Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at all things professional wrestling from the past seven days. It's been a very busy week with both Raw and Smackdown doing the last big push for Survivor Series with their respective go-home shows, while a former WWE World Champion turns to MMA, plus much more. Lets get started, as we so often do, with this week's edition of Raw.
With just one week to go until Survivor Series, both shows were in full promotional mode to give the final push Sunday's big PPV. As a concept this was fine but on the Raw side of things I'm not 100% sure I agree with the methods used. Stephanie McMahon being mostly off television this year has been a breath of fresh air. Kurt Angle may have flubbed a few lines (including pronouncing the acronym the company goes by on numerous occasions), but having a babyface GM on Raw has really helped freshen things up, especially a GM not named McMahon. Stephanie was bearable on the show, but it feels very stale having her involved. Equally, the ripple it created, questioning Angle's decision to put his "son" Jason Jordan on the Survivor Series team, and I like that it furthered that storyline. The resultant match with Jordan taking on Bray Wyatt (not in drag as his dead sister, thankfully), only to get beaten down and injured after the match was well executed, and got the storyline to where it needed to be - Jordan being removed from the match, replaced by Triple H, given the pedigree and embarrassed. As show long storylines go, it was a good one and achieved the two things it needed to, making the inter-brand 5-on-5 match on Sunday the biggest deal possible by inserting one of the company’s biggest names, and given Jordan some tension with his onscreen father and, hopefully, a reason to turn on him. This is another example of WWE finding a way to pump life into a stale looking card for Sunday, and making it a must-see show.
The Shield reforming, finally, on Raw was fairly pivotal to this week's show. Obviously their involvement with the opening segment was mostly a show of support for Angle, but the math with the three later in the show was excellent. With Roman Reigns being off with an illness over the past few weeks it was easy to forget how big a deal The Shield vs The Bar, The Miz, Kane and Braun Strowman was set to be going into TLC. In some way though, this has been a blessing in disguise, because not only did we get a cracking bout with The Bar and The Miz taking on the "Hounds of Justice", but now their first big PPV six-man tag will be against The New Day, which is surely set to be Match of the night, much like it was here on Raw.
This week's show had plenty of other build up for Survivor Series. Samoa Joe and Finn Balor having to co-exist as a team against Gallows & Anderson was excellent, and set up another mini-story within the bigger narrative of Raw vs Smackdown; Paul Heyman (with Brock Lesnar) cut an outstanding promo on AJ Styles, putting him over huge and making me very excited for their match on Sunday in a way Lesnar vs Jinder Mahal could never have done and did the world for Styles as a credible opponent to Lesnar. Bayley beating Mickie James and Dana Brooke to become to final member of the Raw Women's team on Sunday also makes a lot of sense, and I liked that they set up Dana Brooke and Asuka as rivals (and Brooke possibly getting Asuka counted out or similar on Sunday I imagine) as another mini-story. Bayley fits the team, and makes a great babyface addition, although the post-match pose with the team with was very awkward. Enzo Amore and Drew Gulak vs Kalisto and Akira Tozawa was nothing special, but helped push Enzo vs Kalisto for the pre-show for Survivor Series.
Finally, Braun Strowman vs Kane in the main event was a surprisingly enjoyable affair. I find most Kane matches pretty hard to watch these days, and he is a competitor far past his best. However, he and Strowman did plenty of good stuff here, and the finish, while contrived and unoriginal, did plenty to build Strowman ahead of his likely rampage in the match on Sunday.
All in all, a very good show by recent standards. A little too much involvement from the McMahon family, but overall a good show to build to Sunday's absolutely stacked show, and the crossover "invasion", on Smackdown.
With Smackdown "invading" Raw a few weeks ago, it was only a matter of time before the red brand retaliated. As such, with Survivor Series rapidly approaching it came as no surprise to see The Shield make themselves known during The New Day vs Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. The match up to that point had been very good, but the beat down was excellently done. Zayn and Owens bailing from the ring as soon as The Shield's music hit was superb and made them out to be the best sort of cowardly heels. I liked that Roman Reigns hesitated before going anywhere near The Usos given their family links, which was nice and may hint at something more in the future with Reigns torn between his family, and his "brothers" in The Shield. Samoa Joe beating up Xavier Woods with part of his own trombone was brilliant, while the backstage stuff at least mirrored what happened when the women's divisions faced off during the last invasion. Braun Strowman looked like an absolute beast, even if it did make Shinsuke Nakamura look like a nobody in the process (although that could e rectified in the match on Sunday). Kurt Angle came across like a heel in threatening Shane McMahon, but given Shane came across in similar fashion when Smackdown invaded Raw it presumably balances out. This was a very well performed, well-orchestrated angle and it shows the world of difference that a few weeks of actual booking makes in terms of impact for this sort of segment. The first invasion angle made a lot less sense, where this had some actual heat, but in the end it all adds up to a much more heated match for Survivor Series.
As the go-home show, the rest of this week's episode was mostly also Survivor Series based. Charlotte vs Natalya was a very good match and having Charlotte face off with Alexa Bliss at the PPV makes for a far more interesting contest with a better heel/face dynamic. Ric Flair's appearance after the match was also really nice, and considering his recent health issues it was great to see Flair in fine form and looking well. Baron Corbin vs Sin Cara was a fine TV match, although Corbin may have saved his title with his online build-up against The Miz, and between the two of them may have created some actual intrigue for a heel vs heel match, which should be fun. Jimmy Uso vs Chad Gable was a fun bout, but plays into nothing for Sunday really. Finally, Daniel Bryan returned and did a great job creating tension between himself and Shane McMahon, and made AJ Styles look like the biggest star in the company., which was great.
