Hello and welcome to this week's edition of Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at all things pro wrestling. After the absolute madness of last week with Wrestlemania and more we had a slightly quieter week, but it was still very busy with two big episodes of Raw and Smackdown, a big story breaking with a WWE announcer and more. Lets not waste any time, as we start this week looking at Monday's edition of Raw.
Night one of the much-hyped Superstar Shake-up took place on Raw, and if I'm honest it was a tad underwhelming. It's not that the moves made don’t open up plenty of potential, it's more that on night one certainly, the concept really hadn’t been properly thought out or realised. The opening segment with The Miz, Maryse, and Dean Ambrose was just there on Raw as if transplanted directly from Smackdown, with the announcers then just announcing that all three are now on Raw. Miz was very good again as John Cena, but I think they should shelve his now before they ruin something very entertaining by overexposure. Ambrose was fine here too, and although it didn’t lead to anything particular it was a nice way to re-introduce them to Raw.
The other notable moves were all strong ones for the roster. Curt Hawkins has been doing nothing on Smackdown, and there is far more airtime to fill on Raw, same goes for Rhyno, Heath Slater, Apollo Crews and Kalisto. Alexa Bliss has been excellent on Smackdown, and while her segment here with Bayley, Sasha Banks, and Nia Jax was very well done, I do fear that she is going to struggle ion this division to be the top heel, especially with Jax being given the big push as it stands. Mickie James was really just making up the numbers, but in fairness she will have some great in-ring matches with the women on Raw which can only be a good thing for a division which has been comprised of four women for much of the past year. Jax going over Charlotte was also somewhat surprising, although it certainly did tease the idea of Charlotte being sent to Smackdown with Jax getting the win, and Charlotte being absent from the segment later in the show.
The idea of Finn Balor and Bray Wyatt feuding leaves me slightly concerned. Obviously the appeal is having Wyatt's weird, spooky gimmick facing off against the "Demon King" in a weird supernatural feud, but I do worry about this having a block on both men's momentum going forward. Also, it looks like we are still getting the House of Horrors match between Wyatt and Randy Orton, but I feel like the result is a forgone conclusion now. Balor's match with Jinder Mahal was short but some of Mahal's offence looked like it knocked Balor loopy. More on that later.
One of the high points of the show for me this week was the work they did with the cruiserweights, specifically TJ Perkins. Neville was great in corrupting Perkins and convincing him to turn to the dark side, and the turn was a much needed one for Perkins, whose smug demeanour and character is not particularly likeable, which lends him to being a very good heel. Austin Aries vs Neville at Payback should be excellent, and I hope after their showing at Wrestlemania they get a go on the main show and not just the pre-show.
Seth Rollins actually came across as a very likeable babyface this week. He seemed genuine, and the segment with Kurt Angle was well done, as was the ambush by Samoa Joe. The match between these two should be excellent, and it was a nice little Easter egg to see Angle and Joe in the same ring together again after their battles in TNA.
Kevin Owens vs Dean Ambrose was a fine main event, and the interference from Chris Jericho reminds everyone that feud is still ongoing, and builds to their match at Payback, although I suspect Jericho is heading off after that bout, something reinforced by the speculation leading into Monday that Owens would be heading to Smackdown. Sami Zayn vs The Miz was enjoyable, and could make for a good feud to get Zayn a bit more heat as a babyface. I also very much enjoyed The New Day vs The Revival, and the fact they have kept The Revival strong bodes well. They are a breath of fresh air in the division at the moment. I fully expect them to get into the mix with The Hardys, and Sheamus & Cesaro in the next few weeks and hopefully take the titles as Matt and Jeff move on to bigger and better (and hopefully broken) things. Their match this week with Gallows & Anderson and The Shining Stars was a fun affair, even if it didn't really serve much of a purpose for me.
