Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at all things professional wrestling from the past seven days. WWE has continued their build to Extreme Rules on Raw and Smackdown, while NJPW had a big international event over the past week, which included a very concerning incident. However, we'll get started this week with Monday's episode of Raw, which was not perhaps their best work.
This week’s Raw was a vast improvement over the past few weeks, there are no two ways about it. The main event of the show of Seth Rollins and Drew McIntyre was excellent and did plenty to showcase both men, and to build the feud between Rollins and Dolph Ziggler ahead of their iron man match on Sunday. Admittedly, the promos earlier in the night, especially Rollins’ barbs about sheep were pretty cringe-worthy, but overall this was a good build ahead of Extreme Rules on Sunday.
One match that had an interesting build to Extreme Rules was Roman Reigns vs Bobby Lashley. The stunted, awkward back and forth was odd and poorly built, but the pull-apart brawl was well orchestrated and Reigns doing the big dive over was a nice touch, WWE does seem weirdly reliant on this spot with the whole roster to build a big match. This is the most interesting that Lashley-Reigns has seemed during this whole build, so I’m happy enough to see them go to this angle, and the match should be both physical and superb.
The rest of the show was pretty enjoyable. Baron Corbin and Elias vs Bobby Roode and Finn Balor was a fine match, although I also enjoyed Balor going for Corbin during the mass brawl earlier on. Roode getting pinned again is surely building to a heel turn soon, possibly on Balor at or after Extreme Rules. Ember Moon vs Liv Morgan was a serviceable TV match, while Mojo Rawley looked impressive and dominant against No Way Jose. Bo Dallas vs Matt Hardy was instantly forgettable beyond Dallas’ spot on impression of his real-life brother. Nia Jax and Natalya vs Mickie James and Alexa Bliss was all about building to Jax vs Bliss on Sunday, but keeping Natalya involved is a great way to ensure Ronda Rousey stays at the forefront of everyone’s minds ahead of her appearance at Extreme Rules. Finally, Kevin Owens was great fun backstage trying to avoid Braun Strowman, and the cage stipulation makes sense as a climax to their feud.
Overall, this was a very good episode of Raw with some superb build for Extreme Rules, some cracking in-ring action and plenty of entertaining segments. A definite improvement on recent weeks, and a show which did plenty to build for Sunday’s Extreme Rules show.
Another week, another fun episode of Smackdown. The main focus of this week’s show was on building to Team Hell No vs The Bludgeon Brothers at Extreme Rules. The chaotic opening segment with The Miz, Harper and Rowan, and Team Hell No did a great job of keeping the programme between The Miz and Daniel Bryan bubbling under the surface (presumably to kick off after Extreme Rules leading into Summerslam). The brawl with The Bludgeon Brothers, The New Day and Sanity built nicely to the main event, which was a really fun 10 man tag match, and definitely kept everything ticking over nicely for Sunday. The post-match with Bryan trying to do Kane’s pyro was brilliant too.
The rest of the show had plenty of good stuff, with a great build for Extreme Rules. Shinsuke Nakamura vs AJ Styles was fun while it lasted, and the ensuing tag match (sense a theme on Smackdown?) after Jeff Hardy and Rusev got involved was excellent. I know Rusev is unlikely to beat Styles on Sunday, but the booking team have done a great job of making him seem like a genuine, legitimate challenger. Hardy vs Nakamura should also be excellent and certainly feels like a bigger deal for being delayed until the PPV, making Nakamura’s dog bite something of a blessing in disguise. Asuka vs James Ellsworth was fun, and exactly what you’d expect from an inter-gender lumberjack match, although the post-match did make Carmella look strong prior to her title defence against Asuka on Sunday. Finally, Andrade “Cien” Almas had an impressive showing against Sin Cara, in what should hopefully the start of a push for Almas.
A strong go-home show for Extreme Rules overall, with plenty of impressive in-ring action and lots of storyline development both short and long-term, keeping Summerslam on the periphery of everyone’s minds alongside the focus on Sunday.
