SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
LECLAIR’S WWE SURVIVOR SERIES 2023 REPORT
NOVEMBER 25, 2023
CHICAGO, IL AT ALLSTATE ARENA
AIRED LIVE ON PEACOCK (U.S.), WWE NETWORK (Int.)
Announcers: Michael Cole & Corey Graves
-The cold open featured hype for both War Games matches, narrated by a voice modulated over a lo-fi radio broadcast.
Michael Cole introduced the show over a sweeping wide shot of the sold out Allstate Arena. Cole said there were 17,138 in attendance. The camera cut to ringside, where Michael Cole introduced his partner, Corey Graves. “Let the games begin,” Corey said as the camera cut to a shot pointed upward at the ominous cage. It began to lower over the two rings, washed in flashing red lights. Fire exploded from around ringside. Cole went over the rules of the match.
-Bianca Belair headed out first. A camera tailed her from the entrance, set deep into one of the arena’s tunnels. Belair parted the two shark cages and twirled her braids. Shotzi was out next, followed by Charlotte Flair. Cole noted that the latter has never competed in a War Games match. Graves said she should be highly motivated. Becky Lynch was out last to a strong ovation. She shared fists bumps with Belair and Shotzi, and a cursory nod with Flair. Lynch headed to the ring to start the match for her team.
Damage CTRL entered as a unit, all adorning different Asuka masks. Bayley hugged her partners and headed to meet Becky in the ring.
(1) BIANCA BELAIR & SHOTZI & CHARLOTTE FLAIR & BECKY LYNCH vs. DAMAGE CTRL (Io Sky & Bayley & Asuka & Kairi Sane) – War Games match
Becky Lynch and Bayley circled the left ring. Bayley had a big smile on her face. She and Lynch locked up. Bayley took control, working over the arm and shoulder of Lynch. Becky fought back quickly with a shoulder tackle. She whipped Bayley to the southeast corner, but Bayley caught her with a kick on approach. She hoisted Becky to the top turnbuckle. A corner camera positioned on top of the cage offered a fresh look of the ring. Lynch fought Bayley back to the mat and the two began trading punches.
“Boo, yeah!” the crowd took turns with each passing punch. Lynch gained control. She sent Bayley to the corner and gave her a Bex-ploder across the ring, looking to the crowd for approval. Bayley recovered quickly. She tossed Becky through the ropes and into the chain link wall of the cage. She dragged her back in the ring and tossed her against the cage on the opposite side. Bayley worked Becky onto the steel connecting plate between the two rings. She gave her a Suplex on it. Becky rolled into the right ring.
With just about 90 seconds to go before help arrived for Lynch, Bayley continued her beatdown. She worked Becky in between the ropes and the cage, but Becky fought back. She gave Bayley two dropkicks against the steel wall. Lynch tried to apply the Disarm-Her against the ropes, but Dakota Kai emerged and poked Lynch with a Kendo Stick through the cage wall. She slid it in the ring for Bayley to utilize. The clock hit 0:00.
Shotzi was released at the first 5:00 interval. Bayley immediately rushed to the cage door, trying to prevent Shotzi from entering. Shotzi slammed it against Bayley’s face and went under the ring to retrieve some weapons. She retrieved a number of steel chairs and a trash can. By the time Shotzi stepped in the ring, Bayley had retrieved one of the chairs. She charged Shotzi, but got the chair kicked back in her face. Shotzi unfolded a chair and set it in the middle of the ring. Bayley was draped against the middle rope. Shotzi launched herself off the chair and onto Bayley.
Bayley rolled into the right ring. Shotzi tried to dive through the ropes and onto her, but Bayley dropped her with a cutter out of nowhere. Becky Lynch rejoined the fold. She chased Bayley back to center. Shotzi returned to her feet. The two had Bayley cornered in no-woman’s land between the two rings. Bayley tried to climb. Graves noted that escaping the cage would result in a whole-team forfeit. Shotzi and Lynch flanked Bayley from either side and slammed her head against the cage until she fell back in. The duo stood on the top rope, waiting for Bayley to stand up. They hit her with double forearms. The clock ran down again, releasing Io Sky to even up the odds at 9:00.
The WWE Women’s Champion retrieved a chain and slid in the ring immediately. She attacked Shotzi first, then Bayley. The faces regrouped in the right ring while Io Sky climbed the ropes of the left ring. She dove across the rings onto both women. She downed Lynch in the corner and drove her knee into Becky’s chest and face. Bayley began directing traffic, trying to hand Sky a trash can on the top rope. The set-up fell apart quickly, and they worked together to corner Lynch and hoist her to the top turnbuckle. Becky tried to fight back, but the heels caught her with a double Superplex. Lynch was bleeding from between the eyes.
