Hello wrestling fans and welcome to this week's edition of Slammer Jabber, your in-depth look at the biggest moments in the world of pro wrestling over the past seven days. We are firmly in the post-Wrestlemania period now as WWE looks to make new stars and begin building new feuds for the Payback and Backlash shows respectively. As such, lets get started with this week's Raw.
Based on this week's show, Braun Strowman is clearly the next big star in WWE's eyes, and given his performance it is hard to disagree with them. Strowman was on fine form, playing the monster throughout the show. His segment with Raw GM Kurt Angle to open was well put together, and kept Strowman strong while setting up his match with Roman Reigns at Payback. His beat downs on Kalisto, R Truth, and Goldust. Equally the match between Strowman and Big Show was a really fun big-man encounter, and while the imploding ring finish isn’t new exactly it has been long enough since it was last done (2011) that it looked spectacular. Strowman looked like an absolute beast and I fully expect him to be the next big star for WWE by this time next year.
The tag division got a nice bit of focus this week, with Anderson & Gallows looking strong against Enzo & Cass, while there was further build for The Hardys vs Sheamus & Cesaro as Jeff Hardy and Cesaro had an enjoyable match this week. I fear this means we're getting Matt Hardy vs Sheamus next week, which I have far less enthusiasm for, but we shall see. The shake-up has certainly given the division some new energy, although the loss of The Revival for the next 6 weeks (more on that shortly) is quite a blow. Still having The Hardys on top certainly allows for plenty of options in the coming months, and that's before their seemingly inevitable "Broken" run kicks off. WWE are reportedly negotiating with Anthem to end the legal issues over the gimmick, so hopefully that will lead to more interesting developments moving forward, ideally before the nostalgia of The Hardys from the late '90s diminishes.
The women's division has also had a shot in the arm from the shake-up, especially with the injection of Alexa Bliss. The women's four way match was far better than I had expected, and very enjoyable. Bliss is unlikely to be Bayley's long term antagonist but I certainly think she provides a good short term challenger moving forward. It also gives Bayley something else to do before the eventual Sasha Banks programme which I imagine is being lined up for Summerslam.
Samoa Joe vs Chris Jericho was a very good match, probably the best between the two to date. Joe looked great in victory and the finish was very strong. I also really enjoyed Joe's post-match promo, which showcased his unique style on the microphone. Obviously Seth Rollins was required to use the old line about Payback which has become part of the build-up to this show every year. However, I liked the build overall and it moves things along nicely for Rollins vs Joe, and Kevin Owens vs Jericho, which was reinforced by Jericho's promo later on. I also loved the booking of The Drifter here, and for a split second I thought he was going to attack Jericho, but I'm glad they held off on that.
The rest of the show was so-so. Finn Balor squashed Curt Hawkins, which presumably means Balor has recovered from his concussion last week, thankfully. TJ Perkins vs Jack Gallagher was a fun encounter, and furthered the relationship between Neville and Perkins, as well as Neville's feud with Austin Aries. Perkins is so much better as a heel, so I'm delighted they pulled the trigger on the turn, and pairing him up with Neville seems to be working really well. Gallagher seems to be the odd man out here, but hopefully there will be more for him in the coming weeks. Finally, the Dean Ambrose segment on Miz TV with The Miz and Maryse was fine for what it was, although my interest in this feud is already waning. It feels as if they have been feuding for about a year, even though it's far less than that. Ambrose seems so stale, and outside of a Shield reunion I'm not sure I see the value of him as a babyface. Given the lack of top line heels on Raw, now could be a perfect time to turn Ambrose.
Not the best Raw ever, but far from the worst. It flew by pretty quickly and nothing particularly dragged. The lack of Roman Reigns, Triple H, Stephanie McMahon, Mick Foley or Vince McMahon made this whole show feel fresh and I'm genuinely looking forward to seeing how things move forward next week.
An unusual week for Smackdown, where they were attempting to set up lots of new things, some of which are more exciting than others. The six-pack challenge between Luke Harper, Sami Zayn, Erick Rowan, Dolph Ziggler, Mojo Rawley, and Jinder Mahal. On paper I would have assumed that Sami Zayn, Luke Harper, or even at a push Mojo Rawley would have been victorious, given his recent on-screen partnership with Rob Gronkowski. However, at no point did I consider that Jinder Mahal would be winning this match. The interference from the Bollywood Boyz was an interesting move, essentially forming an Indian faction and giving Jinder more heat as a heel. This is a good union for Jinder, but also for Harv and Gurv. They were excellent in the Cruiserweight Classic and have looked good on 205 Live, but they are far too bland as babyfaces. Hopefully as heels they can offer a bit more. The post-match with Randy Orton was nice, and sets up Mahal as a threat and a challenger to Orton, but it also did a good job of having Mahal on the backburner for Orton as Bray Wyatt was again put in the foreground ahead of their House of Horrors match. I'm very excited to see how this ends up, and even more excited for what kind of absolutely insane idea they have for the match gimmick.
