Ranking the 7 Best Raw vs. SmackDown Matches in WWE Survivor Series History
For better or for worse, brand supremacy has been the story of Survivor Series since the 2016 installment, when the Brand Extension was brought back and Raw and SmackDown were given their own unique rosters again.
The show with the most victories at the end of the night wins. Champions from each brand are usually pitted against each other along with the cream of the crop from Raw and SmackDown in multi-person tag team elimination matches.
The two brands have exchanged victories back and forth multiple times over the years, but it's officially reached the point where it means absolutely nothing. That's because of the lack of stakes and the Superstars of SmackDown and Raw not receiving anything in return for their efforts.
The upcoming installment of Survivor Series will be no different but should at least feature a few fun matchups. In terms of pure wrestling, the event has been among the best each year for WWE thanks in part to the following seven SmackDown vs. Raw affairs.
Whether it was a traditional multi-person tag team elimination match or a straight-up singles match, these are the wars that have defined the battle of the brands throughout Survivor Series history and have made fans forget that nothing but bragging rights were on the line.
7. Raw vs. SmackDown Men's Tag Team Elimination Match (2005)
It's important to note that Raw and SmackDown went head-to-head only once before the battle for brand supremacy storyline started in 2016, and that was at the 2005 installment. It came after SmackDown invaded Raw's return show on USA Network earlier in the fall and decided to start a war with the opposing show.
This was during the original version of the Brand Split that started in 2002 when it still meant something for the shows to feud with each other. It was rare that they ever interacted, so this was a special angle that spiced up Survivor Series season.
Raw stalwart Shawn Michaels led a team consisting of Big Show, Kane, Carlito and Chris Masters while the World Heavyweight Champion Batista was flanked by Randy Orton, Bobby Lashley, JBL and Rey Mysterio. Many of those men were either former, current or future world champs, so it was every bit as thrilling as it looked on paper.
It helped that this went on last at Survivor Series 2005, so although nothing tangible was up for grabs, it did make the matchup for meaningful. Most of the giants, such as Lashley, Big Show, Kane and even Batista, were the first ones eliminated, leaving the spotlight to the younger guys.
In the end, it came down to Orton and Michaels, who were also the final two at Survivor Series 2003. Similar to then, they put together a tremendous finishing sequence that saw Orton emerge victorious as the sole survivor for the third straight year.
The Undertaker's electric post-match return laying out the entire SmackDown roster was just the cherry on top of this Survivor Series sundae.
6. Raw vs. SmackDown Men's Tag Team Elimination Match (2016)
It wasn't until over a decade later in 2016 that the Raw vs. SmackDown storyline started up again around Survivor Series season. WWE tried it a time or two in 2009 and 2010 with Bragging Rights, but it was a massive flop because the Brand Split was all but over by that point.
In November 2016, however, Raw and SmackDown were mere months removed from getting their own distinct rosters again, and it was determined that they would do battle at Survivor Series to see which show was superior.
The format was done a bit differently that first year compared to recent installments. The champions didn't clash in one-on-one action, Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg headlined despite having nothing to do with the angle, and there were three traditional tag team elimination matches compared to the usual two.
The women's and tag team ones were enjoyable, but the men's was undoubtedly the best of the bunch. Each squad was stacked as Raw boasted the likes of Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman while SmackDown had AJ Styles, Dean Ambrose, Bray Wyatt, Randy Orton and Shane McMahon.
What made this such a blast were the many intertwining stories, such as Strowman demolishing SmackDown mascot James Ellsworth (who he had history with from his debut), Orton and Wyatt having to coexist for the first time as partners despite previously being rivals, and The Shield reuniting for a brief bit at the same event they debuted at four years earlier.
The layout was masterful, but when Reigns was the last man standing for Raw, it looked like he would overcome the odds and eliminate Orton and Wyatt with ease, possibly after Orton predictably betrayed Wyatt. Instead, they became a super force and put down The Big Dog to cement SmackDown's dominance.
Interestingly enough, the match lasted nearly an hour, yet it never felt that long as each elimination was given plenty of time to breathe.
5. The Shield vs. New Day (2017)
The Shield initially burst on to the WWE scene at Survivor Series 2012. Of course, their rapid ascent from there has been well-documented, as well as their sudden split in the summer of 2014.
Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns all went on to experience major singles success, win world titles and dominate both brands on their own. They finally found themselves back on the same show in 2017, and with the three of them babyfaces again, it was more a matter of when and not if they would reunite.
Sure enough, that highly anticipated reunion came in the fall of 2017, and the timing couldn't have been better with Survivor Series right around the corner. That allowed them to represent Raw at the pay-per-view and battle The New Day in a dream match on what was essentially their five-year anniversary of The Shield.
New Day became the standard-bearers of six-man tag team matches in their absence, so this bout was guaranteed to be great no matter what. New Day costing The Shield their Raw Tag Team Championship weeks out from the pay-per-view added to the bad blood as well.
It was all action once the bell rang, and there never seemed to be a dull moment. New Day were on the verge of victory when they connected with a double Midnight Hour on Ambrose and Rollins, but it was an old-school triple powerbomb from The Shield that spelled the end of the rainbow-clad trio.
Unfortunately, that Shield reunion was cut short soon after due to Ambrose getting sidelined with a serious injury, but that bout was the best they had looked during that entire run.
4. Ronda Rousey vs. Charlotte Flair (2018)
Coming out of the inaugural Evolution pay-per-view event in late 2018, Becky Lynch and Ronda Rousey were on a collision course toward Survivor Series. Their bickering back and forth on social media led to fans getting heavily invested in their rivalry and wanting to see them square off one-on-one.
