Fantasy Warfare Just Got Real
The WWE event that takes place annually during Thanksgiving week has come and gone with mostly positive results. Monday Night Raw and Smackdown Live’s characters and storylines coalesced into one mega event for the second joint-brand pay-per-view since SummerSlam in August. Much like SummerSlam and NXT taking over New York’s Barclay’s Center back in August, NXT and Survivor Series took over the Air Canada Center in Toronto for a weekend of pro-wrestling festivities.
Earmarked by promotion for this year’s WWE 2K17 game, the 2K Sports team put together a deal for Bill Goldberg to return to WWE, crashing in alongside a huge wave of nostalgia. Goldberg signed a deal and was set to face none other than Brock Lesnar. Survivor Series desperately needed a shot in the arm to make it feel like one of the “Big 4” again.
Goldberg, Lesnar and Paul Heyman appeared on Raw sparingly over the last month to build their match and have easily been the best parts of the show as of late. WWE somehow kept the buildup simple and to the point. It’s a rematch from Wrestlemania 20, over 10 years ago. Which tough guy was the tougher guy in 2016?
Anticipation was high for the main event. Lesnar has been unstoppable and has basically been booked as the final boss of WWE since he defeated the Undertaker over two years ago. Wrestlemania 20 was Goldberg’s last match and fans were skeptical if he could still go, nonetheless hang with Lesnar in a physical match.
Further down the card, traditional 5-on-5 Survivor Series elimination tag matches were put together to further the Raw vs. Smackdown rivalry, but a lack of any meaningful stipulations hurt them. Every team put together from their respective brands were comprised of already ongoing feuds. Raw and Smackdown over the last month have featured nothing but infighting and leaving the viewer to wonder if these teams could work together long enough to win their match. Spoiler alert: they don’t. Conversely, the mid-card championships were given some stipulations that generated some interest. On to the show.
Women’s Division Survivor Series 5-on-5 Elimination Tag Match
Team Raw - Charlotte, Bayley, Sasha Banks, Nia Jax and Alicia Fox
Becky Lynch, Alexa Bliss, Naomi, Nikki Bella and Carmella
Nikki Bella is shown backstage hurt, where Natalya and Daniel Bryan are consoling her. Obviously her rival Carmella did it, just play along. Natalya is plugged in as her replacement, promoted from her original position as the team coach. Natalya, being related to National Canadian Hero Bret Hart gets a huge ovation from the crowd. This match was fine, obviously some combinations of opponents work better together than others. Nia Jax is still new and plenty of time was spent into developing her monster character until she taps out to Becky Lynch, showing that the ace of Smackdown can take out the Goliath on Raw. Nothing really memorable here but compared to some of the women’s Survivor Series matches in the past, this was pretty good. Bayley gets the win for Team Raw with her and Charlotte left standing. Charlotte viciously attacks Bayley after the match, continuing their feud. Match Rating: 2.5/5
The Miz (c) vs. Sami Zayn
Intercontinental Championship Match
The Miz recently reclaimed the title from Dolph Ziggler on the prior episode of Smackdown, when this match was originally scheduled as Zayn vs. Ziggler. WWE set up the stipulation that if Sami Zayn won the title, it would transfer to Monday Night Raw. It’s a simple enough stipulation but it’s something that builds interest in a match and makes the viewer invested in the outcome.
