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 go-home for the Hell in a Cell show for the Smackdown brand, an eventful Raw, the sad passing of Lance Russell and much more. Let's kick things off with a look at this past week's episode of Raw.
As WWE fans collectively worried last week that WWE was wasting a reunion of The Shield on The Miz-Tourage last week, those fears were allayed somewhat on Raw, by what appears to be an alliance between The Miz and The Bar. The actual match between Roman Reigns and The Miz was very good (as you would expect), even if it had a screwy finish. The post-match attack, combined with the Shield fist-bump and use of the triple powerbomb definitely suggested the reunion is coming. However, if that wasn’t enough, closing the show with all three former members of the group giving each other knowing looks backstage definitely reinforced the idea that we are getting Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns as a unit once more. I haven't been totally in favour of this reunion, but I have to say that final segment does raise a few goosebumps and I now am more excited than expected for the three of them to get back out there in the bulletproof vests and with the original entrance. I don’t know if this will achieve WWE's ultimate aim of getting Reigns over as a babyface, but it certainly gives TLC something big enough to compensate for the lack of Brock Lesnar or John Cena. Speaking of Seth Rollins, his match with Braun Strowman to open Raw was excellent, with Rollins providing a great flashy babyface to go up against the powerful base of Strowman. I'm not sure what they are planning to do with Strowman, but they are certainly rehabbing him with wins over Ambrose and Rollins in the space of two weeks.
The final segment of the show (aside from the Shield tease) featured the cruiserweight division once again, with Enzo Amore on fire again as a heel. I'm really enjoying him in this role, and his continued running down of the rest of the division is both scathing, and hilarious, but just the right side of the line to make him a heel. The reveal of Kalisto as his next challenger went down like a lead balloon with the crowd, given that his promo skills are not great (He is "not garbage", if you recall). I'm surprised that Neville is not getting right back into things with Amore, but it does make sense in terms of the logic of the storyline and Kalisto will certainly provide a boost to the in-ring quality of the division even if he's not so great at the vocal aspect of things.
The other notable segment from Raw this week featured Finn Balor and Bray Wyatt. I’ve been highly critical of his programme, as it seems to refuse to end, but this week has introduced an interesting twist. Wyatt's promo suggested that we are finally getting some development for Bray, with with Sister Abigail appearing as an actual character alongside Wyatt, or more bizarrely possibly as an alter ego for Wyatt to go up against Balor in the "Demon" guise. It's certainly the most interesting thing Wyatt has done in a while, so I'm sure it'll be ruined shortly, but for now they have my intrigue, even if only briefly.
Elsewhere on the show, Gallows & Anderson beat Matt Hardy and Jason Jordan, who both seem to be treading water in the midcard currently, Bayley and Sasha Banks had a fine match with Alicia Fox and Emma, who look to be feuding coming out of this match. Elias vs Titus O'Neill was fine, if not spectacular, while the Mickie James and Alexa Bliss segments were not particularly good, although Nia Jax vs James was a decent TV match.
A decently paced, well booked episode of Raw, with plenty of story development, and some good in-ring action. A decent show all things being equal.
Smackdown was in full "go-home" mode this week, and it very much did the job it needed to do in terms of generating interest for the main feuds going into the PPV. Obviously the main event, and the biggest angle on the show was the final hype for Kevin Owens vs Shane McMahon in Hell in a Cell, although after this segment it's now inexplicably a "Falls Count Anywhere Hell in a Cell". Vince Russo would be proud, I’m sure. The two had a great confrontation in the final segment of the show, and Owens definitely looked dominant, which he should be, while McMahon displayed the never-say-die attitude that his underdog character needs in this situation. A decent build for the big match on Sunday.
The final segment hyping the WWE Title match on Sunday between Shinsuke Nakamura and Jinder Mahal was fine, if not a bit underwhelming. They really need to stop having Nakamura talking to get his point over given he's so reliant on his physical charisma. Mahal is still just awful, and I genuinely hope this is the final Smackdown where we have to watch him as Champion, although with WWE's upcoming Indian tour I suspect it's not likely.
