WWE Survivor Series Review (26/11/2023)
By Mick Robson
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One of the original "Big Four" PPVs, Survivor Series is an event I have a lot of love for. Over the years, it's been rumoured to be on the chopping block, but it's persevered to its 37th edition after a number of changes to its format. Originally it was all about the classic Survivor Series matches, the multi-man elimination matches that have a place in my heart. Then it became about "brand supremacy", which was hit and miss as a concept, but at least we had some star-studded elimination matches. And in the modern day, Survivor Series is the home of the War Games match, a match type that was revived in NXT and brought to the main roster successfully last year. For this show, we ride again! Cue the Black Sabbath.
Taking place in Chicago, there were strong rumours that we would see CM Punk return to WWE, following his unceremonious AEW firing. WWE opened up more seats with a smaller stage set up, and eager fans gobbled them up. But then, on the go-home Raw before Survivor Series, the big star return was revealed to be Randy Orton, who's been out of action for around 18 months.
Let's do this!
Match 1: War Games- Charlotte Flair, Shotzi, Bianca Belair & Becky Lynch def. Damage CTRL (Bayley, Iyo Sky, Asuka & Kairi Sane) (at 33:35)
Thoughts: They brought the plunder with kendo sticks, trash cans and chairs aplenty. Iyo even had a steel chain. The women belted each other with reckless abandon, and Iyo showed innovation by using the chain- and Dakota Kai at ringside- to get a trash can on top of the cage, put it over her head, and dive onto the sea of bodies below. Not to be outdone, Charlotte hit a moonsault from the top of the cage. Finally, Becky Lynch hit the Manhandle Slam on Bayley through a table to win it for her team! Not the best War Games match ever, but still a damn fine effort in my book! (****)
Backstage skit which was basically an add for Ruffles chips. Pretty Deadly and Alpha Academy argue over whether they're chips or crisps. R-Truth shows up! He says they're neither, they're Ruffles. GREAT to see Truth back after breaking his ankle, I believe, in a NXT match with Grayson Waller.
Backstage, Sami Zayn and Jey Uso are talking. Randy Orton hasn't arrived yet for the main event. Oh shit. A brief "CM Punk" chant starts.
Match 2: WWE Intercontinental Championship- Gunther (c) def. The Miz (at 12:20)
Thoughts: Miz showed some balls in taking the fight to Gunther, even throwing a hard chop at him. Of course, Gunther responds in kind but not kindly. The crowd is behind Miz, although he's still happy to resort to heelish shenanigans to beat the IC champ, including low blows and exposed turnbuckles. He also channels Bret Hart with a Figure Four around the ring post, and later kicking off the turnbuckles to reverse a sleeper into a pin. Corey Graves recalls Bret and Piper doing that, but it was more likely a reference to Bret vs. Stone Cold, where the Hitman beat the Rattlesnake with that very move in 1996. In the end, Gunter scores with some of his big offense, including a top rope splash, but in the end, it's a Liontamer to make Miz tap! Shout out to Chris Jericho, who still beats Miz with the record for most Intercontinental Championships. This is excellent work all around. (***1/2)
The Judgment Day are chatting backstage. They're happy about the news that Orton hasn't turned up, but believe if he does show up, he'll just poison his group anyway. The reason Orton was on the shelf in story was due to a Bloodline attack. Interesting development, good to see that the heels are confident no matter what.
Match 3: Santos Escobar def. Dragon Lee (at 7:40)
Thoughts: Still annoyed that Carlito was scratched from the card, it was set to be his first singles PPV match in a good 13 or so years. This was well worked and furthered Santos' standing as a despicable heel. He traps Lee's leg in the stairs, but Lee staggers him with a couple of sharp elbows that help avert disaster. Dragon Lee almost gets it done with a Liger Bomb, but Escobar kicks out and comes back with the destroyer and Phantom Driver for the clean win. Good, but unspectacular match relative to what both men are capable of. That's not cool. (**3/4)
We get a Slim Jim commercial spot, first a pre-recorded ad with LA Knight, then New Day driving into the Allstate Arena in a Slim Jim car.
Match 4: Women's World Championship- Rhea Ripley def. Zoey Stark (at 9:15)
Thoughts: This suffered greatly due to Stark not being built as a credible challenger to the unstoppable Ripley, it was hard to buy into her offense. A couple of flashy springboard moves were okay, and then they messed up what would have been the big spot of the match. They're fighting on the top rope, Rhea has Zoey by the throat. She leaps and I think the idea is that she counters into a cutter or something, but they just fall awkwardly to the mat. The Z360 is blocked and Rhea hits the Riptide for the win. Standard stuff, Mami's on top. (**1/4)
Match 5: War Games- Cody Rhodes, Seth Rollins, Jey Uso, Sami Zayn & Randy Orton def. The Judgment Day (Finn Balor, Damian Priest, Dominik Mysterio & JD McDonagh) & Drew McIntyre (at 34:50)
Thoughts: This was well structured, with Rollins and Balor kicking things off as the workhorses for each side. The entries of Priest and McIntyre allowed them to shine as dominant powerhouses, while the inclusion of Dirty Dom was held off for a bit until he finally got the cathartic asskicking from the good guys. And finally, the return of Orton, who's "will he, won't he?" tease was stretched out to the final minute, with his music hitting after Rhea and Priest attempted a MITB cash-in. Orton, looking in phenomenal shape, kicked all the ass, leading his team-mates in delivering stereo hangman DDTs. And finally, the HUGE RKO off the cage on McDonagh- and he very deliberately allows Cody Rhodes to shine, letting him finish the match with Cross Rhodes on Priest. (****)
Cody's music plays for a bit, the Survivor Series logo comes up in the corner, we're signing off... and "Cult of Personality" hits! The Chicago crowd absolutely erupts as CM Punk makes his entrance. They fill in the "It's Clobbering Time" catchphrase. He stares down the ring for a moment- interestingly, the cameras don't show the reaction of the wrestlers in the ring. He hugs a couple of fans and lets out a yell before we throw to a recap video of the Survivor Series event. And that's it.
Wow! We're two months shy of it being 10 years since CM Punk walked out of WWE. His return here had been rumoured, but announcing the return of Orton early felt like WWE saying, "you're not getting Punk, it's Orton, don't try and hijack the show with your 'CM Punk' chants". And sure enough, when brief "CM Punk" chants broke out on this show, they were quickly silenced by boos. But then... the man himself arrived. And the Allstate Arena exploded. Huge move by WWE.
I'm sure we'll get more into the Punk situation as time goes on- generally, I think it's the right move- but for now we'll look at the rest of the show. I do like that Triple H favours a shorter PPV, it prevents burn-out, as I often get with AEW's PPVs, even when they are high quality, it's just a bit too much sometimes. The War Games matches did the heavy lifting on this show, being the opener and closer, as well a 2 of only 5 matches on the card. And the returns elevated this show to another level. Orton looks like a million bucks. Very curious to see how Punk fits into today's WWE- and whether he can keep himself out of trouble. Already seen fan videos of Seth kicking off, swearing and giving the finger as Punk was in the entrance way, but I think that's just him working and understanding what a money match Rollins vs. Punk could be.
Overall Score: 8/10
Until next time, take care.