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 changing up the plan for Survivor Series with some huge title changes, while NJPW had their last big show before Wrestle Kingdom including a blockbuster announcement. Lets get started, as we so often do, with this week's edition of Raw.
Raw this week emanated from the Manchester Evening News Arena in front of a pretty lively crowd and for the most part it was above average for a UK episode of Raw. The main event between The Bar (dressed in Liverpool kits, which is instant heat in Manchester, great work there) and Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose was just as good as the matches the four have had over the past few months. I liked the intervention of The New Day, and the way they mocked The Shield's entrance by coming through the audience. It was a nice, unexpected surprise and certainly changed things up in terms of the head-to-head matches at Survivor Series. A very good main event all things considered, although I'm not sure where this leaves The Shield, unless they are planning on doing a Shield vs New Day 3-on-3 match, which sounds phenomenal, while The Bar go on to face The Usos (probably, more on that later).
By the end of the night we certainly had a better idea of how the Raw team would be shaping up for Survivor Series. The addition of Jason Jordan is a nice touch, especially if he costs the team the win, given the long term storyline they look to be telling there in terms of nepotism and Kurt Angle’s ability to do his job as GM impartially. Jordan's Guitar on a Pole match with Elias was surprisingly entertaining, although the Manchester crowd were not amused. The Samoa Joe open challenge and subsequent match with Finn Balor was excellent, and I like the idea of the two being at odds but having to co-exist on the same team now Angle has named them as members alongside himself, Braun Strowman and his son. It's a strong team, even if I cannot see it main eventing.
Kurt Angle's guest spot on Miz TV, and what it led to was very well done. The segment itself was fine, even with the unusual build to the heel vs heel match between The Miz and Baron Corbin thrown in. Having The Miz suggest that Angle may have had some involvement with Kane attacking Daniel Bryan last week was also a nice touch and a good way to sow the seeds for something at a later date. I also enjoyed that this segment had a point in announcing Strowman vs The Miz for later in the night. The match itself was more a brawl between Kane and Strowman, with Strowman also beating up The Miz-tourage, but it was an enjoyable enough bout that continues to portray Braun as a monster, but also a badass babyface, which works well for him. Braun to win the Rumble?
The other big happening on this show involved one Enzo Amore. His wisecracking on the crowd and Kalisto ahead of their match at Survivor Series was very good, but seeing WWE UK Champion "Bruiserweight" Pete Dunne debut on Raw and beat Enzo was a sight to see. Few people work as hard as Pete Dunne or deserve this more, at 23 he is easily one of the best performers on the UK independent scene, and should be for many years to come. I suspect this was just a little something for the UK crowd, and Dunne is not quite being positioned for a spot on Raw just yet, but it can’t be far away. If I were you I would catch this guy in the UK now while you can, because it's only a matter of time that you'll be able to do so, even if he is wearing a pigeon mask somewhere. A great surprise, and a great showing form Dunne.
The rest of the show was mostly taken up with the Women’s division. Asuka absolutely bulldozed a local talent before being named on the Women's Survivor Series team by captain Alicia Fox, still doing the crazy gimmick. It's a shame, because I would have liked to see Asuka kept away from the other women for now, but hopefully she's made to look strong and this means the Raw team are getting the win. The other match featuring Bayley and Sasha Banks vs Alicia Fox and Nia Jax was an enjoyable tag match, and made Sasha and Bayley look very good (the audience were very into Bayley, which made her seem a bigger deal than the way she has been booked recently). The addition of Sasha to the women's team for Survivor Series makes sense, but I wasn’t sure whether Bayley was also added or not. If not presumably she gets added next week. A decent showing overall.
For the most part this was a very decent show, especially for a UK Raw where normally not much of note happens due to the nature of the time difference and the show being on tape delay. However, this did plenty to make the Survivor Series line-up seem much more exciting, and overall did plenty to get me interested in what happens next. Good work WWE.
I thought Raw did something big for a UK show, but Smackdown topped all expectations. I don't think anyone really thought AJ Styles had a hope in hell of beating Jinder Mahal for the WWE Title, just given the amount of time and effort WWE have put into building Mahal. However, that is what happened, in a huge moment and what may be the first time the WWE title has changed hands in Europe. What's more remarkable is that Styles dragged Mahal to a top drawer match, and it has since been confirmed that Styles will now be taking on Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series. WWE don’t often go for such drastic a shake-up of plans, but the lack of buzz for Survivor Series had obviously not gone unnoticed and WWE took action, and what action it was. Lesnar vs Styles should be excellent, provided Lesnar has his working boots on and is no less than Styles deserves after having almost two years at the absolute peak of his powers. It was a huge shock, and makes for a massive upgrade on the originally planned match for the PPV. It was believed that John Cena would be the referee for the match at Survivor Series, leading to a feud with Mahal, but now it has been announced that Cena will be on the 5-on-5 team for Smackdown, which suggests that this has involved a complete overhaul of plans.
