It's Thursday again, and what a week it has been. We've had suspensions, near-retirements, the promise of big returns, title changes and more. First up in an action-packed week we had a somewhat topsy-turvy WWE PPV from the Smackdown brand, in the form of No Mercy
On Sunday night we were treated to an unusual PPV from WWE as they presented the blue brand's second solo PPV, No Mercy. Why unusual you ask? Well the main event opened the show. In a strange decision WWE decided to have the WWE World Title match between John Cena, Dean Ambrose and champion AJ Styles go on first, apparently to counteract a potential loss of viewers to the US Presidential debate between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump, which scored a record high viewership in the wake of the release of controversial footage of Trump during the week. This logic baffles me, given the event was primarily a Network special, meaning viewers could watch this on-demand at their leisure. Also, the company has pushed the idea that the few remaining people watching on traditional PPV are silly to be doing so, which means that this should not be a concern. Unfortunately the repercussion of this was that the show had a really lopsided, uneven feel to it, building to a very anticlimactic "main event". Styles, Ambrose and Cena had the expected excellent match which was very enjoyable without hurting any of the three. I'm also really glad AJ retained, as although you have to think John Cena is eventually winning the big one at least one more time at some stage they really should hold off for his record-breaking win at Wrestlemania.
The rest of the show ranged from excellent to average. Dolph Ziggler vs The Miz was surprisingly brilliant. I've been critical of Ziggler on a fairly frequent basis but his work here was brilliant, fighting for his career against the odds. There is still a strong undercurrent of Ziggler playing the surrogate to Smackdown GM Daniel Bryan here, but they made it work and Miz was fantastic as always. The Spirit Squad run-in was a nice touch and I'm glad to see they are sticking around at least for a short while. I would have liked to see Ziggler disappear for a bit, but they managed to turn his win into a big feel-good moment which arguably should have closed the show.
Elsewhere Nikki Bella vs Carmella was better than expected with both putting in a good showing, and Alexa Bliss vs Naomi was enjoyable if not a match that felt a bit thrown together, which it likely was. It's a shame Becky Lynch had to miss this show, with whatever medical emergency took her out of action for now. Obviously she was missed, but her health and well-being has to come before the match card, so this is totally understandable. The tag title match between Rhyno & Heath Slater and The Usos was also a fun tag bout, even if the result was a bit surprising. I definitely felt The Usos were in line to win the belts here, but Rhyno and Slater survive another day.
Onto the average, Baron Corbin and Jack Swagger had a passable if not remarkable bout with Corbin picking up the win in the latest match of a feud absolutely no-one had clamored for. I'm beginning to think that Andre the Giant Battle Royal winner tag is somewhat cursed. Finally there was the main event, or at least the match that went on last. Randy Orton vs Bray Wyatt, in the latest chapter of another odd feud for both men including some bizarre horror-esque segments on TV in recent weeks. Here we got a strange face-warp effect used on Orton's face and the return of one Luke Harper. The return of Harper is a welcome one, but I certainly hope they make more of him and Bray this time, as both men are very capable.
No Mercy is far from the worst show I've seen, but it seemed oddly paced and as though the main event being reshuffled to go on first took the wind out of the sails for the rest of the card, with only Ziggler/Miz being able to recapture it.
Despite it not being presented as the main event of Raw, Paul Heyman returning and issuing a challenge on behalf of his client Brock Lesnar to Bill Goldberg was easily the biggest thing to happen on Raw this week, maybe this year. With Goldberg appearing on the WWE2K17 game it always felt like there was a possibility this could happen, but the return of the former WCW and WWE World Champion is a huge deal for everyone in involved, and this presumably signposts a match between the two at Survivor Series. I am very excited about this, and with Goldberg having now confirmed via twitter he will be at Raw next week to accept the challenge, you would think this will move the needle somewhat for Raw. Goldberg is still a huge star, and his name holds a lot of weight with casual fans, given his prominence during the most popular period in wrestling history, so I expect this to be a big deal. As it should be.
Outside of the huge Goldberg news, Raw was a fairly average affair this week. Roman Reigns and Sasha Banks teaming up was a nice attempt to try and get Reigns back onto a good foot with the crowd, even if it didn't work. He's too far gone and I can't see how they rehab him as a babyface in the short term. The bout pitting the two against unwilling partners Rusev and Charlotte was a fun match too, and I liked the Charlotte was playing a heel, but one who still stood up for herself in the face of Rusev's misogyny. Given WWE have had links to Donald Trump in the past I suspect this was another attempt to distance the company stance from the sort of sexist, misogynistic behaviour Trump has been outed for. This also played into the announcement from Raw GM Mick Foley that we are getting three Hell in an Cell matches at the show of the same name, including Kevin Owens vs Seth Rollins for the WWE Universal Title, Roman Reigns vs Rusev for the WWE US Title, and as expected Sasha Banks vs Charlotte for the WWE Women's Title. Given the branding and the hype over that third match I could easily see that being the headline bout at Hell in a Cell, even more so given it's in Sasha's home town.
