WWE Survivor Series 2020 is a PPV with two main arcs. The first concerns “The Best Of The Best”, with this being the fifth straight year that the Raw and SmackDown brands collided in head-to-head competition across the evening. But the second is most interesting, with the promise of this being The Undertaker’s Final Farewell, after his retirement has been teased for a long time. Let’s see how this evening went down.
WWE Survivor Series 2020
This was your standard Battle Royal to warm up the, erm, crowd. It’s actually the first Battle Royal of significant participant numbers since the pandemic began (we did have a women’s BR over the summer but there were fewer entrants there). I won’t go into full details because, let’s face it, few would go out of their way to relive pre-show bouts after they first take place unless a classic goes down or a title change occurs. And neither happened with this Battle Royal.
The ending was one that we’ve seen many times before, as Dominik Mysterio eliminated Chad Gable, only for The Miz to sneak up (Dominik thought he had thrown him out) and dump Mysterio Jr (or is that Mysterio Jr Jr?) to the floor. Miz won to strengthen his cause for a potentially successful Money In The Bank cash-in. If that does happen, I would expect it to happen at TLC, thus allowing Drew McIntyre to regain the WWE Title at Royal Rumble 2021 ahead of whomever Drew defends the big belt against at WrestleMania 37 (Brock Lesnar?).
Also, R-Truth lost the 24/7 Title to … the Gobbledegooker! Hey, The Undertaker wasn’t the only guy celebrating a 30th anniversary here, you know. It’s also fun that Gooker has now won more titles in WWE than Sting.
Survivor Series Elimination Match
Team Raw (AJ Styles, Braun Strowman, Keith Lee, Riddle & Sheamus) vs. Team SmackDown (Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins, Jey Uso, Otis & King Corbin)
Opening the main portion of Survivor Series 2020 was, for the first time, the men’s elimination battle of the brands. Although there has been tension within the SmackDown ranks heading into this event, the bigger focus has been with Team Raw finding it impossible to get along. After a few minutes of random singles mini-matches, Seth Rollins surprisingly offered himself up for a Brogue Kick by Sheamus, which is likely the storyline explanation for his temporary absence from TV (the real explanation is that Becky Lynch is due to give birth imminently).
AJ eliminated KO with a Phenomenal Forearm after Owens had hit several Stunners. Then, Corbin struck Styles with the End Of Days before a brawl broke out with Team Raw, leading to Riddle pinning the King with a corkscrew moonsault. After Jey Uso survived a stiff Sheamus knee, Strowman sent Otis packing with a Powerslam after a distraction. That would leave Jey to fend for himself against the entire Raw squad. He started strong with a dive to ringside on all of his opponents, but he missed a blind tag from AJ to Lee. This led Jey to try and splash Styles, only for Lee to catch him and drill him with the match-winning Spirit Bomb.
So, despite Team Raw’s miscommunication problems, they achieved a clean sweep over Team SmackDown (though the score between the two shows wasn’t tallied during the night). Paul Heyman looked shocked backstage, knowing how Roman Reigns would react to Jey’s defeat. The bickering between the Raw guys initially continued, before Sheamus and Strowman finally made up, as the five-man army celebrated together. It was also nice that Lee achieved the win a year after his star-making performance at Survivors 2019.
The New Day vs. The Street Profits
For this clash of the Tag Team Champions, Big E rejoined Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston, with all three in Gears Of War-themed attires due to their participation in Gears 5; even Francesca III and the Booty O’s box were Gears-themed. For their part, Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins cut a strong pre-match promo based around celebrating Undertaker’s 30-year legacy (which included a rendition of Shawn Michaels’ theme Sexy Boy). Interestingly, there was a clear respect between both teams, so much so that New Day admired the cups descending from the ceiling during Street Profits’ entrance. All four even danced to Profits’ music prior to the bell, which made me giggle.
The Profits controlled the early going, before a Kofi trust dive to Ford on the floor helped to change the tide. Kingston also taunted Ford by holding a cup and kicking it away while Woods held Montez in a chinlock. Dawkins made the hot tag and unloaded with T-bone suplexes to both opponents. A twisting underhook DDT got a close two-count for Dawkins on Woods. Further innovative offence included Montez using Angelo as a platform to hit Xavier with a Sliced Bread No. 2.
