2023 WWE Survivor Series results, recap, grades: CM Punk makes shocking return after WarGames main event

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WWE

WWE's Survivor Series: WarGames 2023 provided plenty of thrilling action from start to finish on Saturday night. What was not expected was the return of former WWE and AEW Champion CM Punk to close the show.

There were two WarGames matches on the card, with the women kicking off the show with a chaotic war that saw Bianca Belair, Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair and Shotzi scoring the win over Damage CTRL. The chaos continued through the main event, which saw Randy Orton make his return to action to team with Cody Rhodes, Seth Rollins, Jey Uso and Sami Zayn to overcome Judgment Day and Drew McIntyre.

Despite those matches, all the talk in the coming days will focus on CM Punk returning to WWE, a move that seemed all but impossible after a bitter split in 2014 and years of Punk badmouthing the promotion for the treatment he received during his tenure.

CBS Sports was with you the whole way through the event, providing updates and highlights as the action goes down in the live blog below.

2023 WWE Survivor Series: WarGames recap, grades

Damage CTRL (Iyo Sky, Asuka, Bayley & Kairi Sane) vs. Bianca Belair, Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, Shotzi (WarGames Match): Lynch and Bayley started the match for their respective teams, getting things going with a bit of brawling before Bayley was able to toss Lynch into the cage and then suplex her onto the metal plate between the two rings. Lynch regained control by smashing Bayley into the cage with a series of dropkicks. Lynch locked in the Dis-Arm-Her but Dakota Kai poked her with a kendo stick through the cage, which Bayley used to hit Lynch several times until Shotzi entered the match. Shotzi threw a trash can and several chairs into the ring before taking the fight to Bayley. After watching Shotzi and Lynch work over Bayley, Sky was the next woman in, bringing a chain to the ring to attack her opponents.

Sky and Bayley brought the fight to Lynch, putting her down with a tandem superplex before turning their attention to Shotzi, whose team took back the advantage when Belair entered the match. Belair didn't bring any extra weapons, instead whipping Sky and Bayley with her double braids. Momentum continued to swing every time a new entrant joined the fray, with Sane up next for Damage CTRL and Flair as the final entrant for her team. The first true highlight moment of the match came when Sky was given a trash can by Kai. She then put the can over her head and torso and dove from the top of the cage onto everyone below seconds before Asuka entered, officially starting the match. "The Empress" brought along four kendo sticks, a table and a fire extinguisher. 

Asuka misted Shotzi in fairly short order before dropkicking Lynch, who had been put inside a trash can, from the top rope. After a run of dominance by Damage CTRL, the faces fought back, leading to Flair moonsaulting from the top of the cage onto all four members of Damage CTRL. Shortly after, Lynch and Flair stared each other down before hugging and hyping each other up. A flurry of near-falls for both teams followed, with bodies flying all over the two rings. Asuka ended up missing a second mist on Shotzi, allowing Belair to blast Asuka with the fire extinguisher. Bayley shoved Sane out of the way of a spear, taking the move herself. The faces then hit Bayley with a series of big moves, culminating in Lynch hitting a Manhandle Slam from the second rope through a table for the win. The match really picked up in speed and intensity late and it worked to build to a solid finish that saw Bayley work as her team's MVP despite seemingly being on the outs among her team while still eating the pin. Becky Lynch, Bianca Belair, Charlotte Flair & Shotzi def. Damage CTRL via pinfall -- Grade: B+

Intercontinental Championship -- Gunther (c) vs. The Miz: Miz immediately took the fight to Gunther, attacking with chops and strikes before outsmarting the champ by ducking from the ring and then attacking Gunther's legs. After a figure-four leglock around the ring post, Miz tried to come off the top rope but was blasted by a kick from Gunther. Gunther laid in some trademark chops and used a German suplex to halt a Miz comeback attempt. Miz managed to fight off a powerbomb attempt before laying an extended series of kicks into Gunther's torso. Miz's comeback was shortlived but he managed to yank the pad off the turnbuckle, using that as a distraction for the ref to set up two low blows and a Skull-Crushing Finale for a two-count. Miz tried for another Skull-Crushing Finale but Gunther grabbed a sleeper hold, which Miz countered by running Gunther into the exposed turnbuckle and then reversing the sleeper into a pin for another nearfall. Gunther came roaring back, hitting a top-rope splash onto Miz's back and then locking in a Boston crab and driving a knee into the back to force the submission. This was a really good match that let Miz really showcase wrestling skills that are rarely put on display at this point in his career. And Gunther is Gunther, so he more than held up his end of the match. Gunther (c) def. The Miz via submission to retain the title -- Grade: B

