lesnar vs. WWE Champion AJ Styles
Chuck: With Mahal no longer champion, Lesnar isn’t a sure bet to walk away a winner. Styles is arguably the most popular talent on the SmackDown roster and has been touted on camera as one of the best in the world. So there’s quite a bit of intrigue here. Does the Phenomenal One score a win for Team Blue? Sure, why not. That is unless Mahal gets involved. Pick: AJ Styles
Scott: I don’t see AJ Styles overcoming Brock Lesnar, despite his big win over Jinder Mahal. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mahal attacks Styles in response to losing the championship. Having potential for Daniel Bryan to be involved, at some point, with Paul Heyman could come into play as well. Pick: Brock Lesnar
Aaron: This match is going to be great. We should all be thankful we’re getting it. Though we shouldn’t expect a great ending out of it. I’m fully convinced that Jinder Mahal is coming out and screwing over AJ Styles to continue their feud through Clash of Champions. It’s possible that there’s a DQ ending, or even a total non-finish, but I’m guessing Brock will end up pinning AJ here. Pick: Brock Lesnar
Men’s Survivor Series Elimination Match
Team RAW: Kurt Angle (captain), Triple H, Braun Strowman, Finn Balor, Samoa Joe vs. Team SmackDown: Shane McMahon (captain), John Cena, Randy Orton, Shinsuke Nakamura, Bobby Roode
Chuck: The invasion angles have been fun to watch, but the only storyline that will be potentially carrying over is the Kurt Angle-Triple H situation. The rest of the match is pure meaningless exhibition. One of those two should be the final man standing for the red brand, and I’ll go with Randy Orton to outlast the rest of SmackDown’s roster. I don’t see the returning John Cena being a major factor. Pick: Team RAW
Scott: I was going to go with Team RAW, but the way the shows have gone in the days leading up to the show, I’m taking SmackDown. After the Jason Jordan project on the Monday night show hasn’t gone well, WWE needs to change course. And having Jordan cost his dad Kurt Angle the big win at Survivor Series can do that. Kane could be a factor, as it relates to Braun Strowman, as well. Taking stab in the dark, I’ll go with Bobby Roode and John Cena surviving, but it can really go any way here. Pick: Team SmackDown
Aaron: This match is so weird. There are plenty of storylines, but none of them really connect. Kurt Angle and Triple H have their thing going on, and maybe Jason Jordan comes out at some point. Kurt Angle’s job is presumably on the line as well, though they didn’t really mention that at all this past week. Samoa Joe and Finn Balor don’t really like each other. Braun is Braun. Yet you have to think Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn will come out to screw over Shane McMahon. Will they cost all of Team SmackDown? And how is John Cena Team SmackDown when he didn’t care enough about them to show up this week. Basically, all this is to say that it’s a total coin toss. I’ll go with RAW winning, simply because Angle needs to stay in power a little bit longer. He’ll also be the last man standing. Pick: Team RAW
Women’s Survivor Series Elimination Match
Team RAW: Alicia Fox (captain), Nia Jax, Asuka, Sasha Banks, Bayley vs. Team SmackDown: Becky Lynch (captain), Naomi, Carmella, Tamina Snuka, ???
Chuck: Much like the men’s side, this match is pure meaningless exhibition fun. Still, there is part of me that wonders whether Paige won’t somehow find her way into the match as the final member of team SmackDown. If not, it would come as no surprise if she returns next week. I’ll go with Asuka and the mystery woman as the final two competitors, with that woman scoring the win for the Tuesday-night crew. The writers can finagle a way to not make the loss count against Asuka’s unblemished record. Pick: Team SmackDown
Scott: I’m not sure if Natalya is filling the last spot on SmackDown Live or if it’s going to be Paige or Nikki Bella. It’s definitely an ideal way to reintroduce someone to make an impact. I know this means Asuka would have to get eliminated, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be by pinfall or submission. Whoever the final person is, I’ll randomly say she will be joined by Becky Lynch and Naomi in surviving. Pick: Team SmackDown
Aaron: This one is way clearer to me than the men’s match. Asuka needs to be Asuka in this match, just an absolute buzz saw. One of the reasons that Charlotte won the title was to clear her out of Asuka’s path in this match. Yes, you could neutralize Asuka by having her chase Dana Brooke away from the ring and get counted out, but that would be a mistake. Let Asuka do what she can here, and really show off for the main roster. A nice wrinkle would be having Nia beside her for a lot of it, and the match ending with the two of them, a possible look towards the future of the RAW women’s division. Look for those two to be the last women standing. Pick: Team RAW
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Tag Team Champions vs. Tag Team Champions Match
RAW Tag Team Champions Cesaro & Sheamus vs. SmackDown Tag Team Champions The Usos
Chuck: Picking a winner in a heel-vs.-heel match isn’t always the easiest thing. But I’m going to give the nod to The Usos, who continue rolling along with the best run of their careers. The Uso penitentiary will have two more prisoners after the night is over. Pick: The Usos
Scott: The Usos have been on fire this year, on the mic and in the ring. This one should be fun, but it would benefit Jimmy and Jey to get the victory. Pick: The Usos