On the final episode of Raw before the pay-per-view, Lynch suffered a broken nose at the hands of Nia Jax and was forced to pull out of the bout. Charlotte Flair was named her last-minute replacement against Rousey, which was interesting because of how that match was at one point the plan for WrestleMania 35.
There was zero story there because it came together so suddenly, yet it turned out to be Rousey's best singles match since joining WWE. It felt like less of a match and more like an all-out war as they went to great lengths to put the other away.
When Flair got frustrated that nothing she was doing was working, she snapped by blasting Rousey with countless chair shots, brutally bruising up her back in the process. It was supposed to mark a much-needed heel turn for Flair, but she was revered by the audience for her actions while Rousey was mercilessly booed.
In any other instance, the disqualification may have been disappointing, and in a way it was, but it protected both women and made perfect sense after everything Flair had endured up to that point in her program with Lynch. Rousey was on a roll and was deemed the victor, despite not looking like one when the evening was over.
Rousey and Flair never had another singles matchup, though they were involved in the first-ever women's WrestleMania main event with Lynch the subsequent spring.
3. Brock Lesnar vs. AJ Styles (2017)
The main event of Survivor Series 2017 would have looked a lot different had WWE stayed the course with what was originally planned: Brock Lesnar vs. Jinder Mahal in a champion vs. champion match. Mahal was almost six months into his run as WWE champion but was nowhere near being on Lesnar's level.
Worse yet, the match almost certainly would have been a dud from an in-ring standpoint. Thus, WWE made the right call in putting the WWE title on AJ Styles instead in early November and building to Lesnar vs. AJ Styles for the first time ever at the event.
The Phenomenal One had only been a part of the company for less than two years at that point, yet he was already known for producing amazing matches and capturing championships. With wins over John Cena, Dean Ambrose, Chris Jericho, Kevin Owens and Shane McMahon, there was no reason to think he couldn't go in there and give Lesnar his best bout in years.
After all, Lesnar has traditionally worked better with the smaller Superstars, not to mention that Styles is capable of getting an outstanding match out of almost anyone.
Remarkably, this wasn't a straight-up squash. Rather, Styles scored plenty of offense and was portrayed perfectly as the underdog babyface fighting from underneath. Lesnar bounced around the ring for Styles and every one of his moves looked much more devastating than usual because of the size difference.
Styles was mere moments away from beating The Beast Incarnate, but a single F5 put him down for the count. Needless to say, Styles lost nothing in defeat that night, and Lesnar showed he was still capable of creating greatness when he wanted to.
2. Raw vs. SmackDown vs. NXT in a Men's Tag Team Elimination Match (2019)
For the first time ever, NXT was involved in the battle for brand supremacy along with Raw and SmackDown during Survivor Series season last year. Unsurprisingly, the influx of fresh blood made the buildup to the pay-per-view infinitely more exciting than usual and resulted in a slew of stellar matches.
Almost every match on the card delivered, but the one that stole the show was the 15-man tag team elimination match. It featured five Superstars from each brand going at it, and each squad was stacked.
Raw was represented by Seth Rollins, Drew McIntyre, Kevin Owens, Randy Orton and Ricochet followed by Roman Reigns, Braun Strowman, King Corbin, Mustafa Ali and Shorty G for SmackDown and Keith Lee, Tommaso Ciampa, Matt Riddle, Damian Priest and WALTER for NXT.
The only true nitpick of the match came in the opening minutes when the undefeated WALTER was swiftly eliminated with a single Claymore Kick from McIntyre. Other than that, this was exceptionally executed with everyone playing their roles remarkably well.
We also got to see some combinations of talent that had never been done before, but Reigns and Lee was easily the most exhilarating. The eliminations were wisely spaced out, but once it came down to Reigns and Lee, the crowd ate up everything they did.
Long before Lee was called up to the Raw roster or holding gold of any kind in WWE, he was making a name for himself while sharing the ring with Reigns at Survivor Series. SmackDown had their hands raised when the smoke cleared, but NXT won more matches that night in general compared to Raw and SmackDown combined.
NXT had officially arrived, assuming it hadn't already.
1. Brock Lesnar vs. Daniel Bryan (2018)
Much like the main event the year prior, Lesnar and Daniel Bryan weren't originally scheduled to go one-on-one at the 2018 installment of Survivor Series. Instead, it was supposed to be Lesnar taking on Styles, who was the reigning WWE champion at the time.
However, Bryan shocked the world mere days ahead of the event when he knocked off Styles for the WWE Championship on SmackDown. He turned heel in the process, so as exciting as it was for Bryan vs. Lesnar to be made official for Survivor Series, it created an odd dynamic with both men being heels.
Despite that, Bryan came across like a complete babyface for the bout. He was wildly cheered by the audience in attendance at the Staples Center that night and felt like the Bryan of old while taking Lesnar to the limit and hitting all of his signature offense.
At almost 19 minutes in length, it was one of Lesnar's longest matches since returning to WWE in 2012. It was commonplace for him to have lengthy matches with the likes of Triple H and The Undertaker, but to see someone the size of Bryan bring the fight to The Beast Incarnate and come close to victory on multiple occasions was nothing short of spectacular.
Bryan ultimately went down with an F5 at the hands of Lesnar but only after an absolutely incredible performance. As a matchup fans had waited several years for, Lesnar vs. Bryan more than lived up to the lofty expectations.
Raw reigned supreme in a clean sweep over SmackDown at Survivor Series 2018, but the real winners that night were the fans for having just witnessed an instant classic between two of the best to ever do it.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, WrestleRant, and subscribe to his YouTube channel for more wrestling-related content.