Seth Rollins vs Chris Jericho in the main event was very good, and the finish helped further the slow burn of Jericho turning face and pitting him against Owens. Given where Survivor Series emanates form this year, I suspect that will be the blow off point for the feud.
Aside from that not much of note, a kick off to an Enzo & Big Cass vs Gallows & Anderson feud, a Braun Strowman squash and demand for more competition (I hope this doesn't lead to Goldberg squashing him next week), a good Cruiserweight match between champion TJ Perkins and Ariya Daivari which served to further build the Brian Kendrick feud for Perkins, and some other matches that while not bad, were instantly forgettable. Three hours is far too long for these shows, and it just means we get so much filler, especially when you compare this to Smackdown where everything seems fresh and has some importance attached to it. Here's hoping Goldberg can inject some life into this show, because nothing else seems to be working.
Hot on the heels of No Mercy (which you've already heard all about now), this week's Smackdown was another excellent show. First up there's the main event picture, which looks to be dominated by AJ Styles and Dean Ambrose moving forward. Their match/segment with lovable jobber James Ellsworth (previously seen getting decimated by Braun Strowman on Raw) getting the win over Styles thanks Ambrose's antics as special referee. It was a really entertaining segment, as has led to Ellsworth being given a title match with Styles next week. A really fun segment without ever hurting anyone involved in terms of heat or credibility, very well done.
Elsewhere Ziggler and Miz had a good back-and-forth including another Spirit Squad appearance and match against Ziggler. Jey Uso had a good match with Chad Gable, and Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper had a watchable match with Randy Orton and Kane, suggesting this feud is still going forward after No Mercy. Here's hoping Harper gives this whole thing a lift to add something to the spooky angles.
However, for me the biggest news coming out of Smackdown was that we are getting three traditional Survivor Series elimination matches against the Raw brand, one with tag teams, one with top single stars, and one with top women's stars. As a big fan of these matches growing up I am more than excited about the prospect of their return. It might seem a bit soon for the inter-promotional matches, but as long as they are only happening four times a year I think this is absolutely fine to establish as the norm for the so-called "Big 4". Definitely an exciting announcement from my point of view, and another good show overall.
Nope, this is not a mistake, WWE superstar Paige has been suspended again in her second strike of the WWE Wellness Policy. There have been rumours aplenty in recent weeks about Paige, her neck injury, relationship with Alberto Del Rio, and more. However on Tuesday we got the news that she had been subject to a second strike and 60-day suspension, which she quickly took to Twitter to bemoan (tweets she deleted soon after). Her family The Knights, who are all involved heavily in the British wrestling scene took to social media to again bemoan the decision and the company handling Paige's medical care and well-being, all of which painted the company in a rather unflattering light. Until that is the company released a statement via the New York Post newspaper, clarifying that Paige had tested positive for an "illegal substance". The truth is probably a mixture of things, but if I'm honest I suspect Paige will not be returning to WWE after her suspension and will be released soon. She has enough drawing power and fame to do very well on the indies/in TNA and can name her price and perhaps this is all for the best for all parties. I suspect there will be more to this as this story unfolds in the coming weeks, but it's fair to say the relationship between the two seems to be fairly frosty as it stands. Whatever happens, as arguably the most high-profile successful female wrestler the UK has ever produced, we wish her well and hope for only positive things in the future.
Just a quick note on TNA to close things off this week. While there has been no further word on who is to buy TNA, be it Billy Corgan or WWE, or Corgan buying the company assets and WWE taking the tape library, it has been business as usual for their tapings with a couple of months worth of TV taped. There are certainly some interesting angles and matches planned, and the creative direction looks very interesting indeed moving forward. Plus, there is strong rumour doing the rounds that we will be getting a full episode of Impact taped from the Hardy Compound, which is sure to be spectacular. TNA might still be on the rocks, but you can;t fault them for clinging on for dear life.
That's it from me for this week, join me again next Thursday for more on Raw, Smackdown, probably more on Paige, and whatever happens in the next seven days. Until then, as always check out Screenjabber for all your DVD, Blu-ray, Movie and Games reviews, plus news opinions, competitions and much more. Until next week, so long folks!