OH BOY Survivor Series. This is a show that’s one of the big four, has been around for decades, and almost never results in major story impacts since the brand split. With the rosters on each brand being separate, Survivor Series has become “the only time Raw and Smackdown compete against either other”, which isn’t true and means that things that happen in these matches have little to no effect on the weekly shows themselves. It’s all fighting over “bragging rights” that don’t come up until next year’s Survivor Series.
This year’s show has had a hell of a weird build. It went almost unmentioned until after Crown Jewel, which only gave it two weeks of build. From the start: three matches were a lock: Seth Rollins v. Shinsuke Nakamura, Ronda Rousey v. Becky Lynch, and Brock Lesnar v. AJ Styles. In those two weeks, Lynch was injured and Styles lost his WWE Championship to Daniel Bryan, so those matches changed to Rousey v. Charlotte Flair and Lesnar v. Daniel Bryan in the go-home Smackdown. The other matches were built utterly haphazardly, with most of them settled on the go-home show, but still mixed up their rosters before Survivor Series started. With these messes in mind, let’s tackle the show.
Pre-Show: 10 Person Tag Team Survivor Series Match (The Revival, The Ascension, The B-Team, Lucha House Party, and Roode/Gable for Team Raw vs. The New Day, The Colons, Sanity, Gallows/Anderson, and The Usos for Team Smackdown)
Holy hell, the first two thirds of this match were a damn disaster. Just a mess of miscommunications, missed tags, worked injuries, messy action and unceremonious eliminations. Where it clearly improved was after three teams were eliminated from each side and we were left with The Revival and Roode/Gable vs. The New Day and The Usos. We got teased with some action between Chad Gable and Big E that demands a singles match someday in the future. Big E nailed his signature, utterly self-destructive, spear through the ropes to the outside, which impaled Dash Wilder and looked real nasty. We wind up with The Revival vs. The Usos and both teams looked amazing. They’re great tag teams and I can only hope this spells better fortunes for The Revival on Raw. Usos land a win for Smackdown, which doesn’t count because it’s the pre-show.
Between this match and the start of the show, the women’s Survivor Series match gets their rosters set for both shows. For some reason, Raw ditches Ruby Riott and Natalya after they attack each other and replace them with Bayley and Sasha Banks. Both of these women should’ve been in their lineup from day 1. Smackdown lost Flair from their team to her singles match with Rousey, and they replace her with Mandy Rose and also select Naomi as their replacement captain. Being the captain of a Survivor Series team is more or less meaningless.
Women’s Survivor Series Match (Nia Jax, Tamina, Mickie James, Sasha Banks for Team Raw vs. Naomi, Asuka, Carmella, Sonya Deville, and Mandy Rose for Team Smackdown)
Jax was identified on Smackdown’s go-home show as the person who injured Lynch, so she’s greeted with boos on entrance. The match starts with a “Becky” chant from the crowd, and it’s not a great match from there. James gets a lot of time in the ring and shows some good offense, and Rose gets more time in this match than she’s been on TV in months. Banks and Bayley, being the only babyfaces on the Raw team, end up conflicting with the rest which ends with Jax (to tons of boos) causing Banks to be eliminated by Asuka, and then defeating Asuka to win the match for Team Raw. Jax, triumphant, eats more boos and seems surprised that the crowd hates her. Hello, you’re a heel, and you injured a super hot champion. You should be drinking this in and feeding off of it.
Intercontinental Champion Seth Rollins vs. United States Champion Shinsuke Nakamura
This is a great, if predictable, match. Rollins is fire in the ring and Nakamura is fresh because we haven’t seen him compete in months. However, they’ve been forced to wear their show colors, with Rollins bringing back a half-and-half Raw shirt, and Nakamura wearing an out-of-character all blue outfit. They look silly but the match is good. Rollins kicks out a Kinshasa and comes back with a Stomp to win.
Raw Tag Team Champions The Authors of Pain vs. Smackdown Tag Team Champions The Bar
It’s not really worth talking about this match because it’s only okay. Four hosses going at each other should’ve been more exciting. The Bar wrestled in a babyface style, which is an odd choice as they’ve been heels for quite a while. No, what’s worth talking about is the ending. Authors manager Drake Maverick pulls an Author’s foot onto a ring rope to cheat and save his team, which results in him being confronted by The Bar’s friend(?) Big Show. Big Show puts Maverick in a one-handed choke and Maverick pees his pants. This distraction causes the Authors to hit Sheamus with a tag team powerbomb, giving them the win for Team Raw. I expected Maverick to play a role in this match. I did not expect him to pee his pants. I love Drake Maverick and his commitment to entertaining a crowd is unmatched, but come on. Couldn’t he do something slightly less embarrassing?
