The first ever triple branded Survivor Series managed to be a lot of fun, which is somehow a tall task for WWE PPVs these days. Three last minute kickoff shows rounded out a pretty stacked card, and the inclusion of NXT really helped the show overall. Finally, we know which brand is officially best (hint: it’s the one everybody already liked.) Let’s break it down:
Tag Team Battle Royal (Kickoff)
Battle royals can be really hit or miss just for the fact that there’s so many people in the ring at once, and this one had the added stipulation of not mattering at all in terms of literally anything. At least we got to see Fandango catch Breeze in his arms bridal style again, and for a few moments, love was real. NXT was out of the match first, followed by SmackDown, and the final two teams were the Street Profits and Ziggler and Roode, both from Raw. Montez Ford hit a beautiful frog splash, but Roode snuck up and threw him over the top rope.
Verdict: Street Profits are still gold. ZigRoode still exists.
Cruiserweight Championship: Lio Rush (NXT) vs Akira Tozawa (Raw) Kalisto (SD) (Kickoff)
This was a classic cruiserweight match with plenty of big spots and men flying all over the place, but the crowd never seemed to care about any of it, which unfortunately really hurt the match. It’s hard for preshow matches to get much of a reaction when half the time the arena is still pretty empty, but the crowd felt more dead for this than the tag team battle royale. Regardless, Lio Rush continued a string of fantastic title defenses here. There was a great moment where Tozawa suplexed Rush and attempted to pin him, then Kalisto stomped on Tozawa’s chest and rolled into the pin himself. Rush managed a sort of double Spanish Fly off the top rope that also gave himself some brutal damage, but looked super cool. Rush got the win with a tough looking Final Hour and set NXT on a winning path for the night.
Verdict: Fun, short match. Short kings doing short king stuff.
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Viking Raiders (Raw Tag Champs) vs The New Day (SD Tag Champs) vs Undisputed Era (NXT Tag Champs) (Kickoff)
This was moved to the kickoff last minute, because WWE hates me and also tag team wrestling specifically. The beginning of this match was mostly beating up the Undisputed Era, who were at a distinct size disadvantage vs Big E and Ivar. New Day and Viking Raiders had some great sequences together, including Big E deadlifting Ivar. Kyle O’Reilly did some of his most fun jelly leg selling after Erik threw Ivar into the other four men outside the ring. It’s always impressive to see these big ass dudes do flips and crazy athletic moves like their Tinder profile says they’re 5’7”. This 300 pound man did a backspring into a dad and a guy who looks like he works at Staples! Feel like Kyle O’Reilly might definitely have a concussion right now. Ivar got the win on Fish to tie up the score for all 3 brands.
Verdict: This match worked for all three teams, and the outcome was predictable, but not unwanted. I’ll always pop for Kyle getting the shit kicked out of him.
Women’s Survivor Series Match: Team Raw vs Team SmackDown vs Team NXT
The eliminations here were done really well. First NXT lost LeRae and Shirai almost immediately when they had to be helped to the back after being injured, putting NXT at a huge disadvantage. After Kairi Sane was eliminated Asuka went on a revenge tour, but Charlotte tagged herself back in, and the two women started arguing. Asuka then spit mist at Charlotte and ditched her team, resulting in two immediate losses to Raw as Lacey pinned a blinded Charlotte. Cool, collected Natalya watched the whole thing go down with a blank look on her face, like she’d seen worse at a family reunion. The final three were Sasha, Rhea, and Natalya. Banks offered Natalya an alliance to take out Rhea, then immediately attacked her when Natalya’s back was turned, because she’s Sasha Banks. The stuff between Banks and Ripley was really fantastic. Banks ultimately got the upper hand and looked like she was about to make Ripley tap when Shirai and LeRae made the save, miraculously cured by the incredible power of WWE’s top medical staff. I guess they weren’t legally part of the match, but their interference and a drop kick from Shirai gave Ripley the chance to hit the Riptide and pin Banks. Kind of convoluted for an ending, and I’m not sure if we’re supposed to support NXT for having to cheat to win, but they’re plucky underdogs so I guess everything they do is okay.
Verdict: Incredible opener! Ripley has looked like an absolute star this weekend. Let me see her and Banks one on one.
AJ Styles (US Champion, Raw) vs Shinsuke Nakamura (Intercontinental Champion, SD) vs Roderick Strong (North American Champion, NXT)
Nakamura came out in a sweet dark blue jumpsuit and black cape, because if anyone’s allowed to wear those colors together, it’s him. Styles and Roddy didn’t take any fashion risks, but it’s possible they knew their effort in that category would be fruitless against Shinsuke. This was a really good match, made even better by Sami Zayn frantically hopping around at ringside and fanning Nakamura with his hat. Everybody got some hardass kicks and all three guys had moments where they nearly won, but it was Styles who hit a Phenomenal Forearm on Nakamura. But wait— Strong ran in and threw Styles out to steal the victory, as is the Undisputed way.