Bianca Belair was released from the shark cage next, right around the 12:30 mark. She rushed to the ring and took down Bayley and Io Sky with quick braid whips. She gave Io a spinning back elbow, then a release Powerbomb into a propped trash can wedged between two turnbuckles. Bayley swung wildly at Belair with a chair, but she blocked it. Belair tried to whip Bayley again, but she used the chair as a shield. Belair cornered Sky and mounted her for ten punches. Bayley rushed into make the save, trying to yank Bianca down by her braid. Belair managed to hook both Bayley and Sky and deliver a double Suplex.
Shotzi ascended the turnbuckle and Belair joined her on the opposite side. They delivered a tandem splash and leg drop to both heels, just as the clock ran out again. Kairi Sane skipped to the ring to join the match at 15:00. She went underneath the ring and returned with a massive metal lid. She cracked Shotzi in the side of the head with it, then tossed it at Lynch and kicked it into her face. Kairi gave Belair a dropkick. Bianca collapsed outside the ropes, against the steel. Sane gave her a basement dropkick through the bottom rope. Damage CTRL had taken control, pun intended. They buried Shotzi under a pile of steel chairs. Sky catapulted Sane into the air for an Insane Elbow onto the pile of chairs. Sane posed with a big smile.
Belair slid into the right ring, but Kairi joined her immediately. Bianca picked her off the top turnbuckle and gave her a press back into the left ring, onto both Sky and Bayley. The clock ticked down again. Bayley cracked a chair over Bianca’s back. Sane and Sky double-teamed Lynch. Charlotte Flair was released from the shark cage at 18:30. Damage CTRL tried to overwhelm her, but the fresh Flair was able to thwart their attemps. She dropped Bayley and Sky, then went to chop Sane. Kairi fell into the corner, trying her best to avoid Flair’s offense.
Io came off the top rope, looking for a ‘rana on Flair. Charlotte caught her and gave her a Powerbomb into the steel wall. Bayley and Kairi tossed Flair into the right ring and talked through their strategy. They whipped Flair toward the ropes, but she flipped onto the divider. She kicked Bayley and Sky away, then climbed the turnbuckle. Flair hit a Blockbuster off the top to both Sane and Bayley. The ring cleared to allow Flair to come face to face with Becky Lynch. They locked eyes. Suddenly, Sane and Sky emerged and shoved the two women into each other. Flair and Sky worked each other in the northeast corner of the right ring. Flair climbed the cage with Sky on her shoulders. Io fought her off and sat on the top. She tossed one end of the steel chain down to Dakota Kai. Kai used it to attached a new trash can. Sky pulled it up.
Sky stood on top of the cage and put the trash can over her own head. She dove onto all the other women in the match, waiting to catch her below. With everyone laid out, the clock finally counted down to Asuka’s release at 23:15. She retrieved a number of kendo sticks, then finally, a table. The crowd had been cheering for one all night, and the sight of it elicited a massive pop. Asuka added a fire extinguisher to the repertoire. The bell rung at 24:18 to officially begin the match.
Damage CTRL stood alone, heavily armed in the left ring. The babyface team rose slowly in the right ring. The heels immediately teed off with the Kendo sticks, beating all the women down mercilessly. A loud “this is awesome” chant broke out. Io Sky tied Becky and Bianca together in the center of the ring with the chain. Damage CTRL retreated to all four corners of the ring and delivered surround sound dropkicks to Lynch and Belair.
Shotzi re-emerged. She climbed the ropes, but Asuka met her quickly. She spit mist in Shotzi face and shoved her to the mat. Asuka turned around and delivered a missile dropkick to Lynch, who’d had the trash can placed over her head. Bayley, Asuka, and Sane returned to the left ring to set up the table. Sky continued to crack Team Belair with a Kendo stick in the right ring. Bayley and Sky worked Charlotte Flair to the northeast turnbuckle. Belair and Lynch managed to create some separation for Flair by delivering stereo Powerbombs to Bayley and Sky. Flair climbed to the top of the cage. The heels set up shop right below her. Flair delivered her signature Moonsault off the top of the cage, taking down Damage CTRL. She covered for a two count just before 29:00.
Flair and Lynch gave Sky a double Suplex, then a double Powerbomb to Sane. They hesitated, then gave each other a big hug, hyping one another up. Asuka rolled up Lynch from behind for a surprise two count. Sky tried to do the same to Flair, but Charlotte turned her into a Figure Four and bridged into the Figure Eight. Meanwhile, Lynch applied the Disarm-Her to Asuka. Kairi dove off the top, trying to deliver an elbow to Lynch. Becky telegraphed it, let Asuka go and pulled Sane into the hold instead. Bayley broke up the Figure-Eight, then the Disarm-Her. Shotzi flew into the ring with a dropkick on Bayley.
