By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Survivor Series Hits
WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns vs. WWE Champion Drew McIntyre in a non-title match: This match was one of my favorite WWE pay-per-view main events of the never-ending year of 2020. I went into it kicking and screaming because my concern was that Vince McMahon was living in the moment and showing more concern with coming up with a good main event for the silly brand supremacy show than he was in saving it for WrestleMania. Fortunately, it seemed like he had a rematch in mind given the way the match was laid out. Some fans have grumbled about not getting a clean finish, but most of those fans are guilty of living in the moment rather than thinking about the possible WrestleMania rematch. It’s fine if you think a clean finish would have been a more effective way to get to the rematch, but there are some fans who focus entirely on the short term satisfaction of getting a clean finish. Regardless of where you stand, the body of the match was terrific. The early minutes were slow and methodical, which is fitting of the new heel Reigns character. They built up nicely to the intense portion of the match, which included some excellent near falls. Reigns’s ongoing manipulations of Jey Uso continues to make for good television. Reigns acted pleased with his cousin for helping him steal the win, but it will be fun to see whether Reigns also scolds Jey on Smackdown since he previously told him to leave after Team Smackdown lost the Survivor Series elimination match.
Undertaker’s Final Farewell: The production team did tremendous work, particularly from a sound mixing standpoint. The pyro and light show was terrific, but I especially appreciated the way they worked in the canned crowd noise and chants so seamlessly. There are fans who are turned off by artificial crowd noise and you’re not going to win them over. I get it. But I have watched a lot of pro sports during the pandemic and the audio work in this segment was superior to anything I’ve heard on a major sports broadcast. The introduction of the legends was a nice touch, though it did feel strange that they were all gone after the video package aired. Undertaker’s speech was quick and to the point, which seems to have disappointed viewers who were hoping for more. If anything, the segment was hurt by the scene at WrestleMania 33 when Undertaker left his gear in the ring following his loss to Roman Reigns. Fans already witnessed the retirement moment, but the retirement didn’t stick. So there just wasn’t much left to do for the “no, really, I’m serious this time” retirement. The Paul Bearer hologram was a cool moment. Taker deserves the accolades for his amazing 30-year career, but the production team deserves the credit for making this feel like a spectacle despite having the huge disadvantage of not having any fans in the building.
Raw Tag Champions Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods vs. Smackdown Tag Champions “The Street Profits” Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins in a non-title match: A fun first-time match that saw the team labeled as New Day Lite prove they belong by scoring the upset win. Kingston and Woods wouldn’t have gained much from going over in this match, whereas the win gives a credibility boost to Ford and Dawkins. The teams will go back to their respective brands for now, but I could see this becoming a good long term rivalry similar to the one between New Day and The Usos. Now if only WWE creative would do something with the rest of their tag team divisions.
Raw Women’s Champion Asuka vs. Smackdown Women’s Champion Sasha Banks in a non-title match: It is a shame that WWE just can’t adhere to the rules of their own brand split. This match would have felt really special had these two remained on opposite brands until now. Instead, the match actually felt overexposed due to Asuka’s feud with Banks and Bayley. Asuka and Banks work so well together and this was another strong match, but it just didn’t feel as special as it should have. Banks is obviously going to feud with Carmella, but there’s still no sign that creative has figured out who will challenge Asuka for the Raw Women’s Championship. They have a real issue on the Raw side because Asuka has blown through her competition and the creative team seems to be more concerned with beefing up the women’s tag division than developing fresh challengers for the singles title. It’s possible that they are holding out on Charlotte Flair to return. Whenever that happens, here’s hoping that creative has come up with a plan to shake up Flair’s act.
Overall show: I went in with low expectations and came away feeling satisfied by the time investment. I still wish WWE would give up on the brand vs. brand theme or at least move it to a show held a month or two before the annual draft.
WWE Survivor Series Misses
“Team Smackdown” Bianca Belair, Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan, Bayley, and Natalya vs. “Team Raw” Nia Jax, Shayna Baszler, Lana, Lacey Evans, and Peyton Royce in a Survivor Series elimination match: You had to know that Lana was going to be the sole survivor in this match given the story that they told in the weeks leading up to Survivor Series. The only question was how they would get there. They opted to have her teammates insist that she stand on the ring steps, which resulted in her being the last woman standing after Jax and Belair were counted out. Belair gained a little something from this match, which is more than I can say for Lana. I still have no clue how WWE wants viewers to feel about her. She gets her ass kicked by Jax and Baszler on a weekly basis, but then she was also unlikable as she celebrated this victory as if she had actually earned it.
“Team Raw” AJ Styles, Keith Lee, Sheamus, Braun Strowman, and Riddle vs. “Team Smackdown” Jey Uso, Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins, King Corbin, and Otis in a Survivor Series elimination match: With no titles defended and silly brand pride being the only thing at stake, Survivor Series already felt like a throwaway show. This time around, they didn’t even bother to keep score when it came to the brand vs. brand matches, so what was the point? This match was a clean sweep for the Raw side. I like the way they used Team Smackdown’s loss to give Reigns a reason to scold Uso, and Rollins bowing out the way he did coming off of losses to Rey Mysterio and Murphy seemed to be set up him taking a break. The match had its moments, yet it didn’t feel like it really accomplished much.
U.S. Champion Bobby Lashley vs. Intercontinental Champion Sami Zayn in a non-title match: The best thing I can say about this match is that I’m happy that WWE didn’t book a title change last week just to avoid the heel vs. heel match. Having the other three members of Hurt Business in Lashley’s corner plays nicely into Zayn becoming a conspiracy theorist, but it also lacked logic given that the broadcast team told us that Big E wasn’t allowed to be in the corner of Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods during the previous match.
Dual-Brand Battle Royal: Wrestlers from each brand fighting to win a battle royal with no prize. The match was a fitting representation of the Survivor Series theme of having brand supremacy battles that don’t actually mean anything. As much as I was hopeful that Miz winning the Money in the Bank briefcase would lead to him being booked to develop more in-ring credibility, further damage was done via singles match losses and even a handicap match loss despite being on the side with the numbers advantage. If this match somehow marks the beginning of the company attempting to give Miz a credibility boost then so be it, but seeing is believing. If that’s not the plan, then the company would have been better off trying to elevate someone else with a win. Second place finisher Dominick Mysterio seemed like a better alternative, but I guess we’ll see where they go from here.