The following is an opinion-based preview and doesn't reflect the views of the website.
Nothing has cemented that we are now in Paul “Triple H” Levesque’s WWE more than when he announced WarGames was coming to Survivor Series.
In the months since he was named Chief Content Officer, we have learned a lot about his booking style. In many ways, he’s using Vince McMahon’s playbook but with a few tweaks that are similar to how he booked NXT -- tweaks which many will say have improved the quality of WWE’s main roster.
Some of these include, but are not limited to, a bigger roster with fresher match-ups, a greater emphasis on women’s wrestling, and perhaps most notably, a far greater respect for wrestling history that took place outside WWE.
This includes featuring non-McMahon creations such as WarGames.
After having been created four months apart by rival wrestling promotions in 1987, it’s interesting to see Survivor Series and WarGames merge like they will on Saturday. They comprise two of three concept matches/events created within in a six-month period that have stood the test of time.
The first WarGames match took place on July 2, 1987, while the first Survivor Series was on November 26, 1987. Shortly after, the first Royal Rumble was held on January 24, 1988. (Evidently, Jim Crockett Promotions and McMahon’s WWF felt concept matches were what was going to give them an edge at the time.)
The concept behind Survivor Series has evolved over the years but has usually kept similar themes of team vs. team or survival/elimination. After tag team elimination matches were phased out, we saw a single elimination tournament at the 1998 Survivor Series, the debut of the Elimination Chamber in 2002, and then the Raw vs. SmackDown battle for brand supremacy era which is thankfully over.
The team vs. team WarGames fits right in as the latest incarnation of Survivor Series. Levesque likely knew long ago that this is a move he would make if given the opportunity. It just, kind of, makes sense.
Here’s a look at the event:
Men’s WarGames match: The Bloodline (Roman Reigns, The Usos, Solo Sikoa & Sami Zayn) vs. The Brawling Brutes (Sheamus, Butch, Ridge Holland), Drew McIntyre & Kevin Owens
The finish will set the stage for months worth of storylines and will likely determine who Roman Reigns defends his Universal title against next. It will also further the story of Sami Zayn as the Honorary Uce.
The longtime friendship/rivalry between Zayn and Owens is likely to play a factor here. Owens is being positioned to get a shot at Reigns, but it’s not clear if that would come at the Royal Rumble or perhaps Elimination Chamber in Owens’ hometown of Montreal. Of course, WWE could have other plans entirely for that show.
That the Road to WrestleMania passes through Montreal with Zayn and Owens as hot as they both are right now is notable. Reigns’ path to WrestleMania seems as though it will definitely include a match against Owens, but it will be interesting to see how Zayn factors into the story. Sheamus could possibly end up with a match against the champion between now and WrestleMania as well.
This match will also see The Bloodline join the ranks of the Four Horseman, Dangerous Alliance, Dungeon of Doom, NWO, and Undisputed Era as heel factions to take part in WarGames. Heel groups didn’t fare too well in the early days of WarGames with Flair and the Horsemen only ever picking up one victory. The NWO changed that in the 90s, picking up two straight wins in 1996 and 1997. The Undisputed Era then went 2-2 in the NXT WarGames era. A heel team led by Vince Russo picked up a win on Nitro in 2000 as well but we don’t need to talk about that.
I’m expecting the babyfaces to win here, however. It seems needed as a way to create a new challenger for Reigns.
Prediction: Brawling Brutes, McIntyre & Owens
Women’s WarGames match: Damage CTRL (Bayley, IYO SKY & Dakota Kai), Nikki Cross & Rhea Ripley vs. Bianca Belair, Alexa Bliss, Asuka, Mia Yim & TBA
At the time of this writing, WWE has not announced who the fifth member of Bianca Belair’s WarGames team will be. There are several possible suspects, so let us review.
Becky Lynch: A report from Fightful stated that Lynch is near a return and was planned for the spot. If WWE still plans on Lynch vs. Ronda Rousey at WrestleMania, that build will likely start as soon as Lynch returns. She could also potentially move into a program with Bayley, however.
Sasha Banks: There is no shortage of fans who want Banks to be revealed as the mystery partner. Survivor Series will be in her hometown of Boston and while her return here is possible, it’s perhaps not as likely as Lynch’s.
