Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at all things professional wrestling from the past seven days. This week we had varying fortunes for WWE's televisions shows, with one very good show and one pretty awful one, as well as the sad passing of a hugely influential figure in lucha libre, and we also preview a huge weekend for multiple wrestling companies coming up. Let's start with a look back at possibly the worst episode of Raw in recent memory.
Well that was pretty woeful, wasn’t it? I won’t dedicate too many column inches to Raw because it was a massive slog to get through, and it was not an enjoyable show. The main event they built up all night with Roman Reigns and mystery partner of Shane McMahon’s choosing vs Drew McIntyre and McMahon should have been an easy home run. The bait and switch is a classic tactic, especially with the unmasking angle, but the booking here of having Cedric Alexander in this role, and having him lose is baffling. It should have been booking 101 and yet somehow they messed it up. I understand they need to keep everyone strong for Sunday, but then don’t have this segment on the show, do something else.
The “elimination mixed tag match” that opened the show was just as poorly thought out. Having a match where there is no intergender wrestling but it is elimination rules makes no sense. Surely by pinning or submitting your opponent you are eliminating yourself, boiling this down to two singles matches essentially. Becky Lynch and Seth Rollins are a complete turn off as an onscreen couple and this felt like a waste of Zelina Vega and Andrade, although from an in-ring perspective this was miles better than what we’ll see at Extreme Rules. Speaking of which, the post-match attack from Lacey Evans and Baron Corbin was completely mistimed, while Evans looked to fluff the attack entirely. Bad booking and poor execution. Not good, not good at all.
The rest of the show was nearly as bad. The “beat the clock” challenge was another convoluted way to get around the commercial break issue, although Nikki Cross winning does at least push the story for her match alongside Alexa Bliss vs Bayley on Sunday forward. The 2/3 falls match pitting The Miz and The Usos against The Revival and Elias was another overly complex way to get around the adverts and frankly it was a match I could have done without. Bobby Lashley squashing Rey Mysterio was a huge waste of Mysterio’s return, Cesaro vs No Way Jose was fine for what it was but felt ultimately inconsequential. Ricochet fighting against the odds to beat both Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson was one of the few bright spots on this show, and AJ Styles standing tall at the end was a nice touch ahead of their match on Sunday. The Viking Raiders squashed some more local talent, and Drake Maverick continued to shine in the 24/7 segments, while Bray Wyatt’s cohorts from the Firefly Funhouse continue to make cameos.
This was a bad show. Incoherently booked, badly structured and ultimately not fun to watch. It’s especially frustrating knowing how good last week’s show was; because this was probably worse than anything else WWE has put on TV this year. Let’s hope this isn’t a sign of the new Paul Heyman era for Raw already being on the rocks.
After a pretty awful episode of Raw, Smackdown was a bit more of a bright spot this week. The show-long angle with Kevin Owens was brilliantly executed right from the opening angle with Owens brawling with Dolph Ziggler in the car park, to Shane McMahon cancelling the main event. Owens coming through the crowd and cutting a scathing promo on Shane, despite having his microphone cut off twice gave this a more edgy feel, and although I’m not always a fan of the “worked shoot” concept the direction is a sensible one when you consider the reactions to Shane’s “Best in the World” run. The rebooked main event pitting Ziggler against Roman Reigns was a more than serviceable TV main event with Drew McIntyre and Shane at ringside to tip the odds in Dolph’s favour. Owens getting involved and giving Shane the stunner cemented his new unpredictable babyface status while also hinting at what might be next for McMahon after Extreme Rules, while also keeping the Reigns/The Undertaker vs McMahon/McIntyre match at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Good work all round here.
I can only assume someone has had a word with Shinsuke Nakamura because his match with Finn Balor on this week’s show was probably his best performance since NXT. Obviously, the calibre of opponent helps but it was nice to see some solid psychology and some proper work rate from Nakamura who has looked to be phoning it in for a while now. These two have great chemistry and this sets up a title programme that should yield some classics if they’re given the appropriate time on PPV.
The rest of Smackdown was generally pretty entertaining. The tag team summit and the three-way that predictably came out of it was well executed with Daniel Bryan especially shining here. He has quietly been the best promo on Smackdown for months now. The contract signing between Bayley and Nikki Cross was exactly what you would expect with their storyline they have been embroiled in, although I do feel the lack of Alexa Bliss hurt this segment. Cross getting a dominant win over Carmella provided a strong statement ahead of Sunday. Finally, Paige and The Kabuki Warriors resurfaced and had a strong confrontation with The IIconics, including a vicious looking slap from Paige. I don’t think it’s happening on Sunday, but I’m far more invested in this match now then I was before this week and Paige looked far more comfortable in this role than she has for a while.
A very good Smackdown this week especially compared with the tripe that Raw put on Monday. Storylines were advanced, Extreme Rules was the main focus but the future beyond Sunday was also kept in the foreground. A solid showing from the blue brand.
RIP Paco Alonso
Less than a week after the passing of the legendary Perro Aguayo, another pioneer within the Mexican wrestling industry also left us as Paco Alonso passed away aged 67. Alonso may not be a household name, but as the third generation of his family, he has been the driving force behind CMLL in Mexico for several decades as he took charge of the family business. Alonso oversaw the change from EMLL to CMLL which also included a rebranding to a more modern style in the 1990s, but still retaining a unique identity in the face of competition from Antonio Pena’s upstart breakaway AAA promotion. Alonso was not a particularly public figure and his work behind the scenes on a day-to-day level has been noted within industry circles, with major stars including Chris Jericho and Tama Tonga having credited Alonso with giving them their big break in professional wrestling. Obviously, this is a great loss, in terms of a great man, but also to CMLL who will now need a new figurehead to rally around for the future. As someone who attended an Arena Mexico CMLL show a few years back, I can honestly say there is nothing like it and I hope that the company retains that uniqueness in tribute to Alonso. RIP Paco Alonso.
