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Muddled ending to strong night at Survivor Series

Aaron Oster
Contact ReporterFor The Baltimore Sun

Despite the lack of stakes in the night, for nearly three hours Survivor Series was as good as hoped, as the cross-brand exhibitions gave wrestlers the chance to truly shine on a big stage. However, the main event left a bad taste in some fans' mouths after an otherwise excellent show.

The men's Survivor Series match in the main event was everything you could have hoped for at the beginning. Men tagging in and out to create dream scenarios, like Shinsuke Nakamura facing off against Finn Balor, Triple H exchanging finisher attempts with Bobby Roode, and Samoa Joe staring down Randy Orton. That didn't even account for Kurt Angle tangling with John Cena in a flashback to Cena's first day on Smackdown and Shane McMahon bumping for Braun Strowman like no 47-year-old should.

However, as competitors slowly started to get eliminated, some unease came over the crowd, as the newer stars like Nakamura, Roode and Balor were eliminated early, leaving a final five of Strowman, Triple H, Angle, McMahon, and Orton. Orton too was eliminated by Strowman, leaving Shane in a 3-on-1 scenario. That's when the finish truly got weird.

Triple H tagged himself in, and it looked like we'd be seeing the brothers-in-law face off. However, Angle tagged himself in, and Angle and McMahon wrestled for a bit. I say wrestled, though Angle mainly destroyed Shane. Finally he locked in the Ankle Lock, and after about a minute, it looked like Shane would tap out. However, Triple H would come in and pedigree Angle, pulling Shane on top of him for a pin. Braun looked on incredulously as Triple H helped Shane up, and stood by his side. It looked like the McMahon family would stand together. However, Triple H quickly revealed what was going on, and pedigreed Shane so he could pin Shane himself and get the win as a confused crowd looked on.

This match, while fine in places, also highlighted so many of the things that can go wrong when legends, particularly Triple H, get involved in matches like this. Even with Braun Strowman wrecking Triple H after the match, as he screamed to never mess with him again, it felt like the match was about Triple H looking good.

If the point of the match was to get Braun over, there were many ways to do that without having the decisive people in the match at the end be Triple H, Angle and Shane. As many pointed out on social media, Triple H screwing over an up-and-coming wrestler (in storyline) to insert himself in the main event, get the decisive pinfall in the main event and then feed for a rising star is pretty much the most stereotypical thing he could do.

The unfortunate thing is that the muddled finish casts a pall over a strong night, and strong weekend, for WWE. Despite the lack of stakes in any of the matches, it was a great series of exhibition matches, from Brock Lesnar/AJ Styles to Charlotte Flair/Alexa Bliss all the way to the opener with The Shield and The New Day. Yes, the night could have benefited if anything at all was on the line to make the RAW vs. Smackdown counter in the corner of the screen mean anything. But the matches stood up. However, unfortunately, the finish of the night does raise the question on how it will be remembered

The rest of Survivor Series:

-Brock Lesnar beat AJ Styles in a match that was everything you could have realistically hoped for. A good chunk of the match was Styles getting decimated by Lesnar. While that's always impressive, with Styles' selling ability, it was just that much more impressive. AJ did mount a comeback, using his speed and high-flying to take Lesnar down. Eventually, Lesnar caught AJ off a springboard into an F5 for the win. The last few minutes were a complete frenzy, and the best that Lesnar has looked in several years.

-The women's survivor series match was exactly what it should be: something to showcase Asuka. She ended up being down 2 to 1 and destroyed both Natalya and Tamina to win the match for Team RAW at the end. After a rough start to her main roster tenure, they've finally started to figure out what makes her so special. Tamina also needs to be noted for having a really strong match, including eliminating Nia Jax via count-out after taking her out on the outside.

-Charlotte beat Alexa in an extremely competitive match. Despite losing, Alexa looked great, which should help her continue to gain credibility against an increasingly imposing RAW women's division.

-The Shield beat The New Day. This was a perfect opener. The two teams came up with a ton of creative spots, exactly what you would expect from these two.

-The Usos beat The Bar in yet another good match. Nothing fancy about this one, just two really strong teams highlighting what they could do.

-Baron Corbin beat The Miz. I was surprised at how clean this win was. It would've been logical for a count-out or DQ finish here, but with the crazy ending of the main event, there was probably a desire to make the rest of the matches clean.

-In the preshow, Enzo Amore retained the cruiserweight title, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn beat The Fashion Police, and Elias beat Matt Hardy.

Questions? Thoughts? Leave them in the comment section here, email me, or find me on Twitter: @TheAOster. You can also hear my podcast, Jobbing Out, at https://soundcloud.com/jobbingout

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