Raw vs. SmackDown. Champions against champions. Survivor Series 2017, emanating live from the Toyota Center in Houston, is largely about brand bragging rights. The stakes are high in the men's five-on-five Survivor Series match, with general manager Kurt Angle's job hanging in the balance, but more so than anything else, Survivor Series will feature several dream matches that most fans never would have expected to see.
Tim Fiorvanti is live in Houston covering the action, along with additional coverage from Matt Wilansky and match ratings from ESPN Stats & Information's Sean Coyle.
Men's match -- Team Raw def. Team Smackdown (Triple H, Braun Strowman survivors)
It took until the closing moments of the match, with everything already in hand and Angle ready to have Shane McMahon tap out, but Triple H's cause was eventually realized as he attacked Angle from behind, pedigreed him, and allowed McMahon to pin Angle before ultimately still claiming the match for Team Raw.
It was a rather one-sided conclusion to an otherwise heavyweight classic of a traditional Survivor Series match, but it certainly laid the groundwork for what's to come on the road to WrestleMania.
Everything about this match just felt big. From the time the horns in Angle's entrance hit, even after an amazing match between AJ Styles and Brock Lesnar, the crowd had an entirely different gear to hit, and they were ready to do it well before the bell even rang.
Action started with McMahon blindsiding Strowman -- and he immediately realized the folly of his efforts when Strowman threw him all the way across the ring. Samoa Joe and Randy Orton tagged in, and that's when the action truly started in earnest.
Joe got the early edge, with both an RKO and a Coquina Clutch teased, and that offered Finn Balor the opportunity to tag himself in. The crowd got heated again when Shinsuke Nakamura extended his hand, and the two former NXT champions mixed it up as the crowd got into a hearty "NXT" chant. The mind games started early, when both Balor and Nakamura broke on the ropes by taunting each other.
Balor looked over to Triple H, who extended his hand, and Nakamura beckoned him to "come on," which Triple H happily obliged. After a brief back-and-forth, Triple H hit a facebuster with his knee to Nakamura's face which sent him stumbling backward -- allowing Bobby Roode to tag in for the first time, and thus pitting Triple H against two of his most successful NXT efforts back-to-back.
Roode got in some good licks and some big chops, but ultimately fell to a spinebuster. Triple H mocked Roode's "Glorious" chant, swirling his hands before hitting a suck-it taunt, but missed a pedigree as Roode hit a spinebuster of his own. They went back and forth again, missing their finishers, and then Triple H drove Roode into the corner, allowing Angle to tag in for the first time.
Angle hit three German suplexes, but Roode rolled over and allowed Nakamura to get back in there. Even as Team Raw spilled into the ring without tagging into the ring, Nakamura was able to attack all that came after him until he angered Strowman and ran himself right into a running power slam: Braun Strowman eliminated Shinsuke Nakamura
After a back and forth with Roode, Strowman hit another power slam, sending him out as well; Braun Strowman eliminated Bobby Roode.
It was all going too well for Raw, though, as Samoa Joe tagged himself in and caused the whole team to fall victim to in-fighting. Angle and Triple H went toe-to-toe, and then the whole operation broke down as Orton and McMahon used the distraction to try to even things out.
John Cena and Orton failed to hit an Attitude Adjustment and an RKO, respectively, but did manage to knock Strowman out to the floor by working together. Strowman was right back up, though, and sent them flying as he prepared an announce table -- for his own demise, as it ended up. Orton and Cena alone could not suplex Strowman through the table, but McMahon and the two eliminated Team SmackDown members were able to make it a five-headed effort.
Samoa Joe was able to stifle McMahon's attempt to hit a flying elbow on the fallen Strowman, but that soon led to Joe and Cena mixing it up. This Survivor Series match was only the second time they've been in the ring together since Joe joined WWE, after breaking into the business and training together almost two decades prior, making it a special moment in and of itself.
Joe set up Cena with a Uranage, but as Balor tagged himself in, Joe's preexisting tension with Balor boiled over and he stood in Balor's way to prevent from hitting a Coup de Grace, because he wanted the glory for himself. Cena hit Joe with an Attitude Adjustment, hit Balor with one as well, and then hit Joe a second time with the AA to earn the pinfall victory; John Cena eliminated Samoa Joe.
Angle stepped in, and suddenly, their rivalry of more than a decade prior came back to the surface. Angle locked in the ankle lock briefly, Cena shook out, but then Angle popped up and hit an Angle Slam. McMahon ran in to break up the fall, but Balor successfully hit the Coup de Grace on Cena and Angle followed it up with a second Angle slam. That was enough to knock Cena out midway through; Kurt Angle eliminated John Cena.