The other big moment on this show was Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin taking on The Usos for the tag team titles. I hoped that Gable and Benjamin might get the win, but the match ended in a count out and what may or may not have been a legitimate injury to one of The Usos. It will be interesting to see what happens with this situation if it is a genuine injury and whether we get a title change next week as a result, although it could just as easily be a storyline injury to prolong this programme until Clash of Champions in December. Still, this was a very good match and I would like to see more of these four together in the ring in the coming weeks.
Elsewhere on this show, we had a fun opening segment with The New Day and Shane McMahon, only to be interrupted by Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. The resultant Zayn vs Kofi Kingston match was an excellent TV match, and well worth a look. It seems as through this is building to The New Day vs Owens and Zayn, but possibly after Survivor Series given everything else that is going. Rusev vs Randy Orton was a fun, short match and probably my favourite encounter between the two so far this year, while Rusev continues to be a highlight of Smackdown every week. Finally, Becky Lynch vs James Ellsworth was exactly what you would expect, but probably more fun than it had any right to be. Becky is great and I do hope after Survivor Series she is back in the title picture, because it is very much deserved.
A momentous show this week, with a "Phenomenal" main event, a huge surprise title change and plenty of fun matches and segments for the live crowd. Things have changed massively in one night and Survivor Series looks far more promising now.
NJPW Power Struggle
This past Sunday, New Japan Pro Wrestling presented Power Struggle their last big show for the year leading the build to Wrestle Kingdom 12 on January 4th 2018. Obviously the big news coming out of this show is the return to NJPW of Chris Jericho on January 4th to challenge Kenny Omega for the IWGP US Title. Honestly, I was genuinely surprised to see Jericho turn up on the big screen, but what a coup for NJPW. Omega is probably the best wrestler in the world not in WWE, so this a huge deal for everyone involved. It's hard to see how this works given Jericho's relationship with WWE, but you have to imagine that WWE either aren’t happy, or agreed to this on the basis that they get something in return. It will be very intriguing to see how this plays out, and whether this is a one shot appearance for Jericho, or whether there is more at play here. Still, if NJPW wanted to get extra eyes on Wrestle Kingdom 12, they’ve certainly gone a long way to doing that.
I won’t review absolutely everything on this card, because I think you should go out of your way to see it, but I will say the rest of the show had plenty of interesting developments and fun matches. "The Villain" Marty Scurll beat Will Ospreay to become the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, presumably leading to a four-way now with Ospreay, Hiromu Takahashi and KUSHIDA at WK 12, which should be absolutely brilliant. Minoru Suzuki vs Toru Yano was excellent if not a bit too long; while in the main event Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kota Ibushi, who had a phenomenal match. The post-match with the reveal of Jay White as the mysterious Switchblade character was a bit anti-climactic for me, but hopefully White can show something huge against Tanahashi with the two facing off at WK 12. A great show, and a superb way to put all the pieces into place for January 4th.
WWE UK Tour
With WWE on tour this week doing various shows all over the UK, there has been something of a media offensive by the company with Sheamus, Cesaro and Kurt Angle visiting the Manchester City training ground, Triple H appearing on Good Morning Britain and many other high profile appearances to hype the live shows and the TV tapings in Manchester. There were a few interesting notes from the tour thus far, with Triple H joining up as a temporary member of The Shield alongside Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose (even wearing the tactical gear), filling in for the still absent Roman Reigns. Obviously this was just on house shows and in the world of the TV shows it never happened, but that's one of the many fun things that can happen at house shows where there's a bit less pressure and more of an emphasis on fun for the audience and the performers. In addition to appearing on the live shows, Triple H made a surprise appearance on an ICW show in Cardiff over the weekend, accompanying WWE UK Champion Pete Dunne to the ring for a promo. It was a great surprise for the live crowd and considering WWE have an ongoing relationship with a select few UK promotions such as ICW and Progress, it was a great move to have him appear, as well as further validating Dunne (not that he needs it, he's superb as it is).
While WWE were here, they also announced the opening of a new Fan Experience WWE Academy for kids aged 4-14 as part of Kidzania at Westfield Shopping Centre in Stratford, London. If you don’t know Kidzania is a massive facility that allows kids to experience what real life jobs and careers might entail, giving them a look at what the might want to do in the future. Obviously the kids aren’t in there taking bumps, but they can choose their character, cut promos, ring gear and much more. It's a really nice idea and continues to push the brand to a young, expanding audience. You can fault WWE for many things, but when it comes to unique and interesting marketing few companies are more forward-thinking.
Well that is it from me for this week. I will be back at the same time next week with all the continued build to 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.