Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look back at the past seven days from the ever-changing world of professional wrestling. This week had quite the international feel with both WWE and NJPW putting on major events outside the USA, as well as the usual episodes of Raw and Smackdown. We'll start this week with the controversial WWE show in Saudi Arabia from last Friday.
The understandable furore over WWE’s twice-yearly jaunts to Saudi Arabia aside, the biggest issue I have with these shows is the quality of what has been presented thus far. The Greatest Royal Rumble wasn’t great, Crown Jewel was worse. However, Super Showdown seemed like an event that might buck that trend, at least on paper. Sadly it wasn’t to be. The main event aside (we’ll get to that in a moment), Super Showdown might as well have been called Super Slowdown. Perhaps that’s harsh, but as a show, it was pretty dull, all things considered.
The show opened with Seth Rollins and Baron Corbin in a match that was well below Rollins’ usual standards, but given the 100-degree heat, you can’t blame him and it was still among the better bouts on the show. The post-match angle with Brock Lesnar attempting to cash in on Rollins was predictable, but you have to applaud Lesnar for taking some very nasty looking chair shots. I don’t mind the bait and switch here either, simply because I would prefer the Lesnar-Rollins angle to run for a while, or even act as a decoy for Lesnar to take the WWE Title off Kofi Kingston instead. Finn Balor vs Andrade was probably the best match on this show, and both men went over and above given the conditions. Balor’s entrance didn’t really work for me, it was a bit too am-dram for my liking, but that’s a very minor complaint.
Roman Reigns vs Shane McMahon was exactly what I expected it to be, although Shane getting the win was perhaps a bit of a surprise. Still, it keeps the feud alive and builds Roman vs Drew McIntyre for Stomping Grounds, so that made some semblance of sense. The Lars Sullivan-Lucha House Party “match” was a mess of bad booking. Randy Orton vs Triple H was good, albeit overly long (by about ten minutes); Braun Strowman vs Bobby Lashley was exactly what it needed to be - short, impactful and simple.
If I never had to watch Kofi Kingston vs Dolph Ziggler again I’d be a happy man. I like Kofi, but Ziggler is incredibly tiresome. The match here wasn’t bad but this combination feels like it is something I’ve been watching on a regular basis for over a decade. The battle royal was surprisingly drab, and although the spectacle of fifty superstars in the ring at once was novel, logistically it proved a nightmare. Little of note happened during the match, and although Mansoor winning got the big pop from the audience it didn’t do much for me, chiefly because I have only seen Mansoor wrestle once on NXT.
So, that main event. Goldberg vs The Undertaker. A clash of two titans twenty years after their respective primes. The entrances were excellent, and the match started really strongly, but wow did it fall off a cliff after Goldberg knocked himself silly. The botched Jackhammer and the dangerous looking Tombstone were hard to watch, and why these men were booked to do so much (given the standard of Goldberg’s, ahem, limited in-ring repertoire, as well as their respective ages) in ridiculous heat is beyond me. It degenerated into a farce, which is unfortunate. The Undertaker’s face after winning told the bigger story.
So that was Super Showdown. A very forgettable show, with an unforgettable (for all the wrong reasons) main event. I prefer to think of these Saudi shows as “non-canon” so we can all move on now until the next one in November safe in the knowledge nothing of note happened and it likely won’t ever be mentioned again.
It might have been given a tepid build, and the main event wasn’t shaping up to be everyone’s cup of tea, but New Japan Pro Wrestling certainly delivered with Dominion, at least in terms of setting up the G1 if nothing else.
The show opened with Jon Moxley convincingly squashing Shota Umino, although appearing to befriend him after the match before announcing his intention to take part in the G1. Moxley has already made a huge statement since leaving WWE, but taking part in the most gruelling tournament in wrestling is perhaps the biggest yet. However, Moxley was not the only ex-WWE star to announce their participation in the G1, as KENTA made his NJPW debut alongside the (now-retired) Katsuyori Shibata which was a major shock for this show. KENTA has been more closely linked to NOAH prior to his WWE run, but it really is a major coup for NJPW to get him here in such a major role and it provides some genuine fresh blood for the G1. The third and most interesting bit of G1 news on this show came from Shingo Takagi who after a very physical match with Satoshi Kojima announced that he would be taking part. His match with Kojima was a nice preview of the potential dynamic between Shingo and some of his larger counterparts but also how he might adapt to this role. All in all, it bodes very well for a super exciting G1 Climax tournament.
