Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at the biggest stories in professional wrestling from the past seven days. It's been a busy week with NXT Takeover: Brooklyn, Summerslam, and a big Raw and Smackdown. WWE's four straight nights at the Barclays centre were certainly eventful, so let's get started with a look at possibly the highlight of the weekend from NXT.
The NXT Brooklyn show each year feels a bit like the developmental brand’s equivalent of Wrestlemania, and rarely disappoints. The 2018 edition was no exception. From the top down this show was superb and deserves the rave reviews it has received. The main event between Tomasso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano was a heated affair in spite of the last minute injury to Aleister Black that made it a one-on-one encounter. While this is the third straight major show with the two facing off, it didn’t diminish the overall presentation of this as an old school blood feud. That said, the finish with Gargano injuring himself and not being able to make the count, and Ciampa fluking the win to an extent leaves this open for a further bout between the two in the future. It remains to be seen how serious Gargano’s knee injury is, but being out of action for a few months might be a blessing in disguise if it allows Ciampa to go on a tear only to have Gargano eventually return and dethrone him. A very worthy main event, even if I wasn’t super keen on the finish.
The rest of Takeover was superb. Adam Cole vs Ricochet was easily the match of the night, with some great spots including a superkick-moonsault counter that has to be seen to be believed. Kyle O’Reilly and Roderick Strong vs Moustache Mountain was excellent, and a perfect example of how to implement traditional tag team psychology in a modern setting. Shayna Baszler vs Kairi Sane was excellent, and a worthy successor to their Mae Young Classic final last year. I’m sad to see Baszler drop the belt as she has been excellent as the bully heel champion, but I could see her regaining it at Evolution given that she’s on the same show as her friend Ronda Rousey. Finally, EC3 and Velveteen Dream had a fine mid-card bout that if nothing else showcased Dream excellently. A fantastic show from top to bottom, as you would expect from NXT.
Going into Summerslam I had fears that WWE had over-stacked the card, and we were looking at marathon show, plus a lengthy pre-show, but I was pleasantly surprised by the length and booking of the show. The pre-show was instantly forgettable (and arguably utterly missable) but the main show was pretty good overall. On the top of the card, we had a short, hard-hitting affair between Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns with Braun Strowman at ringside, ready to cash in after the match. Having Braun taken out during the bout and using him as something of a bait and switch tactic (after he squashed Kevin Owens earlier in the night) was cynical, but effective and mitigated some of the negative reaction to the main event, and even if you don’t like the way they went about it, you have to appreciate the effectiveness of the tactic. In contrast to the Universal title match, the WWE Title bout between AJ Styles and Samoa Joe was superb, not only in-ring but in storytelling terms too. I loved the tease of the Musclebuster from Joe, but not going through with it, as well as the use of the rarely seen Styles Clash. While the match ended in a DQ, the post-match beatdown as well as the involvement of Styles’ family was logical and well executed and makes me want to see them go at it again, which is mission accomplished from my perspective.
For the women’s division, Summerslam was a big night. Ronda Rousey’s dominant display may have been marred by some odd choices of make-up and some cringe-worthy trash talking towards Alexa Bliss, but the booking of Ronda does the job in this circumstance. Charlotte vs Becky Lynch vs Carmella was an enjoyable three-way with some nice spots (although Charlotte’s less than effective looking sky twister press was not a high point). However, bigger than the match was Lynch’s heel turn after the match, which was effective, even if the assembled smarky crowd in the Barclays Centre couldn’t get on board with it.
On the undercard, most matches delivered. Daniel Bryan vs The Miz wasn’t quite the blood feud encounter that perhaps either had made it seem would occur, but the framing of Miz trying to prove to be a better technician as well as his eventual win with the help of a foreign object allows the feud to continue in a logical fashion. Seth Rollins vs Dolph Ziggler was a cracking way to open the show and felt like a nice feud ender for the two. Finn Balor vs Baron Corbin was a well-presented squash and made the demon gimmick seem like a huge deal. Shinsuke Nakamura vs Jeff Hardy was a decent bout although I must say I winced seeing Jeff Hardy take that big bump on the apron. Finally, The New Day and The Bludgeon Brothers had a serviceable tag bout until the finish, which felt a little cheap if I’m honest.
Overall, this was a very decent show. Everyone put a shift in, and this made for an entertaining show. You can question the booking strategy of plenty of what took place at Summerslam, but you certainly can’t fault the vast majority of the matches on this show.
Three hours makes a for a very long show, but when those three hours are mostly full of filler matches it’s a hard watch. That said, this week’s Raw did have a brilliant final segment that left plenty of unanswered questions. The opening with Roman Reigns and Finn Balor was well positioned for setting up the main event, and the match itself, later on, was superb. Reigns and Balor have had a few outings in the past couple of years and I think it’s a really underrated pairing. Strowman’s cash-in attempt was pretty heel-ish, but no-one could have expected The Shield reforming suddenly and taking out Strowman. It was fantastically executed. Where we go from here is intriguing. Is Strowman a heel? Are The Shield the heels? Does Strowman recruit someone to help him combat the numbers advantage of the “hounds of justice”? I for one, cannot wait to see where this goes. Although I do wish WWE had chosen this finish 24 hours earlier to send the fans home happy rather than the bait and switch they went for. But you can’t have everything.
