Roman Reigns has made a habit of closing out the main events of WWE pay-per-view events in 2021 in victory, only for a WWE legend to interrupt the celebration with a challenge.
But John Cena and Brock Lesnar weren't walking down that ramp Sunday night at the Barclays Center. For a change, Reigns hoisted his Universal championship high in the air after defeating Big E in the main event of Survivor Series, and that's how the pay-per-view went off the air.
On a night when the stars of WWE were sorted into Raw and SmackDown and enemies became allies (and then enemies again, in some cases), Reigns and Big E put a solid bow on a night that could've easily been a forgotten blip in the WWE's history books.
Reigns and Big E trace their roots back to before NXT was a creator of future WWE talent, to Florida Championship Wrestling. But through all of those years, their careers had only collided in multi-way matches and tag team clashes -- the latter during some tremendous clashes featuring The Shield and The New Day.
But until they met on Sunday, it had never been 1-on-1. Despite both men being world champions, Reigns vocally doubted Big E throughout the match, called him a comedy wrestler and put him down. And each time Big E absorbed a hit, be it physical or psychological, he kept getting back up. No matter if Reigns took out his knee, or hit a flurry of Superman punches, or tossed him around ringside, Big E refused to stay down.
Reigns rarely made it easy for long. Even as Big E seized control of the match with a Uranage and a stretch Muffler Submission, Reigns showed off some awesome strength by hitting the dense Big E with a one-armed powerbomb.
They traded spears, and by the time they started to get back to their feet a crowd that was lukewarm and occasionally combative was fully invested, shouting, "Let's go Big E!" and "Let's go Roman!"
Reigns piled on with the verbal inserts, telling Big E, "You don't deserve to be in this ring," as he went for a guillotine.
Big E drove Reigns into the corner, but Reigns locked his guillotine choke through the ropes. He briefly let go but then reapplied the move in the middle of the ring. Big E climbed back to his feet with Reigns on his shoulder and connected with his finisher, the Big Ending. However, his best chance at winning the match evaporated as Reigns grabbed hold of the bottom rope at the count of 2.
The action spilled to the outside. Big E bounced Reigns face-first off the commentary table, then the ring post, then the ring barricade. But Reigns sent Big E knee-first into the ring steps and added a Superman punch, jumping off the steel steps for good measure.
Action swung one last time, long enough for a final Big Ending attempt. But Big E's knee gave out. Reigns kicked the back of Big E's leg, connected on a vicious spear, and that was enough.
What's next: This was a showcase for Big E, and he passed with flying colors. The image of him fighting to his feet with the WWE championship over his shoulder was strong. He has business to settle with Kevin Owens, but so too does Seth Rollins. Perhaps they can all settle their issues with one another, together.
For Reigns, Brock Lesnar looms in the far off, undefined distance. There will be other challengers, but until there is a clear result in a return match, it's tough to look at anyone on the SmackDown roster who could cast doubt on Reigns' dominant Universal championship run.
Men's 5-on-5 traditional Survivor Series match -- Team Raw (Seth Rollins, Finn Balor, Kevin Owens, Austin Theory, Bobby Lashley) def. Team SmackDown (Drew McIntyre, King Woods, Happy Corbin, Jeff Hardy and Sheamus)
Kevin Owens and Seth Rollins got heated about who would start for Team Raw, opposite Team SmackDown's King Woods. Owens finally won a war of wills, but the moment the bell rang, Owens rolled out of the ring, walked up the ramp and got himself intentionally counted out. Owens was eliminated from Team Raw.
After a chaotic sequence in which everyone got involved and almost everyone ate some of the damage, Finn Balor stomped Happy Corbin with a Coup de Grace, and evened the teams. Corbin was eliminated from Team SmackDown.
Bobby Lashley cleared house inside and outside of the ring, and knocked Woods off the top rope. He'd soon spear Woods, and then slapped the Hurt Lock on. Woods was eliminated from Team SmackDown.
Lashley and Drew McIntyre, who battled for months over the WWE championship, renewed tensions. But things got too personal in a hurry, and as they battled on the outside, both men got simultaneously counted out. Lashley was eliminated from Team Raw and McIntyre was eliminated from Team SmackDown. In the ensuing chaos, McIntyre hit a Claymore on Lashley as a parting gift, and then headbutted Rollins on his way out.
Balor looked to pick up another elimination with a Coup de Grace on Sheamus, but Sheamus flipped the script on his Irish countryman, rolled out of the way and then connected on a Brogue Kick. Balor was eliminated from Team Raw.
The match was left with two competitors for each team -- Rollins and Austin Theory for Raw, and Sheamus and Jeff Hardy for SmackDown. After Sheamus and Hardy worked well in tandem and assisted in their signature moves, Rollins desperately pulled Hardy off the apron and prevented a tag. In the confusion, Theory rolled Sheamus up and grabbed a handful of tights to get the three-count. Sheamus was eliminated from Team SmackDown.