New Day rebounded with the Midnight Hour, but Ford surprisingly kicked out (Tom Phillips wisely suggested that Big E not being there to hit the move with his usual power resulted in less impact). Ford hit Kofi with a huge frog splash, but his rib damage delayed the cover, allowing Kofi to kick out. In the end, the Profits hit a blockbuster from the Doomsday Device position for the upset victory in a thrilling back-and-forth clash. As expected, there was a post-match handshake as New Day endorsed the Profits. That would make for a minor feel-good moment here at Survivor Series 2020.
Bobby Lashley vs. Sami Zayn
The entire Hurt Business accompanied Bobby to the ring for this bout. This had a different vibe to their previous battles in 2018 due to Lashley being a heel, though Zayn remains as outspoken and annoying as he was almost 30 months ago. Sami avoided offence early on, but even his attempts to take control didn’t succeed; for instance, Bobby brushed off an attempted Sami clothesline to hit one of his own in an amusing moment.
We had a callback to their Money In The Bank 2018 clash. Zayn claimed to suffer vertigo after a Lashley superplex. But this attempt at a distraction didn’t really succeed for him. Sami tried to escape multiple times. But on one such occasion, MVP threw him back into the ring while the referee wasn’t looking. This allowed Lashley to finish off Sami with the Full Nelson. This wasn’t particularly good, though it served its purpose as Survivor Series 2020 continued.
Backstage, Paul Heyman and Roman Reigns refused to hear excuses from Jey or Jimmy Uso. Roman simply said to Jey “you lost”. Reignsnoted how Jey couldn’t control his team. The Big Dog used this as a way to suggest nobody respected him or their family. Reigns said Jey had no place at the “table” if Jey couldn’t change this, before ordering him to leave. Reigns continues to thrive as a detestable heel; shame nobody is in the arena to boo him.
Asuka vs. Sasha Banks
We’ve seen this match quite a few times in recent months, making this less appealing than the rarely-seen Roman vs. McIntyre bout later on. There was, however, one intriguing side-note to this battle of the Women’s Champions at Survivor Series 2020. As Tom Phillips pointed out on commentary, Sasha has never pinned or submitted Asuka in singles action. Well, at least not without the assistance of Bayley.
We had some cool pinfall and submission reversals here, with the story being that both women knew each other enough to look out for any traps resulting in either the Asuka Lock or the Bank Statement. The addition of piped-in clapping while Asuka had Sasha in an armlock made me laugh. It underlines that they really would expect a certain reaction if fans had been present. As with the tag team match, this was full of back-and-forth action. And this kept us guessing as to who would win here.
Asuka survived a second backstabber (Carlito would be pissed). Then, she avoided a frog splash, only for Sasha to immediately apply the Bank Statement. Further reversals led to Asuka hitting a Codebreaker to Banks on the apron for a very close near-fall. A brilliant exchange of pinfall combinations finally led to Sasha keeping Asuka down for the three-count. That ended a high-quality clash with a bang. And yes, The Boss now holds a clean pinfall win over The Empress Of Tomorrow.
Backstage, the Gobbledegooker followed a trail of bird seed, which was a clear trap from Akira Tozawa. Tozawa pinned Gooker to regain the 24/7 title. But R-Truth then whacked him with the entire bag of birdseed to once again become 24/7 Champion. Truth said to Gooker: “happy 30th anniversary!” This came immediately after the announcers recapped Gooker winning the belt on the pre-show, which just feels artificial. Why not show the recap a little earlier to make it look ever-so-slightly less staged?
