The most promising match on the WWE Survivor Series 2013 card involves no championships and no lawsuit-centered storyline, just a stockpile of talent and the classic elimination format that has brought great theater to the pay-per-view over the years.
Cody Rhodes, Goldust, The Usos and Rey Mysterio vs. The Real Americans and The Shield is the kind of bout that makes Survivor Series special. The star power, skill and overlapping feuds will have it be more memorable than any other match at the event.
This year's Survivor Series features a WWE Championship match that despite some recent plot twists is a lukewarm main event, a world title rematch that will only entice a small portion of fans and a standard tag team match that won't have the same drama as a traditional elimination bout.
WWE made some misguided choices when booking this event, but not in the case of this 12-man contest.
Firstly, The Shield's presence almost assures that this will be a classic.
Since storming into WWE at last Survivor Series, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose have been a part of some of the company's best matches. Wrestling Observer has been handing out high star ratings for the trio's outings since their debut.
|The Shield vs. Team Hell No and Ryback||TLC 2012||4.5 out of 5|
|The Shield vs. John Cena, Ryback and Sheamis||Elimination Chamber 2013||3.75|
|Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins vs. Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton||Payback 2013||3.5|
|Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins vs. The Usos||Money in the Bank 2013||3.5|
|Seth Rollins vs. Daniel Bryan||Raw-June 10, 2013||4.25|
Wrestling Observer via ProFightDB.com
One could argue that The Shield's WrestleMania 29 match, the 12-man tag match on the Nov. 18 Raw and the bout against The Undertaker, Kane and Daniel Bryan on the April 22 episode of Raw have been among WWE's most exciting matches of 2013 as well.
Greatness is now expected from The Shield every time out despite their short time on the main roster.
Add to the mix the hottest tag team in the company right now in Rhodes and Goldust, the rising star that is Antonio Cesaro and a returning Rey Mysterio and fans will get the kind of star-studded affair that Survivor Series was originally built on.
Mysterio's first match since early 2013 is certainly worth getting excited about.
I just did a hurricanrana off my couch. Rey Mysterio is back! #RAW— Robert Flores (@RoFloESPN) November 19, 2013
While fans shouldn't expect the Mysterio of old, the structure of this match allows him to showcase his abilities while asking little of him. This will be no 60-minute Iron Man match; it will be an opportunity for him to soar in short bursts.
Goldust's latest WWE run has been stellar. Expect it to continue to be just that.
He has looked more agile and more crisp than ever before. He and his brother have been a part of the most moving matches of the year including Goldust trying to win Rhodes' job back on Raw, the Rhodes brothers forcing The Authority to rehire them by way of victory at Battleground and Rhodes and Goldust winning the tag titles.
Should the Rhodes boys bring that same energy to their latest fight, Survivor Series will have a clear winner for match of the night.
It's hard to get excited about the two title matches.
Fans just saw Alberto Del Rio and John Cena battle at Hell in a Cell ,and this time around, the story is essentially the same. The champ will go into this bout with a target painted on his injured left arm. Del Rio will play the predator, snapping at that body part as often as possible.
It's hard to imagine Del Rio winning the title back so soon, considering that he's held it for most of the year.
Cena is so much of a favorite that much of the anticipation for the match gets sucked out. If Del Rio couldn't beat a one-armed Superman two months after surgery, what makes the audience think he can do it when Cena is only wearing a sling as a trick?
Big Show and Randy Orton will exceed expectations, partly because expectations are so low.
The wrestling should be solid even with Big Show's lack of speed and mobility, but there's little reason to cheer for him. Fans were in full support of Bryan's quest for the WWE Championship. Replacing him in this story with someone who has far less momentum is not the ideal path to success.
The last reaction WWE wants fans to be having about a pay-per-view main event is a collective yawn.
It's Triple H who Big Show should be going after. The feud up to very recently has been about the COO and the giant. That's where the real spark would lie, not in Big Show going after a title that few believe he can win.
What about Bryan and CM Punk vs. The Wyatt Family? Shouldn't that be excellent?
It may well be. Luke Harper is quickly emerging as a top-notch brawler, and Punk and Bryan are reliable sources of classic matches.
It's just that it will be a regular tag team match, one that could have been booked on Raw or any other pay-per-view. The traditional elimination match has an edge thanks to its format.
Elimination is King
The narrative options with this kind of bout are extensive.
The two teams could trade eliminations, slowly depleting each other's numbers. Otherwise, one team could fall far behind, having only two men left against six enemies. The dramatic comeback can then begin.
This is the wrestling equivalent of a seven-game series, a chess match and a proverbial war of attrition all in one.
So many of Survivor Series' best matches have been traditional elimination bouts. Team WWF vs. Team Alliance, Team Austin vs. Team Bischoff and Andre the Giant's team facing off against Hulk Hogan's team at the inaugural event.
This is what makes this pay-per-view special. The battle royal is almost always the highlight of Royal Rumble; the ladder matches are usually the most anticipated bouts at Money in the Bank.
Orton and Big Show and the Wyatts against Bryan and Punk are closer to everyday fare while the match featuring the Rhodes boys, The Usos, Mysterio, The Shield and The Real Americans has an air of excitement that those don't because it's structure is a treat.
Count on Orton bringing the best out of Big Show and Del Rio bringing his in-ring acumen to the spotlight, but expect those matches to be outclassed and outshined by the one that most fits the Survivor Series theme.