Holy star power wrestling fan. After looking for a while like it was going to be a really bland Survivor Series card, the changes in the last couple of weeks have produced a stacked show. There are 12 former world champions on the show, 8 former women’s or divas champions, 6 former NXT champions, and the only man on the show (including Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas) who has never held a title is Braun Strowman. However, even with the depth on the card, what a lot of people seem to be talking about this week is the ages of the participants in the top matches – in particular the Raw vs SmackDown 5-on-5 Elimination match.
SmackDown’s team consists of Shane McMahon (47), Randy Orton (37), Bobby Roode (40), Shinsuke Nakamura (37) and John Cena (40) for an average age of 40.2 years old. Raw’s team consists of Kurt Angle (48), Braun Strowman (34), Finn Balor (36), Samoa Joe (38) and Triple H (48) for an average age of 40.8. The issue that people have with the ages of performers is undoubtedly exacerbated by the other real main event – Brock Lesnar vs AJ Styles – also featuring two forty year olds.
So I’ve seen people complaining about how this is a really bad sign for WWE’s future, that to have three people in the match aged 47 or over is a sign that WWE are holding down younger talent. There are people who think that putting Triple H and Shane McMahon specifically in this match is a McMahon ego trip. I can’t account for that, but I do know from a storyline point of view it makes perfect sense for Shane to be in the match, and Triple H’s presence is clearly leading to something significant down the line.
It seems a far cry from a few years ago, when it felt as though WWE was full of young, exciting talent that could guarantee stability at a high level for years. But it should be remembered that to have a main event crop of 30-year-old stars breaking through to that upper echelon at the same time is rare. Traditionally wrestlers are at the peak of their craft around their mid-thirties, when they still have mileage left on their bodies but also have years of experience they can tap into when putting together the best matches possible.
Take Randy Orton. I was actually a little surprised he is as young as 37, because he’s been around for 15 years on the main roster, and at or near world title level for 13 years. At SummerSlam 2004, he became the youngest man to win a world championship at 24. Three years later, he became the youngest man to win multiple world titles at 27 – a record I believe still stands to this day. That should show that being a top guy at that age is the exception, not the rule.
So when you’re taking ten of the top guys in the company, it shouldn’t really be a surprise that seven of them are between the ages of 34 and 40. It should be expected.
And then look at the rest of the roster. The Shield are 31, 31 and 32. Big E and Xavier Woods of The New Day are both 31. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn are both 33. Rusev is 32, Bray Wyatt is 30, Chad Gable is 31, Jason Jordan is 29. It’s not like having Triple H, Kurt Angle and Shane McMahon in a main event is a sign that WWE are screwed in years to come. That’s just not even close to the truth.
And their presence has drastically helped increase the interest level in this match, and in the show overall. If there’s ever a role to use legends like these guys in, those are two of the primary reasons – along with storyline development (which is another tick in the box as I’ve already mentioned) and putting over younger talent. That last one is the biggest question mark, but long term using Angle and Triple H here should get Jason Jordan more over, and using Shane here will give Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn more ammunition to help their characters out, so it should still tick that final box when all is said and done.
And mention of those guys brings me to the match itself. Any one of Jordan, Owens and Zayn could very feasibly get involved in this match. I would have thought Raw has to win, purely due to Stephanie McMahon telling Kurt Angle weeks ago that his job was essentially on the line in this match. I don’t see Angle’s run as Raw GM ending any time soon, but that’s not to say there won’t be shenanigans.
Another reason Raw will likely win is that there are more members of their team that are likely to be protected in a big way. Triple H, Kurt Angle and Braun Strowman will all be kept really strong. But on the SmackDown side, John Cena’s losses in the last 18 months to AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura and Roman Reigns show that he’s not the super-Cena he once was, Randy Orton too has lost a fair amount in recent years, and Shane McMahon has essentially made a career out of being a glorious failure inside the ring. Nakamura is the closest SmackDown has to someone who shouldn’t take a loss, and he’s just lost twice to Jinder Mahal.
But you would think there’s far too much talent in this match for it to be anything less than very good. I would expect Samoa Joe to eliminate John Cena from the match, eventually leading to Cena returning full time to feud with him – and since there’s no Raw PPV in December perhaps even a match at the Royal Rumble. If the plan is for Angle vs Triple H at Wrestlemania, maybe Braun should eliminate Shane to tease a Wrestlemania match between those two. It wouldn’t be the best technical match by any means, but those two thrive in a street fight environment and it would certainly be a spectacle.
Based on everything, this match should get a lot of time, and it should be very high quality. This is a crucial night in the already evident build to Wrestlemania, as some key storylines for the biggest show of 2018 will be fleshed out in the fallout from Survivor Series. After the chaos of the last few weeks, with title changes, illnesses and returns, now it feels as though things will settle down again, and the real storytelling should come to the fore once more. I may be repeating this statement in the future if it turns out to be wrong, but for me the road to Wrestlemania really begins tonight!