Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at the biggest stories in professional wrestling from the past seven days. It's been a busy week with WWE focused on the Super Showdown event in Australia on Raw and Smackdown, plus NJPW continued their Destruction tour, as Progress gear up for the big Wembley show. With so much to cover, we'll start off taking a look back at this week’s episode of Raw.
I’m sure I’ve been very vocal about it in recent months, but one of my favourite things (when done well) in all of wrestling is the use of a strong, show-long storyline. Results have been pretty variable when WWE have tried this, but I felt the attempt to do something interesting with The Shield, particularly Dean Ambrose, as well as Braun Strowman, Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre was very well done. The opening promo from Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins, as well as the interruption from the aforementioned heels, was a nice way to set out the stall for this story, with the tease that Dean Ambrose could turn on his Shield brothers. Ambrose, to his credit, played a blinder as Strowman, McIntyre and Ziggler stirred the pot. Although, the backstage segments felt a bit like overkill, and removed much of the subtlety of the situation they did do the job of making it feel like Ambrose could consider their offer. I liked that we also got a small tease of McIntyre turning on his partners too, which is some lovely mirroring given both are the wildcards of the respective factions. The main event of The Shield vs Baron Corbin and AoP (who for now at least ditched the tactical gear in the ring, which makes sense in the circumstances) was riotous fun, with some great spots that made for a very enjoyable match. This was classic Shield, and no three-man team does it better. The post-match hesitation by Ambrose was a nice way to further sow the seeds of doubt before Super Showdown, and was the first sign for me of what I had suspected for a while; the long-term plan is for a Shield triple threat at Wrestlemania. I could be wrong, but this is a great way to gradually tell that story if that is where it is going and gives plenty of time to do it right. Here’s hoping.
The rest of the show was mostly good, although nothing hugely memorable. The Riott Squad vs The Bella Twins and Natalya was a decent affair, although Brie Bella looked like she legitimately concussed Liv Morgan. Brie is clearly still rusty in the ring, and she has had a few miscues like this since returning, but she got what looked like a pretty decent “receipt” from Ruby Riott later in the match. Finn Balor vs Jinder Mahal was a glorified advert for Mixed Match Challenge, with Bayley and Alicia Fox (who was later squashed by Nia Jax) getting involved at ringside.
Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler vs The Revival was a very good and did lots to elevate the dominant Dash and Dawson, although ultimately keeps the belts on Ziggler/McIntyre. I would like to see more of these two teams facing off for sure. Konnor vs Chad Gable was a nothing bout, and seeing Konnor win seemed an odd bit of booking. Elias vs Bobby Lashley was again more of an angle than a match with Lio Rush and Kevin Owens’ involvement, with John Cena to follow at some stage given he is also booked in the tag match alongside Lashley against Owens and Elias at Super Showdown. Finally, Triple H cut a very quick promo on The Undertaker which further built up their big match for Australia. Oh, and Stephanie McMahon was around for a bit too.
A decent, very functional episode of Raw. The main storyline dominated the show, and did a good job of setting up further issues down the line, while much of the rest of the card focused on building up the main matches for Super Showdown, something which I imagine will continue well into next week’s go-home show.
Smackdown is frequently the superior of the two weekly WWE shows, striking a great balance between excellent matches and smartly written storylines. This week was no different, with a fantastic angle to close the show. Contract signings routinely, predictably end in violence. However, the decision to avoid that outcome with AJ Styles and Samoa Joe in favour of something more effective was an inspired decision. Joe following up with his threat from a few weeks back to visit AJ's family helped build the animosity between the two even more, and Joe was chilling as the show went off the air with Joe saying "Daddy’s home". Wrestling rarely does cliff-hangers well any more, but fading to black on that image after AJ pleading with him was a work of art. Honestly, this was one of the best segments on WWE TV this year, and you should go out of your way to see it.
A big focus on this week's show was the splitting up of Rusev Day, with Rusev looking for answers on why Aiden English turned on him. English did really well, far better than I expected, in this role. The tease of English revealing a secret about Lana, and blaming her for driving a wedge between the team was well executed and a logical reason for English's heel turn. Lana did well selling her shock and surprise, while Rusev was excellent throughout. I am looking forward to seeing how this develops.
Speaking of Lana, despite her loss I thought she looked better in her match with Becky Lynch than some previous outings. However, the most impactful moment for Becky came in a pre-tape where she assaulted Charlotte during a photo shoot, in a dominant attack that ended with her standing talk over her former best friend. Again, Becky was booked strongly, and got positive reactions from the crowd as well, because she is just that good. I suppose the advantage of a pre-tape is Charlotte can't get booed by the live crowd.