Kairi Sane and Becky Lynch rolled into the left ring. Becky gave her an inverted DDT. Bayley gave Lynch a Rose Plan. Shotzi gave Bayley Sliced Bread #2. Asuka looked poised to deliver mist to Shotzi again, but Belair cut her off with a blast of smoke from the Fire Extinguisher. Sane hit Bianca with a trash can lid. Flair gave Sane a boot to the face. Flair set up for a Spear. She charged, but Bayley shoved Sane out of the way and ate the spear herself. Shotzi gave Bayley a diving elbow. She turned her over to Belair for a K.O.D. Becky Lynch climbed the ropes. Flair and Belair helped hoist Bayley into the waiting arms of Becky Lynch. Becky delivered a Man-Handle Slam off the middle rope, through the table for a cover and three count.
WINNERS: Bianca Belair & Becky Lynch & Charlotte Flair & Shotzi in 33:37
(LeClair’s Analysis: Fun match. I thought they did a fair enough job in the last couple of weeks throwing out the red herring that Flair and Lynch couldn’t work together, especially after last night’s Smackdown. Instead of leaning into that and having it become the catalyst for the result, we instead saw a fun reunion between Lynch and Flair that the crowd seemed to really enjoy. I liked the fire and intensity from Damage CTRL. They controlled the pace throughout, and they very clearly were telling a story to make Bayley seem like the MVP for her team, despite being the one to take the fall. Bayley should be able to garner sympathy from the audience after a gutsy performance, and the new Damage CTRL can blame her entirely for the loss. The match itself was entertaining, with Sky’s ridiculous trash can spot off the top of the cage proving to be the ultimate highlight. Like last year’s women’s War Games match, it may have a hard time standing out against the main event later, but time will tell.)
-The Alpha Academy, Pretty Deadly, and R-Truth participated in a sponsored spot.
-After a break, Sami Zayn and Jey Uso met up backstage. Sami let Jey know that Randy Orton hadn’t arrived. The crowd immediately started a “C.M. Punk” chant. Jey said he had a feeling, wondering why Orton would ever agree to team with him in the first place. They decided to talk to Cody.
-A video package aired for the Intercontinental Championship match for Premium Plus subscribers.
“Awesome!” rang out over the speakers and The Miz marched through the tunnel to a muted reaction. Miz stuck his face in the camera as he rounded the corner and headed to the right ring. Michael Cole said that Miz can tie Chris Jericho for most Intercontinental title reigns with a win tonight. Gunther headed to the ring, all business as he looked side to side at the crowd on his march to the ring. Cole said that Gunther’s one reign as champion is already longer than all of Miz’s eight combined. Graves said Gunther was a -5000 favorite in betting odds.
(2) GUNTHER (c) vs. THE MIZ – WWE Intercontinental Championship match
The Miz circled the ring as Gunther looked on, unimpressed. He invited Miz to step to him. Miz threw a quick leg kick, but Gunther stepped aside and avoided it. Miz danced around Gunther, taking up a low center of gravity. He looked for a lock-up. Gunther backed Miz into the corner. Miz quickly turned him around and delivered a knife-edged chop. Gunther shrugged it off and took two steps toward Miz. He gave Miz a massive chop, dropping him to the mat. The referee checked on the challenger.
Gunther wasn’t interested in waiting for Miz to regain his composure. He went to lift him up, but Miz sprang to life and punched Gunther toward the opposing corner. Miz got a handful of shots in, then knocked the champion to the mat. Miz slid the outside, dragging Gunther’s leg with him. He slammed the inside of his knee against the edge of the ring repeatedly. Gunther cried out. Miz wrapped Gunther’s leg around the ring post and applied a Figure Four on the outside. He utilized as much of the referee’s count as he could. Gunther pulled himself to his feet, limping. Miz shot off the top rope with a double axe handle, but Gunther picked him out of the air with a boot, using his good leg.
Miz stumbled into the northeast corner. Gunther shook his leg out and gave Miz a few kicks. Miz tried to fight back with a series of chops out of the corner, but was once again flattened by a single hand for the dominant champion. He gave Miz a body slam and talked some trash, kicking him lackadaisically in the back. Miz threw a couple more punches, but Gunther grabbed him and delivered a release German Suplex as the match crossed 5:00. Graves said he disagreed with Gunther calling Miz’s passion for the business into question. The champion gave Miz another boot to the jaw, then soaked in boos from the Chicago crowd.
“You have to respect what Gunther does inside the ring,” Cole said as the champion pulled Miz in for a Powerbomb. He flashed a smile toward the hard camera, then lifted his challenger. Miz fired off a few right hands and managed to execute a Hurricanrana on Gunther. Miz went back to work on the knee, giving it a few kicks. Gunther cut him off with a knee to the gut. Miz managed to hook Gunther’s leg up on the middle rope. He drove both his knees into it. The crowd started to gain a little bit of steam for Miz. He threw a number of “It” kicks wildly, eventually dropping the champion. He delivered a high one to the jaw, then a few more to the chest. He downed Gunther in the corner and kept going. The referee pulled him away.
