Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn Interrupted SmackDown Live Commissioner Shane McMahon and The New Day
Shane hyped the hell out of Survivor Series and did his best sales pitch to get people excited for the pay-per-view (which is a tall task). The promo from New Day explaining their actions from Raw was logical, and the rebuttal from Owens and Zayn was entertaining, setting up the subsequent Zayn vs. Kofi Kingston match. The only part of this segment I didn't care for too much was how forced the tension felt when they were playing up the bad blood between SmackDown Live and Raw. Before a few weeks ago, the two shows were hardly rivals.
Kofi Kingston def. Sami Zayn
Zayn and Kingston work very similar styles in the ring, so I expected them to have a fun match and they delivered. As I've said many times over the past month, Zayn is flourishing in his heel role and Kingston was a good foil for him here. I'm not too thrilled about how he and Owens have been overlooked during this "brand supremacy" nonsense, but I'm almost positive they'll make their presence felt during the big Raw vs. SmackDown match at the Survivor Series.
Randy Orton def. Rusev
Orton and Rusev have had their fair share of matches throughout the fall, and none of their encounters have been particularly great. This was a largely average match that ended way too quickly. I was actually excited by the idea of Rusev possibly joining Team SmackDown at Survivor Series, but it's clear that after what happened in the main event, that spot will be reserved for Jinder Mahal. Rusev deserves better than this, to say the least.
Becky Lynch def. James Ellsworth
Lynch and Ellsworth have been feuding for a long time now on social media, but this felt like such an odd time to do this match so close to Survivor Series. It probably would have been better over the summer when Ellsworth cost Lynch the Money in the Bank briefcase. I think they were trying to go for comedy here, but it didn't exactly work out that way. On the bright side, it appears Carmella's alliance with Ellsworth is officially over. Then again, that's what I thought last time and they reunited later that night, so time will tell.
Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin def. SmackDown Tag Team Champions The Usos by Count-out
This had the potential to be a barn-burner of a bout, and while the early goings were solid, it never left that first gear. They also weren't given a ton of time and the count-out finish was disappointing. Gable and Benjamin could have very easily brought them back in the ring, so that was strange (unless there was a legitimate injury). I assume they're saving what they're actually capable of for the Clash of Champions pay-per-view next month, but as of now, Survivor Series will see The Usos clash with Raw's Sheamus and Cesaro.
AJ Styles def. Jinder Mahal to Win the WWE Championship
Not a single match Mahal has had throughout his near-six month reign as WWE Champion has impressed me... until now. Yes, Styles pulled off the impossible by getting a great match out of Mahal by selling the hell out of his offense and playing off the crowd wonderfully. To his credit, Mahal played his role well and held his own. The crowd popped big when Styles got his foot on the rope after being hit by Mahal's finisher, and then they proceeded to explode when he connected with the Phenomenal Forearm for the three count and the title. Needless to say, getting the belt back on Styles was the right call. I doubt it's for the long-term, but Styles vs. Brock Lesnar is an infinitely better main event for Survivor Series than Lesnar vs. Mahal. In a perfect world, WWE should realize that the Mahal experiment was a failure and keep the gold off him forever.
The main event was surely a spectacle, but aside from the opening segment and maybe Zayn vs. Kingston, this wasn't too strong of a show. The tag title match was underwhelming at only four minutes long (with a count-out finish), few fans found Lynch vs. Ellsworth enjoyable, and Orton vs. Rusev was mediocre at best. If nothing else, watch the main event and rejoice as we celebrate the end of Mahal's reign of terror (for now). On a side note, I loved that WWE advertised three matches for next week, including two title matches, so it should be a loaded go-home show for the pay-per-view.