It's Thursday and that can mean only one thing (OK technically it has many meanings, but if you're reading this you know what I mean), it's time for your weekly dose of Slammer Jabber, chock-full of all the latest news, biggest stories, and general happenings in the wrestling world over the past seven days. It's been another relatively quiet week, but there has still been plenty happening. As is so often the case we kick off with the big talking points from this week's Raw.
After two pretty high-quality shows in the last two weeks we had a slightly more sedate show this week. I suspect this is just a case of getting all the pieces in place for the big push prior to Summerslam, and the next couple of weeks will likely have a much bigger, impactful feel to proceedings. There were a few highlights from this week's show, most chiefly surrounding the US title. There seemed to be a renewed focus on the belt with Roman Reigns and Rusev featuring in a prominent spot. The wedding stuff was proper goofy, over-the-top pro wrestling and I loved it. As soon as there's a cake in any wrestling segment you know someone is ending up with a face full of icing, and that is exactly what we got. It was good old fashioned fun, which makes a nice change from the serious stuff with Rusev and Reigns in a more general sense. There was also the kerfuffle surrounding the US title with Cesaro and Sheamus. Cesaro looks to be doing the disgruntled, underused employee role here which I like the sound of. He certainly needs something to give him some more personality becuase the tearaway suit, and psuedo-Bond thing does nothing for me. As for Sheamus, well the less said about him the better at this stage, he seems so stale. I suspect we might be getting a four-way for the US title now at Summerslam, which allows them to protect both Rusev and Reigns which makes sense I suppose. Either way, in lieu of an actual world title (for now) it's good to see the secondary singles title in the frame for the main event segment.
Another highlight for me was the continuation of the Enzo & Big Cass vs Chris Jericho & Kevin Owens programme. Fristly, whoever came up with JeriKO needs a raise, lovely work in terms of a team name. Secondly I am all in favour of this feud. Jericho and Owens have a very interesting dynamic, so this could lead to some TV gold over the next few months and handily moves Owens away from his constant rivalry with Sami Zayn, while giving Jericho someone to play off. Enzo and Cass also get a big rub from being in a programme with them, and the promos so far have been excellent.
The final major talking point from Raw for me concerns the Finn Balor vs Seth Rollins feud for Summerslam. It was a great contrast here, where Balor had a fantastic pre-taped promo explaining the whole demon concept, while Rollins cut a rambling and uninspiring promo on how great he is, and his plans for victory at Summerslam. I have high hopes for this match, and I'm sure both men will deliver in the ring, but the build is somewhat lacklustre at the moment. Also, I have mixed feelings on Balor wheeling out the demon gimmick so soon. I feel like there could be more mileage in saving it for down the road, but I suppose WWE want a to make Summersalm feel Wrestlemania-esque as their second biggest show of the year, so I see their reasoning. Here's hoping we get a bit more development on this next week.
I fear for Smackdown. Three weeks in a row we've had an underwhelming episode. There's nothing technically wrong with it, and its nice to see some back to basics storytelling, but I'm very concerned about the blue brand being left behind. Obviously Raw will always be the flagship, but if Smackdown isn't treated and booked like an equal, you can't hope the fans will get on board and respond in kind. There are some bright spots though; particularly in the booking of one Eva Marie. Now Eva might be maligned by the "neckbeards" and "neverbeenkisseds" who lurk in certain corners of the internet, but they are doing a great job of making her a very hate-able character. she is the ultimate chicken-shit heel, and if they keep this up week on week when Becky Lynch finally gets her in the ring the pop should be massive. Better yet when she beats one of the former NXT darlings in some significant fashion the heat will be nuclear if they stay the course with this booking. Also, it was nice to see Alexa Bliss get a good debut here, she is highly underrated and could do great things in this division.
Another highlight this week for me was American Alpha. It may have only been a squash, and it may have shown the lack of depth in the division when the other teams hit the ring, but Chad Gable and Jason Jordan are getting made to look like stars right from the off, which is great news. I for one am a big fan and I believe they could go far, so fingers WWE don't drop the ball on these guys. It's a big shame that Shelton Benjamin isn't now coming back, due to an injury as I think he could have been a great fit to take on these guys (maybe even with a returning Charlie Haas), but either way, I believe these two have a very bright future.
Slowly but surely I'm beginning to believe in Dolph Ziggler as a character. It has taken a long while, and I still think he has a terrible look but they have done a great job of rebuilding him over the past few weeks. However, the stale, safe booking of the partners who are adversaries this week between Ziggler and Dean Ambrose was something of a misstep. I'm really hoping for a heel turn from one of these two (ideally Dolph) to give the programme some spice after Summerslam, unless this is Dolph's one and only shot before he slides back into mid-card pre-show obscurity. I am also enjoying Ambrose as a top guy, and I think he is growing into the role very well, but he's not quite there yet and this show definitely missed the star power of AJ Styles and John Cena. The match itself between Ziggler/Ambrose and Erick Rowan and Bray Wyatt was pretty good, although their continued use of Wyatt as a stepping stone is frustrating. The fans so clearly want to get behind him, but he's always the nearly-man and until they give him something better to do he will always be wasted on this roster.
McGregor makes enemies
Beyond this week's television, another major story developed with UFC fighter Conor McGregor raising the ire of a number of WWE Superstars at a press conference where he made some very inflammatory comments towards the WWE roster. Up and down the roster we had twitter responses from the likes of Roman Reigns, New Day, Sasha Banks, Chris Jericho and former stars such as Ric Flair and Kurt Angle also getting involved. McGregor is a media machine and I can't imagine that this was an accident, especially as he clarified those comments in a later tweet. In my opinion this is a storm in a teacup, and it is a case of McGregor manufacturing attention and controversy and WWE superstars rising to the bait of his trolling. I have also seen some suggestions this could be a work as part of an angle with McGregor coming into WWE for an appearance. While that might sound like a great idea, the fact is McGregor would look tiny alongside most wrestlers, the UFC would be unlikely to go for it, and McGregor has a big fight to train for makes this unlikely. So I think people need to stop reading so much into this, it's just a publicity stunt at the end of the day.
No not AJ Styles, but Joey Styles, the former voice of ECW, lead commentator on Raw, and until recently the head of WWE.com. It is unknown at this time as to when, or why Styles was released, but he is said to be gone from the company. It's a shame as WWE.com has been excellent for a long while now, so if this means a a change in direction I hope it isn't for the worst. If this is some form of punishment, well you have to imagine wrestling being wrestling Styles will be back in the fold at some point. Like everyone (and I still include CM Punk in this) who the company believes is worth something, money talks and eventually there will be a time when it makes sense to come back. I always liked Styles as an announcer, especially in ECW, so hopefully he is happy and enjoying his new life outside WWE. We'll hear more on this in the future no doubt once his no-compete clause has expired.
Well that's it for me this week. I'll be back next Thursday with a round up of all the big news stories, and happenings in the world of pro wrestling, as well as the final push for NXT Takeover: Brooklyn, and Summerslam. Keep it Screenjabber in the meantime for all your news, views, reviews and more from the world of film, TV and video games. Until next time, so long folks.