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8-Match Tag: The Ballad of Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker

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I’m Sean. You’re not. Welcome back to 8-Match Tag, my personal compendium of short-and-sweet personal playlists for new and well-read wrestling fans alike from the archives of WWE Network.

Let’s now journey just barely more than 20 years into the past and observe the eight essential milestones comprising a legendary feud that stands up today as a touchstone defining the finest hours in the careers of two storied icons. This cyclical saga’s sun dawns and sets with a show-stopping, controversial supernova of charisma holding an ultimately relentless rival’s destiny in the palm of his hand. The battles falling between the catalyst and culmination of their conflict brought out nothing less than each man’s best, despite nine years passing without their paths crossing and a combined 15 years separating the trailblazing first salvos and bittersweet punctuation of their story.

If I somehow haven’t made this evident, we now chronicle one of my all-time favorite arcs ever to emanate from any era or company in professional wrestling history. This is the ballad of Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker.


WWF SUMMERSLAM – August 3, 1997
WWF CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
The Undertaker © vs. Bret “The Hitman” Hart, w/ special guest referee Shawn Michaels

As the now-former World Wrestling Federation approached SummerSlam in August 1997, few could have foreseen back-to-back marquee matches altering the path for the company’s ensuing 20 years atop the professional wrestling landscape.

In one, a catastrophically botched Owen Hart piledriver nearly crippled “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s and set the stage for the Texas Rattlesnake’s pivotal 1999 neck surgery and the eventual onset of spinal stenosis which would combine to bring the curtain down on the career of wrestling history’s single most popular, impactful and profitable star.

In another, WWF Champion the Undertaker’s second reign with the belt met the challenge of Bret “The Hitman” Hart. Since 1996, Hart’s storylines had blurred backstage acrimony and frustration with a bizarre heel turn that saw Bret booed without mercy in the United States and heralded as practically a conquering national hero in his native Canada. Michaels often dove without hesitation into the center of Hart’s all-too-real professional frustrations and offering an increasingly loathsome character foil, but on this night, he would shape all three men’s oncoming paths. After extensive antagonization, the Heartbreak Kid stepped up as special guest referee just as Hart had declared that, should he fail to wrest the WWF Championship from the Deadman, America would see the last of the Excellence of Execution.

There was just one additional catch: HBK called Hart’s bet by announcing that he too would never again wrestle on U.S. soil if he showed blatant favoritism to the champion.

It truly is a crying shame Hart worked so relatively few major matches opposite the Undertaker. Both displayed a consummate commitment to hard-hitting, physically grueling matches executed to closely resemble a believable donnybrook – yes, even the one portraying a wrestling zombie. This was absolutely no exception. The pair demanded minimal suspension of disbelief. Their pacing rarely allowed the tension to waver for a second. Best of all, the match’s entire narrative wove Michaels’ stakes seamlessly into Hart and the Undertaker’s own, advancing several stories concurrently without one ever seeming poised to overshadow the others. In the end, Hart’s animosity toward Michaels boiled over in the form of a single finely aimed loogie landed squarely in HBK’s face. Michaels offered a receipt in the form of a swing-for-the-fences blast with the steel chair he had only just confiscated from the Hitman – a blow which jacked the Undertaker’s skull when Hart deftly slipped out of the way. Bret went for the cover. His arch-enemy reluctantly counted the fall.

The fallout is the stuff of legend, almost enough so to overshadow one of the most timelessly watchable main events in the company’s history. Hart’s fifth and final reign as WWF Champion would come to an ignominious end three months later against Michaels himself at Survivor Series in the sea-changing Montreal Screwjob, after which the Hitman would end his storied career with a WCW tenure lasting from 1997 until a tragic concussion forced him into retirement in 2000.

As for Michaels? Before holding the WWF Championship for a third and final time, he would embark on a collision course that would eventually lead him through Hell and back.


WWF IN YOUR HOUSE: GROUND ZERO – September 7, 1997
Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker

“Shawn Michaels, you’re going to have to look me in the eyes, and you are going to have to pay for your crimes,” the Undertaker prophesied in the wake of SummerSlam.

Unsurprisingly, Michaels wasn’t exactly impressed.

“You’re either with me or against me. Take your pick,” HBK declared. “The Undertaker is going down in a blaze of fire.”

