Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at all things professional wrestling from the past seven days. It has been a busy week with WWE hosting two major TV shows at the “world’s most famous arena”, Madison Square Garden in New York City. In addition, WWE has their big Clash of Champions show on Sunday. On these shores, there was some news coming out form a very uncomfortable situation involving Revolution Pro Wrestling. Let’s kick off with this week’s Raw live from MSG.
It may not have had the positive effect on the ratings that WWE had hoped for, but having Stone Cold Steve Austin on Raw certainly enhanced the audience’s viewing experience. Austin got a huge ovation from the assembled audience in Madison Square Garden and it made it feel like a big deal. His promo was well received, he worked as a great moderator between Seth Rollins and Braun Strowman as they managed to sign their contracts for Clash of Champions and his interaction with The OC was really well handled. The back-and-forth with AJ Styles was great, and the stunner was perfectly timed for the maximum pop from the audience.
Speaking of Styles, his match with Cedric Alexander was fun while it lasted and I very much enjoyed that the DQ finish fed into a larger angle for later in the night, and the post-match teed up the main event 10-man tag with The Viking Raiders, Braun Strowman, Seth Rollins and Cedric Alexander vs The OC, Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode. That contest was chaotic, frenetic and exactly the sort of multi-man main events WWE excels at when they do them. The post-match with Austin returning for a beer with the babyfaces was a great way to close the show, and although I would have liked a bit more development for Seth and Braun, the whole set of interconnected angles and matches was a superb go-home for Clash of Champions. Speaking of which, Bray Wyatt may not have been in the arena, but the Firefly Funhouse this week was excellent and I love that they have built “The Fiend” as the most imposing challenger for Seth, Braun or both men without them having any actual interaction. Fantastic work from Wyatt once again.
The rest of the show chugged along at a pretty decent rate. Baron Corbin vs Ricochet vs Samoa Joe was the perfect match to put in front of an MSG crowd. Ricochet got over huge, but Corbin going over was absolutely the right decision. Given the result on Smackdown (more on that shortly) he is perfectly poised to be the big favourite against his smaller opponent in the final. Sasha Banks and Bayley vs Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair was an entertaining match, although I’m not sure having Bayley take the pin one week after her big heel turn made the most sense. Still, I liked that there were some little heel touches to what she did including now wearing a black jacket, but with the same entrance as always. It shows that her delusional persona, thinking she’s still a hero and justifying her villainous actions as part of that is a core part of her new character. I also liked that Charlotte and Becky weren’t all smiles and friends, with their alliance here a simple matter of convenience. Natalya and Lacey Evans was nothing to write home about, while Rey Mysterio and Gran Metalik had a fun TV match that made me wonder what might happen if they were given more time on TV or PPV. Finally, Roman Reigns brought out some of the children who survived cancer as part of promoting the Connors Cure charity. Normally I wouldn’t mention this, and WWE get a lot of flak, but having Roman Reigns do this, as a cancer survivor means quite a lot and for once you have to applaud WWE for getting it right on that front. Good work all round.
A very decent episode of Raw, helped by a hot crowd, and some great in-ring action. Things moved at a rapid pace with good segments and logical booking. Although they may have got trounced in the ratings by Monday Night Football, as a viewing experience it was among the better Raw episodes in recent memory.
While this show was initially built around Elias and Chad Gable in the King of the Ring semi-final, an injury to Elias put paid to that. However, the decision to replace him with Shane McMahon was a work of genius. McMahon was the perfect heel to put in this position following on from his “Best in the World” shtick, and his winning the accolade in similar circumstances. Having Kevin Owens as the referee was a good way to rehab Owens after some pretty terrible booking, but I’m not sure that having the decision taken out of his hands, rather than letting him screw McMahon quite achieved that. For his part Gable had a fantastic performance here, putting in a real shift. He might be the heavy underdog going into next week’s finals, but I can definitely see him winning. Corbin is the perfect bully to face off against the undersized Gable, and if they are given time they could put on a really compelling, brilliant story. It’s a big “if”, but hopefully they have a cracking match next Monday. I’m also really glad they didn’t try to squeeze this onto Clash of Champions, where it would absolutely be overshadowed. For Owens, the post-match “firing” from McMahon frees him up to be something of a renegade. Owens has alluded to going to NXT (albeit in cryptic form) on social media, and if he wanted to turn up in other WWE affiliated companies like Progress or Evolve it could make a real splash ahead of his eventual return in a few weeks (presumably to face McMahon in a blow off at Hell in a Cell). We shall see how this all this shakes out, or if I’m being overly hopeful.
The rest of the show was decent, but nowhere near the standard of Raw. The opening segment with Sami Zayn and The Undertaker was simply designed to pop the MSG crowd. The Miz vs Andrade was a fine TV match, but nothing more and it feels like a waste of Andrade to use him to build up Miz vs Shinsuke Nakamura. Nikki Cross vs Mandy Rose and Bayley vs Ember Moon were both reasonable bouts, but instantly forgettable, with the latter more about the post-match stare down with Bayley and Charlotte. Heavy Machinery vs some local talent was a pretty standard squash. Roman Reigns and Rowan had a big old brawl to set up their big match on Sunday. Finally, Kofi Kingston recreated a key moment from his feud with Randy Orton ten years ago, which was nice, and a very relevant call-back in the same arena that stunt took place.
A good go-home episode of Smackdown this week, with some good storyline development and some middling in-ring action outside of the main event. This week was all about Gable, and set up a tantalising main event for Raw next week with a cracking potential King of the Ring final.
