I have to give credit to WWE telling a story in the build up to this show and paying it off with the right result. If the goal was to prove that NXT is just as good a brand as SmackDown or Raw - which was seemingly the case all throughout the build to the PPV - then WWE did very well at Survivor Series to make that lasting impact.
Four wins out of seven; that’s a dominant victory.
The night started with Lio Rush defeating Kalisto and Akira Tozawa on the preshow, which really stood out from the rest of the matches on the card in the way you’d hope a Crusierweight match would stand out. They brought pure speed, and livened the crowd up the way you’d hope Cruiserweights could before the main card. Rush got the win on a Frog Splash to Kalisto, and Rush has been quietly awesome since some of the dramatic issues he was having earlier this year; I want to give him credit for that.
The (well-deserved) ascension of Rhea Ripley continued on this show as well. The Women’s Survivor Series match kicked off the show, and Ripley picked up the victory for NXT by pinning Sasha Banks.
These sorts of matches have tons of small stories happening at once, and the big ones here all centered around NXT. Io Sharai and Candice LeRae were sent to the back early with injuries, which seemed to put NXT at a disadvantage, but Bianca Belair took over and did some heavy-lifting for the yellow brand.
Belair took out Nikki Cross from SmackDown and Sarah Logan from Raw, and generally just took a beating for her team. She helped to get NXT through a slew of eliminations for Raw and SmackDown without NXT losing any more names. Charlotte Flair and Asuka had issues on Raw which culminated in some Green Mist and two eliminations for Raw. Sasha Banks had the bright idea to turn on Natalya, presumably making Banks vs. Ripley the final matchup, but Sharai and LeRae returned from the back to overwhelm Banks. You could argue that Ripley winning on her own would be more impactful, but this was still a really good opening match.
Roderick Strong was the next victor for NXT, capitalizing on Nakamura and Styles fixating on one another by striking at the right time. He threw Styles out of the ring after a Phenomenal Forearm to pin Nakamura. This was another really fun match with a result that really livened up the crowd. Shayna Baszler won for NXT as well, which I will talk about below.
The point of all this, however, is that WWE followed through on telling a cohesive story. All throughout the build, NXT was making waves and surprising Raw and SmackDown at every turn. The fact that the “development” brand was able to shake off freaking War Games to turn in such an inspired effort should be a big talking point on all of WWE’s shows this upcoming week. And yes, if you’re a cynic, you can see why WWE would want NXT to look so strong. AEW is giving WWE its first genuine competition in a long time. But honestly, that’s fine. Good wrestling is good wrestling, and it’s nice to see NXT rewarded for being such a fun show.
It’s been the best WWE brand for quite a while. I’m happy to see them win the head-to-head competition.
The main event was not what this show needed
This was the only real negative of the night, but the Becky Lynch vs. Bayley vs. Shayna Bazler triple threat just didn’t deliver in the way that it needed to.
I want to stress this first, however: the match wasn’t bad. But the fact that I have to stress that should tell you a lot about the match. It was a slower, methodical sort of triple threat...on a night where we were already 3-4 hours into the show.
That’s not the sort of match you need at that point in the show. And considering the fact that WWE burned the Rey Mysterio/Brock Lesnar match right before this one, I’d put some of the blame on the company for bad card management. But still: 3-hour show + slow match = CM Punk chants.
And in my opinion, WWE didn’t really deserve the chants or the general unrest after putting on a really solid show. But then again...they really misdelivered with the main event. I’m glad the women got the spot, but WWE needed to book a match in which they could actually succeed. It didn’t do any of the competitors any favors, but at least it helped to further the story of NXT’s dominance.
This was Art
The Fiend vs. Daniel Bryan however? This was everything I love about pro wrestling...except for the lighting.
I love the fact that WWE’s trying to do something different for a character with all of this red lighting. And to be fair, the red lighting is better without a cell blocking the view. But with that said, can we brainstorm some other ideas for Fiend lighting? How about we black out the crowd and try to create the illusion of a single light bulb hanging over the ring, dimming — but not too dim! — the corners and the ropes a bit?
Just a thought.
