WWE Survivor Series 2015: Best Booking Options for World Championship TournamentNovember 9, 2015
As much as the torn ligaments in Seth Rollins' knee took an ax to Vince McMahon's initial vision for WWE Survivor Series 2015, the World Heavyweight Championship tournament born from that injury is a chance to invigorate the product.
The win-or-go-home chase for the heavyweight title can elevate newcomers and be the catalyst for bad blood moving forward. And rather than go the expected route with Roman Reigns rising, the company is free to take a risk on a less conventional titleholder.
Rollins' absence is obviously a gut punch, but it will also provide opportunities for both the rest of the roster and WWE itself.
On his blog, Jim Ross wrote of the situation, "When a bad break occurs within the pro wrestling business it always opens the door for, at times, the most unlikely individual to step up and assume the mantle of the company."
Superstars must start making the most of that open door and maximize the tournament's potential before Survivor Series, when WWE lays the groundwork for the upcoming gauntlet.
A Proper Setup
The next two editions of Raw need to feel like the last weeks of the regular season, with teams jostling for position, desperate to make the playoffs.
WWE can't just throw wrestlers into the brackets; Superstars have to earn their way in. As former WWE referee Jimmy Korderas pointed out, qualifying matches are the best way to go:
That format would give a host of matches on TV in the coming days huge significance. Kevin Owens would have to get past his old foe Ryback in order to get a spot. Big Show and Kane would face off with only one man poised to advance.
It would be the tournament before the tournament. That route would properly get fans hyped for Survivor Series, as well.
Include the Unexpected
The makeup of the tournament field can add electricity to Survivor Series. This is a place for WWE to get creative, throwing out a curveball or two.
The Fighting Spirit Magazine nailed it when it tweeted that WWE can't just roll out the same faces:
Lean on NXT. Have Samoa Joe earn his way into the event. This could be a great opportunity to introduce Baron Corbin, too.
Otherwise, WWE can ask surprise guests from the past to take part. A one-time return from Shelton Benjamin would be an unforgettable moment. Asking Chris Jericho to take part would surely create a tremendous match or two along the way.
Jericho could seek to topple Owens, who beat him at Madison Square Garden in October, or else Neville could make up for his loss to Y2J at Beast in the East.
Give Reigns an Advantage
Reigns is the rightful No. 1 contender. He defeated Kofi Kingston and then outlasted three top talents in a Fatal 4-Way to earn that spot.
To have him go through the entire tournament, to have him start out in the same position as everyone else, just doesn't make sense. He should at the very least be given a first-round bye. Maybe he could get to pick his second-round opponent.
Either way, WWE is better off acknowledging Reigns' position as the top contender. Fans are going to expect him to advance anyway. The first-round matchup with Reigns will be the most predictable of the night.
A Big Upset
Once the bracket is set up, there will inevitably be contests that fans expect to go a certain way.
Should Neville face Sheamus or Tyler Breeze take on Alberto Del Rio, much of the audience will pencil in the favorites in the next round. This is a chance to craft a huge moment for someone who won't win the whole thing. Having Breeze knock the U.S. champ out cold with a Supermodel Kick and score the victory would be a huge first statement for the newcomer.
A result like that would be a reminder to the crowd not to assume it knows how things will play out. WWE should be unpredictable; the results shouldn't be easy to see coming.
Start a Rivalry
When Survivor Series wraps up, there should be more stories on the horizon than the one involving the eventual winner.
WWE can set up battles for Tables, Ladders & Chairs and beyond. Should two wrestlers get so contentious during their match that they brawl on the outside, unaware of the referee's 10-count, a rivalry could then be born.
If Owens defeats Cesaro by an unseen chair shot, The King of Swing can then pursue the intercontinental champ for the next few months with revenge on his mind. This would be a great chance to have Ambrose and Reigns plant the seeds for a future feud, as well.
Have the two allies meet in the semi-finals, and while their matchup is mostly a respectful one, the two can get a touch nasty with each other at times. It would be easy to then turn one on the other down the road.
Much like the Royal Rumble each year, this tournament is a breeding ground for animosity, a starting point for storylines yet to come.
Not Reigns, Not Yet
It's too predictable to have Reigns outlast everyone and become the WWE champ. His moment should be a bigger one than that, one that the audience doesn't see coming.
It hurts his momentum to have his biggest triumph be so expected. WWE is better off teasing a Reigns victory, only to have him fail near the finish line.
The tournament is a chance to showcase the heel who will supplant Rollins for the time being. It's a chance to try out a champion WWE may not have chosen otherwise. The company can provide a career-changing, shocking moment for Owens or Ambrose. It can have Cesaro stun the world by uppercutting Reigns out of his way.
For Reigns, it's better that he comes close but just misses out.
If someone cheats him out of the championship (i.e. The Authority), he can then spend from now until WrestleMania going on a chase back to the gold that he believes is his. That would be a much more intriguing tale than his running the table, a No. 1 seed doing as we all thought he would.