Survivor Series Elimination Match
Team Raw (Nia Jax, Shayna Baszler, Lana, Lacey Evans & Peyton Royce) vs. Team SmackDown (Bayley, Bianca Belair, Natalya, Liv Morgan & Ruby Riott)
Earlier, Nia Jax insisted that nobody even tag in Lana during this match. This, combined with Nia putting Lana through an announcer’s table on nine consecutive occasions (nine!) – for which we got repeated recaps here – meant that you could probably see was coming. Corey Graves to Byron Saxton: “If Nia does that to Lana two more times, you’ll have to take off your shoes to count that high!” Incidentally, Evans and Royce replaced Mandy Rose and Dana Brooke, which in the case of Dana is particularly sad as she keeps missing out on potential opportunities to truly establish herself as a force in the women’s division.
Lana making her entrance last (and the announcers pointing out that she was the only member of Team Raw to actually earn her way onto the side) again telegraphed the outcome. The early highlight here was an awesome Baszler twirling backbreaker to Riott, followed by a brutal kick to the side of the head. Lana tagged herself in and did fairly well, before being ordered out and forced to stand at ringside as the tears welled up. At this stage, the female SmackDown squad was the only one all night in a traditional Survivors bout not to have miscommunication of some kind.
After the usual sequence of every participant taking turns to hit a big move, Nia Jax dominated the blue team before Bayley got rid of her, leading to Royce suplexing her off the top onto everybody (bar Lana) at ringside. Somehow, despite seven women being able to catch Bayley, they barely did, meaning this must have hurt like hell for Bayley. Royce then surprisingly eliminated Bayley with her Deja Vu turning suplex.
Natalya and Royce had some nice exchanges, though there seemed to be a blown spot before Nattie submitted her with the Sharpshooter. A missed Lacey moonsault led to Evans eliminating Natalya with a Woman’s Right. Lacey hit the move of the match by striking Bianca with a top-rope Spanish Fly, though her attempted cover was broken up. It was a few minutes before the next elimination, with Ruby being out cold due to the Kirifuda Clutch, though she had caught Baszler in a pinning predicament when trying to escape.
A nice crucifix bomb from Morgan got rid of Evans, while Nia and Shayna continued to chastise Lana, despite their numbers dropping. Liv then dared Nia to fight her: “bring it, bitch!” Jax, though, caught Lia with a dangerous-looking Samoan Drop (no surprise there) to leave Bianca all alone against Jax, Shayna and Lana. Bianca, however, used this as an opportunity to demonstrate her athleticism with some very impressive acrobatics. But as she went for a Tajiri-style handspring elbow, Baszler caught her fantastically with a Kirifuda Clutch.
This seemed to be the end, but somehow Bianca powered out and made it to the ropes, albeit while passing out. Yet, because Shayna wouldn’t relinquish the hold, she was disqualified. Belair still seemed out cold, though, which allowed Jax to clear the announcer’s table ahead of a potential Samoan Drop. But Belair saw it coming and shoved Nia into the steel stairs. At ringside, Belair backdropped Jax into the front row; however, in the process, both were counted out. That meant that the sole survivor was … LANA! Who saw that coming? Besides, well, everybody?
Some will complain about this, but I thought this was the best women’s Survivors bout to date. It was well-booked throughout, with some strong spots separating the eye-catching eliminations. And while I may have preferred Lana to score a more decisive win at Survivor Series 2020, she still got her moment in an unexpected fashion. And that in itself made this more memorable.
Roman Reigns vs. Drew McIntyre
This clash of the brand’s top male champions was originally Roman vs. Randy Orton, but with McIntyre winning the WWE Title last Monday night on Raw, we instead had a WrestleMania 35 rematch here at Survivor Series 2020. And though WWE only began teasing it nine days ago, because both have been built up so well in their current roles, this felt like a must-see match. Sometimes, wrestling can be that simple.
I still find it amazing that Roman is the clear top heel in the company, after WWE relented from giving him that attitude adjustment for so many years. And though the long-term goal may be to turn him again (perhaps in time for fans returning to arenas), I feel the company should keep him in this role for a good while because he’s doing awesome as a villain.
This was a slow starter, with each man taking their time to get a feel for their adversary amidst basic strikes and headlocks. Drew eventually caught Roman hard with a shoulder tackle which sent him to the floor, as fans chanted (sort of) “you suck!” I also still find it amazing that having tried to convince fans not to boo Roman for so long, WWE are now piping in chants that criticise The Big Dog.
