As a service to fans who have a general interest in WWE but might not have watched a match in months, we’re happy to provide this FAQ as a guide to Survivor Series: WarGames, scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 26, at 8 p.m. ET at Boston’s TD Garden.
Why would WWE theme a massive event like Survivor Series as a tribute to a 1983 sci-fi film starring Matthew Broderick, in which a rogue supercomputer pushes the world to the brink of global thermonuclear war?
No, silly, they’re referencing that other relic of the 1980s called “WarGames.” Created by the great Dusty Rhodes in 1987 for the NWA, it keeps the Survivor Series tradition of two large teams of wrestlers battling but places them in side-by-side rings inside a solid steel cage. This gimmick inspired a namesake annual event in NXT from 2017 to ’21, making this absolutely the first time in Triple H’s tenure as chief content officer that he has recycled an idea from WWE’s developmental territory.
Wait, Survivor Series is no longer a “battle for brand supremacy?”
Correct. The WWE has scrapped the Raw vs. SmackDown concept for this year, which is no doubt a relief to those competitors who had to act like this rivalry wasn’t a made-up thing whose apex of relevancy came on the PlayStation 2.
The format change deprives us of a potential grudge match between the Universal and WWE champions, which would be Roman Reigns hitting himself for 25 minutes, we guess.
What are the WarGames matches?
There are two of them scheduled, one involving men and one involving women, continuing a tradition started during the NXT WarGames. The men’s match features wrestling’s hottest faction in the Bloodline: Undisputed world champion Reigns; cousins Solo Sikoa and Jimmy and Jey Uso, the undisputed WWE tag-team champions; and “Honorary Uce” Sami Zayn, who cemented his role as the group’s court jester when he made the entire stable break worse than Jimmy Fallon in a “Saturday Night Live” sketch during a recent SmackDown promo.
Everything’s fine. pic.twitter.com/Thx3JWR9RZ
— Sami Zayn (@SamiZayn) October 29, 2022
Their opponents came together over time. It started with The Brawling Brutes — Sheamus, Butch and Ridge Holland — finding an unlikely ally in Drew McIntyre, who had heat with Sheamus and Reigns. Their fifth team member was a returning Kevin Owens, a rival of Reigns and best frenemies with Zayn. It’s a match that should deliver the brutal goods in the ring(s) and offers a soap-operatic amount of subplots. Or, as Zayn would call them, the “Ucey Details.”
What about the women’s WarGames?
Bianca Belair has been feuding with Damage CTRL, which sounds like a place that’ll repair your broken laptop but is actually Bayley’s new faction with Dakota Kai and IYO SKY. Those two have been trading the WWE women’s tag team championship with Alexa Bliss and Asuka, the other two members of Bayley’s team. But it’s Belair and Bayley who are at the heart of this rivalry, with Bianca having retained the Raw women’s championship in both a ladder match and a last-woman-standing battle against Bayley.
Belair challenged Damage CTRL to this WarGames match, and they accepted. Bayley’s side loaded up with Nikki Cross and Rhea Ripley. Belair added Mia Yim — “Bah gawd, that’s Reckoning from Retribution’s music!” — who had been out of the WWE for over a year before making her return on Raw to feud with Ripley. She’s now known as “Michin.” Wait… she was known as Michin. That was a quick name change.
By our math, that brings us to five heels and four faces. Belair said her team’s final member would be revealed on SmackDown before Survivor Series. Given the hype and the importance given to this reveal, anyone but Becky Lynch would be a disappointment. Unless it’s Sasha Banks, of course.
She’s still with WWE?
Sure. Maybe. We don’t know. Banks hasn’t been seen in WWE since she and tag team partner Naomi walked out after a reported creative dispute. Another possibility for a Survivor Series surprise would be Charlotte Flair, who hasn’t been seen in the WWE since losing to Rousey at WrestleMania Backlash. Flair has history with Bayley and Ripley … and Belair, too.
What about the SmackDown women’s championship?
Ronda Rousey will defend the SmackDown women’s championship against Shotzi after she won a six-pack challenge match for the shot(zi) at the title.
Because this match is probably just a one-off to give Rousey some Premium Live Event time, let’s focus on the real issue here, which is the necessity for “six-pack challenge” matches. We’re down with a Four-Way Dance, and we’ve seen great Fatal Five-Way matches. But six? Six gets messy. Too many moments when a routine move causes three times the damage because the flow of action requires a competitor to stay down for like 10 minutes. It strains credibility, which is saying something when discussing professional wrestling. Watching a “six-pack challenge” usually means we’re reaching for one just to get through it. Anyway, good on Shotzi for getting this spotlight.
Are there any other title matches?
The U.S. title is on the line as Seth “Freakin” Rollins defends against Bobby Lashley and Austin Theory in a Triple Threat Match, which thankfully is only half as convoluted as a “six-pack challenge.”
If there’s a common theme in this Survivor Series, it’s how the WWE has managed to book matches with several storylines colliding simultaneously. To wit: Rollins defeated Lashley for the U.S. title after Brock Lesnar attacked Lashley before the match in October. Lashley lost to Lesnar at Crown Jewel and decided to take out his aggressions on Rollins, who issued an open challenge for the U.S. title. His brutal attack ended with Rollins laying atop a broken announcers’ table … and Theory arriving to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase in an effort to win the U.S. title from a bludgeoned Rollins. After Rollins kicked out of a couple of pin attempts, Lashley returned to the ring to break up another one. He then beat the stuffing out of Theory, allowing Rollins to curb-stomp him for the victory, marking only the third time a Money in the Bank cash-in resulted in a defeat.
Lashley set his sights on getting his title back from Rollins. Theory attacked Rollins on another episode of RAW and then tried to step to Lashley recently before fleeing.
This whole thing has a fun build that successfully built up Theory into something beyond the selfie-taking hand-picked protégé of the former chairman and CEO.
What else? This seems like a lot
AJ Styles is scheduled to take on Finn Bálor in a singles match. For months, Styles has feuded with The Judgement Day, that spooky group Edge founded before Bálor overthrew him. Styles brought The O.C. (his former Bullet Club buddies Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows) to join the fight against Damian Priest, Rhea Ripley and Dominik Mysterio. (The latter two are involved in a storyline relationship whose suggestive dynamics would have made the Attitude Era blush.)
The two stables met at Crown Jewel earlier this month, with The Judgement Day winning a six-man tag match. Michin — I mean, Mia Yim — has since aligned with the O.C. as an anti-Rhea Ripley countermeasure. They’ll all be in the respective corners of their factions’ leaders for this singles match.
This sounds wacky, but doesn’t it make more sense to have these four-person teams face each other? Perhaps in a match in which each member of the teams is individually eliminated until only one group is left standing?
What do you think this show is? Some kind of Survivor Series?