by Patches Chance
For one night a year, brand supremacy takes center stage as the superstars of Raw and SmackDown Live square off in a fight to prove who really is “The A-Show.” With the exception of the 205 Live showdown with Mustafa Ali vying to take the Cruiserweight Championship from Buddy Murphy, every match on the card pits superstars from Raw against superstars from SmackDown.
Just a few weeks ago, things looked very different. Brock Lesnar was set to face off with AJ Styles for the second year in a row, and SmackDown Women’s Champion Becky Lynch was itching to bring the fight to Raw Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey. Unfortunately, since Becky isn’t medically cleared to compete, Becky’s longtime friend and rival Charlotte Flair will be taking her place by representing SmackDown.
While AJ Styles isn’t unable to compete, he lost the right to represent SmackDown just this Tuesday when he was dethroned as WWE Champion. After a grueling match, Daniel Bryan took advantage of a distracted referee and used a well-placed low blow to capture the WWE Championship. Regardless of the circumstances or what the future may hold, Bryan must now focus on Universal Champion Brock Lesnar. Raw reigned supreme last year by winning four of the seven brand warfare contests. Which show will emerge victorious tonight?
Can the teams work?
The big question of the night in the Traditional Survivor Series Elimination Matches will be the ability of either side to effectively work together. During the Kickoff Show, things got better for SmackDown Live on the women’s side while getting worse for Monday Night Raw. SmackDown rounded out their team by announcing Mandy Rose will fill the final spot, which used to belong to Charlotte Flair. On the other side, Raw’s attempt to get on the same page ended in the entire team coming to blows and Alexa Bliss threatening to kick both Ruby Riott and Natalya off the team if they couldn’t work together. Later in the Kickoff Show, it was revealed that Alexa Bliss had named Sasha Banks and Bayley to replace Riott and Natalya after the two couldn’t put aside their issues.
The tag teams started things off during the Kickoff Show in the 10-on-10 Tag Team Traditional Survivor Series Elimination Match. As expected, the theme of this one is complete and utter chaos. The Colons were the first team to go at the hands of a Shatter Machine. Raw took the brief advantage, but it disappeared when Karl Anderson rolled up Bo Dallas to eliminate The B-Team. SmackDown’s resident chaoticians tried to make an impact, but Dain’s power fell flat when the teamwork of Roode & Gable eliminated SAnitY from the mix. Some teamwork from The New Day next finished off The Ascension, evening the odds once again.
Oddly, Kalisto appeared to be injured early on and the referee seemed content to let Gran Metalik, the third member of Lucha House Party who was not initially a legal competitor, replace him in the match. If they’d just let Kofi join the action, it would’ve been a 11-on-11 match. It didn’t take long for the match to dwindle to only two teams remaining on each side. Gran Metalik eliminated Gallows & Anderson, but Lucha House Party was quickly dispatched by The Usos.
At that point, The New Day and The Usos were the last line of defense against The Revival and Roode & Gable. In many ways, this was when the match really got rolling. With things whittled down to these four teams, both sides got a second wind and hit some huge tandem moments. Team Captains Chad Gable and Bobby Roode were the next to go as The New Day eliminated them, Woods ate a Shatter Machine and New Day followed suit by being eliminated. The Revival fought hard for a comeback, but The Usos survived and picked up the win for SmackDown.
The opening match of the main show was the women’s Traditional Survivor Series Elimination Match. The cohesiveness of the teams was put to the test early as SmackDown’s Team Captain was the very first superstar eliminated when Tamina pinned Naomi. Things got light for a moment after Carmella managed to eliminate Tamina and followed it up with a dance break. From there, each team traded the lead back and forth. Mandy Rose had a great showing in one of her better performances to date, including a big elimination of Mickie James. A surprising simultaneous countout of Sonya Deville and Bayley set the stage for the final battle.
Asuka was all alone for Team SmackDown taking on Sasha Banks and Nia Jax. Asuka and Banks had a great few minutes of action near the end. When these two get a long term rivalry one day, it’ll be something special. Banks looked close to taking the win for Raw when Nia Jax suddenly stabbed her in the back and helped Asuka eliminate Banks. It was an odd choice, but Nia immediately snuck in the ring and landed several leg drops on Asuka. With the crowd continuing to fill the building with boos, Nia pulled Asuka onto her shoulders and hit a Samoan Drop to finish The Empress of Tomorrow and take the win as Raw’s sole survivor.
