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.
Since last week's column, there have been some fairly major developments in WWE in terms of the health of its employees. Late last week there were rumours abound that Bray Wyatt, Bo Dallas, and WWE ring announcer, as well as Wyatt's real life girlfriend, Jojo Offerman were all sent home from the house show loop due to a viral infection, reported to be either Viral Meningitis or Mumps. Fast forward to the weekend, and WWE.com announced that Wyatt and Roman Reigns had both been pulled from the show, with AJ Styles filling in for Wyatt against Finn Balor, and more surprisingly Kurt Angle joining Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose as a substitute for Reigns. Obviously WWE had to scramble to replace two of the big matches for this card at very short notice, and I have to say on balance I think they more than delivered. More on that shortly. There is no real update on Reigns or Wyatt (or if anyone else has been affected), but hopefully we will have more information on the health of the two moving forward, and we hope that that both have a speedy recovery.
As already mentioned, this card had some major issues in the days running up to it, but I think for the most part the show delivered. The main event was very long, but the big spots were well done and still remained a very safe affair. I liked that Angle was in the Shield-style gear simply because it means that this doesn’t feel like they threw away his proper return on a b-show and he has a bit more time to get into ring-shape and do a proper match on a big stage with the singlet and full entrance. Angle looked OK for someone who had to step in late, and there were definitely sparks of the Angle of old in there. The heels looked good for the most part, although the strange Braun Strowman face turn and subsequent stuffing into the bin lorry was a bit hokey. No-one is exactly crying out for a Kane vs Braun feud, but I guess this set that in motion. The match didn’t really feel like a TLC match, but given the limitations and changes that they had to cope with I felt like it was a fine match.
The other match that of course had issues was Finn Balor vs Bray Wyatt. Wyatt's absence was not really explained other than it being a medical issue, but what we got was far superior to anything that Wyatt would have been involved in. AJ vs Finn was excellent, even if it could have done with being a tad longer. Both bought the best out in each other, and the in-built story of the former Bullet Club leadership for both made for a nice subtext to the bout, although it was a bit less subtle in the post-match. Easily the match of the night, and by far the best thing they could have done with a bad situation. Hopefully, this means that Bray Wyatt as Sister Abigail gets canned and we just pretend that never happened, because frankly no-one wants to see that.
The rest of the show was enjoyable if not super spectacular. Enzo Amore vs Kalisto was exactly what you would expect, and if I'm honest the lack of awful botches was a blessing considering the guys involved; Alexa Bliss vs Mickie James was a very well laid-out match with a good finish that did plenty to elevate both Mickie and Alexa, while Cedric Alexander and Rich Swann vs Jack Gallagher and The Brian Kendrick was a fine, but instantly forgettable affair. The whole Jason Jordan vs Elias segment/match was a bit of a waste and I don't think it helped either in the quagmire of the Raw midcard. Finally, we got the debut of Asuka on the main roster against Emma. I had been expecting a squash by Asuka, but this was a surprisingly competitive match that went far longer than it should have. Asuka looked fine, but given the build they could have done far more with her. Still, it was a decent debut and hopefully it gives the booking team something to work with.
A very decent show, especially given the circumstances with a fine undercard and cracking top two matches for a b-show.
Under Siege. No, not the Steven Seagal movie from the early 90s, but the two words you can 100% expect WWE to overuse in the next few weeks. The big build towards Survivor Series started in earnest this week, with the big invasion by Smackdown and the huge backstage brawl with the two rosters. Before I get onto the negatives of this segment, and there are plenty, I feel we should look at the positives. WWE was hoping to put together a segment that seemed chaotic and out of control with a group of foreign invaders coming in and smashing the place up. It was well done as a visual, and certainly did something to hype up the Survivor Series brand vs brand concept. However, the lack of continuity and reasoning becomes a problem here. Chad Gable attacking Jason Jordan with no pretext for an issue between the two, AJ Styles attacking the same people he teamed with earlier in the night, Bobby Roode and Shinsuke Nakamura who both seemed so special in NXT have now been reduced to wearing the dreaded blue Smackdown brand T shirts. The whole thing was a nice idea, but the character motivations, and what exactly gives Smackdown the motivation as a brand to band together is really quite unclear. There are really no stakes, and therein lies the problem. We should praise WWE for trying something different, but I'm not sure the detail was as well considered as the broad strokes of this angle. In fact the only upside to this was The Miz's promo, which actually had very little to do with the Survivor Series matches and more to do with TLC and Angle, but at least it interrupted the worst announced line-up in Survivor Series history. This angle has a long way to go to make me interested in the Survivor Series main event.
