Here’s How WWE’s Brand Wars Played Out At Survivor Series

Aside from three men’s championship matches that were made up of wrestlers from the same WWE television show, Survivor Series 2019 was all about the battle for brand supremacy between Raw, Smackdown, and NXT. The winning brand didn’t get a big trophy or a shiny belt, but the possibility of gaining this kind of bragging rights was enough to unite rivals on all three shows for weeks leading up to Survivor Series. This story didn’t connect with most WWE viewers as deeply as it connected with most WWE wrestling characters, but let’s break down how it played out anyway. You can read the full Survivor Series results here; this is a recap of just the brand warfare part.

Last year, Raw swept all its Survivor Series matches against Smackdown aside from a tag team match on the kickoff show, which was not counted in the final score. This year, the kickoff show included three matches that were all counted on the inter-brand scoreboard.

The first pre-show match was a tag team battle royal won by Dolph Ziggler and Bobby Roode on behalf of Smackdown, the show to which they were drafted in October 2019 after spending most of their time as a duo on Raw. Next, NXT Cruiserweight Champion Lio Rush retained his title in a triple threat with Akira Tozawa (Raw, as of this fall’s draft) and Kalisto (Smackdown.) The final match of the kickoff show evened up the score when the Viking Raiders (Raw) defeated The New Day (Big E and Kofi Kingston from Smackdown) and the Undisputed Era team of Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish (NXT.) The score was 1-1-1 going into the main card.

Once Survivor Series proper started, NXT quickly look the lead with two underhanded wins. The black and yellow brand won the women’s three-way Survivor Series Elimination Match when Io Shirai and Candice LeRae faked injuries to leave the arena early, then returned later to help their captain Rhea Ripley defeat the only other remaining competitor, Sasha Banks.

In the following match, the men’s secondary title-holder triple threat, Roderick Strong, NXT’s North American Champion, pinned Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura (Smackdown) after United States Champion AJ Styles (Raw) hit Nakamura with a Phenomenal Forearm and Strong pushed Styles out of the way. NXT was up with three points to the other brands’ one point apiece but hadn’t looked especially strong doing it.

Later in the show, an NXT wrestler ate the pin a match but looked like a big deal and a babyface while doing it. The men’s three-way Survivor Series Elimination match boiled down to Seth Rollins (Raw), Roman Reigns (Smackdown), and Keith Lee (NXT.) Lee eliminated Rollins, which the crowd loved, leaving him and Reigns to a big man battle. Reigns, who had a significant babyface moment earlier in the match when he speared his despised teammate Baron Corbin, ultimately pinned Lee to bring Smackdown up to two points. Both men looked great in their exchanges together and shared a fist bump of mutual respect after the match.

Following a WWE Championship match between Brock Lesnar and Rey Mysterio, the triple threat between women’s champions was the main event of Survivor Series. The score was Raw with one point, NXT with three, and Smackdown with two. Only a win by Smackdown Women’s Champion Bayley could have ended the PPV with something other than a definitive win for NXT. But it was Bayley who NXT Women’s Champion Shayna Baszler tapped out to win the match and NXT’s fourth and final point of the night when she countered a diving elbow drop into her signature Kirifuda Clutch.

Raw Women’s Champion Becky Lynch attacked Baszler after the main event and stood tall to close the show, possibly setting up the continuation of the Lynch vs. Baszler feud that began during the build to Survivor Series. While that rivalry could continue, Survivor Series wrapped up the big inter-brand competition, which probably won’t pick up again until next fall when Survivor Series 2020 rolls around. NXT was previously portrayed as the minor leagues of the company, but now the most recent WWE TV show to premiere on cable (and the one consistently least-watched by live viewers) is, in kayfabe, on the same level as Raw and Smackdown.