Welcome wrestling fans to another edition of Slammer Jabber. This week, we have a whole host of topics to cover from Raw and Smackdown to this week's upcoming Money in the Bank pay-per-view. We also take a quick look at New Japan Pro Wrestling's big Dominion event featuring the re-match between Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada. As always we start the week with the big happenings from this week's Raw.
Well, I don’t know about anyone else but I am certainly excited for WWE Great Balls of Fire now (still sounds weird). Samoa Joe and Brock Lesnar's confrontation to open Raw was a real treat with Joe looking like a badass in the face of the man who is nicknamed "the Beast". Paul Heyman's promo did a good job of setting up the confrontation, and the pull apart was handled expertly. It felt like the Lesnar brawl with The Undertaker a few years back, although perhaps not on quite the same scale. Both men came off well here, and Joe dropping Lesnar with that kick was a very shrewd move. I know this match is almost certainly a one-and-done affair, but so far the build very much has me hooked. Even Joe's promo later in the night helped reinforce this, something that was not always his biggest strength. This could be amazing.
The main event of the show was an odd choice. I've mentioned previously that I am not a huge fan of the feud between The Hardys and Sheamus & Cesaro continuing, so them doing a 2-out-of-3 falls match here was hardly my idea of fun. With it going in the main event, you could at least hope for some sort of bi storyline development, but nothing really happened other than there being a draw between the two, which presumably means they will fight again. This show was up against the NBA play-off final, so I appreciate the used this as an opportunity to cuck out a mina event that wouldn’t be a waste, given it would be doing a low rating regardless, but this was still pretty dull if I'm honest. Understandable, but dull.
Dean Ambrose had a busy night. His match with "The Drifter" Elias Samson was nothing special, although I continue to enjoy Samson, who is getting some great heel heat with his guitar playing. Even though this was designed to further Dean's feud with The Miz, it was still a good move for Samson, who certainly seems to be getting a push. The match pitting The Miz and a mystery partner vs Rhyno and Heath Slater was a throwaway comedy match, but the reveal of the bear from last week as his mystery partner made me chuckle, even if the later reveal of the bear as Ambrose was somewhat telegraphed. I like that they are trying to do more with Ambrose, I just wish it was with less of a focus on the wacky side of things. There is certainly a performer who could benefit from a heel turn.
Elsewhere on this show, Seth Rollins and Bray Wyatt had a confrontation that did nothing for me, but presumably is building to a match between the two at GBOF, Sasha Banks somehow got herself to the front of the queue for the Raw Women's Championship as part of a segment with Nia Jax, Alexa Bliss, and pretty much the whole Raw women’s roster (including an Emma return which was immediately overshadowed by Banks). I can only presume they are planning on going with Banks vs Bliss now, and maybe pulling the trigger on Banks vs Bayley at Summerslam and doing the turn after the match there? The mystery of who attacked Enzo and Big Cass continued, along with a lovely background tease that The Revival were responsible, even though that is clearly a red herring. I'm still interested to see where this goes, but there definitely needs to be some development with this soon rather than just the continued tease. I still think Big Cass is responsible, but I'm hoping there's a surprise, and I do mean a non-Russo-esque one, in the offing. Apollo Crews vs Kalisto was a throwaway affair, mostly designed to forward the Akira Tozawa issue, although I am enjoying that story for the most part. Titus O'Neill has been great lately and I certainly hope this story gets the pay-off it deserves. Finally, we had cruiserweight action with Neville destroying Rich Swann, and asserting his dominance, while Cedric Alexander and Noam Dar had a quick meaningless match that was entertaining if nothing else for Alicia Fox shouting instructions over facetime, while on the big screen.
A decent Raw, with plenty to enjoy, not great by any stretch but it had plenty of intrigue and story development, as well as a killer opening segment.
As go-home shows go, this week's Smackdown was very effective in hyping the PPV on Sunday. The main event six-man pitting Dolph Ziggler, Baron Corbin, and Kevin Owens against Sami Zayn, AJ Styles, and Shinsuke Nakamura was a really good main event (obviously), and really showcased all six guys effectively. The post-match with everyone brawling, and Nakamura left standing tall was well done, and certainly made it seem as though Nakamura was a strong candidate for the briefcase (not that he's winning I reckon, more on that shortly). This match made the ladder match feel like a big deal, and for that reason alone it served its purpose here. Even Ziggler looked good here, and a credible threat for Sunday which is a minor miracle. Kevin Owens also deserves praise for his promo backstage with Corbin and Ziggler which was phenomenal. I don’t think Owens will win on Sunday, but I would not be against it if he does as he has been superb since coming over from Raw.
The second biggest build on this show as definitely for the women's matches on Sunday. Charlotte vs Natalya was a very good match, as expected, and certainly gave Charlotte a lot of momentum going into Sunday night (although again I can’t see her getting the win). The ladder match has been really well built, and I fully expect it to be one of the best matches on the night, although I do feel we could have had a bit more build on this show. Naomi vs Tamina was another fine match, nothing special, but nothing bad. The post-match with Lana certainly sets her up as a genuine threat to Naomi, and I like the look of her new finisher. I still have my doubts about that match on Sunday, but I'm very much hoping those qualms are unfounded.
