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Posted in: Just Business
Just Business: Mahal vs. Lesnar is a Price Worth Paying…I Think?
By Samuel 'Plan
Oct 18, 2017 - 9:00:34 PM

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Just Business: Mahal vs. Lesnar is a Price Worth Paying…I Think?

So his first jaunt in India is done with, and Jinder Mahal’s reign as WWE Champion looks set to continue for at least another month. If you hadn’t already, I think it’s about time to accept the fact that the Modern Day Maharaja is probably going to be holding that championship at least through to Royal Rumble 2018, if not beyond.

That Mahal continues to reign as WWE Champion remains a major contributing factor as to why I continue my embargo on Smackdown Live. I’m loathe to even spend these column inches writing about it. It’s clear the powers that be have an admiration for the man, in particular because of his undeniably impressive physical transformation, but their excitement over that transformation seems to blind them to the rather quite obvious fact that, though he tries his best, his best isn’t good enough to sustain his position. That fact is undeniable when faced with the comparatively woeful attendances to Smackdown Live events – as documented by fans through social media – and, most especially, because of there being far more interesting things occurring elsewhere on the blue brand; not least of all the unfolding Kevin Owens / Sami Zayn storyline.

The announcement this week, then, that Mahal has challenged Brock Lesnar to an inter-brand Champion vs. Champion Match at Survivor Series 2017 is sure to make more than a few of us cringe. Well, honestly folks, I think you ought to brace yourself for the very real possibility that WWE might just have Mahal take home a “sneaky” victory; I really wouldn’t put it past them.

Of course, this raises the lamentable question as to whether anybody actually really cares. It’s not like either man does much for storylines, the overall quality of WWE’s creative output or their respective brands. When rumours of this idea surfaced last week I quickly resolved to take a snapshot of social media sentiment. The overwhelming impression I received was that this battle of World Champions will be a toilet break for the most dedicated, and an early night for the most cynical.

I fall somewhere in between this cocktail of apathy and contempt. When it comes to the prospect of a Lesnar / Mahal confrontation headlining one of the Big Four, I’m left feeling a little down in the dumps myself, I can’t lie. But so too do I feel resigned; if they want to do it, let them. This resignation is a comfortable resignation, not a hopeless one. For it is my belief that there is a greater potential hinted at in WWE writing Lesnar vs. Mahal for Survivor Series; a potential that, quite honestly, makes me feel like enduring Lesnar vs. Mahal is a fair enough tax. That potential is nothing new, nor anything that’s liable to blow your mind, but is to me nonetheless exciting.

Last year, WWE knocked Survivor Series out of the park with an old school structure, a reverence for the show’s titular concept and a successful effort to utilise the Second Brand Extension to maximum effect. The result was what felt to be, and what watched like, a truly monumental show. The three Survivor Series Elimination Matches – the male singles version of which I named my official 102nd Most Must See Match in WWE history earlier this year in the summer – possessed a charm and effectiveness that carried the four hour show near effortlessly, I felt. But WWE didn’t leave the concept there. Credit where it’s due, the company extended the inter-brand theme in creative ways that all played on the core theme of Monday Night Raw (MNR) vs. Smackdown Live (SDL); a battle for the cruiserweight division, for example, and an Intercontinental Championship Match where the title was on the line twice over – not only for the two men involved, but for the very brands they represented. That individual storylines up and down the roster across both shows were advanced amidst all this transformed last year’s Series into a creative accomplishment of notable complexity.

Its cohesiveness and universality was a refreshing delight, and I have re-watched the show more than once since last November. It might just be my favourite pay-per-view of 2016. And, lest we forget, though I was steadfastly swimming against the current of popular opinion, many people saw last year’s main event as something of a tiresome bore too, with Goldberg returning to battle Brock Lesnar (am I detecting a pattern here?) in shockingly, controversially short fashion.

Look at everything we got in return for that though. If you haven’t seen the show since, or if you can barely remember it, please try and find the time to revisit it. I honestly think highly enough of it to actively champion its being worth your time. Such was my love for it that I have hoped, ever since, WWE would continue this theme with Survivor Series in the years to come. It carries too many benefits not to.

