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 build to TLC for the Raw brand as well as an eventful episode of Smackdown on Tuesday, and much more. We have plenty to cover, so let's kick things off with a look at this week's episode of Raw.
With TLC only a few days away, Raw was focused chiefly on the main event of the PPV, namely The Shield vs The Miz, The Bar, and Braun Strowman. Or so it was prior to this week's main event. The opening segment with The Shield appearing form the crowd to their old music, with the vests was a great moment albeit one that should have been saved for TLC itself if you ask me. Still, a hot crowd made this seem like a massive deal, and the way they surrounded Kurt Angle in the ring was a genuine throwback to their first run. The reunion initially of Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, and latterly with Roman Reigns has breathed new life into all three with Ambrose and Rollins getting a fresh coat of paint and Reigns giving the fans a reason to cheer him. The resultant matches from the opening segment were both fantastic, with Rollins and Ambrose having a terrific encounter with The Bar, and Roman Reigns having a great cage match with Braun Strowman (as you would expect) until the finish with Kane making his "triumphant" return to make the match 5 vs 3 in favour of the heels. For me as good as all of the booking has been in this angle, The Miz has been the MVP of this whole thing, pulling the strings and giving the real heart of the logic behind the heel team's beef with The Shield. Once again, his promo work and his facials have during the "Miz TV" segment with Braun were fantastic, which has really helped tie everything together. I do feel Curtis Axel also deserves a little nod for his week in this angle this week, as he provided some great and much needed comic relief. I fully expect the TLC match on Sunday to be excellent, and hopefully build an even bigger story as we move towards Survivor Series next month.
Finn Balor and Bray Wyatt’s feud is quickly rocketing towards nonsensical wrestlecrap. Despite Wyatt not even being on this show Balor's segment was a total disaster for me, and the weird morphing demon effect was way too supernatural than Balor should be going for. I liked in NXT that the "Demon King" persona was something he tapped into to psyche himself up for big matches, but the main roster seems to have rendered Balor as an actual demon, which is almost as silly as Bray Wyatt being possessed by his dead sister. I genuinely cannot wait to see what on earth this ends up being on Sunday.
The rest of the show was a mixed bag of build up for TLC. Enzo Amore and Kalisto had a decent confrontation, even if Kalisto botched his promo massively; Sasha Banks and Alicia Fox had an OK match in a retread of what they did less than a year ago, while Mickie James and Bayley vs Emma and Alexa Bliss was fine to keep Emma moving towards her match with Asuka and give the final push to James vs Alexa (Bayley was making up the numbers here, unfortunately). Cedric Alexander vs Jack Gallagher was very good and got a surprisingly heated reaction. The cruiserweight tag match will probably be on the pre-show on Sunday, but it could be one of the best bouts on the night. Finally, we got Anderson & Gallows doing bad comedy alongside Elias before they had a decent tag match with Titus O'Neill, Apollo Crews and Jason Jordan. Jordan and Crews might actually be a decent tag team if given a run and it would certainly give Jordan something to do, but whether this was a one-off or not remains to be seen.
A somewhat lopsided show in the grand scheme of things. The main event build for TLC has been masterful, but the undercard has suffered somewhat with the attention being focused on the over stacking of the main event. Still, TLC is shaping up to be a good show, and this was a decent go-home episode of Raw.
What difference a heel turn makes, eh? Sami Zayn as one of the top heels on Smackdown was marvellous this week alongside Kevin Owens. It really is a revelation how good these two are as cocky, unlikeable antagonists. As such it was a nice move to pit them against Daniel Bryan in the opening verbal segment, with him being universally beloved by the fans. The segment really showcased how great Zayn and Owens are as top heels, but the main event solidified them in this position. The match putting Owens and Zayn vs Shinsuke Nakamura and Randy Orton was a really good contest, and seeing Zayn pin Orton in the main event goes to show what a big reversal of fortune the heel turn has created for him. The revelation that Shane McMahon is coming back next week did not perhaps have the anticipated reaction from the audience but again should provide a nice build for some sort of 5-on-5 traditional elimination match at Survivor Series. Nakamura is clearly wasted in this role as directionless babyface, but that seems to be his position for now.