The rest of the show all ranged from good to passable, with nothing horrendous on the show. The main event wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but we all knew Chris Jericho’s limitations going in. For me, it was a different type of main event for Kazuchika Okada, and although the post-match with Jericho attacking and Hiroshi Tanahashi getting involved wasn’t super well received by the NJPW audience it was also done to set up some future programmes. Kota Ibushi vs Tetsuya Naito was insane. Both men went full throttle, and although that spot with the German suplex on the apron was hard to watch, it was an incredible match overall. Will Ospreay vs Dragon Lee was another excellent contest, with Ospreay surprisingly getting the win. I was sure Lee would retain to set up a feud with a returning Hiromu Takahashi, but perhaps there is a different plan in the offing. Tomohiro Ishii vs Taichi was a decent mid-card match, while Jushin “Thunder” Liger and Yoshi-Hashi vs Zack Sabre Jr and Minoru Suzuki was a nice way to set Yoshi-Hashi up for a title shot against ZSJ. Taguchi Japan vs Bullet Club was nothing special, and G.O.D vs Evil and Sanada was the same match they always seem to have. Not bad, but certainly not particularly memorable.
Dominion might not have been quite on the same as previous years, especially the last two, but this was an entertaining show that sets up some tantalising match-ups for the summer and a world of possibilities for the future of NJPW.
With Super Showdown out of the way, this week’s Raw was more focused on the upcoming Stomping Grounds show, with the opening and closing segments of the show centred around Seth Rollins defending the Universal Championship against Baron Corbin. While Paul Heyman’s promo, later on, continued to tease the looming presence of Lesnar and his briefcase, everything was geared around positioning Rollins as the underdog babyface against Corbin, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. The main event with Rollins taking on Owens while Sami Zayn acted as the outside enforcer referee, was pretty good for the most part but the predictable involvement of Zayn and the cheap finish made it instantly forgettable. The inclusion of the mystery referee for the Universal title match at Stomping Grounds is a smart move in terms of adding some intrigue, but I fully expect it to be a damp squib of an announcement.
Honestly, the rest of the show was pretty uneventful. Lacey Evans and Alexa Bliss vs Bayley and Becky Lynch was ok, but Evans didn’t exactly cover herself in glory. Lars Sullivan vs The Lucha House Party is what should have happened with their match at Super Showdown. The IIconics vs some local enhancement talent was basically a squash which is not a bad thing at all. Miz TV with Samoa Joe predictably devolved into a multi-man match, but aside from the botched 630 by Ricochet at the end on Cesaro it was perfectly acceptable. The stuff with R-Truth in the elevator was actually pretty fun, as these 24/7 segments tend to be. Bray Wyatt continues to impress with his Firefly Funhouse segments that are increasingly creepy. I still have minimal faith that they’ll be able to satisfactorily translate this to an in-ring run but at least these segments have been consistently brilliant.
Finally, The Usos, The Revival and Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder put on a very enjoyable tag team title triple threat match, with the “Top Guys” reclaiming their spot as the number one team on Raw. The Revival has teased an alliance with Shane McMahon which makes me think this could be the first step in a bigger push for these two, which would be very welcome.
Raw was a very “thumbs-in-the-middle” sort of show, with lots of filler, but nothing was awful. It wasn’t the most exciting episode they’ve ever produced but it was pretty inoffensive.
Following on from a fairly so-so Raw, I had high hopes Smackdown would offer a better experience, but sadly this week’s show left me feeling a bit flat. The opening segment with Shane McMahon, Elias, Drew McIntyre and The Miz was fine, but having Miz run the gauntlet of all three men was hugely tiresome. I feel like I’ve seen The Miz vs Shane hundreds of times, even though this is only their third encounter, while Miz vs McIntyre and Elias does nothing for me.
The New Day having a promo battle, and then a match later on against Dolph Ziggler, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens was another example of something that wasn’t terrible, but it hardly set my world alight. It’s great to see Big E back though, and that should help in the coming weeks. The segment with Daniel Bryan and Rowan, some local competitors and Heavy Machinery was effective in continuing the build-up the tag title match which I assume will happen at Stomping Grounds. Sonya Deville vs Carmella was a decent TV match, while I thought Bayley looked really good in beating Nikki Cross, especially the interaction with Alexa Bliss as she won the match. Finally, R-Truth had more shenanigans backstage with Jinder Mahal and the 24/7 title, which was tremendous fun.
A pretty lacklustre Smackdown for once, which is usually not the case. Perhaps it’s the hangover from Super Showdown or the close proximity of Stomping Grounds, but this show was a bit of a dud.
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.