Balor and Orton clashed in the ring, and during a break in the action, Balor spilled to the outside and nailed McMahon with a low dropkick into the barrier. He quickly got back to business by hitting a pair of dropkicks on Orton, but missed his shot at the Coup de Grace. Orton popped up and hit an RKO out of nowhere and Balor's run was over; Randy Orton eliminated Finn Balor.
Angle and Triple H worked together briefly, but Orton disrupted the process long enough for everyone to be down. As McMahon recovered an extended his hand for a tag, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens ran through the crowd to pull him off the apron and thwart the effort. McMahon battered both men with a steel chair, Orton hit an RKO on Owens, and the threat was otherwise averted.
All of that time, however, allowed Strowman to recover and tag himself in. He was quickly able to hit a power slam on Orton, and all of a sudden, McMahon faced a three-on-one deficit; Braun Strowman eliminated Randy Orton.
As Strowman stood poised in the ring, flanked by Triple H and Angle, McMahon paced on the outside of the ring as he tried to figure out how best to deal with this situation. After a couple of moments, he finally steeled himself and beckoned Strowman on -- until Triple H tagged himself in and insisted of facing off with his brother-in-law. They circled for a bit, but Angle insisted on going GM vs. GM and tagged himself in instead.
McMahon got the better of the exchange throughout and attempted a half dozen pinfalls between DDT's side-Russian leg sweeps and anything else he could think of. Angle finally turned it around and hit the Angle Slam, and slid right into the ankle lock, seemingly locking up the match.
McMahon simply would not give up. He tried to kick through, but Angle rolled with it. He teased tapping out, nearly reached the ropes.
Then the ruse was discovered. Triple H broke it up, hit a pedigree on Angle, and rolled McMahon on top of Angle for the pinfall; Shane McMahon eliminated Kurt Angle.
Triple H and Strowman stared each other down for what seemed like an eternity, trying to figure out what happened, and Triple H eventually seemed to briefly help McMahon before turning around and nailing another pedigree to lock up the match for Team Raw; Triple H eliminated Shane McMahon; Triple H and Braun Strowman are the survivors.
Triple H lifted Strowman's arm multiple times as though he should be happy they won, but Strowman never stopped staring. He choked Triple H into the corner, screamed at him, but ultimately let him go. He turned his back though, setting Triple H up for a chance to blindside him for a pedigree, but Strowman wasn't having any of it. With a running power slam, Strowman was the only man left standing at the end of the night. He added a second for good measure, ripped off his shirt, and sent the fans home happy.
Brock Lesnar def. AJ Styles via pinfall
How good is it to be Brock Lesnar? He doesn't spend much time in the ring -- in official fights anyway -- and he has someone who speaks for him full time. Yet, he can single-handedly turn any pay-per-view card into a Super Bowl.
Throw in AJ Styles and, wow, we're talking a battle of a lifetime. No, this isn't hyperbole. These are two of the greatest icons in this business. And Sunday in Houston, they showed why.
Before things really got going, the first question was whether Lesnar could last longer than the two-minute beating he took a year ago at this event against Goldberg. Another squash match? Psst. Hardly.
The second was whether Styles would ultimately bow out to one F-5 after a heartfelt performance the way Braun Strowman did at No Mercy. That was a baffling result, one that seemingly sent Strowman into rebuilding mode.
The third and most legit was whether Jinder Mahal would play a role, and if so, who was he going to hurt -- or help.
The atmosphere was eclectic.
"AJ Styles! Suplex city," chants rang through the crowd. Lesnar seemed to feed off the energy. He tossed Styles around the ring like he was Mike Kanellis. He grabbed Styles by the hair and flung him into the ropes before his first suplex of the night. And what an incredible one it was.
Lesnar had already fared better than last year here, and the match had just begun. Styles could barely walk. To make matters worse, Lesnar was manhandling him like a 205 cruiserweight by first tossing Styles over the top rope and then into the barricade. Utter domination might be an understatement in the early going. Outside the ring, Paul Heyman grinned from ear to ear as Lesnar continued to eviscerate his opponent. Lesnar mocked and goaded his opponent, and it worked to perfection. Until it didn't.
Styles got a few licks in, sending the announcers into a frenzy. Then after Lesnar missed a running knee to Styles' body, the momentum took a sudden turn. Styles worked on Lesnar's legs, kicking him over and over. Styles missed a moonsault but caught him with a devastating Pele kick.
