WWE – Survivor Series 2019 (Cert 15)

1 Disc Blu-ray /2 discs DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 191 minutes approx.

This is the one night of the year when RAW and SD go head to head… scratch that, we’re going bigger this year because NXT is involved!

Rumblings of an NXT presence at the 2019 iteration of Survivor Series were bouncing around for a while but were never solidified until the fateful night in Saudi Arabia when most of the WWE roster was grounded after the Crown Jewel PPV, leaving only a handful of wrestlers back in the US available to work the live Smackdown the next night.

A solution was needed so Triple H hurriedly brought a group of top names from the NXT roster to the venue for Smackdown and had them “invade” the show and declare war on the main roster, beginning with NXT Women’s champ Shayna Baszler attacking Bayley after a title defence (with Baszler arriving literally minutes before her run in).

This led to an exciting few weeks across all three US brands on TV where the NXT crew would show up and have matches with or simply lay waste to the RAW and SD rosters, and vice versa. It pushed the ratings up for all three shows but would it do the same for the big PPV at the end of it where all three brands would face off and claim supremacy?

Held on November 17th 2019 at the Allstate Arena in Chicago, Illinois before 11,500 fans, while the commentary desk is rather crowded with Vic Joseph and Jerry Lawler for RAW, Michael Cole and Corey Graves for SD, and Nigel McGuinness and Beth Phoenix for NXT.

Onto the matches and as always no results spoilers since the DVD/Blu-ray cover artwork has that bit covered but plenty of opinion.

 

Women’s Survivor Series Elimination Match – Team RAW (Charlotte Flair, Kabuki Warriors, Natalya & Sarah Logan) vs. Team SD (Sasha Banks, Carmella, Lacey Evans, Nikki Cross & Dana Brooke) vs. Team NXT (Rhea Ripley, Io Shirai, Candace LeRae, Toni Storm & Bianca Belair)

If any one match on this show exposed the folly of fighting for “brand supremacy” it was this opener, because just 24 hours earlier, four of the five members of Team NXT had been on opposite sides of the first ever women’s War Games match. Apparently, being on the same brand is enough to make people forget they were trying to kill each other the night before.

Decent start to the show with some awkward moments but generally flowed well enough despite the cluster of having someone from all three teams at the same time. Worse however was the wacky McBooking that made even less sense than the aforementioned truce, and did more harm than good in the final moments with regard to getting people over. We did get a decent 30 second face off between former Sky Pirates Io Shirai and Kairi Sane but it was not enough to truly whet the appetite otherwise solid action to kick things off. 

IC Champion vs. US Champion Match vs. NXT North American Champion Triple Threat Match – Shinsuke Nakamura (SD) vs. AJ Styles (RAW) vs. Roderick Strong (NXT)

One wonders if this wasn’t an all heel affair whether the crowd reaction would have been stronger for this match if there was at least one face to get behind. There is also the small caveat of Strong – like most of the NXT competitors on this show – having worked the night before in a War Games match, needing to be a little fresher here but he was still on point he did.

Perhaps a little longer than it needed to be and lacking a hot final sprint, this was a tight match with good work from all involved, benefiting from not adhering to the “one man down, the other two go at it” formula too often for a triple threat match. If you’ve not seen Strong before this is a good primer for what he is capable of. Good match.

NXT Title Match –  Adam Cole (c) vs. Pete Dunne

Michael Cole was lead announcer here instead of NXT’s Mauro Ranallo but not because Mauro blew out his voice at War Games like Cole said, but due to an insensitive tweet by Corey Graves that upset Ranallo, who is noted for his mental health struggles from being bi-polar. Graves is a classless dick but that is not news either.   

Both men also worked the NXT PPV the night before, with the Bruiserweight earning this title shot in a three-way match, whilst Cole died for our sins in War Games, taking a sick bump off the cage through a table that he really shouldn’t have got up from, but here he is. Work wise, the best match on the show thanks to Dunne, though had it been at Full Sail or an NXT show, the crowd would have been molten. At least this lot woke up for the crazy final few minutes.

WWE Universal Title Match – The Fiend vs. (c) Daniel Bryan

From the sublime to the ridiculous and not just because of the stupid red lighting that everybody hates but Vince still persists with. This feud came about because The Fiend remembered Daniel Bryan turned on Bray Wyatt back in 2014 and decided to wait until now to get his revenge. However the reality is they couldn’t do the usual champ vs. champ (vs. champ in this case) match as they can’t have Fiend lose and Lesnar sure as hell won’t put him over so here we are.

This was better than previous Fiend matches, largely due to Bryan being so good at what he does and because it was kept short and mostly ring based with less weapons and gimmicks (except the red light crap). It’s still odd to have The Fiend no sell everything but he at least let Bryan some shots in to make him look somewhat effective and not have the fans turn on him like they did Seth Rollins.

