By Chuck Carroll
WWE finds itself in the unenviable position of coming up with fresh enough content to draw viewers just two weeks after the last pay-per-view event, Survivor Series. Will the hardcore edge to this one be enough to put it over the top? Maybe, but it doesn’t matter nearly as much as it used to because WWE Network subscriptions were automatically renewed as the calendar rolled over to December 1st. Since the advent of its own streaming service, the company is no longer living and dying by the traditional pay-per-view model.
What works in WWE’s favor here is the fact that Survivor didn’t have many blow-off matches. Instead, it pushed current storylines forward within the unique booking format. So, it’s not as though we’ll be seeing a rehash of matches from just two weeks ago.
Six matches are on the card, with the bulk of them generating at least a certain level of intrigue. The Intercontinental and World Championship matches, in particular, should be worth the $9.99 monthly subscription fee. One features a ladders match between The Miz and Dolph Ziggler, the other is a tables, ladders and chairs match between AJ Styles and Dean Ambrose. There is no way we won’t see at least a couple of high spots worthy of being a WrestleMania moment. But who wins?
To help me sort it all out I’ve re-enlisted my WWE insiders. Aaron Oster of Rolling Stone continues to hold a narrow lead over Scott Fishman of the Miami Herald and myself.
No Disqualification Match
Nikki Bella vs. Carmella
Aaron: What this match comes down to, for me, is that this is No DQ, and we still don’t know who attacked Nikki Bella at Survivor Series. What better way to resolve that question than by having her assailant attack again? It would move these two away from each other and give Carmella that important win that she’s been looking for. By the way, people are assuming it’s Natalya, and it probably is… but there’s a certain redhead that we haven’t seen in months too. PICK: CARMELLA
Scott: Carmella has been a pleasant surprise since her arrival on SmackDown, and I’ve enjoyed the newcomer’s feud with Nikki Bella. We still don’t know who attacked Nikki at Survivor Series (maybe it was Tonya Harding?). However, I can see Nikki winning this match and going on to get a crack at the SmackDown women’s title. PICK: NIKKI
Chuck: This is actually a big test for Carmella. She’s improved steadily since debuting on the main roster and finally appears to be getting some traction with fans. One thing that I think slowed her growth was the slow beginning of her theme. If they did away with the bass line and went right to the hook, she’d get a much bigger pop coming out. Regardless, she’s going to get the win here. There’s a big unanswered question about who attacked Nikki Bella at Survivor Series. It’s one of two people: Natalya or Eva Marie. My money is on the latter. PICK: CARMELLA
Baron Corbin vs. Kalisto
Aaron: Remember when Baron Corbin won the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal? People said that maybe they were finally using the match for a good purpose. Well, it sure didn’t help Baron Corbin. It seems like he finally has some sort of direction though, so he needs to win this match. His character and his feud with Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan is potentially fascinating, so let him run through Kalisto and keep going down this road. PICK: BARON CORBIN
Scott: Baron Corbin is one of those throwback villains who genuinely doesn’t care if you like him or not. And that’s refreshing in today’s day and age. This will be a David versus Goliath struggle where David wins in my opinion. I would like to see Corbin booked strong heading into the Royal Rumble. PICK: BARON CORBIN
Chuck: With all due respect to both wrestlers, this match just does not seem appealing to me at all. For whatever reason, I’ve never felt a connection to Baron Corbin’s character. Something about him falls flat. He does have the opportunity here to change that with an absolutely dominant performance where he brutally annihilates an undersized Kalisto. Hopefully, that’s what happens. PICK: BARON CORBIN
SmackDown Women’s Championship Tables Match
Becky Lynch (c) vs. Alexa Bliss
Aaron: This is the match that I’m least sure about. You could make a compelling case for both Becky and Alexa in this one. While this feud has been going on a while, this is only the second match between the two. So you could reasonably see another match out of it, which would lend itself towards Alexa winning. I’m leaning towards Becky though, mainly because I have a lot of heels winning, and the show needs a little bit of balance. PICK: BECKY LYNCH
Scott: Alex Bliss is another who has done extremely well since making the jump up to NXT. Her facial expressions, mannerisms and ring work have been top-notch. As much as I like Becky Lynch, I would like to see some new blood with gold around their waste. A rivalry with Bliss versus Bella would be interesting. PICK: ALEXA BLISS
Chuck: Alexa Bliss has the potential to be the leader of the women’s division on SmackDown. She seems to be the total package (hi, Lex Luger). Bliss has the rare trifecta of looks, charisma and athleticism that can catapult a WWE performer into the stratosphere. I think it’s her time, although I do think we’ll see Becky Lynch get a rematch sooner rather than later. PICK: ALEXA BLISS
