The 31st edition of WWE Survivor Series took place Sunday night in Houston on a show built around Raw vs. Smackdown matches. The duo of Braun Strowman and Triple H stood tall for the Raw brand as the big winners of the night although there were issues with that team.

Overall, Raw won the night with four victories to three for Smackdown. What did they win exactly? Nothing except they will remind us they won the “battle for brand supremacy” on Raw.

But here are 10 takeaways from Sunday’s event. The results of the card are at the end of the article.

10. No surprise that Asuka was the sole survivor in women’s elimination match

There was only one woman who survived the 10-woman elimination match: Asuka. If you were surprised by that you probably haven’t watched a lot of WWE in your life. Asuka is the woman who WWE wants to book stronger than the others after she had a two-year undefeated streak in NXT, so of course she won for her team.

The match was sloppy at times with Naomi and Alicia Fox having an ugly exchange that led to Fox getting pinned even though it looked like the timing was off. The ref just told her to leave, so that was it and then Naomi tapped out to Sasha Banks right after.

Nia Jax was protected because she had a brawling segment with Tamina that ended with Jax getting counted out. The reason I say protected is because that’s how WWE does things when they don’t want somebody to take a pin.

The end of the match saw Tamina and Natalya as the last two with Asuka. It didn’t end well for the Smackdown women as Asuka slapped on the Asuka Lock on Tamina and the Asuka Lock on Natalya. I enjoyed Asuka’s sequence with Natalya more than anything in the match. They could have a good feud if they were on the same show.

9. Five announcers calling the event is tough to listen to

The announce team for the show was Michael Cole, Booker T (both from Raw), Tom Phillips, Byron Saxton (both from Smackdown) and Corey Graves, who is on both shows. That meant that for four hours, these five men called the action, bickered about the action and talked over each other.

The way it was done was Cole and Phillips did their best to handle the play-by-play and they would try to mention the others by name to set them up to speak. Sometimes it was fine, but mostly I just wanted to hit mute. It would be nice to be able to do that and just listen to the crowd rather than the announcers. Graves is the best of them and I enjoy him a lot, but most of the others bore me.

At one point when Kurt Angle was in the ring, Tom Phillips said that Angle was as good as he’s ever been. Really, Tom? Angle is 48 years old, clearly has physical limitations (he can’t stand without bending his knees) and you’re trying to tell people that he’s as good as ever. That’s silly. I’m a huge Angle fan and I think he’s legitimately one of the best wrestlers ever, but to say that 2017 Angle is anywhere close to 2003 Angle is just bad. I doubt it was even Tom’s opinion anyway and was likely a directive from Vince McMahon for him to say it.

I hope they don’t go with a five-man team again. What they should have done is have the three Raw guys call one match, three Smackdown guys call the next one and maybe for the main event they all could have done it. Five guys calling a match is just way too much.

The days of Gorilla and Bobby or JR and King being two-man teams are long gone, my friends. I miss those days a lot.

8. Matches without any storyline are hard to get excited about sometimes

The biggest problem with Survivor Series is that when you have Raw vs. Smackdown, there is not much interaction between the superstars on television. Smackdown invaded Raw several weeks ago and then Raw invaded Smackdown last week, but other than that they are kept on separate shows. That means that WWE talent must trash talk via Twitter, which is what Baron Corbin and The Miz did. Those guys did well with it, but it’s hard to really get excited about a Twitter feud come to life.

That’s why the crowd wasn’t into most of the three champion vs. champion matches. By the end of The Usos beating Sheamus/Cesaro and Charlotte beating Alexa Bliss, the crowd did get into it because of all the good near-fall spots that led to the finish.

Out of the three midcard champion vs. champion matches, I thought The Usos vs. Sheamus & Cesaro was the best of the three. Some people think The Usos are back to being faces, but I think they are still heels. Depends on your perception, I guess. The women’s match was too slow early, but the last five minutes were good. Corbin vs. Miz was the shortest of the three at around nine minutes because it was below average.

7. The Shield beating The New Day was a smart choice for the opener

The opening match on a PPV card is important. It should be fast-paced, exciting and have some star power in it to get the crowd into the show. Putting The Shield from Raw against The New Day from Smackdown saw two popular teams go head-to-head for the first time. This was one of the most predictable matches on the card, but it didn’t hurt things at all.

I like the way it was booked as an even match where The New Day got in a lot of offense. This could have been a 12-minute win for The Shield, but instead they went 22 minutes with some innovative stuff from both sides. My favorite spot was when Xavier Woods put the larger Big E on his shoulders and Kofi Kingston jumped over them with a splash. Big E followed up with a splash of his own. Impressive showing from Woods during that segment.

Near the end of the match, there was a stalemate spot where each team went to opposite sides and that’s when The Shield took control. Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose each hit finishing moves on the floor while Roman Reigns nailed Kofi Kingston with a Spear in the ring. Rollins and Ambrose lifted Kingston up to Reigns by the turnbuckle and Reigns delivered a top rope three-man Powerbomb to win.

