A lapsed fan’s guide to WWE Survivor Series 2020

As a service to fans who have a general interest in WWE but might not have watched a match since SummerSlam or even WrestleMania, we’re happy to provide this FAQ as a guide to Survivor Series 2020, scheduled for Sunday from the “ThunderDome” at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida.

So are there actually Survivor Series elimination matches during this Survivor Series?

Absolutely. But for the 11th straight year, the battle lines are drawn between Team SmackDown (in the blue shirts, promoted during NFL Sunday games) and Team Raw (in the red shirts, whose lead-in is “Chicago P.D.” reruns). Which is a bummer, because we used to love those creative team names from back in the day. The Million Dollar Team! The Natural Disasters! The Rude Brood! In another time, a side with AJ Styles, Braun Strowman, Sheamus, Keith Lee and Riddle would have been known as “Team Hairy Styles” and we would have basked in its glory.

Also a bummer: the continuing suspension of disbelief that any of these competitors care about the brands they represent.

It’s wrestling. Isn’t suspension of disbelief inherent?

To a point. Sure, we can believe that a man can be both a sweater-wearing children’s TV host and a freaky, crab-walking demon straight out of a Rob Zombie movie. That’s canon. But to believe that stars like Styles and Sheamus have any semblance of brand loyalty after bouncing back and forth between the shows like a super happy fun ball through the years? That’s asking a lot.

Who is facing, ahem, “Team Hairy Styles” in their elimination match?

The SmackDown team has locked in four of five members — Seth Rollins, King Corbin, Kevin Owens and Jey Uso. Uso’s career has been reignited as Roman Reigns‘ rival and, subsequently, his lackey. Both sides have that classic Survivor Series tension of fragile temporary alliances, especially the combustible Raw side, which will probably just end up fighting each other. If the rumor and innuendo are true, this might be the last time we see Rollins for a while, as he taps out to an unbeatable opponent: paternity leave.

Is there another Survivor Series elimination match?

The Raw women take on the SmackDown women in a match that’s seen some editing on the fly. Mandy Rose appeared to be legitimately injured on the Nov. 9 episode of RAW then was attacked by Survivor Series “teammates” and women’s tag champions Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler to put the injury into the storyline. After Dana Brooke was “attacked” by RECKONING of Retribution — aka Mia Yim in a Hannibal Lecter mask — that left Jax and Baszler to tag with Lacey Evans, Peyton Royce and Lana, whose most notable contribution to Raw lately has been Jax dropping her through a table nine times, which we assume is a subtle Ferris Bueller reference.

The SmackDown team, so far, features Bianca Belair teaming with Liv Morgan and Ruby Riott. Riott won her spot on the team by winning a three-way match with Natalya and former WWE star and current Twitch streamer Zelina Vega, while Morgan won a four-way match against Natalya, Tamina and a debuting Chelsea Green, who was injured in the match. So maybe Tamina and Natalya for the last two spots, by process of elimination? Or Carmella? Or Billie Kay, to set Twitter ablaze when she steps into the ring with her former IIconics partner Royce?

This is a match with more than a few surprises left in store. Hopefully, one of them involves Lana turning the tables by putting Nia Jax through one, perhaps assisted by an intricate system of levers and pulleys.

Any other tag-team matches?

The champs from both brands face each other, as SmackDown’s Street Profits face Raw’s New Day. This one has a WWE Draft twist to it: Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods were the SmackDown champs with their partner Big E. (They defended the belts as a trio under the “Freebird rule,” one of the greatest amendments in pro wrestling’s unofficial Constitution.) But while Big E remained on that brand, his partners were drafted to Raw … while The Street Profits, who were the Raw champions, were drafted to SmackDown.

So the teams traded titles. “Because wrestling,” is why.

The New Day successfully defended their belts against the Hurt Business on the “go-home” edition of Raw, which was a little surprising given that it set up a “face vs. face” match at Survivor Series. But let’s face it: This is the kind of energetic match that makes the live crowd pop — if there was a live crowd and not giant rows of digital video screens synced remotely to web cams in the dystopian nightmarish wall of faces inside the WWE ThunderDome.

(But seriously, we have to applaud the WWE for not attempting to cram fans back in the building even as the easing of restrictions in Florida could have allowed for it, outside of a handful of NXT fans in plexiglass boxes each week. Of course, there’s ample reason for the company to be OK continuing with digital crowds for the time being, as the WWE outkicked its quarterly earnings predictions by around $30 million, partially due to the costs saved by not traveling to arenas all over the world.)

