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After regaining some serious PPV mojo with Crown Jewel 2021, after a really up and down year, arguably WWE’s most uneven in some time, I went in to Survivor Series optimistic. Sadly, the lazy brand warfare stuff is back…again. In what has become a yearly slog that means the storytelling is either non-existent or nonsensical and any groove is interrupted by a battle of the brands piddling match that is increasingly more pointless as the years go on. It really is time they retired this Raw vs. Smackdown premise, or at least made a PPV structured around it (bring back Bragging Rights maybe), instead of eliminating the last of the Big Four PPV’s credit, by filling its cards with thrown together elimination matches, missing the compelling ingredients of Survivor Series teams of years past.
That said, despite practically no build up at all for any of the matches other than the main event, maybe the results would manage to keep the momentum going after Saudi Arabia…
1. US Champion Damian Priest vs. Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura w/ Rick Boogs (Kick-Off Show)
Pat McAfee’s commentary was gold here. Can’t we just have him and Michael Cole do all the matches?! I digress, I was looking forward to this battle between two of the most overlooked that WWE has (despite being champions). Damian Priest’s new split personality gimmick is great, and Shinsuke Nakamura’s union with Rick Boogs continues to be a joy, and reliably the two turned in a good match here. Sadly, as it just got going, it was over as Priest lost it over Boogs’ constant musical intervening and was disqualified after leaving both Boogs and Nakamura lying.
Elsewhere on the Kick-Off, Vince McMahon arrived at the arena brandishing a golden egg. Oh god, we are already on the odd stuff!
The show opened with the ol’ Smackdown vs. Raw stuff but done in a movie-like fashion, as Netflix’s Red Notice was further promoted, as was The Rock’s (who appears in the film) 25th anniversary in WWE. Dare we hope for The Great One to show up tonight?
2. Raw Women’s Champion Becky Lynch vs. Smackdown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair
We have seen it many times before but these two always deliver when paired together and their heated story always works, more so here considering some reported real behind the scenes friction. Well, my word, you might start believing the dirt sheets after this match because Becky Lych and Charlotte Flair kicked the stuffing out of each other. It has been a long time since I recall seeing a women’s division match, or any division for that matter, being this hard hitting. For nearly 20 minutes these two greats exchanged near falls, fierce offence, constantly swinging momentum and some harsh audible words. This was excellent it really was, and a rare occasion where a dirty finish, as Lynch grabbed the ropes for the pinfall, actually felt right. Tremendous start to the show.
3. Team Raw (Bobby Lashley, Austin Theory, Finn Balor, Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins) vs. Team Smackdown (King Woods, Jeff Hardy, Sheamus, Drew McIntyre, Happy Corbin) Traditional Survivor Series Elimination Match
Unlike last year, neither team here was particularly well put together and some just felt flat out random. Early on Kevin Owens walked out as part of his thrilling new heel career turn (one of the best things on WWE’s highly flawed weekly programming), leaving a catch up battle for the red brand from the off. A matter that flipped and then some as Finn Balor disposed of Happy Corbin, and King Woods was seen off by Bobby Lashley. Though things looked more hopeful for SD as Drew McIntyre and Bobby Lashley were both counted out with their outside brawling, and when Sheamus eliminated Balor. Shockingly rookie Austin Theory got the pinfall on Sheamus, before minutes later falling to Jeff Hardy (who Sheamus had turned on after his elimination). The final moments of the match were the best, as the Charismatic Enigma looked to have well and truly survived and battled valiantly for his team but in the end Seth “Freakin” Rollins was the last man standing as he would vanquish a resilient Jeff Hardy. Slow but it nearly got there, and it was nice to see Jeff looking great (though he would crushingly be released weeks later because, well, WWE 2021).
We see Vince entering with that Golden Egg earlier and find out it is the real deal, Cleopatra’s Egg, as depicted in Red Notice, as Vince chats with Roman Reigns in his office, and bigs up Roman’s family member The Rock and his current wealth, only for Reigns to shrug it off as he leaves. Are we getting Reigns and Rock at Mania 38? Hmmm, I wonder.
