WWE – Survivor Series 2017 (Cert 15)
1 Disc Blu-ray / DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 217 minutes approx.
“The one night of the year where RAW and SD go head to head” is the excitable tag line for this event thrust down our throats ad nauseum in hyping this show, all the while asking us to ignore all the other times this has occurred – like a month earlier at TLC where RAW’s Finn Bálor faced off against SD’s AJ Styles. Or the Royal Rumble. Or at Wrestlemania in the Andre The Giant Battle Royale.
But I digress. Like last year, the selling point was that the two brands would face off in a series of matches to determine brand supremacy, which saw SD win in 2016. The problem with set up is that if it was in the spirit of competition then fine – but they have to over egg the pudding and suddenly, after a year of wrestlers fighting each other, we are suddenly expected to believe that brand loyalty negates all previous hatred.
This was also a card that underwent a number of changes prior to the event, having set up a number of one-one-one champion vs. champion matches then realising that the heel-face dynamic was askew in many cases and needed rectifying – or in one case because they knew the match would flat out suck had it stayed with the original plan.
Held on November 19th 2017 at the Toyota Centre in Houston, Texas before a reported 14,478 fans, while the commentary desk is rather crowded with Michael Cole and Booker T for RAW, Tom Phillips and Byron Saxton for SD and Corey Graves in the middle as he appear on both shows.
Onto the matches and as always no results spoilers but plenty of opinion.
The Shield (RAW) vs. The New Day (SD)
Originally Ambrose and Rollins were going to face The Usos in a battle of the tag champs because Reigns was out with the dreaded lurgy but he recovered, so they had The New Day invade RAW and cause a title change setting up this match instead. The fans were happy to see The Shield finally reunite and despite both sides being faces, they were the clear favourites (well, 2/3 of them) even with their ugly RAW/Shield hybrid t-shirts.
Great long heated match with hard-hitting action, plenty of cool multi-man moves and a hot second half of near falls. Roman must have enjoyed this match since he was often cheered for the first time since… erm… anyone? Top notch opener.
Women’s Survivor Series Elimination Match – Team RAW (Alicia Fox, Sasha Banks, Bayley, Nia Jax & Asuka) vs. Team SD (Becky Lynch, Natalya, Tamina, Naomi & Carmella)
Yes, Alicia Fox was the RAW team captain having won the right to the job in a triple threat match, leading to weeks of her teasing poor Bayley as being one her teammates. On SD, Becky Lynch won her captaincy the same way but the team was already chosen, until Natalya dropped her title to Charlotte and swapped places with her.
This was a solid match of non-stop action but not without its issues, one down to the ref messing up one of the eliminations and the other simply naff booking. There was a fun “big girl” battle between Tamina (who had arguably her best in ring outing in her run with the company) and Nia Jax that made for a refreshing and unique visual, but all eyes were on my undefeated Goddess Asuka. I’ll say no more.
IC Champion vs. US Champion Match – The Miz (RAW) vs. Baron Corbin (SD)
The only champion vs. champion match to stay intact, even with two heels, that was built up via a Twitter war between the quick witted Miz and the charisma vacuum that is Boring Corbin, the latter apparently making inappropriate comments about Miz’s pregnant wife Maryse.
Match was what it was; better than it had any right to be given the heel/heel dynamic but nothing special either, Miz only just being the de facto choice of the fans to cheer for.
Tag Champions vs. Tag Champions Match – The Usos (SD) vs. The Bar (RAW)
Thanks to the New Day, Sheamus and Cesaro beat Ambrose and Rollins for the red brand tag titles, while The Usos seem to have gradually turned face on SD after their excellent series against The New Day – unless the fans simply decided they hated Sheamus’s silver tipped Mohawk more.
Maybe expectations were too high for this one but it never turned into the classic it could have been based on their exchanges the year before. It was a good match with both sides working hard, hitting hard and pulling out some good moves but felt a little below par for what they are capable of. A good bout nonetheless.
Women’s Champion vs. Women’s Champion Match – Charlotte Flair (SD) vs. Alexa Bliss (RAW)
Another match originally set to be heel vs. heel until the last minute title switch on SD prior to this show saw Charlotte become the second woman to hold both brands’ titles. The first? Her opponent, Alexa Bliss!