Santos Escobar vs. Dragon Lee: Escobar went on the offense quickly, going for early pins before tossing Lee from the ring. Escobar then stuck Lee's leg between the ring post and steps, only for Lee to fight him off. This set Lee up to leap over the top rope to hit a rana on Escobar from the ring apron and follow up with a big dive to the outside. Escobar would come back with a rana on Lee as the two men stood on the top rope, securing a near fall. Big moves continued to be exchanged as both men scored multiple two counts but could not put the other away until Escobar hit a Phantom Driver to win the match. This is one of those matches that ranks as totally fine while also knowing that there is potential for so much more should the two be given the time to deliver what they're truly capable of. Santos Escobar def. Dragon Lee via pinfall -- Grade: B-

Women's World Championship -- Rhea Ripley (c) vs. Zoey Stark: A brawl immediately broke out between the two women, mostly focused on strikes until Stark hit Ripley with a dropkick that sent her from the ring. After regrouping, Ripley took over, hitting with big power moves and strikes as she grounded Stark. Stark tried to rally but was met by kicks and knees from Ripley. Stark finally found something with a kick to Ripley's face for a two-count. Stark countered Riptide into a suplex for another near fall. Ripley countered the Z-360 before delivering a headbutt and Riptide for the pinfall. Short, to the point and with no surprises, though Stark was given enough to come out of the match looking good. Rhea Ripley def. Zoey Stark via pinfall to retain the title -- Grade: B

Finn Balor, Damian Priest, Drew McIntyre, Dominik Mysterio & JD McDonagh vs. Cody Rhodes, Seth Rollins, Randy Orton, Jey Uso & Sami Zayn (WarGames Match): Throughout the night, it was said that Orton wasn't at the arena, with Judgment Day celebrating the fact and Zayn insisting to his teammates that Orton would show up when it mattered most. Rollins and Balor started things off for their teams. Rollins fired Balor into the cage several times, knowing he would be at a disadvantage five minutes later. Balor was quick to return the favor, sending Rollins into the cage several times and eventually hitting Rollins with a backdrop onto the metal plate connecting the two rings. McDonagh was the first man out of the cage though he was kicked by Rollins before he could enter the cage. McDonagh grabbed a pair of kendo sticks before getting into the cage and he and Balor started to wear Rollins out with the weapons. Uso was in for his team next, taking the heat off Rollins, who had been brutalized by Balor and McDonagh. McIntyre watched on desperately wanting to get to the ring and at Uso but when the time came, Priest stopped him and said they were sticking to the plan before walking to the cage.

Priest went head-to-head with Uso and Rollins before pulling out a baton and using it to attack both men and take over the match. With Judgment Day firmly in control, Zayn made his entrance, hitting McDonagh with a kendo stick and ramming the cage door into Balor's head. Zayn then grabbed a table before getting in the ring and taking out Priest. Zayn ripped a pipe out of the cage and used it to attack McDonagh and Priest. This led to McIntyre finally making his way to the cage, not stopping for any weapons, just wanting to get into the fight. McIntyre blitzed through Rollins and Zayn so he could get to Uso, who was still down from earlier in the match. McIntyre drove Uso into the cage over and over, saying Uso never apologized for what he did in helping Roman Reigns beat him at Clash at the Castle. Uso finally hit a superkick and he and Zayn hit McIntyre with a 1-D before Rhodes made his way to the cage. After the standard opening run of offense, Rhodes brought a bull rope into the cage before he and Rollins used the rope to attack various Judgment Day members. Rollins yelled at Rhodes asking if Orton was really going to show up before Mysterio made it to the ring and attacked every member of the opposing team that was already down on the canvas.

Mysterio quickly found himself surrounded by all four members of the other team, with all of them laying in stomps. After the Judgment Day team got back involved, Priest and McIntyre chokeslammed Rhodes, Zayn and Rollins before McDonagh hit Zayn with a moonsault. Priest then put Rollins through the table with a Razor's Edge. The 10-second countdown hit and nothing happened before Rhea Ripley's music hit and she ran to the ring with the Money in the Bank contract, ready for Priest to cash in but before that could happen, Orton's music hit and he made his way to the ring, officially starting the match. Orton ran through Mysterio and McDonagh before dropping Balor with a hanging DDT as McIntyre and Priest watched on waiting for a shot. After a brief brawl involving all 10 men, Orton led his team in all hitting hanging DDTs. Orton and Uso stared each other down before Orton hit Mysterio with an RKO, kicking off a series of finishers from the team. McDonagh tried to flee the cage but was trapped on top of the cage by Zayn and Rollins, who looked down at Orton and launched him from the cage into an RKO. Rhodes dropped Priest with Cross Rhodes and that was all she wrote. There were obviously a lot of stories at play coming into the match but no real payoffs to any of them and the match did lack some of the chaos the women brought earlier in the night. That said, Randy Orton is back and got to hit one of the wildest RKOs in his career. Cody Rhodes, Seth Rollins, Randy Orton, Jey Uso & Sami Zayn def. Finn Balor, Damian Priest, Drew McIntyre, Dominik Mysterio & JD McDonagh via pinfall -- Grade: B

CM Punk returned to WWE following the conclusion of the main event. The crowd exploded when his music hit and Punk made his way to the entrance ramp. Punk posed and celebrated with the crowd as the show went off the air.