After ducking a clothesline, Miz managed to pull off a tilt-a-whirl DDT for a cover and near fall just before 8:30. He called for a Skull Crushing Finale, but Gunther tossed him aside with ease. He gave him a Powerbomb and stacked him up for a two count. Gunther couldn’t believe it. Miz tried to shake off the cob-webs. Gunther gave him a few slaps to the back of the head, then applied a Sleeper. Miz stumbled toward the ropes. He managed to reach the corner. With the hold still applied, Miz managed to remove the turnbuckle pad. While the referee tried to replace the pad, Miz gave Gunther a kick to the knee, a low blow, and a Skull Crushing Finale for a cover and very close near fall at 10:30. He called for another Finale. The Ring General ducked it. He grabbed the Sleeper again. Miz pulled Gunther forward, slamming his head into the exposed turnbuckle. Gunther fell back, hold still applied. Miz flipped over enough to have Gunther’s shoulders down for another near fall.
The Intercontinental Champion sprang to his feet and dropped The Miz again. He climbed to the top turnbuckle and delivered an elbow to the back of the Miz. He turned him over into a Boston Crab, then sat his knee in for a Lion Tamer. Miz tapped.
WINNER: Gunther in 12:21 to retain the WWE Intercontinental Championship
(LeClair’s Analysis: This was a bit of an oddball match-up from the start. It seemed like they were making a concerted effort to turn The Miz in recent weeks, but he didn’t really work this match that way, and the crowd never really bought into him as a significant threat. Even when he hit the low blow and Skull Crushing Finale, it felt more like a moment of an audience trying to convince itself that there was a chance, rather than believing the chance was actually legitimate. Despite that, I do think these two did a solid job engaging a crowd that didn’t seem particularly invested at the start. Gunther played his part beautifully, as usual. He was dominant and vicious, and gave Miz no quarter. Ultimately, this was a good twelve-or-so minute match, but this attempt to revitalize Miz as a credible threat doesn’t seem to have any meaningful momentum. This was a fine one-off for a show that didn’t need a marquee title defense, but they should move on quickly.)
-The Judgment Day were shown in their locker room, talking about the War Games match. Dominick Mysterio walked into frame and said that the word is Randy Orton is a no-show. The team celebrated, saying it’s either 5-on-4, or Orton does show up and poison the opposition.
-Following a break, Santos Escobar headed to the ring. Cole said Escobar had the audacity to say he idolized Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio growing up. He called him delusional and selfish (among other things.) In contrast, Corey Graves called him smart. “His first day in WWE, he showed up wearing a Rolex,” he said. Dragon Lee headed to the ring, officially replacing Carlito due to injury. Cole said he’s trying to pay homage to Rey Mysterio.
(3) SANTOS ESCOBAR vs. DRAGON LEE
Dragon Lee flew across the ring at the bell, throwing a wild boot. Santos Escobar ducked it and immediately cornered Lee, stomping his face against the turnbuckle. Santos hit a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker off an Irish Whip, then covered for a quick one count. He continued his assault, stomping the back of Dragon Lee and hoisting him into tree of woe position in the southwest corner of the ring. He got a running start for a flying dropkick, then covered Dragon for a two count.
Escobar set Lee up in the adjacent corner and delivered running double knees. He tossed Lee to the outside, and then against the ring steps. He sat Lee on the top of the steps and sandwiched his leg between the steps and ring post. “I’ll break his leg!” Escobar said. Cole noted that that is how he injured Rey Mysterio. The brief jawing to crowd allowed Lee to escape. He slid back in the ring and launched himself at Escobar. A “Dragon Lee” chant broke out as he tossed Escobar back in the ring. He delivered a sliding knee for a cover and two count just before 3:30. Lee lifted Escobar onto his shoulders and slammed him to the mat. He began ascending the turnbuckle, but Escobar cut him off.
Lee and Escobar traded punches in the corner. Santos caught Dragon with a kick to the side of the head, allowing him to pull Lee onto the top turnbuckle. He gave him a release ‘rana from the top and covered him for a two count. He argued over the count with the referee. Dragon Lee began crawling to the corner. Santos stopped him, delivering a series of stomps. He began ripping at Lee’s mask, trying to remove it. The referee stepped in. The crowd booed Escobar loudly. Santos tossed Lee onto the apron. Dragon tried to fix his stretched mask.
“This is who you’re cheering for?” Escobar asked the crowd. He worked Lee toward the corner. The two teetered on the turnbuckle. Dragon managed to knock Escobar off. He got tied up in the ropes. Lee gave him a double stomp off the top. Both men were down in the center. The referee began to count and the camera pulled back for Cole to reset the stage. Lee and Escobar traded punches from their knees. Both men reached vertical base. Lee caught Escobar with a pump kick. Santos delivered one of his own. Lee flipped through a clothesline attempt for a sit-out Powerbomb and cover for a near fall at 7:45.
After a blocked tilt-a-whirl, Escobar pulled Lee into a South of the Border Destroyer. He immediately followed it up with a Driver for a cover and three count.
