The Best And Worst Of WWE Survivor Series 2019

Previously on the Best and Worst of Survivor Series: Smackdown Live tanked so they could get the number one draft pick and select, “Fox.”

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The Kickoff Show Of The Damned

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Or, “the matches you get when nothing on the pay-per-view really matters and you still decide you need two hours of pre-show.”

Up first is a battle royal for the Paul London and Brian Kendrick Memorial Cup featuring … well, every single tag team across three rosters that didn’t quality or weren’t important enough to include on brand supremacy Survivor Series teams. You’ve got some good teams in here, sure, but they’re certainly not earning any prestige points curtain-jerking alongside the Forgotten Sons in a battle royal for half the arena. Cheer Money win, so do they get the Good Brothers’ Tag Team World Cup trophy, or what? Why was it out there if they don’t? If you win it, does it entitle you to a shot against Best In That Region Of The World Mansoor and Saudi Arabian Heavyweight Champion Braun Strowman?

The better of the unannounced pre-show matches is NXT Cruiserweight Champion Lio Rush against Open The Cruisergate Champion Akira Tozawa and Good Good Lucha, uh, Luchaweight Champion Kalisto. It’s actually for the Cruiserweight Championship, too, which puts it next to the WWE, Universal, and NXT Championship bouts as the only matches of consequence on the entire pay-per-view. Lio wins it, of course, because I’m pretty sure Pat McAfee will hold a championship before Kalisto wins another one.

Jokes aside, it’s good for the time they’re given, and considering the crowd seems relatively unwilling to engage with any of it. It’s always a shame when Lio Rush can do a Spanish Fly to two guys at the same time and it gets the same polite, “ooOOH!” from the crowd that the Women’s Right gets. It’s also hurt a little by the commentary team of Aiden English and Byron Saxton, who are literally Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street. If you told me they lived together and slept in the same bedroom in twin beds with their initials on the foot-boards I wouldn’t be surprised.

If cruiserweights are the bottom rung on the ladder of How Much WWE Cares About Its Divisions, the second rung from the bottom is tag teams. So we also get the Raw vs. Smackdown vs. NXT tag team match for brand supremacy. There’s a lot to be depressed about here, so pick your poison:

  • The Revival being announced for the match and being replaced, preventing us from a triple threat between three of the top teams in NXT history
  • Kofi Kingston going from WWE Champion to the pre-show in a month and a half
  • Undisputed Era getting the same tandem squash Viking Experience that the Chicago Cubs and East Hampton Polo Boys got

At least Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish can treat this loss like an Elsewords edition of NXT, or justify that they were injured following an extremely injurious War Games. In case you haven’t picked up on it yet, this show review’s gonna be a lot of me trying to push aside my facts-based nihilism and trying to find the good in hahah just kidding it’s exclusively facts-based nihilism, sorry, sorry. Hype to see The Viking Raiders build off this big win by squashing Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder again on Monday. Or two jobbers dressed like WHAM! called SLAM!, if they ever put that much creativity into it.

By Process Of Elimination

So, one of the major problems with running a modern 10-person elimination match is that unless you want the show to go on forever, you’ve gotta have wrestlers taking pins and tapping out to shit that would never pin or tap them in a normal wrestling match, and you’ve gotta have that wrestler’s partners just standing on the apron not doing anything, letting it happen. I write about it every year, but it never gets better. This year it gets actively worse, as they’ve added a third brand, and all the problems presented by a 10-person elimination match now have 50% more people involved, and you’ve gotta do that shit upwards of 14 times. But you’ve still got the same amount of time for each match, so people are just going out one after the other off nothing, for no reason other than, “hurry up, we’ve gotta get to the end.”

For example, there’s a moment in the women’s Survivor Series match where Natalya gets pinned off a punch. Not the Women’s Right or a Big Show punch or anything, just a normal right hand from 115 pound Sasha Banks. Billed at 115 pound Sasha Banks, who is probably a lot closer to a Riho-weight. That sucks whether you’re a die-hard fan, a casual fan, someone who likes Natalya, or not. It’s a wrestler who’s supposed to be one of the top five performers on your brand and a RESPECTED LEGEND or whatever working about 30 seconds of a match and then dipping off a child’s knockout blow.

