Early Predictions for Top Raw and SmackDown Stars at WWE Survivor Series 2018
WWE has been on a tear lately, for better or worse, pumping out pay-per-views at a rapid succession.
The past month's three events are still fresh in our minds, but there is no rest time to catch our breath, as Survivor Series has already sneaked up on us.
We are in a strange vortex between the early build for this card and the go-home shows that will finalize everything, so it's easy to get caught up in the whirlwind and lose track of what may be in store for us.
As the card is formulating, we don't know the full lineup, but the biggest names are starting to get locked into their positions, so let's take a look at what people like AJ Styles, Ronda Rousey, Seth Rollins and more will be doing come Survivor Series 2018.
Shinsuke Nakamura and Seth Rollins
The midcard champions of Raw and SmackDown are set to collide with Shinsuke Nakamura battling Seth Rollins, but this match is less about bragging rights and much more about pushing another feud.
The key to this is how and when Dean Ambrose is going to interfere to mess with Rollins, as it could happen in two possible scenarios.
Since this is non-title, Rollins could lose from a distraction or cheap shot by The Lunatic Fringe, and it would give Nakamura a much-needed win to offset his complete lack of a purpose or push from the past few months.
That would ensure Rollins doesn't look bad in his loss, as the priority would be setting up further tension in preparation for an Intercontinental Championship ladder match between Rollins and Ambrose at TLC in December.
However, a Nakamura win isn't guaranteed. With so little focus put on him recently, there's a good chance WWE doubles down on showing the audience how much more important Rollins and Ambrose are by having Raw score a point with a Rollins victory.
Ambrose can attack Rollins after the match, which wouldn't be as effective, but would still provide some sensational footage to use on the video package recaps for weeks to follow.
The choice of who wins may come down to how WWE wants to balance out the Raw and SmackDown points as well as if someone on the creative team puts in a good word for trying to help keep Nakamura from falling even further down the pecking order.
Ronda Rousey and Becky Lynch
Despite her popularity, Becky Lynch can't even convince WWE to keep her a babyface, let alone stand a chance at beating Ronda Rousey.
It will not happen under any circumstances—not even a disqualification or count-out.
There is far too much invested in Rousey as the undefeated top of the food chain, and since Lynch is a heel, WWE will always lean toward her being able to lose as something that should make the fans happy, at least in a kayfabe sense as the intended villain of this feud.
The match itself should be a fantastic contest and may go down as Rousey's best so far, if not ever, depending on what the future holds with other opponents like Sasha Banks and Charlotte Flair.
For the most part, this is just our first true taste of The Four Horsewomen vs. The Four Horsewomen, and it will be the start of a much bigger feud when all things are said and done sometime in 2019.
Brock Lesnar and AJ Styles
If this match feels familiar to you, it should, because it's an exact repeat of what was booked for last year's Survivor Series.
Granted, WWE didn't have this planned and the Roman Reigns situation changed the lineup, but there were other ways to book this, and the powers that be figured this was good enough.
It may well be, as far as in-ring action goes. Their match last November was the best Lesnar has had in years, as it was more than just a complete squash over in five minutes, but since WWE loves doing that whenever possible, there's nothing stating they won't pull that trick this time.
Lesnar doesn't wrestle anymore. He only does a few German suplexes and an F-5 or two and cashes his checks, and essentially always wins, even at times when it's necessary he loses.
There's no use in hoping AJ Styles is the one featured here and given the win, even as the cover wrestler for WWE 2K19, as the initial push for those sales has already finished.
Instead, this will be a situation where WWE will consider it amazing that two big stars are fighting, rest on the laurels of the last match being decent to help convince people this will be even better, and little to no thought will be given other than that Lesnar can't look weak.
If there is any chance in any universe that Lesnar loses, it'll be due to interference from Braun Strowman, but that prediction is pushing it and giving WWE more credit than deserved. It'll just be another win for The Beast Incarnate like the last time.
Women's Elimination Tag Team Match Members
Last week, Paige asked Charlotte Flair to be the captain of Team SmackDown, which she said she'd think about, but her status is still somewhat up in the air after not coming out with the rest of the team this week.
This shows that even without the championship, she is no less a priority than she's always been, and the blue side will be revolving quite heavily around promoting Flair more than anybody else.
This is no surprise, given her history, nor should it be any surprise at all if she is able to lead her team to victory no matter who is on Team Raw.
On the other hand, a similar situation may be in play for the red brand if Nia Jax is on the team.
WWE is going to want her to look as strong as possible heading into her match with Ronda Rousey, and if Jax shows off her dominance by being the sole survivor of her squad, she'll get a boost.
It boils down to these two, as any other big names like Bayley, Sasha Banks and Asuka just won't matter as much as Flair and Jax.
The winning team will depend on whether the writers consider it more important to build Jax for Rousey or to offset Flair's loss from Evolution. Whichever one is deemed the bigger deal will take home the win and all eight other women will just be background filler in comparison.
Men's Elimination Tag Team Match Members
WWE didn't get to do Team Baron Corbin vs. Team Kurt Angle, but that feud is still a major part of this story, as is the hatred Braun Strowman has for Corbin.
Team Raw seems doomed no matter who the final two members are, as bringing in Bobby Lashley, Finn Balor, Elias, Apollo Crews or anyone else won't be able to offset the issues of having Corbin as the captain.
Of course, SmackDown isn't without its problems now that Shane McMahon has the World Cup controversy surrounding him and bitter rivals Daniel Bryan and The Miz sharing co-captain power.
Both sides are recipes for disaster and the winning team will be the one that manages to have the smaller implosion.
If an anchor like Rey Mysterio can last until the end without Randy Orton interfering, he could bring the win home for SmackDown.
If Strowman is going to be built up enough to challenge Lesnar again, a win with him taking out more than one from the blue brand to be the sole survivor would help establish more credibility in his favor.
Watch out for McMahon and Drew McIntyre, though, as either of them could steal a win.
McMahon's actions at Crown Jewel positioned him as heading toward a heel turn and if he grabs the spotlight for himself again, it could be the story WWE wants to tell going into 2019 to set up a feud for him at WrestleMania.
Likewise, McIntyre must have humiliated Angle on Raw for a reason, which may go so far as to just be WWE's attempt to boost his stock. If that's the case, being sole survivor for Raw is the next step.
Survivor Series has a lot of potential to push many Superstars into great positions for TLC, so it will be interesting to see which ones are given special treatment and which get lost in the shuffle.
Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.