Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at things professional wrestling. It's been quite the international affair this week, with WWE in Australia for Super Showdown, and back in the US for Raw and Smackdown, plus NJPW hosting their big King of Pro Wrestling show in Tokyo. However, given it dominated the news this week, we'll start off with WWE's stadium show from Melbourne this past Saturday.
While it might not have been a Wrestlemania level show, Super Showdown had plenty of good matches to enjoy, although your definition of “good” will likely colour how much you enjoyed the main event. Triple H vs The Undertaker “One Last Time” was exactly what everyone expected, a smoke and mirrors affair between two aging veterans, one who is far less mobile or capable than the other and using every shortcut known to man. That said, this nostalgia-fest was very enjoyable from my perspective, but it doesn’t make me want to see it again any time soon. However, the post-match beat-down by Undertaker and his brother Kane on Triple H and his corner man Shawn Michaels guaranteed that is exactly what we’re getting at Crown Jewel in a few weeks, which we’ll discuss further when we get to this week’s Raw. As the main event, it wasn’t a classic by any stretch but neither was it an embarrassment either.
The two biggest matches outside of the main event both delivered in spades. The Shield vs Braun Strowman, Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre was chaotic, and unpredictable with a great tease for the continuing tensions among the “Hounds of Justice”, that ultimately yielded a victory for Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns. Samoa Joe vs AJ Styles was quite possibly my favourite match of the night, with fire and fury from both, Joe putting in some excellent heel work and Styles doing fantastically as the wronged babyface. Although I’m not sure I would have had Joe lose by submission, there was enough work done to establish the knee injury that it made sense in the end.
Further down the card, Daniel Bryan and The Miz was over in a flash, which seems like an anti-climax to their feud, but perhaps is a device to divert both men till we get a proper payoff to the feud down the line. Bobby Lashley and John Cena vs Kevin Owens and Elias was essentially a house show match, with Cena’s odd haircut and troll-worthy finish the biggest talking point. Buddy Murphy and Cedric Alexander had a great match, which provided a huge showcase for the cruiserweight division, especially in front of Murphy’s hometown crowd. The title change was definitely the right call, and the audience came unglued for it which was great given the usual lack of spotlight on 205 Live. Speaking of hometown returns, it was nice to see The Iiconics work as straight-laced babyfaces, even if Asuka and Naomi weren’t playing full on heels. Becky Lynch vs Charlotte was as good as I had hoped, although the non-finish let it down somewhat, you can see why they chose that option. The New Day vs The Bar was a fine opener, which really helped get the crowd going (The New Day always seem to). Finally, Ronda Rousey and The Bellas had a passable bout with The Riott Squad, although it was honestly not much to write home about.
Super Showdown was a very good show overall, with something for everyone. It had the big nostalgia-filled main event, the blood feuds with Becky/Charlotte and Joe/AJ, hometown heroes, big action and more. It wasn’t the most historically significant show, but there’s something very novel about watching a WWE PPV at a reasonable hour, and I can’t say I was left disappointed.
NJPW King of Pro Wrestling
While WWE was busy with their big Australian stadium show, NJPW hosted their massive King of Pro Wrestling show on Monday, which traditionally is the last major stop on the road to the big January Tokyo Dome show (I mean aside from Power Struggle, but this arguably a bigger show). The main event was a rare triple threat match pitting Cody Rhodes, Kota Ibushi and IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kenny Omega against each other for the title. In all honesty, it was a bit of a let-down. The match was fine, and it had some innovative spots, but with a result that was never in doubt, there was a lack of drama and emotion to proceedings. In truth, I feel that Omega’s title reign thus far has been a bit of a damp squib and as much as he was designed to be the flag bearer for NJPW’s expansion, Omega feels like an odd fit in the babyface role. As things continue, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kenny taking on more heel tendencies in the run-up to Wrestle Kingdom with the crowd in Tokyo likely to be solidly behind Hiroshi Tanahashi. The post-match confrontation with Tanahashi and Omega did plenty to get me excited about the match though, which will surely be an absolute classic.