But Styles then missed phenomenal forearm, and Lesnar caught him, sending the SmackDown champ into a near 360 suplex.
The pace was fast and furious.
Styles recovered and this time and landed a phenomenal forearm from the top rope outside the ring, laying out Lesnar, who could barely crawl to the steel steps. Styles then hit Lesnar with another forearm smash outside the ring.
But that was nothing compared to the incredible springboard 450 splash Styles converted that gave him a near-pin. If that wasn't enough, he put Lesnar in an ankle lock. The Raw champ was in pain -- a lot of it. He wouldn't tap and instead grabbed Styles' head and smashed it into the ring mat over and over.
The crowd yelled "this is awesome" in unison, and they couldn't have been more accurate. Styles then connected another massive phenomenal forearm that nearly won him the match.
But just like almost every one of Lesnar's matches have gone since he joined the WWE, he needed only one F-5 to ultimately win. And after a relentless back-and-forth battle, Lesnar caught Styles mid-air and hit the F-5.
It was the perfect ending. Lesnar walked away as the winning champion, but Styles put on a breathtaking show. Here's hoping we don't have to wait long for a sequel.
Charlotte Flair def. Alexa Bliss via submission
It may have been the pace of the match, a lack of familiarity or an uncertainty from the crowd, but Charlotte Flair and Alexa Bliss struggled to keep the crowd up for parts of their champion versus champion clash.
There isn't one particular element to blame, and it wasn't a bad match by any means, to be fair. At two different points, the crowd got hot with "Let's go Charlotte, let's go Bliss" dueling chants, and they got very loud when Flair forced Bliss to tap, but on a night where most in attendance were eager to please, they were noticeably quiet despite a full effort from both women.
Flair took the lead early, only for Bliss to use every underhanded trick in the book to try to slow Flair down. Bliss used those devious tactics to gain an edge. Bliss slapped Flair in the mouth, and then used Flair's aggression by pulling an arm breaker from off the apron to the floor. Bliss continued to exploit her edge by bringing the action to Flair, with a low dropkick that sent Flair ribs-first into the steel ring step.
Perhaps that was the point when the problem with the match, and the overall problem with Bliss, started to manifest. An abdominal stretch continued to work the ribs for an exceedingly long stretch of time, but the physical size difference made this a little hard to stomach. Instead of Bliss continuing to cheat, having her impose her physical will on a much larger competitor just seemed a little too unbelievable.
They got out of that spot creatively enough, as Flair tried a scoop slam only for Bliss to reverse and send Flair back-first into the mat. The slow, methodical pace occasionally seemed likely to betray Bliss over and over again, but she kept slithering her way out of tough spots at the last minute until Flair used a page out of Becky Lynch's book with an exploder suplex into the turnbuckle.
Bliss tried to stop Flair twice from setting up for a moonsault, but the third time was the charm when she swept Flair's legs out from underneath her. A dropkick to the torso set up double knees from the top rope, followed immediately by a double handspring with another set of double knees.
Flair picked Bliss up for a power bomb, only for Bliss to reverse it into a head scissors and a roll-up. When that didn't work, she hit a code red flipping power bomb, but again, she couldn't finish the job on Flair.
A crowd that seemed intensely interested in the beginning of the match continued to sit on its hands for big chunks of this match, as though they were waiting for some big moment to come up so they could invest emotionally. Flair finally made that kind of an impact by smoothly transitioning from a sitting front guillotine choke Bliss had applied to a sit-out power bomb that she was able to hold with only one arm.
Flair hit her Natural Selection, which again left Bliss on the brink of a loss, but a moonsault attempt missed and brought the match level once more. As they got back to their feet, Bliss slid backwards towards the corner as Flair crawled and stalked her, but Bliss spring her trap with a punch to the face and then a DDT, but it only earned her a two-count when Flair got her leg on the bottom rope. That triggered a mid-ring temper tantrum from Bliss.
The crowd came up again, cheering, "Let's go Charlotte! Let's go Bliss," as Flair bounced Bliss off the ropes and hit a spear. But Bliss was the first to get to her feet, hitting a low running dropkick and a series of kicks to send Flair back to the ground. With Flair prone, Bliss went up for Twisted Bliss off the top rope, but Flair got her knees up, popped up and hit a big boot, and then locked in the figure eight that ultimately forced Bliss to tap out.