The Ronda Rousey segment was pretty notable, and a marked improvement on how she was portrayed the previous night. I liked that this redressed the balance with Stephanie McMahon’s character a bit, given she has been presented as a babyface savour of the women’s division, but a heel in every other context. Rousey looked like a top babyface again here and despite having the whole division out around her you definitely got the sense she is now the centrepiece Raw on the women’s side of thing. The armbar on Stephanie was strong and made Rousey look like an absolute badass, while Stephanie sold brilliantly. That said, I really hope this isn’t leading to Rousey vs Stephanie at Evolution. No-one needs that.
The rest of the show was so-so. Triple H cut an excellent promo on his match with The Undertaker with a less than subtle tease of his potential retirement in the not too distant future. Bobby Lashley vs Constable Corbin (who later in the night became the interim GM of Raw as Kurt Angle has been suspended following Ronda Rousey’s attack) was pretty abysmal. This is just a combination I can’t get along with, given the obvious lack of chemistry. The Riott Squad vs Sasha Banks, Bayley and Ember Moon felt like another instalment of a never-ending programme, as did The Authors of Pain vs Titus O’Neill. The two singles matches between The B Team and The Revival were both fine TV matches and helped move that programme along, and Elias vs Curt Hawkins happened. Nothing more to add there. Finally, Dean Ambrose returned and looked great in a singles win over Dolph Ziggler, showing a new more powerful style that matched his cracking new look.
This episode of Raw was not great overall, but it did have a couple of very bright spots including a very exciting main event, and a superb closing angle that has everyone guessing. Now if they can get their mid-card ducks in a row this could be a very good television product. That is, however, a very big “if”.
With the fallout from Summerslam, the blue brand had lots to deal with on this week’s show. The main event featuring The New Day vs The Bludgeon Brothers in a No DQ match more than made up for the screwy finish between the two teams on Sunday. The match was fantastic with some lovely exchanges between the two teams. I did not expect a title change, I have to admit, but with the news coming out the Rowan has a torn bicep, it is understandable. Hopefully, Luke Harper gets a nice singles push while Rowan is injured because he more than deserves it.
The opening segment with The Miz and Daniel Bryan was well produced and helped move this feud forward. Bryan showed lots of fire, and Miz was great basking in the glow of his victory. The involvement of Brie Bella and Maryse was fine, although I’m not sure the mixed tag match that was made for Hell in a Cell is exactly where I had hoped this feud would go. That said let's see how it unfolds in the next few weeks.
The rest of the show had lots to enjoy. Becky Lynch’s explanation of her heel turn was a truly great promo and showed how much range she has as a performer. Unfortunately, the assembled crowd again did not react as hoped, but that should settle as the feud develops. The pull-apart with Charlotte was very good, although seeing Asuka just making up the numbers was pretty depressing given where she was at the start of the year. Rusev and Lana vs Andrade “Cien” Almas and Zelina Vega was an improvement on their efforts on the Summerslam pre-show, Peyton Royce vs Naomi was a decent showcase for Royce and her partner in crime, Billie Kay. Randy Orton vs Jeff Hardy was a violent, wild brawl which I very much enjoyed. Presumably, we are getting the two having a grudge match within the confines of the Hell in a Cell. Finally, AJ Styles cut a nice promo following on from his match with Samoa Joe at Summerslam, only for Joe to attack and berate him further. This feud is really thing up and I cannot wait to see the next instalment. Joe is such a great heel, and he is truly flourishing.
A very decent episode of Smackdown this week, with lots of storyline development and plenty of enjoyable in-ring action especially from the main event. Another easy watch, and very little filler.
Evolution/Australian Supershow match announcements
While WWE is, of course, looking to September’s Hell in a Cell show, there were some major match announcements for some big shows in the coming months. First, in a clash of the generations, Trish Stratus was announced to return for Evolution, to face Alexa Bliss. This is a huge match and one that makes a lot of sense, but I’m not sure WWE didn’t miss a trick by not having a storyline reason or this match to give it some authentic heat. WWE also announced some major matches for their big Australian stadium show in October, with The Undertaker vs Triple H (as per the promo on Monday), Daniel Bryan vs The Miz with a WWE Title shot on the line, as well as John Cena and Bobby Lashley vs Elias and Kevin Owens which feels like a waste of Cena and Owens. In addition, The Shield will be in action, as will Ronda Rousey. This show should be stacked, and I imagine it’ll be similar to The Greatest Royal Rumble in how it’s treated and promoted by WWE.
Well, that is it from me for this week. I will be back at the same time next week with all the news from Raw and Smackdown, as well as touching on any major stories that might break in the next week. In the meantime, 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.