The rest of the show was the normal mixture of solid wrestling and story development, but in this case perhaps the latter took precedence. I was sad to see the match between Evil and Zack Sabre Jr waived off, but the angle with Chris Jericho was very well executed, and nicely sets up Evil and Jericho for Power Struggle. As a bi-product, I also now would quite like to see ZSJ and Jericho mix it up, but sadly I suspect that is not on the cards. The other big angle, of course, came with the aforementioned Hiroshi Tanahashi taking on Jay White with the briefcase on the line. The match itself was great fun, and I thought it was a superb measure of how far White has come since his WK bout with Tana, with the two clicking far better here. The idea of White joining the Bullet Club (well the BCOGs/Firing Squad at least) alongside Gedo and Jado is an interesting one, and I’m not totally sure where it goes, but it was definitely a surprise. Kazuchika Okada getting involved to save Tanahashi was a nice move too, and the tease of the two teaming up as a proper mega powers tag team is mouth-watering to say the least, while it also helped keep the build-up for White vs Okada at WK on track.
The final eventful moment from this show came with the match that perhaps had the most intrigue about it before the event. Roppongi 3K, Okada and Toru Yano vs the LIJ team of Tetsuya Naito, Sanada, Bushi and a mystery new member of the group. Well, after much speculation over the likes of Pac, or an existing member of the roster, the reveal was Shingo Takagi who had recently left Dragon Gate and had trained with Naito early in his career, prior to the two going to their separate dojos. Shingo is superb, and makes a great addition to the group while giving Bushi a partner for the JR Tag League coming up, but also someone who can move up to heavyweight once Hiromu Takahashi returns from injury. All in all, a great addition to the NJPW roster and I can’t wait to see him face off with the likes of Zack Sabre Jr, Will Ospreay, Kota Ibushi, and countless others.
Further down the card, Kushida and Marty Scurll had a very good bout, with Kushida now back on top of the junior division, Chaos vs Suzuki Gun was mostly a way of working towards Will Ospreay vs Taichi for the Never Openweight title, and Ospreay’s eventual move to heavyweight, while Great Bash Heel vs Taguchi Japan and the Bullet Club civil war match were exactly what you would expect on an NJPW undercard. This was a very enjoyable show, as per usual, although some of the booking seemed a little odd, it did the job of building all the elements for the full-on march to Wrestle Kingdom.
Degeneration X formed in 1997, and have had reunions in various guises in the 20+ years since, but few expected to see a DX match in 2018, but that is exactly what we're getting with Triple H and Shawn Michaels facing off with The Undertaker and Kane at Crown Jewel. The ending of the main event of Super Showdown made this the logical next step, and while it's hardly the way anyone envisioned a HBK comeback, it's certainly happening. Hopefully, it's not just a one-off and he'll do at least one proper singles match before heading back to his coaching job at the Performance centre. This was a very good promo and certainly got me hyped for an HBK return.
Another big return took place on this show, with Baron Corbin abusing his power to attempt to get into the World Cup tournament for Crown Jewel, via a battle royal featuring various enhancement talent, only for the masked Conquistador to, shockingly, turn out to be Kurt Angle who eliminated Corbin for the win. It was a fun segment, although Angle in a tournament setting might be a waste of a slot. It's nice to see the tradition of the masked Conquistador continue though.
Outside of reunions and returns, Raw this week also boasted not one, but two big heel turns. Firstly, The Bellas predictably double-crossed Ronda Rousey, which they had been doing some not-so-subtle hinting at for a while now, but the turn was well done and sets up Rouse vs Nikki Bella for Evolution, which is a logical match to make. The second heel turn came from Bobby Lashley who brutalised Kevin Owens, even attacking after the match for the injury angle (presumably for a legit injury). It makes sense, given his hype man Lio Rush is a natural heel, and anyone who saw Lashley in a similar role with MVP while in TNA will know how well this can work. As for Owens, hopefully, this sets up a babyface return and a programme for him when he does come back. Good work all around.
The rest of the show had a few talking points, but also some filler too. The Shield vs Strowman, Ziggler and McIntyre was very a strong TV match, and the aftermath with Ambrose walking off and leaving Reigns and Rollins helps continue building tensions between the three, while on the other team Ziggler seemed to be increasingly ostracized. The segment with Trish Stratus, Alexa Bliss, Mickie James, and the returning Lita was a fun few minutes. I'm not sure I like the bait and switch of having the two singles matches for Evolution becoming a tag, but it does make sense considering one team is made up of mostly retired performers, plus it allows them to use the history between James and Status to help tell a larger overall story. Ember Moon vs Nia Jax was a surprisingly fun encounter, while The Ascension vs Bobby Roode and Chad Gable was a nothing match till the finish. Still, Gable and Roode vs AoP be a nice pairing, and the beatdown looked excellent. Paul Heyman cut a very good promo, reminding everyone Brock Lesnar is back for that sweet Saudi money at Crown Jewel before he goes back to UFC. Finally, Bayley and Finn Balor faced Jinder Mahal and Alicia Fox in chapter 945 of the pointless mixed tag feud no-one, anywhere was clamoring for.