There are no complaints about how hard the ladies worked and they told a good story concerning the height difference between Alexa and Charlotte which ironically also led to some awkward moments. Usually Alexa gives away three of four inches in height but in this case it was around seven or eight which neither women were able to work around like the guys can but they gave it a go and had a good match regardless.
Universal Champion vs. WWE Champion Match – Brock Lesnar (RAW) vs. AJ Styles (SD)
Believe it or not, Jinder Mahal was supposed to face Lesnar until common sense prevailed and Styles won the title in the UK two weeks before this PPV. Similar to the previous match this was about the size differential by we are dealing with AJ Styles who cemented his reputation as a miracle worker by his performance here.
Whether it was by dint of Styles’ tremendous efforts or a sense of ego in facing someone smaller, Lesnar stepped up here and had his best match in eons, actually donning his working boots rather than his usual “Suplex-Repeat-Bugger off for three months” boots. Terrific match and the best on the show by a mile.
Survivor Series Elimination Match – Team RAW (Kurt Angle, Samoa Joe, Finn Bálor, Braun Strowman & Triple H) vs. Team Smackdown (Shane McMahon, Randy Orton, Shinsuke Nakamura, Bobby Roode & John Cena)
Oh boy. Where to start. Well, after the RAW Under Siege fiasco, Big Steph demanded Kurt Angle head the RAW team in retaliation, so Shane O’Mac captained his team. In choosing the RAW team Kurt picked his “son” Jason Jordan but was usurped by Triple H because nepotism is frowned upon in WWE. In response to this, SD secured the services of “free agent” Cena, immediately undermining the “brand loyalty” aspect of this feud, which suffered another blow when Cena showed up not in his team’s standard issue blue T-shirt but in lime green!
Not to mention this was clearly a last minute decision by the company by Cena’s total lack of effort and interest in being there illustrated. Meanwhile, you know it’s a bad match when the main highlight is a two minute exchange between Bálor and Nakamura before the younger stars are all eliminated leaving the old guard (combined age of almost 150) to kill the crowd dead, which they did. So to answer the question “Why can’t this company create new stars?” watch this match and weep.
Whilst the battle for brand supremacy has its merits and in theory reinforces the idea of the two separate shows being taken seriously (rather compromised by having a “free agent”) instead of the old days of the roster split when wrestlers would show up on both shows without rhyme or reason, it has to dealt with logically. If we’ve learned anything from watching WWE over the past few years, logic is a sparse commodity.
To wit: the first shot of this feud was fired by SD when Shane O’Mac arrived on RAW with 90% of the SD roster (and without consulting GM Daniel Bryan) and put RAW “under siege”, the blue brand wrestlers forcing their way backstage and beating up their RAW counterparts. So what you might say? Well, this wasn’t just the heels but the faces too – in other words, we saw the likes of Bobby Roode and Dolph Ziggler fighting side by side despite being feuding with other at the time. Or babyface Becky Lynch beating up her Four Horsewomen friends Bayley and Sasha Banks alongside heel Natalya purely because of “brand loyalty”.
It’s a confused narrative which could have been resolved by having RAW heels against SD faces in the matches but this obvious exposes the lack of depth of top names on both sides. Or keep it as is but lay off the pre-mediated inter brand attacks and keep the in-fighting for scoring a spot on one of the teams instead, thus the current feuds and storylines are no longer being undermined.
Aside from this massive grumble everyone not named Cena or Triple H put in a great effort and made the importance of representing their respective brand feel reasonably palpable and convincing. For most of the show this was gearing up to be one of the better events until it takes a vertiginous plummet off the cliff with the main event, once again highlighting the worst excesses and destructive whims of McBooking.
If you stop watching after Styles vs. Lesnar then this is a pretty good show.
Best match – Brock Lesnar vs. AJ Styles
Survivor Series Kickoff Match – Matt Hardy vs. Elias
Survivor Series Kickoff Match – WWE Cruiserweight Title Match – Enzo Amore (c) vs. Kalisto
Survivor Series Kickoff Match – Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn vs. Breezango
Rating – *** ½
Man In Black