Welcome grappling fans to another installment of Slammer Jabber, your weekly update on tall the happenings, news, scandals and fall-outs from all the biggest companies in the world of Pro Wrestling. This week has been a particularly big one with all kinds of shocking news and developments. As such, lets not wast any time, and get straight into last weekend's action.
NXT Takeover Brooklyn 2
After last year’s success you had to think that NXT would go all out as a brand to make this year’s Takeover spectacular from Brooklyn an even bigger success than the 2015 edition, and I would say for the most part they achieved that aim. From the fast-paced opening bout between Austin Aries and No Way Jose, to the blisteringly brutal main event between Shinsuke Nakamura and Samoa Joe for the NXT Championship this was an epic show, maybe even the best card of the year thus far. For me there were highlights aplenty, including Bobby Roode making his televised debut with a phenomenal entrance (perhaps only rivaled by the violin based intro for Nakamura), and a great performance to match against the underrated Andrade Cien Almas; we had Bayley taking on Asuka in one of the best Women’s matches you’ll likely see on US soil this year, and the debut of one Ember Moon. Moon looked great, and her finisher is something to behold. However, for me the best match of the night was Tomasso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano (or DIY as they seem to be going by, something that made me chuckle given that was the name of hardware shop when I was growing up) vs The Revival. I’ve had mixed feelings about Gargano and Ciampa, having seen their very indie-heavy style and arguably a lack of psychology in the past. However, following on from their absolute corker in the Cruiserweight Classic, they looked phenomenal here. It probably didn’t hurt they were facing arguably the best tag team in wrestling today, The Revival. Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder are a proper throwback team, using old-school heel techniques, and methodical ruthlessness. I also like that they don’t look like bodybuilders, they have a bit of the Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard about them which only adds to the appeal. This match was phenomenal and on a night of phenomenal matches that it stands out is high praise indeed.
While NXT was probably the card of the weekend, as we all knew it would be, Summerslam was a show with plenty of exciting happenings, and some good matches, as well as a couple of unexpected results. The main event wasn’t particularly surprising, it was what expected although the finish was odd to say the least. I know I advocated a more sports-like build in previous weeks but to have the match end in a TKO and Randy Orton as a bloody mess was very surprising. I also hope the post-match with Brock Lesnar F5-ing Shane McMahon was just to demonstrate him being out of control, rather than a sign of a future programme. AJ Styles vs John Cena was excellent as expected, and again the post-match hinted as some interesting character development from Cena. Dean Ambrose vs Dolph Ziggler was fairly average and played out as expected, while I actually thought Seth Rollins vs Finn Balor was a little underwhelming. Not a terrible match, but certainly not the classic I had hoped for, perhaps due to the lack of chemistry between the two. However, it was nice to see Balor pick up the win, and become the first WWE Universal Champion, even if it was a brief reign (more on that shortly). Charlotte vs Sasha Banks was also a fun match, but it lacked some of the finesse and drama of previous outings between these two, possibly due to Banks’ back injury, which is apparently why she did not retain the title. These were the big talking points for me, but on a 4 hour card it’s hard to keep track of everything you’ve seen. It was a good show, but had nothing on the NXT show the prior night, and a crowd that at times perhaps overly focused on amusing themselves over the in-ring product did not help that.
Twenty four hours removed from Summerslam and we found out that in the worst possible news, Finn Balor would have to vacate his newly won Universal Championship due to a shoulder injury suffered in the match with Rollins at Summerslam, and we would have a series of matches to determine the competitors in a fatal four way for the vacant belt the following week. It’s horrible news for Finn, but it can’t be helped and you have to feel for the guy. Hopefully, as he is said to be out for around six months we will get him as a surprise entry/winner in the Royal Rumble if he’s ready and he can head to Wrestlemania, or at least he’ll be around to get involved in a programme for the belt he never technically lost at the biggest show of next year. In terms of the guys who will contest the match for the vacant title, Kevin Owens, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, and Big Cass, I’m not sure who you book to take the belt. Reigns will only be back getting booed, unless they turn him heel, Rollins is stale in that role and desperately needs a face turn (so perhaps some sort of double turn?), Owens would be a good choice but I’m not sure where that leaves his run as part of JeriKO, and Cass is nowhere near ready, despite how over he and Enzo Amore are. As such I’m not sure where they go with this. I'm hoping we get a swerve and some fresh blood is injected, maybe a Samoa Joe (possible), or a Goldberg (less likely), or someone of that ilk who can come in and make an instant impact.
In other news from Raw, we had The Dudleys retiring. It’s strange as it seemed like we were gearing up for a split between the two and maybe even a singles run for Bubba Ray Dudley, but it appears they have requested their releases and this was, for now at least, a legitimate writing off for the two. Like true pros they put the heat on the team sticking around in the form of Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson on the way out, but I hope isn’t the last we see of them, as I have genuinely enjoyed their most recent run.