The rest of the show was a so-so affair. Natalya and Carmella vs Charlotte and Becky Lynch was a good match, and Natalya tapping out Charlotte was certainly unexpected. Bobby Roode squashing Mike Kannellis was merely a backdrop to a rubbish segment with Dolph Ziggler. I really can’t stand Ziggler, and the sooner this feud ends and is no longer at risk of tarnishing Roode, the better. Poor Baron Corbin lost to Tye Dillinger, which is hardly the best way to build him up for his US Title shot at Hell in a Cell, The Usos segment with The New Day wasn’t great, but I'm not too concerned as I expect their bout on Sunday to be excellent, while Randy Orton vs Aiden English was a very average match with a fun finish, and if nothing else at least confirms English and Rusev are now aligned, which could be absolute gold in the future.
A decent go-home show, but hardly up to the sort of standards of television this show was producing only twelve short months ago.
RIP Lance Russell
In sad news this week, Lance Russell the voice of Memphis wrestling and arguably one of the most iconic commentators in the history of the modern industry passed away. Russell was a part of so many big angles featuring the likes of Jerry "The King" Lawler, Bill Dundee, Terry Funk, and countless others, as well as calling every major match in Memphis history. Russell was one of the true greats, and will be sorely missed by wrestling fans one and all. RIP.
Riptide Wrestling preview
This Friday marks the third show from fledgling Brighton-based wrestling company Riptide Wrestling as they seek to bring a more relevant, modern style wrestling show to the south coast. Having been unable to attend their first two shows, I am very excited to get along to The Storm on Friday at the sold out Brighthelm Centre. The card is stacked with familiar and exciting names from the UK circuit including CCK (arguably the most exciting tag team on the UK independent scene), Paul Robinson, and NJPW star Will Ospreay. In addition, Bea Priestley, Jack Sexsmith, Candy Floss, El Phantasmo, Aussie Open, Lion Kid and many others will be competing in what looks to be an absolutely stacked card. I will have a report in next week's column on what goes down, and what you can expect from a Riptide show.
NWA is Smashing?
In interesting news this week, Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins fame, as well as recent TNA history has finally completed his takeover of and purchase of the NWA (not that one, the National Wrestling Alliance) trademark and tape library. What that means for the NWA as a whole I'm not sure. Presumably Corgan is not attempting to instigate a new territory system, but there is a valuable video library and it might be possible to monetise that in a WWE-Network style OTT VOD app. Corgan has claimed to have a twenty year plan, so presumably this is not a simple cash grab, or a short vanity project. Whether it takes off or not remains to be seen, but any development that might create a viable alternative to employ wrestlers not with WWE can only be a good thing.
Hell in a Cell Preview
This Sunday WWE present their annual Hell in a Cell PPV, available live on the WWE Network. The top end of the card looks like it could be excellent, with Kevin Owens and Shane McMahon almost certain to put on a corker of a match in the main event. Given it's a cell match, I would be surprised if we don’t get some sort of big stunt involving Shane McMahon, although I would equally be unsurprised to see Owens be the one taking the huge looking bump. Either way, I expect a bloody, brutal brawl and presumably a Kevin Owens win.
The WWE title match will likely be a mess of a match, despite what I'm sure will be Shinsuke Nakamura's best efforts. Presumably, given its the way every Mahal match ends, we'll see The Singh Brothers interfere distracting Nakamura while Mahal sneaks in and hits Khallas for the win. Here’s hoping I'm wrong (and what a lovely near-fall that would make), but it's certainly how I see it unfolding.
The remaining title matches on this show should all produce decent bouts. AJ Styles vs Baron Corbin should be at least average and weirdly can see Corbin taking the belt, if nothing else as a consolation prize for losing his Money in the Bank title shot a few months back. The New Day vs The Usos has the potential to match of the night, especially in the cell, but I can only see The New Day retaining here. Charlotte vs Natalya should be very good, as their previous encounters have shown, they work very well together. Carmella still seems to be lurking, so I could see Charlotte getting the win, and then Carmella cashing in after the match.
The other three matches on the card, will probably end with two being on the pre-show, and I expect Rusev vs Randy Orton to be on the main show (probably with Orton winning), with Dolph Ziggler vs Bobby Roode relegated to the pre-show (again with Roode winning), and Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin vs The Hype Bros a shoe-in for the build-up show. Who know who wins that one, probably Benjamin/Gable, but it's hard to care too much given the lack of build to this match.
Well that is it from me for this week. I will be back at the same time next week with all the news from Hell in a Cell, 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.