Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at all things professional wrestling from the past seven days. It's been a very busy week indeed, with Summerslam, two huge TV shows, a big signing for NXT, and some good news for Ric Flair. Let's kick things off with a look at the spectacular NXT: Takeover special from Saturday night.
NXT Takeover: Brooklyn III
There have been some arguments this year that perhaps NXT had peaked, and was somewhat on the decline. Having lost Finn Balor, Shinsuke Nakamura, Samoa Joe, Bayley and various others in the past year it seemed that the company was lacking a bit of star power outside of NXT Champion Bobby Roode. However, this show from the weekend was excellent, and probably one of the best NXT shows since last summer. The main event between Bobby Roode vs Drew McIntyre for the NXT Title was a great match, and with Roode losing the belt there's not much left for him in NXT barring a bout with Roderick Strong to finish off that programme. McIntyre’s win felt fresh, and it's the best he's looked in some time for my money. The post-match angle with Bobby Fish and Kyle O'Reilly distracting McIntyre so a debuting Adam Cole (BAY BAY!) could come in an attack McIntyre was a great debut for Cole who looked really good, and it was well received by the audience in attendance. I'm a little sceptical about Fish, O'Reilly and Cole as a unit, but looking forward to seeing if the can prove me wrong.
Asuka vs Ember Moon was probably match of the night. The bout was hard-hitting, well put together, and had one of the best near-falls I've ever seen when Ember hit her finisher. It had been built up for so long as being a devastating match-ender that seeing Asuka kick out was massively unexpected. Both women put in a great shift here, and it really showed. Asuka even manged to finish the match with a broken collarbone, which is pretty incredible. The Authors of Pain vs Sanity was a nice chaotic brawl of a match, and hid the limitations of AOP as well as making Sanity look great. The post-match with O'Reilly and Fish was also very interesting and sets up a nice possible programme to introduce them as a tag team (to those who never saw them as REDragon in ROH). Aleister Black vs Hideo Itami was a good hard-hitting bout, with Itami shining as a heel and Black looking every inch the megastar here. The Black Mass finisher is super over, and looks amazing too. Finally, Johnny Gargano and Andrade "Cien" Almas had a fine opener, with a good fast pace and a clever finish which kept Almas' momentum going while also keeping the eventual feud between Gargano and Tomaso Ciampa (once Ciampa is healthy) in the forefront of the audience's mind. Very well done, well executed, and a great show overall.
Going into Summerslam, I have to admit I was more than a little concerned about the sheer length of the show. After Wrestlemania going nearly seven hours, I feared Summerslam would be the same this year, but thankfully I was mistaken. The majority of the show flew by, and flowed really well. Obviously the biggest highlight was the chaotic, crazy and hugely entertaining main event. Brock Lesnar, Samoa Joe, Roman Reigns, and Braun Strowman all worked their behinds off in this match and it really did live up the hype. Lesnar being taken out on a stretcher was a nice touch, and gave him a bit more humanity where he is so often presented as invulnerable, and then his eventual return and victory made him look like the beast he is. Strowman looked like an absolute boss, and easily one of the best-rounded acts in WWE currently. I could even see Strowman being WWE's next big babyface, such is the potential for him given his size, his look, and his acumen for WWE's style of wrestling. Roman Reigns was his usual excellent self, and Samoa Joe continued to look like a killer. I liked that Reigns took the pin too, given it doesn't hurt him at all, and virtually writes off the idea of him taking on Lesnar in the near future, which is a feud best saved for down the line. Reigns and Joe can now spin off into a singles programme, while Braun and Lesnar do their thing, which should be excellent. A cracking main event.
The other big matches on this show were a mixed bag of sorts. Shinsuke Nakamura vs Jinder Mahal was great until the bell rang, especially with Nakamura's entrance getting a great reaction. Mahal is so limited in the ring, and the lack of creativity with the finish (it's basically move for move the same as how he beat Randy Orton twice on PPV) was irritating. I feel like Nakamura deserves better than this, but hopefully the end game is a Nakamura title win down the road, especially now John Cena has popped over to Raw for a bit (more on that later). Speaking of Cena, his match with Baron Corbin to open the main card was a fine, if unspectacular affair. Corbin still looks way off the pace and being in there with Cena only further exposes that he’s not ready. There’s still a huge amount of untapped potential there, and I believe Corbin will be a top guy eventually, but maybe not just yet. AJ Styles vs Kevin Owens was very good and thankfully it felt like Shane McMahon actually added something to the match rather than detracted form it, Finn Balor vs Bray Wyatt was fine for what it was, although it was mostly just a vehicle for Balor to show off his special occasion entrance. Randy Orton vs Rusev was a nice little brawl before the bell followed by one of the sickest RKOs I've ever seen, so that was well received, given it saved us all watching Orton show off his vast array of chinlocks. Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins vs Sheamus and Cesaro was probably my second favourite match of the night, and it goes to show how great Ambrose and Rollins are together, and how much this programme has reinvigorated both. Also, extra points to Cesaro for ripping up that beach ball, and too right too!
