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 two huge TV shows, the final of the Mae Young Classic, some big news on the UK wrestling scene and much more. Let's kick things off with a look at this past week's episode of Raw.
If we're talking about Raw this week, we have to talk about the biggest star WWE have currently, one Braun Strowman. Braun looked absolutely dominant taking down Brock Lesnar in a segment following Lesnar (well Paul Heyman on Lesnar's behalf) cutting a promo hyping how difficult a task Lesnar will have against Strowman. The squashing of Lesnar, and his selling the shock at Braun no-selling "Suplex City" was amazing and got Strowman over huge. With Lesnar likely not appearing next week, this was probably the go-home angle for the main event in terms of a confrontation between the two. However, Strowman was also busy later in the night taking on John Cena in a first time encounter between the two. The match itself was not the best although I'm not sure you can pin that on Strowman entirely. It wasn’t awful either, just below the standard of Strowman vs Big Show last week. Still, it made Strowman look like a monster so that probably achieved the aim.
Speaking of Cena his segment with Roman Reigns earlier in the night was certainly interesting. The match that preceded it featuring Reigns vs Jason Jordan was very good, and I must say having Jordan face both men over the past two weeks and be competitive does plenty for Jordan even in defeat. The post-match with Cena and Reigns continuing to do scripted "shooting" was a slight better than the last couple of weeks, and I certainly enjoyed it but I'm hoping they leave it alone now. If the plan is to get Reigns over as the successor to Cena they are not doing well and making that a reality. Also that drug test comment was ill-advised for my money, and probably something best not brought to the attention of the audience.
The Miz's segment on Miz TV was a real highlight of the show this week. Miz is such a great promo and time and again proves he deserves to be a main eventer despite his status in the company as a perennial mid-carder. The announcement that Maryse is pregnant made him the babyface in this segment for me, and the promo he cut on the interrupting Enzo Amore reeked of truth (without veering into worked-shoot territory, Cena and Reigns take note), and laid bare the many issues with Amore. I liked how this also put over Neville as being the workhorse he is. The ensuing match was standard fare, and the booking of the face/heel dynamic seemed a bit off, but the promo Miz cut deserves far more praise than it will probably get.
The rest of Raw was all very enjoyable, the big brawl and show-long angle with Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins looking for partners to face off with them against Gallows & Anderson and Sheamus & Cesaro was nice and the 8 man tag team main event was enjoyable if not somewhat throwaway. Sasha Banks vs Emma was a fine match, and the interactions around it with Nia Jax and Alexa Bliss built nicely to the four-way match at No Mercy, as well as the match with Jax and Bliss next week. Bray Wyatt vs Goldust was fine, if unspectacular although Wyatt removing Goldust' paint at the end was an odd if somewhat intriguing turn of events, even if it is apparently leading to a "man vs man" match (no, me neither) with Wyatt and Finn Balor. Elias vs Kalisto was a simple squash, and did little for me, although Elias' pre-match song was very good, so that's something. Finally, we got the vignette teasing the arrival of Asuka from NXT, which is exciting and I'm very glad she is heading to Raw over Smackdown, the women’s division could use a shot in the arm on Raw, and Asuka offers something really different, so that should make a huge difference provided she is booked correctly.
Overall, a good if not great show. It felt like the go-home for No Mercy, so I'm a bit concerned about what is left for next week but we shall see. Hopefully they don’t produce a dud next week after exhausting heir main material this week.
We could talk about multiple segments on this week's show, but the thing that everyone is talking about is Kevin Owens and Vince McMahon doing a really heavy duty angle to close the show. Now I enjoyed Owens' work throughout the show, and his segment with Daniel Bryan (and weirdly, briefly Dolph Ziggler dressed as Shane McMahon for no real reason), it was the return of Vince McMahon that made the biggest impact. Even in his 70s Vince is still a real star in a way not many are going to ever eclipse and this was no exception. The announcement of Shane vs Owens in a Hell in a Cell was expected, but I loved that they gave Shane a legitimate reason to want to be in the cell with Owens after he brutalised his elderly father. The head-butt and the frog splash were both brutal and frankly Vince McMahon is clearly a little bit crazy to be taking full on head-butts at his age, but it was impactful and dramatic and made Owens look like the biggest heel in the company. Well done WWE, but please lets not do that again, eh?
The only problem with Kevin Owens being the biggest heel on the show, is that it puts the other villains to shame, including the WWE Champion, Jinder Mahal. The attempts by Mahal and The Singh Brothers to embarrass Shinsuke Nakamura were pretty terrible, and the promo that went along with it was basically the same rubbish that Mahal has been doing for weeks now. Lets hope for a Nakamura win at Hell in a Cell, if nothing else to get Mahal away from the title picture. Dolph Ziggler wasn’t much better, coming out as Shane McMahon, Bayley and The Ultimate Warrior (which was a bit awkward given Dana Warrior was in the audience) and then claiming he is more than a flashy entrance, which is ironic because all he is currently doing is flashy entrances. I really want Ziggler to go away for a while, or do something else for a bit even if it's just getting a new look because he is terrible in this role.