UFC 226 - Brock Lesnar
We don’t normally cover much UFC in this column, but Saturday’s UFC 226 PPV made for some very interesting viewing for fans of professional wrestling. Daniel Cormier, a noted wrestling fan, and UFC Light Heavyweight champion won the UFC Heavyweight championship in dramatic fashion beating Stipe Miocic. However, it was the post-fight that was notable as WWE Universal champion Brock Lesnar, appeared in the cage and had a confrontation with Cormier, presumably building to a future fight between the two. I would imagine given that Lesnar still has a six month USADA suspension to serve the fight will likely take place on Superbowl weekend in February. It will be very curious how WWE deals with this, so far making no mention of it on air. They will have to mention it at some stage, because presumably Lesnar is leaving for the foreseeable future, and will have to drop the belt, Given Summerslam is looming it has to be presumed that we’ll see him drop the belt there, but who knows.
NJPW G1 Special - Hiromu injury
On Saturday NJPW had a very eventful evening, putting on a major card in Long Beach, California. The show was excellent, featuring many exciting bouts. However, the biggest news to come out of the show was the very serious injury to Hiromu Takahashi in his bout with Dragon Lee. Takahashi took a nasty bump off a Phoenix-plex, landing on his head and although he went on to finish the match he apparently collapsed backstage and was rushed to a local hospital. It has emerged since that Takahashi suffered a broken neck, which is obviously incredibly serious. Luckily Takahashi was said to be sitting up and talking afterwards and has since been flown back to Japan, which should bode well for his recovery. It’s a tough break for Hiromu who has been on quite the run as of late, having won the Best of the Super Juniors tournament and subsequently beaten Will Ospreay for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight championship at Dominion in Osaka, looking great in the process. Hopefully, this doesn’t set Takahashi back too far and he can come back better than ever. There has been some discussion over the past few days as to whether wrestlers are taking too many unnecessary risks in NJPW, or whether WWE’s style is safer, but I think it’s down to the individual wrestler to decide how they want to go about conducting themselves in the ring. Would those head drop moves be missed necessarily? I doubt it, but some will confuse that with what is described as “Strong Style”, which is more of an ethos of "fighting spirit" than it is about dangerous moves. Regardless, we certainly wish Hiromu a speedy recovery.
Elsewhere on the show, Kenny Omega defended his IWGP Heavyweight championship for the first time against Cody Rhodes in a fantastic main event, and they shot a massive angle afterwards with Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa and their father Haku destroying the rest of the Bullet Club, and Cody Rhodes turning face, although he also got beaten down. This was a bit overbooked, and unlike NJPW but it certainly achieved the desired effect. Bushi and Tetsuya Naito vs Kazuchika Okada and Will Ospreay was a fun tag match, while Toru Yano and Tomohiro Ishii vs Minoru Suzuki and Zack Sabre Jr was the same tag match they’ve been having on NJPW undercards for a while. However, the biggest surprise on this show was Juice Robinson beating Jay White for the US championship, in what was a superb bout. It is well earned for Robinson but it’s an interesting time for White to lose the belt with the G1 coming up in the next few weeks, and I for one certainly expect White to have a big run in that tournament. It’s a very exciting time for NJPW, and we’ll have further updates in the coming weeks.
With Summerslam looming in August, Extreme Rules is something of a filler show to get WWE on the road to their big show in New York. There is plenty to look forward to on this show, with a pretty stacked line-up. Bobby Lashley vs Roman Reigns should be a hard-hitting, physical encounter, but with Brock Lesnar’s current situation I can only see Reigns getting the win. AJ Styles vs Rusev similarly should be a strong affair, but Styles winning seems like a foregone conclusion. Team Hell No vs The Bludgeon Brothers should be all kinds of fun, but presumably, The Miz is costing Bryan the win ahead of their looming programme. Braun Strowman vs Kevin Owens in a steel cage will likely be a squash in Strowman’s favour, while Dolph Ziggler vs Seth Rollins in an iron man match should easily be the match of the night, although Shinsuke Nakamura vs Jeff Hardy could compete for that honour.
In the women’s division, Asuka vs Carmella should be fun, especially with James Ellsworth suspended in a cage above the ring, while I expect Alexa Bliss vs Nia Jax could be decent, although the involvement of Ronda Rousey could be the “X” factor here. Elsewhere The B Team vs Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt should be passable at worst, while Finn Balor vs Baron Corbin could be a surprisingly enjoyable match given the chemistry the two have shown recently.
Overall, Extreme Rules should be a decent show. On paper, it looks great, but WWE shows often do, and end up failing to live up to expectations. We shall see.
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.