Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at all things professional wrestling form the past seven days. This week WWE had a busy week with their big Money in the Bank PPV, as well as a bombshell announcement on Raw, while AEW were continuing to build to their upcoming Double or Nothing show, and New Japan Pro Wrestling offered a major update on their future. We'll get started by having a look back at Sunday's big WWE show.
Money in the Bank
While in years gone by Money in the Bank has been an unpredictable, ladder-filled, normally pretty destructive event, but this year it all felt a bit different. The show was essentially divided into two portions; the performance centre section and the corporate headquarters section.
For the first section, the in-ring action was very good, although hampered by the lack of an audience. The show opened with a fast-paced, high octane four-way tag match featuring The New Day, Lucha House Party, Miz and Morrison (hey-ho) and The Forgotten Sons. I wasn’t a big fan of Wesley Blake and Steve Cutler in NXT, or really since they joined the main roster, but I do think they looked good here. John Morrison continues to impress in this run and surely has been earmarked for bigger things later in the year. Lince Dorado and Gran Metalik (who was sporting a new look that was very reminiscent of a masked Juventud Guerrera, something the commentary team also spotted) impressed me greatly. The New Day were excellent as always. Bobby Lashley vs R-Truth was a dominant squash, while Bayley and Tamina put forward a very serviceable effort. Drew McIntyre and Seth Rollins put together a match that would have been really hot in front of an audience, while Braun Strowman and Bray Wyatt went for a more dramatic effort that sets up Strowman taking on Wyatt’s alter ego in the coming weeks. A decent show in the grand scheme of things, and under the circumstances.
The second part of the show was tremendous. A fun scramble that might as well have been a video game with the way it was presented. The men’s and women’s matches had lot of unique and fun spots that made great use of the location. The collision of the two groups in the cafeteria, the cameos from Brother Love, John Laurinaitis, Paul Heyman, Vince McMahon all worked brilliantly and added to things, while everyone played their part perfectly. The final segments on the roof were interesting, as it appeared initially that Baron Corbin had attempted to murder both Rey Mysterio and Aleister Black by throwing them off a building before Asuka took him down in a confusing spot and won her briefcase, and then shortly after Otis lucked into taking the men’s briefcase. A very satisfying and exciting conclusion to a surprisingly fun PPV.
Coming off Money in the Bank, Raw was set to be an eventful episode of the show, but no-one could have predicted how eventful. The programme opening with Becky Lynch vacating the Raw Women’s title and Asuka being awarded it by virtue of the Money in the Bank win was unexpected and surprisingly moving. Lynch going away to have a baby will hurt WWE to an extent in terms of star power, but it’s completely understandable and I can’t imagine anyone not wishing Lynch and her fiancée Seth Rollins all the best. Speaking of Rollins, of course he was featured heavily on this show, having some sort of a mental crisis, which was weird timing with the Becky announcement, but it weirdly worked quite well. The spot with Mysterio’s eye was well executed and Seth looking disheveled and going into a catatonic state was a nice twist on where his character has been going, especially with the segment later on with the ambulance. It all worked very well in the circumstances, even if it jarred somewhat with the real-life news regarding his impending fatherhood.
The rest of the show was so-so, as these empty arena matches tend to be. The segment that closed the show with Edge and Randy Orton set up an intriguing one-on-one wrestling match between the two for Backlash, but wow was that interjection by Charly Caruso at the end awkward. Bobby Lashley looked dominant against Humberto Carrillo, and now looks to be aligned with MVP (who teamed with his other charges, Brandon Vink and Shane Thorne in a losing effort against Cedric Alexander, Ricochet and R-Truth) coming out of this show. They had great chemistry in TNA, so hopefully WWE can recapture that here. Shayna Baszler, who made some very heel-ish comments about Becky Lynch’s announcement, got a reboot with a strong win over Natalya. The basketball segments with The Street Profits and Viking Raiders were different and broke up the empty arena action. The IIconics made a very welcome return picking up a win over the women’s tag team champions. Finally, Drew McIntyre and Andrade put together a fine match; although I’m not sure we needed to see them wrestle again so soon after their last match a few weeks ago.
A decent Raw, with a very note-worthy lead story, but still a hard watch without an audience.