SmackDown Tag Team Championship Match
Heath Slater and Rhyno (c) vs. Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt
Aaron: Finally, we get the payoff to Heath and Rhyno winning the belts. And to be fair, it’s a pretty good one. They carried them for two months longer than I thought they would. I like giving Bray some motivation towards gold, as that has always been a flaw in his character. I hope this win doesn’t stifle their growth though, as people can be caught in the tag division longer than they should (see: The New Day). PICK: RANDY ORTON AND BRAY WYATT
Scott: Heath Slater and Rhyno were great for each other, but I think it’s time to let this Cinderella story see its end in the form of new tag team champions. The perfect ones to do that is the dangerous duo of Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt. I really thought Orton was in the Wyatt Family to develop enough information and wait for the right time before striking. I have kind of enjoyed the unique paring of Wyatt and Orton. So I’m going with them, hoping one day it would lead to American Alpha eventually taking the titles from them. PICK: RANDY ORTON AND BRAY WYATT
Chuck: It’s been real, Slater and Rhyno, but it’s time for you to relinquish the gold. Their win was never meant to be a long-term run. Transferring the belts to Orton and Wyatt seems to make a lot of sense for a number of reasons. One, it would put an elite team at the top of the tag team division. This would give American Alpha, who many feel is the next big thing on Team Blue, a strong opponent to capture the gold from in the future. Secondly, it sets up internal turmoil for the new Wyatt Family. WWE has already teased a feud between Orton and Luke Harper, and jealousy over the gold would stoke that fire. PICK: RANDY ORTON AND BRAY WYATT
WWE Intercontinental Title Ladder Match
The Miz (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler
Aaron: This match comes down to why The Miz got the belt in the first place. I thought it was maybe that they simply wanted Sami Zayn to get cheated out of the belt at Survivor Series, but that hasn’t played into his storyline at all. So without that, there’s really no reason for Ziggler to win the belt back here. The only reason to go to Ziggler now is if there’s about to be a trade between RAW and SmackDown, and The Miz is involved. PICK: THE MIZ
Scott: The Miz and Dolph Ziggler have definitely brought the best out of each other. I really don’t want to see the Intercontinental championship in the middle of a game of hot potato, so I’ll go with Maryse’s husband here. Ziggler won the one that mattered, to keep his job. So losing this one won’t be such a hard blow to take. This one has the makings of a show stealer. PICK: THE MIZ
Chuck: This is my pick for match of the night. As Scott mentioned above, The Miz and Ziggler are at their best when working with each other. This ladder match should be no exception. If this is indeed the blowoff to their feud, I’m okay with how WWE is choosing to end it. I see Maryse somehow getting involved and costing Ziggler the title. Is there any other way to do it? PICK: THE MIZ
WWE World Championship TLC Match
AJ Styles (c) vs. Dean Ambrose
Aaron: AJ Styles will win this match. There are too many contenders lining up for him, from the soon-to-be-returning John Cena, to the Deadman himself, The Undertaker. His reign has been good for the brand, and it will continue. I think the question here is does anyone get involved. They’ve been teasing a Dean Ambrose heel turn for a few months now and if someone, like a James Ellsworth, ended up accidentally costing him the match, couldn’t you see him finally snap? PICK: AJ STYLES
Scott: It’s interesting that the star of this feud has evolved into being James Ellsworth. I can see an appearance by everyone’s favorite no-neck grappler. He may seal the fate of Ambrose in this match. Either way, I don’t see AJ Styles losing the gold here. After all, if you are to believe the internet, The Undertaker is lurking around the corner for the “Phenomenal One.” PICK: AJ STYLES
Chuck: This is a main-event match for a reason. If Miz and Ziggler only manage to huff and puff for some reason, Styles and Ambrose will blow the house down. The only question is how James Ellsworth will get involved. He was asked already whether he’d like to face Styles or his buddy Ambrose for the title. Because we’ve seen Styles vs. Ellsworth on a few different occasions already, I’m a little skeptical that WWE would book that again. But then again, I can envision a scenario where Ellsworth inadvertently costs Ambrose the title. Ambrose will return the favor, intentionally, when the man with two hands and no chin cashes in his title shot. PICK: AJ STYLES
Chuck Carroll is former pro wrestling announcer and referee turned sports media personality. He once appeared on Monday Night RAW when he presented Robert Griffin III with a WWE title belt in the Redskins locker room.
Follow him on Twitter @ChuckCarrollWLC.