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Survivor Series was on paper expected to be one of the best shows WWE produced all year. After it was over, I felt like it was definitely in the conversation. However, the main event really underachieved and didn't feel like a really hot match like it had the potential to be. Instead of a match that got some younger stars over and set up a bunch of different angles; we got a match that seemed to exist to only prolong the careers of men already well past their primes inside the ring. To make up for it, I thought the Brock Lesnar vs AJ Styles match overachieved, and the under-card was genuinely good, but the event could have easily been the best WWE show of 2017 if it had a main event that really stood out.
Team RAW vs Team SmackDown: **1/2
Let's break down this match one step at a time:
* The finish to the match was a lot; the biggest takeaway being that WWE looks to have set up two matches for the future; both coincidentally happen to involve Triple H. In fact, that is really the big story here, that WWE built an entire PPV main event so that Triple H can have two important matches in the upcoming months. Triple H turning on Angle, only to not completely turn on RAW, only to turn on Strowman, made very little sense and just left everyone confused. But you know what? None of that matters to WWE. Who cares that promising stars like Shinsuke Nakamuara, Samoa Joe, Finn Balor and Bobby Roode were essentially non-factors in the match? Triple H is now involved in two separate feuds! The fact that his turn on Angle really didn't make a ton of sense, or that punking Strowman also didn't really make sense; this show was really just about Triple H setting himself up for the next few months.
* Strowman was the one newer star to really get a rub from working with all of these established names. He has done well for himself since his big push started; and although he lost some momentum after losing to Lesnar, he has built a lot of that back and he did get the better of Triple H to close the show. However, he is still slated to be in a feud with Kane at least for the next month or so; so we might not see him work with Triple H until January, maybe even later. We might not see him work against Triple H at all to be honest, WWE might just forget about doing the match and they will never acknowledge what happened to close the show.
* If you were not a multiple-time world champion and you were not Braun Strowman, than this wasn't a very good match for you. While Balor, Joe, Nakamura and Roode all had a few moves they got to hit, they were really just bit players leading up for the storylines that would unfold between Shane McMahon, Triple H, Angle and Strowman. When I previewed Survivor Series on Friday, I talked about the potential bonus a guy like Balor would get if he could pin Cena, or if Nakamura pinned Triple H. WWE clearly didn't see any benefit in doing that, since this match was all about the older guys. Even Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens couldn't look that strong, as they were single-handily dispatched by Shane after they ran interference. In a lot of ways this felt like a WCW main event where they relied on older guys, like Hogan, Sting, Luger, Savage, Nash, Flair, Piper, etc. to buoy the major shows while the younger stars play bit parts.
Brock Lesnar vs AJ Styles: ****
A significantly better match than I thought they would have. I knew that Styles and Lesnar had the ability to have a very good match; but going by Brock's recent track record in matches I assumed they would have a ten minute fast match where Brock dominates, AJ makes a comeback, and Brock shuts him down and picks up the easy win. In a lot of ways they followed that formula, but they had a good 15 minute match instead; with AJ getting in a lot of offense and some legitimate near falls. The highlight of the match was the terrific submission spot where Styles counted Lesnar into the calf-crusher and Lesnar legitimately sold it like he was going to tap, until he decided to just smash Styles' head into the mat over and over again until he let go of the hold.
At 40, Styles really should be a known quantity, but he is still showing new talents and abilities as a star. In TNA everyone knew he was really good; in NJPW he showed that he could reliably main event shows with the best workers in the world, and in WWE he proved that he could get over with a diverse audience. This year he has shown that he can have great matches with limited performers. Shane McMahon is a limited performer because he isn't very good; Lesnar is a limited performer because he can only sell so much and is clearly being protected so he can eventually drop the title to Roman Reigns. Neither of those factors stopped Styles from having good matches that people talk about; because he is great at adapting to whoever he is working with and is intelligent enough inside the ring to put together a match regardless of opponent. This year he has done that time and time again. As good as Kenny Omega or Kazuchika Okada is; it is one thing to have a great match with Tetsuya Naito, or Hiroshi Tanahashi, it is another thing to have a great match with a limited worker or an opponent who can't really sell a lot. It's a special skill that Styles has proven himself to be extremely adept at.
The Shield vs The New Day:***1/2
I had an idea of what this match should look like, and the match ended up being exactly like how I imagined it. You have two teams that the fans recognize and the crowd was lively for the duration of the match. There were a lot of cool spots, such as the super-triple-team powerbomb, and the double Midnight Hour, and the match was booked correctly. The Shield won which is what should have happened, but The New Day were hardly buried. Despite losing, by going toe-to-toe with The Shield, The New Day earn more legitimacy. A helpful rule in wrestling is that you can be as goofy as you want (The Rock is a good example of this) as long as you are still allowed to look like a legitimate threat to win things. My only small complaint about this was that it was the first major match The Shield have had in years, and it was the opening match on a PPV, which kind of paled in comparison to the main event of TLC, which felt much bigger even with Reigns absent. Realistically, it doesn't matter though; The Shield picked up a clean win in a good match and it will be interesting to see what is next for the unit.
Charlotte vs Alexa Bliss: **3/4
The match had it's strengths and weaknesses. The crowd was into it at the beginning and began to peak about three-quarters through the match, but they went almost too long and lost some of that heat by the finish. I think this could have been one of the best women's matches in WWE history if they had a real storyline between these two instead of a match that was thrown together over the last five days; since the crowd was into the match even though there was pretty much no build. Overall the work was fine, but there were a few obvious mistakes. Bliss has a lot of confidence in the ring which is a plus and a big part of her character, but she rushes into her moves and often ends up having some awkward-looking offense. Charlotte also really badly missed her running boot which led to the finish, which has to really be cleaned up.
RAW Women vs SmackDown Women:**1/2
Good match that accomplished its goal, which was to make Asuka look like a special talent. At the beginning of the match it looked like they might have her look like just another person in the match, but by the end it was clear that she was the best woman in the match. The announcers did a very nice job putting her over as well, and I like her use of multiple submissions to pick up the victory because it makes her look like she is dangerous from every position and could win at any time. My main concern with the match heading into the show was that they wouldn't be given enough time to have a real match and their would be too many eliminations. While there were some blink-and-you-missed-it eliminations, I think they did the best they could given the time constraints.
The Usos vs Sheamus and Cesaro: ***1/4
The match was very slow in the beginning and the announcers sounded bored with it. However, both teams worked hard and once The Usos came in with their babyface comeback the match was very good. The Usos have been kind of an underappreciated tag team throughout their time in WWE; they haven't always been great but for years now they have been a dependable team that gets the crowd involved and have solid matches. Tonight felt like a definitive victory for them and acknowledged that they may be the very best tag team in the company.
The Miz vs Baron Corbin: **1/4
Just an average match, with Corbin picking up the win. I want to say I like Corbin's character in this match and in his post-match interview, but it would be so much more effective if he wasn't working against The Miz. If he was working with a babyface a lot of the hardcore fans like; then all the talk about shutting up the fans and insulting his family would get a lot more heat. Instead he is just being a dick, to someone that is also a dick, so the fans don't really react to what he is doing. If he worked this program with like, Finn Balor, or Shinsuke Nakamura, then I think he would get over as a heel. Instead, it just feels like he is spinning his tires.