The rest of the show had lots of fun matches and segments. The Truth TV/Miz TV segment with R-Truth, Carmella, Daniel Bryan and The Miz was very effective in pushing the Miz/Bryan match at the title implications for Super Showdown. It also served as a nice advert for Mixed Match Challenge and garnered further exposure for the surprisingly entertaining duo of Carmella and Truth. The match with Miz and Truth was basically a squash, but Mix doing the running knee was a nice way to gain further heat for his feud with Bryan. Kofi Kingston vs Sheamus was a very good TV match and a timely reminder of what excellent performers both men are, while Asuka and Naomi vs Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose was a serviceable filler match. Finally, Shinsuke Nakamura vs Tye Dillinger was fine, but forgettable, although Randy Orton beating up Tye simply because he dislikes the "10" chant is amazing. Orton is having a great career revival, and I'm enjoying him immensely. I'd like to see Nakamura get something meatier to do, but this was far from bad.
Another excellent show, punctuated by a very memorable closing angle that highlighted Samoa Joe’s continued unbelievable heel work. A very good show that sets things up nicely for the go-home show next week.
NJPW Destruction/Fighting Spirit show
As detailed last week, NJPW continued with their Destruction tour this week, which wrapped up in Kobe and did so in spectacular style. Kazuchika Okada vs Hiroshi Tanahashi was another superb showing, but despite this being their tenth high profile match it felt fresh in the context. Tanahashi winning wasn’t a surprise, and I’m now convinced that Kenny Omega vs Tanahashi is set in stone as the main event for the Tokyo Dome. The post-match with Gedo turning on Okada and siding with Jay White was an interesting twist and leaves lots of questions over whether Okada was kicked out of Chaos, or if White and Gedo are breaking away. Presumably White now takes on Tanahashi for the briefcase, leading to Okada vs White at WK. The rest of the show wasn’t much more than a standard NJPW house show, although Bushi vs Kushida was a very good junior bout, and sets up one-half of the finals of the junior heavyweight tournament for the vacant title.
We might learn a bit more about the status of Chaos and Okada at NJPW’s Fighting Spirit Unleashed card, from Long Beach in California on Saturday (which is what caused Zack Sabre Jr and Will Ospreay to have to pull out of the big Progress show at Wembley). The card is pretty average for an NJPW show with plenty of multi-man tag matches, however, there are some standouts. Okada and Tomohiro Ishii vs The Golden Lovers should provide some clarity on where Chaos stands given Ishii is one of the founding members, and if I’m honest a heel turn for Ishii could be just the thing for him at this stage, although whether that happens remains to be seen. The match should be excellent either way. Cody vs Juice Robinson for the US title should be a fun match, although I think Juice likely retains given Cody is more of a freelancer especially given his status with the NWA. Will Ospreay vs “The Villain” Marty Scurll will be a potential show stealer if former encounters are anything to go by, while The Young Bucks vs G.O.D and Tanahashi and Kushida vs Gedo and Jay White should provide two very solid tag encounters, with big storyline implications. All in all, it should be a decent card, not blow away but not bad. I do wonder if NJPW has gone back to the US a little too soon after their last trip, and so soon after All In, but it’ll definitely be worth watching.
Progress says "Hello Wembley"
This Sunday marks arguably one of the most important nights in recent memory for the British wrestling scene. Progress will be having the biggest show in company history as they host Chapter 76, at Wembley Arena. Outside of ICW at the Hydro, this is probably one of the most impressive feats for a British company in a long time, and to celebrate we will have coverage across the weekend here at Screenjabber previewing the show, as well as some podcast coverage from the event itself.
Rev Pro TV date confirmed 18th Oct
Earlier this week Revolution Pro Wrestling announced that their TV show would be debuting on Freesports (available on Freeview, and Sky as well as other platforms) on October 18th. This is a huge deal for RPW, and although it was well known they were taping for a TV series, it is good to see the timeslot announced and I look forward to seeing what they put together. It certainly seems like a more sensible approach to do a taped show rather than a live weekly show like 5Star attempted. With World of Sport floundering in the ratings, it’ll be interesting to see what sort of results a more modern, grown up, international approach yields.
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 on the road to Super Showdown, plus a look back at the big Progress show at Wembley, as well as touching on any major stories that might 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.