Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at the biggest stories in professional wrestling from the past seven days. This week has been quite the busy period with eventful episodes of Raw and Smackdown, and some interesting news about wrestling on British television, However, we'll start this week, with what everyone is talking about, the big All In event from this past Saturday.
Most week’s we’d start this column with a look at the latest WWE PPV or this week’s episode of Raw. We’ll get there, but let's face it, no story in wrestling is bigger this week than All In. The much-anticipated show from the Sears Centre in suburban Illinois, just outside Chicago was a huge undertaking for Cody Rhodes and The Young Bucks, but it lived up to every expectation. The show itself had something for everyone and providing an incredible showcase for the very best of independent wrestling. For me, the biggest high point of the show came from the NWA Championship match pitting Nick Aldis against Cody. Right from the entrances with the respective entourages featuring legends and associates, as well as some of Rhodes family and friends, created a real big fight feel. The match was well constructed and it felt like a huge deal, especially when Cody eventually got the win. Rhodes is perfectly placed to represent the NWA and given his family history, it’s a logical move to put the belt on him. He also has a very cute dog.
The rest of the show was excellent. The main event was a high flying sprint and really showcased Bandido and Fenix, while Kota Ibushi and Rey Mysterio in the same ring was quite the site. The Bucks were superb as usual, and while this match seemed short on time, it was still excellent. Kenny Omega vs Pentagon Jr was everything I expected and more, and the surprise appearance of Chris Jericho in Pentagon's gear was fantastic. Kazuchika Okada (in full Rainmaker mode) vs "The Villain" Marty Scurll was excellent as expected, while the women’s four way was a close call for match of the night with Tessa Blanchard especially impressing. Hangman Page vs Joey Janela was a crazy brawl, but that was overshadowed by the post-match with Joey Ryan returning (this will only really make sense if you’ve seen Being the Elite) accompanied by an army of penis druids. No, that is not a typo. I think the Joey Ryan penis-stuff is juvenile and dumb but I also appreciate that some people love it and that is more than enough reason for it to be on this show. Jay Lethal vs Flip Gordon (who won the over-budget battle royal on the pre-show, in the culmination of a months-long story on BTE) was a decent affair and the appearance of Lanny Poffo and Lethal doing the Black Machismo gimmick again was good fun. Matt Cross vs MJF was a fine, but unspectacular opener, while Arrow actor Stephen Amell and Christopher Daniels had a surprisingly good match that far surpassed all expectations.
This show was far better than it looked on paper, and for Cody and The Bucks to manage to create a show of this calibre, with such great production values in front of an excellent crowd is nothing short of spectacular. Well done to all involved, a major achievement and although maybe not quite the revolution that some expected, this was definitely a step in the right direction.
Back to WWE, and the red brand had a busy week. Although the execution and the psychology of the show-long angle featuring The Shield may have been slightly flawed, I liked that it tied many segments together and the continuous updates throughout the show stopped it from feeling disjointed. The mass brawl with the roster as security spot has been done to death at this stage, and it made the opening segment seem a bit tired, especially considering they could easily have used security or guys in swat team outfits just as readily. It makes likes of Finn Balor look really sill for getting swatted out of the way in these angles. For their part Braun Strowman, Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre all looked great in this segment and I’m slowly warming to the idea of Strowman as a heel. The main event between Strowman and Balor was very good, but it always seemed like a time filler until we got The Shield returning to the building, and inevitably they did. The arriving in the police van was a nice nod to the attitude era spirit they were clearly trying to capture with this angle, but I’m not sure how much sense it made. The beat down from the whole heel roster was an interesting twist, although seeing Kevin Owens (more on him in a minute) leading a bunch of heels helping Strowman, who spent the last few months terrorising him makes so little sense. That said, it was a well-executed twist to have The Shield laid out and I am willing to let them explain this next week before judging it too harshly.
Shawn Michaels' return and the promo he cut was excellent. It was good to see him back, and although he clearly has no idea how to work the WWE Network, his passion and craft were very much on show. Adding The Undertaker into the mix only made this seem even bigger with Taker seemingly challenging HBK to come out of retirement. This would be an amazing promo if they were building to Undertaker vs HBK, but this was designed to build to Undertaker vs Triple H, who became something of an afterthought. I have no idea whether this was designed to plant seeds for something for Wrestlemania 35 or if it was just the two of them plucking something out of the air, but it certainly got me excited for possibly seeing a final match between two of the best ever, perhaps even as a swansong for The Undertaker.
The rest of the show was generally very good. AoP vs some enhancement talent was a quick squash, but more noteworthy was the Raw debut of Drake Maverick aka Rockstar Spud as their new manager which is a great combination. I would prefer Maverick not continue to wear the riot squad gear (which incidentally seems a bit too similar to be on the same brand as The Shield), but with a few tweaks, this could be a superb pairing. Speaking of pairings, the tag team combination of Bobby Roode and Chad Gable seems like a good combination, with some fun comedy potential. Ziggler and McIntyre vs The B Team was a good use of the heels, gets the belts of comedy characters and gives The Revival something to shoot for so that all makes plenty of sense. Kevin Owens returning after just a week and attacking Bobby Lashley during that ludicrous segment with Jinder Mahal seems like a massive waste of Owens and an even bigger waste of what seemed like an intriguing angle last week.