The night’s final Traditional Survivor Series Elimination Match featuring the men of Raw and SmackDown came with some less than perfect combinations. Braun Strowman has spent most of the night trying to keep himself from snapping on Corbin, and the rest of the team wasn’t exactly a perfect unit. On the SmackDown side, The Miz did his best to rally the troops but still feels like an unsurprisingly self-centered Team Captain.
It looked for a moment like the issues on Team Raw would be a hindrance right from the beginning. Strowman and McIntyre were heated and in each others faces about who would get to start the match against Samoa Joe. After Corbin defused the bickering, Strowman looked like the choice only for McIntyre to tag himself in the second the bell rang. It almost backfired as Joe went for the Coquina Clutch right off the bat, but Drew fought out. It wasn’t long till McIntyre suddenly blasted Joe with a Claymore to score the first elimination.
Like most big matches tend to, there was a complete breakdown of things early on as all of the men spilled into the ring and went at it. That action then moved to the outside where all four remaining members of Team SmackDown turned their attention to Braun Strowman. Mysterio, Miz, and Hardy managed to keep Strowman prone on the announcer’s table long enough for Shane McMahon to come flying off the top turnbuckle with his trademark elbow drop to drive him through the table.
With that momentum, SmackDown looked to gain momentum to even the odds as the match continued. When Drew McIntyre refused to tag his partner, Finn Balor tagged himself in despite Drew’s disapproval. He also gave Drew a swift kick to the head after entering the match. Balor then went one on one with Rey for a brief period and gave us all a glimpse of a legit dream match. Finn fought hard, but a 619 ended the Balor Club’s night.
As the match continued, The Miz continued to dodge his own involvement in the match by getting Shane back into things for big moments like a few Coast to Coast dropkicks. The first was effective as Shane eliminated Dolph Ziggler, cementing himself as Best in the World and giving SmackDown a brief numbers advantage. That advantage didn’t last long, as Shane was swatted out of the air during Coast to Coast attempt two by Braun Strowman.
After that moment, things became as lopsided as one could imagine. Having recovered from being put through a table earlier on, Braun Strowman went on a rampage. SmackDown tried to stay in the game, but it just wasn’t happening. Strowman eliminated Jeff Hardy, Rey Mysterio, The Miz, and Shane McMahon all in quick succession to take the win for Team Raw. With that win, Raw carried a 4-0 lead over SmackDown if you pretend the Kickoff Show didn’t happen, which WWE chose to do.
The Showcase of Champions
While one theme of the night was teamwork, or a lack thereof, the other was championship gold. The first taste of that came as Intercontinental Champion Seth Rollins of Raw squared off with United States Champion Shinsuke Nakamura of SmackDown. It’s not often that “first time ever” actually means that in WWE, but these two veterans have never found themselves in one on one competition. They’re also two top-notch performers fully capable of tearing the house down.
Any fans of Shinsuke Nakamura have likely been frustrated with much of his WWE run. More often than not, it felt like Nakamura didn’t have the situations or time to properly live up to his expectations. Thank goodness that wasn’t the case tonight. In what was arguably his best match since debuting in NXT against Sami Zayn, The King of Strong Style went to war with The Kingslayer.
Rollins has been on a roll as of late and looked good early on, but Nakamura started to take control on more than one occasion. Stiff strikes were thrown from all angles, including during times when the action spilled to the outside. Nakamura looked like he had victory in hand after nailing Seth with a Kinshasa, but somehow Rollins kicked out. Nakamura tried to stay on the offensive, but Seth quickly turned the tides and landed a stomp to pick up the win for Raw.
The second “champion versus champion” encounter of the night pitted The Bar against The Authors of Pain. While AOP have an impressive track record from their NXT days, they’ve not had any big tests since arriving on the main roster. Even in their title win, they beat Seth Rollins in a handicap match. This was a big test for them, and Drake Maverick’s massive duo delivered. They held their own throughout the contest, with a few small assists from the 205 Live General Manager. Ultimately it was Maverick’s embarrassing reaction to Big Show that provided enough distraction for The Authors of Pain to capitalize and capture the win.
