It’s tough to get all that excited about Survivor Series in the 21st century. Since the brand split happened in 2016, the show has ceased to be about personal issues and has instead become a nonsensical scuffle for brand supremacy. Suddenly, babyfaces and heels are prepared to join forces and fight against their friends based purely on what colour shirt they happen to be wearing. It’s nonsense and it shouldn’t happen.
Last year, WWE did something a little different and chucked NXT into the mix. The addition of WWE’s third brand provided an intriguing wrinkle that added some spice to the rather stale proceedings of previous years. There’s no such luck this year, with a standard RAW versus SmackDown setup.
There were, however, a handful of elements which suggested this could be an interesting show. The card contained a couple of potentially compelling champion vs. champion match-ups and, looming over it all, WWE was promising a final farewell for The Undertaker, three decades after he made his debut at Survivor Series all the way back in 1990. How would the legend bow out?
Here’s what we thought would happen, and read on to see how the show played out…
Kick-Off: The Miz won the Dual-Brand Battle Royal by last eliminating Dominik Mysterio (RAW 1, SD 0)
After a bizarre pre-show skit in which the Gobbledy Gooker pinned R-Truth to win the 24/7 Champion, assorted random superstars from both brands packed the ring for a pointless battle royal. There was some fun early on with Lucha stars Rey Mysterio and Kalisto squaring off, while tag teams predictably exerted dominance. It all came down to The Miz, Chad Gable, Dominik Mysterio and Jeff Hardy. Gable dispatched Hardy, while Mysterio kicked Miz out underneath the bottom rope. Dominik and Gable had a very interesting and engaging back and forth until a triumphant Mysterio chucked the Olympian over the top rope.
Naturally, at this point, Miz slithered back into the ring and shocked Dominik with the final elimination. No one will remember who won this one by the time RAW airs tomorrow, so it would be difficult to get too excited or enraged by the result, as nice as it would’ve been for Gable or Mysterio to win. More intriguing is the question of whether this suggests more for Miz and his Money in the Bank briefcase later in the show.
Elimination Match: Team RAW (AJ Styles, Braun Strowman, Keith Lee, Riddle and Sheamus) defeated Team SD (Jey Uso, Kevin Owens, King Corbin, Otis and Seth Rollins) in a clean sweep (RAW 2, SD 0)
This got off to a slow start, with Paul Heyman seen watching backstage as Jey Uso fought with AJ Styles. Seth Rollins wanted no part of the match and, once he was tagged in, he allowed himself to be sacrificed via a Brogue Kick. Kevin Owens, conversely, was going all-out for brand supremacy and delivered Stunners to just about everybody on Team RAW. Sadly for KO, this provided an opening for Styles to fly in with a Phenomenal Forearm, getting the elimination. King Corbin immediately hit End of Days on Styles but Team RAW broke up the pin and, after a Floating Bro by Riddle, Corbin hit the showers.
Otis cleaned house with a string of suplexes and even managed to hit the Caterpillar on Braun Strowman. He went up top to finish Strowman off, but Riddle interrupted and the Monster Among Men was able to hoist Otis up for a running powerslam and, subsequently, an elimination. Jey Uso was now all alone and tried his best to fire up, diving on to all five opponents. Styles was saved from a pinfall when his monstrous buddy Jordan Omogbehin pulled him out of the way of a splash and, the next time Uso went up top, Keith Lee caught him. A Spirit Bomb completed a clean sweep for Team RAW.
— WWE (@WWE) November 23, 2020
These traditional elimination matches can go either way and, this time around, nothing really seemed to click. There were no storylines at play in the contest and, frankly, the woolly notion of brand supremacy is not enough to sustain a match all on its own. The action itself was absolutely fine, with everyone getting the chance to do their spots. But there was nothing more to it than that.
Street Profits defeated New Day via blockbuster on Xavier Woods (RAW 2, SD 1)
Big E joined New Day for their entrance, sporting custom Gears of War armour. There was clear mutual respect between the two teams as the match got going before New Day asserted themselves with an interesting, aggressive style. They effectively worked heel for most of the match. New Day isolated Montez Ford and repeatedly assaulted his ribs, but he was able to find a DDT and tag in Dawkins, who exploded in with eye-catching offence including a terrific spinning butterfly DDT. New Day fought back, though, and earned a near-fall after hitting Midnight Hour. A frustrated Kingston then landed three successive Boom Drops on Ford.
