The WWE rolled into Los Angeles for a Survivor Series that confused many on Sunday night.
This is the only pay-per-view of the year where Raw and SmackDown talents can face off, but Raw has been the overall winner of the show for the past two years since that notion started.
With SmackDown Live moving to the Fox network shortly, would this be the time to make the Blue Brand look strong?
Or, would the flagship show take precedence with Vince McMahon looking to draw the ratings in once more?
With six main show matches to feast on, let's see what route the WWE took:
Survivor Series five-on-five match: Raw women Vs SmackDown Live women
Mickie James, Bayley, Sasha Banks, Nia Jax & Tamina Vs Mandy Rose, Sonya Deville, Asuka, Carmella & Naomi
This action had a lot of moments like Carmella's dance break and plenty of chances to boo Nia Jax, but the first real moment saw Tamina look super strong by getting rid of former world champion Naomi with one superkick early on, but then she was rolled up by Carmella moments later. Bayley and Sonya Deville would meet their demise via countout and as the action broke down, we were treated to a few minutes of Asuka Vs Sasha Banks that was really, really good.
However, as Banks scaled the top rope to attack Asuka, Jax pushed her off, allowing for the Empress of Tomorrow to dispatch of The Boss. That, of course, gave Jax the chance to steal all of the glory and, quite predictably with a showdown against Ronda Rousey on the horizon, Jax was the last woman standing.
Result: Raw's women win via Nia Jax
This match was fine for what it was, but we all should have telegraphed WWE keeping Jax strong. The way that Bayley and Sasha Banks were inserted into the match because Natalya and Ruby Riott had a fight backstage on the night was convoluted anyway, but the story of the match made even less sense. Banks will presumably have a problem with Jax moving forward, but Asuka at least looked great in this outing.
Seth Rollins Vs Shinsuke Nakamura
After lost of submission holds and jockeying for position, Rollins starts to pick up the pace with three suicide dives in a row and his patented offence. The falcon arrow would follow, but Nakamura's kicks would swing the match back in his favour.
In the closing moments, Nakamura would hit the Kinshasa to the back of Rollins' head and when he attempted to hit it properly, Rollins would counter with a kick causing the King of the Strong Style to counter and go for his finish again, only for Rollins to land the Curb Stomp for the victory and move Raw to 2-0.
Result - Rollins wins via pinfall
No Dean Ambrose to muck around with the finish enabled Seth Rollins to get a clean victory over United States champion Shinsuke Nakamura and judging by his interview later on in the show, it seems as if WWE are going with the narrative that Ambrose is a coward. Strange, but there you go. These guys put on a solid, entertaining match but the crowd didn't seem all too invested in the action, even though the finishing sequence was very, very good. This was probably Nakamura's best outing since his clash with AJ Styles at Money in the Bank.
The Bar Vs Authors of Pain
The Bar showed early on in this bout that they have the power to hang with a big force like the AOP, but it wasn't long before the Raw Tag Team champions asserted themselves on the match and worked over Cesaro. Once Sheamus finally got the hot tag, lots of closelines and knees followed before he landed Beats of the Bodhran.
The Celtic Warrior landed the Brogue Kick, but Drake Maverick saved his team by putting Rezar's foot on the ropes. When Big Show went to give Maverick his comeuppance, the former 205 Live general manager urinated on himself, causing a distraction for the AOP to take advantage of. Raw move to 3-0.
Result - AOP win via pinfall
I mean, the finish was ludicrous even by the WWE's standards. It's kind of funny, in a way. But, mostly, it's something that the Authors of Pain don't need attached to themselves. The action was ok, but it just followed the standard formula of beatdown, hot tag and then finish. Nothing special and the urine...wow.
WWE Cruiserweight title: Buddy Murphy (c) Vs Mustafa Ali
Both men left it all out there in what should be considered the best match of the night - certainly thus far. The action saw Murphy keep up his aggressive streak by chucking Ali off the top rope all the way into the barricade on the floor.
A swinging DDT through the middle rope from the apron had Murphy reeling and a Spanish Fly off the announce table seemed to give Ali an even greater advantage, but as Ali went for broke back in the ring, Murphy caught him and delivered his Pump Handle Death Valley Driver to retain his title.
Result - Buddy Murphy wins via pinfall.
Wow - this set a very high standard for the rest of the night and it was certainly the best bout thus far. Murphy and Ali have incredible chemistry and a clear hunger to make a name for themselves and/or steal the show. There was plenty of spots in this match to grab anyone's attention, but their natural intensity and will to win make for an easy story too. Top draw.
