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 the big NXT Takeover: War Games show, Survivor Series. big episodes of both Raw and Smackdown ,plus much more. Lets get started, with return of one of the most infamous gimmicks in wrestling history, War Games.
NXT Takeover: War Games
Kicking off the first night of four straight evenings of wrestling was NXT Takeover: War Games. The NXT Takeover shows have become quite the highlight of big weekends for WWE, frequently outshining the main roster before a big 4 PPV. However, this was always going to be an event that intrigued a large section of the WWE fan base with return of the much mythologised War Games match, a staple of WCW and NWA events, created by the legendary "American Dream" Dusty Rhodes. As such this main event had people whipped into a fervour, even if perhaps some of the television in the run up didn’t quite warrant such hype. The match itself was excellent even if it varied quite significantly from the traditional War Games format. The lack of a roof, the addition of the shark cages and three team dynamic (and the rules changes that were required to accommodate said dynamic) meant the match felt less like a traditional war games bout but it was still very enjoyable. It was violent, had some huge spots, and the right team won, which makes all the difference. Sanity don’t lose anything by not getting the win (in fact Killian Dain and Alexander Wolfe especially looked really good), nor do the oddball pairing of The Authors of Pain and Roderick Strong (although I loved Strong adopting the AoP gear). I have to be honest, I'm not 100% convinced by The Undisputed Era so far. I liked Adam Cole in ROH, but I'm not sure he has the size of the charisma for this level when the bell rings. Hopefully, it'll come with time and he can gain some size over the next few months. Kyle O'Reilly and Bobby Fish look ok, but also seem like they need more seasoning before being genuinely ready for this level. Still, a very good match and performance from all three teams, and a worthy main event as well as a nice new spin on the War Games concept.
Elsewhere on the Takeover show, we had plenty of surprises, especially with the two singles titles. I had expected that Andrade "Cien" Almas vs Drew McIntyre for the NXT Championship would be a better match than it looked on paper, but I had no expectation for Almas getting the belt. That said, Almas has been on top form since being paired with Zelina Vega and as an act they could be a nice top line heel for NXT, especially given the number of potential babyface challengers for him. Unfortunately, it looks like Drew suffered a torn bicep in the finisher, which if true could rule him out for six months which is unfortunate. The Women's title four-way between Ember Moon, Peyton Royce, Nikki Cross and Kairi Sane didn’t go quite as I expected. The match was very good, but I don’t like Moon getting the win, simply because it portrays her as being good enough to win the belt, but given her high profile losses to Asuka, not good enough to beat the former champion while she was there. I figured Sane wouldn’t be getting the nod, because it's too simple a story and it makes sense to save such a win for Wrestlemania weekend, while Cross doesn't need the belt, given her character. I was hoping Peyton Royce was in line for a shot, because given the dynamic with herself and Billie Kay as the Iconic Duo it would have made for a nice change of pace from Asuka dominating, moving towards a heel team getting cheap wins and going in a different direction. The only upside is perhaps this means Iconic are main roster bound soon, which would be great as both are very much ready (although what happened on Raw might make that less likely, more on that later). A surprising turn of events for both belts, but it should make for some interesting matches and fresh feuds in the coming weeks which can only be a good thing.
Although it wasn't one of the top matches, Alestair Black vs Velveteen Dream was one of my favourite matches of 2017. The design of the match, the build-up and the execution were spot on. It's incredible to think Dream is only in his early twenties, he is that good. Black is of course phenomenal, but we already knew that, and this contest was just superb. On a night when you had a War Games match, for this to be the big take home goes to show how good a match it was. Also, I loved Dream's homage to "Ravishing" Rick Rude with his tights, which was superb. Finally, Lars Sullivan beat Kassius Ohno. Sullivan looks fine in this context, but I'm not sure I buy him as the monster he is being hyped as, especially when faced with some of the absolute giants on the main roster. Equally, Ohno just looks like a mess. He really looks atrocious and I sincerely hopes he can get in shape if he wants to get himself on the main roster. He's still a very good worker, and I know body types are not as important as they once were, but performers still need to appear convincing and little about Ohno does this for me. I suspect he is destined to be the gatekeeper of NXT without ever getting the call up and settling into a training role at the Performance Center.
A very decent Takeover show, with a cracking main event and some excellent matches on the undercard. A good showing from NXT.
Well, that was...interesting. The main of event of Survivor Series was one of the matches I had hoped would deliver big on this show and it did, but also didn’t. From an in-ring perspective there was plenty to enjoy with Triple H mixing it up with former NXT talents Bobby Roode and Shinsuke Nakamura, John Cena and Finn Balor sharing the same ring, Randy Orton and Triple H on opposite sides again, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn getting involved to further their feud with Shane McMahon and much more. The continuation of Samoa Joe vs Finn Balor leading to them both being eliminated, the Kurt Angle and Shane McMahon rivalry, and the domination by Braun Strowman were all excellent. However, the huge amount of focus put on Triple H in the match left a bit of a sour taste in the mouth. His double cross of Angle, followed by his double-double-cross of Shane was very predictable and in a match that could have done plenty to give Balor, Joe, Roode and Nakamura the rub the big beneficiary was Triple H. Ok, so he got beaten down by Strowman in the post-match, but Strowman didn’t need the rub. This felt like a real missed opportunity, and while I appreciate in reality that Triple H is more of a needle mover and that this will help set up future programmes, it does nothing for the guys who should be built as the next crop of main eventers. This was also a massive waste of John Cena, who was basically just there. However, given this was a one-off for him it's hardly surprising. A so-so main event, that should and could have been brilliant.