Michaels boldly defined that line in the sand by proudly raining down two thunderous blasts with a steel chair onto the Deadman’s cranium on “Monday Night Raw”, both of which made the assault at SummerSlam look like tee ball batting practice. Naturally, the Undertaker sat bolt-upright and seared a hole in Michaels and HBK’s two newly joined D-Generation X companions Hunter Hearst Helmsley and Chyna with his cold, dark eyes. Appropriately, Michaels and the Undertaker were then tabbed to close In Your House: Ground Zero – a main event somewhat ironically preceded by Bret Hart defending his newly won WWF Championship against The Patriot, match inspired by Michaels previously costing Hart a televised match against the red, white and blue contender.

The Undertaker was a gigantic, heavy-hitting mauler with a relentlessly methodical offensive approach and uncanny agility that seemed fascinatingly misplaced on a man standing 6 feet 10 inches tall and weighing in over 300 pounds. Michaels’ electrifying personality and brash bravado complimented legendary high-flying assaults and no shortage of technical wrestling proficiency – not entirely unlike Hart in many ways except his once-notorious toxic attitude. In hindsight, it should have come as no surprise that these two well-traveled veterans would display instantaneous chemistry far outstripping the theoretical limitations of their differences. Whereas Hart tried to scientifically dissect the Undertaker, Michaels opted to remain abusive and elusive. When he finally had nowhere left to run, HBK proceeded to sell a brutal hammering at the Deadman’s hands.

This was no mindless brawl. It was the prelude to two masters of in-ring psychology diving a level deeper into their bags of tricks. Of the eight milestone matches involving these two men, it baffles me how rarely this first significant confrontation falls under the radar. Before a conclusion marred by interference, Michaels and the Undertaker had made their point: we hadn’t seen anything close to the best of either of them yet. This encounter was violent, wild and more than entertaining enough by a solid margin to top Ground Zero’s bill without a single championship on the line. Still, it left unfinished business neither man could abide. Desperate times called for desperate, unheard-of measures.


WWF IN YOUR HOUSE: BAD BLOOD – October 5, 1997
HELL IN A CELL
Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker

A mere ring could not contain the volcanic animosity between these two. When last they met in a one-on-one confrontation, their fight culminated in the WWF locker room spilling onto the arena floor to separate the Undertaker from Michaels, Helmsley and Chyna after an inconclusive no-contest. For their efforts, the assembled would-be peacemakers were wiped out by the Undertaker leaping cleanly over the top rope and flattening them all like bowling pins decked out in late-1990s street clothes. Finality would call for something unprecedented in the annals of the World Wrestling Federation.

It’s one of those moments wrestling fans of nearly any age in the late 90s will never forget. Some were closely familiar with War Games, a covered chain-link cage covering two rings and entrapping rival teams of four or five men who entered one at a time. This was an evolved beast, a mammoth roofed enclosure lowered over both the ring itself and most of the perimeter outside it. The structure’s objective? Seal two fierce enemies locked at their breaking points inside and leave no means for any third party to enter the fray.

Jim Ross, one of the company’s most esteemed announcers, often referred to it as “the Devil’s Playground” with reverent hyperbole. In the beginning, it was simply known as Hell in a Cell.

Before WWE watered down the gimmick into an annual pay-per-view event that hasn’t always featured feuds suited to its violent legacy, Hell in a Cell was the nuclear option. When disdain outlived wrestling’s most torturous stipulations (cage matches, bullrope matches, street fights, etc.) and left two enemies with no other path for conclusively settling a grudge…Hell would await. That was the bar set by Michaels and the Undertaker in St. Louis that evening. Without Helmsley, Chyna or “Ravishing” Rick Rude by his side and a remorseless reaper in black standing across the ring from him, Michaels struggled to survive while the crowd relished seeing the Deadman finally beat vengeful blood from HBK without realistically expecting an interruption. The Showstopper sold a beating for the ages while the Undertaker himself got over Michaels’ own tide-turning offense and experienced cunning to maintain the war’s unpredictability, especially when Shawn eventually finagled an escape from the titanic torture chamber.

Naturally, if a man can get out…a demon could find its way inside. With the Undertaker poised to impact a dent shaped like Michaels’ cranium in the mat with a Tombstone, the lights went black. Flames erupted. The Deadman’s nemesis and former manager Paul Bearer strode down the aisle with a Goliath clad head-to-toe in red and black behind him. The beast tore the door from its hinges, stood face-to-face with the Undertaker and promptly destroyed him with a Tombstone of his own, leaving Michaels to limply cover him for a three-count. Kane, the Undertaker’s presumed-dead younger brother, had come to settle old accounts.

