Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at all things professional wrestling from the past seven days. It’s been a huge week with WWE Battleground looming and the go-home Smackdown for that show, a big Raw with a huge reveal in the Kurt Angle storyline, and the launch of the NJPW G-1 CLimax Tournament, With plenty to cover, we'll get started with the big news coming out of this week's Raw.
After weeks of speculation, this week we finally got the reveal of what Kurt Angle's mysterious secret is, the one that only Corey Graves knows. Despite my fears that this would be something awful like a Dixie Carter appearance akin to the Claire Lynch story from TNA, the reveal of Jason Jordan as Kurt Angle's son was actually a nice surprising turn of events. Obviously it's a bit out of leftfield, but it certainly shines a big light on Jordan who has the look and the ability to go really far in WWE. Where this goes from here is anyone's guess, and it'll be interesting to see how they develop this story in the coming weeks and months. I imagine this will eventually lead to Jordan turning on Angle and revealing he is not actually related to Angle, which could be a lovely heel turn if played correctly. I also enjoyed that they tied up the plot hole of Graves' involvement with the idea that he was in NXT at the same time as Jordan, and they became friends. It does make me wonder if the push for Jordan’s American Alpha cohort Chad Gable on recent episodes of Smackdown was a prelude to this to ensure he is not cast adrift into mid-card nothingness now. I'm not normally keen on these sorts of angles, but I'm hoping that there is a long-term plan to get Jordan over and push him up the card as a result of this and it's not just being booked week-to-week. Still, a good start to this storyline and we'll have to see how Jordan does on Raw.
Outside of the big reveal on Raw we got a stellar main event to crown a new number one contender for Brock Lesnar and the WWE Universal Championship at Summerslam. The match itself between Samoa Joe and Roman Reigns was excellent, and completely lived up to the standard of the other two matches they have had so far this year. The interference by a returning Braun Strowman made plenty of sense, especially given he beat Reigns cleanly in the ambulance match at Great Balls of Fire before Reigns tried to murder him. As such, with this match ending in a no-contest I have to assume that we are indeed getting a fatal four way at Summerslam with Joe, Braun and Reigns all facing off with Lesnar. Multi-man matches aren’t great for the most part, but in this situation it offers plenty of potential options for a new champion, or an option to protect whoever they want to push coming out of the event. I would expect Strowman to get the win, and then they can build to Strowman vs Lesnar without Lesnar taking the fall to lose his belt, and perhaps eventually Reigns beating Strowman to set up Reigns vs Lesnar at Wrestlemania. Whatever their plans (and I would prefer Joe get a run with the belt) the four-way certainly seems the way to go, and it's definitely a positive move in terms of not telegraphing the outcome.
The mini-Shield reunion tease continuing this week made for some interesting viewing. Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins had a really interesting segment to open the show and I liked that they spent plenty of time filling in the backstory and reasons for the animosity between the two. Rollins apologising and trying to build bridges was really well put together and while it was a bit cheesy, I certainly felt invested in them reconciling in a way I hadn’t expected I would be. The Miz getting involved and the beat down from The Miz-tourage was really well done, and I enjoyed the set up for next week's handicap match. It has to be said that Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel once again shone here in a way neither has been able to on the main roster, and just goes to show how a little direction can make a huge difference to the guys drowning in the mid-card, especially if they are willing to run with that direction which Axel and Dallas clearly are. It's an odd choice to have Rollins and Ambrose get back together when Reigns is tied up with the main event picture, and that smells fishy to me. It could mean we get Rollins and Ambrose as grudging tag partners in the coming weeks, before Reigns eventually comes back as a reluctant member and they do the reunion. Or, and I think this where it's going, we get an Ambrose heel turn on Rollins next week. Ambrose certainly needs something, and if it’s not a Shield reunion, a heel turn would do the job. The Shield reunion can still happen, but the longer it gets left the bigger a moment it'll be, and I could happily wait a year or two more the vests to go back on. Plus Rollins and Ambrose are never better than when facing off with each other, so I would certainly be happy with them facing off at Summerslam. Again though, intrigue has been built for next week, which is something WWE have not been great at in recent years, so I am very happy they've chosen this direction, regardless of the outcome.
