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 big No Mercy show for the Raw brand, two huge TV shows, and much more. Let's kick things off with a look at this past week's big PPV, No Mercy.
Going into this Sunday’s No Mercy show, I was expecting a two-match show. We certainly got a two-match show, but not from the two bouts I was expecting. The main event between Brock Lesnar and Braun Strowman was something of a let-down in my eyes. this should have been an absolute war, something we got a taste of at Summerslam when the two faced off in the Fatal Four-Way, but this was booked in a more methodical fashion, and I have to be honest, I didn’t love it. It wasn’t terrible by any stretch, but much like Lesnar vs Samoa Joe from Great Balls of Fire, it was too short, left the challenger looking weaker than when the match started after being pinned by a single F5 (although with this being the third PPV match to end with a single F5, it does make that move look super devastating), and now leaves little to no doubt that we are getting the Roman Reigns vs Brock Lesnar title match at Wrestlemania that no-one wants to see. It's not that it wouldn’t be a great match, far from it, I would expect it to be sublime, but the audience reaction would probably be very toxic. That's not even taking into consideration the reaction Reigns would get if he wins the rumble. Mind boggling stuff, and I fear that this is the end of the big push for one Braun Strowman.
On the subject of Roman Reigns, his match with John Cena did have a big match feel, but overall it fell short of expectations. The multiple kick outs, overuse of finishers and general over-egging of the match was too much for me. The post-match with Cena suggested to me he's gone until Royal Rumble, or even Wrestlemania now. Cena is 40 and is definitely slowing down, but come the big show in New Orleans in April you have to imagine he'll be in a prominent role.
In terms of the two matches that impressed, first up there was Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose vs The Bar (Sheamus & Cesaro). Yeah, it's a stupid name, but that's what they're running with. This was an absolute war, as witnessed by Cesaro's gruesome dental injury (his teeth were essentially forced upwards into his gums, which is just grim). All four men put in a fantastic performance in what was clearly the match of the night, and you would imagine this is the feud ending bout between these two teams for now. The second match that impressed was the five-way match for the Raw Women's Championship between Emma, Bayley, Sasha Banks, Nia Jax and Alexa Bliss. This was a chaotic and frenetic affair, with all five putting in a great shift. Despite the chaos this was well organised, and whoever put this match together deserves real credit. Bliss came out of this with real credibility, the implication of tension between Bayley and Sasha Banks is there, while Emma, and to a much greater degree Jax had their best outings on the main roster.
The rest of the card was eventful, but not super engaging. The Miz beat Jason Jordan in a fine opener, Enzo Amore vs Neville wasn’t the best Cruiserweight match on WWE television (although as we'll cover later, it sets up a big angle), and Finn Balor went over Bray Wyatt strongly in the "Man vs Man" match, which really should be the finale to this programme, but sadly it looks likely to continue. A disappointing card overall, with two standout matches and a lot of very, very average action.
With the previous night's No Mercy show, Raw was in full fallout mode. The biggest story on this show was The Miz and Roman Reigns. The Miz TV segment was well done, and if I'm honest it felt somewhat like The Miz was the baby face in this segment. The resultant match later in the show between the two put Miz over strong, and the subsequent "fist bump" gesture with The Miztourage certainly appears to be signposting a Shield reunion at TLC. If this is being done to set up a bigger angle with an Ambrose heel turn, or The Shield taking on a bigger trio at Survivor Series then I'm on board, but if this reunion is played straight and doesn’t serve any larger purpose I genuinely believe this is a waste of what should, and could be a huge moment for all three men. Don’t get me wrong, The Miztourage are great and this grouping has done wonders for Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas, but given they lost to Jason Jordan and Matt Hardy here, and fairly decisively I can’t take them seriously. It's also odd, that they are teasing Ambrose and Rollins getting involved when they were finishing up with The Bar by having Rollins beat Sheamus on this show, while Ambrose took on Braun Strowman. The latter match was good fun, and did plenty for Strowman in terms of rehabbing him after the Lesnar loss (especially in beating the hell out of Curt Hawkins), but it all seems very muddled and uncoordinated and not in a good way. I'm hoping next week we get a bit more clarity on what the pairings for TLC are, but currently everything seems shoehorned in, and up in the air.