For the time being, the book had been closed on HBK. However, it wouldn’t take long for one consuming feud to entangle itself with another.


WWF ROYAL RUMBLE – January 18, 1998
WWF CHAMPIONSHIP CASKET MATCH
Shawn Michaels © vs. The Undertaker

By the 1998 Royal Rumble, circumstance had upped this seemingly ceaseless rivalry’s ante an additional order of magnitude. In an instant destined to live in infamy amidst the WWF Championship’s hallowed history, Michaels had controversially stolen one last reign atop the mountain from Bret Hart at Survivor Series the previous November. In the meantime, the Undertaker had seemingly made amends with his brother after months of being challenged to a face-off apparently decades in the making. That left the Deadman seemingly free and clear to pursue a third WWF Championship in another specialized encounter he had previously pioneered: a casket match.

In order to win, one man would have to dump the other into an oversized casket situated at ringside and close the lid. No count-out, disqualification, pinfall or submission would otherwise end the match. Keep that in mind. One day, I just might count down my favorite occasions during which that loophole bit the Undertaker squarely on his cold, dead ass.

While a satisfyingly and typically brutal affair between two men seemingly incapable of working a patently unwatchable match together, this main-event spectacle bears unfortunate historical significance beyond being the final clash between Michaels and the Undertaker for nine years. At one point, Michaels took a seemingly routine spill over the top rope and slammed his back against the perpendicular edge where one of the casket’s sides met its lid. On an initial viewing without context, the impact doesn’t appear terribly traumatic – painful, but one wouldn’t think it anything to write home about.

Beneath the surface, that spot herniated two discs in Shawn’s back and completely crushed another. Despite retaining his championship when Kane and Bearer emerged to seal the Undertaker inside the casket and set it ablaze after the match, Shawn Michaels would not wrestle a one-on-one match again until dropping the belt to “Stone Cold” Steve Austin at WrestleMania XIV months later. Putting Austin over would give way to a four-year retirement and the universally accepted belief that HBK would never set foot as an active competitor inside a ring again.


WWE ROYAL RUMBLE – January 28, 2007
THE ROYAL RUMBLE MATCH FINALE

Fate was not yet finished with this tale. Not by a long shot.

I refuse to pretend the closing triad of matches finishing this feud once and for all were already planned three years before the first of them took place. Every so often, things simply fall into order that way. In 2002, Shawn Michaels returned to WWE a drastically changed, redeemed man. Over the course of five intervening years, he rode what was to be a one-off career finale against former friend and DX running mate Triple H at SummerSlam into five years of stellar matches that surpassed even some of his most thrilling matches of the 90s as a standard-bearer for the company, including a brief reign as World Heavyweight Champion and an unforgettable WrestleMania XX main event war with Triple H and Chris Benoit. During that same time, the Undertaker returned to his ominous “Deadman” persona at WrestleMania XX after several years as a no-nonsense biker with a penchant for beating down anyone who dared slide a toe into his yard.

As the field dwindled in the 2007 Royal Rumble match with a punched ticket to a WrestleMania 23 championship match hanging in the balance, time stood still. The bloodied Undertaker sat up. An exhausted, rubber-legged Michaels, appropriately clad once more in the green and black of D-Generation X, kipped up to his feet. For the first time in almost 10 years, they locked eyes across an empty ring – two defiant, battle-hardened Texans renewing their war before a suddenly unglued San Antonio crowd. For seven more minutes of gapless action, both turned back the clock to 1997 and delivered quite possibly the most thrilling Royal Rumble conclusion the match has ever seen. Each narrowly averted elimination over the top rope several times. The Undertaker flattened Michaels with a downright sadistic chokeslam. HBK appeared to turn the tide with pinpoint-perfect Sweet Chin Music. As he found his feet and moved in for one more superkick to seal a record-setting third Royal Rumble victory, the Undertaker ducked under and ousted Michaels for his first.

In Detroit at WrestleMania 23, it was Michaels who would close out the Showcase of the Immortals in a fantastic WWE Championship match against John Cena. Earlier in the evening, the Undertaker would take the World Heavyweight Championship from Batista in an astounding match whose quality was purportedly elevated by both men resenting a perceived backseat taken to Cena and Michaels, complete with Batista allegedly screaming “Let’s see them top that!” as he returned backstage. However, Michaels and the Undertaker perhaps had not yet realized what their performance in January had already insinuated: their story wasn’t finished after all.