WINNER: Santos Escobar in 8:20
(LeClair’s Analysis: Really good match, though it’s a shame that they couldn’t do the originally scheduled bout with Carlito. The crowd certainly enjoyed this, and it was undoubtedly a lot of fun, but it brought me back to a time where we’d get a lot of random rematches on Pay-Per-Views just because they hadn’t filled out the card. I realize it wasn’t exactly their fault here, and Cole did his absolute best to pull Dragon Lee into the story in a logical way, but it did feel a little underwhelming for a major PLE. Santos Escobar managed to get a solid amount of heat, and I really hope that continues. They could really capitalize on the Mysterio injury by continuing to hammer home the idea that Escobar did it without remorse, and continues to brag about it. Dragon Lee is finding his footing quickly, too. There could certainly be a bright future for both guys.)
-A video package for the Women’s World Champhionship match aired for Premium Plus subscribers.
Zoey Stark headed to the ring, wearing war paint on her face. Cole said it’s the biggest match of her career. Rhea Ripley sauntered into view to a strong ovation. Michael Cole said Rhea Ripley’s image will come up in the dictionary under the word “star.” Graves agreed.
(4) RHEA RIPLEY (c) vs. ZOEY STARK – WWE Women’s World Championship match
The two women talked trash before, and after the bell. After a few moments, Rhea Ripley gave Zoey Stark an arrogant slap to the face. Zoey shrugged it off and fired off one or her own. The two women traded punches. Stark got the better of the exchange and gave the champion a dropkick into the ropes. Ripley fell to the outside. The crowd booed Stark. Zoey leapt to the outside to maintain her advantage. She beat Rhea against the announcers desk, then tossed her back inside. She covered her for a quick one count.
Stark worked Ripley into the corner. Rhea battled out with a quick headbutt. A big “mami” chant broke out. Stark managed to shake off the headbutt and plant Ripley face-first on the edge of the ring. Rhea rolled inside. Stark gave her a leaping, rolling Senton. Rhea slid to the outside to regroup. Stark followed. Ripley was playing possum. She tossed Stark into the ring post. Zoey bounced recklessly. The champion tossed her challenger back in the ring and delivered a series of headbutts.
“This is my division, you ain’t nothin’!” the champion snarled. She deadlifted Stark into a Suplex for a cover and one count at 3:45. Ripley drove her knee into the small off Stark’s back. The planted her knee on the spine of Stark and wrenched her arms back. Zoey slowly tried to fight to her feet, but Ripley spun her around and stomped on her back. She gave her a basement dropkick for good measure. Stark created some separation with a shot to the gut. Ripley still managed to back her into the corner. She gave her a short-arm clothesline. Ripley hoisted Stark onto the top turnbuckle. Zoey continued to remain vigilant, firing off chops from her defensive position on the top.
Both women teetered on the turnbuckle. Ripley grabbed Stark by the throat and flipped her off the top, going down with her. Both women rose at the same time. Stark caught the champion with a spin kick for a cover and two count at 6:50. Stark went for a stomp, but Rhea moved. Stark rolled her up for a two count. Ripley missed a kick. Stark grabbed a waist lock. Rhea elbowed her, then gave her a kick. She hit a Northern Lights Suplex with a bridged cover for two.
Zoey rose to her knees with a smile on her face. “Is that all you’ve got, Rhea? Hit me!” Ripley did. She hooked Stark up for Riptide, but Zoey flipped through and connected with a kick. She covered for a two count. Stark went for Z360. She nearly hit it, but Ripley caught the leg. She gave Stark a headbutt and Riptide for a cover and three count.
WINNER: Rhea Ripley in 9:15 to retain the WWE Women’s World Championship
(LeClair’s Analysis: Like Gunther vs. The Miz before it, the championship never felt as though it was in any jeopardy here. Zoey Stark put up a valiant fight, and they did their best to get the crowd to buy in, but ultimately, Ripley is just too a big a star and too popular right now to have a crowd invested in an opponent at Stark’s level. Zoey hasn’t been sold as a credible challenger, let alone a babyface, and so it was a tall task to expect anything general indifference to her. Ripley was impressive as always, and you can tell by Cole and Graves’ lines on commentary that they are leaning in heavily to the idea that she’s one of the biggest stars in the company.)
-Michael Cole and Corey Graves talked up Royal Rumble, taking place in nine weeks.
-Backstage, Seth Rollins joined Sami Zayn and Jey Uso in worrying about whether or not Randy Orton would show up. Jey continued to blame himself. Cody Rhodes stepped into frame. He promised his team that Randy would be there. “Let’s go to war, boys,” Rollins said as he left the room. Jey followed. Sami gave Cody a look of uncertainty. “We’re trusting you,” he said. Cody took a big gulp, nervously.
-Cole tossed to a video package for main event for Premium Plus subscribers.
