Winners: Shunsuke Nakamura, Rey Mysterio, The Mix, Seth Rollins, Dolph Ziggler, The Bar, The Miz, Dolph Ziggler, AJ Styles, Brock Lesnar, Shane McMahon, D-Generation X.
Man, this one is tough for me. It’s literally taken me about three days to think about how I’m supposed to review this clusterfuck of a show and, honestly, after reading about what happened and watching the clips and ingesting all of the dirt sheets and stuff, I’m still so annoyed, frustrated, and pissed off at the outcome of this event that I was seriously considering walking away from wrestling for the second time in my life. However, I have very little else to do than follow the product so I guess I’ll just soldier along and see what happens.
A last-minute addition to the card saw Shinsuke Nakamura defend the United States Championship against Rusev; why, you may ask, and how did Rusev earn a shot but, hey, c’mon on now, this is modern-day WWE! Nothing makes sense! Anyway, Rusev mostly controlled the match and seemed to have things won but, once Nakamura built up his momentum, he hit the Low Blow, landed the Kinshasa, and retained the belt in what can only be described as a serviceable opening match.
It turns out I’m an idiot and the “World Cup” was, indeed, a series of tournament matches like King of the Ring…why they didn’t just revive the King of the Ring moniker is beyond me but, there you go. The first match saw Randy Orton go up against Rey Mysterio, which got a sudden and, honestly, pretty rushed, end when Rey countered the RKO into a pin fall and advanced in the tournament before things could really kick into a higher gear. Jeff Hardy and the Miz were up next in another fast-paced match; it was almost as if there were too many matches on the card and not enough time to devote to each one! Jeff was firmly in control but, after trading pinning predicaments, Miz scored the win off the Skull-Crushing Finale. This was actually pretty good and I’d be interesting in seeing them do more together going forward.
Seth Rollins went up against Bobby Lashley in the next contest which, as you might expect, was all about Lashley’s power, Lio Rush being an annoying asshole, and Seth stealing the show with his athleticism. Lashley used his power to dominate the majority of the match but, after crashing and burning in the corner after a Spear attempt, took the loss when Rollins hit the Stomp. Kurt Angle and Dolph Ziggler finished of the first series of matches and, man, it is so good to see Kurt back in the ring again. The WWE may have played it safe with him, slightly botched his presentation, and took their time getting him into matches but he’s all the better for it. Even better, Kurt was clearly on a mission to help put Ziggler over, bringing all his trademark material and then doing the job following a Zig-Zag. In many ways, though, a comeback story would have been a good narrative card to play here, especially considering what the finals came down to.
The SmackDown! Live Tag Team Championships were up for grabs next as the Bar went up against the New Day. These guys usually work really well together but it kind of seemed like they were just going through the motions on this night as the match lacked the energy and enthusiasm we’re used to from both teams. Things started picking up near the end as Sheamus ran wild and the Big Show got his big ass involved, which was enough to cause Big E to get hit with the Brogue Kick and lose the match.
The “World Cup” continued afterwards, with Rey Mysterio and the Miz locking up. Rey worked injured as Orton hurt him during and after their match, with Miz took full advantage of throughout. Rey kicked out of the Skull-Crushing Finale, though, but hit only Miz’s knees when he went for the Frog Splash, which allowed Miz to roll him up and advance once again. Rollins and Ziggler capped off the semi-finals, revisiting their feud that apparently will never end in another really energetic and competitive contest that was let down only by the crowd not being that interested throughout and not really being given enough time to get things really rolling. Drew McIntyre got involved in the finish, shoving Rollins off the top rope and allowing Dolph to win with a Superkick.
Speaking of restrictive time limits, AJ Styles and Samoa Joe also got a bit screwed by that in their WWE Championship match, working just over ten minutes and therefore not really being able to bring all of the fire and aggression that you might expect from these two at this point. Styles threw himself into it from the start, desperately attacking Joe’s injured knee, which served mainly just to piss Joe off and make him work aggressively. In the end, all the leg work by Styles didn’t really pay off, as Joe fought out of the Calf Crusher, only to fall to the Phenomenal Forearm. I would imagine that this must be it for these two but, considering how the “World Cup” ended up, we may see one more match out of these guys.
Brock Lesnar and Braun Strowman were up next. Immediately, Baron Corbin bashed Strowman over the head with the Universal Championship and Lesnar hit the F5. Braun kicked out, the kicked out again, but a third one finished him after a brief bit of stalling. So Lesnar is, once again, the God-damn Universal Champion because the WWE always reverts to the status quo when they get into a panic. Why not just continue Roman Reigns’ story with Strowman holding the title? What possible gain is there from Lesnar holding the belt hostage again like this? Seriously, this annoyed me no end; Strowman should have won and then feuded with McIntyre over the belt but, no, now Raw will be without its top belt for about another six months or so just because the WWE are in panic mode and don’t know how to cope!
