Lessons from Survivor Series

Another Survivor Series has come and gone, and after Raw the following night, we finally know who stole Vince McMahon’s 100 million dollars golden egg. Yep, that’s right. Paid promotion disguised as a “Whodunit” was the big takeaway from one of WWE’s big four events.

It’s not surprising that Survivor Series laid an egg (Pun intended). The build leading up to the show was the laziest and uninspired for a major pay-per-view, perhaps ever. Typically, the finished product ends up quite good with poorly built WWE shows…Not this time.

It was hard to decipher why WWE only spent two weeks hyping the show. Matches were announced on Twitter, changed on television two days later, and altered the following week again in a manner that contradicted the original changes.

Now that things have settled down, the answer is crystal clear. Survivor Series was an infomercial instead of a wrestling show, meaning it was bought and paid for well in advance, i.e., a sold show with the main objective of promoting The Rock’s new movie, Red Notice.

Trailers for the movie aired through the show in conjunction with video clips celebrating the 25th anniversary of The Rock’s WWE debut. Along with the storyline that revolved around the film’s MacGuffin, Cleopatra’s Golden Egg, there was a battle royal sponsored by Pizza Hut with boxes of pizza displayed around the ringside area.

Vince McMahon made bank on Survivor Series before a single ticket was sold. WWE’s main objective is no longer to make compelling television. It might be number two or three on the list but not the priority.

Increased in-show integration of promotional product placement will raise WWE’s profile, making them more reputable and profitable. Unfortunately, it creates a more homogenized viewing experience where big moments take precedence over storytelling.

It’s hard to blame Vince McMahon if fans keep coming back for more. The loud minority of diehard fans and critics are easy to ignore with a check full of zeroes. I’d do it, too, if I’m being honest. Any promoter would.

As for the show itself, Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair opened up things with a match-of-the-year candidate that exuded the tension of their legitimate behind-the-scenes drama.

The Men’s Traditional Elimination Match had some fun moments. Still, there were too many countouts, disqualifications, and cheap finishes to convey any real steaks outside of the convoluted SmackDown vs. Raw gimmick.

Omos predictably won the Pizza Hut Battle Royal with twelve eliminations. No complaints here; it was a sponsored showcase for the new giant on the block.

CM Punk chants, the crowd doing the wave, and spots of awkward silence were the story of the Women’s Elimination Match. It wasn’t pretty. There were timing issues in several spots consisting of clunky moves and transitions.

Worse, the audience had zero interest in watching anyone in the ring except for Bianca Belair and Sasha Banks. It’s an indictment of how poorly the women’s division has been booked. There are four stars with two per brand, and everyone else is at the bottom with no one in the middle.

Liv Morgan has a title match in the pipeline. She was eliminated as a member of the rank and file instead of highlighted as a threat to Beck Lynch’s championship. If WWE isn’t careful, Morgan could end up as the Dolph Ziggler of the women’s division. No one will care about her because she’s failed too many times for anyone to believe she will succeed.

The WWE Champion is now 0 – 4 against the Universal Champion at Survivor Series as Roman Reigns defeated Big E. It was a good match that couldn’t find its way into fifth gear. Big E’s put on a strong showing that made people believe, at least for a little bit, that he might dethrone the “head of the table.”

It was said that Vince McMahon Sr. never booked a match between Andre the Giant and Bruno Sammartino because he didn’t want either of them to lose. Neither Big E nor Roman Reigns should lose at this juncture, but Reigns is the most protected guy in the company, so Big E is the sacrificial lamb.

So, what did we learn from the 2021 Survivor Series?

In between the backdrops and body slams, one thing is now clear. restaurant chains and any big-budget film with money to spend are more valuable than Big E and Roman Reigns.

Look at The Harlem Globetrotters. They’ve entertained audiences for almost a century. However, can anyone name one member of the team? It’s not about seeing superstars but enjoying an entertaining choreographed basketball game.

Now, more than ever, WWE is about the brand and not the wrestlers. Sponsors have always been part of the game, but WWE’s new direction allows them to focus their storytelling efforts on an elect few instead of the vast majority of their roster.

Army of the Dead, Pure Life, Red Notice, Pizza Hut, commercials via Peacock, welcome to Nick Kahn’s WWE.

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