Survivor Series was once one of the biggest events on the WWE pay-per-view calendar, but it is now something rather less significant. This year, however, there was plenty of intrigue surrounding the show, emanating from the Allstate Arena in Chicago. Not only are WWE’s 2 flagship brands now on different TV networks, creating the possibility of a bona fide rivalry, but the upstart energy of NXT was also injected into proceedings.
Which brand would emerge victorious? Would anyone care? And crucially, was the show actually any good?
Kick-Off: Robert Roode & Dolph Ziggler won the Tag Team Battle Royal (RAW 0, SD 1, NXT 0)
There’s nothing like a thrown together Battle Royal with no stakes to sell Network subscriptions. Most shockingly, Breezango are apparently still a thing. I must have missed the big return. Sadly, NXT barely made a flicker here, with Imperium tossed without much fanfare, despite their dominance on the NXT UK brand. Anyway, Robert Roode and Dolph Ziggler won after Roode was able to sneak in and eliminate Montez Ford just after he hit Ziggler with a frog splash. It’s fair to say this wasn’t the greatest showcase for WWE’s Tag Team division.
Kick-Off: Cruiserweight Champion Lio Rush defeated Kalisto and Akira Tozawa via Frog Splash on Kalisto (RAW 0, SD 1, NXT 1)
As with so many cruiserweight contests, this was an affair of babyfaces, powered by hard-hitting action. Neither was able to get on top for an extended period of time early, with the champion fighting from underneath against something of a soft alliance between the 2 main roster performers. Rush was also responsible for the most exciting moment of the match, somehow hitting a double Spanish Fly on his two opponents. Kalisto managed to hit Salida Del Sol, but Tozawa broke up the pin. It was Rush who was eventually able to defend his title, flattening Kalisto with a massive frog splash.
This was a perfectly ordinary PPV Cruiserweight match. No storyline and no real expectations, but plenty of fun and excitement from three of the most athletic performers on the books at WWE. There remains, though, a nagging sense that WWE ought to be doing more with its most high-octane division of stars.
Kick-Off: Viking Raiders (Erik & Ivar) defeated New Day (Big E & Kofi) and Undisputed Era (Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly) via pinfall on Bobby Fish (RAW 1, SD 1, NXT 1)
This set the tone for the many, many Triple Threat matches to come on the show, with one competitor from each team legal in the match at any one time. Kyle O’Reilly was sent to the floor early, allowing Big E and Ivar to put on a display of athletic big man brilliance. The Raiders soon took control with some tandem offence and an interesting dynamic ensued, powered by a unique clash of styles. The Raiders fought with power, the New Day with passion and Undisputed Era with precise wrestling science. This was a fun, chaotic sprint of a battle that culminated in Ivar avoiding the best of Undisputed Era’s moves using pure athleticism, allowing the RAW champs to flatten O’Reilly with the Viking Experience on to Bobby Fish, who was subsequently pinned.
Last year, WWE chose to ignore pre-show matches in the final leaderboard for brand supremacy, so this time around they gave each of the 3 brands a win to ensure that, whether they count it or not, it doesn’t really matter. Between this match and the unnecessary battle royal, it felt like an admission on WWE’s part that tag team wrestling isn’t important. Given how strong AEW is in that arena, it’s an odd call.
Women’s Elimination Match: Team NXT defeated Team RAW and Team SmackDown via Rhea Ripley last eliminating Sasha Banks (RAW 1, SD 1, NXT 2)
The contest, fought under Triple Threat rules with three women in the ring at once, started with some back and forth in which Dana Brooke of Team SmackDown was the unexpected star. Some sort of ringside malfunction appeared to injure Candice LeRae and Io Shirai who were taken to the back, putting Rhea Ripley’s Team NXT at a numbers disadvantage. The upstarts soon tried to minimise the deficit, though, with Bianca Belair scoring the first 2 eliminations on Nikki Cross of SmackDown and Sarah Logan from RAW. This yielded a spree of quick eliminations, evening up the teams.
Dissent between Asuka and Charlotte Flair caused problems for Team RAW, which boiled over when Asuka spat green mist in the eyes of her own teammate. Asuka skulked to the back, while Flair was easy pickings for the dominant Ripley, leaving just Natalya for RAW and Sasha Banks for SmackDown, against three NXT women. Nattie and Banks formed a briefly fruitful alliance, tapping out Toni Storm with a double submission and hitting the Hart Attack on Belair for another pin. Naturally, Banks turned on Nattie and eliminated her from the match, leaving her one-on-one with Ripley.