In the finals for the “World Cup”, the Miz apparently hurt himself leaving the ring when chasing Ziggler to the outside. This was enough to cause Shane McMahon to interject himself into the match (because that makes sense!) and then win it. So, according to the WWE the “best in the world” is Shane Mc-fuckin’-Mahon, an over-the-hill, washed up crash test dummy who throws the worst-looking punches in wrestling history and has no, nor has ever had, a place in the ring, especially in 2018! Apparently this is all part of some heel turn for Shane leading into Survivor Series and the Miz’s injury is a fake, so then why not skip the injury, have Shane help Miz to win and then turn Shane heel and be the advocate of Miz, who could captain the Survivor Series team and then feud with AJ over the belt!? But no, screw that, let’s just have Shane win!
And, to cap things off, we got another sloppy, plodding effort from D-Generation X and the Brothers of Destruction. Even nostalgia can’t hide the fact that these guys (or, at least, most of these guys…okay, two of them) just can’t really go anymore, especially in a nearly thirty-minute match! This was all about Shawn Michaels’ dramatic return to the ring from retirement but it was hardly a great match to make you want to see him lock up again in the future, especially with the Undertaker. I thought working a tag match would help him keep from getting blown up or concussed but, instead, he was just as clueless as ever and simply running through his trademark spots looked like it might kill him. Anyway, in the end, Kane and ‘Taker went to hit double Tombstone Piledrivers but D-X countered out of it, hit Sweet Chin Music and the Pedigree, and finally got their win back over the Undertaker. Except they really didn’t as Kane took the pin. Whatever; moving on now!
Baron Corbin opened the show, addressing the entire Raw locker room from the ring. Surrounded by his security, he talked about Survivor Series and how important it is for Raw to dominate the event now that Shane McMahon is “the best in the world”. He announced that Dolph Ziggler, Drew McIntyre, and Braun Strowman are all on the men’s team, while Alexa Bliss will captain the women’s team and pick the members she wants. Kurt Angle came out and requested to be on the team but Corbin shut him down, because he obviously doesn’t want to win that much; words were exchanged and things heated up to the point that Braun had had enough and ran to the ring to chase Corbin off. You know, I still don’t really get why, of all people, Baron Corbin has been stuck with this “authority figure” gimmick; it just doesn’t really suit him and I can’t see how it’s really helping to improve his in-ring work.
Natalya, Sasha Banks, and Bayley teamed up to take on the Riott Squad one more time, with the difference potentially being that their performances may make them candidate’s for Alexa’s team…I guess? The Riott Squad largely dominated, although it’s difficult to see how, given that all of the women were flailing all over the place, but, when things broke down into a melee, Ruby Riott broke Natalya’s sunglasses and walked off with her team while Nattie bawled her eyes out. That was weird.
Raw’s newest rising star, Apollo Crews, went up against Jinder Mahal afterwards and pinned him in less than three minutes following quite a sloppy-looking Military Press. I would be excited but do you remember when they tried pushing Mojo Rawley a while back? Where is he now? And, also, former World Champion Jinder Mahal losing that quickly and easily to a nobody like Crews is pretty embarrassing. After that match, Corbin booked Seth Rollins to defend the Raw Tag Team Championships alone against the Authors of Pain, which went about as well as you might expect. Actually, Rollins put up a better fight than anyone who has faced the AOP since their Raw debut, painting him as a never-say-die underdog; in the end, though, it wasn’t enough and the AOP won the titles, though it was hardly the dominating performance it could have been. Dean Ambrose opted to plant Rollins with the Dirty Deeds afterwards rather than explain himself.
Dolph Ziggler and Elias had a bit of a match after that, which was quite the safe and grounded affair; Ziggler seemed to be wrestling with restraint and without the enthusiasm and energy we’ve seen from his matches with Rollins, which didn’t do much to hide Elias’ stagnant in-ring skills. Still, the crowd loves the Drifter, for whatever reason, and he won after kicking out of the Zig-Zag and hitting the Drift Away so…good for him, I guess. It’s too bad he doesn’t have a heel Intercontinental Champion to feud against.
Ronda Rousey popped out to fire back at Becky Lynch, which brought out Nia Jax for a bit of a stare down ahead of their impended championship match. Nia then went at it against Ember Moon (yes, again) to remind everyone that she randomly turned on her friend for no real reason and is bad now. Despite Ember’s best efforts, Nia’s power was enough to dominate the match and win her the contest following the Samoan Drop. Post-match, Tamina also hit Ember with a Samoan Drop and then she and Nia beat Ember up and hugged…I guess we’re back to the crazy booking of everyone in the women’s division except for the champion now?
