Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look back at all things professional wrestling from the past seven days. WWE had quite the week, with a so-so Clash of Champions and some interesting developments on Raw and Smackdown, while NXT had it's maiden voyage on the USA Network. In addition, we got some news about a very worrying incident with a former WWE superstar. Let's dive right in with Sunday's Clash of Champions show from Charlotte, North Carolina.
Clash of Champions
On Sunday night WWE ran its yearly Clash of Champions PPV, which of course, has its roots in WCW/NWA’s Clash of the Champions shows from years gone by, and the Night of Champions shows they ran every year for a while. The premise is simple, every championship will be defended. As such, this was always going to be a packed show.
However, more is not always better and this show ended a run of really solid PPV offerings from WWE. It had some bright moments, but it was more dominated by filler. The big story coming out of this show involved Seth Rollins. His tag match with Braun Strowman against Dolph Ziggler and Bobby Roode was a decent opener, although the result was never in question which didn’t help the crowd get into things. Naturally, that meant that Rollins and Strowman would bookend the show, and their main event was fine, but a little lacklustre for my liking. What was much better, was the post-match with The Fiend appearing. Stealing a trick from NXT, it looked like the show would go off the air with Rollins celebrating, with the company logo even appearing on screen before Bray Wyatt made his presence known and assaulted Rollins. On an event that had only a handful of memorable moments, this was a great way to close the show and set the table for what would happen on Raw. More on that shortly.
Both women’s title matches were eventful (or at least the singles title matches), but for very different reasons. Bayley vs Charlotte Flair was very short and didn’t do Charlotte any favours in front of a hometown crowd. I massively enjoyed Bayley scarpering after picking up the cheap win, it’s another layer to her deluded heel character, which is proving to be excellent thus far. It’s a bit cheap for the live crowd, especially after fellow hometown hero Cedric Alexander lost in decisive fashion to AJ Styles on the pre-show, but I understand why it was done. In the Raw women’s title match, things broke down into absolute bedlam with Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch having a heated, fiery brawl that couldn’t be contained by the ring or the rules of the match. These two have great physical chemistry and despite the non-finish, this whetted the appetites of everyone watching for these two to clash in a Hell in a Cell match in three weeks’ time.
The rest of the show was pretty uneventful. Roman Reigns vs Rowan was an entertaining fracas between two big lads, but it was hurt by the more heated brawl between Banks and Lynch. Luke Harper returning was a genuine surprise, as most felt he was riding out his contract in order to join AEW, but with his return to TV who knows? Pairing him with Rowan makes sense given their history and if they can push both as main event guys then it makes all the sense in the world. Kofi Kingston vs Randy Orton was a tad disappointing and far less heated than I had hoped for, but Kingston getting the decisive win seems to bring this programme to a close. Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross vs Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville were fine, but nothing special. Same goes for Drew Gulak vs Humberto Carrillo vs Lince Dorado and Shinsuke Nakamura vs The Miz. They weren’t bad matches, but they all felt devoid of any real hype or enthusiasm, and just a bit cold really. Finally, The Revival beat The New Day in a very enjoyable tag match, with Dash and Dawson targeting the knee of Xavier Woods. Their old school approach is so refreshing at times, and having them on Smackdown, especially given their attachment to Randy Orton is a breath of fresh air.
A forgettable show with a hot ending and a couple of fun matches, it certainly was a slog to get through and I hope WWE have bigger and better plans for Hell in a Cell.
This week’s edition of Monday Night Raw was all about Bray Wyatt. Following on from his show-closing angle with Seth Rollins the previous night, he was all over this show in the best way. Rollins kicking off the show recapping the previous night and then having Wyatt interrupt him with the Firefly Firehouse was an effective way to introduce the programme between the two. This is the first time they’ve done a direct interaction between "Firefly Funhouse Bray" and a fellow superstar, but it worked surprisingly well. Having Wyatt seemingly in control of the graphics of the show, with them upside down and his music playing underneath was eerie and effective and really added something to the show. Having further Firefly Funhouse segments during the show continued to tease an appearance from The Fiend later in the show too. The main event with Seth Rollins vs Bobby Roode was unspectacular, but Kane saving Rollins from being beaten down by The OC, Roode and Ziggler was a nice touch, and we got a nice reaction for the local mayor getting involved. However, it was also a perfect set up for The Fiend to appear, take out Kane and menace Rollins. The show going off the air with a weirdly distorted version of the Firefly Funhouse theme was really cool, and something very different. Honestly, this felt fresh and new and better than almost anything the company has done in some time. Roll on next week.