Extreme Rules, NJPW G1 and Fight for the Fallen - this weekend
It’s fair to say this weekend is going to be really quite a busy one for wrestling fans, with some pretty major events happening. First up AEW presents their Fight for the Fallen show which should be more along the lines of Double or Nothing than Fyter Fest hopefully. The main event of this show on paper certainly appears to be The Young Bucks vs The Rhodes Brothers. It’ll be interesting to see how their styles mesh given The Bucks have a very energetic repertoire while Dustin Rhodes and Cody have a far greater reliance on ring psychology, something Matt and Nick Jackson are hardly known for. It certainly is intriguing, especially when you factor in the possibility of Shawn Spears getting involved to continue his rivalry with Cody. Speaking of Spears, he will make his official debut on this show in a six-man tag alongside MJF and Sammy Guevara against Darby Allin, Joey Janela and Jimmy Havoc. It’s a mix of teams, especially given there was friction between MJF and Spears over the Cody chair shot. Also considering the combatants, I would expect this to get violent in a hurry.
Elsewhere on the show Cima and Kenny Omega facing off could potentially provide the match of the night if both men are on form, but I suspect Jon Moxley will involve himself somewhere with Omega to continue building their rivalry for All Out. Hangman Page vs Kip Sabian should be a solid in-ring encounter, but with Chris Jericho due to be on this show in some capacity I suspect that might be the bigger story. I don’t have high hopes for Brandi Rhodes vs Allie, as Brandi doesn’t seem like a particularly good worker but they might surprise us. Finally, SoCal Uncensored vs The Lucha Bros will almost certainly be insanely fast-paced and a bit of a mad cluster of crazy spots, and I can’t wait to see it. Hopefully, AEW has learned the lessons of the previous events and the production and structure of this show will be as good as the wrestling.
Going up directly against Fight for the Fallen will be Evolve’s 10th Anniversary show, which is being streamed live on the WWE Network. There are some stellar matches on this card with Drew Gulak vs Matt Riddle, Akira Tozawa vs Adam Cole, and Austin Theory vs JD Drake among many other top bouts on this show. While many will choose to watch FFTF instead, the Evolve show will certainly be worth a watch, and it’s a great showcase for what Evolve do.
On Sunday WWE will be putting on their Extreme Rules show, which has a bit more interest in it than Stomping Grounds did a few weeks back, but not a lot more. On paper, this is a very stacked show headlined by one of the less inspiring main events in recent memory with Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch taking on Baron Corbin and Lacey Evans in a winner-take-all match for both the WWE Universal title and the Raw Women’s title. Corbin and Evans have major go-away heat from me, with Evans clearly not ready for this level as yet, and Corbin overused and overexposed. With the stipulation that Evans and Corbin cannot challenge again if they lose, I hope this is WWE putting an end to this feud and moving onwards. I also hope they dissolve the partnership between Lynch and Rollins as an onscreen couple as they are quickly becoming insufferable on television. Still, it should be a half decent main event once they actually get in there and then hopefully that’ll be the end of it.
The other big tag match on the show features Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Shane McMahon and Drew McIntyre. I have to imagine Reigns and McIntyre will carry the brunt of the workload due to Taker’s limitations but I also suspect that the plan is for Taker and Drew to pair off for Summerslam so perhaps McIntyre will get the fall on the deadman or will attack him after the match. Kofi Kingston vs Samoa Joe has been built well and could be a belter of a match but I can’t see past Kofi retaining. Bayley vs Alexa Bliss vs Nikki Cross seems set up for Alexa to win and the next logical chapter in her story with Nikki. Seems a shame for Bayley though who has only just got up and running as champion. Daniel Bryan and Rowan vs Heavy Machinery vs The New Day and The Usos vs The Revival should both be top drawer tag matches. Braun Strowman vs Bobby Lashley in a last man standing match will almost certainly be utter carnage, while Cesaro and Aleister Black should have the next most physical match on this show. Finally, we have perhaps the match I am most looking forward to as the now fully heel AJ Styles takes on Ricochet for the US title. Both matches these two have had so far have been very good although quite short and the idea of seeing what this pairing can do with a bit more time. All in all, it should be a very good show within the confines of the ring, but how it ends up being booked is anyone’s guess.
If all that wasn’t enough, NJPW is running G1 shows on Saturday, Sunday and Monday with some very intriguing matches on offer. The main highlights are Juice Robinson vs Shingo Takagi, Jon Moxley vs Taichi, Kazuchika Okada vs Zack Sabre Jr, Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Kenta, Kota Ibushi vs Evil, Will Ospreay vs Sanada, Jeff Cobb vs Jon Moxley and Toru Yano vs Shingo. For a variety of reasons these matches should all be excellent, and while the G1 has an overwhelming number of mouth-watering matches on offer it really is a daunting task to watch them all. It’s not a complaint, because there is so much top quality wrestling on offer, but it is definitely a herculean task to try and watch everything.
Well, that is it from me for this week. I will be back at the same time next week with a look back at Raw and Smackdown, plus all the big news coming out of both Extreme Rules and Fight for the Fallen, as well as whatever else breaks in the meantime. Until then, 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.