Back on the Bandwagon
So it all comes down to this. Sunday night, it will be Team RAW vs. Team SmackDown, one time for all time. I've been on both sides of the fence on this issue lately; at first, I thought Eric Bischoff knew what he was doing, but then SmackDown got on this incredible roll and it was hard to argue against them. But when all is said and done, I'm going to stick by my original answer, because Team RAW will come out on top at Survivor Series.
Why? Well, there are several reasons, but first and foremost is three simple letters: HBK. The captain of Team RAW, Shawn Michaels is probably the biggest Superstar on the RAW brand. That's quite the accolade, considering he's on the same roster as WWE Champion John Cena, 10-time champion Triple H, and one of the best ever in Ric Flair. Michaels knows how to get it done, period. Just look at the resume; 3-time WWE Champion, 3-time World Tag Team Champion, 3-time Intercontinental Champion. He won the Royal Rumble twice in a row, including his performance in 1995 where he won from No. 1. And all that was before 1998, when he suffered what was thought to be a career-ending back injury…only to come back four years later, and almost immediately win the World Heavyweight Championship. He truly is the icon, the showstopper, the main event, and will prove that on Nov. 27.
There's also a better blend of attributes on Team RAW. Kane & Big Show are not only monsters, but they're also veterans who know what this match means. It's also hard to ignore Big Show's Survivor Series resume: he's won the WWE Championship twice, been on the winning end of the biggest Survivor Series Match in history (Alliance vs. WWE in 2001), and in 1999, he beat an entire team BY HIMSELF. IN FIVE MINUTES. On the other hand, Chris Masters and Carlito are in for their first big Survivor Series test, but that shouldn't be a problem. Carlito won the U.S. Championship his first night on SmackDown and the Intercontinental Championship in his RAW debut; 3-for-3 isn't out of the question. As for Masters, well, just look at him. He's got it all, and his only question mark is endurance. But in a match where he has four partners, he can pick and choose his spots. Despite any past issues they may have, HBK will use "The Masterpiece" to Team RAW's advantage.
Is Team SmackDown good? Sure, I won't be stupid enough to deny that. They have a lot of talent, ability, and heart, but that's not going to get it done. From their team captain down, there's a laundry list of liabilities. Batista is the World Heavyweight Champion, but if his back injury wasn't already serious enough, getting put through a car windshield on RAW couldn't have made it any better. Randy Orton, the "Legend Killer" himself, may be the youngest World Heavyweight Champion ever, but he's also out for one thing only, and that's himself. Plus, Undertaker is supposed to show up sometime on Nov. 27, and I'm thinking he might just be a smidgen upset about that little incident at No Mercy. Then there's Rey Mysterio. He's exciting, athletic, breathtaking…and 5 foot 7. If Big Show, Kane or Masters can catch him, he's toast. And finally, we have Lashley. He's young, he's powerful, he's intense…and if he'd beaten anyone worth mentioning, people might care. He's inexperienced, and hasn't had to exert himself in the ring to the extent he'll need to on Sunday, and that may be a dangerous factor. As much of a "wrestling God" as JBL says he is, he's going to have a hard time holding this unit together.
Finally, I think that Theodore Long made a fatal mistake in how his team was chosen. Remember the night Eric Bischoff announced his first three team members? That was the first time the world heard about Team RAW, but who's to say that HBK, Show and Kane didn't know for a few days that they were the men? Sure, they didn't know Carlito and Masters would be their teammates, but with Bischoff announcing Cena vs. Angle and Flair vs. Triple H that same night, it narrowed down the choices to a select few. Bischoff has been in a war like this before, and was quite successful in the Monday Night Wars between WCW and WWE for a long time. Anyone who knows Bischoff (and the RAW Superstars must) knows that he wouldn't go into battle without his strongest army behind him. HBK, Show and Kane knew they had each other, and once Carlito was in the fold, they could begin preparation. They had to know that the last spot would be someone like Masters, Edge, or even Benjamin; it certainly wasn't going to be Doink or the Brooklyn Brawler.
Meanwhile, Long made his champion the captain, but left the rest up to fate. Qualifying matches for spots in one of the biggest matches in the brand's history? By the time Long announced how his team was chosen, four-fifths of Team RAW had been known for almost a week. He could've hand picked his team to match up perfectly against RAW; instead, he tried to give everyone a chance to prove them, and he's lucky it didn't backfire in his face. This certainly isn't the best quintet available, is it? Where's Booker T? Chris Benoit? Oh right, Benoit lost to JBL, and Booker wasn't even in the mix! Orlando Jordan, Lashley, and Ken Kennedy all had a chance to be on this team, yet the U.S. Champion was an afterthought? Heck, if you want to get technical, Randy Orton lost his qualifying match to Mysterio, yet still made the team! Even with five of RAW's biggest stars on the bench, Theodore Long's quintet still fails to measure up.
So this Sunday, when you watch the Classic Survivor Series Elimination Match, feel free to root for Team SmackDown. Everyone loves an underdog, right? You can root them on all you want, but when the smoke clears, General Michaels will lead his army to victory, and RAW will prove to everyone why they are the dominant brand.
Click here for Keith Scully's SmackDown article.