Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at the biggest stories in professional wrestling from the past seven days. It's been a busy week with both Raw and Smackdown pushing forward with the build to Summerslam, New Japan Pro Wrestling completed their mammoth G1 tournament, and the wrestling world dealt with the loss of one the all-time greats. Let's start as we so often do, with a look at this week's episode of Raw.
Although Raw has been a bit of a one-note show as of late, the go-home show for Summerslam was a much more well-rounded affair. The main event angle was not focused on Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns (we'll get to them shortly), but on the contract signing for Seth Rollins and Dolph Ziggler for the Intercontinental championship. The show-long storyline of Rollins being MIA was well done, and although the eventual outcome in the main event was far from a surprise, the return of Dean Ambrose to be in Rollins' corner was superbly executed. Ambrose was sporting a new look, including a haircut and a more muscular physique. You have to imagine that Ambrose is being groomed for the main event run, especially when you consider his much-improved appearance. Although he helped Rollins here, I do wonder if we get a heel turn on his former Shield-brother at Summerslam. Regardless, this segment was really well handled and made for a cracking main event segment.
The build for Roman Reigns vs Brock Lesnar has been a little unusual. However, the tease of Paul Heyman aligning with Reigns really whet the appetite of many, even if they doused the idea (quite literally, with pepper spray) in favour of Lesnar attacking a prone Reigns. That said, the thread is still dangling there slightly, and I would love to see WWE pull the trigger on a Reigns heel turn. I suspect we'll get no such thing, but this was definitely an effective segment to continue the build for Lesnar vs Reigns.
The rest of the show was all very considered, and well thought out. Ronda Rousey paying tribute to Jim "the Anvil" Neidhart (in addition to the very moving tribute video WWE put together) was a nice touch, although it was a bit of a jarring pivot to have her then move on to hyping her feud with Alexa Bliss. Rousey was very good here, and Alexa's rebuttal was equally logical for her character. The match between Ember Moon and Alicia Fox was fine for what it was, and Rousey beating up the security to get to Alexa in the post-match was excellent booking ahead of Sunday. Finn Balor and Braun Strowman vs Jinder Mahal and Kevin Owens was an enjoyable tag match designed to continue pushing the Strowman/Owens feud and the Balor vs Constable Corbin programme (Corbin put Balor in the match after squashing Tyler Breeze) ahead of Summerslam, which was very effective. Bobby Lashley squashing an enhancement talent who was trying to impress Elias was a good functional segment, which presumably will peak during Elias' performance at Summerslam. Ruby Riott vs Sasha Banks was a decent TV match, while The B Team vs Bray Wyatt and Matt Hardy vs The Revival was a better match than it probably had any right to be, with a surprisingly clever finish. Finally, Bobby Roode and Titus Worldwide vs The Authors of Pain and Mojo Rawley was just a filler really, but even then it kept two active programmes going, which is as much as you can really ask from the mid-card on the go home show for such a huge show.
A very decent, action-packed episode of Raw with no wasted movement and all the moving pieces operating in unity to build towards SummerSlam on Sunday. Excellent work all around.
In a reversal of recent fortunes, Smackdown was perhaps not the better show this week as compared to Raw. That is of course not to say that there were no bright spots on the show, but it lacked the momentum of the red brand. Among the bright spots was Samoa Joe and AJ Styles confrontation in the main event segment. AJ did a great job outlining how hard it is to be the champions, while Joe's promo and the reveal of the letter from Styles wife were superb, and certainly added a more personal level to the feud. You really felt like Joe had gotten under Styles' skin here, and it was nice to see this match presented as the main event for once. The other bright spot was the video packages throughout the episode building the match between The Miz and Daniel Bryan. They have such a long and storied history going back eight years and it was great to see WWE play on that to maximum effect here.
The rest of the show had some goo moments, but nothing really felt like a home run. The opening segment with Charlotte, Carmella and Becky Lynch was fine, and effectively sowed the seeds of dissension between Charlotte and Becky while writing off Carmella which feels like it was deliberate. The ensuing match, ala Teddy Long pitting Becky Lynch and Charlotte vs Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville wad a good TV match, but it was utterly forgettable. The New Day vs Sanity was well put together but mostly served a showcase for The New Day against larger opposition. I'm not sold on Killian Dain's new ring gear though. The Bludgeon Brothers squashing some enhancement talent again made them look really dominant. Andrade "Cien" Almas vs Aiden English was a short, but serviceable bout and the post-match promo from Zelina Vega was better and did a great job of continuing the feud between herself and Almas and Rusev Day, even if it is bound for the Summerslam pre-show. Finally, Jeff Hardy had an excellent match with Shelton Benjamin, followed by a physical encounter with Shinsuke Nakamura, which was nice. I also enjoyed Randy Orton creepily watching on from the shadows pretty much guaranteeing his involvement on Sunday.
Not a bad show by any stretch, but it could have used a jolt of energy to really put it over the top and give the last push for Summerslam. That said the Smackdown side of things looks very positive for the big show on Sunday.