The main reason WWE wanted to bring back The Shield is because they knew it would help Roman Reigns’s crowd reactions. Reigns was booed a bit during this show, but was largely cheered since he was back with his Shield brothers.

6. AJ Styles helped Brock Lesnar have his best singles match in four years

I was optimistic about Lesnar vs. Styles because I have seen Lesnar wrestle smaller, athletic opponents in the past and have great matches with them. The concern about this match was whether Lesnar was going to sell for Styles and make him look good. The good news is that Lesnar sold for Styles very well and they had the match of the night because of it.

Lesnar dominated the first seven minutes or so with hard strikes as well as many suplexes from the man from “Suplex City.” Things changed a bit when Lesnar went for a running knee in the corner, Lesnar hit the turnbuckle with the knee and Styles began to pick him apart from there. Styles worked over the knee quite a bit, even applying the Calf Crusher submission. Lesnar looked he might tap, but instead he rammed Styles’ head into the mat repeatedly to break free. It was a unique counter that also fit Lesnar perfectly.

Styles came close to winning a few times after he hit some cool moves like the springboard 450 splash, which is an amazing move — especially for a guy who’s 40 years old like Styles. Styles also hit his Phenomenal Forearm (a move he often wins with) for a two-count. The crowd really thought that was it. The finish was great because Styles jumped off the ropes again, but this time Lesnar caught him on his shoulders and hit the F5 (while selling the leg injury) for the win. Should Styles have kicked out of one F5? I would have liked it, but I don’t mind WWE protecting the F5 as a deadly finish.

This video of Paul Heyman putting over Styles is incredible.

I’m glad they had a 16-minute match that was exciting with a fast pace and great selling from both guys. Styles took the beating so well only to come back with believable offense that led to Lesnar selling for him as well. This was a not a “carry job” by Styles because Lesnar more than held his own. I’m just glad it was a great match, rather than an easy six-minute win for Lesnar.

This was Lesnar’s best singles match in WWE since 2013 SummerSlam with CM Punk. Lesnar has had some great multi-man matches such as this year’s SummerSlam four-way and a three-way with John Cena and Seth Rollins at Royal Rumble 2015 as well. Please check this match out if you missed it. You’ll enjoy it.

5. Former NXT Champions did not look good during main event

The intriguing thing about the main event going into the show was that former NXT Champions Shinsuke Nakamura, Bobby Roode, Finn Balor and Samoa Joe were in this match with bonafide WWE legends. In my preview, I wrote that this would be a great chance for a guy like Nakamura to look like a huge star and win the match for his team. Nope. Not even close on that prediction.

Nakamura was the first man eliminated in the match. He had a few moments in there with Triple H that were mildly fun, but then Braun Strowman tagged in and pinned him easily with a Running Powerslam.

Bobby Roode was next for his team after he got some moments with Triple H as well. Strowman finished Roode off easily with a Running Powerslam shortly after Strowman beat Nakamura.

Samoa Joe showed some flashes of brilliance in there, but it was obvious he was the lowest on the totem pole for his team, so to speak. Joe got pinned by John Cena, whom he trained with when they got their start in the business about 17 years ago in California.

Finn Balor managed to outlast the other three former NXT Champions for a few minutes. He had a battle with Randy Orton, but missed the Coup de Gras and fell victim to a RKO by Orton leading to Balor getting eliminated.

These four men were four of the first five eliminated in the main event. I think it would have been a much better match if one of them lasted longer. Instead, they managed to eliminate nobody and fans aren’t going to see them as the big stars they could be.

4. John Cena was barely a factor in the main event

The return of John Cena to WWE TV was supposed to be a big deal. He had been gone since putting over Roman Reigns at No Mercy two months ago because he’s got movie commitments. Cena didn’t appear on Smackdown prior to this, but the expectation was that this return would generate a lot of attention. Instead, Cena was barely noticeable in the match except as the guy who chose not to wear a Smackdown shirt while everybody else in the match was wearing a Raw or Smackdown shirt.

Cena eliminated Samoa Joe after a good sequence between them. This could be a good feud that WWE can do down the road.

Shortly after Cena eliminated Joe, he wrestled Kurt Angle, who was an old rival going back 15 years from when Cena debuted in WWE against Angle on Smackdown. You may remember Cena inducted Angle into WWE’s Hall of Fame this year too. Anyway, Cena took an Angle Slam from Angle, Coup de Gras from Balor and another Angle Slam from Angle to be pinned. That was it from Cena.

If that’s all Cena was going to do, why bring him back? It felt like a waste of a Cena match. As much as I like Angle, I would have preferred Cena putting over a younger guy like Balor there.

The most noteworthy thing about Cena’s appearance is that he has a new t-shirt you can buy on WWEShop. He has more cars to buy.

3. There was less interference in the main event than expected

A lot of people expected interference in the main event tag match, myself included. In my preview, I wrote that Jason Jordan may get involved to cost Triple H the match, Kane may cost Braun Strowman and the duo of Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn may cost Shane McMahon. A match like this is perfect for interference, so you would think there would be a lot of it. Nope. I was wrong on that.