Cruiserweight Champion Buddy Murphy vs. Mustapha Ali for the Cruiserweight Championship
For once, the cruiserweight championship gets main show (not pre-show) billing and they make the most of it. These guys put on amazing matches every week on 205 Live and go underappreciated by the bulk of the WWE audience. They both play their roles perfectly, with Ali being the high risk, high flying all-heart fighter and Murphy tossing him around like a mini-Brock Lesnar. The crowd starts dead but eventually gets into this match in a serious way and garners the first “this is awesome” chant of the show. It is awesome, and you can see these kind of matches every single week! Ultimately, Murphy is too much for Ali and pins him to retain his cruiserweight championship. This is a great match and both competitors looked fantastic.
Men’s Survivor Series Match (Finn Balor, Bobby Lashley, Dolph Ziggler, Drew McIntyre, and Braun Strowman for Team Raw vs. Samoa Joe, Jeff Hardy, Rey Mysterio, Shane McMahon, and The Miz for Team Smackdown)
I’m beginning to believe the rumors that Samoa Joe is working injured based on how he was immediately bodied by McIntyre and eliminated within three minutes. I can’t say it’s downhill from there as it never really gets great. The Raw team fights each other, McMahon jumps very far three times, and Strowman eliminates four out of five of the Smackdown team to ultimately get the victory for Team Raw. Listen. I know Raw had the big body boys, but a team with legends like Hardy and Mysterio should’ve gotten at least competitive booking. It ends with Best Wrestler in the World Shane McMahon as the last member of Team Smackdown. It just wasn’t a good match.
Raw Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey vs. Charlotte Flair
I am biased here; I do not like Ronda Rousey the person. However, this was an amazing, very physical match. Flair, as usual, is amazing and looks so good in almost every match she has. Rousey has diversified her moveset and it pays off here. It doesn’t look like a choreographed stage fight, it looks like a great wrestling match and earns another “this is awesome” chant from the crowd. It ends with Flair beating Rousey with a kendo stick, disqualifying her and giving Rousey the win. Flair, in a heel turn that is cheered by the crowd, beats the holy hell out of Rousey with the kendo stick, plants her with Natural Selection into a chair, and stomps on that same chair as it’s wrapped around Rousey’s neck. The crowd loves it. They chant “thank you Charlotte”. Does WWE expect the crowd to boo Flair here? They barely like Rousey before the match started. She limps to the back to a “Becky” chant and boos. This heel turn is maybe the only thing that mattered on this show but its payoff won’t come until Royal Rumble or Wrestlemania. Unless the rosters are mixed up, Rousey has to move on to her next promised title defense against Nia Jax. I don’t know where this leaves Flair on the Smackdown roster.
Universal Champion Brock Lesnar vs. WWE Champion Daniel Bryan
This match could have been bad. Recent Lesnar matches haven’t been bangers, and the switch from Styles to a now heel Bryan was sudden and unexpected. But it turns out to be a great match. It starts like all Lesnar matches, with lots of German suplexes from Lesnar and zero offense from Bryan but it takes a turn when Bryan hits a low blow after a ref bump. From there it’s all about Bryan outsmarting Lesnar. He’s working the leg, he’s escaping Lesnar’s holds, he’s reversing Lesnar’s attacks. The story here is that Lesnar is a beast, but Bryan is a technician and he’s smarter than Lesnar. Eventually, he gets caught in a F5 and eats the pin, but this was easily my favorite Lesnar match in recent history and Bryan doesn’t look like a joke coming out of it.
This whole show was a big rollercoaster. The singles matches were all highlights and the team matches were mostly forgettable. Very little of this show will matter long term, but what doesn’t sit right with me is that the meta plot of it (and this weekend as a whole when we include NXT Takeover) is that Raw’s roster is completely dominant to Smackdown’s and UFC fighters will beat WWE wrestlers every time. I’m bothered by this, unless it’s signalling an intention to make major roster changes to fix the “imbalance”, and it significantly downplays the skill and talent of the wrestlers in the company who don’t have UFC backgrounds. They’ve made their own talent look inferior to “real world skills” without any obvious gain. It doesn’t make any sense, but at least this show barely matters so maybe things will improve next month with TLC.