By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
Prowrestling.net Live returns today at 3CT/4ET. Dot Net staffer John Moore and I will be taking your calls coming out of last night’s WWE Survivor Series and Saturday’s NXT Takeover: WarGames at PWAudio.net.
WWE Survivor Series Hits
Adam Cole vs. Pete Dunne for the NXT Championship: My favorite match of the night despite the fact that there wasn’t much of a reason to think that a title change was in the works. Cole has been the MVP of WWE since NXT first entered into the Survivor Series picture. He had a great Smackdown match with Daniel Bryan, a good match on Raw with Seth Rollins, a good ladder match with Dominik Dijakovic on NXT television, played a big part in the WarGames match at Takeover, and then worked this match all while nursing a fractured wrist.
“Team Raw” Seth Rollins, Randy Orton, Drew McIntyre, Ricochet, and Kevin Owens vs. “Team Smackdown” Roman Reigns, King Corbin, Braun Strowman, Shorty G, and Mustafa Ali vs. Tommaso Ciampa, Keith Lee, Matt Riddle, Walter, and Damian Priest in an elimination match: A fun elimination match with most of the wrestlers getting moments to shine. It was cool to see Lee make it until the final two and even pick up a pinfall win over Rollins. It would have been great to see him go all the way and it’s not like Reigns benefits all that much from winning the match, but it was still a star making performance for Lee. The teases of potential dissension involving Orton and Owens weren’t much of a factor in the match aside from Owens choosing which wrestler to splash. Shorty G looked better in the Smackdown blue and he had a really good sequence, but that awful name is a killer.
Raw Women’s Champion Becky Lynch vs. NXT Women’s Champion Shayna Baszler vs. Smackdown Women’s Champion Bayley in a non-title match: A soft Hit for the ring work despite the live crowd not reacting as if this belonged in the main event slot. The Chicago crowd’s reaction to this matched the disinterested look that Bayley’s character shows when she makes her entrance. Bayley felt like the third wheel going in and it felt like she would either steal to give her a boost a win or being the person who lost the match. I like that WWE has turned Bayley heel because they ran the babyface character into the ground, but her new mopey persona just sucks the air out of the arena and needs to be tweaked. Baszler getting the win establishes her as a force to the viewers who haven’t followed her NXT career. I have no idea why they felt the need to have Lynch attack Baszler afterward without having Baszler do something to her to justify it. I get the idea of trying to end the show on a high note, but the way they got there felt lazy and left Lynch looking like a poor sport.
U.S. Champion AJ Styles vs. NXT North American Champion Roderick Strong vs. Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura in a non-title match: A good Triple Threat match with Strong stealing the pin from Styles. The match looked good on paper and delivered. How about a best of seven? I can dream.
“The Fiend” Bray Wyatt vs. Daniel Bryan for the WWE Universal Championship: Some necessary changes to Wyatt’s in-ring act were made in terms of not having him no-sell major moves by kicking out at the referee’s one count. I still don’t understand the need for the character to be presented as a supernatural being by the broadcast team. The best horror movies tend to be reality based in that that killer is a regular person (though there are exceptions such as Freddy Kruger). The superhuman traits of the killers are often introduced once the sequels start piling up and it often coincides with interest in the character and the overall franchise diminishing. In pro wrestling, the goal should always be to make characters realistic. Vince McMahon lost his way with the original Wyatt character once he introduced the supernatural theme. And while there’s no denying that The Fiend is over, it could have a short shelf life if they don’t pull back on the hocus pocus. All of that said, the match gets a Hit for being an upgrade over what we saw from The Fiend and Seth Rollins.
“Team Smackdown” Sasha Banks, Carmella, Dana Brooke, Lacey Evans, and Nikki Cross vs. “Team Raw” Charlotte Flair, Natalya, Asuka, Kairi Sane, and Sarah Logan vs. “Team NXT” Rhea Ripley, Candice LeRae, Bianca Belair, Io Shirai, and Toni Storm in an elimination match: I had a tough time keeping track of which wrestlers were representing Raw and Smackdown, but I still appreciate the decision to do away with the awful brand t-shirts. The match gets a Hit for the in-ring action, but the finish actually left a lot to be desired. Sure, it was a pleasant surprise to see the NXT team go over, but why in the world was heel Sasha Banks put in the position of being sympathetic when Shirai and LeRae returned to make it a three on one encounter. Braun Strowman was actually counted out during the men’s match later in the night, which was ridiculous given that the referees never seemed to care about count-outs until then. Even so, if count-outs were in play, then why was acceptable for Shirai and LeRae to disappear with storyline injuries and then return later following long breaks from the match? A little consistency shouldn’t be too much to ask for.
The Viking Raiders vs. Big E and Kofi Kingston vs. Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly: The match was given nearly 15 minutes and it still felt like it could have used another ten minutes. Even so, it was a fun tag match with the right teams winning and losing. The Viking Raiders needed the win, and Fish and O’Reilly have been cemented with the NXT audience as a top notch tag team, and if losing here makes them look a little vulnerable then it could carry over in a good way to fans buying into their future challengers.
Lio Rush vs. Kalisto vs. Akira Tozawa for the NXT Cruiserweight Championship: A good match for the time they had to work with. Just imagine what they could have done with more time on 205 Live.
WWE Survivor Series Misses
Brock Lesnar vs. Rey Mysterio in a No Holds Barred match for the WWE Championship: A soft Miss. It was fun to see Dominick get involved and Rey’s big hope spot was well done. Ultimately, though, this felt like just another Lesnar match. Paul Heyman told viewers that this wouldn’t be a five-second match. And while it wasn’t that brief, it clocked in at a typical for Lesnar seven minutes and didn’t live up to the “miracle or a massacre” hype. Where do they go now? It feels too soon to go back to Lesnar vs. Rollins, but who else on Raw has been established as being a threat to Lesnar?
Walter’s elimination: The dominant NXT UK Champion was added to the men’s elimination match on the day of the show and was the first person eliminated just three minutes into the match. Why? Sure, he had a really good exchange with Drew McIntyre, but if there wasn’t a real plan for Walter in the match then they would have been better off putting someone else in his spot. This wasn’t like Fish and O’Reilly potentially coming off more vulnerable for losing, this damaged the mystique that they’ve worked hard to create for Walter in NXT UK. The live crowd rightfully let WWE know what they thought of it when they booed his elimination.
Two-hour Kickoff Show: I know WWE executives love to boast about the number of hours subscribers spend watching WWE Network, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of the actual pay-per-view events. There’s no way of knowing how much of a factor this was in the live crowd’s flat response to the main event, but I assume that fatigue at least played some part. NXT Takeover events have 30-minute pre-shows and the actual events run between two-and-a-half hours and three hours. As such, NXT does something that the main roster shows rarely do – leave viewers wanting more. So while it was nice to see WWE show some discipline with the main card, there’s just no reason they couldn’t have gone with a one-hour Kickoff Show to make the overall experience feel like less of a marathon.
Tag Team Battle Royal: This match seemed to exist to get a bunch of wrestlers on the show and to give Smackdown its first of two wins.