WWE booked a traditional 5-on-5 men's Survivor Series elimination match with clear stakes beyond "bragging rights," namely that Monday Night Raw General Manager Kurt Angle would be fired if he failed to lead his team to victory over SmackDown Live. That would have been a truly interesting angle, too, if they had bothered to actually follow through with it and/or give it any mind if they were actually sticking to the idea of it.
It seemed to go out the window when Triple H was added to the team on the final Raw before the match, a baffling decision considering the situation and the stakes they had been attempting to create.
Either way, it seemed clear the decision to add "The Game" meant he was going to play a large part in the match. Sure enough, it was all about him, as it always seems to be whenever he's around.
Frankly, I'm tired of it.
Actually, I'm beyond exhausted with it.
They did some really great things early in the match, taking their time playing with the very idea behind booking a match like this, that we could see interesting match-ups we can't see otherwise, like Finn Balor sharing a ring with Shinsuke Nakamura. They let it breathe, and gave it appropriate play. It was fun!
The interaction between all these big stars was also fun, if somewhat confusing. The match was laid out in such a way that it felt like Braun Strowman was a big star and Triple H is the guy he needs to get over on.
Everyone else had their moments, sure, but this was about Triple H getting his moments with Shinsuke Nakamura and Bobby Roode, taking out Kurt Angle, and closing the show putting Strowman over. While that part was undoubtedly good to see, the idea that it was Triple H putting him over, at this point in time, in 2017 just over a month away from 2018, is downright absurd.
Maybe I'd celebrate it more if I didn't have an understanding of history, and Triple H's place in it more specifically, and his influence of it more generally. They set up Triple H vs. Angle -- a match that was interesting in 2000 but is not today -- and Triple H vs. Strowman, a match that would be interesting without the aforementioned knowledge of history.
The match had its moments, yes, but it ultimately felt more like an education in what has been wrong with WWE for so many years. Unless the end goal is Triple H doing everything in his power to make Strowman as big a star as possible, this was a waste.
What plainly wasn't a waste, and what should have been the main event of the show, because it was a true showcase of two great champions deserving of the titles they hold both in kayfabe and in reality, if there is such a thing, was the incredible match Brock Lesnar and AJ Styles had.
What a ride.
It was, more or less, everything we could have hoped it would be. It was what Paul Heyman said it would be, and what Daniel Bryan said it would be. In the end, Styles could not survive Suplex City, but he did take Lesnar to the deep waters where Brock came oh so close to quitting like Bryan predicted he would.
This match gave us everything.
It gave us Lesnar at his most physical, his display of brute force a sight to behold. It gave us Styles at his smoothest, hitting his marks at just the right time, always in the right spot. He was a worthy underdog until he wasn't, and that was only when it became clear he was Brock's equal. That is equal parts his other worldly talent and Lesnar's willingness to put him on that level, his post-match selling of the Calf Crusher a supreme show of respect.
Like my partner, I've always thought of Shawn Michaels as the greatest wrestler of all time, the guy who could do the most between the ropes. AJ Styles is on that level.
I want a rematch.
All the best to all the rest
There isn't much to say about the rest of the card individually because this show wasn't in service of larger storylines but rather the very basic idea of taking competing sides to see who was better. On this night, Charlotte was better than Alexa Bliss, The Usos were a step ahead of Cesaro & Sheamus, Baron Corbin overcame The Miz's advantages, Asuka is still the killer she was down in NXT and she's going to make life very difficult for the main roster, and The Shield are still very good at this pro wrestling as a trio thing.
The Shield match was something of a mess but even still it was fun. This card was littered with good match-ups that ended up being equally good as matches. It was a fun show overall, somehow worth investing the lengthy amount of time WWE was asking for.
The brands can return to their respective nights and they can build new stories from there. Consider this a success.