WRESTLEMANIA 25 – April 5, 2009
Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker

As the road to WrestleMania’s diamond-anniversary celebration drew nearer to its ultimate destination in Houston, HBK walked tall with the backbone of a rejuvenated man with a new-found mission after winning his freedom from a demoralizing period of indentured servitude to John “Bradshaw” Layfield. In the midst of the personal identity crisis that plagued him as the well-heeled Texan held Michaels’ financial soul in the palm of his hand, he was once briefly confronted by his greatest adversary with a succinct, pointed message: “It is sometimes hell trying to get to Heaven.”

With his freedom restored, Michaels trained his gaze toward a WrestleMania homecoming with a single point to prove: he was still the Showstopper…the icon…the headliner…the quintessential main event. As far as he was concerned, there was but one way to leave no doubt. Once more, he would have to do what many declared “impossible” and etch his name upon unbroken ground.
As far he was concerned, he was destined to bury the Undertaker’s unparalleled undefeated WrestleMania record. He would forever be acknowledged as the “1” in “16-1.” A legion of champions, giants and legends had fallen at the Deadman’s feet on the Grandest Stage of Them All. However, the Phenom had never bested Mr. WrestleMania where his unbridled, unrivaled talent had always shone brightest.

In the weeks leading to WrestleMania 25, Michaels reminded the Undertaker time and again that his ever-present psychological warfare had never worn down a fighting spirit or warrior’s will quite like his own. Instead, Michaels repeatedly laid the Deadman flat on his back with his most devastating blow, Sweet Chin Music. If veteran spectators hadn’t known better, we could have sworn HBK had accomplished the unthinkable and planted his own seed of doubt within the Undertaker’s head.

“That might have been the one to end it on,” Michaels would tell a WWE interviewer years later. “If that wasn’t perfect, that’s as close as you can get.”

After over 30 minutes of drama and impeccably paced storytelling by which all headlining WrestleMania bouts henceforth should be measured, Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker had declared they were no longer two proud men vying for one-another’s professional respect. The years had meticulously shaped them into two consummate artists who had risen above and beyond having each earned such respective admiration. Triple H and Randy Orton faced the unenviable mountain that year of having to follow a match for the ages. Both have since conceded, the it was a fool’s errand. Without a single wasted motion, Michaels and the Undertaker imbued every spot and sequence with a deliberate structure. One expression and mannerism after another shaded in each man’s path toward victory and defeat.

This was wrestling artistry. However, it was not how this story was fated to end.


WRESTLEMANIA 26 – March 28, 2010
CAREER VERSUS STREAK
Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker

You know something? Absolutely nothing I could conceivably write here would encompass the ascent from WrestleMania 25’s undeniable masterpiece to this poignant chapter better than this. I tried for hours.

When WWE gives enough of a damn, nobody builds a big-fight feel quite like them.

Two years earlier, Shawn Michaels penned the final in-ring WWE chapter of his idol, mentor and friend, “Nature Boy” Ric Flair. It ended with Flair rising to his feet, dukes up, demanding that HBK hold nothing back and finish him as only the Showstopper could. There is a poetic parallel to Michaels, a weathered and crumpled man, pulling himself up the Undertaker’s body to slap the Deadman across the face and deliver his opponent’s signature throat-slice taunt. That Phoenix evening did not surpass their furor from a year prior, despite being a no-disqualification affair. If these two men were to share a ring this way only one last time, they were nevertheless determined to leave an unforgettable impression.

Oh, by the way? This time, they went on last.

Still…the all-encompassing end of an era would have to wait another two years.


WRESTLEMANIA 28 – April 1, 2012
“END OF AN ERA” HELL IN A CELL MATCH
Triple H vs. The Undertaker
Special Guest Referee – Shawn Michaels

Two years had passed. At the very WrestleMania which celebrated Shawn Michaels’ induction into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2011, his closest friend met his indomitable rival for the second time at the Showcase of the Immortals. Triple H had declared their match a meeting to determine who was truly WWE’s “last outlaw” of a generation rapidly aging out of professional wrestling’s rigors. In some sense, it was obviously also a matter of avenging the fall of his compatriot’s career a year prior. He battered and abused the Deadman to such a horrendous degree that, despite succumbing to a deftly timed Hell’s Gate choke sunk in by the Undertaker out of instinct and desperation, it was only the Cerebral Assassin who walked out under his own power.

