Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at all things professional wrestling. It's been an exciting week with NJPW's G1 kicking off, WWE Extreme Rules, an eventful Raw and Smackdown, some big news concerning Hulk Hogan and much more. We'll start things off this week by having a look back at Extreme Rules from this past Sunday night.
This past Sunday, WWE presented their annual Extreme Rules PPV, and while on paper it's the last stop big on the road to Summerslam you'd be hard pushed to realise from this show. That said, there was some enjoyable in-ring action, especially from the main event. Seth Rollins and Dolph Ziggler put on a really entertaining Iron Man match that was full of big spots and some really exciting action. I'm not sure I agree with the booking that WWE put in place here as Rollins coming up short with the time limit seemed like a great way to end this feud, and if Ziggler was winning I'm not sure why they bothered with the overtime. That said it was a worthy main event, and it made for a refreshing change from seeing Roman Reigns headline in non-title matches. Speaking of Reigns, his bout with Bobby Lashley was very good, and although Lashley going over was something of a surprise it was nice to see, and made for a refreshing result. AJ Styles vs Rusev was also a major highlight, and although the result was never in doubt the match did plenty to elevate Rusev.
Elsewhere on this show Team Hell No vs The Bludgeon Brothers was a bit of a disappointing use of Daniel Bryan (although given Kane's injury, which seems to be legitimate it is perhaps not the plan they had originally devised). Matt Hardy & Bray Wyatt vs The B Team and Finn Balor vs Baron Corbin were both good, but not particularly memorable affairs. Alexa Bliss vs Nia Jax was exactly what it was expected to be, it was perfectly serviceable and sets up Ronda Rousey vs Alexa Bliss for Summerslam. Shinsuke Nakamura vs Jeff Hardy was more an angle than a match, but it was good to see Nakamura get the win so decisively, and the Randy Orton return and heel turn was a refreshing change of pace from the previous bland babyface Orton run. Asuka vs Carmella was more of a comedy match than anything, but it felt like they've lost a bit of faith in Asuka given the manner of last month's defeat to Carmella, and now this loss. Finally, Kevin Owens vs Braun Strowman in a cage was far better than it probably had any right to be, and while the focus will understandably be on the big bump at the end it was a pretty enjoyable bout prior to that. The bump itself was about as safely handled as something that dangerous could be, and it was a nice nod to the twentieth anniversary of Mick Foley vs The Undertaker at King of the Ring 1998. That said, hopefully, we don't see another one of these stunts for a while, both for the sake of the performers and so that these spots remain memorable. On the plus side, Owens did beat Braun Strowman, so presumably, he'll get his wish from Shania Twain now. The silver lining is there I suppose.
Extreme Rules was, top to bottom a decent show, with lots of solid action, and a few really quite good matches. That said, if you ask me in a year what happened on this show, I will likely find it difficult to tell you, and that should demonstrate how memorable this show was outside of the Owens stunt. Still, onwards to Summerslam.
If you missed Extreme Rules the previous night, you could easily be forgiven for thinking it hadn't happened with the way Raw was booked this week. With Raw GM Kurt Angle offering an ultimatum to Universal champion Brock Lesnar, it looked like things were moving in an intriguing direction. The segment with Angle and Paul Heyman was very well done, but having the various superstars come out to state their case smacked of lazy writing. The resultant triple threat matches were, in fairness, both excellent. Roman Reigns vs Finn Balor vs Drew McIntyre was a cracking opener which did plenty to showcase McIntyre, while Balor seemed to be there mostly to take the fall to Roman Reigns. The second triple threat which bookended the show, was just as good although not pulling the trigger on Seth Rollins seems like a massive waste. So we are now stuck with Bobby Lashley vs Roman Reigns for the number one contendership, which seemed like the plan before Extreme Rules anyway. It's not super inspiring, but we'll have to see how it goes.
The women's division on Raw had an odd week. Firstly Alexa Bliss had a cracking segment with Ronda Rousey that did a great job of building a match between the two at Summerslam. Rousey again was booked superbly and Bliss is a great foil for her, which is great for everyone all around. Sarah Logan vs Ember Moon was a great way to give Logan a rub in beating Moon. Sarah Logan looked great, and the morphing of her character into a Viking is a nice development. However, the biggest happening with the women of Raw involved Sasha Banks and Bayley whose feud took an odd turn this week. The match with Alicia Fox and Dana Brooke was nothing to write home about, but the post-match with Sasha declaring her love for Bayley was very surprising. I can't tell if they are taking inspiration from The Golden Lovers and their storyline in NJPW, or whether this is a swerve, but I think WWE needs to tread very carefully with this story and handle it with care if they are going down the route of having the two in an on-air relationship.
