How WWE’s Plan For ‘Survivor Series’ Could Potentially Backfire

WWE's own limitations could hurt the event


September 19

WWE will be giving “Survivor Series” a whole new look in 2022, but the limitations the company puts on its talent could be a downer for the Boston crowd.

The 2022 edition of the premium live event has been rebranded as “Survivor Series WarGames.” It is the first time a main roster card will feature a match that grew in prominence in the NWA and WCW in the 1980s and 1990s — pro wrestling legend Dusty Rhodes is credited with the concept and idea of the match. WWE chief content officer Paul Levesque (aka Triple H) has a strong affinity for that era of pro wrestling, which is why he brought it to WWE in 2017 when he was running WWE NXT.

That influence has been brought in since Levesque took over as WWE’s head of creative from former chairman and CEO Vince McMahon. While the news has been met with intense fanfare, audiences might want to hold off on their expectations.

First of all, it’s not clear how WWE will fit two rings into TD Garden to make the match work. The event has distributed 12,650 tickets, according to WrestleTix, so they’ll likely find a workaround come Nov. 26.

The more important element is WWE has not utilized the WarGames concept well. After WCW had its last WarGames match on Sept. 4, 2000, the concept had dissipated from main stream circles. Independent and non-mainstream promotions have used the concept, but it wasn’t until NXT brought it back in 2017 where fans started to become more familiar with the concept.

WWE has done eight WarGames matches heading into “Survivor Series,” and quite honestly, not many of them are memorable. They certainly have memorable moments, like Tommaso Ciampa’s air raid crash on Adam Cole from the top of the cage through a table in 2018. And therein lies one of several issues with the changes WWE has made to the match. They’ve removed the top of the cage so talents are able to show off their athletic abilities or simply jump off the top.

The point of a WarGames match is for two teams who bitterly hate each other to settle the score “trapped” in the cage. Does action happen outside or on top of the cage? On occasion, yes, and part of the story is how the people in the match get to that point. In all honesty, the concept is a silly one, but it worked on the house show circuit following a tried-and-true formula.

One, the heel team must win the advantage. There is no heat if the heel is going up against two babyfaces while waiting for their partner to come in. This has sometimes been lost in NXT’s version of the match.

Two, the babyfaces must always win. The worst WarGames matches are almost always ones where the heel team comes out victorious. You’re just simply losing the plot. The whole point is for the babyfaces to overcome the odds, finally exacting their revenge and giving the heels their comeuppance. It’s why The Four Horsemen and The Fabulous Freebirds lost every WarGames match in the NWA.

Three, and why WWE’s version of the match has been lacking, people need to bleed — a lot. Blood is a key element of the story because it shows how hard the babyfaces are fighting, and it gives the crowd joy to see the hated heels bleed — again, see point two. WWE has an informal “no blading” policy. This is for various reasons, but WWE’s PG product has seen fewer superstars making themselves bleed in a match. There certainly are accidental moments or times when talent bled “the hard way,” but WWE typically lacks blood in its matches.

This is sometimes a detriment because gimmick matches turn into spot fests and focus more on plunder with a handful of weapons in use. Wrestlers don’t need to bleed in every match, but there are times when it can elevate a match. Cody Rhodes’ “Hell in a Cell” performance from June 5 is a perfect example.

Rhodes had legitimately suffered a torn pectoral but chose to wrestle against Seth Rollins. The sight of Rhodes’ injury was clear to see for everyone watching. But it made for an incredibly captivating match. Rhodes is a great seller, so it wasn’t clear to the audience whether he was selling for Rollins or if he was hurting throughout the match. It made for one of the best Hell in a Cell matches in quite some time.

It’s unlikely WWE will change that policy, even with Levesque in charge. It’s a shame because All Elite Wrestling has shown how great the match can be when used to its fullest potential with their “Blood and Guts” matches, which are basically WarGames matches, but AEW can’t use the name due to copyright.

There will be much attention brought to “Survivor Series,” but the night will be made or broken by whether WWE can get WarGames right.

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