It took weeks on end of assaults on the Game’s pride for the Undertaker to finally receive the rematch he demanded. He could not abide the image of his limp body being carted from the ring to serve as his enduring legacy. Time and again, Triple H turned to his duty as a newly minted WWE executive to justify his refusal to potentially cripple WWE’s most valuable competitor. When at last he conceded, he invoked a stipulation threaded deeply throughout both men’s careers, the only way to bring closure to this journey: Hell in a Cell.

Fittingly, there was a man who had met both the Undertaker and Triple H inside the sadistic cage and lived to fighter another day. His own career had been defined by each competitor. He had been there from the beginning of this acrimony which had united all three indelibly in WWE history.

Shawn Michaels would be there at the end.

“Remember when I told you Shawn was better than you?” the Undertaker said as he stood face-to-face with the King of Kings, adding a pregnant pause. “He is.”

However, the Deadman also issued a warning to Michaels, once perhaps seasoned with memories of how their war had begun: if he compromised the purity of the match’s decision, he would truly end the Heartbreak Kid once and for all.

That isn’t to say Triple H wouldn’t attempt to turn the tables that evening in Miami. He rained down unholy, bone-breaking violence upon the Undertaker and demanded that HBK stop the match. To his credit, Michaels resisted…right up until he seemingly separated the Undertaker from his senses with Sweet Chin Music and scurried into the ropes as Triple H failed to get a decisive three-count. The battle waged on until a spent Triple H leaned into a turnbuckle and defiantly saluted the Undertaker with a classic D-Generation X chop to his crotch, saying without words, “You’ll have to finish me yourself.”

He did. In the end, it was the image Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker, side by side, helping Triple H to the back which will always punctuate this end to an era.


There was no feud like it before. There will be none like it again. Thank you for joining me. If you have any comments or would like to point out some error, feel free to follow @ComerCodex on Twitter and let me know. Until next week, it’s time to tag out. I’m Sean. You’re not. Never dull your colors for someone else’s canvas.

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Top 5: Best WWE Survivor Series Teams

Did your favorite team make the list?

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Jeff Hardy Matt Hardy Triple H Shawn Michaels CM Punk Survivor Series
Steve Cook takes a look at the Top 5 Survivor Series teams in WWE history!

Last week, we started our look at Survivor Series by ranking the five worst teams in the history of the event. Since we suffered through that together, it’s only fair that we set aside some time this week to look at the best of the best. These are the teams that stand the test of time & were truly awesome collections of talent. The teams you can’t believe happened, and would go crazy if you saw them today.




These are the Top 5 Best Survivor Series Teams.

5. Bobby Heenan, Andre the Giant, Haku, Arn Anderson (1989)

Early editions of the Survivor Series featured a lot of talent managed by Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. At the time, pretty much every single heel wrestler had somebody managing them. WWF was a manager-heavy promotion until Vince Russo decided that the only managers could be women low on talent & high on sillicone enhancements. For my money, the best version of the Heenan Family that appeared in the Survivor Series was this one. Andre the Giant, Arn Anderson & Haku are all legends of the business in their own way. Heenan was the greatest manager of all time.

The only thing keeping this team from ranking higher was Tully Blanchard’s drug test.

4. Eddie Guerrero, Big Show, John Cena & Rob Van Dam (2004)

Eddie Guerrero & Kurt Angle had issues with each other throughout the year of 2004, so it only made sense for them to pick teams to meet at Survivor Series. While Kurt was wasting his time with the likes of Luther Reigns & Mark Jindrak, with Carlito thrown in because why not, Eddie actually found some talented guys to stand with him. John Cena wasn’t BIG MATCH JOHN yet, but he was well on his way. RVD’s credentials speak for themselves, as do Big Show’s. A team with this much firepower behind it should beat anybody in its path, and Team Guerrero ended up with three survivors in their match with Team Angle.

They would have had four if Kurt didn’t use the ropes on a rollup to eliminate RVD. Which was foolish on his part because Eddie took that as a challenge & used the ropes on a rollup to eliminate Jindrak. You couldn’t out-cheat Eddie Guerrero.