Lighting aside, this match was lots of fun and boiled down to one visual that really tells the story of Bray Wyatt right now. And to that end, may I direct your attention to the video of when Bryan turned on the Wyatt Family in 2014?
THIS is why I watch wrestling. When it’s done well and the proper attention is paid to tell stories, it’s an art like nothing else. This exact moment played out once more at Survivor Series. Bryan was in a different corner and the camera slowly zoomed out instead of zooming in, but this exact moment happened. In 2014, Wyatt was down for the count and Bryan climbed to the top of the cage to Yes! chant his little heart out. In 2019, however...the Fiend stood up.
It’s such a wonderful moment to show how much Wyatt has grown. He’s more than just some backwoods cult leader at this point. He’s become a full-fledged monster who cannot be stopped. The Yes Movement that propelled Bryan to one of the biggest WrestleMania wins in history? It’s child’s play to the Fiend.
It remains to be seen who will actually have the momentum to beat the Fiend, but I hope WWE waits for the right person. Let it build organically behind whomever deserves that spot. But at Survivor Series, we got an awesome, artistic moment between Wyatt and Bryan. These two are awesome.
Full Survivor Series 2019 Results
Adam Cole def. Pete Dunne to retain the NXT Championship - Loooooved the story of Cole vs. Dunne. They were both injured as hell and just went straight for the body parts that were taped up. They both sold like they were dying, and still pulled out some captivating moves and kicked out of some crazy moves. There was even a kick out that’s sticking with me: Dunne was selling exhaustion so well that he didn’t even properly lift his shoulder off the mat. Instead, he kicked off with his leg to shrimp out of the cover.
The ending of this was stellar as well. The Panama Sunrise on the apron looked brutal, as did the superkick just as Dunne dove back into the ring to avoid being counted out. He snapped Cole’s fingers out of desperation, but was quickly overwhelmed once more as Cole picked up the win.
That was a really, really good singles match, and yet another amazing showcase for NXT. I was honestly starting to hope for outside interference or something, because neither guy deserved to lose that fight.
Brock Lesnar def. Rey Mysterio to retain the WWE Championship - This followed the usual Lesnar formula: Lesnar dominated until the underdog rallied before finally succumbing to the Beast.
In this version of the story, Dominick appeared with a white towel in hand after his dad got beat up a bunch. Lesnar mocked him for it, but before Lesnar could hurt Dominick hit Lesnar with a low blow. Dominick hit Lesnar with one as well. A tandem 619 and a father-son Frog Splash later, Lesnar kicked out of a near fall.
But then...y’know. Lesnar did Lesnar things.
SmackDown wins the men’s Survivor Series match - All throughout this damn thing, I was just waiting for SmackDown to win in a way that would allow Baron Corbin to gloat. I was dreading it, so allow me to extend my personal congratulations to Roman Reigns for kicking Corbin’s ass and winning the match in spite of the damn “king.”
With that said, this all boiled down to the final matchup: Seth Rollins vs. Roman Reigns vs. Keith Lee. Lee was in a damn near impossible situation having to beat two former Shield members on his own, but by god he almost did it. He took Reigns out of commission for a bit, which allowed him to turn his attention to Rollins and eliminate the Beast Slayer with a Jackhammer. He also took two Superman Punches before hitting the Spirit Bomb of the damn century on Reigns before finally being put to rest with a Spear.
And if Rollins wants to take notes, the way Reigns acknowledged Lee after the match is the way to do it. That “holy hell you kicked my ass” fist bump does so much more than the “he’s a hell of a sports entertainer” promos that Rollins gives.
Viking Raiders def. New Day and The Undisputed Era - The final pre-show match of the night, and one that was honestly just three stupidly-talented tag teams being fun. I’d imagine the result could be different on any given night, which was sort of the point, wasn’t it?
Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode win Tag Team Battle Royal - This honestly just felt like a way to give Corbin’s new buddies some sort of accolade to me. I’d imagine we’ll hear tons about this incredible victory in the weeks to come.
There were flaws to this show, but it was honestly a lot of fan-service, too. In the end and despite its flaws, it was a fun night of wrestling.
What was your favorite match, Cageside?