- Is Daniel Bryan better as a heel? Will we see Charlotte Flair vs. Ronda Rousey at WrestleMania? The biggest takeaways from WWE's Survivor Series.
If the Survivor Series served as a launching point for WrestleMania, then we are likely to witness the first-ever women’s match to main event WWE’s signature pay per view.
Charlotte Flair unleashed a violent attack on Ronda Rousey, reminding the wrestling world that Flairs are always better as villains.
Flair bloodied and bruised Rousey, and the match came to a sudden finish when Flair beat down Rousey with a kendo stick.
Following her disqualification, Flair snapped. Her attack on Rousey was brutal, included gripping visuals from both the aggressor and the prey, and allowed Flair a chance to work herself into a potential WrestleMania 35 main event against Rousey and Becky Lynch.
Team Raw wiped out Team SmackDown, capturing every match on the pay per view.
In addition to the return of “Super” Shane McMahon, the show featured some genuinely compelling moments, including encounters between Seth Rollins and Shinsuke Nakamura, Finn Balor and Rey Mysterio, and a tremendous first-ever bout between Brock Lesnar and Daniel Bryan.
Here are the results:
• Team SmackDown’s The Usos, New Day, SAnitY, Gallows and Anderson, and the Colons defeated Team Raw’s B-Team, The Revival, Lucha House Party, The Ascension and Bobby Roode and Chad Gable on the preshow with Jimmy and Jey Uso finishing the match as the survivors
• Team Raw’s Mickie James, Nia Jax, Tamina, Bayley and Sasha Banks defeated Team SmackDown’s Asuka, Carmella, Naomi, Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose with Nia Jax lasting as the sole survivor
• Intercontinental champion Seth Rollins defeated United States Shinsuke Nakamura
• Raw tag team champions The AOP defeated SmackDown tag champions The Bar
• Cruiserweight champion Buddy Murphy defeated Mustafa Ali
• Team Raw’s Braun Strowman, Bobby Lashley, Finn Balor, Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler defeated Team SmackDown’s Samoa Joe, The Miz, Shane McMahon, Jeff Hardy and Rey Mysterio with Strowman, McIntyre and Lashley surviving
• Raw women’s champion Ronda Rousey defeated Charlotte Flair by disqualification
• Universal champion Brock Lesnar defeated WWE champion Daniel Bryan
Here are my five takeaways from the pay per view:
1. Sometimes in wrestling, the perfect situation appears right in front of you.
And that is exactly what has happened for the WWE.
Through a complete accident, Nia Jax is the No. 1 heel in the business. She legitimately gave Becky Lynch a concussion with an errant punch this past Monday on Raw, and the crowd at the Staples Center boisterously voiced its disapproval.
But, moving forward, will Jax continue to be booked as a heel? Or, like her career trajectory has shown, will that change again in three weeks?
2. Enzo Amore attempted to make his WWE pay per view return at the Survivor Series.
And it reeked of desperation.
A more dressed in disguise and sat ringside on the camera side of the ring, running through his signature routine before he was forcibly removed by building security.
There are ways to remain relevant post-WWE, but this was a poor attempt. And where does Amore go from here? Unlike Scott Hall’s “invasion” of WCW, this one will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.
3. For reasons that will never make sense, Shane McMahon is booked as the toughest man in WWE.
Why was Samoa Joe the sacrificial lamb for Drew McIntyre in the opening moments of the men’s five-on-five Survivor Series match? Samoa Joe was eliminated while McMahon went on to deliver a couple of highlights throughout the match. That moment served as the epitome of how WWE hurts itself with counterintuitive booking. Why highlight a part-time talent in McMahon over a workhorse like Joe?
Naturally, McMahon played a critical role in the match. So instead of Joe having his chance to run with some of the best in the business, viewers were instead treated to more Shane McMahon.
The match had its highlights, with the clash between Rey Mysterio and Finn Balor standing out as one of them. Mysterio got the better of Balor, which could build toward a memorable match at WrestleMania 35. Mysterio and Braun Strowman also had a short but special encounter in the match. Longtime Mysterio fans no doubt thought back to his work on Nitro against Kevin Nash and his ability to span generations.
The match served as a perfect example of how to elevate multiple talents in a multi-man match, but the finish was infuriating as it went right back to the narrative of the superhuman McMahon.
Forcing the part-time, 48-year-old McMahon into the role of heroic babyface was, by far, the most frustrating part of the show.
4. Charlotte Flair’s Survivor Series match against Ronda Rousey was an audition for WrestleMania.
The fire exhibited by Flair was genuine, as her match with Rousey that could have been saved for WrestleMania 35 was rushed into the Survivor Series following a concussion to Becky Lynch.
Flair worked an urgent pace, then reminded anyone invested in the WWE product that she works best as a villain.
The aftermath of this encounter will be interesting. How does WWE keep the feud between Rousey and Flair alive? The most logical manner would be for Flair to win the Royal Rumble, then challenge both Rousey and Lynch to a match at WrestleMania.
5. Is Daniel Bryan a better heel than he is a babyface?
Bryan is tremendous in both roles, and he played them both to perfection in his first-ever encounter with Brock Lesnar.
Fans were treated to the gruesome sight of Bryan, whose history of neck and head injuries is well-documented, tossed around on his head and neck by Lesnar.
The initial story of the match was Lesnar destroying Bryan after being mocked to open the match, until a low blow led to a running knee that saw Lesnar kick out on two-and-a-half. That narrative changed midway through the match, as the story then became the underdog Bryan’s refusal to quit against a massive bully in Lesnar.
Bryan returned to his unhinged persona after the finish, but the end result was Bryan getting the best match out of Lesnar in a year.
Since his 2012 return to WWE, Lesnar’s best matches include his dismantling of John Cena at SummerSlam in 2014, his ending of The Undertaker’s “Streak” at WrestleMania 30 (more for the story, as the match itself was subpar) and Survivor Series matches last year with AJ Styles and this year against Bryan.
Lesnar’s victory over CM Punk at SummerSlam in 2013 remains his finest work over the past six years, but his work with Bryan served as a reminder that, when presented with the right opponent, Lesnar is one of the most authentic, legitimate and entertaining main events acts in wrestling history.
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.