Remember last year? When WWE went through a minor international incident that necessitated the complete reworking of an episode of Smackdown, which then resulted in NXT becoming an integral part of Survivor Series?
I miss those days.
For 2020, WWE’s Survivor Series was back to a two-show affair. Just Raw and Smackdown were competing for supremacy. To see which show is… The Best Of The Best, as it were.
That’s right! All WWE shows have subtitles now! I really like it, even though it’s ridiculously silly and obvious branding. Remember SummerSlam: You’ll Never See It Coming? And how the show ended with Roman Reigns’ surprise return and Michael Cole saying “WE NEVER SAW IT COMING AT SUMMERSLAM!”? Come on, admit it: that kind of worked.
So now we have Survivor Series: Best of the Best. In a few months, we will have Royal Rumble: Winner Winner Title Dinner, and I am going to love that, too. We will go off the air to, like, Otis pointing at the WrestleMania sign and holding a ham while Cole shrieks “OTIS IS THE WINNER WINNER… AND HE’LL GET A TITLE DINNER AT WRESTLEMANIA!”. Don’t tell me you don’t want this. We all want this.
So we lost NXT, but we gained a subtitle. It’s… not a great exchange. But I get it. WWE isn’t going to have NXT win every single year, but they also don’t want it to come across as a lesser while it is warring with AEW, so it’s best to just ignore it. That way they can go back to saying “it’s not a REAL WWE brand; it wasn’t even at Survivor Series!” when NXT loses in the ratings to the competish.
But come on. We could have had Leon Ruff included in the Zayn/Lashley match! What could have been.
MATCH 1: Men’s Survivor Series Match: AJ Styles, Riddle, Keith Lee, Braun Strowman, and Sheamus vs Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, King Corbin, Jey Uso, and Otis
The humorous thing about this match–and it would be repeated to a degree in the Women’s Survivor Series Match later on–is that WWE seemingly completely forgot to give the Smackdown side of things a storyline. The Raw team had been dealing with strife and in-fighting for weeks, but the Smackdown team never really stopped being involved in their own individual angles. And oddly enough, most of those angles were either losing streaks or irrelevance.
This was exemplified when Raw won the match with a clean 5-0 sweep. It was really the only way this match should have gone (though I was worried that they might have deemed Riddle expendable enough to get eliminated), and what’s more… each member of Team Raw got an elimination (Sheamus over Seth, AJ over KO, Riddle over Corbin, Braun over Otis, and Lee over Uso).
Honestly and truly, this match was perfect booking all over the place. The mini Hoss Struggles that Otis and Keith Lee engaged in did a lot to rehab poor Otis’ goofy image and make him seem like a threat. Seth Rollins just… surrendering himself “For The Greater Good” is interesting, and (while we all know he is about to take some time off), I am curious as to where he will go with it. And the pose-down that Team Raw did after they won even though it was really hard for them to get to that point? Shit… now I want those five to stick together as a faction. They had excellent chemistry in all of their segments together. Keep these five interconnected for a bit longer, Raw!
MATCH 2: The Street Profits vs The New Day
The affair starts with The New Day–including Big E–making their ring entrance in their Gears of War armor, followed by a commercial for the New Day Gears of War expansion pack. I don’t… I don’t know what a Gear of War is.
I mean, I know it’s a video game! But I’ve never played it. Is it a First Person Shooter? I think I get Gears of War, Borderlands, and (what’s it called… the space pew pew one?) Mass Effect all confused in my head. In the comments, tell me what the difference between them all is so I can mull it over while I keep just playing Pokemon.
The Profits spit an entertaining and fiery promo before they hit the ring, whereupon both teams put on a hell of a match. New Day got to work as the quasi-heels for the first time in what feels like ages, and you know what? It felt weird. I’m sure they loved it, but after Kofimania and getting to see Woods’ goofy side on UpUpDownDown, it was strange to see them acting villainous.
All four men looked stellar here and were really out to make this non-title match feel like a big deal. The Profits won, which was always the right call because New Day has always been good hands to put people over since it never hurts them. I really enjoyed all of this.
MATCH 3: Sami Zayn vs Bobby Lashley
What an odd story this match tried to tell. Sami Zayn was the outmuscled, outpowered, outnumbered underdog… and both men were heels. And it was played as Sami being the heelier of the two, but it’s hard to even tell a good comeuppance story when the other guy isn’t likable, either.
It’s not that it didn’t work–it did because Sami worked his tail off in the ring, and commentary busted their butts to sell his kooky conspiracy angle–it’s just that it felt like the storyline was handicapped and everyone had to bring their A game to overcome that.
Sami should at least have brought Lashley’s sisters for backup.
Sami was never in any danger of winning this match, but his efforts to get The Hurt Business disqualified were humorous, and this carried its weight on the show for what it was.
At this point, Survivor Series cut backstage for a segment involving the Usos and Roman Reigns. And… yeah, sorry. I have to lodge a complaint here. I want to believe there is a much longer story being told here, but I feel like I’m watching this Jey/Roman story in rewind. Shouldn’t Jey as Roman’s abused, unloved family slave should have come BEFORE their blood feud? Why did “Oh, you tried to cripple my injured brother just to win a match over me” become the impetus for Jey being subservient and embracing his inner evil? The Jey/Roman angle was going so beautifully, but I just don’t get the gear it’s in now.