The sirens rang out for the second time tonight as the double steel cage lowered into place. More flame shot up from around the ring. Cole went over the rules again.
Drew McIntyre was out first. He looked around at the crowd smugly while awaiting his cohorts for the evening. The Judgment Day entered with matching skull mouth coverings. Damian Priest came face-to-face with Drew McIntyre. He shared a fist bump with his Judgment Day partners, then continued to stare down McIntyre. Finn Balor parted the two men and continued to the ring to start the match. McIntyre and Priest continued to stare each other down, even as the referee tried to get them to enter the shark cage. Damian stepped aside, allowing Drew to enter first. McIntyre curtsied for him.
Cody Rhodes was first out of the tunnel for the opposing team. He emerged from a cloud of smoke and gave a cursory glance into the opponent’s shark cage. He handed his weight belt to a young girl near the corner of the stage. Corey Graves mentioned that Cody’s father, Dusty Rhodes, was the creator of the War Games match. Jey Uso entered next. He climbed the shark cage and led the crowd in his signature bounce. Sami Zayn was next to a strong reaction. He ran from side to side, hyping up the crowd. He gave both Cody and Jey a big hug. Finally, Seth Rollins danced through the tunnel as the crowd sang his song. He hugged Jey and Sami, then shook Cody’s hand. Seth continued on to the ring to start the match for his team.
(5) CODY RHODES & SETH ROLLINS & JEY USO & SAMI ZAYN & RANDY ORTON vs. DREW McINTYRE & THE JUDGMENT DAY (Finn Balor & Damian Priest & Dominick Mysterio & J.D. McDonagh) – War Games match
Seth Rollins immediately dove onto Finn Balor as soon as he entered the ring. The bell sounded in response. Finn quickly composed himself, trying to go on the offensive. Seth blocked him and tossed him haphazardly into the wall of the cage once, twice, and then a third time. A large “CM Punk” chant broke out, eventually drowned out by “Randy”, and even more quickly by another rendition of Seth’s theme.
Balor begged off, but Seth would not be fooled. He pulled Balor in for a Buckle Bomb. Finn launched himself over Seth’s head and tossed Rollins into the cage wall. He launched himself out of the corner and delivered a Sling Blade. Balor threw up the double guns at Rollins, but ran right into a Superkick. Balor stumbled out onto the bridge between the two rings. Seth followed. He pulled him in for a Pedigree, but Balor gave him a backdrop onto the steel. Seth rolled back in the ring. Balor climbed to the top turnbuckle and went for Coup De Grace, but Seth rolled. He gave Finn a Slingblade of his own. Rollins followed up with a backbreaker as the clock struck 0:00.
J.D. McDonagh was the first man out of the cage for Judgment Day at 5:00. Seth tried to prevent him from entering, but Balor cut him off. McDonagh retrieved a pair of Kendo sticks. He entered the ring and passed one off to Balor. McDonagh and Balor circled their prey, spinning the sticks. They took turns cracking the sticks onto Rollins’ legs, back, and sides. Balor choked Seth with one against the middle rope. Rollins managed to steal a Kendo Stick from McDonagh and whip him into the right ring. Finn immediately jumped him from behind, maintaining control for Judgment Day.
“Oh yeah!” Balor yelled out as he played the Kendo stick like a guitar. McDonagh held Rollins up by the legs against the ropes and Balor came off the top with a Kendo stick to the back. He choked Seth again. “It’s gonna be a long night for you, Seth Rollins,” Finn said cockily. Judgment Day turned their sights toward the stage as they awaited Seth’s first partner. It was Jey Uso. He grabbed a steel chair and headed in the ring at 8:00. Jey immediately peppered McDonagh with a number of right hands, to the tune of “yeet!” from the crowd. He did the same to Balor. He gave them both quick spin kicks. Jey did a signature “U-so” call out, then flattened Balor with a hip check in the corner.
Uso ran toward McDonagh, but J.D. caught him in the middle of the ring with a Spanish Fly. Rollins returned to his feet and dropped McDonagh with a Super kick. He helped Jey to his feet. Graves said it’s surreal to see them on the same team. Rollins mounted Balor in the corner for ten punches. Finn slid underneath and into the other ring at eight. Rollins walked the turnbuckles and gave Balor a leaping clothesline in the right ring. The clock counted down again for another Judgment Day entrant. Drew McIntyre tried to exit the shark cage, but Damian Priest held him back. “We stick to the plan,” Priest said. McIntyre said the plan has changed. “Not my plan,” Priest said. He told Drew to trust him, and took off toward the ring.
Damian Priest entered the ring officially at 11:23. Seth Rollins and Jey Uso were waiting for him with a steel chair. The overwhelmed him at the start, but Balor and McDonagh quickly rejoined the action. Priest pulled out a baton and hit both Uso and Rollins with it. He sent them to opposing corners and delivered running back elbows to each, followed by Broken Arrows to both men. Priest called out orders to J.D. and Finn. They held Rollins and Uso in position so that Priest could flip off the top turnbuckle onto both men. He shot an imaginary arrow into the crowd as another “CM Punk” chant filled the arena briefly, only to be drowned out by boos.