It's no secret that Survivor Series is often hurt by the lack of build given the opponents have little interaction the other 364 days of the year.
In the case of Sheamus and Cesaro against The Usos, there was even less heat in the weeks leading up to this pay-per-view. The other matches on the card were just stronger, plain and simple. But this bout had something going for it: the potential to raise, well, the bar in non-stop action. Just look at the performances The Usos had with The New Day.
The Usos had the upper hand early, levering their teamwork as they beat down Sheamus in the corner until Cesaro finally stepped in, but he was quickly whacked in the mouth, which has already suffered enough damage for a lifetime when he was flung into the ring post at No Mercy by Dean Ambrose.
The pace was methodical in the first few minutes. Cesaro and Sheamus in particular slowed down the cadence, which seemed like a smart plan. The Bar began to dominate their opponents. Jimmy in particular was relegated to a punching bag with his partner nowhere to be found. Finally, Jimmy landed a dive from the top rope, giving him time to tag in his brother, Jey, who gave the blue brand some energy. Some nefarious tactics from The Usos nearly gave them a three-count.
Cesaro changed the momentum with a Cesaro swing and a sharpshooter against Jey, who mercifully crawled to the rope and avoided elimination. Soon after, the Raw champs converted white noise, which nearly gave them the win.
A complete melee broke out that ended with The Usos double-superkicking Sheamus and then landing a splash from the top rope. That was it. The Usos, who are five-time champs, showed why they are the best tag team in the business.
If there was one takeaway, it's that this team deserves a lot more respect than it gets. Just ask Sheamus and Cesaro.
Baron Corbin def. The Miz via pinfall
On the surface, this was a weird match-up before the bell ever rang. Sure, The Miz and Corbin went to war on Twitter and built up a lot of hype for their Survivor Series clash, but pitting two bad guys against each other in a match fans didn't seem to have a clear choice as far as who to root for was a head-scratcher.
But between the animosity between the two egomaniacs, and their different in-ring styles, the crowd got into this match in a hurry -- either picking someone to root for or, perhaps, someone to clearly root against. By the time Corbin hit End of Days and had his hand raised (and Miz's mouth went shut), each man had enjoyed far more positive support than they'd had in quite some time. They even got loud, dueling chants.
It's a credit to just how much effort both men put in, but from the moment Miz went feet-first, flying through the middle rope and bottom rope with a dropkick and other acrobatics early in the match, it was clear that he was in it to push himself to his physical limits.
Maryse, who was Miz's valet until recently, was in the crowd instead of at ringside due to her ongoing pregnancy, but she was able to distract Corbin enough to help her husband right off the bat. With the added backup of Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas, Miz took full advantage of the numbers game early on outside the ring, only for Corbin to impose his physicality almost immediately once they spilled back into the ring.
Miz's goal of working Corbin's knee with chop blocks was paid off when he locked on the figure four in the middle of the ring, but Corbin got to the ropes and kept stifling Miz's momentum. Even so, Corbin couldn't get much going on his own, as Miz was running on all cylinders throughout the match. The only way Corbin grabbed the upper hand was by using Miz's own momentum, like he did the first time he hit one of his two showstoppers, the Deep Six.
Corbin finally managed to even the playing field by clotheslining Axel and following it up by pulling Dallas into the ring to nail him with the End of Days, but Miz reversed another End of Days attempt into a DDT, and hit it flush for a two-count. For once The Miz's "It" kicks didn't draw boos from the crowd -- instead, they chanted "Yes", like they did for Daniel Bryan in the golden days.
Mocking Bryan's offense ultimately did Miz in, though, as his attempt at running dropkicks was stifled as he ran head-first into End of Days, which brought the contest to an abrupt conclusion.
Women's match: Team Raw def. Team SmackDown Live (Asuka sole survivor)
Moments before the five-on-five women's match, Raw commissioner Stephanie McMahon stood backstage with her squad, delivering her best attempt at a pep talk.
Rife with platitudes and an attitude, she demanded excellence from her team, which on paper was much stronger. You could delineate each roster, checking off the strengths and weaknesses of each, but the x-factor, the one women who it seemed couldn't lose, was the newly promoted Asuka, who never lost a match while at NXT.
"Becky Lynch doesn't just want to break your streak, but she wants to break your arm," McMahon said to Asuka. "So I want you to go out there and break every bone in her body."
After the first nine participants were introduced, it seemed as though the crowd went silent and the lights went out as Asuka was introduced. Was she going to be the difference-maker?
