Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Survivor Series: Goldberg defeated Brock Lesnar with a bad-ass spear and a devastating Jackhammer, then celebrated with his nude son.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Survivor Series for November 19, 2017.
Up First, A Quick Rundown Of Mountain Dew™ Presents The WWE® Kickstart™, Brought To You By Kid Rock’s® Hit Song, CONFEDERATE WHITE MAN FROM MICHIGAN BLUES™, Available Next Week On 8-Track®
Before we begin, let’s dangle helplessly on the ropes for a moment and talk about the pre-show. If you didn’t see it, you can watch it here.
– Enzo Amore once again retained the Cruiserweight Championship against Kalisto, played tonight by Shemp from the Three Stooges in a Drago costume. It’s a good save, though, gotta give him that. If Sin Cara had tried to go up and over and got caught in the middle he would’ve split himself in half like the folks from the beginning of Ghost Ship. Hopefully this means we can move on to another challenger — Mustafa Ali, I’m looking in your direction — and use Kalisto as a strong performing hand in the division who never, ever talks, especially not in championship feuds against a guy who is very good at talking.
– Elias defeated Matt Hardy in a match that could’ve literally been a limbo contest and wouldn’t have made Matt Hardy feel like he was in limbo more. 2017 WWE Matt Hardy doesn’t work without Jeff, so while the match was perfectly fine for something you’d see in the second hour of some random Raw, it wasn’t anything you need to see or even briefly talk about.
– Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn defeating Breezango was obviously my favorite part of the kick-off, joining Hardy/Elias in that, “I would’ve liked this a lot more if it was on a regular episode of something.” This would be a KILLER Smackdown main event, but as the third match in a pre-show that’s already an hour too long, it wasn’t spectacular. I do love everyone in the match, though, and hope they get to do a more fun version of it on TV. Guessing this was just here to get KO and Sami in the building and on people’s minds for the run-in during the main.
And now, a series of survivors.
Best: The New Day’s Streak Of Great Pay-per-view Matches In 2017 Continues
Man, if these guys don’t win Superstar of the Year, I don’t know what to tell you. I love Braun flipping an ambulance and throwing old giant guys through things as much as the next guy, but New Day has had the best (or in tonight’s case, second best) match on whatever show they’re on all year. It’s almost felt like a year-long statement in response to being downgraded to “hosts” of WrestleMania.
If I have any criticism for this (other than the Raw half-shirts, and maybe the crowd deciding to shit on Roman when he’s in The Shield and not doing any of the stuff he earned a regular booing for), it’s that maybe both teams got too hyped up about the match and tried to do too much. There are stretches of the match that go super fast and then slow down unexpectedly, like they’re trying to figure out what thing they’re supposed to do next. The weird transition between the multiple splashes from New Day and the double Midnight Hour is a good example. If this had had anything in-between to connect the spots, it would’ve been MAGIC. Instead, people are just standing around and arbitrarily tagging and it’s just “cool” and “good.” Does that make sense? It’s like skits on a rap album.
There’s a lot to praise in the match, though. Big E is really starting to feel like a Big Deal, which is nice. He should’ve been booked as New Day’s Roman Reigns from the start; the unexpectedly dynamic powerhouse who comes in at the most opportune moments and hits big offense as the exclamation point to your offense. He was that last night, and he’s been that during the Usos feud. Giving New Day members key roles on the team is one of the best decisions WWE made this year, and is at least 10 times better than the “Freebird rule” assuming they’re interchangeable. E is the excitable hoss, Kofi is the creative veteran, Woods has the fighting spirit. Roman, Ambrose, Rollins.
Also, it’s a testament to how good New Day’s been that I actually bought them maybe beating The Shield a couple of times. I really hope these two teams get another six-man somewhere down the road, because when you book a match you don’t want the first one, you want the second one, where they’ve had some time together and worked out the kinks.
Worst: Three Ain’t Enough Man I Need Five
I considered just writing 3,000 words about the announcing last night and hitting publish. WWE three-man booths are usually murder, so adding two more people to the crew was nightmarish overkill. It got so bad that Byron Saxton had to add “I’m Saxton!” to the end of the conversation to make sure the right person was being made fun of.