I've deliberately saved the best for last. Braun Strowman is fantastic, and he is improving brilliantly week after week. Roman Reigns sitting down with Michael Cole was a segment surely designed to get the reaction they received, with his continued nuclear heat as the man who retired The Undertaker. However, Reigns sold the beat down from Strowman brilliantly, and the site of Braun manhandling him was quite the site. The gurney going off the stage was a bit overkill, but then the ambulance tipping was just ridiculous, and all kinds of brilliant. It made Braun look like a monster, and it looked genuinely impressive. It was a heavy duty angle, and although the audience cheered Strowman, it was still spectacular and presumably leads to an ambulance match or something similar between the two at payback. Good work Braun, you fantastic beast of a man.
Overall, a good show. The superstar shake-up could definitely have used a bit more structure and definition to the concept, and it was handled a messily but it certainly did the necessary, and it should freshen up the Raw roster in the coming weeks. Oh and The Drifter popped up briefly, just having a wander, which was nice.
Night two of the Superstar shake-up was another mixed bag really. Kevin Owens moving (and shaving) made him seem like a really big deal on this show. Owens will be a really nice addition to Smackdown, and should certainly fill the top heel void left by the Miz and the turn of AJ Styles. For me Owens has had a difficult run as Universal Champion on Raw, so this US title run could be just the thing to reinvigorate him. The segment with Styles, the debuting Sami Zayn, and Baron Corbin also kept Owens looking strong. Equally, it seems as though his feud with Jericho is set to continue, and the winner of the match is now going to be a permanent resident of Smackdown, which again telegraphs that finish for me now. The match with Styles, Zayn and Corbin in the main event was a corker, and well worth going out of your way to see. I like that Corbin hasn't been lost in the shuffle with the moves and still seems to be presented as a mina eventer. Equally, I do have to question why Styles is angling for the US title, given he still hasn't had his on-on-one re-match for the WWE title. Equally, I appreciate Randy Orton is busy with bray Wyatt, and it least it gives Styles something to do for a few weeks.
The other introductions to the debutants were less well handled for me. The announcement of Tamina, only to be used as tease for Charlotte was a bit flat. Charlotte is unquestionably a great addition to this roster and the splitting away from Sasha Banks is a very positive move for the future. There are plenty of options for feuds with Naomi, Becky Lynch and even Carmella that they can explore down the road, so it certainly sures up the division for me. Tamina, well she's able and if pushed like a monster can certainly have a role here. Jinder Mahal, and his subsequent match with Mojo Rawley was a pretty underwhelming affair. Mahal is a charisma vacuum, and Rawley, even with his obnoxious mate Rob "Gronk" Gronkowski from the New England Patriots, is insufferable. The video packages for Lana, The New Day, and graphics for Rusev and Sin Cara debuting were good for build-up, especially given the show was already very busy. No need to rush them into the fray. Finally, we had The Shining Stars jumping American Alpha after a very good match with The Usos, which seemed strange, as surely they should be trying to knock off the champions, although they are both heels I suppose.
Overall, I feel like Raw has certainly had the better deal, but Smackdown has been getting the best out of the underutilised or limited performers for nearly a year now, so why not continue.
Elsewhere on the show Randy Orton and Erick Rowan was a pretty average TV match, and Bray cut another spooky promo. I suspect we're getting much more of this in the coming weeks to cover for the fact Wyatt is now on Raw, although the only intrigue left in this feud for me is how crazy the House of Horrors match will end up being, and what that will even entail.
Finally, we had the second appearance of Shinsuke Nakamura as he had a confrontation with Dolph Ziggler, which appears to be where his first programme is going. Ziggler is a fine choice, and while I dislike his character he should be a good person to work with Nakamura from an in-ring perspective without wasting a big match with an Owens, or AJ Styles. Nakamura is still getting a big reaction from the audience, and I really hope that continues, because they could have a huge star on their hands if they keep faith with him. Tye Dillinger also got his second appearance here, against the newly solo Aiden English (more on that shortly), in a short but fun match. Again, the audience reacted well to Dillinger, so I'm hopeful that both call-ups have bright futures on the blue brand.
Overall, a so-so show from Smackdown. They may not have had the better of the shake-up, but I do believe that as long as they keep writing the sort of television that they've produced in the past year, Smackdown will be just fine. Also, once again The Drifter made an appearance, which is a nice companion piece to his brief appearance on Raw.