RIP Jim Neidhart
In incredibly sad news this week, it was announced that former WWE tag team champion Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart had passed away aged 63. Neidhart had a hugely storied career starting in the NFL, before moving on to a professional wrestling career that spanned Stampede wrestling in Calgary, New Japan Pro Wrestling, Georgia Championship Wrestling, Mid-South, WWE and WCW. His runs with Bret "The Hitman" Hart in the Hart Foundation as a tag team, alongside Owen Hart as a heel, under the guise of WHO (not his brightest moment), and again with the Hart Foundation faction in 1997 were perhaps his most successful and memorable appearances. Neidhart was a huge character and a key component in the WWE tag division in his heyday. Sadly, Neidhart had some issues with the law in more recent years, as well as what was reportedly early onset Alzheimers, which may have contributed to his untimely death. The Anvil left behind a massive legacy and he will be sorely missed. We send our best wishes to the Neidhart family at this difficult time. RIP Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart.
NJPW G1 Finals
The New Japan Pro Wrestling G1 Climax tournament has become a yearly feat of endurance, and not just for the competitors. The daily shows are a huge undertaking for even the most ardent of NJPW fans. Although I watched the majority of the tournament I can only tip my cap to those who watched the whole thing. In particular John Pollock and Wai Ting from Post Wrestling and the lads over at the Super J Cast. Both the A and B block were filled with surprises and plenty to set up future matches. Jay White was absolutely one of the standouts, with some superb character work, while the evolution of Kazuchika Okada was one of the most enthralling elements of the whole month. Of course, Kenny Omega vs Kota Ibushi was very intriguing and created a superb bout (depending on your perspective), but this was nothing compared to the stunningly dramatic final between Hiroshi Tanahashi and Ibushi, with Tana getting the surprise win. Obviously, lots can happen between now and January, and I have a feeling that we'll still be getting Omega vs Ibushi in some form or fashion, whether for the title or not. That said Omega vs Tanahashi would be a superb and fitting main event, even if seeing Okada, not in the main event spot would feel a bit weird. Overall, this was a superb tournament, and I would definitely recommend going back and catching the tournament matches and the finals if nothing else.
Summerslam weekend preview
The "Biggest Party of the Summer" is this weekend, with WWE hosting two major events. First up is NXT Takeover: Brooklyn on Saturday which has had quite the turbulent build with a major change needed to the main event. Aleister Black suffered an injury after the NXT Tapings had already been filmed, leaving NXT to conjure an angle with Black being attacked and taken out of the title picture. If you've not seen it I highly recommend checking out the video on the WWE website, which feels like a real whodunnit. With regards to Takeover, this leaves Johnny Gargano vs Tommaso Ciampa for the NXT title in a last man standing match which should be an absolute belter of a main event. The rest of the card also looks great, with Ricochet vs Adam Cole for the North American title, Moustache Mountain vs Undisputed Era for the tag titles, Shayna Baszler vs Kairi Sane for the women's title, and Velveteen Dream vs EC3. The card is absolutely stacked and could easily eclipse the big show the following night.
Summerslam itself should be a very good show, but the number of matches does seem a bit excessive, with ten matches on the main card, plus three on the kickoff show, and a performance by Elias. The main event between Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar is perhaps the most intriguing match, although as much as we'd all like a Reigns heel turn, it really isn't going to happen. In fact, I wouldn't rule out a Lesnar win. However, even if Reigns gets the wins I anticipate Braun Strowman getting involved somehow, especially as he's been off to the side for a while. For the WWE title, I imagine AJ Styles retains the title, but I don't think you can rule out a Samoa Joe win, but the match should be superb regardless. Ronda Rousey vs Alexa Bliss is an interesting one, but I can only see Rousey taking the title, while Carmella vs Becky Lynch vs Charlotte should quietly be one of the better matches on the show.
The mid-card title matches should produce some excellent bouts. Seth Rollins vs Dolph Ziggler should be very good, but I wonder if Dean Ambrose on the outside might be the real story here. Shinsuke Nakamura vs Jeff Hardy will be very interesting, given their last bout was more of an angle than a match and the expected involvement of Randy Orton. Daniel Bryan vs The Miz should be phenomenal, and this could be the most heated match on the night, hopefully, it lives up to expectations. Finn Balor vs Baron Corbin, well I can take or leave that match, frankly. Finally, The Bludgeon Brothers vs The New Day should be a fine, but likely unspectacular affair.
Summerslam looks like a great show on paper, as does Takeover, so hopefully both live up to the hype although I can see Summerslam failing to do so just because of the sheer number of matches potentially causing fatigue for the audience in the arena and at home. We shall see.
Well, that is it from me for this week. I will be back at the same time next week with all the news from NXT Takeover: Brooklyn, Summerslam, Raw and Smackdown, as well as touching on any major stories that might break in the next week. In the meantime, keep it locked here at Screenjabber for all the best movie, Blu-ray, DVD and video game reviews, as well as all the latest news, podcasts and more. Until next time, so long folks.