On top of that, the five announcers had to constantly push BRAND SUPREMACY, and continuously remind us how many matches Raw had won and how many had gone to Smackdown. Which, you know, would’ve been interesting and fun if anything was on the line. A competition doesn’t function unless you’re winning something. A prize, a title, something. A lot of fans seem to buy the line about brand supremacy, but it’s two identical brands under the same umbrella aired on different nights and never, ever in direct competition trying to prove they’re “superior” to the other. It’s like Hot Pockets getting into a war with DiGiorno to prove which frozen food for sad people is the superior Nestlé brand. Who gives a shit? Seriously?
If the shows were fighting for ANYTHING it would’ve helped. The number 30 spot in the Royal Rumble, maybe, or the rights to a Money in the Bank pay-per-view, or the end-of-show main event spot at WrestleMania. Maybe the first pick in the draft. Maybe the winning team picks a member of the losing team to join their brand. The closest thing we had to motivation for any of this was Stephanie showing up last minute to say she was gonna fire Kurt Angle if Team Raw didn’t win, which we know is an empty promise, because she did the same shit last year. Say what you will about how lame the Bragging Rights trophy was, but at least it was a prize. Survivor Series 2017 is Wheel of Fish and Kurt killed himself and others to open a box full of nothing. Absolutely nothing. Stupid.
Best, In Spite Of That: The Secondary Champion Vs. Champion Matches
All three champion vs. champion matches delivered on one level or another, and, at the risk of typing the same thing for an entire column, all would’ve been better with any build or anything on the line.
While I still wish this had been The Usos vs. Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, the Smackdown Tag Team Champions The Usos vs. the Raw Tag Team Champions The Bar was as good as you’d expect. Both teams have been heels recently, so the Usos adapted their act to be a little more Usos Classic, and I think it worked. They even brought back the diving tag to the floor spot, which is not something you do if you want people to boo you.
I think this had the best pacing of any match on the show, and was really the only match all night without some awkward miscommunication slowing things down. Even Brock vs. AJ, which was by far the best match on the show and the best Brock match in ages, had those moments where Brock’s just falling down and throwing AJ’s face at the ground by accident.
The Usos winning is also the right choice, as they’re (1) one of the teams originally announced for the match in the first place, and (2) didn’t randomly win tag titles and change the show booking like two weeks ago. Also, they’re the fucking best, and the win here gives them another team to list when they’re announcing what and for whom things are on lock.
(Maybe cool it with the “superkick party” calls, though, if you’re gonna send people ceases and desists for using your copyrighted hand gestures.)
I thought Baron Corbin vs. The Miz was surprisingly good. I want to like Baron Corbin, and spent a long time liking and defending him, but his Smackdown main roster run has been pretty dishearteningly abysmal. He’s been shaped into the new Wade Barrett, the unexpectedly giant heel with an upside who never quite gets the love or protection he needs, and ends up losing so many matches you stop taking him seriously as a threat, even when they put a title belt on him. I thought for sure he was going to lose this, because the championship wasn’t actually on the line.
Aside from that, I think Corbin’s good in the ring. And while I spend a lot of time talking about how The Miz is the MVP of Raw and the ace of the A-show, I have to remember that his actual role in the company is being the ultimate utility player. Miz is only here to be the best possible option to lose to someone else. He’s the classic WWF bad guy. He’s better on the mic than everyone, as good in the ring (right now, at least) as anyone, and he’s created from the ground up to be a guy you want to see lose. So he loses more than you’d expect, and only jerks like me get bent out of shape when he does.
It’s like what he said when I got to talk to him on McMahonsplaining. He didn’t win at WrestleMania against John Cena, but he beat him up a lot and came out of the feud looking better than he did before it, showed a lot of his worth and talent, and was still there week in and week out afterward when Cena was gone. It’s hard to differentiate the fiction of “I want my favorite guy to win” and the reality of “this isn’t real sports,” and so much of the joy of pro wrestling is in allowing yourself to pretend it’s real sports.
I like that Raw Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss vs. Smackdown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair got a little over 15 minutes to work, but I don’t think it needed it. Think about how much better this would’ve been if they’d trimmed it to 10 or 11, and cut some of those prolonged periods of little Alexa Bliss — who has never, ever been booked or portrayed as physically dominant — physically dominating someone taller, stronger, more athletic and more muscular. Bliss is great, but she isn’t Arn Anderson taking down Lex Luger because he’s a better wrestler, you know?