4. The Rock’s 25th Anniversary 25-man Dual Branded Battle Royal
Despite being named in occasion of The Great One’s WWE Anniversary there was no escaping that this was a filler match, to put more faces on the card. For what it was it was fine, and it was nice to see Ricochet get some moments to shine but the ending was inevitable really, as big man Osmos got the win. This is the start of AJ Styles and Osmos’ split clearly. All in all, this pretty much meant sod all to be frank and I think this whole The Rock talk is only setting this show up for failure when he does not show up.
5. Raw Tag Team Champions RK-Bro (Randy Orton and Riddle) vs. Smackdown Tag Team Champions Jimmy and Hey Uso
It was obvious with these guys we would have something worth watching here and we did. But that’s just it, I cannot really recall much of this match at all, and my interest was starting to wain. The brand warfare tally was already lopsided (Smackdown had 1 sole win) and RK-Bro ought to have been doing something more than just filling out that gimmick, as should The Usos. It was fine and the well-timed RKO finish was neat but this felt like weekly show stuff instead of an intense PPV rivalry.
God’s honest truth I fell asleep at this point, so had to check back in the next day to see what I missed. First time in years I’ve done this.
Oh No! Someone has stolen Mr. McMahon’s egg! And Adam Pearce and Snoya Deville are tasked with getting it back. As Survivor Series mysteries go, this was no “who ran over Stone Cold” now was it?!
6. Team Raw (Queen Zelina, Carmella, Bianca Belair, Rhea Ripley, Liv Morgan) vs. Team Smackdown (Natalya, Shayna Baszler, Toni Storm, Shotzi, Sasha Banks) Classic Survivor Series Elimination Match
This was way weaker than the other Survivor Series match and while making Bianca Belair look great, it did virtually nothing for any other woman in WWE and killed stone dead the brand macguffin. Carmella was eliminated early by Toni Storm, who ten minutes later or so also got rid of Queen Zelina, before bowing out herself after being pinned by Liv Morgan. Morgan was then seen off by Sasha Banks, while Shayna Baszler took out Rhea Ripley. The real low point was Banks being eliminated by contour despite seemingly breaking the count. After that Belair was straight fire and made quick work of Natalya, then Baszler and finally Shotzi for a definitive Raw win. You will forget this match in a week and brutally honestly, probably forget this show in a month, just like many other recent Survivor Series events. Thus far it has been a one match night.
Paul Heyman does not know who took the egg (oh dear lord) but knows he is less than happy to hear Brock Lesnar’s suspension is lifted. Thankfully, as we can now get back to one of the more interesting stories WWE is actually bothering to tell at the moment.
7. WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns w/ Paul Heyman vs. WWE Champion Big E
This was the only match with any real build at all on this show, with Roman Reigns and The Bloodline (aka The Usos) attacking The New Day to get at Big E. And while this match was a decent powerhouse battle, the lack of meaningful feuding was evident. This really is another reason this concept is so reductive, as Roman vs. E should have been saved for more than a one and done clash. Both guys had a decent match and there were a few moments that hinted at something more to was maybe just trolling (Roman doing a Rock Bottom) but the ending was rushed as hell and felt like they had run out of time or something, leaving a sour taste of ambivalence to earlier hard work, as Reigns went for E’s weakened knee and hit a spear. And wish bash bosh that’s your show.
Overall, Survivor Series 2021 was one of many Survivor Series shows post 2009 that you will struggle to remember ever happened. The Raw vs. Smackdown stuff is becoming a serious momentum-killing detriment, as is the fracas caused by the roster-altering (and equally meaningless) Draft. WWE also shot themselves in the foot with the ironically undercooked The Rock’s 25th anniversary stuff and had they done it properly (like with Undertaker’s in 2015) it would have added to what was a very tepid show, instead it felt like something someone thought of last minute. It was not all bad, Lynch vs. Charlotte was incredible and by far the match of the evening, and there were some fine moments of action throughout the night but after falling asleep, I came back and found that notching had really been missed.
Onwards to the brand new PPV Day 1 on New Year’s Day, let’s hope 2022 starts far better than 2021 ended. An appropriately mild ending for a rather unmemorable PPV year. Royal Rumble 2021, you are hands down the year’s winner! Crown Jewel, you are a very close #2.
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