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, a big Raw and an eventful Smackdown, With plenty to cover, we'll get started with the big news coming out of this week's Raw.
The 2013 edition of Battleground is often given the auspicious billing as one of the worst, and least successful PPVs in WWE history. However, the 2017 edition of that very event will surely give that show a run for its money. This was categorically not a good show. The main event featuring Randy Orton vs Jinder Mahal in a Punjabi Prison match was as bad as expected, with the match taking place in front of a much muted crowd, probably due to the fact the cage itself obscured the view of the ring from the audience, so they likely couldn’t see what was going on. Not that it would have made much difference, because once they got out of the first structure the introduction of The Singh Brothers essentially rendered this match the same as the previous Orton-Mahal encounters. Then you have the re-introduction of The Great Khali. In his last run, several years ago Khali looked genuinely pained even walking to the ring, and now he's back, barely mobile, waddling down to the ring and getting involved. A poor match, with a poor finish. Not good at all.
The majority of the undercard was pretty dire too. Shinsuke Nakamura vs Baron Corbin was a slow, plodding affair. They have somehow managed to take someone who had unparalleled charisma and turn him into just another guy on the card, which is a real shame because I truly believe Nakamura could have been a huge star. He still could be, but they need to rehab him, and soon. Corbin looks the part, but his style needs an injection of something to get him to that next level. AJ Styles vs Kevin Owens was a real let down between two guys who should really be having dynamite matches, but something really didn’t click and the finish seemed botched. If it wasn't botched it certainly made AJ Styles look like a right idiot. John Cena vs Rusev was a boring, slow and genuinely awful match. It's hard to fathom, because they have had some absolute blinders in the past including a phenomenal bout at Wrestlemania 31 which I witnessed in person in San Jose. In contrast, this flag match was an absolute state. Sami Zayn vs Mike Kanellis was a filler match with no real interest, while the women's 5-way elimination match was fine, if unspectacular. In fact I would go as far as to say the only bright spot in the show was the cracking opener between The Usos and The New Day. Both teams put in a great shift, and this was easily the match of the night. Battleground was very much a poor show, and the less said about it, the better.
It's The Shield, well sort of. The tease continued this week with Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins teaming up to face The Miz, Bo Dallas, and Curtis Axel in the main event of Raw. This was actually a really good match, and I had mostly forgotten what great chemistry Rollins and Ambrose have in the ring. They combine so well as a unit, and although I don’t expect this union to last too long it is a nice tease for the eventual Shield reunion later this year. For their part Axel, Dallas and Miz all did a great job here and put together a really fun main event. I also liked that the post-match teased Rollins and ambrose being on the same place as Ambrose got caught up in the moment before he backed off, showing he still doesn’t fully trust Rollins. A cracking match, and a really nice bit of storyline development.
I also enjoyed the build for Summerslam this week, with the main event being set as the rumoured four way featuring Samoa Joe, Roman Reigns, Braun Strowman and WWE Universal Champion Brock Lesnar. Even without Lesnar's involvement, and it definitely wasn’t needed here, Joe and Strowman both came across like absolute killers here, and Reigns did the smarmy tweener badass bit like always. The brawl was well done, even if the "sending out the roster to break it up" spot is a bit overdone now. I look forward to the three-way between the contenders next week, which should be a barnstormer. I do expect Lesnar to come out and obliterate everyone and the match end in a non-finish, but that would equally be just as fun. Summerslam has a big time main event now, and I for one cannot wait.
The women's picture got a bit more clarity ahead of Summerslam this week, with Bayley beating Sasha Banks in a number one contender’s match, which was very good if not quite on the level of some of their previous bouts in NXT. I liked the tease of Sasha being frustrated after the match, which I do fully expect to lead to her heel turn either at or shortly after Summerslam. A good match though, and some nice build as the card shapes up for Summerslam.
Elsewhere on the show, there was plenty of good stuff on Raw this week. Test, sorry Big Cass squashing Enzo and then getting the better of the Big Show as good for helping build Cass as a big deal even if I'm not sure he quite has that special something about him beyond his size to be a top line WWE star. "The Drifter" Elias Samson vs Finn Balor in a NODQ match was fine, if not wholly designed to forward the Balor and Bray Wyatt programme, Nia Jax squashed Emma (quite literally with that running senton), Ariya Daivari got some nice heat in taking out Neville and Akira Tozawa in a segment that also continued to build the tension between Titus O'Neill and Tozawa. The Revival looked great in victory against Gallows & Anderson, who weirdly appear to slowly be turning face, and the finish/post-match helped keep The Revival’s feud with The Hardys bubbling along nicely. Finally, we got Jason Jordan's debut on Raw in an impressive bout against Curt Hawkins. I'm still not 100% sure where they plan on going with him, but this was a good start following the big reveal last week.
Despite the terrible showing on Sunday from the blue brand, this week's Smackdown was a really good show. The opening segment with the surprise return of Chris Jericho was a great lift to the brand. AJ Styles and Kevin Owens were both really good here too, with Owens especially fantastic at showing his shock at Jericho returning. The resultant main event was a fantastic three-way with all three putting in a real shift. Jericho has had great matches with both Owens and AJ, so it was a good move to use him to inject some chemistry and energy into the feud. AJ winning the title back here certainly does give some credence to the idea that the finish at Battleground was somewhat botched, but who can say. Either way, this was a cracking main event.
The segment with Jinder Mahal and John Cena was really well done. Cena coming out and proclaiming himself the number one contender was a nice touch, and although he is the biggest star on this show it was nice to see him get taken a peg by Smackdown GM Daniel Bryan. The announcement of Cena vs Nakamura for the number one contendership next week was interesting and that match could be phenomenal, if it's treated as the big deal it should be. IT really is the litmus test for Nakamura because if he can’t get over in a big match with Cena, then he might as well give up. I would have preferred to see this match saved for a PPV, but I can totally see the rationale, and it should hopefully be an absolute blinder next week.Speaking of Nakamura, his re-match with Baron Corbin was far superior to their slow affair on Sunday. Both men looked like they had a point to prove, and I actually enjoyed this bout more than I expected to.
Elsewhere, Charlotte and Becky Lynch had a fine match against Lana and Tamina which also teased dissention between the heels, Sami Zayn and Tye Dillinger beat Aiden English and Mike Kanellis in the most nothing match I can recall in some time, Naomi and Natalya had a confrontation that did nothing for me, and The Usos interrupted The New Day's planned celebration of their title win, and looked like absolute monster heels in the process. A good show all round, and a vast improvement on Battleground.
Lesnar to return to UFC?
Finally this week, we have the rumour that WWE Universal Champion Brock Lesnar will be making a return to the UFC. Whisperings were abound that Lesnar has re-entered the USADA testing pool, so that he could see out his suspension from UFC 200 and potentially compete as soon as April net year, which handily is when his WWE contract reportedly ends. For now this is all speculation, but if he drops the title at Summerslam it will presumably only intensify speculation as to what Lesnar's next move is. For me, going way for a year and fighting in the UFC would potentially freshen Lesnar up no end, and might actually extend his drawing power in WWE in the long run. It's hard to say how much of a draw Lesnar would be in UFC at this point, but given UFC star Jon Jones has been vocal about a potential heavyweight superfight with Lesnar, I imagine he could make quite the paycheque in MMA as a special attraction, if not a top level contender. Watch this space for more news in the coming weeks.
Well that is it from me for this week. I will be back at the same time next week with the continued build for Summerslam, 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.