I really like the concept behind the WWE’s Survivor Series show. Having teams of the best WWE Superstars go against each other to prove which is the better one is fun and a lot of good stories can be told. As of late, the 2 teams were split into the WWE’s current flagship programs, RAW and Smackdown. This year, with the threat of AEW looming over their heads, the WWE made the, in my opinion anyway, boneheaded idea to make their developmental program, NXT, as another big name show. I know most fans like it but I don’t. If NXT is on par with RAW and Smackdown, then why would you want to but “called up” to the “main roster” if that were the case?
Anyway, personal preferences aside, I was curious to see how the WWE was going to handle things by including 3 teams this year on each side. Well, I watched this year’s Survivor Series and, overall, it was good but I do think it felt cluttered at points.
The best way to start off this review is what I thought was the match of the night. This would be the Triple Thread match with Intercontinental Champion AJ Styles from RAW, United States Champion Shinusuke Nakamura from Smackdown and North American Champion Roderick Strong from NXT. This was a brilliantly paced match and, while they did the “guy gets booted out of the ring so the other guys can fight in the ring” shtick that most Triple Threat matches boil down to, you certainly didn’t feel it as there was always something interesting going on.
Everyone looked strong in this one and, honestly, the only thing that I felt was missing was a little more involvement from Nakamura’s best friend, Sami Zayn. He did get involved but I really expected a little more from him, especially during the finish. Speaking of the finish, AJ Styles managed to connect with the Phenomenal Forearm on Nakamura but Roderick Strong managed to weasel himself back into the ring, toss Styles outside to cover the downed Nakamura for the 3 count. Best match of the night but it was nearly edged out by this next one.
The next match I need to talk about is the one for the NXT Championship featuring Adam Cole (Baybee!) and Pete Dunne. As I said, this nearly was the match to watch in Survivor Series as the action was extremely good and there were some really interesting and lovely spots, such as Cole performing his Panama Sunrise finisher on Dunne from the ring apron. They also played into the injuries both of them supposedly sustained during the previous night’s NXT Takeover and both of them made it work.
The finish came with Dunne attempting to pick up his mouth guard but Cole blocking him. Dunne retaliates by snapping Cole’s fingers and going for his Bitter End finisher. Cole manages to counter it into the Panama Sunrise and then into the Last Shot knee strike for the pinfall victory and to retain his NXT Championship. This could have been the best match of Survivor Series for me but I just felt that it went on a little bit too long. Maybe the could’ve trimmed some of the spots in the middle or reduce the number of near falls. It’s a minor gripe to an excellent match.
The next series of matches were generally good and did meet my expectations. The Men’s Survivor Series match was actually good this year. I expected it to be a confusing mess as we had teams from RAW, Smackdown and NXT in the same ring at the same time! They did do a good job so that most of the action was clean and they even spent some time focusing on some traditional “heel guy gets comeuppance from face teammate” and “sore loser gets revenge on the guy that pinned him” shenanigans.
The finish came down to Roman Reigns from Smackdown vs. Keith Lee from NXT. We got a really quick match that was filled with energy but, after a missed moonsault from Lee, Reigns hits a spear to get the pinfall to give a victory for Smackdown. Some of the eliminations, mainly of the big guys like WALTER and Braun Strowman, felt anti-climactic. Also including Gable seemed like a misstep to the entire Smackdown lineup. This was still a good and entertaining Survivor Series bout.
I had rather low expectations for the WWE Heavyweight Championship Match between Brock Lesnar and Rey Mysterio. I knew the WWE were going to try to spice things up by making it a No Disqualification match but, ultimately, there was no way Rey Mysterio was going to win. They did make it almost look like he was, though. I knew Rey bringing in a lead pipe wasn’t going to do it. I certainly didn’t expect Dominic and Rey trying low blows and double teaming Lesnar to try to fell The Beast, though!