Zayn gets a big reaction for being another Canadian hometown hero. They proceeded to have a regular TV-style match with no big spots like Zayn’s flying corner DDT. Miz gets some heat by stealing some Daniel Bryan moves and using the figure four. Zayn gets the figure four reversed onto The Miz when his valet Maryse rings the bell, causing Zayn to think he had won. He’s distracted and rolled up for the pin. So they set up a concept for this match, switch the title to The Miz only for nothing to come of it. The Miz gains some heel heat for this kind of finish, which is at least a positive. Match Rating: 2.5/5
10 -on-10 Tag Team Elimination Match
Team Raw - The New Day & Cesaro, Sheamus & Enzo, Cass & The Club, The Shining Stars
Team Smackdown - Rhyno, Slater & The Usos & American Alpha & The Hype Bros & Breezango
10 dudes on one side of the ring and 10 dudes on the other. This is a clusterfuck waiting to happen. A good mix of comedy and solid tag team wrestling. Good, not great. The New Day were shockingly eliminated a couple of minutes into the match, almost a hint of what’s to come later. American Alpha got some time to shine in this match after not doing much of anything on Smackdown. The Club got to look strong as well as Cesaro and Sheamus. Cesaro and Sheamus ran roughshod on The Usos and Cesaro ultimately picks up the win for Team Raw. Match Rating: 3/5
Monday Night Raw leads the overall series 2-1, with The Miz winning the only match for Smackdown so far. At one point there was a rumor floating around that draft picks and trades would happen for the winning show, but that never came to fruition. Ultimately leading me to wonder what the point is of any of these 5 on 5 matches other than bragging rights for the brand.
Brian Kendrick (c) vs. Kalisto
Cruiserweight Championship Match
The cruiserweights are dying in the water on Raw. Their matches get boring chants from the crowd and nobody has really gone over yet. WWE came up with the stipulation for this match that if Smackdown’s Kalisto defeated Kendrick and won the belt that the entire division would come to Smackdown. WWE even announced a new live Network show strictly for the cruiserweights called 205 Live that will air after Smackdown on Tuesday nights. Now, one would think that Raw and Smackdown would effectively trade the Intercontinental Belt for the Cruiserweight Division, but after seeing The Miz retain it was tough to still think that could happen.
These guys had a match that was probably the weakest of the entire show. They botched some spots, the crowd was dead and seeing The Miz win earlier probably put a damper on things.
This spot was pretty crazy though.
It looked like Kalisto was about to win when Baron Corbin interfered and attacked Brian Kendrick first, allowing Kendrick the DQ victory and him retaining the title. Corbin goes after Kalisto next, continuing their feud from Smackdown. Match Rating: 2/5
So after all of that, the cruiserweights stay on Raw. I sincerely hope the 205 Live show helps the division out because I really want it to work.
Men’s Survivor Series 5-on-5 Tag Match
Team Raw - Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Braun Strowman
Team Smackdown - AJ Styles, Bray Wyatt, Randy Orton, Dean Ambrose,
Shane McMahon ft. James Ellsworth
Here are essentially all of WWE’s full-time main eventers. The top guys from Raw taking on the top guys from Smackdown. The lack of a stipulation hurts but at least it felt fresh after watching the Raw and Smackdown guys fight each other exclusively for the last couple months.
This was a very long match that had a little bit of everything, going almost an hour. All 10 performers were given time to shine but to me, Randy Orton, AJ Styles and Seth Rollins were all on fire in this match. Sometimes these long WWE tag matches feel like everybody’s just taking their turn in the ring, but they did a good job of keeping everybody involved and the action going at a steady pace.
Braun Strowman is the newest pet project WWE is trying to make into an unstoppable heel monster, not unlike Nia Jax. He actually pinned former champion Dean Ambrose after Ambrose lost his cool with Styles. Braun gets taken out after an RKO from Orton on the announcers table, followed by a flying elbow drop from Shane McMahon.
Braun somehow survives all of this and makes his way back to the ring when James Ellsworth, residential comedy geek from Smackdown and Braun’s first Raw opponent pops out from under the ring and holds him out for a count out.
This was a smart and funny way to take the beast out of the match. Outsmarted, but not defeated. Of course, Strowman gets his revenge on Ellsworth and flings him 10 feet in the air through a table.
AJ Styles and Seth Rollins had some time against each other, but not enough. That could be a Wrestlemania match in my eyes.
Kevin Owens and Jericho are one of the highlights on Raw every week and continued their streak tonight. They were treated like huge babyface stars from the Canadian crowd, when they’re supposed to be the top heels. Jericho was about to lose to Styles when Owens interfered and hit Styles with “The List of Jericho”; a clipboard that Jericho carries around and adds things to uproarious crowd approval. It’s entirely ridiculous but it Jericho knows how to make it work. Owens gets disqualified and thrown out. The crowd’s furious and chanting bullshit. I’m bummed that Owens has to go fairly early into the match, but at least they didn’t pin the Raw champion, another smart booking decision in this match.