The rest of the show had plenty of high points. I enjoyed "The Drifter" Elias Samson vs Finn Balor and that guitar shot was a hell of whack on Balor. The feud with Balor and Samson finally looks to be over, as Bray Wyatt's appearance on the titantron after the match seemed to indicate the kick-off for his feud with Balor. Hopefully this means that Balor will be breaking out the "Demon King" gimmick for Summerslam, which makes sense and should give him a nice bump in momentum. Big Cass and Enzo's segment was well done, and Cass standing tall against both Enzo and Big Show was a nice touch; The Revival beating The Hardys was another good move for the tag division, giving The Revival the rub and handing The Hardys another loss in a good match, presumably extending their losing streak, leading to the "broken" situation becoming a reality. Ariya Daivari vs Akira Tozawa was a good match, and the finish with Titus O'Neill calling for the stoppage continues to build the tension in that programme, while Jack Gallagher and Mustafa Ali got a good win over Brian Kendrick and Drew Gulak, which was a fine match that was mostly significant because it appears to have heralded the end of the purple rope changes. Finally, Bayley and Alexa Bliss had a fine match with involvement from Nia Jax and Sasha Banks, presumably leading to a four-way match at Summerslam. It might be the mirror image of the main event angle, but with some tweaking this could be a strong programme for the big summer show.
All in all, a very enjoyable Raw that set up plenty of intrigue for next week's show, ticked over the main programmes towards Summerslam, and offered some new and interesting storyline development as well as some excellent in-ring action. Raw is very much on a roll as of late, let’s hope it continues.
Just 5 days before WWE Battleground 2017, Smackdown was in full promotional mode. The show opening visual of Jinder Mahal cutting a promo in the confines of the Punjabi Prison brought back all kinds of horrible memories of how bad the first two matches were. Even worse The Singh Brothers explanation of the rules make me recall how convoluted and stupid the concept actually is. This is going to be a dire main event, and no amount of angry Randy Orton is going to change that. I actually think the past two Mahal vs Orton matches have been fine if not necessarily good, but this can surely only be a stinker of a match. To his credit Mahal did his best to make the structure seem more menacing than idiotic and convey the brutality of the match, and Orton's promo was fine for what it was. I just can’t see anyway this doesn’t descend into a farce on the night.
The main event of this week's show was a fine tag match between AJ Styles & Shinsuke Nakamura and Baron Corbin & Kevin Owens. This was an entertaining match and did a good job of building up both the US title match on Sunday as well as Corbin and Nakamura. The heels needed the momentum ahead of the PPV, so it did everything it needed to. I'm also really happy that Nakamura got the better of Corbin during the entrances, and didn’t get caught from behind for the second week running. It was a nice touch, but it stops Nakamura form coming across like an idiot which was important to ensuring he is seen as a main eventer, rather than an upper midcarder. A small detail, but an important one. Both matches should be good on Sunday, so this was a fine way to sign off this week's show, with the heels standing tall.
John Cena really could sell ice to Eskimos couldn't he? He may be entering the autumn of his active years on the main roster, but he is still a force to be reckoned with on the microphone, and despite some slightly dodgy 9/11-based content, his promo got me interested in the match with Rusev on Sunday, where previously I had no interest at all. For his part, the accolade Rusev put on Cena looked really brutal, and made him look really dominant, which is nice ahead of his guaranteed loss on Sunday.
The rest of the show was so-so. This week's Fashion Files was just bizarre, but I'm glad they've managed to improve the range of material they use, and I'm glad this jokey storyline is going somewhere, with the reveal of who attacked Breezango coming on Sunday. Charlotte vs Becky Lynch was excellent, as always and it was nice to see Becky finally pick up the win against Charlotte. I don’t expect her to win on Sunday, but I would certainly be happy to see Becky get more of a push on Smackdown. Jimmy Uso vs Kofi Kingston was a fine match, both are so crisp in the ring that it's always fun to see and this match still feels fresh. Finally Mike Kanellis defeating Sami Zayn was odd, not because of the result, but because of how it went down. Mike totally being dominated until Maria gave him the advantage made him seem like a real loser, although it seems that is what they’re going for, oddly.
A good show that did its job. It's missing the momentum and heat of Raw at the moment, but hopefully once Battle ground is done they can start ramping up creative for Summerslam, and things should get moving a bit more.