A very good Raw this week, with a fast pace, multiple storylines and lots of top in-ring action. There was some filler but it flew by, which can only be a good sign.
While Raw was very storyline heavy, Smackdown was much more focused on the in-ring side of things. The main event featured the continuation of the rejuvenated Randy Orton as he took on a returning Big Show in a surprisingly good qualifier for the World Cup. Orton looked really good here, and Show was used in the way he really should be at this stage, a returning attraction. Samoa Joe and Jeff Hardy also had a very good encounter in their qualifier, and I liked that they continued the knee injury story for Joe following on from his match with AJ Styles at Super Showdown. One thing I really liked on this show was that surrounding these matches we got video packages for each man, which was a nice touch and made the World Cup qualifiers seem like a big deal.
The other big match came from Becky Lynch and Charlotte who had a cracking rematch, even if there wasn’t a definitive ending. The addition of the Last Woman Standing stipulation to their Evolution contest seems suitable for the very personal nature of this feud and the fact it’s not been done before works well for the PPV. Of all the options available, this is probably the best choice to headline an all-women’s show, and hopefully, they realise that and treat this bout accordingly during the build-up.
The Miz TV segment on this week’s show was a real highlight for me. Not only were AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan able to hype up their own programme, but it kept Miz in the middle of things, with Miz essentially challenging whoever wins at Crown Jewel for the WWE title. If I were WWE, given how the finish of Bryan/Miz at Super Showdown was booked, I would have Styles retain against Bryan (perhaps through some shenanigans, maybe involving Joe so you can spin off Bryan and Joe for a feud) and then have Miz beat AJ for the title. That way he can rub it in Bryan’s face that he did what Bryan couldn’t and then you can have Bryan chase Miz all the way to Wrestlemania for the title. That may not be what’s happening, but it certainly would be an option should WWE decide to go that way. Either way, it was a belting segment, and the match that followed with AJ and Shelton Benjamin was another very good TV match, following on from Benjamin’s strong showing against Bryan last week.
The segment with Rusev Day was a little strange, and I do feel as though they’ve brought this whole story about the tape and Milwaukee to a resolution very quickly. That said Rusev, Lana and especially Aiden English were all great here, and it made for good TV, even if it perhaps could have been stretched out for another week. Finally, it was announced that next week Rey Mysterio Jr will return to Smackdown for a match with Shinsuke Nakamura, in a qualifier for the World Cup. I’m in two minds about this, as I am genuinely excited to see the match and with next week being Smackdown 1000 I appreciate they want to make it special. However, that is a genuine main event anywhere, and should probably have been saved for PPV. We’; have to see how they deal with it next week, and booking gripes aside it should be a terrific contest.
Another very good show from the blue brand this week. The matches ranged from good to excellent, everything was deliberate and included to build to something, be it Evolution of Crown Jewel, and nothing dragged. WWE is 2 for 2 in terms of top quality television this week.
No Money in the Bank at the Resistance Gallery
This Sunday there is something very special happening at the Resistance Gallery in Bethnal Green, London. The legendary Balthazar Dark will be in a real-life wrestling ring, as comedians Thom Bee and Andrew Marsh bring No Money in the Bank to London. Regular readers will know that I attended a NMITB show at the Brighton Fringe, and it was superb. Honestly, I cannot stress highly enough, or strongly enough how much I think you should get yourself down to this show. If you are in London, on Sunday and you like wrestling, or even if you don’t do yourself a favour and get along to see some great wrestling-related comedy. If you can’t make Sunday, you can catch them at various other dates around the UK in the next few weeks, with full details and ticket information available here. You really won’t want to miss this show!
NXT UK to debut
In late breaking news, just before we published this week's column, it was announced that NXT UK will be debuting on the WWE network as a weekly episodic show on Wednesday October 17th. WWE has been taping shows from all over the UK for several months now and it looks like that will continue as the brand evolves. The roster is fantastic with the likes of Pete Dunne, Mark Andrews, Eddie Dennis, Toni Storm, Jinny, Trent Seven, Rhea Ripley, Isla Dawn, and countless others involved and it should be a superb show, which I for one cannot wait for. It's an exciting time to be a fan of British wrestling and it'll be very interesting to see how this contrasts with the WOS shows that were on ITV recently.
Well, that is it from me for this week. I will be back at the same time next week with all the news from Raw and Smackdown, 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.