WWE’s annual “Survivor Series” pay-per-view is, as we’ve been told every year for most of the past decade, the one night of the year where stars from RAW and SmackDown come face to face and fight. That’s a statement that used to hold some water and was a good incentive to watch the show. It was a particularly good hook in 2019 when NXT was thrown into the mix as well and went on to defeat the other two ‘bigger’ shows. This year, however, it fell flat.
It’s only been a few weeks since the last WWE Draft, and so the lines between the two brands haven’t been clearly drawn yet. Even if they had, performers turn up on the ‘wrong’ show so often that it’s hard to care about who’s supposed to be where. As good as the match quality generally was on the night, we found ourselves wondering what the point of it all was. Some people won, some people lost, and very little appears to be likely to happen as a result of either.
The night got underway with a seemingly pointless battle royal won by The Miz, who arguably didn’t need the push as he’s already holding the Money in the Bank briefcase. He won the match the same way that everybody always wins battle royal matches in WWE – pretending to be eliminated until someone else appears to have won and then reappearing at the last moment to throw them over the top rope. This victory came at the expense of Dominic Mysterio – a developing talent who WWE has protected extensively until now – and Chad Gable, who could also have done with the rub. Buddy Murphy, still riding high on the back of a clean win over Seth Rollins on the previous episode of SmackDown, was tossed over the top rope mid-match as an afterthought.
Next on the agenda was the men’s Team Raw vs. Team SmackDown match, won decisively by Team RAW 5-0, eliminating all of their opponents without suffering any losses themselves. This instantly brought to mind bad memories of RAW’s clean sweep against SmackDown in 2018 and didn’t do anything for the five members of Team SmackDown. Seth Rollins, who’s presumably about to begin paternity leave, laid down and sacrificed himself “for the greater good.” Kevin Owens, whose Universal Championship reign feels like a long time ago now, was brushed aside like a midcarder. This appeared to be an angle to feed into the ongoing Roman Reigns – Jey Uso story, with Jey the last man standing for his team before his elimination. More on that later.
From there, we got a great tag team match between New Day and the Street Profits, with the Street Profits picking up the win for SmackDown. The right team won here. New Day is such an established act that the loss doesn’t damage them, and the Street Profits are legitimized by defeating the most successful tag team in WWE history. The question of why Big E came out with New Day rather than appearing elsewhere on the show will probably never be resolved, but this was enjoyable entertainment. What was less enjoyable came next in the shape of Bobby Lashley squashing Sami Zayn in under eight minutes, most of which was taken up by Sami attempting to run away. How this helps Zayn’s reign as Intercontinental Champion is anybody’s guess, but this was another win for RAW.
Sasha Banks against Asuka should have been a great match but didn’t seem to click. It wasn’t for want of trying, and both women worked hard, but it was solid rather than spectacular. The roll-up finish that came out of nowhere didn’t help matters much, but nothing about this contest will have left the audience wanting to see more – not that they could anyway because both women are the champions of their respective brands and theoretically can’t have any further contact with each other. If anything sums up the problem with booking “Survivor Series” in a nutshell, it’s that. By its very nature, it has to be insignificant. Feuds can’t be resolved here – they have to be generated and then abandoned after a single night. Considering the fact that none of the matches came with any stakes, it makes it difficult for the audience to care.
Hot on the heels of that champion versus champion contest came the women’s Team RAW vs. Team SmackDown match and further problematic booking. The only story of any consequence going into this match was that Lana had spent the past nine weeks being slammed through tables by Team RAW partners Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax. This angle, coupled with the recent “WWE Chronicle” covering Lana’s journey on the WWE Network, is clearly supposed to be a big deal. A major pay-per-view would have been the perfect night for Lana to step up and get her revenge on Jax and Baszler. Instead, she was bullied by them, forced to stand on the steps and cry for almost the entire duration of the match, and then won by count-out when the final remaining members of the respective teams failed to return to the ring. If someone in WWE – Vince McMahon, for example – thinks the best way to get a female talent over is to have them cower, cry, and then win by default, there are worrying times ahead for the women’s division.
The biggest wrestling event of the evening saw WWE Champion Drew McIntyre take on WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns in what proved to be an instant classic. Both men kicked out of each other’s finishing moves. Both men took huge bumps, sold for each other, and gave a great account of themselves in the ring. In the end, it took a low blow, interference from Jey Uso (still taking instructions from Roman despite the regular abuse he receives in return), and a guillotine choke to put McIntyre to bed. Both champions have been built up so much that neither could realistically be seen to take a clean loss here, so this is as good a result as could be expected. Presumably, the Reigns – Uso storyline is still going somewhere, although how much further it might be expected to go after main eventing two pay per views is anybody’s guess.
Last up was the Undertaker’s retirement ceremony, which was a strange spectacle to behold. Seeing the Undertaker in the ring reminded us once again of how much WWE relies on the nostalgia factor to build interest. Within the next few weeks, a range of online slots with 10 free spins no deposit starring WWE characters will be released to online slots websites worldwide. Except for Roman Reigns and Becky Lynch, none of the stars featured on those slots will be drawn from the current roster. Drew McIntyre, Sasha Banks, Sami Zayn, Asuka, and Bobby Lashley are all reigning champions within the company. None of them will have their own online slots. Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, Triple H, and Steve Austin – all retired – will. This focus on the past can’t be allowed to continue much longer, or the company won’t have a future.
The ceremony began with a long procession of names from the past, including the aforementioned Michaels and Triple H but also featuring Mick Foley, Ric Flair, the Godfather, Shane McMahon, Kane, and even the Godwinns, getting their own individual entrances and entering the ring. A video package then aired, after which the stars were nowhere to be seen. That was the limit of their involvement. Vince McMahon then introduced the Undertaker and did a disappearing act of his own. Ultimately, WWE’s greatest performer retired alone in an empty arena, surrounded by no fans, posing in front of a hologram of Paul Bearer. Compared to the spectacle of Ric Flair’s retirement ten years ago, it felt like a hollow shell. In that way, it was, unfortunately, a perfect metaphor for the whole night.