— WWE (@WWE) November 25, 2019
The two traded submissions until Le Rae and Shirai returned to ringside. They distracted the referee long enough for the young Aussie to hit Rip Tide and stand tall, just 24 hours after emerging victorious at NXT TakeOver: War Games. This was a mostly well put together elimination contest, though there were far too many moving parts for it to really fly. It didn’t help that the format was cumbersome, with Banks breaking up pinfalls on other competitors for some reason and it never really being clear whether the returning NXT team members were legally back in the match. A good start to the show though.
Roderick Strong defeated AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura via pinfall on Styles (RAW 1, SD 1, NXT 3)
After an early flurry designed to showcase the eye-catching offence of Roderick Strong, AJ Styles took control of the match and wore down the Undisputed Era member with a sleeper. The pendulum of momentum swung back and forth, with Styles the composed veteran running proceedings. Strong got taken out by a missile dropkick by Nakamura off the shoulders of Styles, who was then taken out at ringside by Sami Zayn and the steel post. Nakamura hit a GTS on Strong, drawing the inevitable chant from the Chicago fans.
With all 3 men in the ring, a series of strikes put Nakamura on top. He dropped Strong on to Styles with a reverse exploder suplex and then hit the NXT North American Champion with a Kinshasa, only for Styles to break up the pin. The two former New Japan stars renewed their rivalry in a stand-off, which culminated in Styles blasting the Intercontinental Champion with a Phenomenal Forearm. Strong pulled Styles out of the ring and stole the pin, scoring another win for NXT.
— WWE NXT (@WWENXT) November 25, 2019
This was a solid Triple Threat bout, though perhaps not the classic dream match fans were expecting from these 3. The standard Triple Threat format of sticking one guy on the floor for a while so the others could fight was in full effect, hampering the energy and momentum of the contest. It was fun down the stretch, however, and the Strong victory was a typically dastardly one for the Undisputed Era.
NXT Champion Adam Cole defeated Pete Dunne via Last Shot
Previous injuries were the focus early on, with Dunne taking advantage of Cole’s battered body after War Games and Cole zeroing in with precise kicks to the challenger’s bandaged left knee. The contest hotted up pretty quickly, with Cole hitting Last Shot after blocking a moonsault from Dunne. Soon after, Dunne managed to hit Bitter End, but also only got a two count. The crowd fully got behind the back-and-forth energy of the contest, with the whole arena rising to their feet when Cole met a moonsault with a perfectly-timed superkick. A Panama Sunrise on the apron drew gasps from the audience, but Dunne beat the count back into the ring.
Back in the ring, Dunne snapped Cole’s fingers and went for Bitter End again. The Champion somehow defied gravity to counter in mid-air into another Panama Sunrise, followed by the Last Shot to retain his title. This was exactly the sort of wild showcase fans of NXT have come to expect from title matches, with both men proving why they can claim to be among the best wrestlers in the world today. It’s just further proof that NXT Championship matches should be a fixture of main roster PPV events. If this wasn’t the match of the night, I’ll eat my hat.
Universal Champion Bray Wyatt defeated Daniel Bryan via Mandible Claw
Bryan came in hot here, knowing that’s the only way to dethrone The Fiend. His flurry was stopped pretty quickly, though, and Fiend chucked his challenger around the ringside area and snapping his neck inside the ring before laughing maniacally. The Fiend, however, crashed over the steps outside the ring, allowing Bryan to gain some momentum after shoving Wyatt into the steel post. A trio of missile dropkicks floored the Fiend, but the Yes Kicks barely seemed to hold him down for even a second.
The challenger finally embraced the power of the Yes Movement, riling up the crowd in his favour and hitting the running knee for a near-fall. The Allstate Arena was fully behind Bryan over the Fiend which, more than anything, showed the deficiencies of Seth Rollins as a main event babyface in comparison to the permanently over Bryan. The challenger went for the running knee again, but Wyatt countered directly into the Mandible Claw, which quickly ended the evening.
— WWE Universe (@WWEUniverse) November 25, 2019
This was another dominant display for the Fiend, who continues to be sadly diminished by the needless accoutrements of the over-booked gimmick. Simply, that red light has got to go. The match itself was much better than Wyatt’s clashes with Rollins and saw the champion actually get a heel reaction for the first time since the Fiend debuted. WWE would be wise to keep this feud going for a little while longer. It has real potential.