Rev Pro controversy
Over the past week a major controversy has unravelled on the forefront of the British wrestling scene. Rev Pro’s Summer Sizzler show the night before New Japan’s Royal Quest event last week was deemed by most, on the face of things, to be a fairly successful event. However, in the since time there have been a number of troubling revelations. Referee Aaren Wilde, who also works for a number of major UK promotions including Riptide alleged on Twitter that an incident had taken place during the Josh Bodom and Sha Samuels vs Aussie Open match and he was now legitimately injured as a result and unsure when he would be able to continue his refereeing career, or his main job as a football referee. Of course, initially there were some rumblings about an angle, it is wrestling after all, but it became clear very quickly that this was anything but. Stories differed with Samuels, Bodom, Wilde, while Rev Pro owner Andy Quildan claimed to have no knowledge of the incident at first. Luckily footage merged online which gave clarity on the situation. In essence, it appears that after some sort of miscommunication led to a mistimed finish to the match, Samuels and Bodom went into business for themselves, with Samuels giving Wilde a scoop slam on the outside, and Bodom near-assaulting Wilde with a knee to the head. In the since time, Quildan and Rev Pro have apologised, and attempted to quell the situation by making a statement removing Bodom from the promotion and putting Samuels on some sort of disciplinary probation.
The situation is a mess. Wilde has mostly been given the support of the wrestling community, although the more mindless voices have questioned the legitimacy of his story and his injuries. I don’t want to get into the minutiae of the situation too much, because people with more knowledge of the promotion and the individuals involved have already covered much of that ground. What I will say, is a wrestler should never place their hands on a non-wrestler without prior consent. There needs to be a line that shouldn’t be crossed and Bodom and Samuels appear to have done that. Samuels, arguably seems to have been attempting to improvise in a situation where things had not gone to plan, and while it still doesn’t excuse his actions at least it seems his actions weren’t expressly to do harm to a co-worker. Bodom seems to have no such excuse, and has rightly been ousted from his position as his actions have warranted. The bigger problem is the way Rev Pro handled the situation, with Quildan and the promotion not acting in a timely enough fashion once these revelations were out in the public domain. It reflects poorly on the company, and although I don’t expect it to affect them in the grand scheme of things it certainly puts a black mark against their name. As for Wilde, we can only hope he makes a speedy recovery, both physically and mentally and feels he can return to refereeing in the future, because no-one should be prevented from doing their job by the careless, or worse, intentional violent actions of their colleagues. It’s not ok, and no company worth their salt should tolerate it.
Clash of Champions preview
On to cheerier matters, this Sunday WWE has their Clash of Champions card, and although some of the build has been a tad patchy, there should be plenty of brilliant in-ring action. On the Raw side of things, there is the intrigue of Seth Rollins and Braun Strowman doing double duty in defending their tag team titles against Dolph Ziggler and Bobby Roode (which is surely opening the show) and their Universal title bout against each other later in the night. I’ve enjoyed Ziggler and Roode as a tandem more than I expected, and with the story going in of whether the champions can trust each other it should make for a hot way to open the show. The main event itself has the potential to be very good, but I also wonder if it ends in a non-finish with The Fiend getting involved, leading to a three-way dance at Hell in a Cell rather than a singles match. It certainly makes for an intriguing dynamic and the potential is there for a show-long storyline, which is always welcome on a PPV.
On the blue side, things have started to heat up with Randy Orton and Kofi Kingston. With things getting increasingly personal I could also see this ended in some sort of kerfuffle without a definitive winner. They need to find a way to get them to Hell in a Cell and a reason for it to be within the cage, so I guess this will likely go that way. That said, given how good he’s been I wouldn’t rule out a quick turnaround title reign for Orton. Kofi Kingston’s New Day compatriots are slated to be facing The Revival for the Smackdown as Big E and Xavier Woods defend their tag titles, although I could see both matches running into each other somehow, given the alliances of both teams.
The Raw women’s title match has plenty of intrigue attached to it also. Sasha Banks has been a real hot streak since her return and I would expect the match between herself and Becky Lynch to be of a very high standard. Banks feels like a certainty to take the title, perhaps with help from Bayley. This very much intertwines with the Smackdown women’s title match as Bayley defends against Charlotte. Again, with Bayley’s heel turn only a few weeks back I fully expect her to retain here unless she is moving over to Raw with Sasha on a more permanent basis.
The rest of the card is a mixed bag of sorts. Drew Gulak vs Lince Dorado vs Humberto Carillo might be a very good card, but I expect few will see it as it feels destined for the pre-show. Likewise, Shinsuke Nakamura defending the IC title against The Miz is hardly setting the world alight and could easily join the cruiserweight division on the show before the show. Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross vs Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose has the potentially to be a real sleeper match, given the improvements from the challengers in recent months. AJ Styles vs Cedric Alexander also feels like a potential sleeper match of the night contender. Finally, Rowan vs Roman Reigns ostensibly provides the conclusion to the bonkers angle with Reigns almost being killed a few weeks back, although I expect another twist in the tale and Daniel Bryan to somehow get involved here.
A decent looking show on paper, Clash of Champions could be very enjoyable. However, I suspect there will multiple non-finishes and a number of issues will spill over into Hell in a Cell given there is only a three week turnaround to that show, and with the Fox debut for Smackdown I can’t see any big upsets on the horizon.
Well, that is it from me for this week. I will be back at the same time next week with a look at Raw, Smackdown and whatever else breaks in the meantime. Until then, 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.
Images courtesy of WWE