It used to be the annual Thanksgiving night tradition, but now it’s just WWE’s annual November pay-per-view. This year, the show pits Raw superstars and champions against their SmackDown! Live counterparts to prove which brand is best.
Thirty years after the first edition of this event, the company is live from the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas, where champions from Raw are taking on champions from SmackDown! Live, along with two traditional Survivor Series elimination matches. The main event is a pretty big dream match, as SmackDown! Live’s WWE Champion AJ Styles takes on Raw Universal Champion Brock Lesnar.
As with all the WWE pay-per-views since around WrestleMania, I haven’t watched any of the weekly programming leading up to this, going solely on internet reports to catch up. Tonight’s card was brought about by superstars from SmackDown! Live attacking Raw and setting up the bragging rights (not the crappy B-show pay-per-view) matches we have tonight.
I skipped the preshow tonight, but if you’re curious, Matt Hardy defeated Elias; Enzo Amore defeated Kalisto to retain the WWE Cruiserweight Title; and Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn defeated Breezango.
We’re kicking off the main card with our big six-man tag team match!
The Shield (Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins) vs. The New Day (Big E, Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston) – Oh dear sweet wounded baby Jesus, we have a five-man announce team tonight… May God have mercy on our souls. Anyway… we missed out on the Shield reunion at the TLC pay-per-view because Reigns came down with the Mumps, so we get the reunion at the same show where they debuted back in 2012. Nice little nod to history. A terrible nod is the wretched Raw-Shield mash-up shirts Ambrose and Rollins have. Reigns is too cool for that. This is a no-brainer to kick off the show, with two popular trios facing off for the first time. Both teams were game for an energetic match and the crowd was into it, despite the match falling prey to some of the worst of WWE’s booking, like both teams pulling each other up before charging for a brawl. A triple power bomb from the middle rope (not the top rope, as Corey Graves, announcer 1 of 5, noted), puts Kofi away and gives The Shield a win, and Raw is up 1-0 on the head-to-head tonight.
Women’s Team Raw (Alicia Fox, Nia Jax, Asuka, Sasha Banks and Bayley) vs. Women’s Team SmackDown! Live (Becky Lynch, Carmella, Naomi, Tamina and Natalya) – I assume going in that this is going to be a showcase match for Raw’s newest woman, Asuka, who they’re still touting as undefeated. But the first elimination goes to Bayley, who pins SmackDown! captain Becky Lynch with the deadliest of maneuvers for a female wrestler – the roll-up. The revolution is clearly dead. At least Bayley went down to a splash after getting trapped in the opposite corner. After Nia gets counted out – which doesn’t keep her as strong as you’d think after all the superkicks from Tamina, Alicia and Naomi go down in quick succession. And the final sequence sees Asuka take out the remaining two members of the SmackDown! Live team, first forcing Tamina to submit and then Natalya, making the “Empress of Tomorrow” the sole survivor in the first traditional elimination match.
Raw Intercontinental Champion The Miz vs. SmackDown! Live U.S. Champion Baron Corbin – I really don’t care about anyone in this match, as Corbin does nothing for me and The Miz is, well, The Miz. Corbin shows a bit more personality by going after Miz’s pregnant wife Maryse, but the big man-little man dynamic puts Miz in the role of the plucky face underdog, and that’s not something he should ever do. Of course, his “Mizterage” of Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel cancels that out. The crowd seems to care about this match about as much as I do. Well, they seemed to be happy when the match was over, actually. Not surprisingly, Corbin hits The Miz with End of Days to get the pin and give SmackDown! Live its first win.
WWE doing ad segments with Kay Jewelers is just weird.
Raw Tag Team Champions Cesaro and Sheamus vs. SmackDown! Live Tag Team Champions The Usos – Now this is more like it. All four of these guys can go, and they have some history as last year’s Survivor Series tag team elimination match came down to these two teams. Unfortunately, it never felt like the match reached the top gear. There were some really fun spots, like the electric chair from Cesaro while one of the Usos had Sheamus in a Samoan drop, but everything felt off, right up until the Usos took the win with a splash off the top rope.
And they keep showing a score for wins between Raw and SmackDown! Live (we’re at 2-2 now), but are there stakes involved, other than Stephanie and Shane being able to say they run the better show?
