As the WWE is so fond of reminding us, Survivor Series is the one time a year when Raw and SmackDown go head-to-head.
That theme has escalated in 2017, with a pair of matches between each of the show's male singles champions, as well as the women's champs. There's also a pair of traditional 5-on-5 elimination matches (one men's and one women's), a clash between both sets of tag team champions and a dream match pitting The New Day and The Shield.
To keep with that theme, we've pitted our Raw analyst Tim Fiorvanti against SmackDown analyst Matt Wilansky to break down, debate and, ultimately, predict the result of the full Survivor Series card.
Fiorvanti: The popularity of tag teams in WWE goes through peaks and valleys seemingly on a whim, but it can't be overstated how much The Shield and New Day have done for three-man teams and stables in general during the last five years. There was nothing like that going on when The Shield debuted in 2012, and New Day picked up the mantle and ran with it shortly after The Shield split the first time. They did it in entirely different ways, but each managed to take three extremely talented individuals and become a collective that was greater than the sum of its parts.
Just look at NXT right now with groups such as SAnitY and the Undisputed Era, who are about to step into the double ring and cage for War Games. They are each completely different from New Day or The Shield, but I don't think we get either of those groups coming together like that without those two groups coming first and reblazing a trail that's been largely overgrown and misused in modern wrestling. They've each given us a number of tremendous gifts, and now we finally get to see each team at full strength going head to head at Survivor Series.
What a way to continue to buildup what was, just a couple weeks ago, looking like a lackluster card.
Wilansky: What impresses me is how much better the New Day are now than when they set the WWE record of 483 straight days as tag-team champs. Their matches against The Usos in particular have been spectacular all summer. You could even make the argument that their clash at SummerSlam, which was during the Kickoff Show, was not only the best match on the card, but one of the best this year -- and rematches during Sin City SmackDown and Hell in a Cell were close behind.
In a recent SmackDown event, with the New Day sitting ringside watching their top rivals duke it out, Big E got on the mic and said something along the lines of when he, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods battle, their goal is to give the best performance of the night. That's exactly what they've done, week in, week out, whether they were beating or falling to The Usos.
What excites me most about this upcoming Survivor Series match is that we're in store for a riveting 15-20 minutes. This is so much more than a match thrown together simply because of high-profile name recognition. I can't say with any confidence who will win, but to me, this is the best match on the card, hands down.
Fiorvanti: That's high praise indeed, and while I'm equally, if not a little more, excited about AJ Styles versus Brock Lesnar, I don't think there's any strong argument to be made against this match being at or near the top of the marquee. While I was a little surprised to see The Shield's first official match back together happen on Raw against Cesaro, Sheamus and Miz, putting that rivalry behind them (or at least on ice) makes a lot of sense if we're going to quickly shift focus to these two teams going to war.
As you said, New Day have been clicking on all cylinders of late, and while Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose have had a few strong outings together since winning (and then losing) the Raw tag team titles, it's going to be on all three of them to keep up with a group in New Day that's spent so much time perfecting their act during the last three years. With Raw getting the better of SmackDown in the closing moments of Tuesday's show, perhaps the scales have shifted, but I think it's anyone's guess as to how this match will actually play out.
Wilansky: One of the byproducts I'm really interested in is the Roman effect. Yeah, I know even going there anymore can be eye-rolling, and personally I refuse to write the word "polarizing" when it comes to him.
Still, after creative finally conceded he is who he is, and jeering him is completely acceptable, it seems like it could be more difficult for fans to turn on him now that he is teamed up with Rollins and Ambrose. Obviously this won't factor into the outcome, but there is something about the organic nature of his role in this trio that seems like it will work in his favor, if ever he is going to be embraced. Maybe it's just that it's not solely his yard anymore.
With Reigns returning to WWE television after being out for two weeks, The Shield comes into this match with only one match since their reunion, as you mentioned above. Do you worry about the chemistry between them given their lack of recent time together, Tim? And more so, is it too early to even consider one of them could go rogue and smash his teammates with a steel chair?
Fiorvanti: If the last few weeks have showed us anything, it's that we can't dismiss any idea out of hand. It would be a bold move indeed to have Reigns turn on his newly reunited Shield brothers and start down the path of darkness toward Lesnar, WrestleMania and the Universal championship. I'm just imagining that New Orleans crowd booing Reigns, with the sound bouncing throughout the Superdome. I'd call that unlikely to say the least, but it feels as though something has to happen at Survivor Series or on Raw the next night to set some things up on the way to the Royal Rumble. I don't think chemistry is going to be a problem, as Reigns, Rollins, Ambrose, and even most of the crowd has slid comfortably back into enjoying The Shield. The pressure to deliver in the ring, on the other hand, that might be a different story.
On the opposite side of the coin, I'm vehemently opposed to breaking up New Day without having a very strong reason to do so. I've been on record saying that Big E, or even Kofi Kingston, could go off and enjoy singles success with their support system to back them up. As fun as their series of matches with The Usos has been, there's only so many times you can see even a pairing as great as those two teams in a short window without losing something. If they're not going to be actively pursuing tag-team gold as a unit, I see no reason as to why you don't do something like Big E versus Baron Corbin for the United States championship. But I digress.
Wilansky: Interesting you should say that. A couple of weeks ago, I somehow stumbled on an Intercontinental title match between Big E and Jack Swagger from 2014. It's not that I didn't know the sheer strength of Big E, but you don't fully appreciate it when he's mixing it up in tag-team competition.
I don't think it would be a tough sell at all to break out Big E into a singles star. He's charismatic and has cachet, and SmackDown could use another top face. But could a swerve be coming? On Tuesday night on SmackDown, Big E told the crowd at Charlotte about the strong bond the team has. They've never betrayed each other. They've always had each other's backs. Was he planting the seeds to turn on his teammates? Hmmm. I am not as sure as I was before SmackDown that this match will end with a clean 1, 2, 3 anymore.
Fiorvanti: There's nothing that's happened in the last week or so to make it seem as though this is anything but a one-off attraction match. All things being equal, I think a clean ending favors The Shield, because they're just getting their legs back underneath them. With a win, they've defended Raw's honor from the conquering SmackDown invaders, and WWE can continue their Reigns rehabilitation project with a few more Shield matches between now and the Royal Rumble.
In fact, even if something screwy happens and some members of the Raw roster decide to get revenge against the biggest instigators of "Under Siege" -- something that seems as though it'd be a quite unpopular decision, mind you -- The Shield still benefits. Unless we get some major course change on Sunday night, I feel like this is a big a no-brainer in my mind as anything else on the card.
Wilansky: As the SmackDown guy, and as someone who owns an unopened box of Booty O's, I'd love to disagree with you, but you're spot on. The New Day have lost their share of matches since joining Tuesday nights and it doesn't really affect their stature as a top tag team.
The Shield on the other hand look like they will be running Raw, at least in the weeks when Brock Lesnar is off television, and they need to appear unstoppable. Then there's the revenge factor. The New Day cost Rollins and Ambrose their Raw tag-team titles a couple of weeks ago. Hard to imagine the SmackDown trio will get the upper hand again without some unforeseen twist, which doesn't seem likely.
Whoever wins, this will be, as I mentioned above, a fantastic battle. I'm just wondering if it will be better than the New Day's clashes with The Usos.
Wilansky prediction: The Shield wins in a 4.5-star battle.
Fiorvanti prediction: Xavier Woods takes the fall after enduring the brunt of The Shield's end game.