The rest of the show was pretty enjoyable, with a few exceptions. The whole Mike Kanellis/Maria Kanellis baby-father-drama was tiresome, cheap and really hard to sit through. Mike Kanellis vs Ricochet was a squash, and although it led to the return of Rusev (who looked incredible), this was not good. The OC vs The Viking Raiders and Cedric Alexander was a fun mid-card match, while Cesaro vs Rey Mysterio was pretty inconsequential. Lacey Evans vs Dana Brooke was better than it had any right to be, and that sharpshooter looked very well applied. The tag team summit was pretty much just an excuse to get Braun Strowman his heat back from the prior night, while the 24/7 skits with Kane in his mayoral guise was a nice twist on what had become a fairly tired concept. The hype video for AOP was a strong way to re-introduce the duo. Sasha Banks and Bayley vs Nikki Cross and Alexa Bliss was more of a setup for the post-match with Becky Lynch and Charlotte, but it keeps both programmes moving along.
Finally, Baron Corbin had the best match of his career to date with Chad Gable. These two tore the house down, and while Corbin wouldn’t have been my choice to win the tournament, he has been excellent throughout and as a mid-card bully against smaller guys it’s a great fit.
A fine show, with some interesting booking decisions and a great story with Bray Wyatt woven through throughout the show. Hell in a Cell is certainly looking more promising on paper than Clash of Champions did.
While Raw may have been mostly focused on Bray Wyatt, it was more of a best than a fiend that dominated the news coming out of Smackdown. After the New Day bested FTRKO in a fun six-man tag match, Kofi Kingston got a surprise challenge from one Brock Lesnar for a WWE title match on the premiere episode of Smackdown on Fox, which Kingston duly accepted. This was definitely the match to make and it already feels like this is a big deal for that Fox show. Seeing Lesnar F5 Kofi got me genuinely excited for the freshest Lesnar programme in about two years. These two could have a barn-burner if Lesnar has his working boots on. As marquee matches go there is little more WWE could do to make their Fox debut go off with a bang, and booking this huge one-on-one for the title is a very smart move.
It was nice to see Daniel Bryan back on Smackdown and ready to involve himself in the Roman Reigns-Rowan-Luke Harper story. Based on this, I would say that Bryan is being positioned as a babyface now, which is not where I expected this story to go. Rowan and Harper looked like a real force going up against Reigns and Bryan and presumably that tag match is either happening at the first Fox show or at Hell in a Cell. It still feels like there might be another twist in the tale here, but I’m not quite sure where or how. Harper coming in makes a big difference and it’ll be interesting to see how long he sticks around given his contract was reportedly up at some stage in the near future. Rowan’s pre-recorded sit-down interview with Michael Cole was another good bit of work to get Rowan over as an individual and help push his agenda forward as a top heel.
The remainder of the show was better than it has been in recent weeks. The segment with Baron Corbin and Chad Gable shows exactly why Corbin was given the win on Monday, as he proves the ultimate antagonist to his smaller rival. The segment with Shane McMahon and Kevin Owens didn’t quite rehabilitate Owens as well as it probably could have, and I’m not sure I like the lawsuit angle. Shinsuke Nakamura and Sami Zayn attacking Ali sets up a potentially very promising rivalry. Charlotte vs Sasha Banks wasn’t long, but these two still have a fierce rivalry and I’m glad they didn’t go for a decisive finish here as there is definitely mileage in a Sasha/Charlotte programme down the road with the face/heel dynamic reversed from their previous feud. Finally, Heavy Machinery squashed The B Team, which I suspect means they are being built up for a title programme with The Revival.
Smackdown this week was far better than any episode the blue brand has put together in the past few weeks. The in-ring action was solid, the storylines for both the move to Fox and the Hell in a Cell show are moving along nicely, while the appearance of Brock Lesnar gives Smackdown a real shot in the arm where star potential is concerned.
Last weekend an alarming incident happened at an indie show involving CazXL AKA the former Big Cass. Despite various images having surfaced of him looking in brilliant shape recently and even rumours that he would be returning to NXT, Cass appears to have had some personal problems at the aforementioned WrestlePro show. His conduct was described as erratic and he attempted to start a physical altercation with Joey Janela, before later displaying some concerning behaviour that seemed to indicate some possible mental health issues. I don’t want to speculate too much, but Cass has put out a statement being very open about getting professional help and I hope for his sake that he does and he finds himself on the road to recovery sooner rather than later.
NXT on USA
Finally this week, NXT made their debut on the USA network. I won't cover everything in detail if nothing else because I imagine most won't have had a chance to catch the show in full as yet. However, for me, this felt like a big deal. The presentation was strong and distinctive from Raw and Smackdown. Matt Riddle, Killian Dain, The Undisputed Era, Velveteen Dream, Io Shirai, Candace LeRae and many others were treated like stars and we even had some shock returns and some unexpected debuts. NXT is off to a hot start and look to be setting the pace ahead of going one-on-one with AEW Dynamite (as the show is rumoured to be called) in two weeks time. The show felt big, maybe even like Takeover, which is something they will need to keep up week-to-week. However, based on this my interest has certainly been piqued and I look forward t seeing what next week's show brings.
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