Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at all things professional wrestling from the past seven days. This week both Raw and Smackdown ramped up their build to Summerslam ahead of next week’s go-home shows, while AEW announced some exciting matches and there was some mixed news for wrestling fans as far as streaming platforms are concerned. Let’s not waste any time, and we’ll start by diving straight into Raw from Monday night.
I don’t know if this week’s show was produced by Paul Heyman, but it certainly felt like it had his episode had his creative fingerprints on it. The main event segment, with two massive chaotic stories running into each other was superbly done. Seth Rollins vs Dolph Ziggler was pretty much over before it started, although notably featured Dolph Ziggler aping Shawn Michaels' entrance, which feels like a continued tease of a match between Ziggler and HBK. Brock Lesnar’s appearance caught the audience off guard in the best possible way, and he absolutely obliterated Rollins. This was Lesnar at his most violent and vicious, and while I’m not sure it made Rollins feels like a sympathetic character it certainly reinforced how dangerous Lesnar can be. The stuff with Paul Heyman trying to stop Brock, as well as the brutal backstage assault made this all feel like it was set up to push Lesnar as merciless and unstoppable, which it did brilliantly. The fact that this segued into the “Samoan summit” between Samoa Joe and Roman Reigns, which erupted into a brawl that involved The Usos, Gallows & Anderson, Drew McIntyre, and Cedric Alexander was superbly done. I liked that the big dive put a spotlight on Alexander here, and if this is leading into a big multi-man tag match at Summerslam it set the stage really well. However, the follow up on Smackdown was minimal so who knows where this is leading, if anywhere. Still, a very cool way to close the show.
Becky Lynch had an interesting night. The footage of her interrupting Natalya training to counter the "Dis-arm-her" earlier in the day made Lynch seem vaguely unhinged, and I’m not sure this wasn’t an attempt to parody Conor McGregor given Lynch’s frequent borrowing from McGregor’s antics. Her match with Alexa Bliss never happened as Bliss feigned an injury and the resulting match between Lynch and Nikki Cross was pretty good. The post-match with Bliss making a miraculous recovery was some terrific heel work, and although Natalya made the save she quickly got her revenge on Lynch putting her in the sharpshooter. Judging by Natalya’s promo later in the night these two are heading for a submission match at Summerslam, which should be a nice way to help it stand out from the other two big announced women’s matches.
The rest of the show moved at a very quick and enjoyable pace. The 24/7 stuff was again a highlight, even if the mixed tag “mosh pit” match was pretty poor. Moving the title to Mike Kanellis and then the pregnant Maria Kanellis puts a new spin on things, while also feeding into Drake Maverick’s feud with Mike Kanellis on 205 Live. The gauntlet match for the US title shot at Summerslam was excellent, and did lots to forward future programmes, including Ricochet and AJ Styles for the aforementioned US title, as well as a potential mask vs hair match with Rey Mysterio and Andrade. The Viking Raiders continued their impressive set of squashes, while the tag division got a refresh with Gallows & Anderson beating The Revival and The Usos in a three-way to take the tag titles. Quite the reversal of fortune for the Good Brothers in recent months.
Overall, this was another very enjoyable week of Raw. It still has its issues and not everything was perfect, but it felt more vibrant and for less stagnant than it has in previous months and everything felt a bit more pressing which is something this show sorely missed for some time since Wrestlemania.
Surely everyone loves a “whodunit”, right? Well that seems to be the WWE’s stance right now after Roman Reigns was the victim of a mysterious attack on this week’s Smackdown. On paper the idea is a pretty solid as a way to create a fresh programme for Reigns and potentially add some intrigue over who his assailant might be. However, the execution was poor, with Reigns unharmed and the production of the “accident” looking a bit off. They have both my attention, and the benefit of the doubt but they will need to do something big with this angle next week if it’s going to succeed and the mystery attacker needs to not disappoint. If it’s Baron Corbin or someone overexposed this will be a huge disappointment. It has been speculated it could be Buddy Murphy as he wears a similar shirt to a shadowy figure seen in the background after the attack, but that could just as easily be a production snafu. I guess we will see next week.