While several matches throughout the night featured champions, only one had a title on the line. The Juggernaut of the Cruiserweight Division took on The Heart of 205 Live with the Cruiserweight Championship on the line. If you’ve been keeping up with 205 Live, you know that this has been months in the making. Despite being one of the most consistent and impressive parts of 205 Live, Mustafa Ali has seen the Cruiserweight Championship slip from his grasp on more than one occasion.
If you were impressed by the action between Ali and Murphy, it was really just a taste of what 205 Live delivers on a weekly basis. Their match could have gone on a little longer, but it was filled with amazing moments and great storytelling accented by the sheer athleticism of them. Ali came close once again, but Buddy Murphy’s dominance on 205 Live continued after he hit Murphy’s Law to retain the Cruiserweight Championship.
After the final Traditional Survivor Series Elimination Match came to a close, there were only two matches left in the night. The first featured Raw Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey taking on SmackDown’s Charlotte Flair. Becky Lynch was initially slated to take on Rousey, but the injury earlier this week prevented Lynch from being medically cleared. As a result, the long anticipated clash between Rousey and Flair was rushed to the forefront and comes to us tonight.
With rumors that Rousey’s big matches tend to be heavily practiced, it left some fans to wonder how she’d do with short notice and a change of plans. Any of those doubts were quickly done away with as Charlotte and Rousey got down to business and put on a fantastic match. They were well on their way to a main event caliber five-star classic. Both Rousey and Flair were in control at times, and continued to wear each other down with eyes on a submission victory. Then everything changed.
Out of nowhere, Rousey rushed Charlotte on the outside and received a kendo stick shot to the midsection. The referee called for the bell and Rousey took the win by disqualification, but things were just getting started. Charlotte proceeded to light Rousey up with a few dozen more brutal kendo stick strikes. Inside the ring, Charlotte planted Rousey face-first with Natural Selection into a steel chair.
Referees kept trying to put the tirade to an end, but Charlotte only got more fired up and attacked any referees that stood in her way. Lastly, Flair wrapped the chair around the neck of Rousey and delivered a stiff stomp to clamp it shut on the windpipe of the Raw Women’s Champion. It was a fitting ending to a devastatingly violent beatdown. Rousey took an eternity to get to her feet and get out of the arena. Raw may have technically won that match, but Ronda couldn’t have felt like a winner as she hobbled her way to the back.
The final match of the night saw newly-crowned WWE Champion Daniel Bryan take on Universal Champion Brock Lesnar. Right as the bell rang, Bryan started with mind games. He slid out of the ring and kept avoiding initial contact, effectively frustrating Lesnar more and more. It was an interesting strategy against a dangerous opponent with a short temper, but once Lesnar got a hold of Bryan it got ugly fast.
Lesnar turned the Staples Center into Suplex City and started to demolish Bryan. One suplex after another, and with each impact things looked scarier for the surgically repaired neck of the WWE Champion. Fans were beginning to cringe, and things looked like they were over before they’d ever begin. Lesnar started toying with Bryan, even pulling his shoulders up to break up pinfall attempts. Then Bryan got a second wind.
With a few well-timed kicks, Daniel Bryan started to fight back put himself back into the match. With a resiliency reminiscent of AJ Styles’ second wind last year against Lesnar, the WWE Champion brought the fight to The Beast Incarnate. Bryan focused his damage on the knee of Lesnar and started to hinder the Universal Champion’s vertical base. A distracted referee let Bryan hit a low blow and follow it up with a running knee, but Lesnar kicked out. It was a truly close fall, and showed just how far Bryan had fought back after looking like he was on the brink of unconsciousness early on. A few final attempts of the Yes Lock put Bryan within striking distance, but Lesnar powered out and planted Bryan with an F5 to pick up the win and complete Raw’s “clean” sweep of the night.
- Nia hamming up that Becky should be “embarrassed” by her injury isn’t fooling anyone.
- Woods screaming “sweep the leg” from the apron will never not be entertaining.