Aaron: This is a tough one to pick. The Usos are an incredibly hot act right now, but it’s not like The Bar are slouches either. And with nothing to really gain from either side, anyone could win. I have RAW winning both elimination matches, so they’ll probably win a good chunk of the champion-vs.-champion matches. Thus, we go with the Usos here. Pick: The Usos
The Shield vs. The New Day
Chuck: Original plans for The Shield’s return were thrown out the window thanks to a viral infection that completely altered the WWE TLC pay-per-view card last month. So, their big return bout was pushed until Monday’s RAW. Now, after invading SmackDown on Tuesday, they’re going for a second straight win, and there’s zero chance of them not getting it. Pick: The Shield
Scott: I can’t imagine The Shield losing their first big match together on pay-per-view, at the event they debuted five years ago. This one has the potential to steal the show. I don’t know if Big E was teasing a turn on SmackDown, but it’s rare for a group to stay together without some dissension. Maybe a mistake in the match could create that. At the same time, it would be hard to imagine New Day breaking up with so much money to be made in merch. Pick: The Shield
Aaron: They’re just running through all the matches they need from The Shield. Get the match with Miz, Cesaro and Sheamus, now get The New Day dream match. Seems to be that The Shield could be breaking up again soon if they’re blowing these matches off this quickly. That being said, The Shield aren’t losing here. Again, with all of these matches, non-finishes are possible, as they are all mostly exhibition matches. But if there’s a finish, you better believe it’s The Shield going over. Pick: The Shield
Women’s Champion vs. Women’s Champion Match
RAW Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss vs. SmackDown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair
Chuck: This is a match that fans have been clamoring for. In yet another shakeup leading up to Sunday, Charlotte defeated Natalya to become the new SmackDown Women’s Champion on Tuesday night. It was a feel-good moment, topped off by an appearance by Ric Flair, after the two-time WWE Hall of Fame member narrowly escaped death. Alexa Bliss can afford to take a loss here without losing much credibility. Pick: Charlotte Flair
Scott: Alexa Bliss could use the win here, as it would mean more for her character than Charlotte. Giving her more to brag about on Monday nights. It would also help to build her up further in what will probably lead to a program with Asuka. Pick: Alexa Bliss
Aaron: Even though I feel a big reason that Charlotte got the title was to get out of Asuka’s way, I also feel like they’re riding a wave of attention on Ric Flair, and on her, due to the 30 for 30. So Charlotte isn’t going to then turn around and lose. I could see this ending in a DQ so Alexa saves face, but Charlotte comes away as the victor. Pick: Charlotte Flair
Intercontinental Champion The Miz vs. United States Champion Baron Corbin
Chuck: Baron Corbin continues to receive a nice push on Tuesday nights. The Lone Wolf has come a long way this year en-route to capturing the U.S. title. Still, I’m expecting The Miz to have something to brag about Monday night, while no mention will be made of the match on Tuesday’s SmackDown. That’s the beauty of non-title matches … they don’t really matter. Pick: The Miz
Scott: The Miz has been on fire in 2017 and hoping the momentum continues against Baron Corbin, who also has had a good year. Look for interference from Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas here. The Miz should get the win here because he’s The Miz, and you know the rest. Pick: The Miz
Aaron: This is another match that could really go either way. I lean towards Corbin solely for the same reason as the tag match, and that’s so SmackDown can notch some wins in the brand warfare. This is a 50/50 match. Pick: Baron Corbin
WWE Cruiserweight Championship – Kickoff Match
Enzo Amore (c) vs. Kalisto
Chuck: For all of the heat Enzo continues to generate, he is still by far and away the most popular talent in the cruiserweight division. Here’s where this one gets interesting. PWInsider is reporting Neville and WWE officials have mended fences after the former cruiserweight champion stepped away from the company out of frustration. If accurate, it’s plausible to think he’ll wind up costing Enzo the match and setting up a three-way feud for the title. Or does his return get saved for RAW or 205 Live? Likely the latter, thus Enzo retains here. Pick: Enzo Amore
Scott: As much as I like Kalisto, I would hate for the cruiserweight title to play hot potato. Enzo has found his stride with Drew Gulak and embracing the 205 Live life. Enzo needs more contenders though, which could come in the form of a certain someone we haven’t seen in a few weeks, from NXT or beyond. Pick: Enzo Amore
Aaron: Kalisto is not the guy to truly dethrone Enzo. They need to keep building Enzo up as basically the anti-cruiserweight, so when someone knocks him off once and for all, they get a huge pop. We know the brief Kalisto title run wasn’t really supposed to happen, and so at this point, they’re just moving on. The more interesting question becomes who will be the guy who knocks Enzo off. And I’m not sure if he’s on the main roster yet. Pick: Enzo Amore
Chuck Carroll is former pro wrestling announcer and referee turned sports media personality. He once appeared on Monday Night RAW when he presented Robert Griffin III with a WWE title belt in the Redskins locker room.
Follow him on Twitter @ChuckCarrollWLC.