The finish came, despite the double team, Brock Lesnar recovering enough to latch on a german suplex on Dominic and then an F5 on Rey Mysterio to retain his WWE Heavyweight Championship. Really good storytelling here and it made me double-think if Rey was actually going to steal the victory for a moment. It was a fleeting moment, however.
The same thing can be said for the WWE Universal Title Championship bout between The Fiend/Bray Wyatt and Daniel Bryan. I get that The Fiend is red-hot… but I still don’t like the “eerie” red lights they put on when he’s in the ring. I just feel like they’re trying to cover something up with the bad lighting. Anyway, this was another match where there was no way that the challenger was going to overcome the odds. Having The Fiend lose at this point of time would be a colossal blunder and not even the WWE people would be that dumb… would they?
Well, they did the general “The Fiend is immune to hurt” gimmick. Daniel Bryan gave it a good run but there wasn’t that moment when I thought he would actually get the victory. The finish had Bryan rolling up The Fiend after a Sister Abigail attempt but the latter kicking out. Bryan then went for his running knee strike but The Fiend counters it with a Mandible Claw, causing Bryan to go to sleep and The Fiend getting the pinfall victory to retain his WWE Universal Championship. It was a fun match but just too predictable for me to give it any high marks.
The final matches I have to talk about are the women’s matches in Survivor Series and, disappointingly, these were the worst ones from the show. I will say that the Triple Threat between RAW Women’s Champion Becky Lynch, Smackdown Women’s Champion Bayley and NXT Women’s Champion Shayna Baszler was the better of them. But not by much.
Functionally, there was actually nothing wrong with this Triple Threat match. The issue was the overall pacing. Things just came off as really slow and, maybe I was expecting much more from a match that had both Becky Lynch and Shayna Baszler, but things never felt like it got above average. There wasn’t a “holy crap” moment or anything. It just came off as a plain vanilla match.
The finish came after Baszler took out Lynch and the former went after Bayley. Bayley tried to mount some offense but, in the end, Baszler locked in her kirifuda clutch submission after catching Bayley while she did her elbow drop. Lynch gets in the ring and starts tearing into Baszler… because she’s as sore loser, apparently. In fact, I don’t like it that Lynch went all wild at the end to save face as it made her look petty and not tough. After all, she was legitimately taken out. Beating up Baszler after the fact makes you more heelish than a good guy.
The worst match of the night was the Women’s Survivor Series match. There was just so many things wrong here. Moves and attacks didn’t have any impact. Timing of the moves felt slow. There were even a time when opposing teams would break up pinfall attempts. Why? The goal is to eliminate the opposing team! I also have to comment on Sasha Banks backstabbing Natalya when Rhea Ripley was the only one remaining on the NXT side. This did lead to a cute mini-match between Ripley and Banks. My issue is just with why backstab Natalya before getting the two of you beat up on Ripley. I know it’s a classic heel move but the backstabbing is usually done in the middle of dominating the third party, not before.
The finish was also weird. With Sasha Banks and Rhea Ripley the only ones left officially, out come Io Shirai and Candice LeRae to interfere on behalf of NXT. Why was this allowed? If they were taken out “due to injury,” they still shouldn’t be allowed around ringside anymore like the other Superstars that got eliminated! Anyway, Candice distracts the referee and Shirai nails Banks with a slingshot dropkick. Ripley folds Banks up with her Riptide slam for the pinfall victory for NXT. Sorry, this just doesn’t make any sense to me.
Now, while I did enjoy the matches, I do have to question why the WWE decided to make NXT win the most matches in Survivor Series by a good margin. Having them the runaway victors is not good drama! There just was no suspense regarding who was the superior brand since NXT won all of the matches early on!
Overall, despite some questionable reasoning as to why NXT won the most matches, I did like this year’s Survivor Series. The only match that was a complete dud was the Women’s Survivor Series and most of the matches, I was generally okay with.
What did you think of this year’s Survivor Series? Let me know in the comments section below!