Part of what bugs me about the non-canon “Raw vs. Smackdown” booking where everything’s just kinda thrown together, none of the previous alignments matter and they’re fighting for nothing is that it makes the performances on the actual card so much more forgettable. This could’ve been twice as good and we would’ve forgotten it by Clash of Champions, because there’s nothing to connect us to it. It’s like we typed “Charlotte vs. Bliss” into YouTube and found a match from 2013 with no context. It’s fine, maybe even good, but without the everything else around it mattering, we aren’t really going to care to remember it. I’ll remember, say, Bliss vs. Mickie James from TLC more than this. That had a bad build, but it was a build, and the wrestlers could tell a story with it. This is champion vs. champion with some vague, life-changing US VS. THEM undercurrent and despite it all it was just … there. Same with the tag and US vs. IC title matches. They happened, and they’re fine.
Best: Match Of The Night (Thank God)
There was such a chance that this was going to be like Lesnar vs. Ambrose at WrestleMania, where they give you enough build to get you hooked on it, and then the match is just a bunch of German suplexes and a couple of counters so Lesnar can go home and mangle Canadian wildlife or whatever without being sore. If this had been Lesnar vs. Jinder, God knows what it would’ve been.
As it stands, we should just put AJ Styles in the WWE Hall of Fame like, tomorrow.
This ended up exceeding my expectations, and being about as close to the Brock Lesnar vs. AJ Styles match I’d want as I’ll ever get. This is what I wanted Lesnar vs. Daniel Bryan to be. The match starts with Styles assuming he’s Brock’s equal, and Brock absolutely woodshedding him for doing so. Just a brutal, brutal beating. The suplexes here popped more than they have in years, because Styles is actually getting way up and way over for them, instead of taking flat Germans like Cena, Orton or Undertaker. He’s getting LAUNCHED, and that makes the throws feel like they matter.
Daniel Bryan’s foreshadowing of Lesnar “tapping out to a half-assed knee-bar at a UFC show” came into play with Styles attacking Brock’s leg, and here’s the thing I love the most about it: it wasn’t attacking the leg to work the leg. It was attacking the leg to stun Brock, get him off balance and off his game, and give Styles an opening to throw offensive bombs. If they’d worked Brock’s leg, it would’ve been 20 minutes longer and Brock’s selling might’ve suffered. Instead, they have Styles work the weaker spot on Brock and go for it when he’s in trouble to allow him to hit offense that could actually believably stop him. He gets a two-count off a Phenomenal Forearm that’s SHOCKINGLY buyable.
This is the Brock Lesnar we should be getting more often. It’s his longest singles match in years, he’s allowed to be the character he is and wrestle like he wrestles — see the entire first half of the match — but maintains his ability to give and take, and be an engaging actual pro wrestler. It’s what made the triple threat with Cena and Rollins so good. Brock taking offense is as good as Brock giving it, and he doesn’t get enough credit for it. We knew he was going to catch Styles on something eventually, but Styles needed to throw those moves anyway if he had a chance. So it was a brilliantly put-together waiting game, and Styles pulling down the elbow pad for the second Phenomenal Forearm attempt actually gave him a reason to want to try it again. He didn’t just get a special, he was escalating the attack. Brock got lucky at the last second and managed to put him away.
It was everything right with Lesnar vs. Samoa Joe, with Lesnar giving even more, looking BETTER HIMSELF in the process, and illustrating for the billionth time why AJ Styles is as good as they say he is.
Worst: The Worst Part Of Survivor Series Is The Survivor Series Matches
Much like how I think The Shield vs. The New Day would’ve been better as a tag team match since they tried to work a 2-on-2 formula in a 3-on-3 match, I feel like any of the Survivor Series elimination matches broken down to smaller, more focused affairs would’ve been easier to watch.
Every Survivor Series match has some of the same problems, and I write about it every year. The big one is that they’re elimination matches, but nobody’s teammates are interested in helping them break up pins. You can be down 5-to-2 and you’ll just stand there watching your one remaining opponent get pinned. It never makes sense, especially when guys are diving in at the last second all desperate to break up pins in regular tag matches. Again, if they were fighting for literally any actual reason, it would’ve informed their need to urgently help their own teammates, and the entire show would’ve been better for it.