Survivor Series Elimination Match – Team RAW (Seth Rollins, Randy Orton, Ricochet, Drew McIntyre & Kevin Owens) vs. Team Smackdown (Roman Reigns, Braun Strowman, King Corbin, Mustafa Ali & Shorty G) vs. Team NXT (Tommaso Ciampa, WALTER, Damien Priest, Keith Lee & Matt Riddle)

And again, people who don’t get along are working together to support their colours, namely Reigns and Corbin (or anyone and Corbin for that matter). The NXT team might seem a little uninspired (Priest?) but they put NXT UK champ WALTER in there which should have been major – instead they eliminated him first. Yeah…the crowd hated that too. Similarly hometown Mustafa Ali also got the short end of the stick, just in case we needed further reminding Vince is a petty, tone deaf, killjoy.

Generally though it was a fun match with some good brawling and nifty wrestling among the smaller guys; if you never knew you needed a Shorty G vs. Matt Riddle match you will after this. But the formula was basically someone gets a brief moment to shine then is eliminated or gets the McBooking treatment and there was a lot of that. NXT’s Keith Lee got the “big rub” but instead of building him up for this, he did nothing but bump for the bigger guys first which seemed counterproductive to me.

WWE Heavyweight Title No Holds Barred Match – Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Rey Mysterio

Why does a brute like Lesnar need a No Holds Barred stipulation against a tiny gnat like Mysterio? Well, this feud came about when Brock beat up Rey on RAW for some reason, then beat up his son Dominick. Rey retaliated by beating Brock with a steel pipe and voila, we have ourselves a match. You may recall we saw Dominick once before in 2005 during the paternity angle with Eddie Guerrero. Well, little Dom is now twice the size of papa Rey which is quite the visual.

Anyway, not much of a match really, with Brock chucking Rey about until Rey gets the steel pipe out even though that has little effect, which brings Dominick in and we have a father and son double team. Interestingly, Dom hits a frog splash on Lesnar – maybe Eddie was telling the truth after all?

WWE RAW Women’s Champion vs. SD Women’s Champion vs. NXT Women’s Champion – Becky Lynch (RAW) vs. Bayley (SD) vs. Shayna Baszler (NXT)

Interesting choice for this to go last when it might have worked better in the mid card as the crowd was tired and not very enthused. Some sloppy moments and miscues didn’t help, nor did the lack of three-way spots which helped the earlier triple threat matches. Plus Baszler had been in War Games the night before so she wasn’t 100% percent either but they did enough to have a good match but not the show stealer it could have been.

Part of the problem is Becky is getting the Cena push – in other words, she’s doing less in the ring and selling less, always being booked to stand tall regardless of whatever beating she takes that would floor anyone else. The result of this match probably justified it main event spot though the aftermath was pure Vince which fans will take out on Lynch if they’re not careful.

 

Bottom Line:

The biggest take away from this show is the anomaly that is NXT. The Chicago crowd was firmly behind the smaller brand all night, partially as War Games took place in the same venue the night before, and because NXT is the cult hit of the WWE diegesis. However, this doesn’t seem to parlay into TV ratings as NXT draws an average of 700,000-800,000 viewers (directly against AEW who pull similar numbers) compared the 2 -3 million RAW and SD get.

Yet, the infusion of NXT talent made this feel like a more credible brand war than the usual RAW vs. SD feud, made for better TV and created higher interest in this PPV for the first time in years. So there is clearly something about NXT that resonates with the hardcore fans, yet Vince is STILL determined to shape everything to his tastes rather than what the fans want.

No way would the women have been booked so backwards as in the opener, or the men in their elimination match. Can you see Triple H NOT protecting the NXT UK champ or have a red-hot Keith Lee bump so much before getting to shine? If this show and the TV appearances leading up to it were the only exposure some WWE fans got of NXT then perhaps it is no wonder they’re weren’t impressed, but one would hope their curiosity would have been piqued enough to check NXT out on the network afterwards to see what the fuss is all about.

Despite Vince’s myopic meddling this was the strongest and most interesting edition of the Survivor Series for quite a while, and we all know who to thank for that…

 

Best match – Adam Cole vs. Pete Dunne

 

Extras:

Blu-ray Only:

Survivor Series Kickoff Show Matches:

Interbrand Tag Team Battle Royale

NXT Cruiserweight Triple Threat Title Match – Lio Rush (c) (NXT) vs. Kalisto (SD) vs. Akira Tozawa (RAW)

Tag Champions Triple Threat Match – Undisputed Era (NXT) vs. The New Day (SD) vs. The Viking Raiders (RAW)

 

Rating – *** ½ 

Man In Black