The two women's matches were both very enjoyable. Sasha Banks getting the win over Alexa Bliss felt predictable, but it was definitely the right call and the match was very good, while Natalya vs Naomi was a fun match with an unexpected winner, and an even more unexpected lack of a cash-in by Carmella. Both matches stood out as something worth watching and just goes to show how far the division has come in recent years.
Big Cass vs Big Show was quite the snore fest, and I think the less said about it the better. It certainly did achieve its aim of making Cass look strong, even if things got much worse for Cass the following night on Raw. Enzo Amore seems really lost without Cass, so hopefully at some stage they put them back together as splitting them up seems to have been a mistake (providing Enzo doesn’t get fired in the near future, which given the rumours about his backstage heat, I wouldn’t be super surprised to see happen). The other matches on this show were relegated to the pre-show which is a shame, as The Usos vs The New Day was the third best thing on this show, and Neville vs Akira Tozawa for the Cruiserweight title was also a really enjoyable contest, even if the booking was a little nonsensical with Neville regaining the belt so quickly. Finally we had The Hardys and Jason Jordan taking on The Miz-tourage in front of what seemed like an empty arena (apparently there was a security issue which meant there was a delay on getting the crowd into the building) which was fine for pre-show match but not worth going out of your way to see.
This was a mixed bag of a show, but nothing was truly awful and the things that were good were very good. An enjoyable, if not quite top-notch show.
Coming off that big Summerslam main event, there is only once place to start with this week's Raw, and that was the huge segment with Brock Lesnar and Braun Strowman that opened this week's show. Paul Heyman's promo was very good and really sold the war that Lesnar had got through, coming out victorious against the odds the previous night. Strowman coming out and absolutely dominating Lesnar with a couple of cracking powerslams made him seem like a bigger threat than ever, and given that it was announced later that Strowman vs Lesnar for the Universal title is to be the main event of No Mercy next month. I personally can’t wait, two beasts knocking the stuffing out of each other should be amazing, let's hope they continue building it as well as they have started out here.what
The arrival of John Cena on Raw, although intended as a surprise, was not wholly unexpected. As it stands I feel he's done about as much as there is for him to do on Smackdown, and the tease of a match between him and Roman Reigns down the line (I would hope Wrestlemania) was well done here. Cena is not sticking around with his new movie beginning filming in a few weeks, so it's nice to see the tease of a match with Reigns even if it's not the immediate programme for either man. Samoa Joe's involvement all but confirms that Joe vs Reigns is up next, which based on their previous matches should be excellent. The Miz getting involved reeked of giving him something to do, while providing someone to take the fall in the main event, but the actual match as very enjoyable. No-one works the crowd in the main event like Cena, and this was a very enjoyable TV main event, even if it lacked the bite of being something more eventful for the night after a major PPV.
The rest of this show was fairly eventful. Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins had a cracking match with The Hardys which I can’t recommend highly enough, it is well worth seeking out even if you don’t normally watch Raw. It certainly looks like Sheamus and Cesaro are likely to get a rematch with Rollins and Ambrose, but this was a good first title defence. I'm not sure where The Hardys go in the current situation, but I do wonder if they are on the backburner until the whole "Broken" situation is resolved one way or another.
Poor old Big Cass. His Brooklyn street fight with Enzo here looked well placed to be the blow-off for the feud between the two, presumably with Cass moving on to bigger things, but with Cass suffering a real-life knee injury that looked really nasty, you have to imagine he will be out of action for the foreseeable. As for Enzo, who know where he goes from here, hopefully a heel turn if nothing else, given he's being booked like a bad guy anyway. I'm not sure they should ever have split the two of them up, I'm really not.
Elsewhere on the card, Sasha Banks and Alexa Bliss had a fine confrontation to build to a rematch next week, Finn Balor beat Jason Jordan in a forgettable match that went way too long, Nia Jax squashed Emma in a nothing match, and the cruiserweights had a fine if not especially memorable 8-man tag match (including the often-forgotten Gran Metalik). Finally "The Drifter" Elias Samson, or Elias as he's mostly known now cut a cracking song/promo that riled the crowd and then beat R-Truth in a nothing match to continue building momentum for whatever his next feud is, although I'm not sure he won't be stuck with R Truth for now.
A decent show, not a standout one, and it certainly could have done with couple more big angles or segments, but still less of a slog to get through than previous shows.