The women’s match did one thing right — Asuka as the sole survivor for her team, eliminating three members of Team Smackdown by herself — and that was about it. The wrestling wasn’t bad when Tamina and Alicia Fox were out of the ring, so of course they devoted way, way too much time to saying Tamina is exactly as good as Nia Jax. Which … like, Jax still has a way to go with her timing and the whole “not almost killing people” stuff, but Nia Jax is AJ fucking Styles compared to Tamina. Fox and Naomi messing up the tilt-a-whirl counter into a pin countered into a submission spot was especially heinous as well, with the referee just counting three and Fox disappearing. And just to say it, what in the sam hell are they doing with Becky Lynch? Did she really need to lose via roll-up? And did she need to lose first? Hey, you know what’s a terrible idea? Building a team with only one truly great wrestler on it and then taking them out immediately.
The men’s match was a tale of two matches.
In match one — the first half of the match — you had a ton of fun fantasy match-ups to keep the crowd engaged and interested. Seeing Triple H take on Bobby Roode in the pro wrestling illustration of the “I’M OLD” scene from Back to the Future was great, and I thought H did a great job making Roode and Nakamura look like stars. We got Finn Bálor vs. Nakamura for a minute, which was wonderful and should’ve been the entire thing, and we got smaller callbacks and references with match-ups like Shane/Kurt, Joe/Cena and so on. It was fun. It was popcorn, but it was good popcorn.
In match two — the second half of the match — we got nearly everything we can agree makes a WWE match worse. Shane McMahon is the final guy on his team despite being the only non-wrestler. Cena and Orton mailed in their performances so hard they might as well have not even been there. The Raw team can’t stop arguing with each other. Triple H put himself on a team six days ago just to turn on his own team captain, because CEREBELLUMS and ASSASSINATION. Strowman had to sit there staring at Triple H for like five minutes after the match to set up the thing they did. Everything was slow and awkward and meaningless. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn interfere just to get beaten up by one tired non-wrestler. Nobody wanted to help their team, it’s all about t-shirts, and on and on. It went from the fun parts in the middle of a Royal Rumble to that part where Daniel Bryan doesn’t show up and Roman wins and you’re like hurrrrrgggggggghhhhh. WHY ANY OF THIS.
To summarize, it started strong and then everyone decided to shit in the middle of the ring and roll around in it. I have no idea why the matches were put together like this, or who they hoped to help, or what. Triple H might end up getting eliminated in the Royal Rumble by Braun or something, and we’ll be once again tricked into thinking he’s “putting over young stars” by absolutely putting himself over a handful of different, also young stars in the process. Everything ends up McMahon vs. McMahon, and with Triple H actively wrestling we get TWO CONCURRENT MCMAHON BEEFS. If Vince comes back, it’ll give us three. We’re like, a Linda resurgence away from A McMahon In Every Corner.
And that was Survivor Series. An extremely WCW show where the opener was sloppy but great, the mid-card championship matches were entertaining but ultimately meaningless, the best guys on the roster had the best match on the show somewhere in the middle, and the gimmick matches that define the show were hot garbage fires. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, or whatever.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
Raw is red
Smackdown is blue
You are the game
But he’s not finished with you!
Smooth Jimmy Apollo
Braun: HHH, you’ve got the most f’d up family I’ve ever seen. And I was in one where a guy wore a sheep mask in public.
Beige Lunatics, King of String Style
Shane looks confused. “Well, how am I supposed to end a match if the table’s ALREADY broken?”
Shane McMahon out here looking like the guy who takes the company softball team way too seriously.
VINCE: Now, is it all right if we shorten/Americanize your first name to “Shin?”
VINCE: He said Shin’s ok! Tell Cole.
The Real Birdman
HHH vs HHH’s non-union Canadian equivalent
Baron Von Raschke
Last Match: Alexa Bliss hit a Code Red
This Match: Brock Lesnar’s face becomes a Code Red
Everyday is Survivor Series when you’re a word in a Jason Jordan promo.
The commentary sounds like two unrelated podcasts playing over each other.
Asuka vs. Tamina is like the Golden State Warriors vs. Tamina.
That’s it for Survivor Series. To sum up the show in a GIF,
As always, please drop us a comment to tell us what you thought of the show, and share the column around to keep us going. Join us next year for a Universal Champion vs. WWE Championship match between … oh, let’s say Braun Strowman and Drew McIntyre.
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