Winners: Elias, Enzo Amore, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, The Shield, Alicia Fox, Nia Jax, Sasha Banks, Asuka, and Bayley, Baron Corbin, The Usos, Charlotte Flair, Brock Lesnar, and Kurt Angle, Braun Strowman, Finn Balor, Samoa Joe, and Triple H.
So a couple of extra matches ended up on the card, neither of them involving cruiserweights or women because the WWE only cares about those things when it’s trending. Instead, we got Elias against Matt Hardy (I want to say “again” because I’m sure they’ve fought before), which ended with Elias scoring the pin fall after the Drift Away. I can’t say this was anything to get too excited about, except that Elias won when he needed to. Isn’t it interesting that everyone was desperate to see Broken Matt in the WWE but, without that gimmick and with Jeff Hardy on the shelf, he’s just another guy with name value losing to up-and-comers? Seriously, if you thought Matt Hardy, in any incarnation, was getting a main event push in today’s WWE then you are probably high on paint thinner.
Enzo Amore then successfully defended the WWE Cruiserweight Championship against Kalisto. Say what you will about Enzo’s backstage heat and his in-ring ability but this was actually a pretty good, fast-paced match; right from the bell, Kalisto tried to end it early by going for the Salida Del Sol and Enzo kept shutting him down and wearing him down to keep the match from becoming a massive spot-fest. While it was hardly the super-charged, high-flying bout we should expect from a cruiserweight match, it was still better than the average Enzo match thanks largely to his use of psychology and underhanded tactics rather than comically overdoing his heel act.
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn finally justified their new-found alliance by getting a win over Tyler Breeze and Fandango, using smart tag team psychology to isolate Breeze for the majority of the match. It never rally got too exciting but it did establish that Owens and Zayn work incredibly well as a unit; now, if only they could actually win some more matches we might be on to something.
This was followed by the opening match of the pay-per-view proper, the Shield vs. the New Day which, I admit, was one hell of a way to open the show and probably the reason why the pre-show matches weren’t too exciting. All six guys really brought their A-game here, throwing their signature and finisher manoeuvres around like wild fire and engaging in a series of heated counters; the end came after Roman Reigns delivered a massive Spear to Kofi Kingston followed by the triple powerbomb. Again, I am no fan of the New Day but they really brought out the best of the Shield and this ended up being a really good match, with some exciting near-falls and great work by all involved. Matches like this will go a long way to building Reigns up in the eyes of the fans so they need to keep it up if they want to hit that WrestleMania main event sweet spot.
The women’s Survivor Series match followed and, in the end, the mystery final woman for the SmackDown! Live team turned out to be Natalya. This made a lot of sense, as she was just the champion, but she’s no Paige…The WWE decided to make this a showcase for Asuka, with her being the last member of the Raw team and having to face Natalya and Tamina alone; this was great news for me, as Sasha Banks tapped out to the Sharpshooter and didn’t get to hog all the glory. In the end, Asuka tapped out both Tamina and Natalya to take the match for the Red Brand but, apart from that spectacle, the in-ring work left a lot to be desired.
The Miz came to the ring with Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel for his match against Baron Corbin and, as you might expect, they played an integral part in swaying the match in the Miz’s favour. Ultimately, though, Corbin overcame their interference and hit the End of Days out of nowhere to pick up the win. Interestingly, Miz still worked as a heel and probably came off as the more heel-ish of the two due to the constant interference; I am glad that Corbin won but it’s too bad that it came at the expense of the Miz, who has been carrying Raw as the top title holder over the last few months.
Sheamus and Cesaro took on the Usos next in another really strong, hard-hitting match. This was another case of two heels working against each other, though I always feel Cesaro gets a decent amount of cheers still and even the Usos get cheered for their high-flying antics. In the end, the match descended into chaos as all four man traded blows in the ring until the Double Superkicks, Suicide Dive, and Uso Splash saw the Usos get the win. It was a great match, no doubt about it, but I’m always a little disheartened when I see Cesaro losing; at this point, given the climate of the WWE, I would be surprised if the machine ever gets behind him for a serious main event run, which seems like a massive missed opportunity and waste of talent.
Charlotte then made Alexa Bliss tap out to the Figure Eight in what was, again, a surprisingly good, and long, match. They told a story of Alexa having to overcome the size, power, and skill difference with her speed and underhanded tactics but, ultimately, I think the winner here was always going to be a given considering how into Charlotte the WWE is.
The end times are finally among us as Brock Lesnar actually bothered to not only put on a fifteen minute match but also used moves other than suplexes, suplexes, and the F5. his match against AJ Styles had a real legitimate, big-fight feel to it right from the start as Lesnar dominated the early portion of the match; AJ managed to whether the suplex onslaught and strike back by countering the F5 and using his speed and agility. AJ even seemed to have stolen the match after hitting the Phenomenal Forearm, only for Lesnar to power out and then catch him with the F5 following a repeat attempt. There were some botches here and there but it match absolutely delivered above and beyond expectations; it’s great to finally see Brock motivated to put on a decent, back-and-forth match and AJ, though he lost, put up a great fight and certainly put on a far better match than Jinder Mahal could ever hope to have gotten against Lesnar.