- Kalisto seemed to get injured early in the 10-on-10, and the referees just let Gran Metalik (third member of Lucha House Party, not an official competitor when the match began), compete. If they’d just let Kofi join the action too, it would’ve been a 11-on-11 match.
- The Usos were fitting sole surivovrs for SmackDown, and finished things off with an epic arm-cocked Superman Splash paying homage to Roman Reigns.
- Nia Jax got booed out of the building. The incident with Becky has given her more heel heat than she’s ever garnered in her career.
- Asuka vs Sasha Banks is money.
- Shinsuke Nakamura looks so weird in blue.
- The Kickoff Show was apparently deemed meaningless at some point early in the show as they began pushing that Raw held a 1-0 lead and wanted to sweep the table for the night, even though SmackDown won the tag team elimination match.
- Rockstar Spud just did an “I pissed my pants” gag on a WWE pay-per-view. Never tell me dreams don’t come true.
- R-Truth’s playful confusion never gets old.
- So, Enzo Amore was in the crowd and tried to hijack the show. It didn’t last long. If you want to watch for it in the broadcast, the incident happens right as the bell sounds for The Bar vs AOP.
- There’s some odd irony that Baron Corbin (an authority figure and an active competitor) wasn’t on the Raw team, while Shane McMahon (an authority figure but only a part-time competitor) was on the SmackDown team.
- Old Man Shane still had to hit the elbow drop through the table and a Coast to Coast. Best in the World?
- Rousey’s lip got busted early and it provided a bloodied exterior throughout the match, fitting considering the events that led to this.
- Ronda tried to get fired up and ate a spear that was followed by one of the closest near falls in recent memory.
- Charlotte Flair hitting Natural Selection and putting Rousey face-first into the chair was amazingly brutal.
- It’s so nice when Lesnar wrestles like he gives a shit.
- Raw conquered SmackDown with a “clean” sweep on the night (except the Kickoff Show because apparently that didn’t happen).
- Team SmackDown (The Usos, The New Day, SAnitY, Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson, and The Colons) def. Team Raw (Bobby Roode & Chad Gable, The Revival, The B-Team, Lucha House Party, and The Ascension)
Order of Elimination: Colons by Revival, B-Team by Gallows & Anderson, SAnitY by Gable & Roode, Ascension by New Day, Gallows & Anderson by Lucha House Party, Lucha House Party by Usos, Roode & Gable by New Day, New Day by Revival, Revival by Usos.
Sole Survivors: The Usos
- Team Raw (Mickie James, Nia Jax, Tamina, Sasha Banks, and Bayley) def. Team SmackDown (Carmella, Naomi, Sonya Deville, Asuka, and Mandy Rose)
Order of Elimination: Naomi by Tamina, Tamina by Carmella, Mickie James by Mandy Rose, Carmella by Bayley, Mandy Rose by Sasha Banks, Sonya Deville & Bayley by countout, Sasha Banks by Asuka, Asuka by Nia Jax
Sole Survivor: Nia Jax
- Intercontinental Champion Seth Rollins def. United States Champion Shinsuke Nakamura
- Raw Tag Team Champions The Authors of Pain def. SmackDown Tag Team Champions The Bar
- Buddy Murphy def. Mustafa Ali to retain the Cruiserweight Championship
- Men’s 5-on-5 Traditional Survivor Series Elimination Match: Team Raw (Dolph Ziggler, Drew McIntyre, Braun Strowman, Finn Balor, and Bobby Lashley) def. Team SmackDown (The Miz, Shane McMahon, Rey Mysterio, Samoa Joe, and Jeff Hardy)
Order of Elimination: Samoa Joe by Drew McIntyre, Finn Balor by Rey Mysterio, Dolph Ziggler by Shane McMahon, Jeff Hardy by Braun Strowman, Rey Mysterio by Braun Strowman, The Miz by Braun Strowman, Shane McMahon by Braun Strowman
Sole Survivors: Braun Strowman, Bobby Lashley, and Drew McIntyre
- Raw Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey def. SmackDown’s Charlotte Flair via disqualification
- Universal Champion Brock Lesnar def. WWE Champion Daniel Bryan