Survivor Series 2018 will go down as perhaps one of the most bizarre events in recent WWE history. The overall tone of the night was unsettling and the characters themselves acted completely out of character. Though it is just one event in month 11 of 12, the fact is that Survivor Series may be an indication of something much bigger happening in WWE.

One of the most concerning themes of Survivor Series was the amount of unpredictable crowd reaction. Many would say that if an audience brings the hype and if the energy is high, then there is nothing better for a pro wrestling event. It’s hard to argue that notion and it’s certainly more entertaining to watch the product at home when the live crowd is completely in tune with the event.

But the bloodthirsty level of hype from the Survivor Series crowd was a bit unexpected. WWE fans typically have their favorites of course. Oftentimes those favorites are heels, instead of babyfaces. That’s actually commonplace in WWE and it’s likely not going to change anytime soon.

However the routine that WWE fans have followed in terms of supporting heels over babyfaces has perhaps become much too routine. At this point, unless a Superstar is a top level main event protagonist, he or she has to work much too hard to get a positive reaction. WWE fans are not as quick to accept the hardworking babyfaces, as was the case just 10 years ago.

Watch Charlotte vs Ronda:

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Now it’s the heels of WWE that tend to get the benefit of the doubt. The more popular the heel, the more likely it is that the babyface working him will get booed out of the building. Even the most unworthy heel like Elias got over to the point where WWE was forced to turn him babyface.

Elias did nothing to build that face turn. Every week he was on TV, he did his part and insulted the crowd. Fans began cheering for him. Elias insulted them even more. It was no longer a question of if WWE was going to turn him, it was a question of when. Now he is a fan favorite on the rise and all he had to do was sit on a stool and play guitar to get there.

The WWE faithful does not want to be manipulated. They will not stand for the company telling them who to hate and who to love. Even the most subtle nudge on WWE’s part is detected and rejected almost immediately. Not only will fans refuse to play along, they will also change the narrative whenever it’s convenient. This has never been more apparent than at Survivor Series.

Charlotte Flair was a babyface going into her match with Ronda Rousey. She was also a babyface when Becky Lynch turned on her at SummerSlam. But from the moment Lynch turned heel, fans booed Charlotte. Becky sneak-attacked her former best friend on more than one occasion. Even after she beat Charlotte for the SmackDown Women’s Championship, Becky continued assaulting The Queen. The fans loved every minute of it.

Watch the backstage report on Charlotte’s attack:

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The Survivor Series audience was extremely vocal and chanted Becky’s name during the night, especially when Charlotte and Ronda squared off. It was obvious that the match was playing to a hostile crowd. But when Charlotte got disqualified at the end and viciously attacked Rousey with a kendo stick, the audience popped.

Suddenly the woman that had been booed simply just for being a babyface that was wronged by her former best friend, was now over because she snapped. By comparison, Ronda Rousey, who took the beating of the night, was booed from the beginning of the assault to the finish. Even after Charlotte finally left the ring, the fans were still extremely negative toward The Baddest Woman on the Planet.

In fact the fans were giddy with delight when Charlotte brutalized Ronda. The audience wanted blood and they got exactly that. It was a surreal moment that seemed to hang over the entire night until Survivor Series went off the air.

Rousey may not be a 20-year veteran and she may not be the best ring technician in the company. But she has proven time and again that she has true heart, as well as passion, for the business. But she received no love from the Survivor Series crowd. The fans could not allow themselves, even for a moment, to recognize Rousey’s efforts and show her even a modicum of respect for the beating she took.

Then there’s Daniel Bryan. The Yes man recently became the No man once again when he turned heel on AJ Styles. The move stunned the WWE faithful and it was unknown just how the company would handle the situation at Survivor Series. After all, Bryan was facing Brock Lesnar, who is also a heel.

Daniel was tossed around the ring for the first half of the match and fans became restless. The mood suddenly changed and it was nothing more than a “Brock smash” event. But then Bryan kicked Lesnar between the legs. It was the same move that gave him the advantage and ultimately the win, over AJ. Renee Young proclaimed “look at the grit of Daniel Bryan!” The kick was a cheap-shot and that’s not how WWE portrayed it.

Watch Daniel Bryan vs Brock Lesnar:

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But Brock won the match. The crowd was stunned. Why? Did the fans really expect that Daniel Bryan, who did not deserve their support after what he did to the ultra-babyface AJ Styles, to win against The Beast Incarnate? It makes no sense that WWE would turn Daniel and give him a ton of momentum, only to job him out five days later. That much is true. But it also makes no sense that Daniel would roll into Survivor Series and beat the unbeatable monster heel on his first try.

More importantly, it makes no sense that the fans would cheer for Bryan as he attempted to take Lesnar down. But the fact is the crowd wants to see Brock get his. They had to choose between two heels. Why did WWE put both men into this position? Because the company has changed.

Pro wrestling is built upon a foundation of good versus evil and right versus wrong. WWE as a company has built upon that foundation for years. But over time, the company keeps twisting the narrative to the point that it’s now completely out of control. The fans tend to support the unsupportable because it’s trendy to do so. But it’s happening so much now that WWE is responding to the trend. Now everything is upside down. White is black and black is white.

It’s a fundamental change in how WWE does business between the ropes and the crowd is to blame for much of that change. The company is no longer dictating the pace. The fans are doing that now. But the most concerning part of the entire situation is the bloodthirstiness of the WWE fanbase. Is it a large portion of the fanbase, or just one segment? Only time will tell.

Pro wrestling is supposed to be fun. It’s mindless entertainment that’s meant to put a smile on the fans’ faces. But when the logic of the business disappears in favor of inexplicable character shifts and ultimately shock TV, then the overall storytelling aspect fails. This is the current state of WWE and it may only get more bizarre as time goes on.

Tom Clark can regularly be seen on Wrestling Rumors. His podcast, Tom Clark’s Main Event, is available on iTunes,YouTube, iHeart Radio, and live every Friday at 12pm EST on Wrestling Rumors Facebook Live

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