Men’s Elimination Match: Team SmackDown defeated Team NXT and Team RAW via Roman Reigns last eliminating Keith Lee (RAW 1, SD 2, NXT 3)
Interestingly, before the match started, it was WALTER who received chants from the WWE Universe. The UK Champion is over in a big way. Naturally, he was the first person eliminated from the match after taking an early Claymore Kick from Drew McIntyre. WWE connecting to its audience as always. Shorty G and Ricochet then exploded into the match with a wonderful athletic showcase, which eventually left Shorty vulnerable to a frog splash from Kevin Owens, who chose to splash and eliminate him instead of NXT star Ciampa. Ciampa showed none of that loyalty to KO, dropping him with a draping DDT.
A quick flurry of eliminations followed, most notably Matt Riddle getting one over on Randy Orton and eating a post-pin RKO for his troubles. Braun Strowman found himself counted out after colliding with Keith Lee and eating a Claymore on the floor, while Ricochet rolled through a missed 630 Splash straight into End of Days from Baron Corbin. The King of the Ring regularly butted heads with his teammates, causing Ali’s elimination and pissing off Roman Reigns so much that the King ate a Spear and was pinned by Ciampa.
#RKOs ALL AROUND!#TheViper STRIKES as the eliminations come fast and furious in this battle between Team #WWERaw, Team #SmackDown, and Team #WWENXT at #SurvivorSeries! @RandyOrton pic.twitter.com/yve0jETZgy
— WWE (@WWE) November 25, 2019
Reigns and Rollins joined forces against Ciampa and Lee, teasing a Shield-style powerbomb to Ciampa that was interrupted by Lee. Ciampa almost put Rollins away with Project Ciampa, but then took a Superman Punch and a Curb Stomp to be eliminated from the match. Keith Lee fought valiantly, putting away Rollins with Ground Zero, but was ultimately bested by Reigns, who clinched the match for Team SmackDown, showing his respect for Lee after the bell.
This was a solid elimination contest, put together with a real sense of logic and showcasing the NXT talent as genuine stars. Lee and Ciampa, in particular, were allowed to look incredible against the company’s top talent. Unfortunately, what it lacked was a story. The moving parts of a Survivor Series match often allow multiple storylines to grow and develop, but that wasn’t really the case here and it’s easy to imagine that pretty much everything will be forgotten by the time the week’s TV episodes come around.
No Holds Barred: WWE Champion Brock Lesnar defeated Rey Mysterio via F-5
Mysterio wasted no time in grabbing his trusty lead pipe from under the ring, but Lesnar was able to evade the challenger and neutralise the threat posed by the weapon, tossing Mysterio under the bottom rope and to the floor. After a few minutes, Dominik Mysterio showed up and seemed poised to throw in the towel. Lesnar was having none of it and grabbed Dominik, allowing Rey to hit a low blow, which Dominik repeated. Mysterio went after Lesnar with the pipe and the father and son duo hit a double 619, followed by a pair of frog splashes. That wasn’t enough to keep Lesnar down, though, and he flattened Dominik before catching Rey into an F-5.
Like so many Lesnar matches over the last few years, this was an over-booked disappointment. The Beast has had excellent matches against smaller men, but there was none of that psychology this time around. There was no big angle really either, with the most likely future direction seemingly being a tag team run for the Mysterio family. That could be an interesting one indeed.
Shayna Baszler defeated Bayley and Becky Lynch via Kirifuda Clutch on Bayley (RAW 1, SD 2, NXT 4)
Quite rightly, it was the hottest of the Interbrand angles that was handed the main event spot. Baszler got a Goldberg-style entrance, flanked by Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir. It was Bayley, though, who acted as the aggressor in the early stages, before Lynch took control after catching both opponents with a double DDT. The RAW Champion locked Bayley in the Dis-Arm-Her until Bazler got involved. The match was worked at a deliberate, methodical pace with strikes and submissions until Bazler dumped Lynch hard on the announce table. A few moments later, the NXT champ locked Bayley in the Kirifuda Clutch and forced a tap out. A pissed-off Lynch smashed Baszler through the announce table with a leg drop after the bell.
This was an unusual main event, which never really seemed to get out of second gear, meaning that the finish came almost out of nowhere. Baszler’s victory never felt particularly hard-fought, with the most passion coming in Lynch’s post-match attack. It was also an attack that seemed tailor-made for a Ronda Rousey return, alongside the other Horsewomen, but it never came.
— WWE (@WWE) November 25, 2019
Survivor Series was an unusual show in many ways. Few would’ve expected Team NXT to emerge with such a definitive victory on the night and it was terrific to see that happen, but it’s difficult to imagine it having too much impact in the weeks to come. Everyone will retreat back to their own brands and, by Christmas, we’ll all have forgotten that the main roster got their rear ends handed to them by the “developmental” brand. The matches themselves were solid, if unspectacular, and the storyline implications very slight. A fun show overall, but not a memorable one.
All pictures courtesy of WWE