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CM Punk has returned to WWE! At the conclusion of WarGames, Punk's music hit and he made his way out to the entrance ramp, posing and smiling. 

 
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Mysterio quickly found himself surrounded by all four members of the other team, with all of them laying in stomps. After the Judgment Day team got back involved, Priest and McIntyre chokeslammed Rhodes, Zayn and Rollins before McDonagh hit Zayn with a moonsault. Priest then put Rollins through the table with a Razor's Edge. The 10-second countdown hit and nothing happened before Rhea Ripley's music hit and she ran to the ring with the Money in the Bank contract, ready for Priest to cash in but before that could happen, Orton's music hit and he made his way to the ring, officially starting the match. Orton ran through Mysterio and McDonagh before dropping Balor with a hanging DDT as McIntyre and Priest watched on waiting for a shot. After a brief brawl involving all 10 men, Orton led his team in them all hitting hanging DDTs. Orton and Uso stared each other down before Orton hit Mysterio with an RKO, kicking off a series of finishers from the team. McDonagh tried to flee the cage but was trapped on top of the cage by Zayn and Rollins, who looked down at Orton and launched him from the cage into an RKO. Rhodes dropped Priest with Cross Rhodes and that was all she wrote. There were obviously a lot of stories at play coming into the match but no real payoffs to any of them and the match did lack some of the chaos the women brought earlier in the night. That said, Randy Orton is back and got to hit one of the wildest RKOs in his career. Cody Rhodes, Seth Rollins, Randy Orton, Jey Uso & Sami Zayn def. Finn Balor, Damian Priest, Drew McIntyre, Dominik Mysterio & JD McDonagh via pinfall -- Grade: B

 
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Priest went head-to-head with Uso and Rollins before pulling out a baton and using it to attack both men and take over the match. With Judgment Day firmly in control, Zayn made his entrance, hitting McDonagh with a kendo stick and ramming the cage door into Balor's head. Zayn then grabbed a table before getting in the ring and taking out Priest. Zayn ripped a pipe out of the cage and used it to attack McDonagh and Priest. This led to McIntyre finally making his way to the cage, not stopping for any weapons, just wanting to get into the fight. McIntyre blitzed through Rollins and Zayn so he could get to Uso, who was still down from earlier in the match. McIntyre drove Uso into the cage over and over, saying Uso never apologized for what he did in helping Roman Reigns beat him at Clash at the Castle. Uso finally hit a superkick and he and Zayn hit McIntyre with a 1-D before Rhodes made his way to the cage. After the standard opening run of offense, Rhodes brought a bull rope into the cage before he and Rollins used the rope to attack various Judgment Day members. Rollins yelled at Rhodes asking if Orton was really going to show up before Mysterio made it to the ring and attacked every member of the opposing team that was already down on the canvas.

 
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Finn Balor, Damian Priest, Drew McIntyre, Dominik Mysterio & JD McDonagh vs. Cody Rhodes, Seth Rollins, Randy Orton, Jey Uso & Sami Zayn (WarGames Match): Throughout the night, it was said that Orton wasn't at the arena, with Judgment Day celebrating the fact and Zayn insisting to his teammates that Orton would show up when it mattered most. Rollins and Balor started things off for their teams. Rollins fired Balor into the cage several times, knowing he would be at a disadvantage five minutes later. Balor was quick to return the favor, sending Rollins into the cage several times and eventually hitting Rollins with a backdrop onto the metal plate connecting the two rings. McDonagh was the first man out of the cage though he was kicked by Rollins before he could enter the cage. McDonagh grabbed a pair of kendo sticks before getting into the cage and he and Balor started to wear Rollins out with the weapons. Uso was in for his team next, taking the heat off Rollins, who had been brutalized by Balor and McDonagh. McIntyre watched on desperately wanting to get to the ring and at Uso but when the time came, Priest stopped him and said they were sticking to the plan before walking to the cage.

 
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It's now time for the main event and the second WarGames match of the night. It's Finn Balor, Damian Priest, Drew McIntyre, Dominik Mysterio & JD McDonagh vs. Cody Rhodes, Seth Rollins, Randy Orton, Jey Uso & Sami Zayn.

Throughout the show, it has been suggested that Orton is not in the arena, but Zayn has begged his team to believe that Orton will show up when it matters.

 
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