Dean and Renee get hitched
After a few rumours hit the mill, WWE reporter/interviewer/host/amazing person Renee Young has announced via social media that she and Dean Ambrose are now married, having done so quietly in the last week. Details are scarce (as they should be), but from all of us here at Screenjabber, we would like to extend our congratulations to the happy couple. Also, Dean has done very well for himself, and I will say no more.
Finn Balor concussed
In some late breaking news, it appears during his match with Jinder Mahal on Raw, Finn Balor suffered a concussion which will keep him out of action for a few weeks. How long, is anyone's guess, but having just come back from a serious injury you have to hope it's not a long lay-off. In theory he should still be able to continue his fledgling feud with Bray Wyatt, although they could just as easily keep him off TV for a while to make sure he heals up properly. Either way, we hope he makes a full and speedy recovery
Eagle-eyed viewers will have noticed over the past few weeks on Smackdown that something was different, missing even. That something will have been the distinctive voice of Mauro Ranallo, who was first excused due to poor weather preventing him attending and then "illness", and he has not been seen since. Ranallo has a well-known history with bi-polar disorder and has been a vocal and effective advocate for mental health awareness over the past few years, so it certainly raised a red flag of sorts when he mysteriously went missing from the Smackdown broadcasts. However, it seems the plot has thickened somewhat and the rumour mill has gone into overdrive that JBL's berating of Ranallo on-air and alleged backstage bullying tactics are a big part of the reason behind Ranallo's absence. Obviously, we don’t know a huge amount as this stage with both sides tight-lipped, with WWE simply stating that Ranallo remains under contract until August 2017. Ranallo himself has removed all mention of WWE from his social media, including any tweets about WWE. I suspect there will be more on this in August when Ranallo is no longer with the company, although not from Mauro himself given he is by all accounts a class act across the board. However, the one thing that is for sure is that Mauro will be sorely missed as an on-air voice on Smackdown, and while Tom Phillips is a fine commentator he's not a patch on Mauro, who made some fantastic calls in recent years, A real shame, but let's hope that Ranallo is healthy, happy and free of whatever stresses and strains that might have been affecting him in his recent role.
Simon Gotch released
Traditionally in the post-Wrestlemania period there is normally a spring clear-out of talent that doesn't have a place on the roster. However, in the past couple of years with the sheer volume of television hours has meant this is no longer really a process the company need to undertake. In addition, many workers have decided to ask for their release and chance their arm on the independent scene in order to try and raise their profile for a future return. The likes of Drew McIntyre, Cody Rhodes, Alberto Del Rio, and Wade Barrett have all left to try out life outside of WWE. However, one name I was not particularly expecting to hear treading that path was Simon Gotch of The Vaudevillians. Gotch had admittedly been floundering in the team as a low-card comedy act on the main roster, partially due to the success of Jack Gallagher in a very similar gimmick, in my opinion at least. However, the story goes a bit deeper, as apparently Gotch had been involved in a few backstage altercations in the past year or so, most notably with Sin Cara (who admittedly has had his own issues on that front). As such, I'm not surprised the company granted him a release. Gotch is a solid hand in the ring, if not particularly spectacular, but at 34 with a couple of years seasoning he could still have a successful run in WWE down the road. Where this leaves his partner Aiden English I'm not sure, maybe in line for a repackaging or pairing up with Jack Gallagher moving forward, but who can say. With rumours of pay-offs being smaller even for Wrestlemania in recent years and the gruelling travel schedule, I would certainly not be surprised to hear a few more taking the same route in the coming months.
Finally this week, we have the news that Glenn Jacobs AKA Kane will be running for the office of Mayor in Knox County, Tennessee. Kane has been off screen for a while now, and is certainly winding down his career. With the Undertaker's recent retirement I suspect Kane will be following shortly too, and this could well be the first sign of that. Here's hoping his opponents don't dredge up the name Katie Vick.
Well that's it from me for this week. I'll be back next week with more in the build to Payback, the various happenings from Raw, Smackdown and whatever news breaks in the world of professional wrestling in the next seven days. Keep it locked here to 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.