WWE – Survivor Series 2018 (Cert 15)

1 Disc Blu-ray /2 discs DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 208 minutes approx.

This is the one night of the year where WWE hopes fans forget about all the other times during the year when RAW and SD went head to head in some fashion, so they can peddle their “one night of the year where RAW and SD go head to head” myth to sell this PPV.

Not that it works as the whole brand supremacy concept just doesn’t work and whilst it might be a great way to give us some unique matches we’d hitherto not see, the idea that heels and faces would eagerly put their differences aside just because they are on the same TV show remains risibly weak. Worse still, the wrestlers are (mostly) forced to wear t-shirts denoting their respective brands in case anyone watching was too dense to forget. 

Like the 2017 iteration, the card underwent a number of changes prior to the event, in both the champion vs. champion matches and the team elimination matches, some by design, some through fate. The biggest one was the most anticipated match on the card Becky Lynch vs. Ronda Rousey which was pulled at a few days notice thanks to Nia Jax giving Becky a concussion on RAW, spoiling the interest and excitement in the show for just about everybody.

Held on November 18th 2018 at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles, California before a reported 14,000 fans, while the commentary desk is rather crowded with Michael Cole and Renee Young for RAW, Tom Phillips and Byron Saxton for SD, Corey Graves working for both, and Vic Joseph, Nigel McGuinness and Percy Watson for the Cruiserweight match.

Onto the matches and as always no results spoilers but plenty of opinion.

 

Women’s Survivor Series Elimination Match – Team RAW (Sasha Banks, Bayley, Nia Jax, Tamina & Mickie James) vs. Team SD (Asuka, Naomi, Carmella, Mandy Rose & Sonya Deville)

A lot of changes here. At first Charlotte was SD team captain until she was chosen to replace Becky in her match against Rousey, so Naomi took over captaincy and Mandy Rose took Charlotte’s spot. On the RAW side, Natalya (the lone face) and Ruby Riott were on the team but on the pre-show they got into a fight, so captain Alexa Bliss, removed them, choosing Bayley and Sasha as their replacements.

Despite all the progress the women have made in 2018, including having the best main roster PPV in Evolution, this was a throwback to the bad old Diva days. It opened with 30-seconds of action then a big schmooze before leading to our first elimination, exactly the sort of thing that lead to the Women’s Revolution in the first place. The ladies pulled it back however and had a decent match but it could have been better given the talent involved.    

IC Champion vs. US Champion Match – Seth Rollins (RAW) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (SD)

You can tell how committed Rollins is to the cause of supporting RAW, he once again wore a half-RAW/half-his own T-shirt, which is either vanity or arrogance. This should have been a dream match between two top wrestlers capable of big things, and while it was well worked it just felt like it was there, and certainly didn’t have any drama behind what should have been a major first time meeting affair. The brand war narrative didn’t create much interest in it either.  

Tag Champions vs. Tag Champions Match –  AOP (RAW) vs. The Bar (SD)

It is hard to believe that the former Authors of Pain were a dominant monster team in NXT, only to move to RAW and become an afterthought prior to their handicap match title win of Seth Rollins, after Dean Ambrose turned on Seth. Vince McSenile even took away their mouthpiece in the legendary Paul Ellering (because he hates managers) then realised AOP couldn’t cut a promo, so he aligned them with babyface 205 Live GM Drake (Rockstar Spud) Maverick, to be their heel manager. Yeah, I know…

This match should have been a hard hitting big hoss fight but fell flat for two reasons, neither of which have nothing to do with the wrestling. First, you’ll notice the crowd was distracted at the start. This is due to the arsehole formerly known as Enzo Amore, sneaked into the arena in disguise, then revealed himself and started doing his own routine before being taken out by security and earning himself a ban from the Staples Centre!

Secondly, the finish was truly (and literally) taking the you-know-what. The idea was for Maverick to be scared by being grabbed by Big Show (seconding The Bar) that he wet himself! However the gimmick in his trousers failed to work after much fiddling (edited from this release) so it is alleged Maverick legit wet himself to pull off the spot! If you are wondering what sort of person would sanction such a thing, the answer is a 73 year-old man with the humour level of a five year old.

Cruiserweight Title Match – Buddy Murphy (c) vs. Mustafa Ali

The only non-inter brand title match on the show, the cruisers had a hard time winning the crowd back after the juvenile nonsense that preceded it despite Ali’s many suicide attempts to get a pop. They worked hard and hit big spots and did lots of dives to get the fans invested, eventually eliciting a “205” chant after a Spanish Fly off the announce table to the floor by Ali.

In the end in this was a solidly worked bout with plenty of effort from both men, but for whatever reason, the cruiserweight division remains that one brand of biscuits on the supermarket shelf that probably tastes better than the others but very few people seem inclined to actually want to buy.

Survivor Series Elimination Match – Team RAW (Braun Strowman, Finn Bálor, Bobby Lashley, Dolph Ziggler & Drew McIntyre) vs. Team Smackdown (The Miz, Shane McMahon, Samoa Joe, Rey Mysterio & Jeff Hardy)

Team RAW is captained by acting GM Baron Corbin who thankfully doesn’t get in the ring, while The Miz leads from the front on Team SD. Originally co-captain with Daniel Bryan, Miz goers solo after Bryan won the WWE Title from AJ Styles and was moved to his own match, replaced on the team by Jeff Hardy. Of course, the elephant in the room is why 48 year-old Shane McMahon is once again stealing a spot from a younger talent and actual wrestler who could have benefited from it, like Rusev, Andrade Almas or even R-Truth?

