So much for the idea that Raw and SmackDown, going head to head for the only night of the calendar year, actually mattering. In this case, with Raw sweeping the main card 6-0, it didn't and that was a very good thing. Thanks to WWE's decision to present its two strongest singles matches as double main events to close the show, the road to WrestleMania 35 in April kicked off spectacularly on Sunday night as Survivor Series closed with a bang from Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Just days after Becky Lynch's injury inserted Charlotte Flair into her "dream match" Raw women's champion Ronda Rousey, the two turned in one hell of a piece of business (including a violent postscript) that suddenly has the debate about which match actually will headline WrestleMania 35 in New York a very healthy one. Meanwhile, in the main event, Brock Lesnar and Daniel Bryan told one heck of a story in a one-off match between respective champions that was very much worth the price of admission despite a short build of just five days.
SmackDown commissioner Shane McMahon and company will certainly have a lot of explaining to do come Tuesday night after Raw's wide victory but this night was all about entertainment and a show which delivered during a weekend in which Saturday's NXT TakeOver: WarGames2 card had already set the bar astonishingly high. Grade: A-
Check out our full results from 2018 WWE Survivor Series below along with detailed analysis and grades for each match. Be sure to check out our In This Corner Podcast audio review below; you can subscribe here.
2018 WWE Survivor Series results, grades
Tag Team Survivor Series Elimination Match (Kickoff Show) -- The Usos, New Day, SAnity, The Good Brothers & The Colons (SmackDown) def. The Revival, Bobby Roode & Chad Gable, Lucha House Party, The Ascension & The B-Team (Raw): What started as a bit of a crowded mess turned into wild fun once the match was whittled down to four members on each side. The Revival joined Roode and Gable for Raw against the combination of New Day and The Usos for a chaotic sequence of high spots. Big E splashed Wilder through the ropes as the action spilled out onto the floor. Roode then backdropped his teammate Gable out of the ring onto the crowd below. Gable then landed the spot of the match with an absurd German suplex on Jey Uso off the top rope and onto a pile of bodies outside. After Big E eliminated Gable and Roode, Revival pulled even for Raw with a Shatter Machine on Xavier Woods. The electricity continued as Revival could only get a two count despite Dawson hitting a superplex on Uso and Wilder following with a splash off the top rope. The finish came when Jimmy Uso honored Roman Reigns during his cousin's battle with leukemia by cocking his fists in mid-air en route to a splash on Dawson for the pin. Grade: B
Order of elimination: Colons (Revival), B-Team (Good Bros.), SAnitY (Roode/Gable), Ascension (New Day), Good Bros. (Lucha House Party), Lucha House Party (Usos), Roode/Gable (New Day), New Day (Revival), Revival (Usos)
Women's Elimination Match -- Nia Jax, Sasha Banks, Bayley, Mickie James, & Tamina Snuka (Raw) def. Asuka, Carmella, Naomi, Sonya Deville & TBD (SmackDown): In what was a fairly brilliant piece of booking, WWE chose to capitalize on the natural heat Jax received from the crowd by turning her into a super heel. Jax was booed lustily each time she entered the ring in retaliation for her accidentally breaking Becky Lynch's face on Raw and making her medically ineligible to face Ronda Rousey on Sunday. The crowd also cheered each time she was hit by an opponent, which made her strong victory such a bitter pill for the Los Angeles faithful to swallow.
Before the match started, Banks and Bayley were named late replacements by Alexa Bliss after the Raw captain pulled Natalya and Ruby Riott off the team for brawling in the locker room. Late in the match, Deville absorbed a Bayley-to-Belly suplex on the floor before both she and Bayley were counted out; Raw held a 2-to-1 advantage. But Jax was willing to forfeit that edge when she turned on Banks by throwing her off the top rope, allowing Asuka to force the tap out with a choke. Jax then took advantage with a trio of leg drops and a Samoan drop to finish Asuka. Grade: B-
Order of elimination: Naomi (Snuka), Snuka (Carmella), James (Rose), Carmella (Bayley), Rose (Banks), Bayley/Deville (double countout), Banks (Asuka), Asuka (Jax).