Jericho goes out after an RKO from Orton. Shane McMahon goes after Roman Reigns with his signature coast to coast but takes a nasty bump:
Shane’s knocked out cold and taken out of the match. The referee isn’t sure if he kicked out of Roman’s spear or not and things get confusing for a minute until the ringside medics walk him to the back. He is apparently fine but Shane’s age is definitely showing.
The war continues with The Shield briefly reforming to take out Styles. The Smackdown champ gets pinned, but at least Rollins got the pin and it took three guys to put him down. Orton and Wyatt go back and forth with The Shield, Rollins goes up for a frog splash but gets caught with a perfectly timed RKO, Wyatt eliminates Rollins.
Reigns goes for a spear to Wyatt when Orton jumps in the way and takes the bullet. Wyatt strikes and gets the win for Team Smackdown, with the new Wyatt Family standing tall.
The more I think about this match the more I like it. It was paced well, booked well and fun to watch front to back. It never really dragged, and I’ll even forgive Shane McMahon’s terrible punches. Strowman looked like he belonged with the upper echelon and I wasn’t offended by his presence in this match. The only thing that could have made this match better for me was having John Cena in Shane McMahon’s spot. Shane adds more star power but Cena would have been more of a workhorse. I’ll have to see if this match holds up on a rewatch but I enjoyed the hell out of it. Match Rating: 4/5
What is interesting with the brand split and these cross-promotional shows is that when they are over, it’s just back to business as usual. Raw and Smackdown characters briefly cross paths and go back to their own shows. The Royal Rumble is the next time we’ll see them come together again, following two individual shows in December.
Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg
The highly anticipated main event of the evening was over before it even started. Brock and Goldberg get their grandiose entrances and we get the usual “big fight feel.” Brock starts out by driving Goldberg into the corner, Goldberg shoves Brock down to the mat and immediately hits him with a spear. Lesnar gets back up to his feet, Heyman’s pleading with Goldberg at ringside, Lesnar eats another spear followed by the jackhammer and Goldberg pins him 1-2-3. The match was over in 1:26. Lesnar, the ultimate final boss of the WWE, the guy who ended the Undertaker’s Wrestlemania streak, dominated John Cena, Randy Orton and Dean Ambrose gets wrecked in three moves. The Toronto crowd are stunned and it’s a similar feeling to when Undertaker lost at Wrestlemania. I felt the same way, like I just saw something I wasn’t supposed to.
I got worked. I completely expected them to try and do a 15-minute match with Goldberg and Brock going back and forth, but instead was treated to a shocking WWE moment. Fans will remember this forever.
I’ve seen a lot of mixed reviews for this main event. Some fans loved it and thought it totally worked, some completely hated it and think that the mystique of Brock is ruined and the rub he could have given to someone beating him was wasted on 49-year-old Bill Goldberg. I’m in the former camp. Once I realized what happened I thought it was hilarious, but provided a great moment. They brought back THE Goldberg from WCW, the guy who ran roughshod and beat everybody in a minute. Not the WWE Goldberg from 2003 who worked 20 minute main events. I’ll put on the nostalgia goggles and enjoy the ride. Much like Sting coming back at Survivor Series two years ago, Goldberg coming back should help drive some eyes to the product. Brock will be fine coming out of this and can still pass on a loss to someone. Really, Ambrose should’ve beat him at WrestleMania this year.
Goldberg is sticking around through Wrestlemania, much to the recommendation from Lesnar himself. I’m interested to see where it all goes. Goldberg looks unstoppable, so how does Lesnar come back from this? Could Brock or Goldberg really win the Rumble and go after a title?
Survivor Series 2016 was much better top to bottom than 2015’s show, with a stellar main event and a shocking moment to close the show on. I was thoroughly sports-entertained.
by Nate Dimit (@ndimit)