While there was plenty of main event developments on this episode of Smackdown, it was the debuts that were most noteworthy for me. The first was, hmm what's the word? Hmm. Oh yes, that's it, it was...GLORIOUS. Yes, Bobby Roode himself has finally made his WWE main roster debut squashing Aiden English. Roode has, as you may know, been one of my favourite parts of NXT in the past year, so I'm delighted to see him on the main roster. It looks like (initially at least) he is a babyface, but that might be more down to the Brooklyn crowd than any real booking decision. Still he looked great, and it's fantastic to see him on the main roster. The second debut was a returning face from Smackdown's past, in the form of Shelton Benjamin. It's a really interesting dynamic having Benjamin tag up with Chad Gable, and although I've enjoyed Gable in singles action in the past few weeks, it'll make interesting viewing to see how they mesh as a team, even if there's likely a bit of the reluctant tag partner story they originally did with Gable and Jordan in there. Benjamin should be great in this role, and he's a very welcome veteran addition to the roster for the blue brand.
The main event of the show was really fun, and I enjoyed the idea of Owens trying to find a referee who would favour him as part of the show long storyline, and it put Baron Corbin in a nice role coming out of a bad few weeks for the 'Lone Wolf'. The tease of Sami Zayn forgiving Owens was a nice breadcrumb for something potentially in the future, although that would either require a Zayn heel turn, or an Owens face turn, neither of which looks imminent. On the other hand, Zayn is doing so little currently and is such an afterthought that perhaps a heel run wouldn’t be a terrible plan, even if it feels like a weird fit. Surely, things couldn’t be much worse for him as a heel. Breezango were also great here again in their interaction with Owens. The match was probably Owens' best outing with Styles to date and a very enjoyable, if not slightly chaotic main event. This also provides a nice platform to spin Owens off into the programme with Shane McMahon over the coming months, and presumably AJ Styles and Baron Corbin. It probably makes sense, as Corbin hasn’t got much going on, and Styles should be able to get some decent matches out of him. A fun main event.
Poor Shinsuke Nakamura. One of the most interesting factors of Nakamura's run in WWE was always going to be how he was booked on the main roster, and this feud with Jinder Mahal is probably not what any of us had in mind. After the screwy finish, their feud continued here with Nakamura beating The Singh Brothers in a handicap match with relative ease and hitting the Kinshasa on Mahal for some measure of revenge. Presumably this feud is going to continue for a while, with Nakamura hopefully getting the win in a one-on-one environment. They really need to be careful, having just about rehabbed Nakamura in the run up to Summerslam taking further losses to Mahal could be really damaging to him in the long term. We'll have to wait and see.
The rest of the show was very entertaining for the most part. The Natalya celebration promo, followed by Carmella interrupting and the two having to co-exist as a tag team against Naomi and Becky Lynch was interesting, and I guess in a sense turned Natalya into a tweener, if not a full blown babyface. The finish with Carmella getting her comeuppance after leaving Nattie high and dry was nice too, and certainly progressed things with positioning Carmella as an ever present threat to the title. I can actually see Carmella losing on her cash-in, just given she got the case through nefarious means and I’d even go as far as having James Ellsworth accidentally cost her the championship. Beyond the women's division, the tag title match was very good, with The Usos dragging a good showing out of The Hype Bros, although their post-match promo had me expecting The Authors of Pain to walk out at any second. Finally, Dolph Ziggler re-emerged on Smackdown after a hiatus, with what appears to be a new gimmick of sorts, claiming he will do what all the other "stars" do. Presumably this means he'll come out as normal next week and be the same dull Dolph Ziggler as always, with no hint of an actual character change. Not a fan.
Overall, this was a very eventful, entertaining show. Smackdown appears to be getting back on it's feet after a period of mixed quality shows.
Lio Rush Signs
In the culmination of one of wrestling's worst kept secrets, earlier this week WWE announced the signing of Lio Rush to NXT (well the performance centre, but it's tantamount to the same thing). Anyone who has seen Rush on the independent scene or in ROH knows he is a special talent, and I could see him being an excellent addition to the cruiserweight division. It'll certainly be interesting to see how he presented, but I suspect Rush has a bright future in WWE.
Ric Flair update
After the scary news last week that WWE Hall of Famer, and all around legend Ric Flair was hospitalised and things weren’t looking good, the updates this week have been much more positive. Although there has been plenty of conflicting information, it appears that Flair had issues with his internal organs, specifically his kidneys among other issues, and although he still has a long way to go is now apparently conscious and recovering slowly. We all breathed a collective sigh of relief at that news, and although the situation remains serious, everyone here at Screenjabber sends their best wishes for a speedy recovery for "The Nature Boy", and hopefully many healthy years of "Styling and Profiling" to come.
Dallas McCarver passes away
In sad news this week, bodybuilder Dallas McCarver, the boyfriend of WWE Superstar Dana Brooke, passed away. Details are not fully known although police have not deemed the circumstances as suspicious as of press time. Obviously our thoughts go out to Brooke at this difficult and incredibly sad time.
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 whatever other stories 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.