The match began with the two captains squaring off. Alicia Fox and Becky Lynch exchanged a series of blows before the SmackDown participant landed a massive leg drop from the top rope. With a sneaky tag, Bayley came into the ring and rolled up Becky for the pin to give Raw a 5-4 lead.
Asuka made her first appearance, albeit briefly, with a couple of kicks to Tamina before tagging out. But it was Bayley who was the star early on, as she continued to get the upper hand on Team Blue. But Carmella came in and landed a superkick, setting up a superfly smash from the top rope by Tamina that eliminated Bayley. Four were left on each team.
Nia Jax and Tamina then spent some time in the ring, beating down each other in a legit pugilistic back-and forth. Outside the ring, they battled, with Tamina laying out her Raw counterpart who couldn't beat the 10-count. Out went Jax. A huge blow to Raw. Score: SmackDown leads 4-3.
As the action wore on, Asuka came back into the ring and superkicked Carmella for the three count. 2-2. Did we mention it was a whirlwind?
Banks and Natalya went at it, with the Raw member having her way, including an ear-piercing slap. She nearly eliminated Natalya with a Banks Statement until Tamina interfered. Natalya then put Banks in a sharpshooter and she tapped. 2-1 SmackDown.
It was up to Asuka to save the day for Raw. She and Tamina duked it out, before the former NXT champ forced her foe to tap 1-1.
It was up to Natalya to try and stop Asuka, but that wouldn't happen. An Asuka lock later and that was it. Natalya tapped and Raw took a 2-0 lead on the night.
The Shield def. The New Day
Sometimes the best way to set the scene, energize a crowd and set a high bar for everyone to follow is to put one of the biggest attractions out first, and by making The Shield versus the New Day in the opener, WWE succeeded on all fronts.
It's a match that was only set for a few weeks, but from the moment the New Day stepped out to the ring and laid in one last round of insults on Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose the animosity between the two teams and the anticipation of this highly-desired dream match, it barely mattered.
The early stages of the match brought a little bit of doubt into what the match could be, as the pace was slow and labored, but it was simply a masterful job of building up to the big moments and making them as impactful as possible. By the time The Shield had their hands raised following a super-triple power bomb with each member of the team standing elevated on the ropes, the whole crowd was on its feet and no one was left wanting.
Even in the low-impact moments, there wasn't a wasted sequence. The Shield mocked New Day's "unicorn stampede", and in turn, New Day did an extended version and even went back for seconds. When Big E ripped the split Raw/Shield t-Shirt from Ambrose's body, it was almost seemed as though it was the signal for all hell to break loose.
Ambrose and Reigns seemed to turn the tide for good with double team slams of Kingston and Big E into guard rails on opposite sides of the ring, as they set up Woods for a triple power bomb, but Big E had other plans, sending Reigns into the steel steps. New Day had taken control, but there was utter carnage as a result.
New Day's in-ring creativity was, as per usual, on display in this match. Woods lifted Big E onto his shoulders, Kingston leapfrogged off the top rope and over Big E's shoulders, and then dropped Big E face-first for yet another creative triple team solution the New Day can add to their arsenal. They continued from there, as Big E defied even the grandest expectations of his strength by getting both Rollins and Ambrose up for the Big Ending -- and Woods and Kingston completed the puzzle from the top rope to make it a double Midnight Hour. It seemed as though the end had come again, but Reigns speared Big E into the pile in the middle of the ring and broke up the pinfall attempt.
Both trios struggled to get to their feet, but then charged at each other at full speed, frustrations getting the better of them. It was advantage Shield, and as Big E and Woods were taken out at ring side, Kingston's attempt at a high-flying maneuver from the top missed, leading him right into a Reigns spear.
The Super Shield power bomb set off the explosion the crowd had been building to all match, and gave The Shield a well-earned victory. It was a match that built nicely from slow and steady to downright chaotic in the final moments. New Day is a strong enough trio to absorb a hard-fought loss, and whether The Shield will continue to work as a trio for another month or far longer, it seemed counter-intuitive for them to lose their first match back.
Survivor Series preshow: Enzo Amore (c) def. Kalisto via pinfall
He might've gone head-first into a birthday cake on Tuesday, but Enzo Amore likely put a bow on his rivalry with Kalisto Sunday night during the Survivor Series kickoff show with a definitive pinfall victory. Amore dominated the early stages of the match, and then pulled it all out at the end with some chicanery and the turnbuckle, finishing it all off with the Jawdunzo.
Still to come:
Brock Lesnar vs. AJ Styles