Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at all things professional wrestling in the past seven days. This week's big stories chiefly revolved around WWE with their annual post-Wrestlemania UK tour taking place, including two TV tapings at the o2 arena in London. However, there was also news from the big All In show, as well as World of Sport. This week we'll start off in unusual fashion with a quick look at the NBC Universal Upfronts presentation.
Nia Jax vs Ronda Rousey at Money in the Bank
The big story this week was not from Raw or Smackdown, but from the NBC Universal Upfront presentation, where Nia Jax, Ronda Rousey and Charlotte were in attendance, which eventually led to Jax challenging Rousey to a match at Money in the Bank for the Raw Women’s title. This feels really quite soon for Rousey, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens, especially given Jab’s relative inexperience. I appreciate they have to address Rousey as the big star of the division, but I’ll be very interested to see how this unfolds. I also wonder if this plays into Charlotte being in the ladder match, perhaps the start of a long ter plan for Wrestlemania next year. Time will tell.
As is the yearly tradition WWE rolled into London this week to tape episodes of their two top TV shows, starting with Raw live from the o2 arena. Unfortunately, another tradition of these tours is for little of note to happen, something WWE upheld again with Raw. The opening segment with Roman Reigns and Jinder Mahal confirmed my fears that we are getting the two of them facing off at Money in the Bank, and the reaction to each, including a positive one for Mahal shows exactly the sort of thing WWE can expect at Money in the Bank. The spot with the walls a bit later was very well done, but it’s too little too late for Roman. I also take some issue with the idea that he is being pushed as some sort of anti-authority, held-down character. It’s such odd booking, given the reason many dislike him is because he was very much the person pushed in the role over Daniel Bryan. It’s a bizarre story they are trying to tell, and I have no idea where or how it can conclude with a satisfactory ending.
One man who is being booked superbly is Seth Rollins. Like clockwork, Rollins had another amazing bout this week, this time with Kevin Owens. Rollins is very much the workhorse of the company and is certainly being placed in the AJ Styles-esque role on Raw, presumably with a view to making him one of the top faces on the brand, maybe even resulting in a run with the Universal title eventually. His opponent Kevin Owens would also have a busy night, later on facing Elias and Bobby Lashley in a very enjoyable main event to qualify for the Money in the Bank ladder match (Owens was replacing the injured Jinder Mahal who was taken out by Roman Reigns earlier in the night with the aforementioned wall spot). The finish was well done, and played into Sami Zayn’s earlier promo on Bobby Lashley (in short he blames Lashley for injuring him and taking him out of the Greatest Royal Rumble among other things, not that Zayn was in fact pulled from the show due to a fear of an issue over Saudi Arabia’s relationship with Syria, and Sami’s background, nope definitely not that). Next week should be very interesting with Zayn bringing in Lashley’s sisters. It could be brilliant, horribly offensive, or a slice of genuine wrestlecrap, but it’s one of the few hooks to watch next week’s show.
The women’s division got some nice shine on this show, which makes a nice change compared to recent weeks. Sasha Banks, Natalya and Ember Moon vs The Riott Squad was a very enjoyable bout, while the qualifier for the women’s Money in the Bank match was fun. I can’t see her winning it, but nice to see Alexa Bliss getting the nod too. Of course much of the stuff with the women’s division this week focused on the aforementioned Nia Jax-Ronda Rousey story, but there is quite the burgeoning roster of talent on the Raw side, with Ember Moon especially impressing since her call up from NXT.
The rest of the show had plenty of interesting matches, but not a huge amount of significant story development. Finn Balor and Braun Strowman (who are teaming because?) vs Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre was a fast-paced, hard-hitting affair and I must say I enjoyed it, but poor Finn seemed to be here solely to give the heels someone to pin that wasn’t Strowman. Still Ziggler and McIntyre look great, so hopefully, there are big things planned for the two of them, especially Drew who has been superb since his return to the big stage of Raw. Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt vs The Revival was little more than a squash, while The B-Team (yes that is what Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel are going by now) beating Breezango in a nothing match. Finally, Bobby Roode got his expected spot in the ladder match by beating No Way Jose and Baron Corbin in a match that really lost my interest after the entrances. Jose had some notable British performers in his entourage (including one Jack Sexsmith), but much like Adam Rose a few years back, he is destined for mid-card obscurity in the very near future.
The usual nothing show for Raw in London, some good in-ring action but overall a very skippable episode. Everything will almost certainly be recapped vigorously in the coming weeks, so beyond Rollins-Owens, you wouldn’t miss a great deal.