It is without doubt a massive shot in the arm for the Smackdown women's division to have Charlotte on this brand. The promo she cut to open the show was excellent, and I enjoyed the set up between herself and Naomi. I'm not a huge fan of number one contender matches featuring the champion but the bout between Naomi and Charlotte was excellent. I suspect this is the start of a slow face turn for Charlotte with Natalya, Tamina and Carmella all operating as the heels with Naomi and Charlotte becoming grudging allies.
Primo and Epico defeating American Alpha seems an odd move. I appreciate the need to get The Colons over on their new brand, but they seem to be giving Alpha the short end of the stick at the moment. It really is a shame they couldn't shift them over to Raw in the shake-up as they could have had crackers with The Hardys among others. Still presumably, this sets up for The Colons vs The Usos, even if that is a heel vs heel match.
Finally we had the big two stories on the show melding into one. First off we had the Kevin Owens "Face of America" open challenge, which led to him squashing an enhancement talent in a few seconds. Owens character work is spot on here, and he is clearly the top heel on this brand despite holding the secondary title. It does make me wonder if the WWE Title might end up on Raw for a while after Payback with the US title ending up as the big belt on the blue brand until it all gets evened up in the draft in a month or two. There is a clear build to AJ Styles vs Kevin Owens, and as much as I like Styles I fully expect Owens to retain when they eventually get to that point. Owens continued to build his match with Jericho, but it does seem like that will be done with after the ppv, and he will move on to properly feuding with AJ. Speaking of Styles he had a really strong main event with Baron Corbin, who was also very good this week. Owens being on commentary was a major focal point, and the finish was a bit screwy but I can see why they felt the need to protect Corbin and Styles in that fashion. The stare-down with Owens and Styles was good, but it certainly feels with the open challenge format that perhaps Owens will be going over Styles in this feud. For me, this is a subtle sign they [plan to bring back John Cena to feud with Owens when he returns in the summer, which would be a nice bit of symmetry given the fact Owens debuted by answering (sort of) the John Cena Open challenge for the US title. Either way, it certainly looks like the US title is being built as a big deal on the blue brand.
Overall, an unusual show, but not bad. They are trying to make new stars, put together new feuds and move forward with the brand. The pieces are still falling into place, but once the initial transition period is over, Smackdown should have a very healthy show week-top-week after Payback.
In sad news this week, Matt Anoa’i AKA Rosey of 3 Minute Warning fame passed away, reportedly of congenital heart failure aged just 47. Anoa’i was of course a member of the famous Samoan bloodline which includes Afa, his father Sika, his cousin the late Eddie Fatu (AKA Umaga/Jamal) who he tagged with in 3MW, The Usos, and most notably his brother and current WWE headliner Roman Reigns. Anoa’i is probably best remembered for his run as Rosey during the 3MW days which included some rather risqué moments as they worked as heavies for Eric Bischoff on Raw, including during the infamous HLA angle. However, he also showed his comedic chops during his stint alongside The Hurricane as Rosey: Super Hero in Training (deliberately spelt in that way, for reasons that are very clear if you think about it). Anoa’i was a good performer and showed great charisma during his run with WWE. However for me, his most memorable run was during his time in ECW as part of The Samoan Gangsta Party which again included some very risqué angles up against The Gangstaz, New Jack and Mustafa. It's fair to say Matt Anoa’i was very well liked given the outpouring of tributes, he will be sorely missed. Our thoughts are with the Anoa’i family at this difficult time.
The Revival - on hold
As I alluded to when talking about Raw, The Revival suffered a blow this week after Dash Wilder was ruled out for six weeks with a fractured jaw. After such a strong start on Raw, it's a definite roadblock for the former NXT Tag champions. However, I expect they will be back in force in a few weeks with a renewed push as they are easily the strongest tag team on the raw roster as it stands. If they had not made such a strong start I would certainly be more concerned, but given their only feud thus far has been with The New Day who are moving to Smackdown anyway, this shouldn't have too detrimental a long term effect.
Well that is it for me this week, I'll be back next week with more in the build to Payback and Backlash, 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.