As the WWE is so fond of reminding us, Survivor Series is the one time a year when Raw and SmackDown go head-to-head.
That theme has escalated in 2017, with matches between a pair of matches between Raw and SmackDown's men's singles champions and Raw and SmackDown's women's champions. There's also a pair of traditional 5-on-5 elimination matches (one men's and one women's), a clash between both sets of tag team champions and a six-man tag team dream match between The New Day and The Shield.
To keep with that theme, we've pitted our Raw analyst Tim Fiorvanti against SmackDown analyst Matt Wilansky to break down, debate and, ultimately, predict the results of the full Survivor Series card.
Our previews kick off with a match that has changed significantly in the past week, as new WWE champion AJ Styles takes on Raw's Universal champion, Brock Lesnar.
Fiorvanti: I was actually enjoying a bit of the back-and-forth between Jinder Mahal and Brock Lesnar's advocate Paul Heyman, but there wasn't much heat to the actual match between Mahal and Lesnar at Survivor Series. It would've likely featured a brief stretch in which the Singh brothers would have given Mahal an opening, but it ultimately would've ended up with Lesnar delivering a whole bunch of suplexes for all three of them. But we've seen that before. The timing of this title change is interesting, to say the least, and while it doesn't give us a lot of time to process the implications, Lesnar vs. AJ Styles is a match that basically hypes itself.
Wilansky: The twists keep on coming. Like you, I was intrigued by the prospect of Mahal-Lesnar, not so much for what they would have done in the ring, but more so just the result. I am not convinced Brock was going to come out on top. The WWE had invested so much in Mahal and its global endeavor that, to me, this was only 60-40 in favor of Lesnar. Anyway, we'll save that debate for another day.
Styles-Lesnar is the latest Super Bowl-caliber bout in recent months. Yes, it came out of the blue, but this is a business that wants as many eyeballs this minute -- builds be damned. Suddenly, Tim, we have the reason to watch Survivor Series. I'm curious, though, should we be concerned for Styles' momentum if he loses? The invincible aura of Braun Strowman took a hit after he fell to Lesnar at No Mercy.
Fiorvanti: I think it all depends on how it happens. If we get a match similar in style and length to what Samoa Joe had with Lesnar, rather than the uneven, occasionally puzzling Strowman title challenge, it wouldn't necessarily hurt Styles too much. Styles is one of -- if not the -- best sellers in this era of professional wrestling, and the prospect of what some of Lesnar's power moves will look like and all of the ways they could be set up is downright thrilling to think about.
Wilansky: No doubt it will be exciting to watch Lesnar go against a different caliber performer than the slower, lumbering opponents he has had recently. And that's not to take away anything from Samoa Joe, as you mentioned.
To me this could be on par with the Lesnar-CM Punk 2013 SummerSlam match. Styles has all the tools, and Lesnar is a freak. Of all the spur-of-the-moment WrestleMania-worthy matches in recent months, this one might be the most intriguing of them all.
Fiorvanti: Just look at how many of the best matches of the year in WWE Styles has already had. I slightly preferred their SummerSlam match, but Styles vs. John Cena for the WWE championship was also undeniably fantastic. He shocked the world and essentially stole the show in the WrestleMania opener against Shane McMahon, had an impromptu stunner against Finn Balor after flying through the night, and that's all before you consider the best moments of his rivalry with Kevin Owens. Styles flat-out makes everyone he steps into the ring with better, and as long as Lesnar buys into this match, we're likely to see something very special at Survivor Series.
Wilansky: So what you're saying is don't expect a squash match, right? A year ago at this event, Lesnar was involved in one of the truly memorable stunners in recent memory, when he was dismantled by Goldberg in less than two minutes. I'm expecting this one to go about 15-18 minutes in what could be the match of the year. Yes, Styles brings it nearly every time he goes out there, but what intrigues me is that Lesnar has an intensity that Styles has not seen, not since he joined the WWE anyway.
Fiorvanti: I think there are still some obstacles to work around in this match, but I do tend to think that Styles will bump like crazy for Lesnar and get just the right kind of offense in to allow Lesnar some time to recover. I tend to think the Joe blueprint is going to be closer to what we'll get here, with the match itself ending up closer to the 9-10 minute mark. It feels weird to have Styles lose cleanly here, just a couple of weeks out from winning the WWE championship, so something will have to give. The likeliest scenario, in my head, would be to have Styles on the brink of the unlikely victory, only for Mahal to spitefully come for his revenge.
That way, we still get the Singh brothers getting suplexed all over the place, Mahal still getting to appear during a big match and making a difference, and more heat between Mahal and Styles going forward. Lesnar gets his win, looks forward to one more tune-up match at the Royal Rumble (and perhaps a second, depending on the pay-per-view schedule), and then it's onward to his inevitable date with Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 34.
Wilansky: I like everything you said there, but what a buzzkill it is talking Lesnar-Reigns -- but I digress. I agree that Mahal could play a role, and I wouldn't be completely stunned if he recaptured the title soon after Survivor Series and ahead of the WWE tour in India. I have to believe that after all the time and energy that was put into making Mahal a star, he is not going to disappear anytime soon. But you're right: I can't see Lesnar dropping this match. If there were some build, and if there were longer ramifications outside a one-off brand versus brand conceit, I might be waffling a little more on the winner.
Fiorvanti: In some pipe-dream world, though, it's fun to imagine how Styles could win and how much he might benefit. There isn't a single other performer on either roster who could boost Styles in a single match than Lesnar could in a loss. But, alas, we live in the real world.
Fiorvanti prediction: Lesnar, thanks to Mahal-related shenanigans.
Wilansky prediction: Lesnar, but it'll take more than one F-5 like it did against Braun Strowman at No Mercy.