Hardy fought off a double-team in the Raw corner and sent Rollins flying to the floor while Theory crashed to the canvas. Hardy climbed to the top turnbuckle and connected on a Swanton Bomb to Theory. Theory was eliminated from Team Raw.
The match came down to Rollins and Hardy. Rollins missed a stomp and Hardy went for a Twist of Fate. But the Swanton was right into the knees of Rollins which led immediately into a stomp. Hardy was eliminated from Team SmackDown, leaving Rollins as the sole survivor.
What's next: Rollins carried Team Raw despite Owens' early exit. The only obvious outcome from this match is that they are going to have a lot to talk about come Monday night.
Women's 5-on-5 traditional Survivor Series match -- Team Raw (Bianca Belair, Rhea Ripley, Carmella, Queen Zelina, Liv Morgan) def. Team SmackDown (Sasha Banks, Natalya, Toni Storm, Shotzi, Shayna Baszler)
There was chaos early and often in the women's 5-on-5 elimination match. Carmella was in the process of trying to attach a protective mask to her face, but because Rhea Ripley was jostling things around in the Team Raw corner, Toni Storm was able to pick up a quick elimination by sneaking up behind Carmella and rolling her up for three. Carmella was eliminated from Team Raw.
An extended stretch without an elimination took the crowd out of it, and despite some good moments and memorable pairings, it took a while for the momentum to be restored. Queen Zelina got bounced from a Sasha Banks backstabber into a Storm spinning slam, and Storm pinned Zelina. Queen Zelina was eliminated from Team Raw.
In a brief shining moment for her squad, Liv Morgan pinned Storm and briefly stopped the blue wave of momentum. Storm was eliminated from Team SmackDown.
Morgan's time in the sun didn't carry on for long, though. A Shotzi top rope splash followed by a Banks Frog Splash led to another quick pinfall. Morgan was eliminated from Team Raw.
Ripley briefly held her own, but fell after a three-move sequence -- a Banks Backstabber, a Shayna Baszler-assisted Sliced Bread by Shotzi in the middle of the ring and finally a Baszler knee put Ripley out. Ripley was eliminated from Team Raw.
Banks' behavior towards her teammates finally bubbled to the surface despite Team SmackDown going up 4-1. All of Banks' remaining teammates took turns keeping Banks out of the ring long enough to get her eliminated by countout. Banks was eliminated from Team SmackDown.
Natalya had the Sharpshooter on Belair, with the victory well within reach, but Belair flipped Natalya backwards into the ropes using her legs. That led to a clash of heads between Natalya and Baszler on the apron. With a rollup, Belair recorded a pinfall on Natalya. Natalya was eliminated from Team SmackDown.
A Belair glam slam to a still dazed Baszler soon followed. Baszler was eliminated from Team SmackDown.
Shotzi held her own for a few moments, but Belair got her up in the KOD and then pinned her -- securing the victory for Team Raw as the sole survivor.
What's next: Banks will start her revenge tour on Friday, taking out her former teammates one by one. The sequence of the eliminations on Team Raw were puzzling, as Morgan and Ripley were seemingly lining up for title shots. But perhaps this victory will allow Belair to cut the line for another chance at Becky Lynch.
Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch have had chemistry since the first time they wrestled on NXT TV more than seven years ago. Sunday's Survivor Series match was their 20th televised one-on-one match -- the ninth such clash on pay-per-view -- and these two have only gotten better in the ring with each encounter.
Between the deep storyline history and their comfort level with one another, the stage was set for something special inside of the Barclays Center. In the same venue in which "The Man" was ostensibly born as Lynch attacked Flair following at triple threat title match at SummerSlam 2018, Lynch and Flair opened the pay-per-view with another tremendous showing in their long line of great matches.
There was no need to wait for fireworks. The familiar foes were swinging and kicking from the moment the bell rang, laying in stiff strikes and kicks to bruise each other up before either could catch their breath.
Both women went for early finishes, only for their opponent's experience to allow for the perfect counter. Flair injured Lynch's shoulder and Lynch hurt Flair's leg to try to neutralize the other's signature submissions. Each tried to embarrass the other by doing their opponent's finishing submission.
But save for the occasionally splashy move that did connect, it was a war of attrition. For the first time in their extended history, both women entered the match as villains, and both women were willing to cut any corner to get the job done.
It was a masterfully crafted match with a tremendous ending. Flair got caught holding the ropes for leverage on a pinfall and in the ensuing chaos, Lynch rolled Flair up and, out of the view of the referee, got leverage from the ropes herself and secured the three-count.
By out Flair-ing Flair, Lynch picked up the victory and rubbed salt in the wound in the process.
