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 Hell in a Cell show for the Smackdown brand as well as the resultant episode on Tuesday, an eventful Raw, a big announcement from NXT, and much more. Let's kick things off with a look at Hell in a Cell.
Hell in a Cell
Twenty years on from the very first Hell in a Cell and WWE presented their now yearly PPV of the same name featuring two matches taking place within the structure, and a multitude of other bouts from the blue brand. Despite this show being a bit of a let-down in previous years the 2017 iteration was a genuine triumph for WWE. The main event between Kevin Owens and Shane McMahon was a really fun match, with plenty of brawling, big spots and two huge spots involving the cell itself. Obviously, Shane's leap from the cell was not quite as shocking as the initial spot at Wrestlemania 32 (ore the far less staged and as a result much less safe Mick Foley spot in 1998), but it is still ridiculously spectacular. The interference from Sami Zayn wasn’t as shocking as perhaps it could have been if it wasn't telegraphed on the previous week's Smackdown, and the camerawork could have made it less obvious that Zayn was waiting for Shane to jump so he could pull Owens away from the table, and it made Shane seem very silly for not noticing Zayn on the floor, despite being very clearly visible. However, it made for a good end to the show, and gives Zayn something of note to do for the first time in a while. A very good main event.
The other cell match between The Usos and The New Day was potentially a match of the year contender with both teams giving absolutely everything possible. The Hell in a Cell can be considered something of a challenge for performers as there have been so many Cell matches that the need for new and original spots is key to how well received the match will be. This match had weapons, innovative use of handcuffs, big spots, aerial manoeuvres, and a cracking finish and told a great story. You really can’t ask for much more from an opening bout, and this was a real high point for the PPV, Smackdown, and even WWE as a whole this year.
The rest of the show was mostly very enjoyable. Shinsuke Nakamura dragged a decent match out of Jinder Mahal, even if the baffling booking of Nakamura losing clean to Mahal was infuriating. I really don’t think WWE know what they have with Nakamura, and you can only imagine that he will be heading back to main event NJPW when his contract runs out next year. Dolph Ziggler vs Bobby Roode was more enjoyable than expected, and I actually enjoyed that the punchline to Ziggler's entrance gimmick is him walking out without music; Charlotte vs Natalya was a good match, although the finish was a little on the cheap side, while Randy Orton vs Rusev was just there, not offensive, but not the most interesting match ever. Finally, Baron Corbin vs Tye Dillinger vs AJ Styles was a very enjoyable three-way-dance, and Dillinger's involvement allowed for Styles to drop the title without having to take the fall, and to put the belt on Corbin. This seems like a good step in rehabbing Corbin, so hopefully he’ll be back on the right track soon.
A very good show, and one of the stronger WWE PPVs in recent memory, this had a bit of everything and a killer angle to go off the air.
The biggest thing on Raw this week, was the reformation of The Shield. The opening segment, which followed on nicely from their moment backstage last Monday, was brilliantly executed. All three guys milked it for everything it was worth, and The Miz was brilliant as the utterly punchable heel, shocked that the reunion was actually happening. I also very much enjoyed the beat down by The Shield later on against Braun Strowman (after his very enjoyable match with Matt Hardy) and the triple powerbomb through the table. This was very well booked, presenting The Shield as stronger than the sum of its parts, but then also getting Braun Strowman entangled further into the reunion and being added to the match alongside The Miz and The Bar at TLC. The notion of those seven men in a TLC match is very promising indeed, and gives the number advantage to the heels which seems like a no-brainer, and gives Strowman something to do until he has a new programme to take part in. All we need now is the riot vests for TLC and this is one of the best angles of the year.
For the third week in a row, the cruiserweight division headlined Raw (possibly due to a lack of strong ratings in that hour up against NFL Monday Night Football), but the lumberjack match with Enzo Amore and Kalisto was fine for what it was, even if it felt like getting the belt off Enzo had been somewhat rushed. It sounds like there may have been extenuating circumstances involved, but we'll get to that later. It was a nice moment for Kalisto, even if it felt a bit out of nowhere. Equally, I'd rather be Enzo and Kalisto than the other cruiserweights, with The Brian Kendrick and Jack Gallagher vs Cedric Alexander and Mustafa Ali essentially being used as a filler for the announcers to hype the rest of the show.
What can you say about Bray Wyatt after this week's show? I've always been a fan of Bray and have generally defended even the weirder angles they've given him to execute, but the segment this week with Finn Balor might have been a bridge too far, even for me. Bray Wyatt magically transforming into his dead sister and being possessed by her was one of the worst things I've ever seen. It was campy when it was clearly intended to be serious, and frankly I don’t know whether this was some sort of in-joke on Wyatt, or this was deemed to genuinely be a good idea. It wasn't. I'm curious to see where this angle goes, but for all the wrong reasons. Well done to Finn Balor for genuinely selling the promo as a terrifying, but the sooner this is behind both of them the better.
The rest of the show was pretty so-so, with Jason Jordan and Karl Anderson having a nothing match while Elias vs Titus O'Neill was inoffensive if not particularly inspiring. Speaking of uninspiring, the women's five-way to determine a challenger to face Asuka at TLC was pretty difficult to watch. A badly booked, overly long and quite poorly executed bout that gave us Emma to face off with Asuka in what will essentially be a summary execution. Finally, Alexa Bliss and Mickie James had a decent segment with Alexa mocking James for her age. She's 38. Sigh.
A decent show in terms of the build to the big matches at TLC, and some decent in-ring work, but some very average stuff on the undercard and one awful segment that I couldn’t believe I was seeing.