Although the match order is different, I was kind of right in that Raw and SmackDown! Live were tied for wins by the time the main event came around, meaning it all hedged on this one match. And my God, what a disaster! Neither Triple, John Cena, nor Shane McMahon were wearing the same branded t-shirts as their other team members in a fantastic show of solidarity in what is supposed to be a high-stakes team environment, and then the match actually started. There was a great exchange between Finn Balor and Shinsuke Nakamura that was a highlight of the match, but then Triple H tagged in and stomped all over Nakamura and, after a tag, Bobby Roode. After some back-and-forth, the difference maker, Braun Strowman, entered the match and eliminated both Nakamura and Roode with ease before Cena, Randy Orton, Roode, and Nakamura help put him through the announce table. Although Samoa Joe then caught Shane in the Coquina Clutch and took the fight to Cena, he got distracted arguing with Finn and got eliminated by Cena. Kurt Angle then got in the match and took Cena to school, pinning him after two Angle Slams and Balor’s Coup de Grâce. Orton then unceremoniously eliminated Finn after an RKO before Zayn and Owens arrived to kick the snot out of Shane, allowing Braun to eliminate Orton and leaving Shane as the sole survivor for SmackDown! Live! Honestly, that’s not even the worst of it because then, in a weird twist that makes no sense, Triple H broke up Angle’s pin on Shane, Pedigreed him, and then laid Shane over Angle to eliminate his own teammate, right, and then Pedigreed Shane to win the match for Raw. Afterwards, Braun, who was pissed that Triple H had stolen his glory, choked him out while yelling at him and then planted him with the Powerslam.
This main event was an absolute joke; you have a bunch of the WWE next generation of main event talent but, in the end, all that bloody matters is Triple H and Shane McMahon. It’s bad enough that Cena barely contributed anything to the match and still pinned Samoa Joe and that Orton pinned Balor, but to have Shane McMahon be the last man standing really felt like a slap in the face. You’re seriously telling me that Shane is the only one capable enough to make it to the end of the match? He never should have even been in the damn match! It should have been Jinder Mahal, getting eliminated first, with Shane at ringside for the interference and beat down, with the last man being Nakamura or something. I don’t mind Raw winning but it really felt like they were trying to do too much in this one match with Triple H; why eliminate your own teammate? Why piss off Braun Strowman? For the “Cerebral Assassin”, that just seems plain dumb.
Stephanie McMahon once again opens the show to gloat about Raw’s victory, leading to Kurt Angle coming out to threaten Triple H. Jason Jordan, rightly slighted by Triple H unceremoniously replacing him at Survivor Series, then comes out to demand a match against Triple H only for Braun Strowman to come out and go face-to-face with Triple H and cause him to back out of the ring. To save face, Stephanie books Jordan against Strowman for later in the night. Interestingly, I heard that WrestleMania now may be changed to have Triple H face Strowman instead of Angle, whom he’ll face at Royal Rumble; honestly, I’d rather have Triple H against Angle at WrestleMania just because I don’t think Strowman needs the rub from Triple H and I feel Hunter is trying to leech off of Braun’s growing popularity to make himself relevant in an age that has moved beyond him.
Samoa Joe and Finn Balor looked to settle their differences in a one-on-one match following this, which honestly could be a main event calibre match at any pay-per-view. While a good match, this was clearly just a taste of things to come between these two as it only went about twelve minutes of back-and-forth action before Joe made Balor pass out from the Coquina Clutch; I am excited to see more from these two, as long as Kane doesn’t randomly just beat them up and pin them in the middle of it all.
Asuka then continued her momentum from the previous night by making short work of Dana Brooke; it’s nice that they’re investing the time in Asuka and putting her over as this ass-kicking machine, but will it be enough to actually make me excited about the Raw women’s division? Afterwards, the Shield gate-crashed what was supposed to be Miz’s interview with Roman Reigns; Reigns challenged Miz to an Intercontinental Championship match, which I’m not sure he’s really earned through singles competition lately, and then the Shield kicked the crap out of the Miz and the Miz-tourage…to secure the championship match for Reigns in the main event. I am, honestly, not really a fan of Reigns just becoming the number one contender; all year I have been begging the WWE to build up and establish a strong mid-card that revolves around the Intercontinental Championship and, instead, they’ve barely had Miz wrestle, had him constantly lose to main event guys, and had all of his potential challengers be poorly built up or lacklustre because they refuse to put the time and effort into building the division but I guess it’s okay because everyone’s favourite three-time former WWE Champion, Roman Reigns, is challenging for the belt on a whim so I guess it is important after all…
Dean Ambrose then meat Sheamus; this was a good match but how many times have we seen this now? I guess this means that Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose aren’t finished with Sheamus and Cesaro yet? Are these really the only two tag teams on Raw? I mean, I know Heath Slater and Rhyno aren’t much to talk about anymore since the WWE pulled the plug on their push and the Revival is still out but come on, surely there’s something else that can be done?