3. Ultimate Warrior, Texas Tornado & Legion of Doom (1990)

Wrestling had a ton of warriors running around during the late 80s. The Road Warriors were ruling the tag team scene. Kerry Von Erich was known as the Modern Day Warrior, due to his World Class theme song provided by Rush. Ultimate Warrior started out as the Dingo Warrior, but changed to Ultimate because Vince McMahon wanted the best Warrior of all.

All of wrestling’s best-known warriors would eventually join forces at the 1990 Survivor Series. Sure, Von Erich was known as the Texas Tornado during his WWF stint, and Hawk & Animal had adopted their other moniker as their tag team name. But we all knew that these men were Warriors.

2. Randy Savage, Ricky Steamboat, Jake Roberts, Jim Duggan & Brutus Beefcake (1987)

As we noted while ranking the Top 5 Worst Survivor Series Teams, Honky Tonk Man wasn’t exactly the best when it came to putting teams together. He was a master, however, of getting people that otherwise might not get along to be on the same page. Savage & Steamboat had one of the legendary feuds of all time earlier in 1987. Roberts had been a thorn in both Savage & Steamboat’s side, and had more issues with Savage a few years later. There’s only one thing that could have possibly brought these three men together…a mutual hatred of the Honky Tonk Man.

Steamboat had lost the Intercontinental Championship to Honky not long after WrestleMania III. Savage wanted the title back no matter who had it, and ended up getting cheered by the fans due to various interactions with Honky & his buddies in Jimmy Hart’s camp. Roberts had neck problems for years thanks to Honky’s guitar going upside his head in the Snake Pit. Even if these three guys didn’t like each other, there was at least some level of respect there. Nobody respected the Honky Tonk Man.

Add in two perpetually over babyfaces in Hacksaw & the Barber, and Savage’s team was quite the force to be reckoned with.

1. Shawn Michaels, Triple H, CM Punk, Jeff & Matt Hardy (2006)

Edge & Randy Orton had formed the team of Rated-RKO to challenge DX for supremacy on Raw soon after Michaels & Triple H were done fooling around with the McMahon family & their various associates. DX & Rated-RKO formed teams for Survivor Series, and it’s still amazing how one-sided the endeavor was. You would have thought that Edge & Orton could have found three guys to put up some kind of fight, and maybe Johnny Nitro, Mike Knox & Gregory Helms could have been better help on most nights.

DX brought the big guns. The Hardy Boyz were long-standing rivals of Edge & their brand of extreme went along fine with DX’s degenerate antics. Young CM Punk was part of ECW & catching the attention of the WWE Universe. It was a collection of talent that was sure to run over anybody in its path.

Of course, years into the future it would be hilarious to think of Punk palling around with anybody on Team DX.




Did your favorite team make the list? Did Steve leave someone out? Let us know on social media @theCHAIRSHOTcom and always remember to use the hashtag #UseYourHead!

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WWE Week in Review: November 5-11, 2018

As WWE leaves the controversy of Crown Jewel in the rearview mirror, all eyes turn to Survivor Series. What happened this week?

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As WWE leaves the controversy of Crown Jewel in the rearview mirror, all eyes turn to Survivor Series. What happened this week?

On RAW, Baron Corbin deals with the fallout of his actions at Crown Jewel. The RAW Men’s and Women’s Survivor Series Teams begin to take shape. A dangerous new team forms in the Women’s Division. Team Boss Hart Hugs’ bid to earn spots on the Women’s team runs up against the ruthless Riott Squad. Seth Rollins tries to defend the tag titles on his own, and Kurt Angle tries to take back his spot on RAW.

On SmackDown, the fallout of Crown Jewel and build of the Men’s Survivor Series Team leads to some very surprising bedfellows. The SmackDown Women’s Team is announced, but there are some sour grapes that comes with the announcement. Becky Lynch fires back at Ronda Rousey, and deals with an insane challenger, and a dream match takes place.

On NXT UK, Pete Dunne takes on Danny Burch in a match you have to see to believe. Dakota Kai and Toni Storm go one on one in a bid to put their names in contention for the Women’s Championship. The Coffey brothers explain the shocking turn of events last week, and Pete Dunne and Mark Andrews’ old friend, Eddie Dennis makes his debut, but will bitterness spoil the reunion?

On 205 Live, Buddy Murphy takes on Mark Andrews in a cross-promotion pride match. The new team of TJP and Mike Kanellis try to gel against the Lucha House Party. Cedric Alexander tries to get back to his winning ways, and gets a surprising offer from Lio Rush.

