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    Monday, September 10, 2018

    "Survivor" Series: From Johnny Mundo To Johnny Survivor

    Welcome to "Survivor" Series, a brand new column on Smark Henry dedicating to covering John Hennigan (a.k.a. Johnny Mundo, Johnny Impact, John Morrison, Johnny Nitro, etc.)'s time on the upcoming 37th season of Survivor. He'll be playing in a season labeled as Survivor: David vs. Goliath. As someone who's both a diehard Survivor fan and a pro wrestling lifer, writing this column is going to be a treat for me, regardless of how long (or short) Johnny Survivor's time in the game is going to be.

    We're just weeks away from the premiere date of Survivor: David Vs. Goliath, which will fall on the morning of Thursday, September 27 (Manila time). Whether you're a long-time Survivor Superfan or someone whose interest in the show has been sparked (or reignited) by John Hennigan's inclusion in this season's cast, this primer should help you gear up for what's to come.

    For real? Survivor is still on?

    Yes, this is a question we Superfans get all the time, kind of like how most wrestling fans have to answer this question about pro wrestling, too. However, unlike wrestling, Survivor has only been around since 2000. But the fact that the show is about to hit its 37th season is a little mind-blowing.

    Okay, so what the hell is "David Vs. Goliath?"

    Over the years, Survivor has marketed its seasons under themes to categorize the players into tribes/groups, hoping to build some narrative drama out of it. Previous themes include "Heroes vs. Villains", "Brains vs. Brawn vs. Beauty," and "White Collar vs. Blue Collar vs. No Collar."

    "David Vs. Goliath" is exactly what it implies—a theme focusing on the David vs. Goliath archetypes we find ourselves in real life. Longtime host and executive producer Jeff Probst based it on Malcolm Gladwell's book, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants.

    For the purposes of this season of Survivor, 20 players are divided into two tribes of ten, the David Tribe and the Goliath Tribe. The Davids are people who have had an uphill battle all their lives to get to where they are right now. These are your real-life underdogs, who have always had to fight for what they have.

    By contrast, you have the Goliaths, who have always been the favorites in whatever field they decide to compete in. These are folks who are ridiculously successful in life and, more often than not, don't know how it is to fail.

    So where does John Hennigan fit in? Is he a Goliath?

    Yep. His profile on CBS.com boasts about his successful career as a pro wrestler and actor. I mean, come on, this is a dude who's won titles in every promotion he's appeared for from WWE to Lucha Underground to IMPACT.

    In the preseason coverage for Survivor, Probst also goes on record to talk about how Johnny Mundo's real-life family has been relatively well-off as professionals, who have supported his decision to make a career out of pro wrestling. On top of that, Probst even mentions that Mundo himself as "maximized his body and good looks." How the hell is he not a Goliath, right?

    He's going to be a heel on the show, isn't he?

    Well, we don't know that yet. The way the theme is shaping out, it looks like viewers will be preconditioned to root for the David Tribe, while rooting against the Goliath Tribe. After all, everyone loves underdogs.

    But this will all boil down to how well our boy plays his wrestling persona up (or down) for the cameras and the other players.

    Is he the first pro wrestler to compete on Survivor?

    Nope. Ashley Massaro was the first and she competed on Survivor: China in 2007. She was the second boot out of 16 players, having only lasted six days. To be fair to her, she got sick early on and became a liability to her tribe. But she did also clash with her tribe's leader.

    How well do athletes do on the show anyway?

    Someone like Mundo is bound to be a big target from the get-go because of his chiseled frame and unrivaled athleticism. Gone are the days when physical threats can dominate the game and make their way to the end. These days, Survivor is all about the strategy and social game, so it wouldn't be surprising to see Mundo getting blindsided because he'll be seen as a threat to win the challenges.

    The record for athletes on the show is a mixed bag. You have former NFL player Brad Culpepper, who got to Final Tribal Council on his second stint on the show. At the same time, fellow former NFL player Alan Ball was the fourth person eliminated from Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers, a season I appropriately nicknamed "Survivor: HHH."

    Former NBA players like Scot Pollard and Cliff Robinson have also played to varying degrees of success—Pollard was a power player in Survivor: Kaoh Rong and finished eighth, while Robinson dominated in the early challenges of Survivor: Cagayan, but got immediately blindsided on Day 14 when the tribes shuffled its members.

    The list goes on and on. After 37 seasons and 18 years, you kind of expect it to, you know?

    How well does Mundo even know Survivor?

    I don't know if Mundo even follows the show religiously, since he didn't tweet/post about Survivor until he was officially linked to the show. However, most recruited players—meaning those who didn't apply for the show on their own—are given an opportunity to bingewatch past seasons to prepare for the game.

    He cites former winners Mike Holloway and John Cochran as the players he's most like—which is weird considering John Cochran looks like this.

    What Mundo means is he wants to have the same dominance as Mike Holloway when it comes to challenges—Holloway famously won five Individual Immunity Challenges in the show's 30th season, Survivor: Worlds Apart, en route to winning the game.

    And he plans to do that while being socially aware and building relationships the way Cochran did in his winning game in Survivor: Caramoan, the show's 26th season.

    Will we get to see Taya on Survivor?

    Survivor has the Loved Ones Challenge/Visit somewhere deep into the game—usually between the Final Eight and the Final Five. If Mundo makes it far enough, and if Taya is his chosen Loved One, then we could see La Wera Loca on the island!

    Okay, so does Hennigan/Mundo/IMPACT stand a chance to win?

    I honestly don't know. For what it's worth, he's not the most famous guy on the cast.

    That'll be Mike White, who's most famous for having written the critically-acclaimed film School Of Rock. He'll be on the Goliath Tribe alongside Mundo.

    What's the official Smark Henry prediction for his finish?

    Well, he's not going to be my winner pick, that's for sure.

    I'd love for him to make the Merge, but I'm going to be conservative here and say he'll probably get voted out right before that. He's going to end up in 14th place, just right before the tribes merge. I'd love to be wrong, though!

    Survivor: David vs. Goliath premieres on CBS on Wednesday, September 26 (U.S. time). 

    Header image from Pro Wrestling Sheet, images from CBS.com


    Stan Sy (@_StanSy) is the Editor at Large of Smark Henry, and is also a radio DJ on Wave 89.1, an events host, a freelance writer, and one of the hosts of The Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast. He also used to be one of the hosts and writers of The Wrestling Gods on FOX. He enjoys watching WWE, NXTLucha Underground, and the occasional New Japan match. You can ask him questions about wrestling, Survivor (yes, the reality show), or whatever you like on his CuriousCat account.
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    Item Reviewed: "Survivor" Series: From Johnny Mundo To Johnny Survivor Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Stan Sy
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