Bayley and Mickie James never got to win or lose against Alicia Fox and Sasha Banks because, by the grace of God, Paige finally (finally!) returned to Raw and she brought along Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville; together, the three of them attacked Mickie, Banks, and Bayley while Alicia ran away. I am so happy to see Paige back on TV and the influx of some new faces should help to spice up Raw’s women’s division.
Despite trying to back out of the match earlier in the night, Jason Jordan nevertheless found himself face-to-face with Braun Strowman. Luckily for him, he go to live to fight another day as Kane arrived and attacked Strowman with chair shots, even driving Strowman’s throat into the chair. Apparently, the WWE is planning to cool off on Jordan’s push, which is a bit of a joke as they never capitalised on the storyline they provided for him and didn’t really put him in a position to succeed; had he been built up to challenge and defeat the Miz and gone on to be a cocky, self-entitled Intercontinental Champion then maybe but, instead, he’s done sod all and, now, is an afterthought in the clash of the titans between Kane and Strowman.
The obligatory multi-man tag team cruiserweight match followed, with Mustafa Ali, Rich Swann, and Cedric Alexander defeating Drew Gulak, Tony Nese, Ariya Daivari, and Noam Dar in what was, honestly, a complete waste of everyone’s time. Again, considering the WWE thinks this is the 2016 X-Division, why didn’t they do a Survivor Series cruiserweight match at Survivor Series? Was it really to make this clusterfuck of a match seem more special because, seriously, you failed!
In the main event of the night, the Miz finally defended the Intercontinental Championship…unfortunately for him, it was against the WWE poster boy, Roman Reigns. Sheamus and Cesaro came out for the distraction but Ambrose and Rollins chased them off, allowed Reigns to hit the Spear, pin the Miz, and become a Grand Slam Champion. Look, I like Reigns, I really do; I didn’t care that he went from being in a stable to the main event without a singles title run, I don’t even mind the cheesy one-liners they made him say, but how is this win helping anybody? There was no build, no reason to care, and given how Reigns treated the United States Championship during his reign I can’t imagine that Reigns will really do a lot as the Intercontinental Champion except continue to stomp all over the Miz. The real question is who is going to beat Reigns for the belt? Or…shit, I just thought of this: what if the WWE wants to pull a Hulk Hogan/Ultimate Warrior and have a champion vs. champion match at WrestleMania? My God, what have I done!
Shane McMahon tries to turn his failure into a success by making excuses but, thankfully, he is cut off by Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, who come out to mock him. Daniel Bryan arrives, though, and books him in a lumberjack tag team match with the New Day for later in the night. It would have been nice to see Shane apologise for letting down his team, his brand, and screwing everything up by selfishly putting himself on the Survivor Series team but I think the point of this segment was to just move on and pretend that SmackDown! Live still isn’t just the B-show…even though it always will be.
Continuing the mounting issues between the two teams, Shelton Benjamin then defeated Jey Uso thanks, honestly, to some helpful interference from Chad Gable, who not only kept Jimmy Uso at bay but also distracted Jey enough for Shelton to pin him with the Pay Dirt. It was what it was, a match to further the angle and the feud between these two teams. Following this, Luke Harper and Erick Rowan made their triumphant return, debuting their new Bludgeon Brothers gimmick, by making short work of the Hype Bros. There wasn’t even any time to tease the turn or double-turn of the Hype Bros in this match, it was simply a complete and total destruction and, as such, a pretty decent debut for this new, if massively outlandish, gimmick.
AJ Styles commented on his loss to Brock Lesnar, taking it like a man, being humble, and vowing to come back stronger. Jinder Mahal, however, reminds people that, hey, he was the WWE Champion for a while, mocks Styles, and evokes his rematch clause for Clash of Champions. The Singhs attempted to get the jump on AJ but he easily fought them off; I’m glad to see Mahal using his underlings to take the heat for him, to see AJ using his loss to galvanise his resolve, and am happy that Jinder hasn’t been dumped right to the bottom of the card following his title loss.
Charlotte and Natalya’s championship match was just building up some decent momentum and steam when Ruby Riot, Liv Morgan, and Sarah Logan made their debut and attacked both women for the disqualification. Once again, Carmella did not cash in; I wonder if the WWE even remembers that she has that briefcase? In any case, it’s a little worrying to see so many NXT women be called up at the same time on both brands; the last time that happened, it took months to get away from interchangeable six-woman tag matches with women constantly flip-flopping between face and heel.
In the main event of the night, the entire SmackDown! Live locker room acted as lumberjacks for the tag team match between Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Kofi Kingston, and Big E (side note: why is it, exactly, that Xavier Woods hardly ever actually wrestles? Comments below). Ultimately, as you might expect, the match broke down when all of the brand loyalty we were supposed to believe that SmackDown! Live suddenly had leading into Survivor Series was tossed out of the window, allowing Zayn to roll up Kofi too get another big win for their newly-forged team. Afterwards, Bryan congratulates Owens with a match against Randy Orton on next week’s episode which, I can only hope, will not end with Owens losing in seconds.