Does The Hurt Business have business in hurting people at Survivor Series?

They do! Bobby Lashley, the United States champion from Raw and a member of that stable, has a match against Intercontinental champion Sami Zayn of SmackDown. This is one of those “can the undersized guy outsmart the big muscly guy and his big muscly backup?” type setups. In a very 2020 development, they’re trying to build heat for their match through Twitter beef:

As you can see, Twitter has not disputed this claim.

What about the world title holders?

Sasha Banks, the SmackDown women’s champ, faces Asuka, the Raw champ for … well, they’ve seen a lot of each other in the past few months, including at SummerSlam. But the matches have been good! Unfortunately, this one seems destined for chicanery, as Banks was attacked by Carmella on SmackDown recently as a harbinger of feuds to come. Interference that leads to a disputed finish, protecting both champions while forwarding a storyline to the next PPV? As Banks’s co-star on “The Mandalorian” is fond of saying: “This is the way.”

But the match between world champions with the most interest is, of course, the one with Roman Reigns.

Ugh! Roman Reigns? So tired of him getting pushed.

Oh, you truly are a lapsed fan. Because otherwise, you’d know Roman Reigns has been the most awesome thing in wrestling since August.

How is this possible?

Reigns returned from his sabbatical away from the WWE; he is immunocompromised from two bouts with leukemia and is a father of newborn twin boys, and thus, he stayed away for a few months at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. But with an attack on “The Fiend” and Braun Strowman at SummerSlam, everything we thought we knew about Reigns changed. The hero that WWE had force-fed its audience like a parent attempting to spoon pureed carrots into a stubborn infant’s maw, turned full-sail heel for the first time as a solo wrestler by aligning with manager Paul “My Client” Heyman.

Reigns won the Universal championship at the Payback pay-per-view then really turned up the heat when he attacked his cousin Jey Uso on SmackDown, as part of a larger angle involving the Uso brothers accepting Reigns as their “Tribal Chief.” Again, we can’t emphasize this enough: The WWE created an angle that made Roman Reigns someone you eagerly anticipated appearing on television and established an emotional connection between the fans and The Usos. That’s some kind of sorcery.

Who is Reigns facing at Survivor Series?

That would be Drew McIntyre, the WWE champion. Following the logic on this one: McIntyre, wrestling his 400th title match (rough estimate) against Randy Orton, dropped the belt at Hell in a Cell on Oct. 25. McIntyre showed up on the Nov. 13 edition of SmackDown to cut a promo with Reigns, in which both men whisper-threatened each other like incredibly jacked NPR hosts. His appearance left us to wonder if this was a long game tease for WrestleMania or a strong indication that Orton’s reign would be a short one.

It was the latter. McIntyre won the title back on the Nov. 16 edition of Raw, setting up the face vs. heel dynamic for the Survivor Series main event, to find out which brand has the best champion in his non-title match.

So which brand will have the best champion?

Take this with a tremendous grain of salt, as you should with any offshore sportsbook offering gambling odds on things like WWE, but Reigns is listed at -200 to win the match, making him the second-biggest favorite on the card. There’s no logical reason to have him lose here, as the Reigns angle is paying off hugely. And if the WWE has taught us anything, it’s that it will keep doing the thing that works well past the point in which it works effectively.

Which brings us to yet another last goodbye for The Undertaker.

How is The Undertaker involved in Survivor Series?



The Undertaker tells Ariel Helwani that he has come to terms with his retirement from wrestling.

The man with more farewell tours than KISS is appearing in what’s being touted as his “Final Farewell.” It’s to commemorate the 30-year anniversary of his debut at Survivor Series, which is really quite the surreal moment if you haven’t checked it out recently: He is the secret tag-team partner of “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase; he is managed by the televangelist caricature Brother Love; and commentator “Rowdy” Roddy Piper responds to what appears to be a 320-pound zombie lumbering down the aisle by screaming “LOOK AT THE SIZE OF THAT HAMHOCK! CHECK OUT THEM DRUMSTICKS, BABY!”

Anyway, The Undertaker will be at Survivor Series for a last goodbye, following the one where he left his gear in the ring at WrestleMania 33 … and the one where he rode off into the night at WrestleMania 36 … and proclaiming his was retired at the end of the “Undertaker: The Last Ride” documentary.

Whether or not this one sticks, enjoy it. We’ve all turned to various forms of comfort food in 2020. There’s always room for another helping of The Undertaker, especially around Thanksgiving.

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Tagged 2020, fans, guide, Lapsed, series, Survivor, WWE