Dawkins and Ford soon got a near-fall of their own. It was only Ford’s slow cover after aggravating his injured ribs doing a frog splash that prevented the end. Kingston took advantage, hitting SOS and preparing for Trouble in Paradise. Ford evaded the former WWE Champion’s signature move, only to nick it for himself. Woods, though, splatted Ford with a gorilla press gutbuster. Kingston rolled to the outside, leaving Woods alone. He was shocked by a clever tag from Dawkins and an assisted blockbuster secured the upset win for the SmackDown champs.
— WWE (@WWE) November 23, 2020
This was almost certainly the best tag team match WWE has produced this year, in an era that has seen their tag division play constant second fiddle to the stellar work over in AEW. These two teams evidently have great respect for each other and that came through in a match which played to all of their strengths, balancing impressive high spots with some elegantly constructed psychology. It’s just a shame they can’t fight every week.
Bobby Lashley defeated Sami Zayn via Hurt Lock (RAW 3, SD 1)
Sami Zayn tried to wriggle free of Bobby Lashley early, looking to frustrate his larger opponent by leaving the ring and using the ropes. The pressure of the Hurt Business at ringside, though, allowed Lashley to exert his power and chuck the Intercontinental Champion around the ring. Zayn tried an array of tricks to get the win, including a reference to vertigo he claimed to have suffered at the hands of Lashley way back in 2018, attempts to remove the turnbuckle pad and an erroneous suggestion he was tripped by MVP. This was to no avail, though, as he ended up in the Hurt Lock and submitted in short order.
Zayn’s current character is an entertaining one, even though it is a shame to see someone with so much in-ring acumen working such an unconventional style. The outcome of this one was unsurprising as Lashley continues to dominate. Hurt Business is an act which WWE doesn’t quite seem to have fully utilised yet, though there’s no doubt that they have the potential to be a genuinely excellent stable.
Sasha Banks defeated Asuka via pinfall (RAW 3, SD 2)
This was an even, technically proficient contest in the early stages, with both women trying for their signature submission holds. No one had the advantage for long and the match almost ended in a double count-out when Asuka countered a Meteora from the barricade into a codebreaker. A brutal back-stabber from Banks got a two count and, when Asuka blocked a frog splash, Banks found a way into the Bank Statement. Asuka fought out and hit another codebreaker for two. A quick-fire exchange of near-falls followed before Banks was able to out-wrestle Asuka for long enough to get the decisive pin.
Kudos to both of these women for delivering on the high expectations many will have had for the match. They weren’t given a huge amount of time but maximised their minutes with a contest that balanced technical wrestling with the fast-paced exchanges of the final few minutes. WWE is fond of the quick pinfall finish and it very much worked here as a moment of brilliance from Banks in a contest built upon who was the better grappler. Banks continues to look strong as champion, suggesting she might finally be able to get an extended run as the undisputed pinnacle of the SmackDown women’s division.
Elimination Match: Team RAW (Lana, Lacey Evans, Nia Jax, Peyton Royce and Shayna Baszler) defeated Team SmackDown (Bayley, Bianca Belair, Liv Morgan, Natalya and Ruby Riott) with Lana as sole survivor (RAW 4, SD 2)
Team SmackDown was the more cohesive unit, to begin with, mostly thanks to Team RAW being livid at Lana for even having the temerity to tag into the match. They forced her to stand on the steel steps for the duration of the rest of the bout, humiliating her in the process, or so they thought. The action went back and forth, with Peyton Royce getting a rare opportunity to stand out. She superplexed Bayley on to a pile of bodies at ringside, then hit Deja Vu in the ring to pin the former SmackDown Women’s Champion. Royce almost repeated the feat on Natalya but ended up submitting to the Sharpshooter. Another Sharpshooter on Shayna Baszler almost came off, until Nattie fell victim to a Woman’s Right from Lacey Evans, which ended her evening.
Evans and Bianca Belair traded big moves, including a beautiful Spanish Fly from the top rope. The Riott Squad tried to chop down Nia Jax to no avail and Ruby Riott passed out to a Kirifuda Clutch from Baszler, shortly after the referee failed to notice her excellent pinfall counter. Liv Morgan got a fall back soon after, following a Crucifix Bomb on Evans. Morgan didn’t last long, though, and fell to a Samoan Drop by Nia Jax.
Now all alone for the blue brand, Belair tried to use her speed to out-manoeuvre Jax and kicked out of a huge leg drop from the Women’s Tag Team Champion. Jax tagged in Baszler, who ensnared Belair in the Kirifuda Clutch. The EST was able to battle to the ropes just before she passed out in the hold and, when Baszler refused to break the clutch, she was disqualified by the referee. Jax brutalised Belair at ringside, but the babyface fought back to the extent that neither of them beat the 10-count. This left Lana, stood obediently on the steps, as the sole survivor and winner of the match for Team RAW.
