With the announcement earlier this week that Survivor Series 2017 is turning into a red vs. blue affair, it’s fitting that eight years and a day to the date that the WWE had its first installment of such a showdown, dubbing it “Bragging Rights.”
Bragging Rights is no longer a thing. It lasted just two years on this week in October, with the enormous 14-man Raw vs. SmackDown tag team match as its main attraction. Admittedly, the timing of the event was strange, considering Survivor Series was just a month away. For the all the ire brand vs. brand multi-man matches draw, they make infinitely more sense to take place at the traditional Survivor Series event.
But call this an ode to Bragging Rights, the odd two-year installment which began in 2009 and came to a conclusion just a year later.
The crux of the show stemmed around the 14-man elimination match, which was won both years by the blue brand. And while attempting to put on an entire PPV event around the rest of the card, the players involved in the elimination match make for a comical who’s who in the year 2017; in 2009, we had Cody Rhodes, Jack Swagger, R-Truth, Tyson Kidd, and Davey Boy Smith, before 2010 gave us some of the same players, along with Santino Marella, Ezekiel Jackson, and Tyler Reks.
But maybe more crucial to the reason why the event was short-lived was a logistical reason: The matches weren’t in the elimination format — it was merely one fall to a finish. That led to chaotic booking which required 12 additional superstars to be somewhere near the ring area while two men were involved in the pinfall, causing a frenzy of hectic events layered on top of each other. A 14-man collision would trek somewhere near the hour mark in terms of eliminations and would require the top-tier talent to be sucked into the match — but wouldn’t that be the whole point?
All of this confusion takes us back to the timing of the event. In the PG-era of the WWE, where events are named after matches (albeit less frequently now than years past), when would the best time to book such an event be? The brands clash inherently in January at the Royal Rumble, they share the stage at WrestleMania in March/April and have elimination matches in November at Survivor Series; unless there was an early summer revival, it’s best that Bragging Rights remains in storage.
What exactly was the center of the show was more or less up in the air. On the surface, it was the “Bragging Rights” match that was the soul of the card, but both years of the event, the actual main event did not factor into the opening video package whatsoever. Even more surprisingly, the 14-man inter-brand match did not close the show either time, with 2009 featuring a grueling 60-minute Iron Man match between Randy Orton and John Cena for the WWE Championship, before a bizarre Wade Barrett vs. Orton encounter a year later, which ended in a fashion perfectly tailored to 2010: a disqualification.
If the shotty booking of the tag match cluster wasn’t enough to make you cringe at the event, there’s always the Kane-Undertaker Buried Alive Match for the World Heavyweight Championship from the 2010 installment. Aside from the over-the-top cheesy gimmick — complete with Paul Bearer and the powers of his urn — the Deadman was buried alive after Nexus ran amuck and helped the Big Red Machine retain his belt.
The last time Raw and SmackDown Live faced one another, it was the blue brand coming out on top again at last year’s Survivor Series. As of now, we know for sure only Randy Orton will be a part of the match, with the other nine slots still to be determined; but if history is any indication, brand superiority history lies on the blue side.
While the idea behind brand superiority can be an entertaining concept when booked properly, knowing the timing of the event on the calendar can make everything feel fabricated. There are no longer faces or heels, but instead show against show, which not only makes for an awkward transition into the feud, but coming back out. Teaming rivals together for the sake of something as mundane as bragging rights isn’t what the WWE has billed themselves about; there are no “One Night’s Only” in this promotion.
At the end of the day, the two shows live on in the lexicon of past PPV events as small drops in the ocean. If anything, they were emblematic of the strange patch of years the company went through just prior to, and during, The Nexus era. As Survivor Series approaches, bragging rights will once again be up for grabs as the good and bad guys fight alongside one another on their own side of the fence. The event itself may deliver, but how it will be judged under the test of time is not a promising endeavor to face.