Luckily, the rest of the show has plenty of good stuff to balance out the issues with the main event. Brock Lesnar vs AJ Styles was excellent, easily taking the accolade of Match of the Night. I mentioned last week that if Lesnar had his working boots on this could be a classic, and while it may not have achieved that status it did plenty for both men. Lesnar had to deal with a different type of challenger, and for Styles by taking Lesnar to his limit in a longer match he was able to gain plenty in defeat. The women's champion vs champion match was a fine encounter and again I don’t feel Alexa Bliss lost anything in defeat to Charlotte, but the quality of the match justified the decision to shift the belt off Natalya. Speaking of the Women's division, the 5-on-5 elimination match was another so-so bout, but at least one that was booked in order to make someone look good. Asuka coming back from a deficit as the sole survivor for Raw made her look like an absolute killer and did plenty to get her over, and you could hear the crowd react to her. The Usos vs The Bar was excellent, and although it will likely get forgotten in the shuffle on this show is well worth watching if you’ve not seen it; Baron Corbin vs The Miz was fine for what it was, but like most heel vs heel matches it didn’t really click and it was really a waste of The Miz if I'm honest.
Finally, we had The Shield vs The New Day, which felt somewhat removed from the Raw vs Smackdown narrative when it came to this show (although they were very much front and centre in the build). For me this was a slight disappointment, perhaps because the match was the opener and perhaps because it was a little short. What they did was well done, but it didn’t quite click as well as initially hoped. Not a bad match by any stretch, but not quite the special affair that it might have been given more time.
Overall, Survivor Series was a pretty average show, with a couple of cracking matches, a lot of fair bouts, and a good main event ruined by some questionable booking decisions. Still, if it means I don’t have to see those awful brand-based T shirts for another year that is blessing enough at this stage.
I was somewhat concerned after the ending of Survivor Series that Triple H would be an omnipresent on this week's show, which would mean Stephanie doing the same. I don’t have an issue with them as characters, but when they dominate the shows it can be somewhat overbearing, but they tied up their involvement during the opening segment which was very well executed and spun everyone off into the appropriate programmes for now. Seeing Triple H terrified of Braun Strowman is great for building Strowman, while I thought Angle did really well at bring out some real intensity and emotion to this segment for his kayfabe son. Jason Jordan was his usual irritating self, but it feels as though it's more deliberate than ever to ensure massive heel heat when he eventually turns on Kurt and (presumably) sides with Triple H. The resultant match with Jordan and Strowman wasn’t really more than a brawl until Kane (sigh) returned and beat down Braun. I like that refusing medical treatment for his crushed throat made Strowman seem like a real bad-ass. The more I see this, the more I think he's winning the Royal Rumble, and perhaps the Lesnar vs Roman Reigns plan is not as set in stone as first thought. It feels to me like Strowman is being primed for the big push, but time will tell. As fallout from Survivor Series, and given Raw have almost two months until their next PPV there is plenty of time to unfurl all these intertwined storylines.
The segment with The Shield on Miz TV was very well executed, and I liked the idea of The Miz taking credit for The Shield reforming, and them no-selling it. It's amazing how much more relaxed and assured Roman Reigns looks alongside Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose. The resultant main event was a good match, as is so often the case for both The Miz and Reigns, but it was nice to see Reigns win the Intercontinental belt and hopefully continue Miz's work in raising its profile as the secondary belt in Lesnar's absence. Speaking of The Shield, Dean Ambrose vs Sheamus was another fun TV match, although it perhaps went a bit long. Presumably we now get another rematch between The Shield and The Bar, but I shouldn’t complain really given the quality of the bouts.
Perhaps the most shocking moment of this week's Raw was the return of Paige, interrupting a four-way for the number one contendership for the Women's title. Paige's return is not so surprising in itself, but the company she brought with her was very unexpected, in the form of Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose from NXT. Rose hasn’t been seen on NXT TV for some time (although she was a few months back and looked decent and she has been o the NXT house show loop apparently since then), and Deville has looked sloppy and really not ready for the main roster when she has been on NXT. That said, there is an inherent connection with Paige having operated as a judge on the series of Tough Enough that brought both Rose and Deville into WWE, although the link is tenuous and will need explanation. Still, Paige made a massive impact, and this might help elevate Deville and Rose, while also putting fresh bodies in the division which can only be a good thing. Welcome back Paige!