This week's Smackdown was very much focused on the mop-up and fall out from Hell in a Cell. The main event featuring the rematch between Baron Corbin and AJ Styles was a surprisingly enjoyable match and Corbin beating Styles pretty cleanly was a great step towards re-establishing Corbin as a player on Smackdown, hopefully humbled by his recent demotion. I say demotion but in some ways the US Title has been established as the primary title on Smackdown in order to facilitate the Jinder Mahal experiment (which I'm sure we can all agree has failed) although I'm not one hundred percent sure why Mahal was missing from this show). Still a good main event, and this presumably frees Styles up to move on to challenge for the WWE Title while leaving Corbin to carry the US Title.
The second biggest segment on this week's show was the reunion of Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens after Hell in a Cell's shocking conclusion. I enjoyed Owens' promo and I thought Zayn did a very good job of explaining his motivations for turning on Shane McMahon, and I am really looking forward to seeing how this unfolds in the coming weeks. Zayn seems like such a natural babyface, but perhaps in order to get the crowd invested in him this is the way to go. It also means we don’t get Owens vs Zayn for a few months which can only be a good thing.
The rest of the show was enjoyable if not blow away. The opening segment was a good way to cap off the feud between The New Day and The Usos with the mutual respect angle, especially as it walked a fine line in still keeping The Usos as heels. The resultant match between the majority of the tag division was a decent affair and it'll be nice to see Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin mixing it up with The Usos. Becky Lynch vs Carmella was a fine match which certainly goes to show how wasted Lynch has been in recent months. Bobby Roode and Dolph Ziggler had a confrontation that did plenty to prolong their feud even if I'd rather Roode moved on to something better. Shinsuke Nakamura and Randy Orton had a good bout with Rusev and Aiden English, even though again I assume this was just to keep Orton, Rusev and Nakamura busy till they have new programmes moving forward. Finally, we got a vignette for the somewhat repackaged Luke Harper & Erick Rowan who are now using some sort of Vikings/Game of Thrones-inspired gimmick and going by the moniker of The Bludgeon Brothers, and they have massive Thor-like hammers. I'm all in on this one, and I'm delighted they’re actually doing something with these two.
A decent show, although a bit of a comedown from the (literal) highs of Hell in a Cell.
NJPW King of Pro Wrestling - Will Ospreay
This past weekend may have had the Hell in a Cell PPV, but New Japan Pro Wrestling also had a PPV, King of Pro Wrestling. I haven't had a chance to watch the show as yet (there are only so many hours in the day, I must sleep at some point), but I wanted to take this opportunity to congratulate Will Ospreay on finally capturing the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship beating KUSHIDA. I'm reliably informed that the match was an absolute corker, and well worth going out of your way to watch. I am also told that the two big matches featuring Kazuchika Okada vs EVIL and Tetsuya Naito vs Tomohiro Ishii were excellent and put all the pieces in place for the main event of Wrestle Kingdom 12 on January 4th 2018. Let the build-up begin.
Riptide Wrestling: The Storm review
While we're on the subject of Mr Ospreay, he put in a stellar performance in the main event of the excellent Riptide Wrestling event in Brighton on Friday, alongside his Swords of Essex tag partner Paul Robinson (not the Neighbours character or former Blackburn Goalkeeper, no) against the South Coast Connection. The whole show was excellent, with stellar turns from "The King of Strong and Stable Style" Spike Trivet, Jack Sexsmith, Cara Noir, Candyfloss, Session Moth Martina, and Bea Priestley all making a big impression. However, for me the biggest highlight of the night was CCK vs Aussie Open. The hi-jinks pre-match with the Kid Lykos replacement competition and the injured Lykos being replaced by WWE UK Champion Pete Dunne was so much fun, and the match was brilliant fun. Riptide have very quickly cultivated a cult following and a great atmosphere at the show. If you can get along to their next show on November 3rd, which will feature Jimmy Havoc, Keith Lee and Matt Riddle in the main event, I highly recommend it. A great example of how to build a following for a British independent company, and put on a show that doesn’t disappoint. Not even a smoke alarm and evacuation could dampen the rabid crowd. Fantastic work all round.
In surprising news this week, it appears that former Cruiserweight champion Neville allegedly walked out of Raw this week and requested his release from the company. Nothing has been confirmed, but various outlets are reporting that Neville was originally intended to lose to Enzo Amore in the main event lumberjack match, and he walked. It's is of course difficult to know what is true and what isn’t, but equally I could completely understand if Neville decided to walk away at this point. He has been easily one of the top performers on WWE television in 2017 and I'm not sure he ever got the credit he deserves for keeping the previously ailing Cruiserweight division alive and bringing it back to prominence. While it would be a shame to see him leave, the possibilities for Neville outside WWE in ROH, NJPW, PWG, Progress and countless others is mouth-watering. Hopefully we'll have more news on this in the coming weeks and the facts of what actually happen come out in the wash.
War Games 2017
Finally this week, the news leaked earlier in the week that WWE are bringing back the two-ring War Games concept made famous by the NWA/Jim Crockett Promotions/WCW. IT has long been a favourite of fans, and it is considered to be the one big part of the WCW legacy that remains untouched by WWE, partly due to Vince McMahon not being a fan of the concept. However, given Triple H is the mastermind behind NXT it should be no surprise that it is in NXT that this match is taking place at the next Takeover event. I won't spoil anything for the upcoming tapings in terms of the participants, but it should be very exciting to see this classic cage match happen and then "the match beyond".
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 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.