Mid-card Champions -- Seth Rollins (Raw, intercontinental) def. Shinsuke Nakamura (SD, United States) via pinfall: It took a bit of patience for the first of Sunday's "dream matches" to reach its potential, but the wait was ultimately worth it. The chemistry between the two performers turned out to be strong thanks to a series of big moves and false finishes. Rollins hit a trio of suicide dives in succession and later packaged a superplex into a Falcon Arrow but could only get two. Nakamura turned in his own dramatic near fall late after Rollins missed a frog splash when Nakamura hit a stiff Kinsasha to the back of the head. The finish came after both missed their finisher attempts and Rollins came right back with The Stomp for the 1-2-3. The only thing to complain about in the end was the gaudy attire of both as Rollins wore his own T-shirt sewn together with a Raw one and Nakamura was dressed in a blue jumpsuit with a SmackDown T-shirt over the top. Grade: B+
Backstage -- Team Raw issues: Braun Strowman was shown arguing with Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre before acting general manager Baron Corbin stepped in to settle his team. Because Strowman was unable to touch Corbin, he grabbed Lio Rush and threw him into the GM. At that point, R-Truth attempted to calm everyone down, but Corbin threw him out by reminding him that he's on SmackDown.
Tag Team Champions -- AOP (Raw) def. The Bar (SmackDown) via pinfall: The bizarre antics surrounding this match (both random and planned) did enough to completely overshadow the action happening inside the ring. First, former WWE superstar Enzo Amore, who was fired in January amid rape allegations of which he was eventually cleared, attempted to steal the spotlight by emerging from a hoodie in the second row to gain the crowd's attention. Amore, dressed in a version of his old WWE "How ya doin'?' T-shirt, did his signature shuffle down the aisle before being forcibly removed by security early in the match.
The second black eye of the short match was regretfully on purpose after AOP manager Drake Maverick kept his team alive by placing Rezar's leg on the bottom rope to avoid a pin attempt from Sheamus. After Cesaro gave chase outside the ring, Maverick ran into the outstretched elbow of the Big Show. When Big Show picked Maverick up by the neck to choke him on the apron, Maverick wet his pants. Needless to say, the attempt at cheap comedy fell flat. AOP used the distraction outside of the ring to hit a tandem power bomb finisher on Sheamus for the pin in a rather forgettable match. Grade: D+
Backstage -- Team SmackDown gets motivated: Commissioner Shane McMahon attempted to pump up each member of his team individually while The Miz co-signed his words. R-Truth showed up again for some comic relief. Miz promised, if SmackDown wins, he would get everyone on the team autographed DVDs of "Marine 6."
Cruiserweight Championship -- Buddy Murphy (c) def. Mustafa Ali via pinfall to retain the title: In nothing short of a tour de force of high spots and impact moves, Murphy and Ali took advantage of every minute given them. This was the match that hardcore fans felt had the potential to steal the show, and midway through the card, it succeeded. The only thing stopping this from being an instant classic was that it wasn't longer. Ali jumpstarted the excitement with a front flip off the top rope onto the floor. Murphy countered with a textbook Tope Con Hilo to the floor. Stiff strikes and near falls followed as the insane chemistry and athleticism from both was on full display. Ali hit a Spanish Fly off the announce table onto the floor before Murphy nearly won the match by combining a superkick and a powerbomb into a sit-out powerbomb that popped the crowd. The finish came when Murphy caught a leaping Ali off the top rope with a knee to the face. He followed with Murphy's Law to end a brilliant match. Grade: A-
Men's Elimination Match -- Braun Strowman, Dolph Ziggler, Drew McIntyre, Finn Balor & Bobby Lashley (Raw) def. The Miz, Shane McMahon, Rey Mysterio, Jeff Hardy & Samoa Joe (SmackDown): Disharmony among members and constant bickering didn't stop Raw from ending the match with a three-man advantage following four straight eliminations by Strowman. But after an attack from behind by Corbin, Team Raw left its "Monster Among Men" in the ring as fellow survivors Lashley and McIntyre walked off alongside the acting Raw general manager.
The match paled in comparison to previous years (including an epic 2016 main event) yet still provided plenty of entertainment thanks to an expected mix of big spots and creative booking. McMahon was his typical daredevil self with an elbow off the top rope through the announce table on Strowman and a coast-to-coast on Ziggler while The Miz held him down. A final coast-to-coast attempt from a weary McMahon was intercepted by Strowman, however, with a stiff clothesline. Strowman went on powerslam and pin Hardy, catch a 619 attempt by Mysterio for a powerslam and pin, then finish off The Miz and McMahon all on his own. Strowman, who argued with teammates in the locker room beforehand, nearly came to blows with McIntyre during the match. Balor also turned on his teammate McIntyre before being pinned by Mysterio. Grade: B-
Order of elimination: Samoa Joe (McIntyre), Balor (Mysterio), Ziggler (McMahon), Hardy (Strowman), Mysterio (Strowman), Miz (Strowman), McMahon (Strowman)
Backstage -- Seth Rollins: While celebrating his victory over Nakamura earlier in the show, Rollinns was informed that he will be defending his intercontiental title against Dean Ambrose in four weeks at Tables, Ladders and Chairs. Rollins promised Ambrose would have nowhere to hide when that show goes down.
