Sometimes a little competition is a healthy thing.

The WWE was definitely hoping Sunday night was one of those times, as the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit played host to the 19th annual Survivor Series. With the exception of a WWE Championship match featuring another go-round between John Cena and Kurt Angle, this edition of the November spectacular banked heavily on the rivalry between the two brands, which had been building for the past few months with mixed results.

Feuding between the two announce teams threatened to overshadow the wrestler intros and the beginning of the match, with the feud between the two shows spilling over to the men calling the action. Tazz sounded particularly irritated, lobbing insults at Coach, Jerry Lawler and even old pal Joey Styles. An agreement to let Michael Cole call the action eventually calmed things down to a level manageable enough to proceed.

Rookie Smackdown star Lashley got the first chance to shine in the main event, powering out of Chris Masters’ attempt at a Master Lock and dishing out pain to most of Team Raw. Both Carlito and Shawn Michaels got tossed around, but Kane grabbed Lashley with a chokeslam from the apron and Michaels covered to get the first elimination at the 7:16 mark.

Teamwork between Rey Mysterio and Batista wore down Kane enough for the world champ to pin him with a spinebuster at 11:40, but the Team Smackdown captain ended up leaving less than a minute later after facing a double chokeslam from Raw’s tag team champs for the third time in the past few weeks. Several minutes of rampaging Big Show went for naught when he fell to a Mysterio springboard senton – perhaps to foreshadow their match this Tuesday on Smackdown – and got pinned at 14:25.

The three men remaining on each team got together for a little donnybrook, with Michaels getting clobbered on the outside by a JBL fallaway slam. Team Raw’s captain never got a chance to see JBL pin Carlito or Mysterio pin Masters, leaving the Heartbreak Kid facing long odds. JBL brought Shawn back into the ring, which proved to be a big mistake. Michaels caught Mysterio in mid-springboard with Sweet Chin Music and served up another for JBL, pinning both superstars in a span of about 15 seconds.

Only Randy Orton and Michaels remained, and both men were wary of each other’s finishers. HBK caught fire first, running through his usual string of moves and dropping his trademark elbow off the top rope. The already eliminated JBL returned with a steel chair, but Michaels ducked and connected with yet another superkick. Ever the opportunist, Orton struck with an RKO and wrapped up an upset victory. The Smackdown locker room emptied to celebrate the win, but things weren’t quite over yet.

Surprise crept over the face of Orton and the voices of the announcers when the familiar tones of the Undertaker’s entrance music hit and the lights went dim. They must not have been paying attention to the promotion for Survivor Series – the Dead Man’s return was a key selling point. Hooded monks set up a coffin on the stage and a lightning bolt set the coffin ablaze. The Undertaker finished a dramatic pause by bursting out and heading for the ring.

Most of the Smackdown mid-carders got decimated while Orton and his dad looked on from the ramp. A Tombstone piledriver made an example of William Regal as the show came to a somewhat anticlimactic close, finishing off a night of wrestling that had its moments but was quite a long way removed from Survivor Series ’98, this writer’s favorite pay-per-view of the past ten years.

The next WWE pay-per-view is the Smackdown only Armageddon on December 18.

Match 1 – Booker T vs. Chris Benoit – U.S. Title Best of 7 Series – Match 1

Tazz explains why I have such a strong feeling of deja vu: these guys have done this before, back in their WCW days. Michael Cole is adamant that this time is more important because it’s for the U.S. Title. I’ll have to get the SLAM! Wrestling intern to check for me, but I’m pretty sure the WCW series was for the same belt. There should really be people telling Cole things like that through his earpiece. Booker rules the early stages of the match but can’t quite keep the Rabid Wolverine down for three. Suplexes, as always, are Benoit’s best friend as he fights back. A trio of German suplexes has Booker softened up as Benoit goes up top, but he finds no one home when he tries for the diving headbutt. Booker makes a cover and puts his feet on the ropes for leverage, and Sharmell also lends a hand to make sure her man gets the duke. Not bad, but my guess is the best is yet to come in this series.

Winner… Booker T

Match Rating: 6.5 out of 10

Can’t have a pay-per-view without a few backstage run-ins, and this one is between Eric Bischoff and Vince McMahon. An excited Bischoff talks about wanting to make history tonight the same way Vince did back when he screwed Bret Hart. Hmm… I wonder what he’s talking about. Anyway, it turns out Cena is standing right behind Eric, and he gets in a wisecrack about Bischoff screwing guys before the GM hightails it out of there. McMahon tries to show how cool he is by calling Cena “my n—-.” Let’s just say it’s a word I hear a lot on The Boondocks. Standing nearby, Booker wants Sharmell to tell him Vince didn’t just say that. Oh, but he did.

Match 2 – Melina (with MNM) vs. Trish Stratus (with Mickie James) – Women’s Title Match

Surprisingly, Melina can actually wrestle a little. The action in the ring, though, isn’t as entertaining as the exchanges between Tazz and Joey Styles. MNM sneaks in and thinks about giving Stratus the Snapshot, but the referee sees it in time and ejects the guys from the proceedings. Both women earn near falls before Melina evades the Stratusfaction. Trish is in a precarious spot on the apron, but James is there to lend a helping hand. Coming off the top turnbuckle, Stratus uses a horrendous looking bulldog to bring this thing to an end.