Finally, we got the debut of Bayley. Easily one of the most over stars in NXT history it was good to see her finally make it up to the main roster, and shoved straight into the mix with Charlotte. Her call up is long overdue and I genuinely believe she could be the female equivalent of John Cena, in terms of both success and popularity, if handled correctly.
This week’s Smackdown was actually quite eventful. We got the introduction of two new titles, a Smackdown Women’s belt, and a set of Smackdown Tag titles. I’m glad we are getting this so the teams actually have something to strive for. I fully expect American Alpha to be strong favourites in the tournament for the tag belts, but ultimately to come unstuck against a newly heel team (The Usos maybe?) and then chase them for a few months for the straps. It certainly gives the Smackdown roster a bit of a lift, some direction, and ultimately a bit more context. With the return of Nikki Bella there is also a further participant there in a thriving women’s division on Smackdown, so I fully expect there to be big plans in place for the ladies moving forward. The six-pack challenge might be a great idea, but that’s a lot of bodies to coordinate, I hope we are getting a well-paced, carefully booked affair or that could be a bit of a car crash. Here’s hoping for a Becky Lynch title win, given her hard graft over the past couple of years, although I assume we are eventually getting an Eva Marie title reign (more on her in a bit).
I’m also enthused to see AJ Styles getting a run against Dean Ambrose. Styles has very much lived up to his nickname of ‘Phenomenal’ this year, so I truly hope we are getting a run on top from AJ, especially after beating John Cena clean as a whistle at Summerslam. Ambrose is proving to be a fine main eventer, but I’d love to see AJ as champion and the face of Smackdown.
Finally, it’s nice to see Bray Wyatt given a feud of actual merit, and his face-off with Randy Orton should be very interesting. Bray has been somewhat wasted over the past few months, and I’m hoping that this will be his last feud as a heel. Orton makes for a terrible babyface so I’m hoping for a double turn somewhere down the line. Equally, the in-ring and the build for this match should be fun.
A good show this week, with Smackdown quietly building a consistent set of interesting and intriguing storylines. However, it also has a great post-show, Talking Smack, with Daniel Bryan in recent weeks being particularly relaxed and far less scripted which has made for a nice change of pace. However, his heated altercation with The Miz this week (albeit worked-shoot in nature) was excellent. The Miz came off like a huge deal, full of fire and anger with the perception of his work, and they are setting up for a very interesting dynamic between the two which I am very interested to see moving forward. Advantage blue brand.
Eva Marie Suspended
Late last week, we got the news that Eva Marie had been suspended for 30 days for a violation of the wellness policy. As usual details are fairly scarce, but what we do know is that she will be off TV and live events for a few weeks for this infraction. However, that hasn’t stopped WWE from using this to forward her storyline, far from it. At Summerslam we got her announcer claiming that she was “Anxious, and Stressed” due to “hostile WWE fans” and would be taking a vacation to recover in the British Isles. This is genius in my mind, and shows the company may have buster her for a violation, but she is certainly still very much in their plans moving forward. Her storyline over the past few weeks has been excellent, so I’m looking forward to their continued use of her in this fashion to eventually build to her big in-ring debut.
Chris Jericho/Brock Lesnar altercation
In post-Summerslam news, it appears there was something of a scuffle backstage after the finish to the Lesnar vs Orton match, with Chris Jericho and Lesnar having to be held apart. The full details, as is so frequently the case, are not available, but there have been reports that Jericho was concerned for Orton’s well-being thinking that Lesnar had gone into business for himself. High ranking executives including Vince McMahon and Triple H were said to be there, and attempted to diffuse the situation. To me this sounds like a little bit of miscommunication, and Jericho overstepping his place and getting involved in his capacity of veteran/locker room leader. Equally, I imagine tensions are pretty high in the locker room with the recent Conor McGregor spat, and the fact that Lesnar is a part-timer who reportedly is not subject to the wellness policy, plus Dean Ambrose’s recent comments about lesnar being lazy in the build to their Mania match this year, and it’s easy to see there may well be some friction there. I suspect there’s very little to this and it was something of nothing, but it will be interesting to see if there is any fallout from this in the coming weeks. I wouldn’t even be surprised if this was a work, given the weird worked shoot style that is creeping back in to WWE programming at the moment. Time will tell, I guess.
Well that's it for me for this week. While you're here, why not check out all the best in news, reviews, opinions, and more on all the biggest and best new Movies, Games, DVDs and Blu-rays on Screenjabber. Until next week, this is TM signing off from this week's Slammer Jabber.