If anyone was wavering on whether to watch Survivor Series, this week's Smackdown alongside Raw should have done plenty to persuade any such doubters to tune in on Sunday. As such, I’d say this was a job well done by the blue brand.
Jack Swagger signs for Bellator
Former WWE World Champion Jack Swagger (real name Jake Hagar) was unveiled earlier this week as the newest signing for MMA organisation Bellator, arguably the second biggest MMA company in the world behind UFC. While a pro wrestler moving to "real" sport is often met with scepticism, this is not the same sort of scenario as one CM Punk. While Punk was a white belt 0-0 record amateur, Swagger does have a high-level amateur wrestling background having reached All-American status before joining WWE. It will be interesting to see how he progresses, and whether this is a new career, or if he plans to go down the somewhat half-hearted route of MM Fighter/Pro Wrestler that Bobby Lashley followed. Certainly interesting times for one Mr Swagger.
Owens and Zayn sent home from European tour, Orton beef?
Since last week's column, there was a story that developed involving Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens after they were apparently sent home from the European tour. The reason for their absence has not been entirely clear, and given this is WWE there are many reasons that it may have happened. Some speculated online that Zayn and Owens went "off script", and didn't take certain bumps for their opponents, while it has also been speculated that they made certain veiled comments that got them in trouble. As seen this week, they were back on television but Owens and Randy Orton had something of a spat on Twitter, with Orton making some jokes about Owens' weight, while Owens retorted with mentioning Orton vaping, only for Orton to mention stopping while on the tour, which Owens missed due to being sent home. It's probably not a huge deal, but given Orton's stature it is interesting to see him at odds with Owens. Equally this could all have been meant far more in jest, but I imagine it'll all unfold in the coming weeks if there is a story to hear.
James Ellsworth released
In late breaking news, WWE announced on Wednesday that James Ellsworth has been released. In all honesty he had essentially run his course as a character many months ago and his "battle of the sexes" with Becky Lynch last week seemed a great way to write him off as a character. He had a superb run alongside AJ Styles and Dean Ambrose in the main event of Smackdown last year, plus his run with Carmella has been excellent at times. I'm sure he'll pop up again at some point, possibly in the Royal Rumble, but in the meantime he'll be off making a killing on the indies while living his dream, and good luck to him.
Survivor Series preview
Finally this week, it’s time to preview the absolutely stacked card for this Sunday's Survivor Series. At the very top of things we have the 5-on-5 elimination match pitting Team Raw vs Team Smackdown. There are so many stories intermingling here that I assume this match goes very long. Samoa Joe and Finn Balor presumably fail to co-exist, Jason Jordan gets involved and costs his "Dad" somehow or attacks Triple H, Kane tries to get revenge on Braun Strowman, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn still to figure into plans and more. We also get Bobby Roode facing off with Triple H for the first time, renewing old rivalries with Samoa Joe, Randy Orton and John Cena facing off with Triple H and so many other possibilities. This match is huge, and if worked correctly should be excellent. I'm predicting a Smackdown win against the odds, unless Balor wins it for the Raw side to set him up for Lesnar at Royal Rumble.
AJ Styles vs Brock Lesnar should be the most intriguing match of the night. I can't see Lesnar squashing Styles, but I also can only see Lesnar winning to keep him strong. Styles makes for a really intriguing matchup of, pardon the pun, styles with Lesnar. It'll be technical suplexes vs high flying and innovation. It could be a huge night for both, but I see Lesnar winning, possibly showing Styles respect in the post-match.
The third of arguably the top three matches on the card (all of which could easily main event this show) is The Shield vs The New Day. Given the phenomenal chemistry both teams have with their units and the genuinely amazing six man matches both groups have had in recent years, this should be off the charts. For me, there is no way The Shield lose this match as a group coming bac together especially with The New Day looking more towards the end of their run as a group. It should be phenomenal, and I wholly expect this to be the match of the night.
The rest of the card looks fantastic. The Women's Champion vs Champion match between Charlotte and Alexa Bliss looks like a potentially very intriguing match. Neither loses by taking the fall here, but I suspect Bliss comes up short, no pun intended. The Women's 5-on-5 match has less intrigue, but I do wonder if Natalya gets the nod for the empty space on the Smackdown team, or if we get a return or some kind, perhaps from a certain English Anti-Diva? Paige is apparently cleared to return, and her addition here would make for a great return spot. I expect Dana Brooke to cost Asuka somehow, and there to be friction on the Raw side, but inevitably Raw to get the win unless we get the Paige return. Finally, we have the two heel vs heel bouts. The Usos (who appear to be slowly turning face) vs The Bar should be a good, hard hitting tag bout and it's hard to call a winner, so let’s say The Bar, while The Miz vs Baron Corbin in the battle of the midcard singles belts could be a masterstroke or a disaster, it's such an odd dynamic that I have no idea how to call it. Let's say Corbin goes over, but who knows.
Survivor Series looks, on paper at least, to be an excellent show. The in-ring product certainly shouldn't let anyone down, it will just be more a question of booking. However, WWE have done a great job recently on that front and hopefully it will continue.
Well that is it from me for this week. I will be back at the same time next week with all the fallout from Survivor Series, Raw and Smackdown, as well as whatever other stories 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.