The build continued for the title vs title match no-one wants, Brock Lesnar vs Jinder Mahal. Paul Heyman's promo was excellent, but all it did for me was reinforce my feelings that Mahal is a joke and not on Lesnar's level. You just know they are going to have Mahal win to try and continue to push the Jinder experiment, but this still feels like a proper lacklustre match and a waste of a Lesnar match.
The remainder of the show was mostly filler. The AJ Styles, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins vs The Miz and The Bar match was a very good opener if not somewhat disconnected from anything else. Alexa Bliss cut a great promo before being confronted by Mickie James (who hit an impressive kick/DDT combo considering her footwear choice). Asuka had a much better outing with Emma than they had at TLC, which bodes far better for Asuka on the main roster than the previous night. Alicia Fox vs Bayley vs Sasha Banks for the captaincy of the Raw Women's Survivor Series team (which incidentally means absolutely nothing as a role) was fine for what it was, but it inevitably means very little. The cruiserweights had a big 5 on 5 tag match, and there's not much else to add on that front, while Elias waffled Jason Jordan with a guitar. Finally, Kane beat Finn Balor clean. In 2017. The less said about that the better.
A very average show, with some absolute dross to build a terrible looking PPV, with so many logic holes that it beggars belief. Not good.
This week's episode of Smackdown was certainly focused on damage limitation after the end of Raw. I enjoyed that they didn’t take the easy way out and just have Raw invade in a reciprocal fashion. While their invasion feels inevitable there are several weeks before Survivor Series, so it logically makes sense that it didn’t happen immediately when the blue brand would be on high alert. Instead, we got renewed focus on the conflict between Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. Zayn was excellent in the opening segment, and I know I seem to say this every week but his work as a heel is a revelation. By simply taking some of his face mannerisms but reframing them as the work of an obnoxious heel Zayn is excellent. His promo battle with Shane McMahon made sense, and logically explained why Zayn and Owens would want to be on Team Smackdown and set up the main event. Zayn vs Randy Orton was a fun main event, and I don’t think Zayn lost much in defeat. I would certainly expect both himself and Kevin Owens to be in the main event of Survivor Series, or certainly be involved somehow.
There was more set up for Survivor Series this week, with Jinder Mahal responding to Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman in his usual dull fashion. Thankfully he was interrupted by AJ Styles, who shot his claims down before facing off with Sunil Singh. It's difficult to understand why Styles is being positioned in this programme unless there is a plan to add him to the match with Mahal and Lesnar at a later date, or to switch the title to Styles which seems unlikely given how things have been going. Strange times.
The rest of the show ticked on nicely. Shelton Benjamin & Chad Gable vs The New Day was the best match of the night. Becky Lynch winning the captaincy for the Women's Smackdown team was nice, given she's been a bit of an afterthought recently. However, much like on Raw the captaincy has no real stakes attached due to the size of the available divisions on each respective show. Sin Cara vs Baron Corbin was not good, and I really wish this feud was not happening. Finally, we got another excellent Fashion Files (or Dogs in this case) segment, and Bobby Roode challenged Dolph Ziggler to a 2-out-of-3 falls match next week, which I'm sure everyone is just delighted about.
A decent show, far better than Raw. Smackdown often excels by not overcomplicating things and this was another example of sensible, logical booking that Raw so frequently chooses not to undertake.
Jeff Jarrett and GFW part ways
Jeff Jarrett looks to be gone form wrestling once again. This week Anthem, the parent company of TNA/Impact/GFW released a statement that they had ceased their business relationship with Jarrett, which comes a few months after he was given a "leave of absence" from the company. Jarrett has reportedly had personal problems in recent months as evidenced by his appearance for AAA earlier in the year, but it looks like things have deteriorated even further for Jarrett. Hopefully he can get past whatever demons he has and find a way back to the industry he has lived his whole life in, but it certainly looks like that won't be under the Anthem umbrella anytime soon.
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.