There’s a lot of other weird stuff like that here too, like Candice LeRae and Io Shirai getting “injured” and written out of the match off-screen. The camera doesn’t catch them getting hurt or anything, we just see them lying down and suddenly they’re carted away. The announcers make no effort to explain what happened, or show any replays. Later we find out it was all a ruse, because NXT is a bunch of opportunistic cheaters (?). Shirai and LeRae show back up at the end to help giant and strong-ass Rhea Ripley get a 3-on-1 advantage on a much smaller heel opponent and win the match. This is even dumber, somehow, as Shirai and LeRae are openly enemies in NXT, and Shirai’s heel turn was based almost exclusively on beating the shit out of Candice. They could’ve done this same spot with Bianca Belair and Io, since they were on the same War Games team the previous night, or even Candice and Toni Storm if they didn’t care about alignment. It was the worst possible creative decision with the characters given. You have to actively try to make a call this weirdly indifferent to anything your audience could possibly be latching onto beyond loud noises and bright colors.

The men’s match is just as bad. Were you super depressed when Raw brought in goddamn WALTER and had him lose two straight matches in under ten minutes? You’re gonna love Survivor Series, where they bring in WALTER and have the dominant United Kingdom Champion who is the current linchpin of an entire brand get his chops no-sold and then lose to one kick in a little under three minutes. It’s like they’re openly penalizing you for liking the product and paying attention.

Bless poor dork-ass Seth Rollins for showing up to Chicago in full-on Michael Jordan cosplay and still getting booed. He gets low volume, murmured boos for everything he does now. Take Twitter and the Bank of America app away from him, maybe it’ll help. You know it’s probably a bad sign when you’re running 14 eliminations in a match, and like 12 or 13 of them get boos and CM Punk chants. Baron Corbin eliminated Matt Riddle and Ricochet. Braun Strowman got eliminated by count-out, somehow, under triple threat rules. It was BUMMER: The Match. They should just change the name of Survivor Series to WWE A Series of Unfortunate Events. Maybe that could be the tagline for their yearly pay-per-view schedule.

There was one really, REALLY good thing here, though:

Best: Lee The Memories Alone

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For a couple of minutes, Survivor Series turned a bored and unhappy Allstate Arena into a TakeOver or AEW Dynamite crowd. Keith Lee vs. Roman Reigns was off the fucking hook, from Reigns countering the Dominik Dijakovic karate fight spot with some Super Man Punches to this Spirit Bomb with its glorious bounce. I’m probably the most jaded person in the world and even I was hype for a Keith Lee Survivor Series semi-main-event pinfall win over Roman Reigns. That’s like being 39 years old and believing in Santa Claus, but I was sitting on the motherfucker’s lap. Bonus points for Keith’s backflip and I’M TAKE A NAP, I TAKE A NAP HERE, GOOD NIGHT sell of Reign’s spear.


It’s even better in motion. Honestly, I think Reigns’ urgency in hitting those moves and going for the pin put over Lee more than any post-match fist-bumping.

They should’ve just Adam Cole vs. Daniel Bryan’d the entire pay-per-view. If the matches weren’t gonna be for anything and the crowd wasn’t gonna be sure how to react for most of it, just run your very best in-ring WWE talent against your very best in-ring NXT talent and see what sticks. How much better would this card have looked if it was Keith Lee vs. Roman Reigns, Rhea Ripley vs. Sasha Banks, Shayna Baszler vs. Becky Lynch, Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Roderick Strong, and so on? One very easy way for WWE to improve is for them to realize they can’t and shouldn’t force every single person on their multi-pronged rosters onto a show card just because it’s “big.” Run the matches that matter, when they matter. Run stipulations based on match feuds, not on which month it is. “Oh, it’s October, you’re having a Hell in a Cell match. It’s November, you’re having a Survivor Series elimination match. It’s December, you’re having a TLC match. It’s January, you’re in the Royal Rumble.” These things could matter so easily, if you had any interest in helping them do it.