I really want to believe there’s an endgame in mind, but I’m remembering when Brie Bella became Nikki’s embittered and reluctant slave and absolutely nothing came of it. So you understand my concern.
MATCH 4: Asuka vs Sasha Banks
Before I get into the match, I feel the dire need to give WWE’s much-maligned commentary teams more kudos. They did an excellent job during Sami/Bobby, and that continued here, as they played up Asuka and Banks’ 2020 history. And without ever directly saying “AND SO THAT IS WHY…”, it tied together why Asuka just stood by like a heel this past Smackdown while Carmella assaulted Sasha. Asuka may be a good person, but it makes sense that she took some pride in seeing Sasha get hers. Commentary did a good job of laying out all the pieces without putting it together for us. I appreciate that!
So this was a match that, for quite a while, I though “Well, it’s GOOD, but it’s never really kicking into the next gear”. And then… it did. Once the women took the fight to the outside, it felt like the whole contest got an influx of adrenaline for the ride home. I loved the last several minutes of this one, and I feel appropriately ashamed for ever doubting two of the best ladies to ever step into a ring.
Then we got a 24/7 segment. With the Gobbeldy Gooker and birdseed. Sure.
Have I ever publicly lamented the 24/7 Title? I would like to do so now. What is the point of this title? Why do people want to win it? WWE could have told a great story here where every month there is a countdown, and whoever is holding the 24/7 Title at midnight on the 1st of the month gets to have a shot at title of his or her choosing on either TV or PPV. You could tell a great story of Truth CONSTANTLY winning the belt, but never managing to be the guy that has it when the month ends, so he never reaps the benefits, despite having won it 45 times. You could also occasionally have an uppercard person win it to get a shot.
The skits are fun; don’t get me wrong. More often than not, they get a chuckle, and it keeps the charming R-Truth in the spotlight. But I wish I understood why people want to win this belt.
Match 5: Women’s Survivor Series match: Nia Jax, Shayna Baszler, Peyton Royce, Lacey Evans, & Lana vs Bianca Belair, Bayley, Natalya, Ruby Riott, & Liv Morgan
There was absolutely nothing wrong with this match. It was Survivor Series 101 (someone comes in to get an elimination, just to be follow-up eliminated herself, and repeat), but told with the albatross of the Lana/Nia Jax storyline around its neck. It was inoffensive and fine and, like I said, just stuck to the basics of the recipe.
There were, by my count, three highlights:
-First, Bayley wasn’t involved for long, but she made the most of her time, perpetually telling everyone that she was The Captain and just being charmingly annoying.
-Second, when Peyton Royce hit an offensive maneuver, and Corey Graves said something to the extent of “now THAT was a perfect 10”.
-And finally, Lana’s celebration at being the sole survivor. She was just so earnest and genuinely excited that standing on the stairs like a scolded puppy ending up in her victory. I can’t not be happy for her and that moment. I’m a mark, I know.
MATCH 6: Drew McIntyre vs Roman Reigns
This was fine. It was… remember what I said about Asuka and Sasha being good but it felt like something was missing until they found the next gear? This match never felt like it found the same stickshift. It wasn’t unpleasant or anything, it just felt… “acceptable”. And I really expected more out of Drew and Roman.
I really think they held a lot back here because these two are bound to be on the same brand and have an actual, extended feud in the coming years. This was just the appetizer for that. Keep building that story of Drew being unable to conquer Roman until it’s time for a proper program, I get it.
But again… it wasn’t bad. It just felt held back.
Roman won with his guillotine choke, which I have named The Fetch, because I want to tell WWE to stop trying to make this a thing because
The show culminated in the Final Farewell to The Undertaker, on the 30th anniversary of his WWE debut, and this is a huge Your Mileage May Vary moment for me, because I’m not typically a wildly sentimental person, and this just felt drawn-out and self-indulgent.
Nothing… happened? We got a lot of ring entrances for folks who didn’t stick around. Then we got a TRULY ROUGH looking Vince McMahon, and I can’t tell if he’s had too much Botox or surgery or what, but he looks like the kind of person who should be on Botched as the Before picture. After all that, we got a final Undertaker entrance, and he said some words, and… it just didn’t do anything for me. I kept waiting for The Fiend to strike, if I’m being honest. And when it didn’t happen, I felt very “….oh” about the ordeal.
Maybe it’s because we’ve played this game before. Six years ago when The Streak ended, he was showered in “Thank You, Taker” chants. A few yeas later when he put over Roman at ‘Mania, he left his gear in the ring and descended away from the spotlight. But he never actually left. So it feels like we’ve said Goodbye to The Undertaker a few times already, and by this segment–which lasted about 45 minutes–I really didn’t need any more closure.
That said, if this was a big moment for you, I would never begrudge you that. It IS important. It just didn’t really affect me personally.
All told, it was a good show that got progressively worse, but no match was even less than adequate. And The Undertaker ending may not have been for me, but I also wrote most of this article during it, ha! So no regrets there. If I just pretend Survivor Series 2020 ended with Roman and Jey Uso hugging after the main event, it was another more-than-solid PPV outing from WWE in a year in which they’ve had many of them!