A steel chair was driven into the ribs of Jey Uso by Finn Balor. When Jey collapsed, he cracked the chair over his back for good measure. The clock struck 0:00 again. Sami Zayn gave Cody a handshake, then headed to the ring. J.D. McDonagh was waiting with a Kendo stick. Zayn intercepted it. He slammed the door back in Balor’s face. Just as he was about to step inside the ring, he thought better of it. He pulled a table from underneath and slid it to a waiting Jey and Seth. “Ucey!” the crowd chanted. He entered at 15:10 and immediately gave Priest a clothesline into no-man’s land between the two rings. He rattled the cages to a massive ovation before dropping Finn Balor with a Blue Thunder Bomb.
Zayn ascended the northwest turnbuckle of the left ring with bodies strewn about. He began to climb the cage. J.D. rose to cut him off. He and Zayn battled on the ropes. Sami tripped him up. He pulled a pipe that was wedged into the wall of the structure and leapt at J.D., hitting him with it. He cracked Priest with it, too. Zayn went back to work on Balor in the corner. Meanwhile, Jey worked on Priest in the right ring. Seth and Sami continued their beat down of Balor and McDonagh. Zayn hit Finn with a Kendo stick. Sami and Jey shared a laugh from across the two rings. The camera cut to the stage again as the clock counted down for Judgment Day. Drew McIntyre emerged from the shark cage.
Drew McIntyre entered the ring immediately, just after 18:00. He dropped Zayn, then gave Rollins an Alabama Slam on top of him. Drew turned his attention toward Jey Uso, alone in the right ring. He stalked him. Jey used the ropes to steady himself, acknowledging the challenge ahead of him. They traded punches. Drew went for a quick Future Shock DDT, but Jey blocked it. He kicked Drew to a knee, then tossed his shirt over Drew’s head. McIntyre rose quickly. He planted Uso and tossed him side to side against the cage wall. “Say you’re sorry, acknowledge what you did!” he told Jey. McIntyre looked around the arena to a chorus of boos.
Jey struggled to stand. McIntyre got in position for a Claymore. He charged, but Jey caught him with a Super kick. He lifted Drew into the air and Sami ran in to deliver the 1-D. McDonagh smothered Zayn. The clock ran out and Cody Rhodes rushed to the ring, entering at 21:30. He dropped each heel on sight, finishing with J.D. McDonagh. He gave him a clothesline and back body drop, then delivered a Suplex to Balor onto McDonagh. Rhodes pulled a bull rope in through the bottom of the cage. Seth picked up the other end. “One night, right?” Cody asked. Seth nodded. They used the taut rope to drop McDonagh and Balor.
“Dom, you suck!” the crowd belted as they anticipated his arrival. The boos intensified as the shark cage opened. Dominick Mysterio entered the ring at 24:12. He immediately went after World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins. He hit him with a number of punches, then tackled Jey Uso and did the same to him. He set up Rhodes for Three Amigos. Just before the third, Jey, Seth, and Sami surrounded him. Mysterio let go of Rhodes, and all four faces pounced. They beat him against the ropes and tossed him to the right ring to join his Judgment Day partners. Rollins and Zayn propped the table against a corner. Cole said there’s no one left in the cages, and it’s 5-on-4.
Rollins and Zayn set Dom up for a Powerbomb through the table, but the rest of Judgment Day broke it up. The used their numbers to overwhelm their opponents. McIntyre and Priest had another brief staredown, but put differences aside temporarily to give Rollins, Zayn, Balor, and Uso tandem Chokeslams. Mysterio delivered a frog splash off the top. Balor hit Coup De Grace. “Judgment Day having their way!” Cole exclaimed. They re-positioned the table. Priest gave Rollins a Razor’s Edge through it. The clock counted down again.
At 0:00, Rhea Ripley’s music hit. She rushed through the tunnel with a referee in tow. She had Damian Priest’s briefcase in hand. Just as she looked to hand it off, “I hear voices” hit and Randy Orton emerged. He stepped in the ring and closed the cage door, officially beginning the match at 29:30. Orton gave Dominick a snap Powerslam. He tossed McDonagh against the cage wall. He gave Balor the Hangman’s DDT. Orton looked around and soaked in the massive ovation. From the other ring, Drew McIntyre watched on. He stepped through two sets of ropes and circled the Viper. Orton and McIntyre began to trade punches, but Damian Priest flew in from behind with a cheap shot to Randy.