The final segment on this week's show was very interesting. Having Enzo Amore come out and essentially rip on the whole cruiserweight division, before Neville attacked him was very well done. Neville has been slowly getting the respect, and as a result love, from the audience despite being a heel and given Amore's ability to irritate it makes sense that they would the double turn. It was really well executed, and if nothing else it did enough to make me want to check out 205 Live, which makes it an unqualified success as far as I'm concerned.
Elsewhere on this show, Alexa Bliss and Mickie James had a really good segment to set up what will presumably be a short TV programme for Bliss until Asuka makes her debut at TLC, Bayley and Sasha had a fine match with Nia Jax and Emma, while Elias beat Apollo Crews in convincing fashion before Titus O'Neill made the save. Finally, Finn Balor and Goldust had a decent match (set up by Goldust attacking Balor backstage) before we got confirmation that Balor and Wyatt are still feuding, for some reason I cannot fathom.
A decent episode of Raw, with a cracking angle to close the show and some good story development in the big feuds, but plenty of filler too.
This week was quite the forgettable episode of Smackdown, so I won’t dwell on it too long. The main event storyline, which dwarfs the WWE Championship storyline, is doing lots to keep Kevin Owens strong. The match between himself and Sami Zayn was fine for what it was, if you’re not sick of seeing these two together. I do wonder whether there is something of a Zayn heel turn and alliance with Owens in the offing somewhere, but that could be a non-starter. The post-match, with Shane McMahon making the save was well done and keeps the feud with the two ticking over. Not the best, but given the heavy duty angles of the past few weeks perhaps a week to cool things down makes sense.
The lacklustre build continues for the WWE title match between Jinder Mahal and Shinsuke Nakamura. At least this segment got some heat on Nakamura as he too out The Singh Brothers and Mahal. I genuinely hopes Nakamura takes the belt at Hell in a Cell, and ends this woeful experiment with Mahal as champion.
Elsewhere on this show, Baron Corbin looked better than he has in weeks running over Tye Dillinger in building his US Title match with AJ Styles at HIAC, The Usos soundly beat The Hype Bros in a decent match with further teases for The Hype Bros splitting as well as more build to The Usos vs The New Day for the tag titles at the PPV. Charlotte vs Carmella was fine for what it was, and built nicely to Charlotte vs Natalya for the title at HIAC while still keeping Carmella and her briefcase on the periphery of the audience's mind. Oh, and Dolph Ziggler continued to be irritating until Bobby Roode came out to challenge him to a match surely destined for the HIAC Kick-off. Shame really, as Roode deserves better. Finally, Rusev was great again in his ceremony to celebrate his win over Randy Orton last week, (with bonus points to Aiden English for singing the Bulgarian national anthem). This was a really fun segment until Orton appeared, but it couldn’t dampen what was the highlight of the show for me.
Not a particularly noteworthy show, but decent in-ring action and did enough to keep things moving along ahead of next week's go-home show for Hell in a Cell.
Bullet Club Invade Raw, but also not really
Prior to this week's Raw taping, ROH/NJPW faction Bullet Club staged an "invasion" ala Degeneration X-WCW circa 1998. The Young Bucks, Hangman Page, Cody Rhodes and "The Villain" Marty Scurll made a grand entrance with a huge limo outside the Raw taping before doors opened and caused a mass of people to gather around them. Now obviously they were never going to actually invade, but it was a nice publicity stunt for the group and a nice bonus for the fans in attendance. I can’t imagine WWE were best pleased, but turnabout is fair play after all.
Jeff Hardy Injured
More eagle-eyed viewers of Raw this week may have noticed that Matt Hardy was without his brother Jeff Hardy as he tagged with Jason Jordan against The Miztourage. This is because Jeff is sadly side-lined with a rotator cuff injury that he suffered in July that was reportedly worsened in the last few months to the point he now requires surgery, likely putting him on the shelf for six months. It's a huge blow for Jeff who seemed primed for a singles run in WWE< while his brother Matt also now has to battle onwards without his brother, and I'm not 100% sure where that leaves matt in the Raw mid-card scene. A loss to the company, and bad timing for all involved.
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, 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.