Sure, in pro wrestling, there are results. Then there’s what really matters, and that’s usually found by looking somewhere deeper than just the simple ‘W’ or ‘L’ on paper. Let’s take a look at the real winners and losers from 2018’s edition of Survivor Series.
The biggest winner of the night was Charlotte Flair. She cemented herself as a massive force at the top of women’s wrestling while taking a DQ loss against Ronda Rousey. Concluding what had been an absolutely great match between Ronda Rousey and Charlotte Flair, The Queen beat Ronda Rousey with a kendo stick in a manner than brought back memories of The Rock trying to cave in Mick Foley’s skull with a steel chair. They did an excellent job of establishing that Charlotte Flair’s superior wrestling experience and skills can neutralize Ronda Rousey’s MMA-based striking acumen and power game. Ronda Rousey getting back up to leave the ring under her own strength doubled down on her already-established toughness and durability. Even with the loss, Ronda Rousey also came away a winner. Ronda Rousey’s mouth getting cut off an errant elbow, after she had threatened to open up Flair during the week, was another happy accident that added to the match drama and story. The match was physical and aggressive, well-paced, and made both women look fantastic. The emotion and investment from the audience was awesome, too.
If there was anyone on the SmackDown LIVE team that really ‘needed’ the win from a character perspective in the women’s elimination match, it would have been Asuka. Having her be the last surviving member of her squad put her back into a good position within her own roster though, so her not being sole survivor back-to-back wasn’t the end of the world. Nia Jax probably needed the win to make her coming challenge of Rousey Rousey feel believable. Having said that, the crowd reaction every time Nia Jax got into action was enough of a win for her. Getting real heat from the crowd derived from real emotion seemed to get Nia Jax excited and into the match. She won tonight, literally and figuratively.
It’s questionable whether anyone actually won in the men’s elimination match. Once Braun Strowman got back into action, swatting Shane McMahon out of mid air, the match was effectively over, and the conclusion foregone. So Drew McIntyre, Bobby Lashley and Braun Strowman didn’t win anything as much as they didn’t screw it up and lose. On the other hand, unquestionable losers from the bout were Samoa Joe, Finn Bálor and Dolph Ziggler. Samoa Joe and Finn Bálor being the first two eliminated, when they were two who could have actually benefited from going the distance, was disappointing for both men. Dolph Ziggler being pinned clean again by Shane McMahon was ridiculous. If anyone wants to count it as a win for Shane McMahon, go ahead, it just means about as much as the World Cup win.
Another match with no real winner was the Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Seth Rollins encounter. Much like every other much-anticipated Shinsuke Nakamura match since he hit the main roster, the bout started slow, and never really felt like it hit top gear. Sure, Seth Rollins won what was a solid match, but everyone always knew he was headed into a series of bouts defending the Intercontinental title against Dean Ambrose regardless. A win or loss tonight made no difference to Seth Rollins, he just needed to be in a good bout. So no rub for him. Shinsuke Nakamura, on the other hand, has no momentum, and enjoys little to no TV time on SmackDown LIVE as it is. He takes a hard loss here mostly because of what could have been gained with a victory.
No one should have been surprised by the Daniel Bryan squashing to open his match against Brock Lesnar. Daniel Bryan’s low blow and subsequent beating down of Brock Lesnar was a nice surprise, though. The match was reminiscent of last year’s main event when Brock Lesnar put on his best performance of 2017 against AJ Styles. The Beast sold Daniel Bryan’s offense and genuinely looked to be enjoying himself. Daniel Bryan looked like his old self, sharper around the ring, and working his familiar undersized, underdog character to perfection. Brock Lesnar took more offense in this match than the last 12 months combined. The near falls, the Yes Lock that looked like it had things finished, the final power-up into the last F5, all great. What started off as a bog-standard Brock Lesnar match became one of his best ever. Brock Lesnar’s wins don’t usually matter or mean too much. This one really doesn’t either, at the end of the day, but he comes out a winner tonight for looking like a real Universal Champion. Daniel Bryan undoubtedly wins too. No one has put up that kind of fight to Brock Lesnar yet, and looked so believably able to get the win. For a few minutes, it looked like it would be a devastating burial for Daniel Bryan and the WWE World Championship. It turned out to be anything but.
Having Raw coming out of Survivor Series in such dominant fashion over SmackDown LIVE, it seems obvious WWE hopes the audience doesn’t put much stock into the results. It’s always been obvious that Raw is considered the ‘A’ show, but SmackDown LIVE is usually allowed to put up a good fight at least. Raw has been as bad recently as it’s ever been. If the plan is to fool fans into thinking the show is worth watching because they swept Survivor Series, then it’s not a very good plan. Raw gets the win tonight, but it doesn’t matter near as much as SmackDown LIVE’s loss does.