While Raw was perhaps a little on the dull side, Smackdown was an altogether more vibrant affair. The main event pitting Shinsuke Nakamura against WWE champion AJ Styles was a superb TV match, and a more than worthy main event. Both had some enjoyable backstage segments in the build-up to the match and this may have been one of the better bouts they have had. Nakamura winning was a nice change of pace after the inconclusive results to their last two bouts and I like that this sets up the rubber match at Money in the Bank. Presumably, Nakamura will reveal his choice of stipulation next week, but this was a fine main event.
The opening segment with Daniel Bryan and Big Cass was interesting, although it mostly existed to get Bryan some comeback after his clean loss to Rusev last week. Cass showed his improved promo skills though, and the segment went over really well overall. Presumably, we are getting a rematch in the coming weeks, unless Bryan is going to try and cost Cass his MitB qualifier with Samoa Joe next week leading to a feud with Joe himself, which in fairness I’d be delighted to see happen.
The rest of the show was pretty enjoyable, aided by a very responsive crowd. Andrade “Cien” Almas’ debut was a basic squash, but it did the job. Carmella’s “Mellabration” dragged on a bit until Paige announced Asuka as Carmella’s next opponent, which hopefully will help rehab Asuka, possibly setting her up to take on Charlotte in a rematch at Summerslam possibly; Becky Lynch looked excellent in victory over Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville, advancing to the Women’s ladder match. Finally, The Bar and The New Day had an excellent back-and-forth encounter, leaving the question lingering over which member of The New Day will be taking the spot in the ladder match, presumably leading to some tension there.
A very enjoyable, quick moving episode of Smackdown, with some cracking in-ring action and some good storyline development for Money in the Bank. Absolutely wiped the floor with Raw this week.
For the past few months, Cody Rhodes and The Young Bucks have been dropping hints and announcements about All In, the 10000 seat arena show they had planned for September in Chicago. However, this week the real test came with tickets going on sale, and astoundingly the show sold out in well under an hour. This is quite the achievement and should not be underappreciated, given that neither Ring of Honor, nor TNA, or in fact any promotion in the USA have been able to achieve such a feat outside of WWE in many, many years. The card will likely be stacked with the best talent from ROH, NJPW and basically anywhere but WWE. With that in mind, there is, of course, the lingering CM Punk question, something that has intensified with Punk making a rare wrestling-related appearance that same weekend at the Pro Wrestling Tees store in Chicago. This doesn’t mean Punk is returning to wrestling, but if it’s going to happen in the near future you have to imagine this show will be where it happens. A huge achievement for the organisers, and what should be a cracking show.
World of Sport
This past week World of Sport hosted their tapings for the upcoming ITV show, featuring a huge roster of UK talent. I won’t reveal too much, but the show reports have been very positive with some surprisingly big names on board. Whether it takes off or not is a case of “wait and see”, as well as how ITV programme it. Personally, I suspect ITV will be putting this on in the summer months when there is little-to-no expectation of success, which in fairness is not necessarily a bad thing for WOS’s chances of having a regular slot on ITV, or at least on the family of ITV channels. Of course this is interesting given the timing of WWE announcing more of the talent for their UK shows at the Royal Albert Hall (so far announced are Zack Gibson who is favourite to win the tournament, Joe Coffey, Jack Gallagher, Dave Mastiff, Kenny Williams, El Ligero, Joseph Conners, Amir Jordan). We’ll have more on this, I’m sure, in the coming weeks.
On that point, I was very amused to see WWE have made a cheeky attempt to cash in on the Royal Wedding by having William Regal invite Prince Harry and Megan Markle to the event. William Regal had the following to say:
“On behalf of WWE, I invite you to enjoy your first date night as a married couple at the Royal Albert Hall to see the WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament on June 18 and 19.
"It's our way of saying congratulations on your wedding, with a Regal invitation to a regal venue for the UK’s newest regal couple. You might even witness the crowning of a new United Kingdom champion.”
Sterling work there from WWE.
No Money in the Bank
Finally, I wanted to shine a light on the wrestling-based comedy show I attended at the Brighton Fringe Festival, No Money in the Bank. The show essentially revolved around stories about the two stars of the show Thom Bee, Andrew Marsh and “wrestler” Balthazar Dark. I won’t say too much, because frankly I don’t want to ruin the surprises, but I would implore you to check this show out if you can. The show is really really well thought out by two very talented guys who are both entertaining and clearly huge wrestling fans. They have upcoming previews in York and Leeds, with Edinburgh, of course, looming too. I would very much recommend you get along to see this show, an absolute must for comedy and wrestling fans, but just as accessible for non-wrestling fans too. You can find more information on upcoming dates here.
Well, that is it from me for this week. I will be back at the same time next week with all the news Raw and Smackdown, as WWE continues to build to Money in the Bank, 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.