Survivor Series is hard to predict

I gave my fellow wrestling pundits a hard time earlier today. And while some of it was deserved, I can’t really harass them too much. Survivor Series ain’t an easy egg to crack.

Here’s what I said about Survivor Series last year:

Survivor Series is unquestionably the most difficult show of the year to predict. From the outset, it has been a place where WWE tries new things, allows heels to completely dominate, inadvertently creates conspiracies, and even settles major stories. So unlike Wrestlemania (where you can expect them to give you the best bang for your buck), Royal Rumble (where you can expect the almost always-awesome Rumble match), and Summerslam (where you can sleep knowing nothing interesting happened), Survivor Series is almost always a wait-and-see. Some years it’s surprisingly awesome, and some years it’s a total bore. But one thing’s for sure: Survivor Series is the only Pay Per View where WWE would book a match involving Steve Austin dropping HHH from a crane while inside of a car.

Here’s what I think will happen this year. I’ve no doubt this year’s Survivor Series will be built similarly to Wrestlemania XVII: no title changes, no big unexpected turns (Cena and Rock coming to blows does not constitute a surprise) and nothing that typically defines a memorable wrestling show. WWE is becoming very good at distilling the things we used to take for granted and treating them as special. Kevin Nash doing a surprise run-in is now ‘special,’ done only on PPV. Great matches like Christian and Orton are left to PPV. The plot can confuse and frustrate over on Raw, but exposition is generally left off the big shows. On PPV, actions are clearly communicated. How much more enjoyable would WWE be if the only shows you watched were the 14 PPVs? Anyways, expect a Wrestlemania-style show, where nothing is confusing, a lack of bullshit is somehow disappointing, and The Rock ends up looking great.

I correctly predicted Cena & Rock vs Miz & Truth

Looking to bring order back to his show, Interim Raw General Manager John Laurinaitis ordered the team to exit the ring. The executive then made a huge announcement — John Cena will take on The Miz & R-Truth at Survivor Series with a partner of his choosing. Who did the former WWE Champion pick? His WrestleMania XXVIII opponent, The Rock.

Me, almost a month ago:

If I had to put money down today, I’d say these are the two guys Cena and Rock are taking on at Survivor Series.

Note that I said “two” guys, not four, which is something almost no rumour site ever suggested. Now, who got the speculation wrong?

Erik Beaston, yesterday:

The main event of Survivor Series, presumably, will be a four-on-four, traditional Survivor Series elimination match featuring The Rock and John Cena teaming with two other partners against four heel opponents.

Franny, at International Objects (not to be confused with the real thing):

Cena, The Rock, CM Punk, Sheamus, and Randy Orton vs R-Truth, The Miz, Kevin Nash, Mark Henry, and Christian.

Aaron Glazer:

The obvious members would be Alberto Del Rio, Kevin Nash, Miz, Truth, Laurinaitis and Vince. As a group, they would be going against Triple H, John Cena, CM Punk and, very likely, the Rock. Since Survivor Series is coming up and Rock is already confirmed to be on Cena’s team, this all seems extremely likely, as it really only leaves one free member for each 8-man group, and that could be easily finished by either an undercard pairing, say Morrison and Ziggler, or just using the Smackdown top two of Randy Orton and Mark Henry.

Takerfan99 at the always-awful Tribal Wrestling:

Meanwhile, WWE has already announced that John Cena and The Rock will be together on the same Survivor Series team – in addition to battling each other at the main event of WrestleMania 28. They will be joined by the current WWE COO Triple H.For the other two members, three names are on the rumored list – first, the Undertaker, who was last seen at WrestleMania 27, and the other two flagship of the WWE Attitude era: “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Mick Foley.

At Crunchbuzz:

Recent internet gossip suggests that The Rock and John Cena pairing will be aided when The Undertaker and Stone Cold make their 2011 returns to the ring. In the latest WWE news and rumors, it appears a Survivor Series dream team is in the making.

First Regime Mainstream Media didn’t even believe the Rock would wrestle:

While Survivor Series is on the brain, can we address these rumors of what will happen at the event? Whispers have told us for months that The Rock will come back at Survivor Series. When commercials locally in the New York area literally said that, it eliminated the idea that it would be a shocking return. There were even reports of a match that The Rock would have that night, but that seems unlikely.

