Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at all things professional wrestling from the past seven days. This week WWE hosted their big Raw reunion show, while Smackdown had plenty to offer. There was an update on the future of CM Punk, while AEW confirmed officially something we already knew. Without any further adieu let us get started by having a look at Raw from this past Monday.
This week’s episode of Monday Night Raw was set up a couple of weeks in advance and jam-packed with stars from the past in what WWE dubbed “Raw Reunion”. While it seemed that the presence of a litany of superstars from the company’s history set the table for plenty of developments that would hype the upcoming Summerslam event, this show felt like it was frozen in time with minimal developments that actually had a significant impact. However, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t entertaining. In fact, plenty of what WWE attempted landed pretty well, and there was a lot to enjoy on this episode. The one major angle that was shot involving a legend saw Mick Foley cut a promo in the ring only to be interrupted by Bray Wyatt in full “Fiend” mode, as he took Foley out with the mandible claw. This was brilliantly done, especially given there are a number of parallels that can be made between Foley and Wyatt during their careers, and giving Wyatt the claw as a finisher makes so much sense and adds another layer to his character. More on Wyatt when we talk about Smackdown.
The segments throughout the night with the legends were mostly fun but inconsequential. The closing “Raw Toast” with Stone Cold Steve Austin, Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, and a whole host of others was a nice feel-good moment. John Cena and The Usos rapping felt like a bit of a waste of Cena, but the resulting tag match with The Revival (inexplicably with D-Von Dudley) taking on The Usos was very good. AJ Styles vs Seth Rollins could have and should have been more about the match, but it gave way to shenanigans with The OC (formerly The Club) and Degeneration-X/The Kliq. Rollins seemed like an odd fit here, although reportedly this segment was originally written for Ricochet which would have made more sense. Having the legends involved with Sami Zayn and Rey Mysterio was another good use of the guys available, and Zayn was great here. The 24/7 title changes with the legends again made sense, and it provided some nice moments throughout the night. Overall the legends were well used, and it made for an enjoyable show.
The rest of the show moved along at a fine pace. Becky Lynch and Natalya had a suitably tense back-and-forth that ended in a brawl, I was initially cold to this programme, but both women have done well to heat this programme up. The War Raiders squashed Zach Ryder and Curt Hawkins, while Braun Strowman obliterated a local talent and both matches were a refreshing change of pace on this show. Drew McIntyre getting his heat back on Cedric Alexander was fine. Seth Rollins and Paul Heyman on Miz TV was an adequate way to continue building the Rollins vs Brock Lesnar match at Summerslam. Finally, Samoa Joe and Roman Reigns had a scorching verbal exchange followed up by a cracking match that arguably should have been saved for Summerslam unless they have bigger plans for Reigns.
A decent show, even it was hugely reliant on nostalgia. There was nothing bad here, but outside of the Wyatt/Foley interaction I’m not sure anything memorable happened on this show and provided a minimal hook for viewers to tune in next week.
With Kevin Owens absent from Raw (he was on the Smackdown house show happening at the same time) despite the obvious go-to angle with Steve Austin that seemed like a layup on Raw, Smackdown’s big story was very much focused on Owens’ programme with Shane McMahon. The opening segment set the table for Summerslam with McMahon putting in place the stipulation that if Owens loses he has to quit WWE. I would prefer Shane has the same stipulation on his win/loss in this match, and I would be fairly surprised if that doesn’t happen in the coming weeks. The main event between Owens and Roman Reigns was more of an angle than a match as both men turned the tables on Shane, Elias and Drew McIntyre. It was also very interesting that Owens was presented as the top babyface over Reigns here, which shows the faith and investment the company are putting in him ahead of Summerslam.
The Kofi Kingston-Randy Orton feud heated up on this show. The promo between the two referencing their real-life issues a decade ago was an exciting direction for the WWE title programme to go in and garnered so much intrigue off the bat while also not veering into the worked-shoot territory. It’s a fine line to walk, and they did it really well here. If Kingston beats Orton, it will also be the big marquee win that he needs to solidify his title reign. Kingston’s match on this show with Samoa Joe was fine, but they didn’t really click as well as they did at Extreme Rules, although the post-match with Kingston and Orton was really well done and Kofi standing tall was a smart move.
The rest of the show was very eventful. Finn Balor challenged Bray Wyatt to a match at Summerslam, only for the children’s entertainer version of Wyatt to respond via a video, which was creepy but also brilliant. If they can keep this dual personality character for Wyatt with this dynamic I could absolutely see this being a big deal over the next few months. Hopefully, Wyatt dominates Balor in short order and this provides a statement win for “The Fiend”. Shinsuke Nakamura vs Apollo Crews was a strong showing for the Intercontinental champion, but Crews looked good here too. Ember Moon vs Charlotte was quick as a flash, but after the match, Ember Moon showed a more aggressive side by attacking Bayley. Speaking of Charlotte her interview backstage later certainly hinted towards a big match at Summerslam, and with it being in Toronto I would guess Trish Stratus would be a lock for that particular match. Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose had a pretty awful backstage segment that set up a tag match with The IIconics, although I don’t know where that leaves Asuka and Kairi Sane. Finally, Shawn Michaels and Dolph Ziggler had a tense confrontation on Miz TV that is leading to a Ziggler-HBK match, a Ziggler vs Goldberg match (he slagged him off again here) or Miz vs Ziggler. I have no interest in the latter, but that feels the most likely, unfortunately.
A very good Smackdown this week, with major storyline progression, lots of interesting developments and some fun in-ring action. It feels much more inspired than Raw at the moment, and even without the legends, this show was the better of the two this week.
CM Punk at Starrcast
Earlier this week everyone got very excited as it was announced that the one and only CM Punk would be a performer (well, signing autographs at least) at Starrcast 3, the fan convention taking place over the same weekend and in association with AEW’s All Out event. Of course, with Punk making a wrestling-related appearance it set tongues wagging over whether he could indeed be about to return to the squared circle under the All Elite banner. Punk has been absent from the industry in any meaningful way since walking out on WWE in January 2014, and free and clear of his legal issues with his former employers related to his appearance on Colt Cabana’s podcast in the wake of his exit, it has been rumoured he might wish to join AEW now that he has all but finished up with his UFC career. With Starrcast affiliated to AEW, it is only natural that fans began to connect the two things, adding two plus two and getting five. In reality, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that Punk could join AEW, but it seems far more likely that he will probably just do the signing and that’ll be it. Still, what a boost it could be to AEW for their first TV show to have a CM Punk on board. We’ll have to see how this all unfolds in the coming weeks.
AEW TV launch
Its official, All Elite Wrestling will be starting on TNT on October 2nd with their weekly show, reportedly named Wednesday Night Dynamite. Although not unexpected, this is very momentous news with AEW emerging as the biggest competitor to WWE in decades. Obviously, they have been pretty successful so far, but it will be very interesting to see how they operate on a week-to-week level. It’s certainly exciting and the fact the show will be live and filmed in a decent sized arena makes me even happier to see this come to fruition. Again, more on this as it develops in the coming weeks.
Well, that is it from me for this week. I will be back at the same time next week with a look back at Raw and Smackdown, as well as whatever else breaks in the meantime. Until then, 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.
Photos: WWE.COM & @AEWRESTLING