Hello wrestling fans, and welcome to the post-Wrestlemania edition of Slammer Jabber. What a week it has been, with some of the biggest matches, angles and hapennings in professional wrestling. There is a whole heap of thinsg to get to this week, but we start with NXT Takeover.
While the biggest stars were gearing up for their appearances on the biggest show of the year, the next generation of WWE superstars were strutting their stuff on the NXT Takeover special. The main event featuring Bobby Roode vs Shinsuke Nakamura was very enjoyable, arguably better than their bout in San Antonio, although it was pretty obvious from the outcome that Nakamura's future lies on the main roster. The tag team elimination bout between The Authors of Pain, The Revival and DIY was excellent, with all three teams looking like stars here. I'm glad AOP are hanging on to the belts, and DIY can now move on to other things too, while this seemed a fitting farewell for The Revival, who are more than ready for the main roster.
The debut of Alestair Black against Andrade "Cien" Almas was well handled, and while I'm not fully sold on Black this was an encouraging start. Almas was excellent playing the smarmy heel, which got the crowd on side with Black even further. He may look like a pound shop CM Punk, but his offence was effective looking and his act was certainly over with the audience. Asuka vs Ember Moon was a good back-and-forth affair and I like that character shift for Asuka, which builds to a bigger chase for Moon, presumably culminating in her taking the belt at the Takeover on Summerslam weekend. Finally, we had the Sanity vs Ruby Riot/Roderick Strong/Tye Dillinger and Kassius Ohno bout (Ohno replaced No Way Jose who was attacked earlier in the day), which was a fun but inevitably fairly uneventful match with Sanity picking up the win.
A decent show, with a couple of fantastic moments, but not quite up to the same standard of a year or two ago for NXT as a whole.
"The Ultimate Thrill Ride" is now in the books and it was quite the eventful evening, and overall one which had far more highlights than down moments. Obviously the biggest talking point of the event was the main event and what appears to be the retirement of The Undertaker following his 25th career match at Wrestlemania. The bout with Roman Reigns was far from his best encounter, but it was an enjoyable encounter that told a great story. The finish put Reigns over huge, and very much passed the torch from Taker to Reigns which was clearly the idea. Taker's ceremonial discarding of his coat, hat, and gloves seemed like a fitting send-off fir arguably the greatest of all time. For the first time during my tenure as a wrestling fan The Undertaker is now an inactive competitor, which seems strange but I'm glad he got to have a proper send-off.
The rest of the card had plenty of notable moments, including title changes in both major men's singles championships. Brock Lesnar vs Bill Goldberg for the Universal Championship was an excellent short match that went at a breakneck pace, and was stacked with big spots. Lesnar got his win back, and Goldberg actually took some bumps while both looked strong. Conversely, the Bray Wyatt vs Randy Orton match was just plain odd, with Wyatt summoning projections of worms and maggots before Orton essentially won with an anti-climactic RKO out of nowhere. The match veered sharpishly from bizarre to pedestrian in a matter of seconds. In addition, Orton as champion feels so stale which makes this result all the more disappointing.
Perhaps one of the biggest reactions on the night came as The Hardys were announced as the surprise fourth team in the tag-team ladder match. They were sadly without the "Broken" gimmick that has become synonymous with them in recent months, but given the outstanding legal issues with Anthem I'm not surprised. Both Matt Hardy and Jeff Hardy looked really good, and their return was certainly a welcome one, even if the ladder stipulation meant everyone in the stadium had something of an inkling they could appear. Seeing The Hardys as tag champions in 2017 is an odd sight, but it certainly breathes new life into that division on Raw, and the ladder match was very well done.
The rest of the card was certainly worth a watch, even if some of the bouts were better than others. John Cena & Nikki Bella vs The Miz and Maryse was passable, and the post-match with the proposal was well done. I suspect we'll not be seeing much of either in the coming months, so this was a nice send off as they go off to plan their wedding. Triple H vs Seth Rollins was a fun brawl which got a good reaction from the crowd, especially for the table spot with Stephanie McMahon. Bayley vs Charlotte vs Nia Jax vs Sasha Banks was a fun, if not slightly short elimination match, and the lack of a heel turn for Sasha or a surprising outcome just highlights the poor booking of Bayley thus far as champion. Imagine the difference in this scenario had Bayley overcome the odds and won her first title, and ended Charlottes PV streak in this match. It would have been a remarkable moment, while this actually felt like a bit of let-down.
AJ Styles vs Shane McMahon was a fun opener with some nice big spots that the crowd reacted well to, and Styles did everything in his power to make Shane look like he was on the same level. Hopefully Styles moves on to finally getting his one-on-one title rematch now. Chris Jericho vs Kevin Owens was very enjoyable with some nice moments although I felt it lacked the intensity that a blood feud like theirs should have. Equally, the exchanges between the two were well executed and the finger on the ropes was a nice touch, pun intended. The Smackdown Women's match was a bit of a rushed mess, but it was short and served as more of a buffer than anything. However, for me probably one of the best matches of the night occurred on the pre-show as Neville and Austin Aries had an absolute blinder, which really should have been on the main card. Conversely, the Baron Corbin vs Dean Ambrose bout, as well as the lacklustre battle royal certainly belonged on the re-show as both were fairly average affairs.
Overall, I think this was a good show on balance with some excellent matches, some good matches, a few passable affairs, and a couple of very average matches. The set looked amazing, and although the show was probably a bit too long the whole thing was very enjoyable.