Candace LeRae: LeRae has been in two WarGames matches and has won both of those, so in storyline, she would be a good pick.
Tegan Nox: Nox and Dakota Kai were involved in arguably the most shocking moment of NXT WarGames history in 2019. It’s possible Levesque would want to play off that. If Nox is returning to the company, this would be the ideal place for her to do it.
Much like with the men’s WarGames match, we should get months’ worth of storylines coming out of whatever happens here. We’ll also know who is next in line for a title shot against Belair.
Bayley has lost two straight title matches to Belair on pay-per-view. If she’s going to be Raw’s top heel like it looked like she was going to be positioned as, then Damage CTRL needs to come out of this looking strong.
Whether it’s Bayley again or anybody else, someone needs to be built up here to go up against Belair. While Ripley being positioned as a top-tier heel feels inevitable, it’s looking like she’s going to be in a long-term program with Mia “Michin” Yim rather than the title picture. Cross vs. Belair doesn’t seem likely either. Another possibility is that someone on the babyface team turns heel and sets up a program with the champion. That person could be Bliss.
With Bray Wyatt having returned, it’s possible we could see the return of Bliss’ spooky supernatural gimmick. While the character certainly had its critics during its first run, this version would be under Levesque’s management rather than McMahon’s. It could be better, it could be worse, or it could be the same as it was before. Perhaps we will find out.
I’m expecting the heel team to pick up the victory here. If I’m right, then Kai and SKY will have been on the winning team for three of the four women’s WarGames matches in history.
Prediction: Damage CTRL, Ripley & Cross
Finn Balor vs. AJ Styles
This will be just the second time Balor and Styles have faced off in singles competition. Their first meeting took place on a TLC show in 2017 that saw multiple last-minute changes due to a viral infection that swept through the WWE locker room. Balor would pick up the victory that night and I believe it will likely be the same result at Survivor Series.
A report from Wrestling News back in January stated that McMahon was not high on Balor and wanted him in a “Jeff Hardy role" where he would lose to the top heels. Levesque, on the other hand, pushed Balor hard during his first run in NXT and would later put the belt back on him during the Wednesday Night War with AEW.
I imagine Levesque wants to build Balor back up and a Survivor Series victory over Styles would go a long way in achieving that. The Demon returning sometime in the near future wouldn’t hurt either.
WWE US Champion Seth Rollins defends against Bobby Lashley and Austin Theory in a triple threat match
The last three wrestlers to hold the United States Championship are set for a triple-threat match on Saturday.
Another facet of Levesque’s WWE is the rise in prominence of mid-card titles. They are back to being the workhorse belts. Reigns holding both World titles and being primarily on SmackDown means the US title becomes the de facto top belt on Raw as well.
In recent weeks, WWE seems to be in the process of rebuilding Theory after booking him to fail in a MITB cash-in attempt. If Theory was to win the title here, it basically negates the fact that he didn’t succeed in his cash-in attempt for the same belt just weeks ago. Theory walking away from Saturday having regained the US Championship seems a distinct possibility, albeit definitely not a sure thing.
Prediction: Theory wins the title
WWE SmackDown Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey defends against Shotzi
With all due respect to Shotzi, there is not a wrestling fan on the planet who believes she has a chance to beat Ronda here. This match will be all about continuing the story of Rousey’s heel turn and alliance with Shayna Baszler. Shotzi, for as ballsy as she is, is really only a prop in Rousey's continuing story.
WWE didn’t waste much time after McMahon’s departure to turn Rousey heel. It’s something Vince likely was never going to do. If he had a babyface that he felt could make him money, it would take a lot for him to turn them. That resolve only strengthened after Steve Austin’s failed turn at WrestleMania 17. This is likely why we never saw a bad guy John Cena.
With Rousey, however, I think she has always wanted to play the bad guy and Levesque is simply letting her do just that. Rousey really did develop bitter feelings toward WWE fans who booed her during her first run and I think she wanted to play into that. She seems more comfortable now than at any other time in her wrestling career and having Baszler as her bodyguard is a perfect fit.
She previously mentioned on a video game stream that she wants to be a heel similar to Roddy Piper, one viciously hated by fans and who makes the babyface more popular. She’s getting the chance to do exactly that now and her story continues at Survivor Series.