By Jason Powell
Prowrestling.net Live returns today at 3CT/4ET at PWAudio.net. Will Pruett and I will be taking your calls during the live audio show regarding WWE Survivor Series, NXT Takeover: War Games, and any other pro wrestling topics you wish to discuss.
WWE Survivor Series Hits
WWE Universal Champion Brock Lesnar vs. WWE Champion AJ Styles: A dream match that lived up to high expectations even if they didn’t get to deliver a WrestleMania style match. It’s feels rather obvious that no one will be kicking out of the F5 before Roman Reigns does at WrestleMania. Had this match taken place on the WrestleMania stage, I have no doubt that Styles would have kicked out of Lesnar’s finisher at least once and there would have been much more suspense regarding the match outcome. As it played out, it was still highly entertaining and they had the right formula with Lesnar dominating early before Styles made the big comeback and pushed him to the limit. I applaud WWE for delivering a clean finish rather than having Jinder Mahal get involved. I went into the match fearing that Styles and the WWE Championship could lose something if Styles was pinned clean, but I came away feeling okay with it, in part because the WWE Championship already lost prestige via the Mahal reign. Still, WWE spent so much time telling viewers that Smackdown was viewed as the B brand going into the show and they solidified it by having the brand and its top champion both lose to Raw at Survivor Series. Thus, it will be interesting to see how they spin the outcome on television this week to make the WWE Championship and the brand feel important.
The Shield vs. New Day: This was the only WrestleMania caliber match of the night in that I don’t know that these teams would have done anything different if this match had be held on the big stage in April. They didn’t have the benefit of a good storyline build, but the popularity of the two teams was enough to generate interest in the match and everyone involved seemed eager to make this memorable. It was surprising that they went to the Roman Reigns and Big E showdown so early in the match, and even more surprised that the Reigns hate was not as strong as usual when he was in singles situations. Yes, he had some detractors, but it certainly wasn’t as bad as it was prior to the Shield reunion. Even so, it’s hard to imagine the tide has turned enough in his favor that the majority of fans are going to cheer him once he returns to working as a singles wrestler.
Raw Tag Champions Sheamus and Cesaro vs. Smackdown Tag Champions Jimmy Uso and Jey Uso in a non-title match: A quality tag match involving two of the best teams in the company. The match would have felt bigger if Sheamus and Cesaro had entered as long running Raw Tag Champions and not as two guys who were given one final chance to win the straps and only did so due to a distraction. Even so, the teams worked well together as the match went on and this was the third best match of the night.
Smackdown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair vs. Raw Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss in a non-title match: A minor Hit. It seemed like WWE wanted this to feel like an epic showdown. They gave Bliss far more offense than expected. Bliss strikes me as an opportunistic Miz-like heel who cheats to win, not someone who should hold her own and have competitive matches with the best in-ring talents. I’m always advocating the idea of Miz being to be more competitive with big names so that he can be more than a pest heel, so I can’t say that it’s a bad idea to do the same with Bliss even though it feels a little forced at this point.
“Team Raw” Alicia Fox, Nia Jax, Asuka, Sasha Banks, and Bayley vs. “Team Smackdown” Becky Lynch, Naomi, Carmella, Natalya, and Tamina in a Survivor Series elimination match: Another minor Hit. Showcasing Asuka as the lone survivor was the right move, but this didn’t feel like a major moment that fans are going to remember as a true launch point for her main roster push. It felt like she needed to beat more than the monster for the night Tamina and Natalya to really make a splash. Yet while this wasn’t a star making match, at least they had the right idea.
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn vs. Tyler Breeze and Fandango: A minor Hit for getting both popular acts on the show. Well, at least I think Breezango are popular. It was hard to tell based on the crowd reaction in this case, but I’m chalking it up to them working with a duo who are more over with adult males than they are.
Elias vs. Matt Hardy: A minor Hit for the Kickoff Show opening match that spotlighted Elias. I still get the feeling that the creative forces like Elias, yet have no idea where to go with him.
WWE Survivor Series Misses
“Team Raw: Kurt Angle, Braun Strowman, Finn Balor, Samoa Joe, and Triple H vs. “Team Smackdown” Shane McMahon, Randy Orton, Shinsuke Nakamura, Bobby Roode, and John Cena in a Survivor Series elimination match: The Game is back! The overbooked center of the WWE storyline universe from the early 2000’s was on full display as the match became all about him and his manipulations of Kurt Angle and Shane McMahon. Sure, Braun Strowman beat him up after the match, but only after Triple H was made to look like the smartest guy in the company again by taking out his teammate Angle all so that his character could pin his brother-in-law and win the match for Team Raw. Suddenly, the almighty Triple H has readymade feuds with Strowman, Angle, and Shane, whereas everyone else in the match felt like afterthoughts by the time it was all said and done. Sure, they forwarded the mid-card feud between Balor and Joe, but this was another case of WWE sending the message that the part-time stars are back and the main roster full-timers other than Strowman are merely supporting players. John Cena was in the match for star power alone and even he came away feeling as mid-card as the full-timers, which is bizarre on so many levels. The first half of the match was a blast as they gave fans a taste of the various dream match encounters. It’s just a shame that so many wrestlers were shoved aside for the latest McMahon family soap opera that the family cares about so much more than the fans do in 2017. The defense of this will be that it was more about Strowman than Triple H, but Strowman was already made and they easily could have dedicated a Raw segment to setting up a storyline feud with Triple H and Stephanie if they really feel the need to go with their latest Austin vs. McMahon or Daniel Bryan vs. The Authority style feud. The Triple H main roster heel persona is as tired as Stephanie emasculating everyone she comes in contact with on Raw. It’s time for Hunter to become the babyface legend on the main roster that he plays well as the face of NXT.
Intercontinental Champion The Miz vs. U.S. Champion Baron Corbin: The fans didn’t really pick sides and only reacted to bigger spots. Thus, the atmosphere was pretty rough and the match was forgettable. That said, I like that they went with a heel vs. heel match rather than having all of the champion vs. champion matches conveniently become babyface vs. heel matches just in time for Survivor Series.
Enzo Amore vs. Kalisto for the WWE Cruiserweight Championship: There was nothing really wrong with the match, but there’s nothing right about the sorry state of the cruiserweight division. You could put every great cruiserweight in the world into this division and if they received the same half-assed creative approach they and the division would still fail.
Raw and Smackdown t-shirts: You could tell who most of the top stars were based on what t-shirts they were wearing. The real stars had their own t-shirt designs or simply didn’t wear a t-shirt (Roman Reigns) while everyone else was saddled with the bland Raw red and Smackdown blue t-shirts. As nitpicky as it may seem to bitch about t-shirts, they really do make the talent look tacky. It seems like a missed merchandising opportunity to not create better looking t-shirts or jerseys. I know they were selling these shirts in the building, but they sure didn’t seem to be big sellers based on the lack of red and blue t-shirts in the crowd.