Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at all things professional wrestling from the past seven days. It’s been a huge week with a big Raw, an eventful Smackdown, some exciting news from ROH and NJPW, as well as an unfortunate anniversary in the industry. Lets kick things off by looking at Raw's offering this week in the build to Great Balls of Fire.
Another busy week on the red brand. The build for WWE Great Balls of Fire continued, and once again a great job was done in building Samoa Joe vs Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship. Joe nearly choking out Brock was a hell of a visual, and really did a lot to make Samoa Joe seem like a credible challenger and make the Coquina Clutch seem like a deadly finisher if Joe locks it in. I'm really excited to see these two finally face off, something I didn’t even think possible a few weeks back and the booking has made Joe look strong that I now actually believe he could win the title, even though he almost certainly won’t
The main event with the Women's division battling in a gauntlet match was very well executed, and it was a fun match. I liked the build-up of Nia Jax as a legitimate monster, and this was probably her best outing in WWE to date. This also made Sasha Banks tapping out Jax seem like a real achievement, putting over both banks and Jax as major challengers. The one downside here was the continued odd booking of Bayley. If I didn’t know better I’d say they were planning a heel turn for Bayley, but that is something I sincerely hope they don’t go for as it would be character suicide for her. If they're not careful Bayley will become damaged goods very quickly with this sort of booking, so I hope they have something planned for her in the long term.
The opening segment with Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman was excellent this week. I can only see their ambulance match, which Reigns has officially accepted the challenge for, being a whole lot of fun. That said, Reigns took a hellacious bump here, and while it made Strowman look like a monster, I did wince when I saw Roman go flying.
After the big turn last week from Big Cass, his segment this week with Enzo was excellent. I liked that Enzo was once again built as the underdog babyface trying to repair the relationship, and I loved that they milked the faux reconciliation and inevitable betrayal from Cass to a tee. It was also great to see the logic hole of Corey Graves' involvement cleared up, and a reason given for why Cass can’t touch Graves. Good work all round here.
The rest of the show was very good for the most part. I felt the segment with The Miz, his entourage, LA Laker Lonzo Ball and his family (apparently they are a big deal in America), and Dean Ambrose was far better that it had any right to be and the resultant match with The Miz, Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel taking on Rhyno, Heath Slater and Ambrose was very good for what it was. Finn Balor and The Hardys vs Sheamus, Cesaro and Elias Samson was another fine match which helped build both feuds for the PPV. Seth Rollins vs Curt Hawkins was a nothing match, although the post-match segment with Bray Wyatt was another bore. I really like Rollins, but Wyatt is kryptonite for whoever is paired with him at the moment. Goldust bringing back his old gimmick was a nice shot of nostalgia even if the confrontation with R-Truth wasn't great (I'm fine with the blow-off happening on the PPV). Finally Lince Dorado vs Neville was a good little showcase for the Cruiserweight division, although the real development was the expected Tozawa vs Neville match being made official for GBoF.
All in all, an action packed show with only a couple of dud segments, and plenty of build to the PPV. I hope they don’t mess up the go-home next week, because thus far this has been a great build.
Well that seemed a bit pointless, didn't it? I appreciate that the re-match of the Women's Money in the Bank ladder match was designed to pop a rating for Smackdown, and I'm sure it did. however, having Carmella win again after James Ellsworth once again got involved (albeit in a situation that meant he got his comeuppance to a certain degree here), was a bit of a let-down. There were some messy spots here, and some downright blown spots, with Tamina and Charlotte being the main offenders for me. Either way, it means that Carmella is once again the holder of the briefcase, so we are back where we were coming out of Money in the Bank. It's probably the right person to take the briefcase, but having the match re-done certainly take some of the shine off it. With Naomi also beating Lana in a re-match on this show (it was ok, not much better than the match on the PPV, but slightly better), and given the finish with Becky Lynch getting injured, I assume we are looking at Carmella taking the belt off Naomi and Becky eventually getting the big win at Wrestlemania.
Randy Orton, you had to go and do it. You had to ask for a rematch, giving them every opportunity to choose the silliest match possible. Joking aside, I really enjoyed the segment with Orton this week, as I'm a big fan of angry, out of control Orton, It certainly suits his character, and makes him far more relatable and interesting. However, getting a rematch where Jinder Mahal can pick the stipulation only confirmed what I feared they had planned: a Punjabi Prison Match. Few gimmick matches are as infamously bad as the Punjabi Prison, and I for one am not looking forward to what will certainly be an absolute mess of a match.
Elsewhere, The Usos beat The Hype Bros, followed by an interesting promo battle with The New Day. Not sure I want to see the proposed 'battle rap' between the two. However, while this interaction might have overshadowed what is happening with The Hype Bros, I am enjoying the subtle story that is being told with Zack Ryder and Mojo Rawley, with their continued failure presumably leading to a heel turn for one of the two. Either would be interesting, so I'm very much up for that. The segment backstage with The Ascension and The Fashion Police was really good this week, and might be the most interesting and entertaining thing The Ascension have done on the main roster, although that isn’t saying much admittedly. Finally we had Baron Corbin and Sami Zayn having a really good match, with Corbin getting the win and some more momentum following his win at Money in the Bank. I found the interaction between Mike and Maria Kanellis and Zayn as he came out for his match interesting, and I do think that could make for an excellent first feud for the couple, although equally it could just be a throwaway moment.
A decent show, not a patch on Raw for the second week in a row, but certainly it had plenty of high points.