The rest of the show moved along at a steady pace with lots of moving pieces put into place for Summerslam. Kevin Owens opened the show to a pretty decent reaction cutting a strong promo on Shane McMahon, who was not present, which led to an attack from and a match with Drew McIntyre. Both men put in a major shift here and this was a fantastic back-and-forth contest, maybe the best Owens has had since returning in February. McIntyre looked very strong in defeat and this sets Owens up nicely for his bout with Shane at Summerslam. Kofi Kingston vs AJ Styles was a stellar main event with a beautiful finish. The Kings Court segment was an effective way to set up Charlotte vs Trish Stratus for Summerslam. Ember Moon and Bayley vs Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross was a fairly average TV match, but the post-match was the real story with Bayley getting a measure of revenge over her Summerslam challenger for last week’s attack. Ali and Shinsuke Nakamura fought a fine contest, and Ali getting the upset win sets up a potential belter of a title match between the two (although sadly I expect it’ll end up on the Summerslam pre-show). Aleister Black is back in that dark room again, and Sami Zayn isn’t happy about it, so I guess we’re getting that pairing at Summerslam. Finally, Finn Balor and Dolph Ziggler had a so-so match which Ziggler won after Bray Wyatt played some more mind games with Balor, in what is bubbling along as a very intriguing feud between the two.
This was a more than serviceable episode of Smackdown. The main event was tremendous, as was the opener while everything else seemed to serve a purpose and had direction. There was no real filler on this show, and despite a slightly ropey angle with Roman Reigns there are still a plethora of hooks to make viewers want to return next week.
WWE Network update
Users of the WWE Network may have noticed a few changes this week, as the company unveiled the new, redesigned app. Unfortunately, reactions have been somewhat mixed and the new layouts are not a universal hit. The collections section is missing, some of the content is in the wrong section, and much loved features like “Missing Gems” are no longer easily accessible among a litany of issues since the migration. In addition, many of the accessibility capable featured have been removed, meaning this is now far harder to use for visually impaired users. All in all, it’s not been a good week for the platform. For those who remember the chaos of the first day of the launch in 2014 (albeit through a VPN here in the UK) you’ll know this is nowhere near as bad as things could be and there are plenty of exciting new additions to the network, including the ability to watch content in 1080p, which will be great for streaming new and live content. Hopefully things settle down in the coming days as the company deal with the bugs and the missing content and get things back to their best.
Big Show gets his own Netflix show
After a period of inactivity as he had hip surgery, this week “Big Show” Paul Wight was featured in documentary on the WWE Network which focused on his recovery from a fairly severe sounding procedure and getting back into tip-top shape and being cleared by WWE. However, at the end of the documentary rather than mentioning Big Show returning to the ring there was a caption explaining that he had gone to Los Angeles to pursue acting opportunities. It seemed odd on first look that this was included or that the company would put out a documentary about a seemingly retired star getting himself cleared to return to the ring if he had no intention to do so. However, on Wednesday it became a bit clearer as news broke that Wight would be starring in a new sitcom based on his WWE character for Netflix. Show will play a version of himself who is retired and ends up living in a house full of girls, and presumably hilarious misunderstandings and offbeat shenanigans will ensue. It’s great news for Show, and presumably a further sign of the growing partnership between WWE and Netflix following on from their partnering on a WWE-set kids film that is set to star WWE Champion Kofi Kingston among others. Getting wrestlers and wrestling right in a non-wrestling entertainment format is very difficult, so I certainly hope they have a talented team of writers for the imaginatively titled “Big Show show”
AEW TV debut taking shape
With the announcement that AEW would be taping their first episode of TV (I say taping, but it will be a live show, but old habits die hard) on October 2nd I was left wondering whether we could get any match announcements in advance to help with ticket sales or if they were banking on the name value alone being enough to sell out their first show, but we have indeed had two very interesting match announcements. First up is Cody Rhodes vs Sammy Guevara. Although I imagine the focus will be more on Rhodes, this should provide a nice shine for Guevara who has impressed in his AEW appearances thus far despite having minimal focus on the undercard and he is clearly a very talented performer. I like that Cody hasn’t just been working with his family and friends (although he has done some of that), but has also chosen to work with young up-and-coming guys like Guevara and previously Darby Allin.
The second announced match is The Elite (Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks) vs Chris Jericho and two mystery partners. With AEW looking to make a splash on their first televised show, having intrigue over who Jericho will choose, and him hinting at it being two wrestlers from outside the company (or at least who have yet to debut) is a great way to build interest for this show and excitement ahead of time. Wrestling fans love to speculate, and this will be no different.
It’s hard to know how well AEW will do with this first show on TNT, but if these match announcements are anything to go by, they certainly seem to be planning to start brightly, and potentially with a bang.
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, 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.
Photos: WWE.COM & @AEWRESTLING