WWE has done a pretty admirable job building towards the forgotten Big 4 PPV, Survivor Series, despite a number of road blocks and missteps. On tonight’s go-home episode the original Shield is back together again and Brock Lesnar and his advocate Paul Heyman have a far more capable dance partner in new WWE Champion AJ Styles instead of Jinder Mahal, but it was a surprise return that drew the most intrigue.
Shield Reunion, Take Two
The show kicked off with something that’s been missing from Monday Night Raw for the past few months, even if no one was particularly missing it: a good old fashioned emasculating verbal beatdown from Stephanie McMahon. Her target this time was, as it was when she made her return two weeks ago, Raw General Manager Kurt Angle. Stephanie teased firing Angle for allowing SmackDown Live to raid Raw‘s arena once again last week until she was interrupted by The Shield, fully reformed for the first time since the week before TLC.
Stephanie asked Roman Reigns where the hell he’s been in a funny moment, to which Roman thankfully turned the table and asked where in the hell she’s been. I pointed the same thing out two weeks ago, that she shouldn’t be throwing stones as she’s easily up there with the worst, most neglecting commissioners in WWE history. Reigns also made a rare reference to something that happened over one month ago, mocking Stephanie for getting knocked through the table at WrestleMania 33.
Reigns officially laid down the challenge to the New Day for Survivor Series, a match that should have the crowd in the palm of its hand. Reigns is so much more palatable as a member of The Shield — it’s almost like the crowd completely forgets that they hate him when he’s next to Ambrose and Rollins. Of course, being a member of a three person team is a great way to hide someone’s deficiencies, and Roman works much better as an exclamation point rather than the whole sentence. Despite how badly they’ve botched his solo run, trying to brute force his way into relevance, he may someday be ready to leave the nest, but he isn’t quite there yet. The complete 180 in fan reaction to him since rejoining his Shield brothers shows that.
Before Survivor Series, though, The Shield wrapped up some unfinished business, taking out The Miz, Cesaro and Sheamus in what was supposed to be their reunion match back at TLC. This was a well paced, entertaining match with some great theatrics from The Miz, low key one of the best wrestlers in WWE right now. Even though the Shield reunion was a bit muffed on behalf of Roman’s sudden illness, there was still something cool about seeing The Shield wrestle a match together, a match that included fun spots like a Cesaro corkscrew uppercut into a Superman Punch, and a frightened Miz trying to run away from Ambrose and Rollins instead eating a spear. Roman hasn’t lost a step in his absence.
The Jason Jordan/Kurt Angle storyline that was all but dormant until Angle named his son to the Survivor Series team last week was a focus of the show. Jordan beat Bray Wyatt to prove he deserved that spot, but was attacked by Wyatt afterward, calling his status into question. After that, we were treated to a cringey backstage segment and an in-ring promo where Jordan acted like a whiny 15 year old frustrated that his dad wouldn’t let him go to a party.
Mercifully, Triple H made a shock return during it, announcing that he would be the fifth member of the team and delivering a Pedigree to Jordan. The discarding of Jordan almost felt like a mea culpa from WWE, giving up on his push. Time will tell if this is the end of the Jordan/Angle saga, but for now, Raw‘s Survivor Series team just got way more stacked with Triple H on the team.
Sunday will mark the first time Triple H and Shane McMahon step into the ring across from one another in years, and with persistent rumors of some bad blood between the two backstage, and some legitimate question around who will inherit WWE with Shane back in the picture, this oughta be interesting.
Paul Heyman is such a good promo that not only does he do an excellent job selling his client, Brock Lesnar, but he builds up and sells his opponent just as well. This rare talent makes almost every match Brock Lesnar has feel like must-see TV — not like AJ Styles needs it, though. The crowd’s adulation for Styles almost reaches Daniel Bryan levels, so Heyman’s excellent promo tonight, including a heap of praise for the Phenomenal One, was gravy.
Heyman’s speech also tonight accentuates just how abnormal his promo selling Brock’s previous billed matchup vs. Jinder Mahal was. Jinder is a far tougher sell as an opponent than Styles is, so Heyman (whose hair is looking oddly short as of late — he’s got a George Constanza in season 8 kinda thing going on) didn’t even try, running down Mahal and basically saying he isn’t WWE Championship material, a statement that ended up being prescient.
Paul got to show he has another rare talent on the mic tonight as well: Never allowing a crowd to derail him or take over a segment. Heyman didn’t miss a beat when a fan proposed to his girlfriend in the middle of his interview, managing to take it and use it as fuel for putting Brock Lesnar over. Brock Lesnar vs. AJ Styles sells itself, but Paul Heyman did his part in making the (unfortunately quick) buildup memorable.
The Rest of the Card
— WWE (@WWE) November 14, 2017
- While everyone was just waiting for Paige to debut, a surprisingly decent triple threat match took place. Bayley and Mickie are competent wrestlers, of course, but the fact that Dana Brooke didn’t actively bring the match down is noteworthy. Granted, she didn’t get much time or many spots, but she didn’t seem completely out of place in a televised WWE match, so that’s a step up. Bayley is the fifth and final member of the Raw women’s Survivor Series team, a team that seems to woefully outclass its SmackDown Live counterpart.
- Drew Gulak is a sleeper success story of the Cruiserweight division. His dry, anti-flippy shit character is a perfect foil for almost anyone on the roster, and playing off of the bombastic Enzo Amore is the perfect way to showcase it. Drew and the Realest Guy steal one from Kalisto and Akira Tozawa in a solid match.
- I was hopeful WWE would use Bray Wyatt’s time away as something of a reset for the character, and build him into the monster he should be upon his return. Unfortunately, about the direct opposite of that happened tonight, as Wyatt’s return was announced in a backstage segment, where we learned he would act as a mid-card stepping stone for wet blanket Jason Jordan. Wyatt beat Jordan down following a weak rollup pin that somehow bested him, but even if this does lead to something between the two in the future, is Jason Jordan really the feud to legitimize Bray Wyatt?
- Finn Balor and Samoa Joe teamed up to take on Gallows and Anderson in a solid match. Joe came out looking like a badass as he was all business following the win, heading to the back immediately after pin fall. Survivor Series could prove pivotal for Balor and Joe if done right, helping to get them to the main event scene.
- Braun Strowman and Kane main evented the show in a match that was fun while it lasted, but ended on a bizarrely sudden note. The end spot itself — Strowman’s running powerslam through the ring Bam Bam vs. Taz style — was cool, but ending the show on the referee shrugging and fading to black as the commentators say nothing was odd to say the least. Still, the two had a fun, spot-heavy hoss fight, showing Kane can still hack it 20 years after the character’s debut.
God damn, is the men’s traditional Survivor Series match stacked. Most of the ten men in Sunday’s main event are top tier, must-see wrestlers, and the possible great storylines that could occur during the match itself are endless. The steps taken to get there were generally smart and effective, and even the horrible Jason Jordan segments came with some level of payoff in the surprise return of Triple H. The good far outweighed the bad on this show, and overall, The Raw brand did a solid job building to Survivor Series, a show whose inter-promotional nature can make it difficult to book for. Consider me hyped.