Every single week of the build to Survivor Series begs for a review that underscores all the problems with, well, the build to Survivor Series. It's the same problems week in and week out: lazy storytelling that's devoid of stakes and narrative logic; too much presence from the McMahons; mostly meaningless matches; and on top of it all, no real heat between the two brands despite how many times commentary tries to tell us how unique it is that Raw and SmackDown Live will go to head-to-head on Sunday.
In other words, it's probably unnecessary to highlight all those same problems again. At this point, we know what's wrong with the build to the PPV and the go-home show certainly isn't going to change that. So what does that leave us with? What's left to discuss about this show if it's made up of all the same issues that have plagued previous weeks? Well, let's approach this review a little differently. Rather than focus solely on Survivor Series, let's take a look at two things: the presentation of Monday Night Raw and how it contributes to the overarching issues, and how some smaller storytelling moments still shine through.
The same old presentation
I think the most egregious issue facing Raw in recent weeks, outside of the dull Survivor Series storytelling, is the presentation. Every single show is seemingly structured in the same way. Now, that's all fine and well when you're just running a normal Raw, but isn't this supposed to be the one time every year where Raw and SmackDown go to war with each other? Doesn't that warrant something different, something a little more adventurous about how you present the show? Superstars keep coming to the ring and repeating that dreaded phrase: "this is the one time a year Raw and SmackDown go head-to-head in direct competition." Commentary repeats the line throughout the night as do the superstars. They're telling us that Survivor Series is different and interesting, but the show isn't putting in the work to support the statement.
A rare MizTV misfire
Consider this. Regarding the show's presentation, how many segments this week are just meandering promos meant to goad the SmackDown talent and recap the Survivor Series feuds? Essentially, WWE seems to understand that there's really nothing else to be said on the way to Survivor Series, so now it's going back and repeating the same points. MizTV is usually a reliable segment, but tonight it's a dull recap of everything The Miz and The Bar have been doing these last few weeks, plus Cesaro and Sheamus taking shots at The Usos; Alexa, in a backstage interview, can't muster up more than vague condemnation of her potential opponents at Survivor Series; Enzo is trash-talking Kalisto, but their whole feud is missing something substantial to make it matter. I may not have been stoked for Enzo vs. Kalisto the first time around, but at least that match boasted the angle of Kalisto as a free agent representing the whole 205 Live crew.
What I'm saying is that WWE is so focused on following a production outline, they refuse to diverge from it even when the circumstances call for it. If you have no more stories to tell, and you're set on selling Survivor Series as this epic clash, why not switch things up? Why not run a few cool matches to make Raw entertaining rather than trot out the same old talent to repeat the same lines they've been reciting for weeks? Do something different. Give us a reason to get excited during the show. For weeks now, Raw has been predictable and repetitive, despite the apparent "uniqueness" of Survivor Series.
Triple H is back and heading to Survivor Series
Now, not everything about this show is horrible. Getting to the second point outlined above, there are matches that boast some intriguing storytelling elements. Despite my own feelings—exhausted, annoyed—about Triple H inserting himself into the Survivor Series match, it sets up a lot of intriguing possibilities with Angle, Jordan, Triple H, and Stephanie, and this is a good start since those relationships desperately need for something to change. It's also good to have The Shield back doing their thing. They get to their unfinished business with The Miz and The Bar, and their challenge to the New Day, coupled with Roman's chastising of Stephanie, reintroduces us to their dynamic.
Finn Balor and Samoa Joe tell a short, contained story
There are smaller storytelling moments that work too. The whole "rivals have to work as a tag team" thing is a tired trope, but Samoa Joe and Finn Balor make it work here. They come together to put on a great match, demolishing Gallows and Anderson, only for Joe to then immediately walk to the back. Nothing's changed in their relationship, but they can put aside their differences to wreck some people in the ring. I like that because both Balor and Joe are focused guys. No need to have them fighting with one another because it doesn't fit with their character.
As good as some of the matches are, this is still a Raw on the way to Survivor Series, which means it's a Raw that's rather uninspiring. Jason Jordan gets booed out of the building, Braun Strowman has to wrestle Kane for some reason, and Paul Heyman only rises above the repetitive talking points of his recent promos because somebody in the audience decided a marriage proposal was a better use of their time.
Survivor Series will be long, but it should be fun. Best of all though? We can put this whole build behind us.
- I am so ready for The Shield vs. New Day. That's a dream match.
- I love how the crowd reacts when Dana decides to hit Asuka. An arena full of people understanding that Dana is about to get murdered.
- Kurt Angle can give everyone assignments for the night, but Braun doesn't take orders, just jumping in and saying "I want Kane."
- While I admittedly laughed when the whole arena was cheering for Jason Jordan's injury, I have to give the guy credit for really selling the emotional turns of his later in-ring segment with Kurt Angle. Plus, he makes some good points about how he shouldn't be sidelined at Survivor Series because Angle competed in the Olympics with a broken neck and won a gold medal.
- Braun Strowman makes Kane disappear at the end of Raw. See, not everything is terrible.
Bayley defeated Dana Brooke and Mickie James; Enzo and Drew Gulak defeated Kalisto and Akira Tozawa; Jason Jordan defeated Bray Wyatt; The Shield defeated The Miz and The Bar; Finn Balor and Samoa Joe defeated Gallows and Anderson; Braun Strowman vs. Kane ended in a No Contest.