The rosters of Raw and SmackDown will face off Sunday night at Survivor Series (which starts at 7:00 p.m. ET on the WWE Network), where both the Intercontinental Championship and the entire cruiserweight division could switch shows.
After a lackluster Survivor Series a year ago, WWE is going all-out to revive one of the company's premier annual events with three traditional elimination matches, along with the return of WCW legend Goldberg, who will have a WrestleMania XX rematch with Brock Lesnar.
With just a few days left until Survivor Series, Fox Sports caught up with Raw GM Mick Foley, who opened up on the overwhelming fan reacton to Bayley, SmackDown mascot James Ellsworth, and the monumental changes WWE has made since last year's event.
Courtesy of WWE
Fox Sports: You've been a huge advocate of women's wrestling, and history was just made with Sasha Banks and Charlotte main-eventing Hell In A Cell. How would you grade SmackDown on how they've utilized the women's division?
Foley: They've done a very good job as well. Their knock on us is that we've only featured two women in a strong position, [where] they've tried to feature five or six. But we believe that Charlotte and Sasha kind of knocked down that door. We went with our best two and made a really bold statement, and that it's opening up the door - the door they knocked down - will allow many others to emerge and shine as well. We believe when our top five are up against their top five, we will show that we have the better women's division.
FS: Earlier this month in Glasgow, there was an incredible moment where the crowd sang Bayley's name for the entirety of a promo. What were you thinking when you watched that, and how hard is it as a performer to deal with such a vocal crowd?
Foley: Well you have to just stand back and enjoy it, which is what they did. You know, you have to... you can't let them do a five-minute singalong, there's things you have to say, but it was pretty obvious that they really enjoyed Bayley. [You can watch the promo here.]
We've known for a long time that she's a special talent. It seems like... like I said, the knock on us is that we're allowing two women to have the spotlight, but she's going to be a major part of the women's division for a long time to come. We love her, and feel like having her on our show is such a benefit.
FS: Braun Strowman has been one of the breakout stars of Raw since the draft. What has it been like to see him develop on his own as a singles competitor since breaking away from the Wyatts?
Foley: It's always exciting to see someone taking those next steps, and the fact that he's on our Survivor Series team is a big statement. And now hopefully he can stop with the thinly veiled threats on my existence.
He asked for an opportunity, and now he's got a huge one. I believe he's going to impress a lot of people and surprise a lot of people on Sunday night.
FS: Does Strowman remind you of any of the monstrous WWE stars of the past?
Foley: He's kind of his own guy. Especially when I've seen some of the remarkable athleticism that he's capable of. He hasn't really shown that because he hasn't needed to with his character. He's just been physically dominating on the one level. But knowing he's got that up his sleeve is something that makes him special. I'm looking forward to seeing him in action on Sunday.
FS: Strowman was James Ellsworth's first WWE opponent, and you called out Daniel Bryan for bringing him to SmackDown. Brand warfare aside, could you have imagined back in July when Ellsworth made his debut that he could be so popular with fans?
Foley: I saw James Ellsworth at an independent wrestling show where I was signing autographs, so I took a photo with him and put up a post on Facebook called "the night I met James Ellsworth." Just by nature of how popular that post was, how many comments there were and likes and shares, I was like 'people love this kid.'
So, I was surprised when SmackDown came and put him on their roster, but I was not surprised that people took to him because he's a unique individual.
FS: One person who likely would have played a huge part in Survivor Series if not for injury is Finn Balor. Have you been keeping in contact with him during his recovery?
Foley: Yeah, I have, I've stayed in pretty steady contact with him. At first just saying 'hang in there, you know, it seems like forever but your spot's open for you and we really need you.'
And then fortunately Finn is fulfilling an obligation I made to a promotion in Scotland [ICW]. When I joined WWE I said 'I've got this one show I really need to do,' but as it became clearer and clearer that Survivor Series would be a SmackDown vs. Raw event, I personally asked Finn if he would fill in for me. And that meant so much to me on a personal level that he would be willing to do that. He is allowing me to be a part of Survivor Series. He's such a fine young man and such a great athlete that we cannot wait to have him back on Raw every Monday.
FS: Just about a year ago, you wrote on your Facebook page after Survivor Series 2015 that you were "verge of becoming a former WWE fan." For both yourself personally and for the WWE, how much has changed over the last year?
Foley: Yeah, it's changed a tremendous amount. My major knock was that WWE was not properly utilizing the talent that was coming in from NXT. I think that's made a, basically a 180. Or... they weren't properly promoting the people that the fans were vocally enthusiastic about. [Read Foley's full post from 2015 here.]
And now we've seen, in less than a year we've seen AJ Styles become a bonafide main-eventer. I specifically had taken umbridge with the short amount of time that Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks had in their first Raw matchup, and yet a year later Becky Lynch is the SmackDown champion, and Sasha Banks main-evented a pay-per-view.
Kevin Owens is a guy people were vocal about, and he's the Universal Champion. I think in a year's time, yeah WWE... they have done quite a bit to make me a fan again.
FS: Dolph Ziggler lost his Intercontinental title on SmackDown, so The Miz will defend it against Sami Zayn at Survivor Series. Does that help or hurt Raw's chances to take the title?
Foley: Well I think it's a shame that Dolph, having had the year that he's had, is not going to have a match at Survivor Series. But Sami has a great chance against either one of those guys. Winning the Intercontinental Championship and bringing it back to Raw would be a tremendous statement.
FS: NXT TakeOver also takes place this weekend on the eve of Survivor Series. Are there NXT stars that stand out to you that you want to bring to the Raw roster?
Foley: I'd love to bring the tag team of [Dash] Wilder and [Scott] Dawson over, I really would. And I'd love to have [Shinsuke] Nakamura. I mean, Nakamura to me is a main event star. They're roster is so deep that any number of guys could make a contribution.
Survivor Series comes to Houston in 2017
WWE announced Thursday that the 2017 edition of Survivor Series will be held in Houston's Toyota Center. 2017 will mark the 30th anniversary of Survivor Series, which became just the second annual WWE pay-per-view after WrestleMania back in 1987.