The rest of Raw was enjoyable, but not necessarily that memorable. Dolph Ziggler vs Bobby Roode was fine, but nothing special. Mojo Rawley had another good outing against Tyler Breeze as his mini push continues, while The Authors of Pain decimated Titus Worldwide, and The B Team defeated The Ascension. Those last two matches really showcased how shallow the raw tag division is now, which is surely a concern for WWE. All in all, this was a pretty enjoyable show, and things seem to be moving into place for Summerslam, even if much of that build is somewhat uninspiring.
The past few weeks have yielded some very interesting television from the blue brand and this week's show was no exception. In fact, it may have been one of the best shows they've done in a while. This week's show had a big focus on the US Title, with Jeff Hardy cutting a very believable promo to open the show, and Shinsuke Nakamura cutting an equally good one backstage later on. The main event between the two was a contrast to their non-match at Extreme Rules, and it was a really enjoyable bout. The finish with Randy Orton interfering was well executed, and Orton attacking Hardy, especially the ear spot, was superb. It's great to see a heel Orton back and looking forward to Hardy and Orton feuding.
The Miz's segment regarding Team Hell No was really well done, and a great way to finally kick off a feud that looks bound for Summerslam. Daniel Bryan was every bit the fiery babyface, while Miz was brilliant again as the heel baiting him. AJ Styles vs Andrade "Cien" Almas was an excellent TV match that did plenty for Almas in defeat, while Samoa Joe battered Tye Dillinger which leads me to believe Styles and Joe are facing off at Summerslam, by process of elimination. Eric Young vs Kofi Kingston was fun, but more filler than anything. WWE perhaps needs to do a bit more work with Sanity on the main roster to flesh out the group's characters. Finally, Becky Lynch beat Mandy Rose in a surprisingly good match and cut a very genuine, fiery promo afterwards. Lynch has looked great in recent weeks, and they are clearly building her up, for what looks like the match with Carmella for the title at Summerslam. Poor Asuka.
A very good show overall, as Smackdown continues to churn out quality programming week after week. There's lots of good build happening for Summerslam, and from the blue side of things, there should be some cracking matches on August 19th.
NJPW G1/ROH & NJPW at MSG
NJPW has had a pretty eventful week, with the start of the annual G1 Climax tournament, and only a few days in we've already seen some stone-cold classics. Kenny Omega vs Tetsuya Naito, Kazuchika Okada (who is doing a taking interesting pivot with his current gimmick) vs Jay White was really enjoyable, and Kota Ibushi vs Zack Sabre Jr was also brilliant of course, as you'd expect. Predictably, the pace slowed a little on Night 3 and to some extent 4, but if I"m honest that's probably for the best in terms of avoiding burn out for both the competitors and the fans. So far so good, and there is plenty still to come in the next few weeks.
The other big bit of news this week is that NJPW will be running an event at Madison Square Garden in conjunction with Ring of Honor over Wrestlemania weekend in April. This is noteworthy for two reasons. Firstly it will likely be competing with NXT Takeover that weekend which is bound to split the fan base, as there are many who will likely want to go to both events. Secondly, this comes on the heels of WWE intervening after ROH tried to book MSG, which has been a WWE-only stronghold for decades, and MSG look to have given it the go-ahead. This is going to be quite a momentous event and it will be really interesting to see how WWE respond to losing their exclusivity on MSG. That said, WWE has favoured the Barclays Centre in recent years, so you can't really blame MSG. I suspect we'll have more from this story in the coming months.
Hulk Hogan reinstated to the WWE HOF
After a couple of years in the doghouse, Hulk Hogan was reinstated to the WWE Hall of Fame this week. Obviously, this was not a universally popular move and understandably so, Hulk Hogan was outed as a racist and that is something that is incredibly difficult to come back from, and again rightfully so. From WWE's point of view, they have seen Hulk Hogan do lots of charity work to try and rehabilitate his image, but it is certainly a risk on the company's part. Provided Hogan stays on the straight and narrow I suppose WWE can say they are giving Hogan a chance at redemption. However, it has been rumoured that a number of African American talent have mixed feelings at best about Hogan returning to the company, which is completely fair. Hulk Hogan has a lot to prove, and we'll see if he can stay out of trouble and prove he really has changed.
RIP Masa Saito
In sad news this week, Japanese legend Masa Saito passed away earlier this week, aged 76 after a lengthy battle with Parkinsons. Saito, a former Olympic wrestler had a very successful career with runs in the WWF alongside Mr Fuji, where they won the tag team titles, before wrestling in the AWA where he would win the heavyweight championship. Saito would also make some appearances for WCW in 1990 and later in 1995. In the US, Saito was perhaps best known for an incident outside the ring, where he was alongside Ken Patera who would end up throwing a rock through a McDonalds window, and attacking a police officer and then end up going to prison. In Japan, Saito would also have successful runs in NJPW and AJPW over the years, including a memorable match with Antonio Inoki on a deserted island, which is infamous among wrestling fans. Perhaps Saito's greatest legacy is his signature finishing move, the Saito suplex, which is representative of his technical hybrid style that made him a pioneer. RIP Masa Saito.
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.