NJPW G-1 Climax begins
This week marks the official start of the 2017 New Japan Pro Wrestling G-1 Climax Tournament, the big tournament for the year which crowns a Money-in-the-Bank-style briefcase holder, who usually ends up being the challenger for the IWGP World Championship come Wrestle Kingdom on January 4th. The blocks this year look really promising, and as detailed a few weeks back include the much anticipated third encounter between Kazuchika Okada and Kenny Omega. Things have certainly started well, with Tetsuya Naito and Kota Ibushi having an absolute cracker on the first night which is well worth seeking out if you've not seen it, as well as a great bout between Zack Sabre Jr and Hiroshi Tanahashi. There are bound to be plenty of great matches over the next few weeks of the round robin tournament, and I will try and keep you updated on proceedings and any must see matches as the weeks go on leading to the finals on August 13th.
Cancellation of Talking Smack
In disappointing news, this week it was announced that Talking Smack, the weekly Smackdown post-show was to be cancelled (save for after Smackdown PPVs). Talking Smack had been one of the highlights of the blue brand, with Daniel Bryan and Renee Young providing some excellent shoulder programming to the main show, while giving superstars the opportunity to get over in a different environment. It did wonders for The Miz and Baron Corbin, as well as The Usos and many others which should be reason enough for it to exist. It is a very sad day, and I'm sure Talking Smack will very much be missed. It has certainly been noted on social media by a number of WWE talent that they are disappointed in the cancellation, and I can’t blame them. Renee Young had very much outgrown the backstage reporter role, and unless they are going to push her into a commentary role it seems like she'll be taking a backwards step.
As mentioned in the Smackdown review, this Sunday marks the 2017 edition of the Battleground PPV. This year it is a Smackdown only affair, and the card has plenty of intrigue, although also the possibility for some major duds. No match encapsulates that possibility more than the WWE Title match between Randy Orton and Jinder Mahal in a Punjabi prison match. I know we got a look at the cage and the match rules on this week's Smackdown, but to anyone who expects anything than an utter mess should go back and watch the previous matches. If Orton does get the win (and bearing in mind he lost the last two matches, this is very possible) I would expect Baron Corbin to possibly cash-in after the match, especially if Nakamura gets the win earlier in the night. There are two potential reasons I can see this happening, firstly because it shifts the belt onto a babyface for Corbin to cash in on, and leads to a babyface challenger for Corbin at Summerslam, and also it gets Orton another title reign to add to his tally, before they inevitably do Orton vs Cena for the record number of title reigns (Orton is on 13, Cena is on 16). It would only take a couple of hotshot title changes to make it a reality. Equally if Jinder wins, I assume we are getting Cena vs Mahal at Summerslam. Speaking of Corbin and Nakamura, I hope this should be an excellent match but it’s a hard one to call. I'm not sure how the styles of these two will mesh, it could go either way. Hopefully if they turn up the intensity, it could be a cracker. I expect Nakamura to get the win, but only just.
John Cena vs Rusev should be a fun match, much like their previous encounters. However, given the flag stipulation I can’t see any other outcome than a John Cena win. AJ Styles vs Kevin Owens for the US Title should be the match of the night based on their previous encounter at Backlash. I imagine Owens is taking the belt back, unless they have AJ Styles lined up to take on Cena at Summerslam, as teased on Smackdown a few weeks ago. Much of where the other pieces fall depend on the Summerslam plans for Randy Orton ad John Cena, and we should have a reasonable idea after this show is in the books.
In the tag division, I expect The Usos vs The New Day to be another excellent match between two teams who have excellent chemistry, although I also suspect The Usos retain through some sort of shenanigans in order to prolong the inevitable big New Day win until Summerslam. Finally we have the fatal five-way match for the number one contendership for the Smackdown Women's Championship. If I'm honest I have no idea who wins this match, on paper a Charlotte or Becky Lynch win makes the most sense, but with the Lana and Tamina storyline ongoing that could come into play, and I'm not sure Natalya has enough going on to be considered for this role. I will go for a Becky Lynch win, but it could go a number of ways I think. Obviously we also have the women's champion Naomi around, as well as Carmella with the Money in the Bank briefcase, so who knows what happens there.
I will say it's hard to muster too much enthusiasm for this show. Coming off the red-hot Raw brand Great Balls of Fire PPV a couple of weeks ago, and with Smackdown feeling a bit cold at the moment I hoping this show brings about a bit of shake-up for the brand and some fresh feuds as we get on to the road to Summerslam.
Well that is it from me for this week. I will be back at the same time next week with the fallout from Battleground, all the news from Raw and Smackdown, and 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.