I don’t think anyone wants to see Jinder Mahal vs Brock Lesnar. Outside of possibly seeing Lesnar fling The Singh Brothers around, this match has zero appeal for me. Yet that seems to be what we are getting as Mahal called out Lesnar this week (and apparently Lesnar is due to respond on Raw on Monday). Confusingly though, this segued into what appears to be the start of a programme between Mahal and AJ Styles. The idea of Styles dethroning Mahal is an attractive one, but how they fit all of this together for Survivor Series is anyone's guess.
The rest of the show was a so-so affair. Baron Corbin vs Sin Cara was an odd bit of booking and it seems they don’t know what they’re doing with Corbin at this stage; Dolph Ziggler vs Bobby Roode was little better than their match at Hell in a Cell; the six woman tag was very good and did plenty to continue building to a rematch between Charlotte and Natalya. The Fashion Files was pretty average this week, although it's the best thing The Ascension have done on the main roster, while we also got another vignette for Luke Harper and Erick Rowan coming back as The Bludgeon Brothers, which I personally am very much looking forward to, especially if it finally divorces them from any link to Bray Wyatt.
A mixed bag of a show, perfectly watchable and with some decent story development but still miles behind Raw ta the moment in terms of interest, star power and booking.
One of the big stories of the past week has focused around one Jimmy Jacobs, the former ROH stalwart and more recently WWE writer. Jacobs has been responsible for some great work on NXT, and more recently working heavily with Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho with their partnership and break up. However Jacobs was released from his role at WWE this week after a photo on his social media showed him alongside The Bullet Club during their "invasion" of Raw a few weeks ago. While the photo was fairly innocuous and was mostly just Jacobs with his friends, WWE felt differently. It feel s particularly odd considering Owens, Sami Zayn AJ Styles and others have appeared on Being the Elite. Perhaps Jacobs was made a scapegoat, but he has quickly resurfaced in ROH on a live show at the weekend, so it'll be very interesting to see what role Jacobs plays moving forward. I do expect Jacobs will not be the last casualty in the war between WWE and The Bullet Club.
The big TLC show is this Sunday, and the card is pretty stacked. However, no match has more hype and more potential than the main event. The Shield vs Kane, The Bar, The Miz and Braun Strowman should be a chaotic, crazy brawl with some huge table, ladder and chair spots and someone taking a massive bump. I do believe that The Shield should not be taking a loss in their first match back together, but perhaps with Cesaro, Sheamus or Kane taking the fall and The Shield being beaten down in the post-match we will get something meaningful in place for Survivor Series. Either way, I expect this match to deliver in a big way.
The two biggest matches aside from the main event for me are Asuka vs Emma and Finn Balor vs Bray Wyatt for completely different reasons. Yet both hinge on intrigue for me. It'll be very interesting to see how Asuka is handled on the main roster after being protected and treated as an unstoppable force on NXT, I have my doubts but a strong showing with Emma could settle those doubts immediately. I do expect something of a summary execution for Emma, but we'll have to see what they cook up. As for Balor and Wyatt, who knows what that's going to look like. I am fully expecting Dungeon of Doom levels of ludicrous, with Finn dressed as some sort of mega demon and Wyatt in a grimy wedding dress. Man vs Man this is not, but neither is it likely to be a positive for either man’s career.
For me the undercard looks very good from an in-ring perspective, even if some of the feuds are a little underdeveloped. Jack Gallagher & THE Brian Kendrick vs Cedric Alexander & Rich Swann should be a high-energy affair with some nice exchanges, and could even be a sleeper candidate for match of the night if they get enough time. Alexa Bliss vs Mickie James feels like a time filler for Bliss until her next programme, so I can only see Bliss getting the win but presumably James will give her a run for her money. Kalisto vs Enzo Amore should be fun, but also has the potential to be a very sloppy bout. Conventional logic suggests Enzo gets the belt back given 205 Live is being built around him, and I tend to go with that as their best option. Finally, Sasha Banks vs Alicia Fox is just there. No-one cares, because this has been built in one week without any real issue. Sasha to win.
TLC, much like the build for the show, is very lop-sided in terms of booking but I am expecting a very enjoyable show overall, hopefully setting things in motion for Survivor Series.
Well that is it from me for this week. I will be back at the same time next week with all the news from TLC, 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.