Best: The Matches That Matter

Adam Cole vs. Pete Dunne for the NXT Championship was, and I say this with complete sincerity and positivity, a really good NXT TV match. They played off the previous night’s injuries, which I really enjoyed, to justify why Dunne might not be able to pull the trigger like he usually can or why Cole would be relying heavily on big, timed counters to survive. It didn’t wear out its welcome at 14 minutes, either, as I’ve gotten used to Adam Cole pay-per-view matches pushing 45. They’re still good, don’t get me wrong, they’re just a whole lot of it. I actually predicted Dunne to win here, as I thought maybe a title change on the Survivor Series stage (especially when they’ve won the war for brand supremacy) would be important, but I underestimated Dunne having to fight Killian Dain and Survivor Series semi-main-eventer Damien Priest to get there.

Really good stuff to cap off an incredible run from Cole. He and Rhea Ripley have been working overtime during this Survivor Series build. She fought Becky Lynch on Wednesday, fought Sasha Banks and pinned Charlotte Flair on Friday, won a War Games match on Saturday, and then won a Survivor Series match on Sunday. He had a ladder match on Wednesday, won an eight-man tag on Friday, got dropped on his spine from the top of a steel cage on Saturday, and then pinned Pete Dunne to defend the NXT Championship on Sunday. I hope they both get a week or two off and a paid vacation somewhere sunny.

Maybe next time, Mauro won’t “blow out his voice” because of any dickhead Ayn Rand-ass “pull your stupid emotions up by their bootstraps” co-workers and we’ll get an NXT Championship match that looks AND sounds right.

I don’t think that clown costume turned out the way he’d hoped, but Rey Mysterio’s match with Brock Lesnar turned into HOT FIRE there for a couple of minutes. Was anyone expecting Dominick Guerrero-Mysterio to be that hype and energetic in the ring? I guess we’ve only seen him as a demure, David Flair type. He is the son of wrestling royalty, I guess. Watching him punch Brock Lesnar in the dick, hit him with a very good 619, and then pop him with a frog splash was exciting as hell. I was really hoping they’d find an excuse to get the belt off Brock again here, either via Dom or Cain Velasquez or Bill Goddamn Goldberg again or whatever, but what they did worked. And it beat the hell out of a guy running directly at Brock and jumping into his finish to end the match in two seconds.

Daniel Bryan vs. The Fiend was fine, too. As I said in this week’s Friday Night Smackdown Best and Worst:

Daniel Bryan, who was previously choked out by The Fiend Bray Wyatt, gets choked out by The Fiend Bray Wyatt to set up him getting choked out by The Fiend Bray Wyatt at Survivor Series.

I was hoping for a little more, but what can do you with a character who put on a clown mask and suddenly became invulnerable to all wrestling moves? They’ve really booked themselves into a corner with The Fiend character, at least from the perspective of someone who expects there to continually be rising action until someone figures out his weakness. At least with classic Kane and Undertaker they pretended to be hurt a little during matches before doing the big sit-up at the end. I don’t want to completely turn on the concept of The Fiend and raise the ire of the Internet internet, but they’ve gotta get rid of the red light and at least create the illusion of vulnerability sometimes, or else it’s just guys trying to do karate kicks and roll-ups to a tank before it shoots them in the face with its gun.

Note: I am not asking you to make Brock Lesnar be the only guy who can beat The Fiend. Or Triple H. Have somebody fresh or on the way up be the one to figure it out and topple him, so they can actually use it. Don’t like, bring in John Cena and have him just fireman’s carry a guy once and say it was more powerful than 11 stomps and a ladder to a tool box to a chair on the face while explosions go off.