The WWE Title definitely doesn’t feel like the top focus on Smackdown at the moment. The Jinder Mahal segment was fine for what it was, and I enjoyed the Randy Orton sneak attack. The match on Sunday should be good, but I can’t see it main eventing, and it is very much an afterthought in terms of importance at Money in the Bank.
Finally, The New Day and The Usos had a fine confrontation to build their match on Sunday, before being joined by The Fashion Police and The Colons for a nice, fast-paced opener. It was good to see The New Day getting the win, and it gives them the impetus ahead of their bout with The Usos on Sunday. I can’t see The New Day being too long for this world as an act, but the move to Smackdown, and the extended break forced by Kofi Kingston's injury certainly has given them something of a second wind. The Usos are brilliant heels here too, so I definitely have high hopes for that match on Sunday. Also, The Hype Bros reunited, but no-one cares (unless Zack Ryder is turning heel, then I can see it being a bit more interesting).
A good go-home show overall, although it did feel a bit flat in places. It lacked the big moments of Raw, but it was a more solid and consistent show over the two hours so it's probably still the better show this week, just about.
NXT have been on tour in the UK over the past week with shows in Aberdeen, Manchester, Leeds, Brighton and finally finishing up with a slot at Download Festival. I got along to the show in Brighton and I have to say it was one of the more fun WWE shows I've been to in this country. Highlights included Pete Dunne vs Mark Andrews, which was a phenomenal showcase for the upcoming WWE UK brand, seeing No Way Jose live, who will almost certainly end up being a merchandise machine when he gets on the main roster, Alestair Black, Drew McIntyre, and of course Bobby Roode, and that's not even including Ember Moon vs Asuka. Even though it was effectively a house show this was great fun, and goes to show that NXT is starting to pick up some momentum again after a period of transition. By all accounts the tour was a critical success, even if not necessarily financially so, and rightly so. Hopefully, we get more NXT shows on these shores in the near future.
After their stellar spectacular Wrestle Kingdom 11 in January, NJPW held their second biggest show of the year so far this weekend with Dominion, headlined by the long awaited rematch from WK 11 between Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP championship. I don’t want to spoil the result, or the way the main event panned out, however I will say this is a much see match, and probably one of the likely candidates for match of the year in 2017. The match tells a greats tory, and I was hooked from the start to the finish. However, the rest of the card supporting this is just as good, with Tetsuya Naito and Hiroshi Tanahashi having another absolute barnburner, Kushida and Hiromu Takahashi having possibly their best match so far and that is just scratching the surface. This is probably my show of the year thus far, and I would genuinely advocate going out of your way to catch this show if you can. NJPW is on fire at the moment, and with their expansion into America happening in the next couple of months and the G1 Climax Tournament fast approaching, it's a great time to get initiated with New Japan.
Money in the Bank
Well, after this week's go-home show it's time for the Money in the Bank PPV this Sunday, and the big question for me is which match will go on last. IN theory, it should be the WWE Championship match between Jinder Mahal and Randy Orton, but given the relative lack of build and the high profile that's been given to the two ladder matches I can only see it being in the middle of the card. Equally, I can only see a Mahal win really, as I do think they will be looking at him as longer haul champion than a month. That said, one more title win and he'd only be a couple behind John Cena which could make for an interesting dynamic. Unlikely, but not beyond the realm of possibility.
The men's ladder match has had much of the focus going into this show, and I fully expect it to be an absolute corker of a bout. In terms of who wins, I have to go with Baron Corbin just because he seems to tick every box WWE like to look for in a winner of this sort of match. Nakamura doesn’t need the belt, nor does Owens or Styles, and Ziggler doesn’t deserve it. There is an outside chance that Zayn picks up the case if they are going with a heel in the women's ladder match, but Corbin seems the likely winner for me.
The women's ladder match has a number of possible candidates, and again I feel the outcome of their bout will probably be intrinsically linked to the result of the men's match and vice versa. For me, I can see Becky Lynch potentially getting the win if Corbin is getting the nod in the men's match (although I can also see a potential heel turn as a result of her cashing in down the line), or more likely I can see Carmella getting the briefcase. She hasn’t been overly focused on in the past few weeks, but does have wins over Naomi in non-title situations. I also could see some really strong possibilities for fun angles and promos with herself and James Ellsworth (maybe even Ellsworth somehow trying to cash in on the men's champion). Carmella is 100% not ready for the belt, but she could be with some development in the next few months and the briefcase certainly could help her. I suspect the two ladder matches will top and tail the show, and while I of course expect the men's match to headline, it would be quite the statement by WWE to put the Women's match on last. Here's hoping.
Outside of the top three matches, there isn’t a whole lot to this show. The tag title match should be a fun affair, and I fully expect The Usos to retain in some sort of fashion that opens up a rematch at the next PPV and this programme will continue. The Women’s title match could really go either way, it could be a surprisingly good match, or an absolute mess but I can’t see any other outcome. I am going to stick my neck out and say Lana will win the title here, given she has the momentum and it would certainly be an upset, plus it sets up several fresh challengers who could potentially hold the briefcase and challenger Lana, or even cash in immediately depending on the running order of the show.
You have to imagine another match gets added to this show (maybe The Fashion Police vs The Colons?), but all in all it seems like this should be an interesting and intriguing PPV, with lots of potential to change the landscape of the blue brand, which can only be a good thing.
Well that is it from me, I'll be back next week with a full rundown of Money in the Bank, plus of all the happenings from Raw and Smackdown and much more. 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.