WWE Survivor Series 2017 (Review)

Two former IWGP Heavyweight Champions collide as Brock Lesnar and AJ Styles face off for the first time ever, whilst Kurt Angle’s job is on the line as he leads Team RAW into battle against Team Smackdown. It’s brand versus brand, as RAW and Smackdown go head to head in a series of matches to prove which is truly the dominant show…


Big E, Kofi Kingston & Big E (“The New Day”)
vs.
Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns & Seth Rollins (“The Shield”)
4star
(Winners via pinfall: The Shield)

Becky Lynch, Carmella, Natalya, Tamina & Naomi (with Lana) (“Team Smackdown”)
vs.
Alicia Fox, Bayley, Sasha Banks, Nia Jax & Asuka (“Team RAW”)
5-on-5 Elimination Match
2star
(Winners: Team RAW)

Baron Corbin
vs.
The Miz (with Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel)
3half_star
(Winner via pinfall: Baron Corbin)

Sheamus & Cesaro (“The Bar”)
vs.
Jimmy Uso & Jey Uso (“The Uso’s”)
4half_star
(Winners via pinfall: The Uso’s)

Charlotte Flair
vs.
Alexa Bliss
4star
(Winner via submission: Charlotte Flair)

AJ Styles
vs.
Brock Lesnar (with Paul Heyman)
5star
(Winner via pinfall: Brock Lesnar)

Shane McMahon, Bobby Roode, John Cena, Randy Orton & Shinsuke Nakamura (“Team Smackdown”)
vs.
Kurt Angle, Triple H, Samoa Joe, Braun Strowman & Finn Balor (“Team RAW”)
5-on-5 Elimination Match
3half_star
(Winners: Team Raw)


Review

After some lacklustre efforts in recent months, one might have looked at WWE Survivor Series‘ scheduled runtime of 4 hours (plus a 2 hour pre-show!) and been slightly concerned. Such worries were misplaced though, as Survivor Series did what has seemed to be the impossible recently: it delivered a superb show from top to bottom, which was as exciting in its last minute as it was in its first.

Such high praise doesn’t come without a few niggles, of course, and I will come to those further into this review, but Survivor Series should unquestionably be recognised for its high quality and sheer entertainment. Those four hours flew by!

I was somewhat surprised by The Shield and The New Day opening the show, and it felt like more could have been made of two of WWE‘s greatest factions of the last decade squaring off, but it was one that viewers and live audience members were invested in, and set the tone for the night. Certainly, halfway in it felt like it wasn’t hitting the heights expected of it, but when it finally stepped up a gear, it was wonderful. There is no way that The Shield could have ever lost this match, but how we got to the victory was fun. We’ll likely never see these teams square off again, so expect to see footage from this match appear on many countdown documentaries and such in the future.

The moment it became clear that they were going to be keeping track of each brand victory, it became a little easy to predict the outcomes of each match, but that never ruined enjoyment. So when Baron Corbin looked clear to be beating The Miz, I never once rolled my eyes, and in fact spent their entire match wondering how I ever thought that this contest between two heels would be a dull affair.

With The Miz seemingly starting the match in the babyface role, particularly with his wife at ringside, their one-on-one was full of energy and aggression. Miz is superb in hot matches and, somehow, this one was hot from the moment it kicked off. Perhaps they knew less was expected of this match than any other on the card, so wanted to defy the critics? I don’t know, but whatever they did, it worked.

At some point, it almost felt like Corbin had switched to the babyface, and his takedowns of Miz and the Miztourage felt like a crowd favourite getting one over on the evil faction that were holding him down. It was odd viewing, as I didn’t know who we were meant to be rooting for, but that made it all the better. That Corbin won clean is incredible, and his post-match promo was a wonderful way of reminding us that he’s still a bad guy that we are meant to hate. Possibly Miz’ best match since he moved back to RAW, and I’d go as far as to say that this might be the best singles match of Baron Corbin’s career thus far.

Speaking of great matches, The Bar and The Uso’s surprised no one when they delivered a “Match of the Night” candidate halfway through the show. The Uso’s have been one of 2017’s best tag teams worldwide, and one could likely make the same claim of Cesaro and Sheamus, so this match was mouthwatering on paper, and even better on screen. Once again, we got a clean win for the Smackdown brand over competitors who most viewers must have surely considered favourites to win prior to the show? The scorecard dictated such results, but how we got to them… wow. On any other show, this is the best match of the evening.

It’s crazy to think that, until Tuesday evenings developments on Smackdown, Charlotte Flair and Alexa Bliss were never meant to face each other on this show. Many have said for a long time that, given how both women have been built up, this is probably the dream match on the current women’s main roster, and so there was a lot of expectation on both women to deliver. Most of the time, WWE would give us a match or booking that absolutely fails to meet those expectations, but this was not one of those times. Charlotte and Alexa put on one of the best women’s matches in WWE in 2017 (main roster, that is!).

Competitive, tough, and exciting; it had it all. Bliss, who regularly has strong matches if paired with top quality opponents, looked like a legitimate threat throughout, and Charlotte was back to her 2016 form that saw her end that year as one of the best performers in the world. The crowd were up for this, and surprisingly split, and I’m not sure any of them would’ve turned to a friend at the end and said that they were disappointed with what they got. Charlotte winning via submission was a fresh finish compared to other matches on the card, and WWE gave us a victor who was probably the most believable, as wins for Bliss over all four horsewomen in less than 12 months would have just been one step to far at this point. There is money in a return match though, and I’d love to see it take place on a big stage (future Wrestlemania, perhaps?).