The Second Brand Extension is getting looser and looser every month, it seems. WWE demonstrate increasing degrees of apathy toward the core concept of the roster division they unnecessarily introduced in spring of last year. It is a developing reality I feared from before the split was even announced. The First Brand Extension put the creative output of the company on life support by the time it ended, in large part because WWE treated it with such dismissive contempt it became inherently pointless. Seeing this re-develop so soon in the Second Brand Extension’s life cycle is concerning. Making Survivor Series - one of the biggest shows of the year - an inter-brand pay-per-view grants fans, and perhaps more importantly the company itself, an annual reminder of the fact these brands are supposed to be exclusive from one another, and keeping them that way has benefits; the very point of doing this in the first place.

It lends the event purpose too, and if Survivor Series has suffered from anything over its long life it has been an all too intermittent sense of purpose. The Series, over its tenure, has fluctuated wildly between excellent and poor, memorable and forgettable, and that speaks to its lack of a concrete role in WWE’s pantheon of pay-per-view. On the all too rare occasions WWE have fashioned a role for the Series, the Series has succeeded as much as any of its Big Four brethren. It is no coincidence. Royal Rumble, for example, has always had a very clearly defined role to play, allowing it to become one of the most popular events of the calendar year among WWE fans – the Series hasn’t. However, by casting the Series as the inter-brand show, especially at the backend of the calendar year, gives it that much needed role that, in turn, might just generate a sense of consistent quality for arguably WWE’s most unloved child.

This year it is particularly exciting, though. We are facing a plethora of potential inter-brand dream matches that, quite tellingly, are made up exclusively of talent of the contemporary generation.

Imagine a Traditional 5 on 5 Survivor Series Match that sees The New Day forcibly paired with Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn to take on The Shield forcibly paired with, say, The Bar; or, if they’re healthy in time, The Revival. Alternatively, imagine a scenario that sees the current MNR Tag Team Champions, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins, take on the SDL Tag Team Champions, The Usos, picking up their social media beef from a couple of months ago. If WWE decide to throw some high stakes singles matches together, as they did last year, consider the potential of AJ Styles vs. Braun Strowman; or what about an undercard bout with Jason Jordan being pitted against Chad Gable? Then there’s the women too; if WWE put together some division-based Elimination Matches as per last year, we might see a showdown between Asuka and Charlotte; the latter, quite arguably, perhaps being destined to collide with the Empress of Tomorrow and, possibly, become the first woman to defeat her one day.

Regarding the women, one rumour did resurface again last week, of the UFC’s Four Horsewomen competing against WWE’s Four Horsewomen. While that would be my second pick by quite some distance personally, it does mean another new slant on the inter-brand theme for Survivor Series, as two Horsewomen from each brand come together.

All of this doesn’t touch on the possibility of introducing some of the peripheral product into the mix for Series-based action of their own. 205 Live could do great things with the format, and the recently adopted UK talent have already appeared eager to field a team on Twitter too.

I’m really just talking out loud with this column, quite honestly, because right now there is little reason to believe WWE will go all out on the inter-brand theme again this year. It remains, however, the one upside I have chosen to find in the diabolical notion of Lesnar vs. Mahal – that their bout might hint toward WWE knowing what they uncovered last year and wanting to ride that wave a little longer. I know inter-brand action isn’t to everybody’s taste, but if a nine minute Lesnar / Mahal match is the price I have to pay to see some exclusively contemporary dream matches take place and a role continually being built for Survivor Series for another year, then I will honestly be content to pay it.

Beyond anything else, as ‘Mania season begins to loom once again on that distant horizon, it could only do good to see WWE further come to terms that the best parts of their roster are here all year round, and all too often outside of the spotlight.

I want to know whether you agree or disagree with me. Should Survivor Series continue to be the inter-brand pay-per-view of the year, and does the prospect of some MNR vs. SDL dream combinations do anything for you to offset the bad taste of a Lesnar / Mahal match? If not, why? Let me know in the comments below or over on social media!

Don’t forget to pick up your copy of my book, 101 WWE Matches To See Before You Die, from the LOP Store or Amazon today! Simply click here to find mine and a host of other books and merchandise on offer, all courtesy of LOP, or on the icon to the left to be taken directly to Amazon!

Click here to add me on Facebook!

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