On NXT, all eyes are turning to War Games. Johnny Gargano explains his actions against Aleister Black. Dakota Kai takes on the dangerous Taynara Conti, Mia Yim’s dream finds a challenger in the EST, and Lars Sullivan looks to take out his rage on Velveteen Dream.

So, what happened? Let’s find out!

RAW

 WWE Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar was not at RAW this week, but he will be at RAW next week.

Braun Strowman vs Baron Corbin: Baron Corbin sought to explain his actions at World Cup, saying that he’d been trying to teach Braun Strowman a lesson in respect. He’d cost Strowman the match as retaliation for Strowman attacking him last week, though, it has to be said, Corbin deserved it. Corbin then said that he hoped that Strowman would understand that he needed to respect the authority of Corbin.

Fat chance.

As you can well imagine, Braun Strowman was NOT in the mood to be understanding after being robbed of the Universal Championship. He wanted to get his hands on Corbin, and Corbin’s ‘crack’ security squad and the heels on RAW were no match for the irate Monster Among Men, and Corbin was eventually chased out of the building.

RAW Women’s Division: One of Corbin’s announcements for Survivor Series involved the Women’s Division and introduced Alexa Bliss as his ‘Administrative Assistant’ and as non-competing team captain.

Bliss addressed the Women’s Division, stating that she doesn’t want RAW to lose to SmackDown again this year and wants to see ‘killer instinct’, so the auditions for the RAW Women’s team starts tonight with Sasha, Bayley, and Nattie facing the Riott Squad starting as soon as the segment is over.

Nattie, Sasha, and Bayley were full of confidence in their pre-match interview. Nattie revealed that she’d brought her dad’s sunglasses, dedicating the match to her dad’s memory.

The match was really good. Both sides wanted to impress Alexa Bliss and showed a lot of aggression. It looked like Nattie was going to get her team another victory when Ruby Riott came up with Jim Neidhart’s sunglasses and BROKE them in front of a devastated Nattie. The match ended in a no-contest, but if Alexa Bliss was looking for killer instinct, the Riott Squad showed a lot of it.

Ronda Rousey, who will be meeting Becky Lynch at Survivor Series, cut a promo on her fiery opponent. Showing a surprising amount of arrogance, Rousey basically dismissed Lynch as a threat, stating that Lynch had her respect. She poo-pooed Lynch’s road to WWE, citing a childhood that sounds more like signs of a very dysfunctional family life, like her mom waking her up by trying to break her arms. She also mocked the various careers Lynch had while learning to wrestle, including being a flight attendant. She said that Lynch might call herself the Man, but Rousey is the Baddest Bitch on the Planet and tells Lynch to bring all her anger to Survivor Series because she wants a challenge.

At this point, Rousey was interrupted by her #1 Contender, Nia Jax. Nia thanked Ronda for getting her fired up for Survivor Series and warns Rousey that she’ll need that fire because Nia’s waiting…champ.

Nia took on her friend, Ember Moon, in a one-on-one contest. Ember seemed to have learned something from last week’s encounter because she managed to get more offense in, and the two ladies put on a pretty good match. However, like last week, Ember proved no match for Nia’s size and strength and the Irresistible Force had her hand raised in victory.

The real surprise came after the match was over. Nia had been having staredowns with her cousin, Tamina Snuka, for weeks and, as usual, Tamina showed up once the match was over. However, Tamina attacked Ember, not Nia. Nia seemed shocked for a moment and then joined in the attack, leaving Ember in the ring. The RAW Women’s Division now has a dangerous new partnership brewing.

RAW Tag Team Division: Last week, the Lucha House Party made their debut against the Revival, defeating the Top Guys, despite the Revival dominating the match. Not surprisingly, the Revival were NOT amused by the Lucha House Party’s antics, calling them an embarrassment to tag team wrestling and vowed to send them back to 205 Live.

Seth Rollins vs Dean Ambrose: Despite their falling out two weeks ago, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose are still the RAW tag team champions. On Monday, Seth Rollins went to the ring wearing all three belts: Intercontinental Championship and both tag belts.

Rollins addressed the controversial Universal Championship match at Crown Jewel and said that Brock Lesnar holding the title again was a slap in the face to Roman Reigns, who fought so hard to win it, and to everyone in the locker room, being very critical of Baron Corbin’s role in the debacle.