Owens and Zayn went after Shane when it was just Shane and Orton on Smackdown’s team. Their attempt to attack Shane failed miserably as Shane managed to chase them away with a steel chair while Orton hit Owens with a RKO in the ring. It made Owens and Zayn look like total losers, which most people see them as anyway since they were not even on the main PPV card.

Jordan did a promo early in the show saying he wanted Raw to win, but not because of Triple H. No sign of Kane at all.

2. Triple H set up big matches with Kurt Angle and Braun Strowman

The big storyline coming out of the Survivor Series main event focused on Triple H. Even though he is nearly 50 years old and a part-timer who was off television for the last seven months, Survivor Series became the Triple H show.

Strowman was put over huge on the Raw team as he eliminated Nakamura, Roode and Orton. He was booked in a way where nobody on the Smackdown side could stop him. The only time Strowman was made to look weak was when the five Smackdown guys teamed up to suplex him through a table. That was just a way to take Strowman out of the match for 10 minutes until he got back on the apron for the finish.

With Shane McMahon as the only Smackdown guy (a lame decision, by the way), Kurt Angle tried to finish him off with an Ankle Lock. However, Triple H went into the ring, hit Angle with a Pedigree (it did not look good) and Hunter put Shane on top of Angle. It teased the possibility that maybe Triple H was siding with Shane. When it looked like that might happen, Hunter kicked Shane and hit a Pedigree on him to beat him easily.

After the match was over, Triple H raised the arm of Strowman. Strowman was mad that Triple H tried to fool him and hit Hunter with two Running Powerslams. The crowd cheered that since Strowman is now in a face role, but it wasn’t like a thunderous ovation.

What this likely means in the future is there will be a huge Triple H match with Braun Strowman. Since the plan has been Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns for  the Universal Title at WrestleMania and likely still is that, then Strowman needs an opponent for WrestleMania. That’s where Triple H comes in as a guy who can put over Strowman huge. We’ve seen it before with Triple H at the last two WrestleManias when he put over Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns.

As for Triple H vs. Kurt Angle, perhaps they can do that match at the Royal Rumble. Angle can face somebody else at WrestleMania like John Cena or a younger guy, maybe even Jason Jordan if he gets over as a heel.

I think the main purpose of that main event was to set up Triple H vs. Strowman, whether people like it or not.

1. This was a very good show that could have been an all-timer with a better main event

I enjoyed most of the show. It was one of the best PPVs of the year, but I think Royal Rumble and Elimination Chamber were better. Big reason why this one fell short is because the main event was just an average match that was more about the storyline rather than delivering a quality match.

Take last year’s Survivor Series men’s match as an example. It went 52 minutes and was incredibly entertaining with a lot of cool moments such as The Shield reuniting briefly. This year’s men’s elimination match just lacked that little bit extra to make it feel special.

The highlight of Survivor Series was Lesnar vs. Styles. It was a dream match that lived up to the hype in terms of entertaining us, but it was not a match of the year contender. Still very good and another reminder that Styles is the best wrestler in WWE. Lesnar is awesome with a smaller opponent too. I want to see this match again.

The rest of the lineup was pretty good. I don’t think anything on the main card (I missed the Kickoff Show) was that bad and if you feel it was, you’re being too harsh. Despite the issues of not having much in the way of storylines going into the show, Survivor Series was a success in my opinion.

There’s only one more WWE PPV this year and it’s a Smackdown show called Clash of Champions on Dec. 17. After that is January’s Royal Rumble with Raw and Smackdown both on the show. That’s a big one. Have a great week.

Survivor Series results

Elias defeated Matt Hardy on the Kickoff Show
Enzo Amore defeated Kalisto on the Kickoff Show
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn defeated Breezango (Fandango & Breeze) on the Kickoff Show

The Shield (Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins) defeated The New Day (Big E, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods)
Women’s Elimination: Team Raw (Alicia Fox, Asuka, Sasha Banks, Nia Jax & Bayley) defeated Team Smackdown (Becky Lynch, Natalya, Carmella, Tamina & Naomi) with Asuka as the sole survivor.

US Champion Baron Corbin defeated Intercontinental Champion The Miz
Smackdown Tag Team Champions The Usos defeated Raw Tag Team Champions Sheamus & Cesaro
Smackdown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair defeated Raw Women’s Champion

Universal Champion Brock Lesnar defeated WWE Champion AJ Styles

Team Raw (Kurt Angle, Triple H, Braun Strowman, Finn Balor & Samoa Joe) defeated Team Smackdown (Shane McMahon, Randy Orton, Shinsuke Nakamura, John Cena & Bobby Roode) with Triple H and Strowman as the survivors with Shane McMahon as the last man for his team.

About John Canton

John has been writing about WWE online since the late 1990s. He's written for WhatCulture, Bleacher Report, Layfield Report, Rajah.com and many other places. You can follow John Canton on Twitter @johnreport or email him at mrjohncanton@gmail.com with any comments or questions. For more of his wrestling opinions, visit his website at TJRWrestling.net.