The Better Brand Warfare

The best of the inter-brand matches, as we expected, was AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Roderick Strong. I think of all the dumb, incorrect, outlandish shit I’ve typed in my eight years of doing this column, “Roderick Strong was clearly the best and most important wrestler in a triple threat with AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura” is the thing I expected to believe least. Strong is on fire right now, wrestling with a pace and, again, an urgency that guys like Styles and Nakamura abandoned years ago. Strong is hungry. He’s gonna get hungry and leave no man untested. I still don’t like his personality or character, but you could put him in a triple threat against Great Khali and Raja Lion right now and you’d be like, “yeah, that was pretty good.”

It wouldn’t make my list of the top 10 or top 20 WWE matches of the year or anything — I long ago resigned myself to the truth that Styles and Nakamura left their dream match chemistry in the Tokyo Dome — but a triple threat between brand stars beats the hell out of a 15-person elimination match, done twice.

Best: The Women Are Main Eventing Again!


Best: Shayna Baszler Is Main Eventing And WINNING The Main Event On A Main Roster WWE Pay-Per-View

but, more honestly,

Worst: What The Hell Was This Main Event?

I believe this was the first Shayna Baszler match I didn’t like in like, two years. What happened here? They decided to run Becky Lynch vs. Bayley vs. Shayna Two-Time in the main event spot, and on paper that sounds like a dream. In practice, it was slow, uneventful, and disengaged from both the crowd and any in-ring continuity whatsoever. It was nothing but that extremely lazy “two-in, one-out” triple threat style that didn’t really help anyone, present anything new, or justify its spot at the top of the card. Lynch got goofed at the end and sat out the finish. Bayley showed up looking like a character from The Neverending Story and couldn’t seem to put anything together. Baszler was fine, but in there having to no-sell the previous night’s War Games and be put in a position where she can’t really control the flow of the match at all. So it’s like three unrelated wrestlers having three unrelated matches at the same time, with each other.

I don’t think it helped that the position on the card and Baszler’s inclusion made everyone assume Ronda Rousey was gonna show up and do something. We get excited (or depressed) about hypotheticals and spend entire matches working ourselves into shoots, and get disapointed when it doesn’t happen. I think that has a lot to do with WWE not giving us a lot to talk about creatively, and fans having to come up with a bunch of theories and ideas on their own to stay entertained. See also George R.R. Martin not finishing his books and inadvertantly creating like a thousand A Song Of Ice And Fire theory YouTube channels. We wouldn’t have to talk about who Gerold Hightower was and his importance on the events that led to Robert’s Rebellion if we had a new, good book telling us what Jon and Arya and Tyrion and Dany are up to, you know?

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And I guess we’ll forget about it until next November: the one time each year when Raw and Smackdown and NXT go head-to-head! See you then!

Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night


Brayyyyyy Wyatt
You don’t have to put on the red light
You’re already over
You don’t have to ruin everybody’s night.


God helps us all the moment WWE decides to build a feud for Bayzler with Nattie just do Vince can build it as spades vs harts.


As the so-called King of Strong Style, you’d think Nakamura would already have won this match against Strong/Styles.


Maybe it’s just me, but that match felt so weird. There were so many moments of YES! Immediately followed by *welp*. I felt like a kid at a party with balloons, and Vince just walked through and popped them one by one while laughing at me.

The Real Birdman

Cool moment if Bryan started the Yes Chants & the lights flickered on

Baron Von Raschke

I would rather have Mauro whisper through a match than listen to Cole fake shout for 25 minutes of a match about which he knows nothing.


Now wrestle Bryan under earth friendly plant based lights and see how you do, Fiend





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Thanks for reading this year’s Best and Worst of Survivor Series. Try not to flip if your opinions are different.

We made it, everybody! Be sure to drop down into our comments section to let us know what you thought of the show, and which WWE® brand Brand™ you thought was the brandest. Give us a share on social media if you’re a friend — it really helps us out — and make sure you’re back here all week for the Survivor Series fallout on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Until then, I’ll be over here trying to locate all the world’s mutants:

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