McIntyre then chopped up Reigns in the corner, only to be sent shoulder-first into the ring post. Just as Drew tried to regain control, Reigns struck with a huge clothesline for two. Roman’s maniacal, almost psychotic, expression as he held Drew in a headlock-style submission was class. McIntyre then began his comeback proper, which included a skilful neckbreaker as the Thunderdome audience approved. A Samoan Drop cut off Drew for two before McIntyre avoided an attempted Superman Punch with a big spinebuster. After a good exchange of strikes, Drew caught Roman with a Future Shock DDT. That might have secured the pin if this was still 2010. In 2020, though, no joy for the sinister Scotsman.
The Superman Punch halted a potential Claymore Kick. But McIntyre expertly reversed a Roman Spear into a Kimura Lock, the hold perfected by Brock Lesnar. The Big Dog made the ropes, after a spot that could hint at a Lesnar return in the near future. Roman rebounded by hitting Drew with two Samoan Drops on the announcer’s table. The second Samoan Drop broke the desk (hey, McIntyre is heavier than Lana to be fair). The referee’s count was broken by Roman, who was determined to win this match decisively. Reigns then Speared McIntyre through the barricade behind the broken table (something we couldn’t normally see in a typical arena). But back in the ring, Drew still kicked out.
Drew then poised himself for a Claymore, but Reigns hit a second Spear; amazingly, Drew kicked out again! Reigns’ attempt at a final Spear led to a Claymore Kick connecting, though Reigns bumped the referee to the floor. This allowed Jey Uso to run down, though Drew punched him away. A low blow from Roman and a kick from Jey led to a Superman Punch and a Guillotine. Yet Drew initially relented before passing out to give Reigns the win in a great match. Why didn’t the second official disqualify Roman for the interference and the low blow?. Michael Cole saying how it’s very rare that a main event lives up to the hype was a bit strange. Mind you, this one definitely did. Roman and Heyman seemingly forgave Jey afterwards for his earlier error, though tension clearly remained.
The Undertaker’s Final Farewell
This would essentially be the main event of Survivor Series 2020. Mike Rome introduced the special guests for the final segment, which was the tribute to The Undertaker. They include:
Shane McMahon (who is apparently now a babyface again); Big Show (I never thought that A-Train would get a shout-out here, but he did); JBL (introduced as a WWE Hall Of Famer; could this mean the 2020 ceremony won’t actually happen?); Jeff Hardy (complete with Taker-themed face paint); Mick Foley (check out his super beard); The Godfather (one of Taker’s legitimate friends via the Bone Street Krew); The Godwinns (ditto, and back in overalls) and Savio Vega (same again, sans overalls).
Then there was Rikishi (who Taker memorably Chokeslammed off the Hell In A Cell at Armageddon 2000); Kevin Nash (who Taker defeated at WrestleMania XII); Booker T (we never did see the Takerroonie); Shawn Michaels (Taker’s opponent in his greatest ever matches); Ric Flair (who fought Taker at WM X8); Triple H (Cole suggested their WM 28 bout was the best he’d ever called, which may be a slight stretch); and Kane (as Taker’s brother, the Mayor of Knox County had to be here, in full attire to boot).
After a video covering Taker’s career to the soundtrack of Metallica’s Now That We’re Dead (which we heard for his Boneyard Match at WrestleMania 36), Vince McMahon himself stood in the ring to officially introduced Taker in an emotional fashion. This included Vince saying “WWF” in what has to be the first official mention of the company’s former name since 2002. Taker himself came out to do his usual entrance, as we heard piped-in chants of “Thank You Taker!” That Taker would pause his speech to acknowledge these was somewhat bizarre.
The Dead Man cut a short speech where he noted that it was now time to let The Undertaker rest in peace (again we had piped-in audio for fans to chant this catchphrase, with “peace” being audible twice). He then did his old kneeling pose while a hologram of Paul Bearer holding the urn appeared on the big screen in a nice touch. (Some people believed he legitimately cut his own throat when doing another signature pose during this bit, which is so ludicrous that I’m amazed it wasn’t a joke.) Taker then left and lifted his arm one more time before walking backstage. And that was that.
