Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at all things professional wrestling from the past seven days. It’s been a big week with a Smackdown PPV, a couple of eventful TV shows, and a big announcement regarding a video game. Lets kick things off this week with Money in the Bank.
Money in the Bank
Well that was quite the mixed bag wasn't it? Let's not get it twisted there was plenty to enjoy on this show, but there were certainly plenty of disappointing moments too. The main event, the men's ladder match, was excellent. This is probably one of my favourite Money in the Bank ladder matches in a good few years. The angle with Shinsuke Nakamura being taken out by Baron Corbin as he made his entrance, only to return later was really well executed. I liked that this not only put extra heel heat on Corbin, but it also gave a false impression that Nakamura might come back from his set back and be able to defy the odds. Corbin for his part looked really strong in this match, while Sami Zayn, Dolph Ziggler and Kevin Owens also all put in a great shift here. I also really enjoyed that this match was able to tell multiple stories, most intriguingly the idea of AJ Styles and Nakamura facing off for the first time in WWE, which I imagine is the direction these two go in for Summerslam, making for a mouth-watering dream match. Corbin winning was far from surprising, but it does set up some interesting possibilities going forward, presumably once Jinder Mahal drops the WWE Title at some stage. Corbin is definitely not ready as yet, but given a few months of sustained pushing, and handled correctly he could be over huge by the time he cashes in the briefcase (on John Cena would be my bet). Speaking of Mahal, his bout with Randy Orton was fine for what it was, nothing extraordinary but certainly nothing bad. The pace was kept fairly brisk, the involvement with the legends in the front row was a nice spot, and the finish was similar to what they did at Backlash, but it worked fine here.
Further down the card is where things get a bit more mixed. The first ever women's Money in the Bank ladder match was a really fun opener, with plenty of safe but painful-looking spots, and lots of teases of false finishes. However, the conclusion of the match was both controversial, and disappointing if I’m honest. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad Carmella won, and that they tries to do something different and creative. However, for me this should have been a landmark moment, and it really was a bit of a damp squib. I know they dealt with it on Smackdown (more on that in a moment), but it feels like they sacrificed a potentially huge moment in history, just to attempt to pop a one-off rating on TV. Things didn't get much better in the Women's Championship match which was pretty dire. It wasn’t even that it was botched, or particularly poorly planned but the fact that Lana's offence looked fairly weak and ineffectual, while Naomi was unable to really guide her through the match. The finish was odd, and the submission looked really strange. Not great really.
The rest of the card was ok. The Fashion Police vs The Ascension was basically just the pay-off to a backstage Fashion Files segment to fill time (although the Fashion Files is amazing). The tag team championship match between The Usos and The New Day was excellent up until the closing moments, with both teams looking really good but the match being harmed by a cheap finish. It didn't help that this came immediately after the women's ladder match in a case of poor match placement. Finally, we had the debut (well return and debut) of Maria Kanellis and Mike Kanellis (formerly Bennett). I'm not really sure what to make of this, and it seems like they are doing some sort of love-based gimmick, with Mike taking Maria's surname Not much to go on here really, but I am high on the work of both Mike and Maria in recent years so it will be interesting to see what they do on the Smackdown brand (which they did not appear on this week).
Not a great show by any stretch, but not the worst either. There were several talking points coming out of this and the in-ring mostly delivered as expected, so this is at least a thumbs in the middle show, if not a low thumbs up.
A big show this week from the red brand. Plenty happening, and everything seemed to move at a breakneck pace, something Raw has been missing for quite some time now. For me the big segment with Enzo and Big Cass was the highlight of this show, with Cass being revealed as the mystery attacker (oddly by the extremely connected Corey Graves) who has been targeting his partner Enzo. I feared that if they went with Cass as the attacker we would need some Russo-esque explanation of how that could be possible, but they did a great job here of showing how Cass deflected suspicion away from himself, as well as why he turned on Enzo followed by a vicious kick. In fairness, the look on Enzo's face here was brilliant and he sold this like his heart was breaking including a single tear, which was a lovely touch. It should be really interesting to see Cass as a heel, and I fully expect him to be moving up the card rapidly in the coming months before taking off as a main event heel. A worthy pay-off to a surprisingly well thought out angle.
This was another banner week for both Samoa Joe and Roman Reigns this week. Reigns' promo to open the show was great, and the way he has been handling the crowd since Wrestlemania is excellent. He is a heel already, and does not need to do anything different, even though he's also a babyface, such is the fractured world we live in. Whatever you label him Reigns is excellent, and his reinforcing of Joe as not being considered a "real" Samoan in wrestling terms gave Joe great motivation and made Reigns look like a complete bastard. The match the two had was top drawer, and goes to show these two could easily main event a PPV somewhere down the line. Despite having already faced off a few months ago on Raw this felt fresh and exciting. This match also facilitated the amazing return of Braun Strowman, who emerged in full roaring form from an ambulance in one of my favourite moments of the year so far. I felt such joy watching him return, such was the smile it brought to my face, especially as it allowed Samoa Joe to get the win over Reigns for the second time this year. This was a great segment all round, making Joe look like a killer by choking out Reigns, builds Strowman and Reigns for Great Balls of Fire in an ambulance match, and keeps everyone busy until the PPV.
The Miz was the centre of plenty of interesting developments this week. His recruitment of Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel is a great move which gives Miz an entourage and gives both men something to do rather than languishing as enhancement talent. This provided some good build to his next match with Dean Ambrose, although I'm not sure what the end game is for the tension they are pushing between Miz and Maryse. The continued shenanigans with the grandfather clock, and Maryse getting annoyed with Miz were well executed but I genuinely hope they aren’t splitting the two up as both operate far better together as a unit than apart.