The Bella Twins vs The Riott Squad wasn't great, especially with Brie Bella making an absolute hash of two suicide dives and nearly seriously injuring herself. Perhaps a bit of ring rust though, so maybe it’s forgivable. The Bellas interactions with Ronda Rousey later on and fake sincerity was superb, and I like that they are subtly building the inevitable heel turn by Nikki Bella, if not Brie as well, presumably to set up Nikki vs Ronda at Evolution. Tied into all that you have the situation with Natalya who looked to be on the verge of a breakdown after her match with Alexa Bliss. Speaking of which, Bliss did a great job this week, from turning on the crowd in her hometown, flirting with Elias and then beating Natalya with an armbar, this was brilliant heel work from Bliss. Finally, Sasha Banks and Bayley vs Ember Moon and Dana Brooke was a decent tag match, although it was clearly just designed to help push the Titus Worldwide breakup angle, with Brooke leaving after the bout. Hopefully, this ends with an Apollo Crews heel turn, because he needs something to push him to the next level.
A very good show overall. A few questionable booking decisions aside this had lots of storyline development and little felt like it was just filling time. Presumably, with NFL season starting up soon WWE have decided to try and make an effort this year and it’ll be very interesting to see if this continues in the next few weeks or they go back to coasting.
While Raw had a show-long storyline featuring The Shield, Smackdown followed suit but in building the feud between The Miz and Daniel Bryan as well as Maryse and Brie Bella respectively. The promo/ruse that Miz and Maryse were not in the building was well executed, and Bryan and Brie did a good job of selling that they believed that their opposite numbers were gone for the night. The resultant match, after Andrade “Cien” Almas and Zelina Vega confronted Bryan and Brie was phenomenal, and although I’d still like to see what Bryan and Almas could do in a lengthier match this was a great TV match. There’s definitely some chemistry brewing between both men, and their ring styles are certainly complementary. The reveal that Miz and Maryse were in the building after Bryan and Brie had left was well done, as was the eventual later reveal that Mr and Mrs Danielson had not in fact left. The visual of Vega and Almas in simultaneous Yes Locks was a great image, and Miz and Maryse’s reaction was top-notch. In among all this, we also got a Smackdown main event with R-Truth, who actually looked pretty decent in this role, although his involvement, as well as Carmella’s, seemed mostly there to hype the upcoming new season of Mixed Match Challenge on which they will be partners. I also hope the use of Vega and Almas was just for visual effect here, as that pairing is way above being lackeys for The Miz. Still, all in all, a very well thought out, but very simple story, effectively put in place to yield the maximum reaction.
The rest of the show was fun, fast-paced and pretty much what we’ve come to expect from Smackdown in recent weeks. Samoa Joe’s brawl with a fired up AJ Styles was a great way to continue to make their feud seem really personal ahead of Hell in a Cell. Speaking of personal feuds, Becky Lynch and Charlotte had a very interesting back-and-forth interview over satellite with both putting forward their viewpoint. I’m still not sure Becky is a heel in this situation, and Charlotte isn’t doing much to convince she is the babyface. In fact, WWE may have created a problem for themselves as Becky is arguably a genuine anti-hero now and she is getting the sort of reactions the company are going to struggle to ignore or book against. Rusev Day vs The Usos vs Sanity was a good three-way tag bout and sets up The Bar vs Rusev Day for next week, which could be very good. Naomi vs Peyton Royce was enjoyable, and with Asuka making the save in the post-match that sets up a future tag match, probably on the Hell in a Cell pre-show. Poor Asuka. Finally, we got two cracking videos to hype the Randy Orton vs Jeff Hardy bout inside the cell, both profiling Orton’s history in the cell and Hardy’s career not having a cell match. It was a very effective way to keep interest in this match high, without having either man on the show.
Another very good show this week from the blue brand, with a great show-long story to continue progressing the Bryan/Miz feud nicely, plenty of decent in-ring especially from Bryan vs Almas and a distinct lack of filler.
Rev Pro on Freesports
After several weeks of teases, and the announcement of a mysterious TV taping (which is happening this week at the York Hall), Rev Pro Wrestling have confirmed they will be airing a series of shows on Freesports, a channel available on Freeview, Virgin and Sky in the UK. If this channel sounds familiar, it may be because it was home to the infamous 5 Star wrestling shows earlier this year. While 5 Star may have been a calamity, Rev Pro is a highly professional outfit and I have no doubt we will be getting some superb action on screen. While WOS may be in the highest-profile slot, Rev Pro is probably putting forward the best product of any company featured on UK TV, and I very much look forward to seeing what they can do with this opportunity, especially given their relationship with NJPW.
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 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.