Bobby Lashley and Finn Balor were up next (I also want to say again but I actually like the idea of these two feuding; on paper, at least). Lashley went right at Balor with the power game; Lio Rush also got involved, tripping Balor and distracting him from properly gaining any momentum. Lashley ended up slamming Finn into the barricade and hitting his Unnamed Finisher for the win. I miss the Dominator and the explosive, kick-ass, no-nonsense Lashley from Impact Wrestling; why does he need an annoying mouthpiece? Why does he seem so unmotivated? Why is his booking all over the place? And don’t get me started on Finn! I hope both guys get moved to SmackDown! Live in the next shake-up so they can actually get a chance to float around the main event scene. Oh, and McIntyre popped out after the match to have a staredown with Lashley and then hit the Claymore on Finn because…reasons?
Drew then instantly transitioned into a match against Kurt Angle; this is a rematch from Impact Wrestling, obviously, and the winner becomes the captain of the men’s Survivor Series team (well, not quite; if Drew wins, Corbin is the captain…so why isn’t Corbin in this match instead?) Anyway, Drew kept things mostly grounded so that Angle couldn’t gain any momentum. After a long time of shutting down Kurt and keeping him grounded and down, Angle managed to fire up and hit the Angle Slam, but Drew rolled to the outside; he then landed the Rolling German Suplexes but Drew cut off the Ankle Lock with a Claymore. Drew then taunted Angle, like an idiot, and ended up briefly locked into the Ankle Lock before escaping, hitting an Angle Slam of his own, and forcing Kurt to tap with his own Ankle Lock! Great stuff here, with Drew really coming across as a future star; it’s too bad that they didn’t do more with him, like stick him in the Crown Jewel match and have him with the Universal Championship but what the hell so I know? I’m sure he’s much better off randomly attacking people and being Corbin’s lackey.
Paige made a very (very) welcome return to the show this week and, honestly, would have been enough for me right there if it weren’t for the fact that she immediately brought out the “best in the world”, Shane McMahon, who decided to spin it that the trophy was for SmackDown! Live rather than for him (as if we would ever believe that!). Shane then announced that Daniel Bryan would be the captain of the men’s Survivor Series team, which brought out the Miz (still limping from his “injury”) to throw his name into the hat and makes enough of an argument to convince Shane to make him the co-captain of the team.
The first match of the night pitted the Usos against the New Day, with the stipulation that the team that won would captain the tag team Survivor Series match; I guess they’re really going balls-deep with the Survivor Series matches this year! Anyway, as it’s been a while since these two teams last clashed, everything was new and fresh and exciting again, almost as if it helps to not over-saturate your already-sparse division with the same matches and teams over and over again. Surprisingly enough, the Usos won the match and then, in a show of respect, invited the New Day to be on the team.
Becky Lynch popped out to hype up her match with Ronda Rousey, which was enough to not only bring SAnitY out of mothballs but also for them to debut Nikki Cross on the main roster (which is interesting as, from what I know, Nikki is heavily involved in storylines on NXT; maybe this is more of a taster for her eventual call-up?) Nikki was like a little terrier in this match, constantly scratching and clawing and bringing the fight to Becky and putting her on the defensive the entire time; Nikki almost got the win off a Reverse DDT but Becky managed to twist her up into the Dis-Arm-Her to get the win in what was quite a decent little contest. It’s nice to see new women being involved in storylines, rather than constantly trotting out the same names and faces over and over.
Andrade “Cien” Almas was back in the ring and back on television (without Zelina Vega, which was a bit of a mistake and makes me worry that the WWE will split them up like they tried to do/did with Lana and Rusev); he took on Rey Mysterio in what honestly should have not only been a dream match but also something of a passing of the torch. Apparently, the WWE have been looking for a top Mexican superstar to replace Mysterio for years now; Alberto Del Rio didn’t really work out, Sin Cara is a joke, Kalisto’s push got completely wiped out when he was relegated to 205 Live, so you would think that they would try to put some effort into making Almas a top rising star and this is what they appeared to be doing at one point (I even heard they were so high on him that he might win the Royal Rumble!) Instead, Mysterio pinned Almas after a reasonably competitive match that never really got to kick into a higher gear and, after the match, Randy Orton hit an RKO on to Rey so I guess we’ll see an Orton/Mysterio feud rather than an extended program between Almas and Rey because it’s not like Almas needs that or that, ever since his call-up to SmackDown! Live, he hasn’t really had any storylines or character development or much to do
Once again, Jeff Hardy gets the main event spot this week, this time in a match against Samoa Joe; I guess that’s kind of an improvement as, with Joe having just fought AJ Styles for the WWE Championship, this match was at least tangentially related to the main event, the top belt, and the looming Survivor Series event. Anyway, Joe attacked right from the start and pretty much owned Jeff the entire match; Jeff got to shot off his never-say-die attitude but got bent in half when his Swanton Bomb found only knees and then tapped out to the Coquina Clutch in short order. After the match, Daniel Bryan started brawling with Joe (which was weird as Joe hasn’t really done anything to him to deserve that but I guess that’s his next feud going forward) and, when Shane tried to separate them, Bryan knocked his ass on the ground.