— WWE (@WWE) November 23, 2020
All 10 women did an excellent job here in terms of both character and wrestling, with personalities far more of a focus here than they were in the disappointing men’s match earlier in the night. Lana’s storyline was obviously the lynchpin, but Jax and Baszler furthered their status as bullies, Natalya and Belair teased an alliance and Royce acquitted herself brilliantly as a potential singles star. The decision to have Lana as the sole survivor after weeks of punishment was perhaps predictable, but it will be very interesting to see where her story goes next.
The last PPV of the year, WWE TLC, will take place on December 20 from The ThunderDome at Tropicana Field.
Roman Reigns defeated Drew McIntyre via guillotine choke (RAW 4, SD 3)
There was a definite big fight feel as these two squared up, with commentary reminding us of the possibility that Miz could cash in on either champion. The two men were evenly matched in the early going, with Reigns taking control using his array of strikes. As the intensity ratcheted up, Reigns could be heard repeatedly referring to McIntyre as “number two”. McIntyre hit the Glasgow Kiss headbutt, followed by the Futureshock DDT, but found his Claymore attempt countered with a Superman Punch.
Reigns went for the Spear, but McIntyre used the momentum of his opponent to roll through into a Kimura lock. The Universal Champion struggled to the ropes and then scuffled with McIntyre on the outside, blasting McIntyre with two Samoan Drops on the announce table – the latter smashing it to the pieces. A brutal Spear through the barricade only got a two count by the time Reigns got McIntyre back in the ring and even a second Spear couldn’t get the job done. A third Spear attempt was met with a Claymore, but this knocked Reigns into the referee.
— WWE (@WWE) November 23, 2020
The distraction enabled Jey Uso to make a run-in and Reigns to land a low blow, followed by a superkick from his cousin. Reigns then locked in the guillotine choke as another referee ran to the ring. McIntyre fought to his feet, but Reigns squeezed tighter and the Scot crumpled, eventually passing out in the hold. Reigns embraced Uso on the ramp, thanking his cousin for assisting in a monumental victory.
Despite its slow start, this matured into a terrific main event between two gargantuan bruisers and worthy champions. Both looked like absolute megastars who beat the holy heck out of each other over the course of half an hour of straight-up brutality. This is a WrestleMania main event of the future without a doubt and definitely cemented these two men as anchors of the company for the next generation. A fitting main event for a show built on supposedly titanic clashes. This one, at least, lived up to that billing.
The Undertaker’s Final Farewell
A string of WWE legends made their way to the ring to pay tribute to the Deadman, including Ric Flair, JBL, Mick Foley and Shawn Michaels, as well as Bone Street Krew members The Godfather, Savio Vega and The Godwins and, of course, Kane. It was a proper roll call of wrestling icons, befitting the stature of Mark Calaway in the industry. Many on Twitter noted that gathering so many people over 50 in one ring probably wasn’t all that wise given the whole pandemic thing. They then played a terrific video package recapping Undertaker’s career before clearing the ring for Mr McMahon to speak about how the legacy of the Deadman will live forever.
Then, Undertaker made his signature entrance, with all of the associated pageantries. In the ring, he spoke for only a few moments, saying that “my time has come to let the Undertaker rest in peace”. He took a knee in the ring as he paid respects to a hologram of Paul Bearer and did his throat-cut gesture one more time before taking that slow walk back down the ramp. Despite all of the pomp and ceremony, this felt a little low-key for a farewell to such an icon. It seems almost certain there will be another chance to thank Taker, once fans are allowed back into arenas.
— WWE (@WWE) November 23, 2020
From a wrestling standpoint, the 2020 edition of Survivor Series was a very good show indeed. The main event and the tag team match, in particular, were terrific additions to WWE’s catalogue of pandemic era entertainment. Sadly, from a storytelling point of view, very little of what happened on this show will make even an iota of difference to the way WWE progresses over the next few months.
The other side of the coin, of course, is the goodbye to one of the most significant figures in the history of the wrestling business. As you’d expect from a man as taciturn as Undertaker, it was a short-and-sweet goodbye rather than a rambling promo. He maintained his mystique to the end. Some will be upset at the lack of a Fiend reveal or a nod to a Sting match, but it seems as if the Deadman may finally be at peace. If Mark Calaway has finally reached that point in his life, we should be glad we got to have him for 30 years. He deserves to rest.
— WWE (@WWE) November 23, 2020
All images courtesy of WWE.com