And finally, asked its readers their thoughts on WWE changing the Rock’s return match to a 2 on 2 instead of 5 on 5, even though no such match ever existed.

Predictions on Mark Henry’s trajectory, and other Wrestlemania plans by WWE

Rumors can be fun, so let’s speculate along with the Observer:

It has already been announced that The Rock will team up with John Cena in a traditional tag team elimination match at this year’s Survivor Series PPV, and it’s being said that a scramble match featuring Sheamus, Christian, Kane, Randy Orton, Mark Henry and Big Show is expected to be added to the card.

Sure, makes sense. Chaotic multi-man matches are sorta a Survivor Series thing. Anything that keeps the belt on Henry is great news, too.

Creative has also been discussing a potential Tables, Ladders and Chairs match between Mark Henry and Big Show for WWE’s TLC PPV in December.

I think Big Show is up for getting fed to Henry a bunch of times, and it makes Mark look like that much more of a killer to take down people larger than himself.

As for the Royal Rumble, it’s being said that the winner has already been decided on, and it’s someone from the Smackdown brand. At one point Randy Orton’s name was being discussed, but that has not been confirmed.

The Royal Rumble victor hasn’t won his match at Wrestlemania four years in a row. I postulated that the rise of money in the bank was to blame for this. Considering they’re going so far as to have a mitb winner present at Wrestlemania, I’d hazard that the Rumble winner is going to mean even less this year. That is, unless…

The tentative plan right now is to have the winner of the Royal Rumble win the World Title prior to WrestleMania, and then go on to defend it against Daniel Bryan at the big PPV.

I actually sorta called this on The Wrestling Podcast with TH a few weeks ago. Choreographing the mitb challenge to Wrestlemania totally throws off the usual dynamic. Ever since 1993, the Royal Rumble winner has competed in a main event spot of the show. But Wrestlemania XXVIII already has a main event: John Cena vs The Rock. The winner of the Royal Rumble can’t main event the show. On top of that, WWE shot itself in the foot a little by making the 2011 Rumble 40 men. It made sense at the time, but by my count, there are only 41 guys on the roster right now, which means there aren’t enough to have any other matches. But simply scaling back to 30 would seem lame.

I don’t think it makes any sense to have the royal rumble winner beat Mark Henry prior to Wrestlemania, because it would seem really lame to have the Rumble be for a title shot at, say, Elimination Chamber. But it makes a ton of sense for the winner of the Rumble to be the World Champion. Rumble winner Mark Henry vs mitb winner Daniel Bryan sounds like a great marquee. And this is what I theorized on TH’s show: they should make the Rumble for the World Title.

It’s the 20th anniversary of the best Royal Rumble in history, which was the only time the Rumble has been used to crown a champion. Due to giant plot contrivances involving Hulk Hogan and the Undertaker, the 1992 Royal Rumble was used to determine an undisputed champion. It was the first Royal Rumble match to feel really important, after four retrospectively pointless ones. The 2012 Rumble is in a similar situation: retrospectively, every Rumble since 2008 has been for naught. The matches may have been entertaining, but the winners blew it. Make the match for the World Title, and it’ll seem fresh. The change in stipulation will also distract people from the scaled-back number. Most importantly, have it be a defense, with Henry leaving an even more confident monster. That’s a lot of firsts, which is actually great for everyone.

Will any story conclude at Hell in the Cell?

I’ve grown weary of predicting winners in wrestling, because such things are a) sort of absurd, and b) rather subjective. Instead, I’m trying something new: What are the odds that a story will in any way conclude?

First off, how did I do in predicting narrative structure at Night of Champions?

  • Cody Rhodes VS Ted Dibiase: Has this continued? I honestly don’t know.

  • Randy Orton vs Mark Henry: I called it concluding at HitC.

  • Punk vs HHH: It’s still going, except now the two of them appear to be on the same side (full credit to Holzerman for calling that).

  • Alberto Del Rio vs John Cena: I figured that would have been a one-off match. I was wrong.

  • Fatal 4-way: Ziggler kept the belt, and he’s not even scheduled at HitC. And my prediction that Ziggler and Swagger would continue was right.