BACK. AND. FORTH. THEY. GO.@BeckyLynchWWE just kicked it into another gear against @MsCharlotteWWE!#SurvivorSeries is streaming LIVE:— WWE (@WWE) November 22, 2021
🌎 https://t.co/aEwGYUp0uE pic.twitter.com/IPBaH3hW4A
What's next: It was the first televised one-on-one match between Flair and Lynch in over two years, and they didn't seem to have lost a step. There was certainly a case to be made for over-exposure of that story in the past, but there remains more ground to mine in the future. Lynch appears headed towards a title defense against Liv Morgan, while Flair may have challenges ahead from some of the newer faces on SmackDown, including Toni Storm, if the last few weeks are any indication.
On the surface, RK-Bro vs. The Usos was about the Raw tag team champions facing the SmackDown tag team champions. In reality, it became a showcase for Orton on an historic night at Survivor Series in which he set the mark for most pay-per-view matches in WWE history at 177.
The majority of the match felt like it was building up to a big moment for Orton. He stood on the apron as Riddle bounced between advantage and disadvantage, and given the opportunity to get in the ring, the crowd exploded as Orton took over with seemingly boundless energy.
Tonight's #SurvivorSeries achievement by @RandyOrton is nothing short of mythical. I hope @WWE superstars and @WWEUniverse understand just how incredible it is. A milestone I'll never reach and ALWAYS admire. So proud of you Randy. Thank you for the inspiration! #Respect 🥃— John Cena (@JohnCena) November 21, 2021
After a hangman's DDT on Jey Uso, Orton lined up an RKO for the first time, but Jey fought his way out with kicks. Riddle blind tagged himself back in, but quickly absorbed a double superkick from The Usos while he was on his knees. Jey attempted to pin Riddle, but Riddle kicked out at the last possible moment.
Riddle eventually stumbled backwards into his corner and Orton tagged in once more. Jimmy Uso superkicked Orton off the apron, not knowing that Orton tagged Riddle blindly, and Jimmy went up to splash Riddle. But as he flew off the top rope, Orton picked Jimmy out of midair with an RKO and won the match for his team.
What's next: This was a big win for a team that's only months old, against a team that's been together for a long time. The Raw tag team champions have plenty challengers to come on Monday nights, but it's unclear as to whom will step up first. The Usos will continue to juggle their SmackDown titles with serving as Roman Reigns' backup.
Omos wins 25-man Battle Royal
A 25-man battle royal promoted to celebrate 25 years since the WWE debut of The Rock but without a clear prize for the winner quickly degraded into a Pizza Hut commercial in the early stages of the match. The competitors made the most of the gimmick with some acrobatic eliminations, but the most memorable moments came towards the end.
After Commander Azeez was eliminated, he tried to pull AJ Styles out of the ring, and a tug of war for Styles' body with Styles' tag team Omos, who was still in the ring, ensued. Styles ultimately fell to the floor. Omos racked up his eighth elimination of the match as he knocked out Azeez's compatriot, Apollo Crews. The four other competitors -- The Street Profits, Cesaro and Ricochet -- tried to eliminate Omos 4-on-1. They failed. Cesaro was Omos' ninth elimination. Dawkins was 10. Ford was 11.
That left Ricochet as the last man standing in Omos' way. Omos cartwheeled Ricochet over the top rope, and he won the match. Styles returned to the ring to celebrate, then pointed to the box of pizza at ringside. Ford tossed what was, I guess, Omos' pizza into the crowd to the fans.
What's next: The egregious sponsor integration notwithstanding, The Street Profits will likely continue tensions with Styles and Omos. Almost everyone else will forget this match immediately.
Shinsuke Nakamura def. Damian Priest by disqualification
Survivor Series has a history, at least of late, of lacking much in the way of long-term storyline consequences. But the Kickoff Show match between Shinsuke Nakamura and Damian Priest changed that tune in a hurry.
Rick Boogs spent the early stages of the match on the outside shredding on the guitar to distract Priest, which threatened to derail another rarity in WWE -- a fresh matchup that carried some intrigue. Boogs played his guitar both in celebration and in distraction, and while it bumped up on the point of being too annoying, Priest forced Boogs to stop with an ultimatum.
The match was a good showing for Priest, who didn't look out of sorts against a technical legend like Nakamura. As the match reached its peak, Nakamura missed his Kinshasa knee and fell directly into Priest's grasp for a South of Heaven sit-out chokeslam.
They traded submission attempts, but as Priest locked in a gogoplata, Boogs got back on the guitar and Priest snapped. Priest sprinted out of the ring, broke the guitar over his knee and then attacked Boogs. When Nakamura went out to save his friend, Priest, blindsided, swung the guitar back and got himself disqualified.
What's next: A disqualification ending is generally not satisfying, but Priest snapping will almost certainly have long-term storyline implications for his character. Nakamura being leveled by a weapon in defense of a friend does little to affect his current standing.