It certainly appears that "The Drifter" Elias Samson's first programme is to be opposite Finn Balor based on this show. Samson's segment where he tuned his guitar in front of an increasingly irritable crowd was excellent, and a great way to garner heel heat, and Balor interrupting his to come out for his match was a nice way to kick off a programme, It felt a bit like the way feuds would start in the Attitude era, where one interaction could set off a chain of events that led to a match. The backstage assault of Finn by Samson later in the night looked really good, and I'm certainly eager to see where this goes. That being said I would say that Balor needs the win if he is to stay strong in his holding pattern before he gets his shot at Brock Lesnar and the title he never lost.
The rest of the show was all pretty enjoyable. The developments in the cruiserweight division were welcome, and the push towards the Akira Tozawa vs Neville feud were handled well. I like the dynamic of this feud, and the addition of Titus O'Neill as a mentor has actually done a surprising amount for Tozawa, and to a lesser extent Apollo Crews. Crews and Titus had a decent match with Sheamus & Cesaro, even if they did fail to win the titles. The Hardys and The Club had an entertaining, if not slightly throwaway bout which is a shame as this could have been quite the dream match booked correctly (possibly not in WWE). Sasha Banks vs Nia Jax was the same match they've been having for months until the rest of the Women's division got involved, which means presumably this is leading to some sort of multi-woman match at GBoF. Finally, Seth Rollins and Bray Wyatt had a confrontation in-ring which was a good showing for Rollins (as part of his announcement on WWE television of his cover star status for WWE 2k18, more on that later) bar a line about the lack of existence of God, which went down pretty badly in the arena. However Wyatt did not come across well here. He desperately needs a re-fresh or some direction as he seems to be lurching from feud to feud with not tangible motivation and, something sorely needed for his promo style to have some bite to it.
A good show for the most part, with even the worst moments proving entertaining, and the best exhilarating (Braun). Excellent work all round.
The main focus of this week's Smackdown was the fallout from Money in the Bank, mostly focused on the controversy over the Owen’s ladder match. I lied that it wasn’t just written off immediately, or squared away instantly. Carmella and Ellsworth made a good case for their holding onto the case in the opening segment, and it was a decent promo from these two. The other women also made good points in segments with Smackdown GM Daniel Bryan throughout the night. However, the decision in the final segment to strip Carmella and do a re-match on free TV next week is certainly a head scratcher for me. It certainly devalues the special nature of the match being a once a year spectacular, as well as rendering the time spent watching the match on Sunday utterly moot. I imagine Carmella walks away with the case once again next week through some sort of shenanigans, and although the match will probably be very good it does feel a bit cheap to just re-do the match. I should point out that both Ellsworth and Bryan were excellent here too, and really complimented the women in this confrontation. We shall have to wait and see how this all pans out next week, but I'm certainly not hugely in favour of this as it stands.
It looks like, despite having beaten Randy Orton two PPVs in a row, Jinder Mahal will continue to feud with 'The Viper' based on this show. Orton did cut a great pre-taped promo that made him seem like a real threat earlier in the evening, but his beat down of Mahal after his stellar match with the criminally underutilised Luke Harper was just another Orton beat down. I enjoyed that Baron Corbin was lurking around during the match, and I like the idea that the cash-in is being presented as an ever present threat already, but it felt like a flat ending for me. I would also have liked to see a bit more from Corbin on this show, but they had plenty to get to in fairness, and there is lots of time to get Corbin front and centre in the coming months.
Further down the card, Kevin Owens had a really fun match alongside an AJ Styles-backed Chad Gable who is at least back on TV even it is without being in a tag team role with Jason Jordan for now at least. It was certainly a nice reminder of what he can do. Shinsuke Nakamura and Dolph Ziggler had a fantastic match, which very much eclipsed their contest at Backlash. Between this match and his performance at MitB Nakamura is starting to seem like a much bigger deal here after a slow start. Finally Big E had a fun match with Jimmy Uso which served to continue the feud between the two teams, as expected. This was certainly not the best show in terms of storyline development or moving forward to new programmes, however the wrestling on this show was great with at least two matches well worth going out of your way to see. Raw has the energy at the moment, but Smackdown certainly has the better in-ring product.
Seth Rollins 2k18
Earlier this week, Seth Rollins was a guest on a US talk show and announced that he would be the new cover star of the latest WWE video game, WWE 2k18. Rollins commented on being put on the cover saying the following:
“As the WWE 2K18 cover Superstar and franchise ambassador, it is my incredible honour and mission to ensure this game will truly BE LIKE NO ONE – a calling card perfect for everything I stand for – as it sets forth on its own unique path,” said Seth Rollins. “Following in the footsteps of other WWE 2K cover Superstars – Dwayne “The Rock®” Johnson, John Cena®, Stone Cold Steve Austin® and Brock Lesnar® – I now carry the torch and proudly represent a new generation of WWE Superstars. I am the future, and the future can’t be stopped.”
For me, Rollins is an excellent choice especially as he has the sort of offence that is very video game-esque, and it certainly shows that the company have big plans for him going forward. I'm a big fan of Rollins, and although he hasn’t had the best 12-18 months he is certainly starting to get back towards his best and I certainly think he could still be a huge star for WWE in the coming years. Congratulations Seth!
Well that is it from me this week. I'll be back next week with more coverage of Raw, Smackdown, and whatever news breaks 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.