Ronda Rousey (Raw women's champion) def. Charlotte Flair (SmackDown) via disqualification: This "dream match" was on the fast track to becoming one of the best in WWE women's history until an abrupt DQ finish. But the violence which followed after Flair's heel turn escalated this feud to absurd levels of heat, possibly even to the main event of WrestleMania. Exactly where does SmackDown champion Becky Lynch, whose facial injuries pulled her from the match, fit into all of this? It's difficult to say at the moment and certainly there's a fear now for Lynch fans that she'll be the odd woman out come April. Yet that's almost a secondary storyline at the moment because of how vicious and jarring Flair's attack on Rousey truly was after the match.
After a kendo stick and steel chair attack which featured strikes that were anything but fake, Rousey refused treatment or help from road agents as she limped her way back up the ramp. With a top covered in blood and gruesome bruises across her arms and legs, Rousey paused to confront an insulting fan with, "You're not a man," while looking despondent. Not only did Rousey sell the attack and commit to withstanding pain at a level that belies her experience, Flair was simply brilliant in ending the match with a kendo stick to the stomach and then later trapping Rousey's head in a chair before stomping on it. Lost of late in her role as a white meat babyface, Flair showed a return to the heel swagger that made main roster fans fall in love with her. She was unapologetic and borderline sociopath in her demeanor. It was beautiful, with the crowd providing a soundtrack of "Thank you Charlotte!"
Flair similarly turned out to be the perfect foil to Rousey's physicality inside the ring during the match. She countered or powered out of Rousey's vaunted armbar in ways that were believable and eschewed technique to turn the match into more of an elite brawl that was showered with intensity. The only drawback outside of the finish was that this match was thrown together so late, we never got a proper build. Expect that to be solved ahead of WrestleMania. With all respect to Lynch, who is as red-hot and over on an organic level as any superstar in years, a consolation prize of Rousey and Flair headlining 2019's biggest show suddenly feels too perfect to pass up. These two have the in-ring potential to present a legitimate five-star women's match on the biggest stage available and that's nothing to scoff at. Grade: A-
Heavyweight Champions -- Brock Lesnar (Raw, universal) def. Daniel Bryan (SmackDown, WWE) via pinfall: What a damn match! Even in 2018, there's nothing quite like an inspired and interested Lesnar who is willing to sell for his opponent. We saw it during his 2017 feud with Goldberg and we saw it during his one-off against AJ Styles at last year's Survivor Series. Bryan replaced Styles after his upset win (and heel turn) to capture the WWE championship on Tuesday and this "dream match" proved to be everything it could have been from the standpoint of violence, work rate and storytelling. A lot of that, of course, was Lesnar, but Bryan did his own reminding of just how great he can be in a big match with this performance that, from a character perspective, seemed to straddle heel and babyface.
After a prolonged beatdown Bryan absorbed to open the match that was seemingly even worse (considered how often he was dropped on his head) than John Cena's squash loss to Lesnar at the 2014 SummerSlam in the same building, heel Bryan used a kick to the crotch while the referee was down to work his way back in the match. That's when things became electric. Bryan, who absorbed countless suplexes and an F5, rallied with stiff running knees and sneaky offense outside the ring. At some points he played the role of the deviant weasel perfectly while other times he morphed into a scrappy underdog overcoming the odds (and, more importantly, did so without ruining the integrity of the match).
Lesnar's knee gave out on an F5 attempt late in the match and Bryan nearly had the match won with the Yes Lock (selling the fact that he thought about a tap) before powering out. Soon after, Lesnar hit a final F5 to finish Bryan off and continued to sell his leg in a manner that completely put Bryan over in defeat. For a one-off, this was great theater and managed to elevate the statuses of both performers heading into WrestleMania season. Grade: A
2018 WWE Survivor Series recap, highlights
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