The tag team division was one of the highlights of this week's show. The New Day and The Usos had a cracking street fight, which was really good fun (aside from one very pronounced botch on the outside of the ring that could have gone very badly wrong for Kofi Kingston). You have to imagine this is the blow-off for this feud now, but it's been a good one. Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable vs The Hype Bros was also a really good watch, surprisingly. Gable and Benjamin are actually very good together and have a surprising amount of chemistry, and the finisher they used this week was fantastic. I know the division is still very thin, but slowly things are starting to look a bit better for tag teams on Smackdown, and I'm looking forward to seeing Benjamin/Gable against The Usos or The New Day in the coming months.
Elsewhere on this show, Naomi and Natalya had a good match, with Carmella and James Ellsworth (on a dog leash no less) at ringside, threatening a cash in. I can’t recall another example in recent memory where the briefcase holder is so constantly present at ringside when the champion is competing, but it's a nice twist. Finally AJ Styles beat Tye Dillinger in a good match that put over both really well and helped continue to build the AJ Styles vs Baron Corbin feud, with Corbin attacking both post-match and claiming a shot against Styles for next week.
All in all, a very good show. It had plenty of impactful moments, a huge angle to end the show, and lots of good matches. Let’s look forward to what happens next week.
WWE 2K18 Update
With the release of WWE's latest game looming on October 17th, and following on from the full roster reveal a few weeks back, more details have been released of some of the functionality of the game. I have always been a fan of the career mode option, and it looks like WWE and 2K are really investing in it this year. The following was directly from the WWE press release:
"This year, players will choose from two very different paths – Company Man or Fan Favourite –and decide how their roads to WrestleMania (and beyond) will unfold through match performances, promos, alliances and other actions. Additionally, this year’s MyCAREER mode introduces a free-roaming backstage, an updated promo generator, and enhanced MyCAREER invasion, where the MyPLAYERs of friends can still populate a player’s MyCAREER save but now play a bigger role through face-to-face interactions, tag team alliances, side quests and more".
It certainly sounds intriguing, and hopefully we will have a review available for this game in the coming weeks which should give an idea as to whether to the hype is as justified as it initially appears to be.
Mae Young Classic
In addition to Smackdown, Tuesday night also hosted the finals of the excellent Mae Young Classic, pitting former UFC fighter and all around bad-ass Shayna Baszler against Japanese sensation Kairi Sane (AKA Kairi Hojo from Stardom). The match itself was really fantastic from both women and I think it was definitely the right result for the tournament. WWE tournaments historically tend to end with a babyface winning, so I wasn't super surprised to see Sane get the win, but I also love the idea of Sane now going on to compete for the NXT Women's Championship at Takeover, which has lined up particularly well with Asuka heading for the main roster. By virtue of reaching the final both women looked great, and are certain to be heavily involved in the women's division in NXT if not the main roster. As for the "Four Horsewomen" developments, it felt inevitable that this wasn't going to happen on this show, but I felt it was well executed during the earlier rounds and did enough to make me interested in seeing what happens next, without sullying Sane's big win with a storyline not involving her. I think overall, you have to look at this tournament as a success and if WWE hires/develops even a quarter of these women involved it will have been a worthwhile endeavour.
London Podcast Festival does Wrestling
This past Saturday the London Podcast Festival hosted an all-day event at the Kings Place Theatre to celebrate all things pro wrestling podcasts. Among the multitude of live shows on offer were Jim Smallman's Tuesday Night Jaw, The Attitude Era and How2Wrestling both with Kefin Mahon, and Talksport's Gorilla Position Podcast. The reception from the event has been excellent thus far, which bodes well for a possible future event of a similar kind next year. From my own personal experience I attended the New Generation Project Podcast for their live recording, which I must say was an excellent experience. For those of you not familiar with the New Gen podcast, they look back in great detail at the period between the end of Hulkamania and the beginning of the Attitude era, which has included sitting through some of the worst PPVs in WWE history. As a fan of the show it was excellent to see Stewart, Adam and Paul doing their thing in real life and I would certainly urge any readers to listen to their near four-year odyssey through the "dark ages" of WWE. The live show should be up next wednesday, and is well worth a listen, if nothing else to hear what it sounds like to have a man bowling Haribo at members of the audience (at their request, I should add). A great concept for an event overall, and given the numerous wrestling podcasts out there it certainly seems like something that has legs for future events.
Progress - Ally Pally first, Wembley next
Moving on from the London Podcast Festival, this weekend's other big wrestling event in London took place at the historic Alexandra Palace, as Progress Wrestling held their biggest show to date, Chapter 55: Chase the Sun. Despite the much larger crowd than their usual shows at The Electric Ballroom, this was a great event, that was really well organised and hosted some phenomenal wrestling. I won’t spoil anything for those who couldn’t attend and wish to watch the event on the Progress-on-demand service when it's released, however there are numerous fantastic matches on this show, including a wild death match between Mark Haskins and Jimmy Havoc, A cracking ladder match between CCK and British Strong Style as well as a crazy main event between WWE UK Champion "The Bruiserweight" Pete Dunne and "The Kiwi Buzzsaw" Travis Banks over the Progress World Championship, as well as a few pretty substantial surprises. However, perhaps the biggest news to come out of the show was the announcement that Progress will be running a show at Wembley Arena next September, which is a substantial ramp up. I really hope they can fill it, and I am certainly planning on being present at what will arguably be one of the biggest UK Indie shows in recent history (possibly ever). It's almost guaranteed to be historic, and I for one cannot wait. This truly is Progress, and it's more than deserved by one of the most relevant and vibrant wrestling companies in the world today.
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, the build to No Mercy, 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, competitions and more. Until next time, so long folks.