Turning his attention back to his own problems, Rollins admitted that he’d wanted to come to Manchester with the belts AND the World Cup Trophy, but that didn’t happen. He addressed his former partner, Dean Ambrose, who had still not explained his actions two weeks ago. Rollins admitted that he couldn’t defend two titles at once, which seemed to imply that he was going to vacate the Tag Team Titles since he no longer had a partner.

At that point, he was interrupted by Corbin, who was clearly not happy about Rollins comments about him. Despite Rollins clearly not having a partner anymore, Corbin says that Rollins and his invisible partner will defend the tag titles against a rising team: AoP!

Despite the fact that AoP are both much larger than Rollins, who isn’t a small man, and aren’t the best wrestlers in the world, this was a great match. Rollins was able to make AoP look great without letting himself get squashed. The outcome of this match was never in doubt and we have new Tag Team Champions.

After the match, Dean Ambrose finally appeared and made his way to the ring. Sitting next to Rollins, he commented that Rollins wanted to know WHY Dean turned on him. As Rollins got to his feet, Ambrose dropped him with another Dirty Deeds, still with no explanation.

In a post-show interview, an angry Rollins said that he was done trying to get answer out of Ambrose by asking. Now, he was going to beat the answers out of his former friend. Good luck with that, Seth.

Dolph Ziggler vs Elias: Fresh off his shocking defeat at the hands of Shane McMahon at Crown Jewel, Ziggler looked to regain some momentum, especially since he’d been added to RAW’s Survivor Series team. Addressing his loss, Ziggler claimed that he’d been the victim of a vast conspiracy to screw him over yet again.

Before he could finish putting on his tinfoil hat, he was interrupted by Elias, who was very over with the UK crowd. Elias claimed that he wanted to play a song that two members of Oasis had liked and had promised to reunite if he did. He also took the time to insult Ziggler and his excuses, calling him a loser.

Ziggler wasn’t interested in Elias’ musical ambitions and challenged Elias to a match.

The match was really good. Ziggler and Elias worked really well together and put on a great match. Despite the best efforts of Ziggler, Elias would put the Show-Off away with his patented Drift Away for the win.

Jinder Mahal vs Apollo Crews: Apollo Crews has been looking to gain some momentum since leaving Titus Worldwide and has come up a little short in his attempts. This week, he faced Jinder Mahal, another RAW star who has been coming up short in his bids for momentum.

The match was good, but very boring. Apollo Crews would pull out the win with a standing moonsault.

Bobby Lashley (with Lio Rush) vs Finn Balor: Finn Balor and Bobby Lashley have been feuding for the last few weeks, egged on somewhat by Lashley’s hype man, Lio Rush.

This week’s match was pretty good. It’s still not really clear just what Lashley and Balor are feuding about, but the matches are always good, except for the constant annoyance that is Lio Rush.

Rush did prove his worth to Lashley this week by helping him get a win over Balor by causing enough distraction that Balor took his eyes off the ball and chased him, which gave Lashley the opening he needed.

Survivor Series: Before being chased out of the arena by the furious Braun Strowman, Corbin made several announcements for Survivor Series, including announcing the first member for the RAW Men’s Team: Dolph Ziggler, Drew McIntyre, and Braun Strowman. Corbin expressed the hope that once Strowman understood and accepted why Corbin screwed him out of the Universal Championship, he’d understand that he’s the best man for the RAW Men’s Team. Again, this was BEFORE Strowman chased him out of the building.

Corbin also said due to his status as RAW General Manager, he would not be competing in the match, but would be the team captain.

Kurt Angle, who is the REAL General Manager of RAW, came out and said that competing at the World Cup had lit a fire in him and he wanted into the Survivor Series match. Corbin refused, mocking Angle, so Angle offered him a deal. They would have a match on RAW and the winner would not only be on Team RAW but would be team captain. Corbin agree, but that had been before he’d had to run for his life from Braun Strowman.

Drew McIntyre vs Kurt Angle: Since Corbin was forced to vacate the premises, his spot in the Team Captain match was filled by Drew McIntyre.

The match was great. Angle and McIntyre worked very well together and were able to put on a really good match despite Angle’s age and injuries. Despite Angle’s best efforts, he would be forced to tap to his own Ankle lock by Drew McIntyre. Given that Stephanie McMahon is going to be back next week and that McIntyre was a substitute for Corbin, Angle could still get his wish to be on Team RAW, but time will tell.

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