Although NXT is, like Raw, Smackdown and Dynamite, not the same without an audience, it has fared pretty well in this environment and this week’s show was genuinely very entertaining. The show long storyline of Matt Riddle and Timothy Thatcher coming apart at the seams as a makeshift team was really well handled. Imperium make sense as tag champions and looked super in victory over the mismatched Thatcher and Riddle unit, after Thatcher walked out. The pull-apart backstage set up nicely the main event, as did Thatcher getting the jump on Riddle backstage later on. Giving Thatcher a clean win over Riddle would have been a dream start for the former Ringkampf member, but Riddle getting the fluke win and Thatcher destroying him with the arm bar after the match did just as well really. Excellent work from both men to establish Thatcher as a big deal in NXT
Karrion Kross and Scarlett Bordeaux built on last week’s stunning debut with a great promo, while Johnny Gargano and Candace LeRae did similar albeit with different enough messaging/tone to avoid any real overlap. Tegan Nox shone (pun intended) against Indi Hartwell as NXT appears to be grooming her for big push. Jake Atlas vs Tony Nese, and Jack Gallagher vs Isiah “Swerve” Scott were both strong cruiserweight matches, while Aaliyah failed to impress Robert Stone as she went down in defeat to Kayden Carter. Finally, Cameron Grimes and Finn Balor produced a very enjoyable encounter with some big moments, and the reveal that Damien Priest was Balor’s attacker a few weeks ago, as he interjected himself allowing Grimes to pick up a momentous win.
A very strong show this week that moved at a good pace from the off, and did enough to offset the location and hold my attention.
Away from WWE, AEW continued to ramp up for Double or Nothing on May 23rd. The show opening angle with Lance Archer, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, and Cody Rhodes continued to heat up that programme. I wasn’t super sold on the necessity for the angle with Roberts and Brandi Rhodes last week, but they did well here in justifying that here. This feels like a match that could main event the show, and they’ve certainly built it well enough that it won’t be a shock if it does go on last. An added factor is the announced appearance of Mike Tyson to present the TNT Championship, which in any other circumstances would be a huge coup, although with everything scaled back it’s not such a big deal, but still something that will potentially garner mainstream publicity.
Brodie Lee announcing himself as the “Self-Proclaimed AEW World Champion” was a nice touch, and his match with Christopher Daniels was excellent, while the post-match continued to set up Lee as a big threat to Jon Moxley. Jurassic Express vs The Best Friends was fun, although Fenix ambushing Orange Cassidy was the real headline, that kick looked insane. The women’s four-way did a great job of establishing Hikaru Shida as Nyla Rose’s next challenger. Kenny Omega and Matt Hardy vs Santana and Ortiz was another fun tag match, while MJF looked good in his return. Finally, Chris Jericho beat Sugar Dunkerton (who I would have liked to see get a bit more offence) and then he had a weird stand-off with Vanguard 1 before smashing it up with “Floyd”, his baseball bat. I wasn’t a huge fan of the angle, but it did set up the challenge of The Inner Circle vs The Elite in a Stadium Stampede match, whatever that is. Intriguing.
Another strong episode of Dynamite ahead of next week’s go-home show for Double or Nothing.
NXT Takeover: In Your House
One big announcement that came out of this week’s television was that NXT will be honouring the legacy of WWE’s In Your House PPVs by hosting NXT Takeover: In Your House from Full Sail University on June 7th. It’s a cool thing, given IYH turns 25 this year and it is a PPV series that many have strong nostalgic memories of, even though it was associated with probably WWE’s poorest ever period in business and financial terms. Details are scarce currently, but it is notable that it is taking place at Full Sail rather than the WWE Performance Centre, given that WWE have filmed everything at the PC since audiences were taken out of the equation. Does this mean there will be some sort of audience presence? It’s very hard to say, but I certainly hope WWE will pull out all the stops by bringing back the old IYH set, and the various trappings of that and go for a full-on nostalgia show, done safely of course. This is a developing story and I suspect we’ll have more on this in the coming weeks.
Sami Zayn Stripped of IC title
In an interesting, but not unexpected turn of events this week, Sami Zayn was stripped of the WWE Intercontinental championship, with a tournament announced to crown a new champion taking place over the next few weeks. Zayn has not been on television since Wrestlemania, and it’s not known whether he has declined to appear under the circumstances, or whether there is an injury or medical issue that is preventing him appearing, but it certainly appears he will be off television for a while either way. It’s a shame for Zayn, but if it’s not an injury and given the current climate it’s hard to blame him. That said, it also gives him a great storyline reason to antagonise the new champion when he eventually does return and that could make for some great TV.
Finally this week, New Japan Pro Wrestling President Harold Meij released a video earlier this week giving fans an update on the status of NJPW. It was quite a lengthy update, but it outlined that the company continues to take a stance of protecting its employees and will not be putting on shows until it safe to do so. He did explain that empty arena shows will be part of their roadmap back from their hiatus, but only if and when government advice suggests it is safe to do so. While it is obviously a big financial hit for the company, you have to admire their commitment to safety and protecting their staff, while also building up a lot of good will among fans and media that will certainly pay off when they company returns.
Well, that is it from me for this week. I will be back at the same time next week with any big news from Raw and Smackdown, NXT, AEW Dynamite, and probably some more general thoughts, as well as touching on any major stories that might 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.
All images courtesy of WWE/AEW/NJPW