Benoit: 10 Years On
Not to bring down the mood, but it is impossible to write this week's column without a quick mention of the ten year anniversary of the tragic, and shocking events that led to the deaths of Chris Benoit, and his wife Nancy Benoit, and their son Daniel Benoit in a double murder-suicide perpetrated by Benoit himself. It was a scandal that rocked the wrestling world to its very core and effectively erased the career of one of the best wrestlers in modern history from the WWE lexicon. Obviously that latter point is a ridiculously distant second to the loss of life of both Nancy and their young son, which is tragic beyond words. I was a huge fan of Chris Benoit, and I wish there was some way I could divorce his actions form his in-ring career as some people are able to, but I sadly cannot. I don’t turn off old shows that feature Benoit, but I certainly can’t seek out his work and I will often fast forward over his work because it is just too difficult and painful to watch knowing what he eventually would go on to do. Of course there are still numerous theories on what really happened, whether it was "roid rage", brain damage, or just something snapping in his brain. One thing we can't argue is that this was a tragedy beyond words, and WWE has absolutely done the right thing by removing any mention of him from their history.
Even a decade later it's hard to see any form of positive from such an incredibly shocking, disturbing series of events. However, if we are to take a positive it's surely in the increased precautions taken with concussions and head injuries in general, especially in WWE. Obviously we know far more now about CTE and musculoskeletal injuries, and the long term dangers are certainly something that is becoming a more and more serious consideration, as well as far more rigorous drug testing. The WWE wellness testing programme might not be perfect, in fact many analysts and industry experts have poked holes in the many loopholes and exceptions that are present in the testing strategy. However, much like in the UFC, some form of testing is better than none and it gets more and more important as the years go on, to protect the incredible talents in the injury to avoid this sort of incident in the future. The wrestling industry has had to evolve, and it is unfortunate that it took such tragic events to make that happen, but at least it feels like it's something that the company, and the wrestling community as a whole might be able to avoid having to face in the future. RIP Nancy and Daniel.
ROH Best in the World
This past week Ring of Honor held its Best in the World PPV, which was another stellar effort from the company. The main event was obviously one of the big talking points with Cody Rhodes taking the ROH World Championship from Christopher Daniels in a very good match. This is a great step for Cody, and he feels like a big deal in ROH, and while Daniels was only ever a placeholder champion it was good to see him get this run on top but this seemed a good time to end it. Kushida vs Marty Scurll was excellent, The Young Bucks vs War Machine vs Best Friends was probably very good if you like matches that go at breakneck pace without much in the way of psychology (I have a complicated relationship with The Bucks' style of wrestling, although you can’t fault their athleticism), while other highlights included Dalton Castle and The Boys vs The Briscoes and Bully Ray for the Six Man Championships, and Frankie Kazarian vs Hangman Page in one of the more brutal strap matches you’ll ever see. This was a really good card, with excellent in-ring action and some good storyline development. A show well worth going out of your way to check out.
NJPW G1 Climax Blocks announced
Speaking of Cody Rhodes, he will be facing off against Kazuchika Okada this weekend in the first night of the NJPW "G1 Special" cards held in Long Beach, California. These shows are a big step for NJPW in their global expansion, and I could definitely see Rhodes winning the IWGP Championship if they are planning on telling the story of Rhodes taking over the leadership of Bullet Club and ousting Kenny Omega. Either way it should be a great match.
However, just as importantly we now know the blocks for the G1 itself, which commences on July 17th. . Block A throws up some really interesting possibilities, with Hiroshi Tanahashi
Togi Makabe, Tomohiro Ishii, Hirooki Goto, YOSHI-HASHI,Bad Luck Fale, Yuji Nagata, Zack Sabre Jr, Kota Ibushi, and Tetsuya Naito. There are tons of combinations there that interest me, although my eyes are immediately drawn to the possibility of Zack Sabre Jr and Kota Ibushi in what was tipped to be the final of the WWE CWC last summer. That should be a blinder, but Ibushi vs Naito, Tanahashi vs Ibushi and pretty much any combination not featuring Bad Luck Fale should be excellent.
As for Block B, we have Kazuchika Okada, Toru Yano, Satoshi Kojima, Michael Elgin, Juice Robinson, Tama Tonga, SANADA, EVIL, Minoru Suzuki, and Kenny Omega. Again the stand out match there is Omega vs Okada III, although it will be interesting to see how the 30 minute time limit affects the tactics and psychology of the match. Regardless, this should be a great tournament, and I am looking forward to catching as much of it as I can over the next month or so. If I had to pick a winner, I would expect Naito to be a frontrunner, although I could also see a surprise winner rising through the ranks, like an EVIL or SANADA. Equally, if Cody beats Okada for the title this weekend, I could see Okada losing to Omega in the group stage and winning the tournament, Omega beating Cody for the title in the autumn, leading to Okada vs Omega in a final rubber match at Wrestle Kingdom in January. Whatever happens, the immediate future of NJPW is very bright indeed.
Finally this week, I just wanted to take a quick moment to herald the newest high-profile drama release from Netflix, GLOW. Unless you've been living under a rock this week you've probably seen the numerous positive reviews of GLOW, and having binge-watched the entire series in two days it's hard to argue. Of course none of the characters are exact to the real life counterparts from GLOW, but it doesn’t take a huge leap to find the inspiration. The show is a fitting tribute to the legacy of GLOW, and I would certainly encourage anyone who enjoys the show to go and watch the documentary on GLOW which is widely available on Netflix, which goes in depth into the real story behind one of the most unusual wrestling companies in history, and the surprising success against the odds. I am very hopeful that GLOW will get a second series and deservedly so, but if you haven’t seen it already it is genuinely worth going out of your way to catch his series.
Well that is it from me for this week. I will be back at the same time next week with all the final build to Great Balls of Fire, Smackdown, any major news from the NJPW G1 Specials, and whatever other 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.