Before I write about Brock Lesnar and AJ Styles, I’ll cover my gripes with this Survivor Series. The women’s 5-on-5 was atrocious, and full of the kind of booking that has made 2017’s women’s divisions feel like they’ve gone backwards from the successes they had last year. From botched eliminations from the few leftovers of the “diva era,” to the quick roll up defeat of Becky Lynch and early elimination of Bayley… this was a mess. Asuka seemingly set up a future title opportunity with Alexa Bliss by winning the match for RAW, and one has to hope that Lynch’s quick defeat is actually going to lead to something, so if stories are able to come out of this disappointing matchup then at least that will wash the bad taste out of my mouth. I’m a huge fan of women’s wrestling, but this match was so many steps back for the genre it’s painful to even think out.

Also on my naughty list: whoever booked the main event. I don’t think we need to take more than one guess as to who that was, either. Much had been made of the disappointingly high average age of each team in the 5-on-5 men’s match, so for WWE to then put together a match that saw all but one of their few “new” talents eliminated first was groan-inducing. I try not to get embroiled in booking decisions, and just enjoy each show for what it is, but this represented everything that was wrong with WWE in the 2010’s. Consider this: why did a part-time John Cena kick out of a Finn Balor (new star) finisher, only for Kurt Angle (retired until last month) to have to deliver his own finisher to put Cena away? It was done for a quick pop with no thought towards the future, as is often the case, sadly.

The one piece of future planning we saw seemed to come from the conclusion, which saw a wonderfully cocky Triple H floored by Braun Strowman (the only man protected in this match) after Triple H had just taken out Angle to get the win over Shane McMahon and Smackdown himself (not without teasing that he was turning on Strowman before the victory, too). Now, I don’t fundamentally have any problem with Triple H winning the match, and the way he did so was great, so to see this unexpected set-up of a future match between he and Strowman is exciting to me. Shane McMahon certainly should not have been the last Smackdown competitor, and that’s were issues with the conclusion arise, but I actually really liked the Strowman and Triple H angle. Almost every single piece of booking before that though? Horrible.

But that last match (enjoyable as a spectacle, but damaging as far as its booking) could not undo the outright wonderful match that preceded it, as Brock Lesnar and AJ Styles faced off in what is Lesnar’s longest match in a long time.

Let’s be honest, we were all concerned that Brock wasn’t going to put any effort into this match. It would probably last six minutes at most, with Styles spending the entire time being sent to Suplex City, right? Wrong. WWE were smart; they knew fans expected such a match. So, right around the time that you felt Brock’s brutal beatdown of Styles would lead to an F5 and pinfall victory, the WWE Champion fought back and then successfully dominated for large periods of the match!

Lesnar sold in a way that he rarely does anymore, unless it’s a table spot, and Styles looked legit as a result. The WWE Universal Champion looked in trouble right through the second half of the match, and Paul Heyman’s concern at ringside played beautifully into the story being told. Fans in attendance, none of whom expected a competitive bout, were on the edge of their seats as both men went to war with each other. Brock has rightly drawn criticism for some seemingly lazy matches in the past, but watch his selling of the calf crusher, and tell me he wasn’t fully invested in this match. That moment was one of the best moments of 2017, and his brutal smashing of AJ’s head into the canvas to escape the hold was brutal viewing.

When AJ made the first pin attempt, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Prior to that, the announcers had pointed out that no man had made such an attempt yet, so that the first went to Styles was surprising but great storytelling. I would’ve liked Styles to have avoided losing to just one F5, but it protected the finisher, and this didn’t need to turn into finisher spamfest. Irregardless of the result, both men left that match with even more credibility than what they took into it. Yes, that includes Lesnar.

Worryingly, Brock couldn’t put weight on his left leg as he made his way back stage, and his knee looked pretty swollen too. I’ve seen some people on Twitter say that they suspected that he’d blown his knee, which must have happened when he actually dented the steel ringsteps with it earlier in the match (and seemingly swore quite loudly as a result, judging from WWE cutting the sound briefly). Hopefully the injury isn’t serious (if it was indeed even legitimate), but Brock is the one top guy who can take a serious injury and not have to worry about losing time to it. As long as he’s fit to defend his championship at the Royal Rumble, that’s all that matters.

I’ve found many of WWE‘s recent PPV’s challenging to watch due to questionable outcomes, some tired feuds, and inconsistent match quality. Survivor Series was a breath of fresh air, and I’m not sure the talent involved have looked this fired up in a long time. I now find myself excited to see the next set of TV episodes and PPV’s, and that in itself is a big victory for a company that has very often underwhelmed its audience in 2017 (look at their ratings half-empty arenas each week).

WWE Survivor Series 2017 is arguably the best PPV that WWE have presented this year (excluding TakeOver events), and is up there with the best across the whole of professional wrestling in this calendar year too. I watch a lot of shows, so take it from me.

Let’s give it a well-earned round of applause…

Match of the Night

AJ Styles vs. Brock Lesnar

Rating

4star

Click here to watch this show on the WWE Network
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