Survivor Series five-on-five match: Raw men Vs SmackDown men
Finn Balor, Braun Strowman, Drew McIntyre, Dolph Ziggler & Bobby Lashley Vs Shane McMahon, Rey Mysterio, Jeff Hardy, Samoa Joe & The Miz
Braun Strowman wanted to kick things off for Raw and when he finally got Drew McIntyre out of the ring, the Scottish Psychopath made the blind tag anyway. While they argued, Samoa Joe locked in the Coquina Clutch and made several attempts to sitch it in. When he failed, McIntyre hit him with the Claymore Kick to dispatch SD Live's most dangerous man early. Finally, tensions between McIntyre and Strowman cause the Raw team to implode and it allows SmackDown to take advantage. Rey Mysterio hit a 619 on Strowman and when the Monster Among Men was dragged outside, Shane McMahon climbed to the top rope and delivered the big elbow to Strowman through the table. After a really fun back-and-forth, Mysterio managed to get rid of Balor with the 619 to make it four versus four.
Ziggler was the next to go after Shane McMahon went Coast-to-Coast, but then Strowman would make a comeback intercepting a Coast-to-Coast on Bobby Lashley and both Jeff Hardy and Rey Mysterio would be eliminated via the Running Powerslam in quick succession. The Miz met the same fate leaving Shane McMahon versus Strowman, McIntyre and Lashley. Of course, after a couple of moves, McMahon would also fall to Strowman. But, after the bell, Baron Corbin would hit Strowman from behind to leave the Monster fuming.
Result - Raw win via Braun Strowman with Bobby Lashley and Drew McIntyre also survivors.
Apart from Brock Lesnar's team of giants back in 2003, typically speaking, the Survivor Series team with the biggest men will win. There was no way on earth Raw was going to lose with both Strowman and McIntyre on their team, two men that are set to be pushed to the moon in the coming months. What was interesting was the fact that Lashley was also protected and celebrated, could he be making main event moves too? This match had plenty of nice moments and Shane, as always, made sure the fans got their money's worth. Samoa Joe's booking is baffling - he must be injured.
Ronda Rousey Vs Charlotte Flair
Charlotte started the match by telling Rousey that this was her ring and she would not be afraid of the former UFC champion. Flair seemed to get the better of Rousey in the opening exchanges and she made Rowdy bleed after a nasty spot that saw Rousey hit the bottom turnbuckle. As the match wore on, both women exchanged submission maneuvres and there was an impressive array of reversals before Rousey got her feet up on an attempted Moonsault from the seven-time women's champion. A Spear from Charlotte drew a close two-count on Rousey the commentary team did their best to sell the idea that Flair could win.
After Rousey looked for an armbar, Flair managed to lock in the Figure Four, but Rousey, in-keeping with the theme of the match managed to reverse the pressure before they fell to the outside. After Charlotte escapes another armbar, she refuses to get back into the ring, which leads to Rousey chasing her down on the outside. That's where Charlotte hits her with a kendo stick and one of the best beat downs in WWE history ensues. Charlotte repeatedly beats Rousey with the stick before getting a steel chair in the ring and hitting Natural Selection onto it. She then puts the chair around Rousey's neck and stomps it down, seemingly crushing her windpipe. The crowd chant "thank you Charlotte" as the Queen goes crazy on Rousey.
Result: Ronda Rousey wins via DQ
The match itself was actually brilliant. Two women with deep skillsets countered each others moves with cool, smooth reversals all night long, they hit hard and you believed they were going to their limits. As good as that was, the post-match beatdown from Charlotte was spectacular and done as well as any beatdown I can remember. Charlotte oozed hatred and the commentators speculating that she couldn't get the job done makes for a great angle.
Brock Lesnar Vs Daniel Bryan
Daniel Bryan had a weird smile on his face during Brock Lesnar's entrance and Corey Graves kept saying it was like "he knows something that we don't know." The bout starts with Bryan hitting and moving, looking to frustrate the Beast Incarnate, but it was only a matter of time before Lesnar caught the WWE champion. Lesnar would go on a rampage of cringe-worthy German and Overhead Belly-to-Belly Suplexes that had Bryan weezing from the pain. He even delivered an F5, but pulled Bryan's head up from the mat at the count of two.
That proved to be a mistake from Lesnar, though, as Bryan would hit him with a low blow and land several running knees for near falls. Bryan worked Lesnar's legs for the rest fo the match and when the Beast tried to F5 him again, he crumbled, allowed Bryan to apply the Yes Lock. Eventually, despite Bryan's second half rally, Lesnar landed another F5 and got the one, two, three, securing Raw's complete 6-0 whitewash of SmackDown in the process.
Result - Brock Lesnar wins via pinfall
If you've seen one Brock Lesnar match, you've seen them all. The Beast dominated the first-half of the match to almost embarrassing lengths. Bryan got nothing in whatsoever. When it looked like he was going to put the WWE champion away with zero resistance, I was an angry fan. However, that really helped Bryan's eventual comeback and the intensity of Bryan's offence really helped you believe he could get the job done. Naturally, Brock was the talent they cared about keeping strong but Bryan loses nothing with this defeat.
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