Verdict: Snotty Roddy scores an underhanded win and gives NXT the edge. Sami cradles Nakamura in the ring, Styles left to roll off the edge of the flat earth. Good match.
NXT Championship: Adam Cole (c) vs Pete Dunne
Two men who almost died the night before try to nearly kill themselves again. Dunne was really into twisting Cole’s fingers off early on, while Cole targeted the injured knee. There was a huge Panama Sunrise on the apron that made my entire body shrivel up. Dunne nearly put the champion away a few times, but Cole kicked out of even the Bitter End, much to Dunne’s disbelief. You can survive on pettiness alone, says Adam Cole. Several near falls later and Cole seductively stepped on Dunne’s hand as he reached for his mouth guard, like a supervillain about to deliver a monologue. He then managed another Panama Sunrise, and landed the Last Shot, sadly with the knee pad on. Dunne was officially out, and Cole retained.
Verdict: Understandably the most ‘NXT’ of all the matches, felt like it was pulled straight out of a Takeover. I don’t know if the mouthguard moment was supposed to be that horny but, c’mon, it really was.
Universal Championship: The Fiend Bray Wyatt (c) vs Daniel Bryan
The story here was about Bryan rediscovering the Yes movement, and it worked fine. After being tossed around for a solid 5 minutes while the announcers breathed heavily into their headsets, Bryan finally began to rally back. The support and power of chanting gave him a new life and he nearly finished off The Fiend with a series of dropkicks and Yes kicks. The crazy clown kept getting back up, and in the end Bryan choked on a leather glove like so many before him. The outcome was predictable, but this match was at least more entertaining than Wyatt and Rollins. You have to take The Fiend for what he is; a killer clown with a finger fetish, and that’s fine in wrestling. It’s okay to just enjoy him murdering people in soft red lighting.
Verdict: Daniel Bryan’s YA summer of discovery is over, while The Fiend lives another day to build more head lanterns and see those fun pirate pants.
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Men’s Survivor Series Match: Team Raw vs Team SmackDown vs Team NXT
Our second elimination match of the night, this one was less convoluted but somehow felt a lot longer. Walter was eliminated first and in pretty quick order, but there’s probably a Thanksgiving sale on tracksuits at Adidas, and the man has priorities. Team SmackDown ultimately disintegrated about halfway through with a fight between King Corbin and hometown boy Mustafa Ali. Ali was eliminated after arguing with Corbin, which then lead to another argument from Reigns, and a spear to his own teammate. The final three were Reigns, Rollins, and Keith Lee, much to the joy of everyone who has ever seen Keith Lee. Lee pinned Rollins after avoiding the stomp, and had a great face off with Reigns, including catching a spear into a Spirit Bomb. Reigns kicked out, connected with another spear, and won for SmackDown.
Verdict: The crowd loves Keith Lee! I love Keith Lee! Big Keith hours for everyone!! Also Roman was very good.
WWE Championship: Brock Lesnar (c) vs Rey Mysterio
Little man tries to defeat big man, truly a tale as old as time. When the big man is Brock Lesnar, the feat is much easier said than done, but Rey Mysterio, his son, and a lead pipe did their best in this match. After being tossed into the announce tables, Mysterio looked like he was already done for. Dominick ran down to the ring to attempt to throw in the towel for his father, but Lesnar loves being red as a tomato and dripping with sweat, so he really didn’t see the purpose of the towel. He went to attack Dominick for maybe the fifteenth time, but Papa Mysterio saved his son with a swift low blow. Since anything goes in the match, and Lesnar’s only weakness in WWE seems to be his crotch, Dominick doubled down with another shot. The father and son double teamed Lesnar with synchronized 619s and back to back frog splashes, which was honestly very cute. It’s just kind of adorable to watch a family beat up a man who’s made their life hell for the past two months. That’s the heartwarming part of wrestling. But all good things come to an end, and Lesnar turned it around once more with a suplex to Dominick and an F5 to Rey, retaining the title.
Verdict: Worth it for the after school special family moments.
Becky Lynch (Raw Women’s Champ) vs Bayley (SD Women’s Champ) vs Shayna Baszler (NXT Women’s Champ)
This was not the match I was expecting to fall flat last night, but it felt unfortunately hampered by a mix of a tired crowd and a slow start. Bayley started things off by going after both Baszler and Lynch. Weirdly just a really slow pace at the beginning, a lot of grounding which makes sense for Baszler’s style, but felt off for Lynch and Bayley to be relying on. There were some nice spots, like Baszler plucking Bayley out of the air in the apron and locking her in the Kirifuda Clutch, and Becky delivering a double DDT to both women. The finish came rather abruptly when Bayley went to the elbow drop and was again caught in the clutch, and tapped out. During this Becky was seemingly dying behind the announce table after having been powerbombed on it by Shayna. Yet when Baszler hopped up on said table to gloat, Becky miraculously recovered and landed the leg drop, sending her through the table. The Man yelled about being the greatest and all that good stuff, like she didn’t just watch her brand get demolished.
Verdict: Some good, some boring. If you like rhinestones check it out for Becky’s sweet new gear.