Survivor Series will always hold a special place in my heart.
Admittedly it’s nostalgia for the days when it was all about the Survivor Series Elimination matches but, even though it’s an artificially constructed format that the WWE ignore for eleven months a year, the Raw Vs Smackdown competition angle has on paper rejuvenated the concept slightly. 2017’s show was a success, but could 2018 follow suit?
The show proper (and that becomes an important point later) kicked off with the Women’s Elimination match. Alexa Bliss had been tasked with putting together then Women’s team which explained the absence of Bayley and Sasha Banks…until in-fighting between Natalya and Ruby Riott led to Bliss taking an executive decision to ditch them and replace them with the Boss Hug Connection at the last minute. At least there was some logic to it all. The match itself was clearly in existence to heat up Nia Jax ahead of her future match with Ronda Rousey.
Of course this was just a couple of weeks after Jax had potatoed Becky Lynch to put her out of Survivor Series and a match with Rousey so she had some heat, even if it was not necessarily the “good” kind. In a way it was a good job she had that heat because very little else in the match did. It came down to Jax and Banks against Asuka and illogically Jax shoved Banks off the top rope to enable her own team mate to be eliminated before she finished off the Empress of Tomorrow to become the sole survivor. It was by no means an awful match but neither was it very good either.
With Raw “1-0” up we got our first Champion Vs Champion match of the evening as Intercontinental Champion Seth Rollins took on United States Champion Shinsuke Nakamura. After a careful start the two picked up the pace and by the end were really flying. The closing sequences were among the hottest of the night and Rollins finally took the win in around 21 minutes.
Whilst I appreciated the deliberate build up at the beginning of the match, which made the final third of the match all the more exciting, it was a match that perhaps could have benefitted from being five minutes shorter but it was still very good. And a lot better than the battle of the Tag Team Champions which pitted The Authors of Pain against The Bar. One problem with the Champion Vs Champion route at Survivor Series is that it seemed as if the AOP had been hot-shotted to the titles just to make this match, a feeling that didn’t fade away when they lost the belts soon after. To make it worse, what could have been a barn-storming brawl ended up being nothing more than a standard TV style match, with the added “bonus” of Drake Maverick “pissing his pants”.
Things picked up with the one non “Raw Vs Smackdown” match of the evening as Buddy Murphy defended his Cruiserweight Title against Mustafa Ali. If you’re one of the handful of people who had watched 205 Live at all in 2018 you would have been salivating at the prospect of these two clashing; sadly it appeared that few in the crowd cared about 205 Live. By the end though, both men had dragged the crowd into appreciating the top notch action and even got the “this is awesome” chants. It may never get the praise, or the audience, that it deserves but this once again proved that 205 Live is the home of some of the hottest action of any WWE brand.
The Men’s Survivor Series Elimination match had far the bigger “star power” but it couldn’t match the previous match for action. There was some good talent in there, there were a good few names that are “over” and there were some people who could have benefitted from the match and taken some much needed momentum forward. But no, as Shane McMahon was on Team Smackdown it largely had to come down to being about him. Yes he lost, but the main story was just what a gutsy guy he was for surviving until the end. Out of the ring Shane’s run as head of Smackdown had been a pleasant surprise to me but if I never see Shane McMahon in another match ever again it wouldn’t in any way upset me. If this match achieved anything at all then it was lost on me.
Although it wasn’t’ the match that everyone wanted to see, the fact that Ronda Rousey against Charlotte was up next at least virtually guaranteed an upswing in quality. Of course, it was supposed to be Becky Lynch until Nia Jax’s fist changed things and whilst I didn’t particularly care for Lynch giving Charlotte the nod to take her place (after months of complaining about the “entitled” Flair who is handed everything on a plate Lynch, erm, hands Charlotte this opportunity on a plate) it was probably the one way the WWE could get out of the situation. The match itself was very good, even with the DQ ending. Rousey sold the post-match beat down very well too, even if what appeared to be a Charlotte heel turn was greeted with cheers from the fans.
All that was left, as Raw took a “5-0” lead on the night was the battle between Brock Lesnar and Daniel Bryan; in a similar way to last year’s Brock Lesnar Survivor Series match this was another late change as Bryan defeated AJ Styles on Smackdown to lift the title. Whilst I had enjoyed the Styles/Lesnar match last year and was looking forward to a re-match this fresh match had more appeal. For all the temptation there is to pit Lesnar against fellow “beasts” his best matches seem to come against smaller guys and this was no exception. Lesnar unleashed his usual brand of pain in the early going, which is right, but a low blow from Bryan enabled him to get back in the game and take it to the Beast. Fans were firmly behind him and you could believe that he might actually win. He didn’t, of course, but that’s no shame. Lesnar displayed a vulnerability that arguably did more for Bryan than, say, any pinfall by Roman Reigns over Lesnar ever did.
Overall, Survivor Series 2018 was a show that could be split into two broad categories. When it was good (Charlotte/Ronda, Lesnar/Bryan, Murphy/Ali) it was very good. When it wasn’t good (the two Elimination matches) it was a bit boring and pointless. But the only real clanger was the AOP/Bar Tag team match and taken as a whole this was an enjoyable night of WWE action.
The Tag Team Survivor Series Elimination match from the Kickoff Show is included as an extra. Although there are some sloppy moments in it, it’s packed full of action and is better than any of the elimination matches on the same show. As if to show how unimportant it is though the win for Team Smackdown here didn’t count against Team Raw’s “6-0” wipe-out victory on the PPV itself…
7 out of 10
Format reviewed: Bluray
Photos courtesy of Fetch and WWE.
Thank you to our partners, WWEDVD.co.uk and Fetch for providing our review copy of WWE Survivor Series 2018 which is out on Bluray and DVD now. You can buy your copy from WWEDVD.co.uk now by clicking https://www.wwedvd.co.uk/survivor-series-2018-order-p-12628.html?osCsid=ohi4eqc63e2ced4corh2066jf5