The rest of the show was pretty standard stuff. Elias's segment with Matt Hardy was enjoyable if unspectacular; Samoa Joe vs Finn Balor was a fun match, but a pretty dominant win for Joe, so I'm not sure where you take this feud from here, if anywhere. The Cruiserweight 8 -man tag was fine if unspectacular (ironically considering the spectacular moves involved), and finally Asuka squashed Dana Brooke, continuing the renewed booking of Asuka as a monster in the women’s division.
A good show, if not the most eventful episode ever. Given there are plenty of TV hours to fill before Royal Rumble, I appreciate the relative restraint while still moving things forward and dealing with the fallout from Survivor Series.
With Raw having moved themselves forward after Survivor Series, Tuesday brought Smackdown's opportunity to do the same. The promo from Shane McMahon to open the show was very good, as was the involvement of Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. It makes sense that Shane would want to fire Zayn and Owens for their involvement, but I liked the logic of Daniel Bryan intervening to propose the lumberjack match with The New Day. It seems like the logical punishment, as they have to acknowledge the talent of the pair, but it's their disruptive attitudes that have caused the issues. You also get the continued underlying discord between Shane and Bryan, which is still there but left as an unspoken thing, which works as a nice subtle background story. The show long storyline of Zayn and Owens trying to get superstars on side to avoid a kicking from the whole roster was a nice touch. The match itself was very good, and I likes that Zayn got the win in suitably sneaky fashion while the lumberjacks predictably brawled. I was less a fan of Owens leaving Zayn high and dry, but I suppose it sows further seeds for the eventual break up, and makes it clear Owens is out for himself, which is a nice little detail. The idea that Owens will now have to answer to Randy Orton next week is both a great detail in terms of Orton being the resident veteran on the roster, but also capitalises on their twitter spat, as detailed in his very column last week. A good effort all round in terms of shifting the focus away from the battle for brand supremacy and towards the build for Clash of Champions with Owens and Zayn back as in the main programme as top heels on the brand.
The other big occurrence on this show happened with the women's division, where we got the surprise debut of NXT talents Liv Morgan, Ruby Riot and Sarah Logan. After the other NXT debuts on Monday night, this was very unexpected. The backstage segment with Naomi and Becky Lynch was well executed, while the Natalya vs Charlotte re-match was very enjoyable, but their further interruption and beat down there made a lot of sense. I did wonder, if perhaps there is more to this angle than initially it appears. Given the similarity of this debut vs the debuts/return on Raw, I wondered whether the two may actually be linked rather than two separate entities, which would be awesome. Imagine having a faction that has two arms, one on each brand and they come together on co-brand shows. Equally, this could just be very lazy writing and the template for Monday has been copy and pasted here. I hope it's the former rather than the latter, because if it is down to laziness that is completely unacceptable. Either way, I suppose we'll know more on Monday.
The rest of the show was fine, if not particularly inspiring. Shelton Benjamin vs Jey Uso was a very enjoyable TV match, and I am looking forward to seeing The Usos face off with Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin again for the tag titles in what should be a really fun match. AJ Styles in-ring promo on Survivor Series was very good, and a great way to rehab Styles after his loss to Brock Lesnar on Sunday. Jinder Mahal's response was also fine, and did well to set up the two facing off at Clash of Champions. It is interesting that this match was originally scheduled for this episode of Smackdown, but was pushed back to the PPV, which takes place after the Indian tour. To me, this is the strongest evidence yet that the Mahal experiment is in fact over, and Styles will be holding onto the belt through the end of the year. That said, it just as equally wouldn't surprise me if WWE did the opposite to set up Mahal vs Cena at Wrestlemania. Still, we get Styles vs both Samir and Sunil Singh next week, and that should be fun, if not a complete squash. Finally, we got the debut of The Bludgeon Brothers, squashing The Hype Bros. The gimmick is cartoon-ish and I can see Luke Harper and Erick Rowan back with Bray Wyatt by Wrestlemania-time, it's a shame but this gimmick is not going to help either man get over, despite both being very good in the ring.
A decent show, a bit of a slog to get through at times, but not terrible. Things are starting to move into place for Clash of Champions and the Royal Rumble in January, and there was plenty of fun stuff to enjoy on this show.
Stephen Amell to ROH
At Summerslam 2015, Arrow actor Stephen Amell made his WWE debut tagging with Neville against Cody Rhodes and King Barrett, in what was a very impressive effort. It was known for a long time that Amell was a big wrestling fan, and he had a fairly impressive showing. Fast forward to 2017 and Amell is clearly not done with the grappling bug as he made some appearances for Ring of Honor last week alongside The Bullet Club. I like Amell, and Arrow is a favourite show of mine, so it's nice to see Amell getting on board with more wrestling appearances, but also it goes to show the sort of pull Bullet Club is beginning to have in a more mainstream way. With their merchandise in Hot Topic stores in the US, and having both a presence in ROH and NJPW, Bullet Club seem poised for world domination, and a star like Amell getting on board is certainly an indicator of the level of popularity they are approaching.
Well that is it from me for this week. I will be back at the same time next week with a special edition of Slammer Jabber, 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.