  • Air Boom vs Awesome Truth: Totally wrong. Awesome Truth interfered in the main event of NOC and were subsequently fired. If they have anything to do at HitC, Air Boom is the farthest thing on their minds now.

  • Kelly Kelly vs Beth Phoenix: nailed this one.

Total: 5/7. Not bad for a non-clairvoyant.

Now, for Hell in the Cell:

Divas Champion Kelly Kelly vs Beth Phoenix

This is the last match between these two. Regardless of who wins, the focus will likely shift to either Natalya or the Bellas.

WWE Championship Triple Threat Hell in a Cell Match

Triple threat matches generally infer a transitional chapter or a throwaway one. This one reeks of transition, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Punk and Del Rio are the two trading championship reigns going into the fall, leaving Cena open to do some things with The Rock. In essence, this is the end of Cena in the championship picture for a little while, and the official end of Punk as a transgressive anti-hero.

World Heavyweight Championship Hell in a Cell Match

First off, this is the marquee contest out of any of them. It should be brutal and satisfying. It will also be a conclusion, either of Henry as a World Champion, or Orton. Before the Raw Supershow concept, I would have never predicted that Orton would go sometime without the belt on Smackdown, but that crossover allows Orton to still look like the face of the blue show without being champ. Still, I think they know they have something special with Henry right now, and if he wins, he’s going on to face something more interesting (like Sheamus).

Sin Cara vs Sin Cara

Only in wrestling can this be a) a thing, and b) a thing almost nobody cares about. There has been lots of specualation that this is the beginning of something that will culminate at Wrestlemania. While I don’t think that’s at all possible, I don’t think there’s any way this is the only time these two play around while fans get popcorn.

Sheamus vs Christian

Sheamus is going up, Christian is going sideways. This isn’t even a story so much as a reason to have their new shining babyface get a dominant win.

And that’s the whole show. Remember, both Summerslam and Night of Champions had slim-looking cards going in, and matches were added at the last second. But because I don’t know what those are, I can’t really predict (though, it seems suspect that Ziggler and Swagger and Air Boom don’t have anything else to do.)

WWE No Longer Showing Superstars Online

WWE No Longer Showing Superstars Online

Details on the WWE Channel

Details on the WWE Channel

Sin Cara vs Sin Cara

Sin Cara vs Sin Cara

The Salvation of Impact

The Salvation of Impact

Will any story conclude at Night of Champions?

I’ve grown weary of predicting winners in wrestling, because such things are a) sort of absurd, and b) rather subjective. Instead, I’m trying something new for NOC: What are the odds that a story will in any way conclude? What’s interesting about this show is that the odds are ludicrously long for almost every match. The entire show screams middle chapter in a way that hasn’t occurred since perhaps this time last year.

Intercontinental Champion Cody Rhodes vs Ted Dibiase

Not a chance this is a blowoff for this story. They will continue to fight one another until at least Hell in the Cell.

WHC Randy Orton vs Mark Henry

This is the only match I can think of perhaps being the first and last of the two, but the more I think about it, the more I think the match will be thrown out, concluding in a cell match.

CM Punk vs HHH

I had a really strange notion yesterday that this match would somehow end up being a title match of some kind by the end of it, but even that seems like a stretch. I see absolutely no way this rushed-seeming story can conclude here.

WWE Champion Alberto Del Rio vs John Cena

This match is the only one on the card that may be a one-off. The buzz for Survivor Series has begun, and something larger may distract Cena, allowing Del Rio to skate through. It’s about as well a conclusion as you can ask for in this story. Escalation doesn’t make sense here like it does with Orton and Henry.

Fatal 4-way US Championship Match

Ziggler and Swagger will continue to butt heads trying to win over Vickie, and someone else may steal Ziggler’s belt in the process.

WWE Tag Team Champions Kofi Kingston & Evan Bourne vs The Miz & Rtruth

As fun as this match will be, don’t expect it to be the only time it occurs. The re-invigoration of the Tag Team Belts means meaningful defences and a fun rotation of teams.

Divas Champion Kelly Kelle vs Beth Phoenix

I think everyone’s expecting Beth to take it here, but if she doesn’t (especially if she doesn’t), this is a middle chapter.

Changes To FCW Developmental System

Changes To FCW Developmental System