I don’t usual reveal results but it is necessary here as in typical Vince fashion he had the hometown hero eliminated inside 35 seconds to cheese off the fans in the arena who weren’t happy as you might expect. Then there was the infighting on Team RAW between Strowman and McIntyre (up until a few weeks prior to this they were partners until Roman Reigns’ departure meant RAW needed a replacement babyface) and some lenient McBooking to make the head hurt.

Two people were put through an announce table and spent ten minutes selling it on the floor yet neither were counted out when there was a double count out elimination in the Women’s match earlier? It’s things like this that we’re not supposed to notice but when we do it simple exposes the problems with protective booking of “top” names. Thankfully the match didn’t last almost an hour like in 2016 but still descended into a clumsy mess after a solid middle act for the above reasons.

Charlotte Flair (SD) vs. Ronda Rousey (RAW)

After Becky Lynch’s tone-deaf heel turn saw her stock rise, her legend was cemented in stone after the accident on RAW a few days before this PPV where an errant punch from Nia Jax broke Becky’s nose, gave her a black eye and concussed her. Yet Becky fought back and still stood tall, blood all over her face in one of 2018’s most iconic images in wrestling. But the concussion meant Becky couldn’t face Rousey in the match that had fans salivating so Vince’s favoured Plan B, Charlotte Flair, lucked into another prime spot on a WWE show.

Circumstances aside, this act of happenstance bore fruit in a brutal, hard hitting and well-executed match that, just as the women have done all year, stole the show. Ignoring her weird choices in eye make-up, Rousey has been a revelation and Charlotte is a top tier wrestler so this was a real spectacle to enjoy. The finish was politically the safest one to use here (partially because the fans were vocally pro-Becky here despite her absence) in protecting both women but the reaction from the crowd to the violent aftermath was more shocking!

Universal Champion vs. WWE Champion Match – Brock Lesnar (RAW) vs. Daniel Bryan (SD)

Lots to discuss here. Roman Reigns was unfortunately forced to vacate the Universal title after succumbing to a relapse in the Leukaemia he thought he had once beat, and in his infinite wisdom and blind panic, Vince put the belt right back onto Lesnar, the guy who rarely shows up and was about to leave to return to UFC. So once again RAW has no top champion on a weekly basis.

Up until the last minute, this was going to be Lesnar vs. AJ Styles in a rematch from last year’s show which Lesnar won, and since Lesnar only loses when his contract is up, this would have meant Styles losing for a second year in a row. Vince didn’t want this so he had Bryan beat Styles for the WWE tile on SD to be Lesnar’s plaything here.  Except they turned Bryan heel in defeating Styles essentially making this heel vs. heel.

So what we have is a match of confused dynamics for the fans, as Bryan should be hated after turning on Styles yet Lesnar is to be hated for being a lazy bugger so how does this work? Well, the first half is Lesnar destroying a cocky heel Bryan (including a sick suplex where he lands on his head, dangerous after his concussion issues), which is then abandoned when fiery de facto babyface Bryan makes his spirited comeback to turn the tide and finally get the fans emotionally invested.

Weird match that eventually became something good thanks to Bryan, but would have worked better if his heel turn had been held off for a week and he went into this as the sympathetic babyface from the start.

 

Bottom Line:

It’s never easy trying to figure out what is going on inside Vince McSenile’s head and shows like this don’t make any easier. How can you have such an incredible array of talent on one roster yet still can’t put on a PPV that both reflects this and makes best use of that talent? It’s like having every piece of Lego available to you yet you only build a small archway with them instead of a fortified castle.

This isn’t a bad show with two and half great matches (Charlotte vs. Ronda, Murphy vs. Ali and the second half of Lesnar vs. Bryan) to ease the pain but as ever the creative end lets tings down. There is the usual self-indulgence with regard to McFamily members and the favoured ones and rampant silliness to appeal to one man’s puerile sense of humour, resulting in the gifted being squandered in favour of the less worthy.

For a third year running, the RAW vs. SD theme was the main selling point of the show and even that was undermined by the scoring system, which chose to ignore the result of the pre-show match, which had been built up on TV therefore should have counted in the final tally but mysteriously was dismissed by end of play. What was the point of the match if the result didn’t count?

Interestingly, because the narrative all year round has been RAW is greater than SD, the fans in attendance chose to support SD making them the default babyfaces of the night (with one exception which was quite ironic giving this person’s “popularity”) which tells us all we need to know in how seriously (or not) this battle of the brands is being taken.

Survivor Series used to be so much fun when it first started in 1987 – a simple concept that told a simple story and delivered in the ring and booking wise (sans protecting Hulk Hogan of course). It’s a shame that magic can’t be recreated today with arguably the strongest roster this company has ever had.

 

Best match – Charlotte Flair vs. Ronda Rousey

 

Extras:

Blu-ray Only:

Survivor Series Kickoff Show

Team RAW Is Down Two Members

Charlotte Flair Will Make Ronda Rousey Bow Down To The Queen

Mandy Rose Joins Team Smackdown

Bayley & Sasha Banks Join Team RAW

Survivor Series Kickoff Match – 10-on-10 Traditional Survivor Series Elimination Match – Team SD (New Day, The Usos, SAnitY, The Colons & The Good Brothers) vs. Team RAW (Bobby Roode & Chad Gable, The Revival, Lucha House Party, The B-Team & The Ascension)

 

Rating – ***

Man In Black