Raw Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss vs. SmackDown! Live Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair – Charlotte went from winning the Raw title over and over again to taking the SmackDown! Live belt. Michael Cole notes that the last time two women champions went one-on-one was seven years ago, when Michelle McCool took on Melina. This, at the very least, should be better than that… Charlotte is always a big game player, just like her dad, “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, and Alexa Bliss seems to have improved a lot over the last year. She’s still not on Charlotte’s level, which isn’t really a surprise, but I’ve been impressed with her progress. Bliss does seem to keep up with Flair, and seems like a legit threat to win. But Charlotte proved to be that much better, getting Bliss to submit to the figure 8 to give SmackDown! Live a 3-2 lead.
Given how much they’re focusing on the win totals, expect a Raw win the next match to set up the dramatic main event. And they’re going champion vs. champion first, to put the elimination match last. Weird.
Raw Universal Champion Brock Lesnar vs. SmackDown! Live WWE Champion AJ Styles – Styles surprisingly beat Jinder Mahal for the title a couple of weeks ago to ensure this match wasn’t a complete foregone conclusion. Although, a Lesnar squash maybe would have helped the flow of this show. They really loaded the back end of this show. Lesnar comes out of the gate hot and pummels the WWE Champion to start things off. But an F5 attempt leads to an offensive flurry from Styles, which leads to a more traditional back-and-forth between the two champions. When Styles got Lesnar in the calf crusher after a series of reversals, Brock just grabbed Styles’ head and started pounding it into the mat. So vicious. AJ kept hitting Lesnar with everything, with the Universal Champ kicking out, while AJ did what he could to avoid the F5. But as soon as Lesnar countered a forearm into an F5, it was academic. Fun match, and I hope we get another one somewhere down the line.
So now, Raw and SmackDown! Live are tied at 3 and the winner of the next match will, apparently, be the A Show. Which is weird, because I can’t imagine SmackDown! Live ever being the A Show…
Men’s Team Raw (Kurt Angle, Braun Strowman, Finn Bálor, Samoa Joe and Triple H) vs. Men’s Team SmackDown! Live (Shane McMahon, Randy Orton, Bobby Roode, Shinsuke Nakamura and John Cena) – Replace Angle, Triple H, Orton, McMahon and Cena and this would be a legendary main event. But hey, Angle is back in his usual garb after wearing Shield colors last month. The introductions take about as long as most matches this year. More fashion choices: only John Cena doesn’t wear his brand’s colors on his T-shirt. Though his jorts are blue, so I guess that counts for something. A hot start and a couple of tags lead to everyone going nuts for Bálor and Nakamura to face off. Bálor looks so tiny compared to EVERYONE ELSE in the match. That pairing gives way to a number of other interesting one-on-ones, including Triple H-Roode and Angle-Roode, which saw the Glorious One countering everything he could to stay alive. Shockingly, Nakamura is the first one eliminated, by Strowman. The big man then takes out Roode, and I start to lose interest in the match. Then Strowman and Samoa Joe start beefing. And that leads to Angle and Triple H shoving each other.
The entire SmackDown! Live team – even the eliminated Roode and Nakamura – work together to put Strowman through a table. But the guy got put through a trash compactor last month. He’ll be fine. With Strowman laying in a heap at the German announce table, Cena hits Samoa Joe with two Attitude Adjustments to eliminate the former NXT champ.
(At this point, I had to head home and then get the Network to stop being a pain on my PS4, hence the delay)
With Strowman on the floor, the average age of the people left in the match goes up considerably, but the youth of Bálor helps Angle eliminate Cena, leaving just Orton and McMahon on SmackDown! Live’s team, against Bálor, Angle, Triple H and Strowman. Orton, of course, makes Bálor look like a chump, and the youth movement gets sent packing.
Meanwhile, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn attack Shane McMahon, but in true McMahon fashion, he fights the two guys – in their prime – off with a chair. And that’s not even the dumbest part of the end of this match. Orton gets eliminated, leaving McMahon against Strowman, Triple H and Angle. He survives way too long in an Angle Ankle Lock before Triple H hits Angle with a Pedigree and gives his brother-in-law the pin. He stares down with Strowman and then hits McMAHON with the Pedigree, giving Team Raw the win.
The moment is somewhat redeemed as Braun DESTROYS Triple H after the match, but there were way too many complications going on there at the end.
Final Thoughts – It was a fine show from start to finish, with three or four pretty good matches and nothing too offensive – you know, the norm for WWE now. Worth watching, but nothing to go out of your way to see.