Buy or Sell: Lana as Last Woman Standing Is Smart Booking at WWE Survivor Series
Beaten down, berated, criticized and driven through a table nine weeks in a row, Lana enters Survivor Series as one of the more interesting characters to keep an eye on.
Presented as the underdog, a performer wholly out of her league amid bullying champions and world-class wrestlers, she has the opportunity for a career-defining moment Sunday night when she teams with Shayna Baszler, Nia Jax, Peyton Royce and Lacey Evans to battle Team SmackDown's Bianca Belair, Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan and two as-of-yet unannounced competitors.
For The Ravishing Russian, the pay-per-view represents the opportunity to silence her doubters and emerge from the tag team elimination match as the sole survivor.
But is that really the best option?
Lana is far from the most talented wrestler in WWE.
Some would argue she is best suited in a managerial role where she can use her personality to get another talent over. While there is merit to that position based on the sample size of in-ring output we have seen from her over the years, it dismisses the idea that she cannot get better.
Lana isn't a traditional in-ring performer and may never be. She is someone who will almost always rely on facial and body language to tell a story, rather than breaking out 13 variations of a suplex, upping the physicality in any given match or taking some unexpected risk.
That isn't a bad thing. Some of the very best in wrestling's long history have emphasized the showmanship part of the business before the in-ring aspect.
It just isn't necessarily a great fit for the women's division of today, which is as rife with immensely talented individuals as it ever has been.
The idea of telling an underdog story with someone like Lana when WWE Creative could focus on anyone from Naomi to Royce, Evans to Dana Brooke instead, is not necessarily appealing to a large portion of the action-loving fanbase—no matter how sympathetic or effective Lana is in that role.
Generating a negative response from fans at a time when women's wrestling is the one thing the company holds a definitive edge in is hardly a step WWE and McMahon should want to take.
The underdog story is tried and true in wrestling. It is almost always effective, if only because McMahon has always excelled at telling it. He knows how to garner sympathy for a character, and it typically pays off in grand fashion.
Look at the 1-2-3 Kid, who became a staple of WWE's New Generation in the 1990s after his upset win over the bigger, bullying Razor Ramon. On an even larger scale is Daniel Bryan, who had to combat The Authority to capture the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in the main event of WrestleMania XXX.
Even the CM Punk character was—to an extent—an underdog faced with the seemingly insurmountable odds of overcoming both McMahon and the company's resident Superman, John Cena.
No one is going to confuse Lana for any of those three Hall of Fame-worthy performers, but if history tells us one thing, it's that the potential is there for her to get more over than she ever has by standing up in the face of constant bullying and berating from Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler.
Imagine the reaction her putting The Irresistible Force through a table would elicit. Every one of the nine weeks she was driven through a table seems specifically designed to build to that one moment.
Even if McMahon has booked the repeated spots solely to stick it to the happy couple, he has indirectly created a character that fans can get behind and want to see succeed, within reason.
Does that mean Lana should be pushed to the moon and win the Raw Women's Championship from Asuka, then go on and kick Ronda Rousey's ass at WrestleMania because she's this badass titleholder all of a sudden?
No, and she doesn't have to be.
Lana can exist in the WWE Universe as the lovable underdog who wins some, loses more but never quits and that is a character McMahon has never figured out how to present in moderation.
Now is the time for him to learn.
The Verdict: BUY
There is no other omnipresent storyline attached to this year's Women's Elimination Tag Team match between Raw and SmackDown. Lana's journey to prove she belongs is it.
To prevent the match from being a meaningless collection of talent wrestling for no reason, to accomplish nothing of any real significance besides nonexistent brand supremacy, WWE must pay off the story and have Lana emerge from the match as the sole survivor.
Otherwise, what has been the point of this entire ordeal from a creative perspective? To write her on the show just to take the table bump?
Hopefully, Vinnie Mac and those around him aren't quite that predictable.