Judgment Day surrounded Orton and overwhelmed him in the corner. The faces returned to even the odds and everyone wound up in no man’s land between the two rings. Rhodes’ team wound up with control. Every one draped their member of Judgment Day against the ropes and delivered a Hangman’s DDT. Orton pounded the mat, staring down Priest. He spun around to face Jey Uso instead. Jey stood up. “You and your boys, you did that,” Orton said. Priest flew in, but Uso gave him a Super kick. Dominick flew off the top and Orton dropped him with an RKO. Rollins gave Balor a Stomp. Rhodes delivered a Cody Cutter to McIntyre.
Only J.D. McDonagh was left standing for the Judgment Day. He tried climbing the cage, but Zayn and Rollins followed him. Orton stepped to center, looking up toward his partners. He cracked a smile. Zayn and Rollins tossed McDonagh off the cage. Orton gave him an RKO in mid-air. He stepped aside and pointed to Rhodes. Cody pulled McDonagh to his feet and delivered Cross Rhodes for a cover and three count.
WINNERS: Cody Rhodes & Seth Rollins & Jey Uso & Sami Zayn & Randy Orton in 34:20
(LeClair’s Analysis: This one didn’t have nearly the amount of emotional investment that last year’s War Games match did, but the live crowd ate it up and made it a whole lot more fun than I think it would have been otherwise. There was an uneasy sentiment amongst the crowd, and the uncertainty of Orton’s arrival let their minds wander a bit into the possibility of a CM Punk surprise. Those chants were largely drowned out by boos, though, and there was absolutely no mistaking the pure enthusiasm for Orton when he finally did come to the ring. The match, like the women’s one earlier in the night, was the kind of thing you’d expect from a 2023 WWE hardcore affair – they tend to overuse the same weapons and execute similar to identical spots a multitude of times. I thought some of the individual intricacies of the storytelling here worked quite well. Rollins, Jey and Sami were increasingly uneasy with Rhodes about Orton’s late arrival. It led to Cody being in a position to need to over deliver when he was finally released from the shark cage. We also got a great moment for the finish, with Orton opening the floor for Cody to seal the victory. It was a classy move, and one that called back to their days together in Legacy and the legacy the Rhodes name has in War Games matches. On the heel side, McIntyre and Priest were at odds through the course of the match, and seem to unify only briefly over the shared belief that their tandem offense could end the match once and for all. Once Orton did enter, I was glad they didn’t just throw his past with Jey Uso out the window, either. Orton slyly turned his focus to Jey and made it clear that things are not all well between the two of them. That will be something to watch for in the weeks ahead. Finally, the chaotic failed cash in attempt just preceding Orton’s eventual return was a fun and effective way to divert attention and present what seemed to a real and legitimate threat to Rollins’ title reign. Though I don’t think the sum was necessarily equal to its individual parts, there was still plenty of fun to be had.)
The faces celebrated in the ring and the camera lingered for several moments before pulling back. But it was a fake out! Static cut in and “Cult of Personality” filled the arena. The crowd exploded. After a brief delay, CM Punk stepped out from the tunnel to an absolutely massive ovation. He stopped at the top of the ramp, took a knee and pounded the floor before his signature “it’s clobberin’ time!” call out. He looked to the ring and smirked, then immediately threw himself at a fan on the corner. They shared a hug. He crossed to the opposite side of the stage and embraced more fans. The show faded out.
(LeClair’s Analysis: There are very moments in recent pro wrestling history that truly “got me.” Though I was wise to all the rumors and conversations being had amongst fans, insiders, and analysts in the weeks leading up to Survivor Series, and really, the months following All In in London, I’d settled on the idea that if Punk were to return to WWE, it probably wouldn’t be tonight. Despite them going so heavy handed in their tease of Randy Orton not showing up, I thought that, once he finally did, it more or less solidified that tonight wouldn’t be the night, if that night were to ever come. I let out an audible “holy s—” when “Cult of Personality” hit. They got me. This was a wild return. Instantly, the bemoaning of much of the crowd to drown out chants of his name earlier in the night turned to pure adoration. It was a massive pop, not entirely unlike the one he received just a couple years back at United Center. I can’t say whether or not this will be the disaster many think it will be, but it’s undoubtedly going to have to a lot of people talking. If the fallout in the hours since the show is any indication, there were be no shortage of avenues to discuss.)
FINAL THOUGHTS: Survivor Series 2023 was a show anchored by two matches and a shocking, dramatic return of epic proportions. The center of the card – the three matches sandwiched between the two main courses felt inconsequential in nature but did enough to remain entertaining. Each War Games match brought its own memorable moments to the table, and I thought the stories weaved throughout were satisfying and logical. Still, though, the show felt like pieces that were more important than their sum. Punk’s return was, of course, incredibly noteworthy. It’s a living, breathing moment that will stand frozen in time, regardless of how this ride turns out. This on the milder side of a thumbs up, but a thumbs up all the same. Most importantly, it’s a precursor to what is sure to be a bumpy, but noteworthy ride in the coming weeks and months. Raw certainly feels like must-see TV this week, that’s for sure.