As always the post-Wrestlemania Raw was quite something. Roman Reigns segment at the beginning of the show was very well-done and was a great way to take the negative reaction that was inevitable with this crowd and feed off it. Reigns was brilliant here, and I'm glad they did this rather than overexposing him.
The segment with Vince McMahon was interesting, not least because of the mention of the "shake up" of the rosters on both brands next week, which piqued my interest. Equally, the introduction of Kurt Angle as Raw GM was excellent and certainly makes for an interesting dynamic moving forward. It's amazing how much a show without Stephanie McMahon feels like a breath of fresh air, and Angle is a big part of that. His interactions with Sami Zayn, Enzo & Cass, and others really set the tone for how he'll go forward in this role, but it's a great start.
One of the biggest highlights of the evening for me was The Revival debuting in answer to the open challenge from The New Day. Dash & Dawson looked great, and picking up a win over the former champions is a nice way to start their push in the promotion. The New Day are surely being split up soon (maybe even with the reshuffle next week?), as there really is nothing left for them to do, so I suspect this was an opportunity to get some use out of them before they all move forward.
Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman's promo celebrating Lesnar's Universal title win was we handled, although Heyman's fairy-tale type delivery was unusual. Lesnar looked like a beast and the interaction with Braun Strowman set up a nice potential match down the line, as did Heyman's calling out Reigns. Interesting possibilities ahead for Lesnar.
Chris Jericho's promo on Kevin Owens served to set up their feud continuing, and the attack by Owens and Samoa Joe setting up for Finn Balor to return as Seth Rollins partner in the main event was well done. I admit there were some logic holes here, with Rollins having been responsible for Balor's injury, and also coming back in this programme rather than confronting the holder of the championship he never lost. However, I imagine that will all be resolved in the coming weeks. Balor looked good and was given the rock star treatment by the crowd, which bodes well for his future as a main eventer in the near future.
Elsewhere on the show, Neville had a good match with the highly underrated Mustafi Ali, The Hardys had a good, short match with Anderson & Gallows although the lack of their "Broken" gimmicks is still disappointing. Jinder Mahal vs Sami Zayn was a nothing match that really did nothing for anyone, while the Women's match seemed like a way to isolate Charlotte who will presumably be heading to Smackdown with the roster re-shuffle next week.
All in all, a very good show albeit one lacking in the sort of big scale surprises and set-up for future feuds that normally happens on these shows. Still, a very enjoyable three hour show.
As expected, the blue brand had plenty of surprises to rival that of Raw this week. The most notable of course, was the debut of Shinsuke Nakamura. The former two-time NXT Champion interrupted The Miz and Maryse as they left the ring following a brief segment mocking John Cena and Nikki Bella (who were absent as expected). Nakamura's entrance with the appearance of his violinist was electrifying and the crowd on hand were enthralled by him. However, it remains to be seen whether his style can translate to the wider, non-Wrestlemania crowd in the coming weeks. I hope so, as Nakamura is one of the most charismatic performers they have on the payroll and given the right opportunities he could be a huge star.
However, Nakamura was not the only debut on this week's show. We were also treated to the debut of Tye Dillinger on the main roster, defeating Curt Hawkins in a short match. I like Dillinger and he has improved greatly in the past twelve months. The "Perfect Ten" gimmick, and the "ten" chants that accompany it are hugely over, so hopefully this is the start of a good mid-card run for Dillinger. At 36, and after almost a decade on and off in the WWE developmental system, I feel this is is last shot for Dillinger to really make it at on the main roster.
Beyond the debuts, I enjoyed the developments with Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton. The promos from both men were convincing and well executed, as was the return of Erick Rowan, sporting a new steampunk-style sheep mask. The match itself, with Orton teaming with Luke Harper (who looks great with his new trimmed down physique and cleaned up gear) against Rowan and Wyatt was enjoyable, although the ending was a bit strange with Wyatt essentially abandoning Rowan. Still, this was good development for Orton and Wyatt moving forward and whatever a House of Horrors match is, it is bound to be either amazing or complete Wrestlecrap, which means I cannot wait either way.
The rest of the show was also very good, with AJ Styles ostensibly turning face by shaking hands with Shane McMahon ahead of his likely move in the roster shake up next week. There really isn't much left for him to do on the blue brand and Raw could definitely use him at this stage. Alexa Bliss and Naomi had a fun match, with Naomi once again getting the win in front of her hometown crowd, which made for a nice moment. I could see Bliss trading places with Charlotte next week, but she could equally stay where she is for now. Finally, Baron Corbin beat Dean Ambrose in a very fun street fight, albeit a non-title bout, which is probably what their contest at Wrestlemania should have been really.
A very strong show this week, and ultimately a good set-up for next week's roster changes and moving on the big post-Mania programmes. The debuts were well handled, and the two hours flew by. Good work, and certainly a solid match for a very strong show from Raw.
Women's Tournament announced
With all the Wrestlemania excitement and goings on, it was almost very easy to miss that WWE announced this week that they will be holding a tournament in the summer featuring unsigned women from around the world. Given there are reportedly some real prospects in the performance centre and given the quality of women's wrestling on the indie scene these days there is some real potential for this to be a huge deal, much in the way the Cruiserweight Classic was last summer. There will be more details to follow, but this is certainly a very interesting development for the WWE's respective women's divisions.
Well that is all from me for this week, I'll be back next Thursday with a look at Raw, Smackdown, and whatever else breaks in the next seven days. Until then, keep it locked to Screenjabber for all the best in reviews of movies, Blu-rays, DVDs and games as well as the best blogs, interviews, podcasts and more. Until next time, so long folks.