Winner… and still Women’s Champion… Trish Stratus at 6 minutes and 24 seconds.

Match Rating: 3 out of 10

Match 3 – HHH vs. Ric Flair – Last Man Standing

Hunter wastes no time, attacking Flair on the ramp. After a series of suplexes, Trips turns to weapons, gouging Flair with a screwdriver. The fight spills to the outside, and HHH sets up for a Pedigree on the announce table. Flair counters with a back body drop, and Triple H is sent crashing through the Spanish announce table. Hunter tries another Pedigree, but Flair counters with a low blow. The Nature Boy gains the advantage and crotches HHH on the ringpost repeatedly. Hunter goes back to his bag of tricks, nailing Flair with the ring steps. Trips hits another Pedigree, but Flair gets up. Hunter hits another; Flair still gets up. Hunter nails the trifecta, but Flair won’t stay down. Triple H then pulls out the trusty sledgehammer, and a shot to Flair’s back puts the Nature Boy down for good.

Winner… Triple H at 26 minutes and 59 seconds.

Match Rating: 8 out of 10

If there’s a team match happening, you have to have a strategy session first. It’s an unwritten rule of wrestling. Four-fifths of Team Smackdown gathers in the locker room to discuss Batista’s injury, and Randy Orton doubts the world heavyweight champion will be able to do his usual thing. He actually calls Batista the weak link, and it’s right about then that Big Dave walks in. Batista says there can only be one leader for this team and his gold gives him that position. Rey Mysterio and Lashley are down with that, as is JBL after some initial griping. Orton hesitates before telling Batista he’s the man, though he’s none too convincing. I smell a little trouble brewing.

Edge and Lita head to the ring, and they have an announcement. No, Edge isn’t cashing in his title shot, but instead he will be hosting his own show. “The Cutting Edge” will debut tomorrow, (where’s the Cabana? I leave for three weeks and everything changes) but tonight we are going to get a sneak preview as Edge calls out Detroit Tigers DH Dmitri Young. Edge rips on baseball, and then all Detroit sports (except the Red Wings). Young answers back by asking Edge where his championship is.

Match 4 – Kurt Angle (Challenger) vs. John Cena (Champion) – WWE Title Match – Special Referee – Daivari

The question isn’t will there be a ref bump, but how many ref bumps will there be? Cena hits a fisherman’s suplex early, but Daivari flat out refuses to make the count. Cena confronts Daivari, but Angle slaps on the ankle lock. Cena grabs the ropes, only to have Daivari kick his hand away. Cena rolls out, and then slaps Daivari. Angle stops Daivari from DQ’ing Cena. The Champ then knocks Daivari from the ring with Angle. Cena follows, but Angle slams the champ into steps, and then hits a belly to belly suplex. A new ref hits the ring, but Angle can’t get the pin. After a DDT, Cena follows with the five knuckle shuffle. Angle then blatantly attacks the ref, and follows with a low blow on Cena. Another ref enters the ring, as Angle hits a Superplex. The Olympic champ climbs the turnbuckle. Cena rolls away from a moonsault. Cena sets up the F-U, but Angle grabs the ref. Angle then knocks the ref out, and tries to revive Daivari. Angle runs out to stop another ref from entering the ring, but Cena nails Daivari with a DDT. Referee Charles Robinson enters the ring with Angle. Cena gets Angle up for the F-U, and drops him with it. Little Natch makes the count and Cena retains the title.

Winner… and still WWE Champion… John Cena at 13 minutes and 53 seconds.

Match Rating: 6.5 out of 10

Match 5 – Eric Bischoff vs. Theodore Long

Not quite sure what the point of this is here, but it is what it is. Long concentrates on mocking Bischoff, who’s in full karate mode. Long’s buddy from The Network is on the apron, attracting the attention of the refs (there’s one from each show) and giving Bischoff time to choke Long with his black belt. There’s more “action” until some music hits – it’s The Boogeyman. I think it’s the wrestler, though, and not the one from my childhood closet. Bischoff sends the refs to investigate the scary entrance smoke; of course, the Boogeyman enters the ring from behind. He drops Bischoff with a pumphandle slam and disappears into the crowd, gift wrapping a win for Long. That’s five minutes of my life I’ll never get back.

Winner… Theodore Long at five minutes and 24 seconds.

Match Rating: 0 out of 10 (and possibly less if that was allowed)

The ever popular video package reminds us how the Raw versus Smackdown feud got started, all the way back at the Raw Homecoming show. Never has the simple act of turning out the lights led to such anger and hatred.

Main Event – Team Smackdown (Batista, JBL, Rey Mysterio, Lashley and Randy Orton) vs. Team Raw (Shawn Michaels, Carlito, Chris Masters, Big Show and Kane) – Survivor Series Elimination Match

Winner… Team Smackdown at 23 minutes and 58 seconds.

Match Rating: 7 out of 10

Overall Event Time: 2 hours and 48 minutes.

Overall Event Rating: 6.5 out of 10