WWE’s Survivor Series Makes Strides Toward WrestleMania 36 Main Event

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The Survivor Series served as a showcase for talent across NXT, Raw and SmackDown, as well as the launching point for WrestleMania.

Becky Lynch returned to the main event for WWE, laying the groundwork for WrestleMania 36 next April. But will Vince McMahon place his WrestleMania main event in the hands of Lynch even without a return from Ronda Rousey?

Shayna Baszler won the triple threat main event against Bayley and Lynch, forcing Bayley to submit. Lynch continued the story by attacking Baszler after the match. Time will tell, hopefully as soon as tomorrow night’s Raw, how the Lynch-Baszler feud will continue. The likeliest outcome is that the story advances with a Horsewomen vs. Horsewomen angle, followed by Lynch-Rousey at WrestleMania.

The Survivor Series featured the battle for brand supremacy, which has been presented in a painstakingly similar fashion for the past three years between Raw and SmackDown. This year’s edition was enhanced with the addition of NXT. But without any real stakes (the number 30 spot in the Royal Rumble would be the most logical prize for the winning brand), the fight between the brands feels hollow.

Introducing NXT into the mix added a new element to an old story. And it was smart to have the NXT brand accumulate the most wins at Survivor Series. WWE is working extremely hard to give NXT any and every boost necessary to defeat All Elite Wrestling in the rating battle every Wednesday night.

The highlights of the night included the Adam Cole-Pete Dunne singles match, the men’s five-on-five-on-five brand supremacy match that ended with Roman Reigns and Keith Lee putting on a show, Rhea Ripley winning the five-on-five-on-five women’s Survivor Series match, and another stellar performance from Roderick Strong.

Here are the results:

• Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode won a 10-team Interbrand tag team battle royal on the preshow

• Cruiserweight champion Lio Rush defeated Akira Tozawa and Kalisto on the preshow

• The Viking Raiders defeated The New Day and the Undisputed Era in a triple threat match on the preshow

• Rhea Ripley was the sole survivor for NXT in the five-on-five-on-five Survivor Series triple threat elimination match, which also included NXT teammates Bianca Belair, Candice LeRae, Io Shirai and Toni Storm against Team SmackDown’s Sasha Banks, Carmella, Dana Brooke, Lacey Evans and Nikki Cross against Team Raw’s Charlotte Flair, Natalya Neidhart, Asuka, Kairi Sane and Sarah Logan

• Roderick Strong defeated AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura in a triple threat match

• Adam Cole defeated Pete Dunne in a singles match to retain the NXT title

• WWE champion “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt defeated Daniel Bryan

• Roman Reigns was the sole survivor in a triple threat elimination match featuring his Team SmackDown teammates Braun Strowman, King Corbin, Mustafa Ali and Shorty G against Team Raw’s Seth Rollins, Drew McIntyre, Kevin Owens, Randy Orton and Ricochet against Team NXT’s Keith Lee, Tommaso Ciampa, Matt Riddle, Damian Priest and WALTER

• Universal champion Brock Lesnar defeated Rey Mysterio in a no holds barred match

• Shayna Baszler defeated Becky Lynch and Bayley in a triple threat brand supremacy match, submitting Bayley to close out the show

Here are my takeaways from the pay-per-view:

** The main event between Becky Lynch, Bayley and Shayna Baszler had the difficult task of closing out a five-hour plus pay-per-view, and the structure of the match was also an issue. The match featured a lot of one-on-one action with a third member of the match outside the ring, which differed from the other triple threat matches, and ultimately did not serve as a benefit.

But the match hit its necessary objective: keep building to the Four Horsewomen vs. the Four Horsewomen. The WWE’s Four Horsewomen are Lynch, Bayley, Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks, and they would be opposed by Baszler, Marina Shafir, Jessamyn Duke and Ronda Rousey, whose name was mentioned frequently during the main event.

Looking back at this past week’s Raw, WWE has already started its build to that match. Ultimately, if the goal remains Lynch-Rousey at WrestleMania 36, then this match took a step in the right direction.

** Missing from the Survivor Series broadcast was the wildly talented Mauro Ranallo.

Ranallo did play-by-play for NXT TakeOver: War Games on Saturday night, and received some criticism on social media from SmackDown color commentator Corey Graves during the show.

Ranallo, who is open about his ongoing mental health struggles, has since deleted his Twitter page. Ranallo’s manager, Frank Shamrock, tweeted to Graves on Sunday afternoon, posting a picture that read, “Social media has made too many of you comfortable with disrespecting people and not getting punched in the mouth for it.”

Hopefully Ranallo is in good health and back on the air this Wednesday for NXT.

** As “The Fiend,” Bray Wyatt is an attraction. That was the case in his match against Daniel Bryan, which was a very solid 10-minute match that saw Bryan get in a lot of offense but ultimately fall prey to the mandible claw.

But the lighting is a distraction.

Wyatt’s matches are supposed to have a horror-type feel to them, which, in theory, is enhanced by the dimmed red lighting. But how does that add realism to the show? It adds a nice touch at house shows, giving audiences a different feature at live shows, but Survivor Series showed, again, how this only serves as a hindrance on pay-per-view.

** Star-making performances took place at the Survivor Series, beginning with Rhea Ripley’s victory in the women’s five-on-five-on-five match. Following an absurdly entertaining performance at Saturday’s NXT War Games, Adam Cole was, once again, stellar against Pete Dunne, who also shined on a WWE pay-per-view. Their match made me think that Dunne will be the man to eventually dethrone Cole, though there are many challengers, including Tommaso Ciampa and Finn Balor, also vying for that title.

Roderick Strong was phenomenal in his triple threat against AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura. The match went 17 minutes and was so smooth and crisp that it could have doubled its time. Strong outsmarted Styles to get the pin fall on Nakamura, which will hopefully continue his build to stardom.

But there may have been no brighter spotlight on a talent than that on Keith Lee in the five-on-five-on-five Survivor Series match. Lee eliminated Seth Rollins to match up, one-on-one, against Roman Reigns to close out the match, and it was a spectacular display of athleticism, storytelling and drama. Reigns ultimately won, but Lee looked incredible in defeat.

** Brock Lesnar and Rey Mysterio combined for a quick, yet entertaining, WWE title match.

Mysterio is a perfect opponent for Lesnar, as his short stature and athleticism amplify Lesnar’s size and strength. The match was quick, not even lasting seven minutes, but told a compelling story. Mysterio finally gave some comeuppance to Lesnar, and his son Dominic also got some revenge for all the times Lesnar has tormented him and his father.

Despite the loss for Mysterio, his storyline with Lesnar is likely to extend beyond Survivor Series.

** Overall, the Survivor Series was a very good pay-per-view. Highlighting the talent from NXT added some flair to the show, but was also necessary considering that NXT has head-to-head competition on Wednesday nights against AEW.

The question moving forward, as always, is how the stories advance. Will Roderick Strong receive another chance to work with AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura at an upcoming pay-per-view? Will Keith Lee ever challenge Roman Reigns? And how will the Becky Lynch-Shayna Baszler feud extend to all of the members of their respective Four Horsewomen factions?

Despite some flaws, the Survivor Series delivered.

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso