Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at all things professional wrestling from the past seven days. WWE have had quite the busy week with the big last minute push for Survivor Series and NXT Takeover: War Games playing out across three shows in anticipation of a huge weekend of wrestling. However, there was also big news out of other areas of WWE, AEW, and even NWA. Let's dive straight in and have a look at this week's Raw and Smackdown.
Smackdown and Raw
With Survivor Series taking place on Sunday, both Raw and Smackdown were primarily focused on putting the pieces in place for the big annual event. On the blue brand, plans for the Universal title took shape in a somewhat convoluted main event segment featuring Daniel Bryan on Miz TV, interacting with Bray Wyatt (complete with new blue title belt) via the Firefly Funhouse. I’m not 100% sure this worked as an angle, but the broad strokes are fine with Bryan’s face turn still being slowly eked out and his mental state in question. Wyatt had targeted Bryan which got us to these two having a title match on Sunday. The match will deliver and they still have the go-home episode to build it further, but this could have been far better.
The opening segment on Smackdown with Baron Corbin bringing out “The Big Dog”, a mascot mocking Roman Reigns, has divided opinions. I wasn’t a massive fan, but I also conversely quite enjoyed it in a perverse sort of way. The match that followed on from this with Bobby Roode and Dolph Ziggler (who were with Corbin) taking on Shorty G (sigh) and Mustafa Ali was far better than the segment, but I suspect the dog costume will overshadow that. The brand vs brand shenanigans continued as The Revival vs The New Day was interrupted by The Undisputed Era attacking both teams. Nikki Cross vs Bayley likewise ended when the NXT superstars made their presence known, although this led to a match pitting the Smackdown ladies against their NXT counterparts in a wild affair, but one that certainly made me more excited for the PPV. Of all the NXT women here, Rhea Ripley made the most of her TV time looking fantastic up against Sasha Banks. Braun Strowman laid out Drew Gulak and The B Team in a silly segment, while Heavy Machinery squashed some local talent.
On the red brand it was much the same in terms of Survivor Series build. Triple H inviting Kevin Owens to re-join NXT by essentially waving off a match between Owens and Drew McIntyre was a nice little touch even if it ended in the inevitable inter-brand brawl. Interestingly, Triple H didn’t offer Drew a spot even though he is also a former NXT Champion. Seth Rollins vs Andrade with the Raw team captaincy on the line was brilliant until The Lucha House Party (representing Smackdown) got involved and again we got a big brand vs brand ruckus. Likewise Randy Orton and Ricochet’s main event tag title match with The Viking Raiders ended with a big brawl, while the show opener pitting Becky Lynch and Charlotte against The Iiconics also suffered the same fate, albeit with a more narrow focus on Becky vs Shayna Baszler (and Bayley) at Survivor Series. The punch to the security guard was a strong choice too.
Raw had plenty of non-brand rivalry stuff going on too. Humberto Carrillo vs Karl Anderson was enjoyable, and Erick Rowan vs some enhancement talent was more to forward to odd storyline Rowan has with the whole “cage” thing and the 24/7 title. Asuka vs Natalya was a strong showcase for Asuka who you have to imagine is getting a strong push in the next few months now she is a bona fide heel. Bobby Lashley vs No Way Jose was another glorified squash, and the segment with Lana was a borderline disaster. A 90-mile restraining order might cause some logistical problems I suspect. Rey Mysterio and Paul Heyman both cut excellent promos to hype the forthcoming Rey vs Brock Lesnar WWE title match, and the announced No DQ stipulation certainly adds something to that match. Finally, Buddy Murphy beat Akira Tozawa in a fun, physical encounter, but it was what book-ended the bout that was of most interest. Murphy knocked on Aleister Black’s door, seemingly accepting his challenge and the pre/post match segments suggest that is the direction for these two, which could yield some incredible matches.
With NXT invading Raw and Smackdown, Triple H’s “open door” declaration on Monday suggested we would get some main roster stars at Full Sail, and that is exactly what happened. Becky Lynch vs Rhea Ripley was a hot opener and another great showcase for arguably the future of the division against the present top female star. Another no contest, but I understand the logic and having Ripley stand tall with Becky against a common enemy in the MMA Horsewomen (minus Ronda Rousey), without becoming sudden allies was a good way to work this out. Matt Riddle vs Ricochet was excellent (and spared us more Kona Reeves), although having Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura interfere was unfortunate. Finn Balor interjecting himself to attack Riddle was well executed and further stirred the pot for their match at Takeover. The Undisputed Era vs The Revival was superb and one match very much going out of your way to see. Great tag team psychology even at a fast pace.
Kay Lee Ray vs Dakota Kai was a squash and more of a showcase for KLR than anything, although again the aftermath was a brawl. Kairi Sane and Io Shirai having a nice moment before it all kicked off again was noteworthy, and I'm glad it was addressed. The Viking Raiders battled The Forgotten Sons in a nothing match, although I enjoyed that it did make use of an issue between the teams when both were last in NXT. Finally, Adam Cole and Dominic Dijakovic had a decent ladder match that didn’t quite match the instant classic between Io Shirai and Mia Yim last week, but it was the aftermath that mattered more. The invasion and brawl with the likes of Drew McIntyre (who got a great reaction), Nakamura and Cesaro, and most notably Seth Rollins who got into it with Cole and then Tomasso Ciampa, was very well done and a fine cap to this week’s TV with only Friday’s Smackdown left before the two big events as the weekend.
A fine week of TV from WWE, setting up two potentially fantastic events this weekend in the form of Takeover: War Games on Saturday and Survivor Series on Sunday.
While much of the news this week has surrounded WWE, AEW still had a TV show this week and it was excellent as always. The main event with Jon Moxley and Darby Allin was exactly as insane as you would expect, and although Allin lost he gained plenty in defeat. Private Party vs Proud and Powerful was excellent, and a fitting tribute to Matt Travis. The post-match suggested Nick Jackson teaming with Dustin Rhodes in Matt Jackson’s absence, which I am very much in favour of. Speaking of Nick Jackson, his opener with Rey Fenix was absolutely brilliant, and highlighted just how good both men are. Hikaru Shida vs Britt Baker was very strong and probably Baker’s best AEW showing thus far. Shida definitely seems primed for a run with Riho in the near future. The “Dynamite Dozen” battle royal was tremendous fun and sets up a very heated match between Hangman Page and MJF next week. The other big segment with Chris Jericho addressing his first loss, Scorpio Sky subtlety manipulating him into offering a title shot next week, the beat down of SCU and the big spot for Luchasaurus (who also squashed Peter Avalon on this show) was all really good stuff. Luchasaurus is massively over with this audience and if handled correctly he could be a huge player for the organisation, and based on this it certainly seems like they are aware of what they have on their hands. Finally The Dark Order premiered a bizarre recruitment video, but it did at least offer some much needed character development for that particular act.
A very strong show, with a big main event set for next week, as well as a bout with significant stakes between MJF and Page.
AEW Bash at the Beach
One interesting titbit this week came in the form of AEW announcing a show branded “Bash at the Beach” set for January, and planned to coincide with Chris Jericho’s cruise which will also feature matches taped for Dynamite. With BatB a familiar WCW PPV, you might wonder if AEW can expect a cease and desist letter from Jerry McDevitt any day now. Well apparently not. It would appear that Cody Rhodes quietly purchased the trademark after WWE let it lapse, which allows AEW to use it. Other trademarks said to have been picked up are Bunkhouse Stampede, and “The Match Beyond”, which is particularly interesting due to its connotations where War Games is concerned. Whether Cody, as he has stated, is merely picking up some of the trademarks that his father created, or if these are for WCW use remains to be seen, but it certainly gives this writer big WCW nostalgia and that can only be a good thing.
Rumours have been swirling this week that Kairi Sane will be leaving WWE, or is at least considering her options, when her contract expires next year. Sane had a strong start in NXT making a real impression with the whole pirate gimmick before winning the inaugural Mae Young Classic. Sane would go on to win the NXT Women’s title from Shayna Baszler and they would have a storied rivalry before Sane made her main roster debut. Meandering for a few months she was eventually positioned in an initially awkward pairing with Asuka as The Kabuki Warriors with Paige the even more bizarre choice as their manager. The team floundered for months before inexplicably turning heel, with Sane dropping her pirate persona and both women have found new life as villains in the time since, bringing prestige back to the Women’s Tag team titles.
For Sane, it has certainly been a mixed bag of a run and with potentially more money to be made in her native Japan, especially with Stardom recently having been acquired by Bushiroad, who also own New Japan Pro Wrestling. AEW is also a possible option, where Sane would undoubtedly be a huge star in their burgeoning women’s division. It’s certainly a wrestlers market, and anyone who has their contract coming due would be bonkers not to explore their options, which may be what Sane is doing. It will certainly be interesting to see how she is booked in the coming months and whether that affects her standing within the company where she is currently heavily featured. A story to watch.
CM Punk on Fox - Week 2
After his reasonably unexpected appearance last week on WWE Backstage, there was a lot of anticipation about CM Punk’s first full show this week, and it was certainly eventful. Punk gave an interview with Renee Young which traversed a multitude of topics including a potential in-ring return and where he is in terms of his relationship with WWE (he is technically a Fox employee analysing WWE). It was certainly an engaging watch and although Punk says he is not looking for an in-ring return it feels like the door might be starting to open for that to happen down the road. Punk also had an entertaining segment with David Arquette and some nice back-and-forth with Renee. I’m not suggesting this reinvents the wheel, or Punk is back on the WWE payroll, but it was a fun show and I for one will be coming back next week for more of Punk’s viewpoint on the current product, both good and bad.
Jim Cornette controversy
One of the biggest stories this week surrounded the always controversial James E Cornette. On this occasion Cornette made a particularly crass statement that was at best offensive and at worst downright racist. It was clearly intended as a throwaway remark, and as Twitter users have pointed out, a joke he has made in the past. However, that was a very different time, and Cornette is a relic of a different era. While NWA Power is undoubtedly positioned as a nostalgic throwback it still has to stand up to the scrutiny and general standards of conduct of the modern era. As such, NWA quickly took the show down and edited out the offensive line while apologising publicly, but the damage was done. It came as no surprise a few hours later that Cornette had resigned from NWA and would no longer be a part of the company going forward. In some ways it is a shame because Cornette brought an authentic voice to the NWA from the era that Power is so in debt to, but apparently his opinions of what is acceptable are also still just as entrenched in the past. Where this leaves the NWA in terms of a commentary team, or whether this will be seen as a mark against them remains to be seen but I do believe that the company dealt with this in a quick, and efficient fashion even if this should have been spotted well in advance given this is a taped show.
After a controversial few weeks following his revelations about a racist t-shirt design (intentionally or otherwise), and a frustrating experience within the WWE system, ACH AKA Jordan Myles has been granted his release by the company. ACH, real name Albert Hardie Jr had been very vocal on social media about WWE, criticising his now former employers heavily with increasing vitriol. It's not our place to speculate on ACH on a personal level, so I won't, but it certainly seems like his leaving the WWE system is a mutually beneficial arrangement and best for all involved. On the bright side ACH is a very talented wrestler with an extremely bright future who will have no end of potential offers on the table from independent promoters, and once the no compete clause that is presumably in his release agreement expires I imagine NJPW, AEW and many others will be knocking down his door.
Survivor Series weekend preview
Finally this week, WWE has two massive shows happening on Saturday and Sunday, and the first of those two is NXT Takeover: War Games. The card for this show is pretty stacked, with The Undisputed Era vs Keith Lee, Dominic Dijakovic, Tomasso Ciampa and a mystery partner (Velveteen Dream possibly?) in a war games match, while they also have the first ever women’s war games match pitting Shayna Baszler, Kay Lee Ray, Io Shirai and Bianca Belair against Rhea Ripley, Candace LeRae, Mia Yim and Tegan Nox. Both matches should be very strong, and will likely book-end the event and I imagine we will see major title ramifications for both the male and female main titles coming out of this, as well as the North American and tag straps potentially, in the men’s match. Expect violence, brutality and at least a couple of “highlight reel” spots from these matches. In between this big old war sandwich, are two equally intriguing bouts. Finn Balor vs Matt Riddle on paper has the look of a potential match of the night, while Damien Priest vs Killian Dain vs Pete Dunne has an NXT title match at stake for the following night at Survivor Series. If booked correctly, this could be among the best cards anywhere this year, and just in time for those year-end awards.
On Sunday WWE presents Survivor Series, and although the booking on the way into this show has been a bit paint-by-numbers at certain points, the addition of NXT certainly adds a nice wrinkle to the usual Raw vs Smackdown formula. The three-way elimination team matches will both be lengthy affairs and it will be highly intriguing to see how they work out the logistics of such a large-scale coming together of 15 competitors in each match. Expect dissension, a couple of star-making performances and hopefully some out-of-the-box storytelling in both matches.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs Roderick Strong vs AJ Styles, and The Viking Raiders vs The Undisputed Era vs The Revival should be very pleasing affairs to watch and I have high hopes for both. That said, no inter-brand match is as exciting as Becky Lynch vs Shayna Baszler vs Bayley. As much as I like Bayley, I really hope she is kept out of this for the most part, not because she doesn’t deserve to be there, but the Lynch/Baszler story is that much more exciting. It’s a natural rivalry, and the in-built backstory with Ronda Rousey gives this extra layers.
Outside of the inter-brand bouts, there are three huge title matches. The NXT championship[ match pitting Adam Cole against the winner of Dunne-Dain-Priest the night before should be excellent whoever is involved and there is a very strong story to tell with the aftermath of War Games. “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt vs Daniel Bryan is a match we can count on to be special, with Bryan and Wyatt having shown in the past they have chemistry for days, although I can only see Wyatt retaining here. Finally, Rey Mysterio vs Brock Lesnar in a no-holds-barred match which gives the two scope to do anything and everything. Lesnar has shown in recent years that he can be a great base for a smaller, faster opponent and normally has his working boots on for these sorts of matches, so I expect something very special. Who knows, maybe the stipulation even gives them a viable way that Mysterio can defeat Lesnar. We shall see.
A very, very solid weekend of Wrestling awaits, and that is not even including Smackdown on Friday night and anything else outside of the WWE bubble. Let’s hope it’s a good one.
Well, that is it from me for this week. I will be back at the same time next week with a look at NXT Takeover War Games, Survivor Series, Raw, Smackdown, AEW, NXT and whatever else breaks in the meantime. Until then, 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.
Images courtesy of WWE/AEW