Grading Every Match Result From WWE Survivor Series 2023

Welcome back to the grades. In case you missed our inaugural edition where we covered AEW Full Gear, this column aims to put a letter grade on booking decisions, specifically, from WWE premium live events and AEW pay-per-views. And by "booking decisions," we mean "who won the match and who didn't." This isn't about a match's quality, a wrestler's talent, or anything beyond the creative decisions represented by who goes over and who takes the fall. What does the decision mean for the talent involved? What does it mean for a given storyline? Would things be more interesting if the decision went the other way?


These are the questions we'll consider as we grade the five matches that took place on WWE Survivor Series 2023. And before you ask, no, we're not talking about CM Punk — partially because he had nothing to do with any of the matches on the show but mostly because the question of whether bringing him back was a good decision or a bad one is very much still up in the air.

Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, Bianca Belair, and Shotzi def. Damage CTRL (women's WarGames match)

In Wrestling Inc.'s staff picks column, the majority of us picked Damage CTRL to get the WarGames win over their babyface counterparts. We should have known better. Shotzi might have just been along for the ride, but Lynch, Flair, and Belair are a legitimate superteam, the three most heavily-pushed women not named Ronda Rousey of the last five years. Beating them would have legitimized Damage CTRL in a way that WWE hasn't shown an interest in doing since the group formed. But it still would have been the right decision. Asuka joining Damage CTRL gave WWE a second chance at making them feel dangerous and powerful (which is generally the way you want heel stables to look heading into WrestleMania season). WWE opted to give their biggest stars yet another big win, helping precisely nobody.


Granted, there are some storytelling reasons behind Damage CTRL's loss. The way the finish played out was clearly meant to continue the story of Bayley's eventual, inevitable ejection, so in that regard it could be seen as the right choice. But there were other ways to do that while still having the heels earn a much-needed victory, and the finish itself involved a confusing twist on the common wrestling self-sacrifice trope and feel flat as a result. It's very easy to imagine a version of this match that goes the exact same way until that spot, but culminates in a Damage CTRL victory. Instead, it's starting to feel like the group was only kept intact as long as it has been because WWE had WarGames coming up on the calendar.


Grade: D

GUNTHER def. The Miz (WWE Intercontinental Championship)

Reasonable minds may disagree over who should end GUNTHER's historic Intercontinental title reign, but most probably agree that it shouldn't have been The Miz. The match did a good job of suggesting Miz might be the man to pull it off, and it really had the crowd hooked by the time the finish came around, but there's just no way to justify the idea of Miz beating GUNTHER in 2023. Miz looked great, but the right man won, and the reign continues.


Grade: A+

Santos Escobar def. Dragon Lee

Could Dragon Lee theoretically have benefitted from beating Escobar? Yes. Did Escobar benefit more from beating Lee? Also yes, and to a significantly higher degree. This guy just turned on and brutalized Rey Mysterio to kick off an immensely personal feud that's been building throughout the entirety of 2023. The biggest problem with it is that Escobar hasn't built up enough credibility on the main roster, so the first step, necessarily, is to change that. There can be a conversation about whether Escobar would have gotten more out of a victory over Carlito, (who is a bigger name but also an older wrestler who hasn't performed regularly in WWE for years) than Lee (who is a smaller name but also a young, up-and-coming, every-week star) but he really just needed to win, and as a bonus, he won clean after a pair of devastating-looking maneuvers. Can't draw it up much better than that.


Grade: A

Rhea Ripley def. Zoey Stark (Women's World Championship)

In positioning her as the person who is definitely the actual leader of The Judgment Day, WWE has been very interested in making Rhea Ripley one of the main characters of "WWE Raw." You know what they've been less interested in? Her title reign, which has thus far consisted of infrequent defenses against Zelina Vega, Raquel Rodriquez, and Natalya. While putting the belt on Zoey Stark at Survivor Series would have been a surprising move, it also could have been a star-making one, and one that likely would have done little damage to Ripley's mystique. She's bigger than the title at this point, and losing it unexpectedly could have had a ton of fun and interesting implications going forward.


She didn't lose it, of course, and that's fine. Stark has "future star" written all over her, but if you want to argue she wasn't the right person and this wasn't the right time, it's hard to disagree. The continuation of her reign is hardly a disaster, but we're starting to get into "okay, time to pick this up and give Rhea some bigger opponents" territory, which means there's pressure on her. The alternative — a surprise Stark title reign — would have been at least as good.

Grade: C

Randy Orton, Cody Rhodes, Jey Uso, and Sami Zayn def. Drew McIntyre and The Judgment Day (men's WarGames match)

With Randy Orton making his big return during this match after more than year away due to an injury, the babyface victory result was always the most likely — though an immediate Orton heel turn was also always in play. Barring that, this was Team Legacy's match to lose, and they most certainly did not. And yeah, there might have been more interesting ways to go with a Judgment Day victory, but The Judgment Day has had plenty of victories over the course of the last 6-8 months, they'll be fine. Of the two WarGames matches, this was not the one the heels needed to win.


Bottom line: Either team could have won this match and it would have been okay, but it just made sense to give Orton the win in his official comeback.

Grade: B+