Survivor Series 2020 Thoughts
I’m conflicted on this. On the one hand, as an in-character tribute to The Undertaker character, it was acceptable. It wasn’t over-the-top cheesy, nor was it kayfabe-breaking to a serious degree. It was respectful and classy. But on the other hand, the glaring issue is that no fans were present due to Covid-19. This isn’t WWE’s fault of course, and with Survivor Series originally being set to emanate from Houston, Texas (Taker’s home state), no doubt this would have felt ten times bigger, and a lot more emotional, in a packed house.
I also realise that, with Survivor Series 2020 truly marking 30 years of his career (as well as being expendable enough to be the backdrop for an extended ceremony to close the evening), this was as good a time as any from a calendar standpoint for Taker to bow out. However, the lack of an audience makes this feel anticlimactic. Picture Ric Flair’s retirement ceremony the night after WrestleMania XXIV without fans, and without the WWE locker room emptying bar his closest friends, and then tell me if that has the same impactful emotional punch.
Mind you, this is only the latest in a series of attempts to allow Undertaker to ride off into the sunset. As far back as 2012, some believed he was done after beating Triple H at WrestleMania XXVIII. The Streak ending against Brock Lesnar at WM XXX seemed like the end, and then the loss to Roman Reigns and subsequent ceremony at WM 33 really did seem like his swansong. But he came back, again and again.
Taker has been searching for the best possible way to go out, as he states on his documentary The Last Ride. However, the cinematic nature of his Boneyard clash and the lack of an audience here at Survivors means that it all feels underwhelming. Ideally, he would make one final in-ring appearance once the fans are back (WrestleMania 38 in 2022 seems best, in case WWE can’t have a full stadium for WM 37), allowing the live audience to give him a real send-off.
At the same time, Taker’s pride means that even a short or a squash bout is unappealing to him. Let’s not forget that the man is 55 (or 56, or 58, depending on which age you believe). How much longer can he wrestle, even for a few minutes per year? It’s possible, too, that Taker’s body is now no longer even capable of a quick match.
Personally, I feel that he could probably get through a five-minute clash (with, say, AJ Styles again) in spring 2022, based around him not taking bumps and dishing out punishment (basically, the John Cena affair from WM 34). But Kurt Angle noted how arthritis prevented him from reaching his own standards in WWE from 2017-2019, hence his decision to quit.
Ending Of Survivor Series 2020
So, it’s a very strange feeling right now at the end of Survivor Series 2020. I’m sad to see Taker go, but that’s nothing compared to the sad nature of how he’s going. But they’ve teased us several times that he’s about to hang up the boots, only for him to keep returning. So, WWE has ended up sending him on his way in a manner that still has people going “is that it?” At the same time, the man’s health should be the top priority. And it should also be his own choice as to how he bows out.
I guess it’s a case of waiting and seeing. But personally, I think it won’t be until WrestleMania 38 has come and gone, by which point fans in the stands would be normal once again, before we truly know if Taker retired here or not. If people want to accept that he’s finished as of right now then that’s cool. But personally, I wouldn’t close the door on him just yet. Just remember the famous phrase: “never say never”.
Survivor Series 2020 Summary
Overall, then, WWE Survivor Series 2020 is a bit of an unusual show to see. It’s a night of two halves, with one being significantly longer, yet somehow far less historically noteworthy, than the other. The standard action was fairly overall, with the battles of the Tag Team, Women’s and Heavyweight Champions being must-see. Meanwhile, the women’s elimination bout was fun, even if it’s unlikely to be memorable in three months’ time.
And if this really is the end of the line for The Undertaker, his ceremony is an unforgettable segment in the annals of the company, though even that is up for debate. (For the record, if fans had been at Survivors, I’d have said that he was done right now). Time will ultimately tell whether Survivor Series 2020 has a strong legacy or not. But I would definitely advise to check out the three strong matches and the closing segment.