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, two much anticipated tournaments , a big signing for WWE, news from ROH, NJPW and much more. Let's kick things off with a look at this past week's episode of Raw.
The red brand continued the build towards the big No Mercy event in a few weeks with a huge cage match main event between Braun Strowman and Big Show. This was a really solid, super heavyweight brawl and I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy it. Seeing Big Show trying an elbow off the top rope was something to behold and I wouldn't even be surprised if this was Show's swansong of sorts. I find it hard to believe that the symmetry of Show's WWE debut coming with him throwing Stone Cold Steve Austin through a cage with the post-match here was an accident. Strowman looked really strong, and this did plenty to build him up for Brock Lesnar in a few weeks. Strowman seems to come on leaps and bounds every week and I genuinely think he is going to be the next big thing for this company. A strong showing here, and very well booked main event.
John Cena opening the show with Jason Jordan was a nice touch, and a very enjoyable match. I felt this did plenty to help put Jordan over, and it made a nice comparison to Cena's own debut against Jordan's kayfabe father Kurt Angle. The post-match with Cena and Roman Reigns again trading barbs was really well done in my opinion. Reigns seemed much more at ease this week, and his comebacks were far better, even the ad-libbed ones (although there was a slight hint of homophobia that could possibly inferred into one comment that should probably be avoided in the future. I don’t think it was genuinely intended to be offensive, but it still shouldn't be the sort of thing that WWE are even flirting with). Regardless, this continued a very healthy build to their massive match at No Mercy, so it certainly did the job.
The Women's division had a further shake-up this week, with Sasha Banks having to share her contractual re-match against Raw Women's Champion Alexa Bliss, as Nia Jax and Emma were added to the match for No Mercy, via a tag match on Raw. The booking here is very odd, for a variety of reasons. The tag match was fine for what it was, but I do feel this whole thing has done more than a little bit of damage to Banks. It's good rehab for Emma, and further build for Nia Jax and Bliss, who have both been very good, but unless Banks is heading for that heel turn down the road and this is a slow burn for it, they really have made Banks look a little silly.
The rest of the show had plenty of notable happenings. Jeff Hardy vs The Miz was a fun little match, but I don't really know why they had Miz beat Hardy so cleanly, unless it was botched. Still, hard to see where they take this from here. We had more build for Sheamus and Cesaro vs Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins for the tag belts at No Mercy, a decent cruiserweight multi-man match featuring the five contenders for Neville's cruiserweight title (Enzo Amore would go on to win the title shot the night after). Finally, Finn Balor and Bray Wyatt had a confrontation (via big screen) that basically set up another match between the two at the PPV. I'm all but done with Wyatt now, he's a complete dullard, his promos don’t make sense, every feud is the same, and he seems to kill off the heat of anyone he works with. Get him off TV for a while and freshen him up, before it's too late!
A decent, and very enjoyable Raw. A few low moments, but plenty to enjoy and plenty of good build towards No Mercy.
It's been bubbling up over the past few weeks now, but the Shane McMahon and Kevin Owens feud hit its boiling point this week. The in-ring face-off between the two after Owens demanded a referee shirt, and Owens provoking Shane into attacking him was well done, and both Shane and Owens were really good here. I normally find authority figure angles fairly tiresome, but this has legs for me. Daniel Bryan was also excellent here as the voice of reason and operating as a plot device to introduce the return of Vince McMahon next week as well the suspension of McMahon which presumably leads to his competing in a match against Owens at Hell in a Cell. A great show-long storyline and a really well executed angle.
The main event of the show was one of the better TV main events you'll see in WWE this year. Randy Orton often gets criticised for being a bit dull, and there's plenty of reason for that allegation, but I always see him as someone who rises or lowers to the quality of his opposition. Thankfully, he rose to Shinsuke Nakamura's level this week and they had an absolute cracker. The RKO into the armbar spot was beautiful, and a real sight to behold. This is exactly how Nakamura needs to be booked and hopefully WWE have realised this now. I do believe that Nakamura needs to win the title in his match with Jinder Mahal at the PPV now, or they are likely to have an issue with keeping him credible (a sentence that seems so ridiculous when I say it out loud, but such is the situation we find ourselves in).
The rest of the show was a mixed bag for me. The Carmella vs Natalya match was far better than I expected it to be and was helped massively by the brilliant character work of James Ellsworth. I was less keen on the post-match tease of the two splitting, or their backstage interaction and I hope this angle continues to be a fun one and we aren’t getting these going their separate ways. Tye Dillinger vs Baron Corbin was exactly what you would expect it to be, although it was nice to see Dillinger showing a bit more fire than usual, and the set-up for AJ Styles giving him a US title shot next week was really well done. Aiden English getting the quick upset over Sami Zayn was odd, and I'm not sure where that is going (unless we are getting Zayn turning heel and joining up with Owens?). Finally, Dolph Ziggler returned doing impersonations of John Cena among others and basically said he was getting serious, although that is a far more succinct and less irritating summary of Ziggler's segment. He desperately needs to freshen up his look as well as showing a more aggressive in-ring attitude if this gimmick is to work, and I can’t see it happening.
A decent show, with some great movement on the big storylines, but a lot less satisfying as you move down the card.
Raw on Christmas
It may only be September, but for WWE Christmas is already in the works and this year it looks like Raw on both December 25th and January 1st is to be broadcast live, as opposed to the usual pre-taped show. Apparently, the decision is down to the USA Network, rather than the company. However, I can’t really see the logic to this. Even with a live show I suspect there won't be a huge rating done on either day, and as a result little of consequence will likely transpire. Equally, it's going to be a real pain for much of the roster I imagine, given Christmas is one of the few times of year they get to actually spend with their families. We'll have to see what happens when more details are available, but I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if this reverted back to the old taped format once cooler heads have prevailed.
Good News on Ric Flair
After a scary couple of weeks, it looks like Ric Flair is finally fully on the mend, Appearing in a Twitter video earlier this week (including wearing a 'Not dead Yet, Mother F*ckers T shirt) Flair thanked everyone for all the well wishes and vowed to get back to full health. For a guy who was reportedly at death's door a few weeks ago, he looked very well and I think I can say we're all relieved to see "The Nature Boy" is on the road to recovery.
Chikara King of Trios and BOLA 2017
Two of the biggest tournaments on the independent wrestling scene took place this week, with Chikara holding their King of Trios tournament, which weirdly was held in Wolverhampton in England this year, while PWG held their yearly BOLA tournament in LA. I won’t spoil either for those of you who haven’t seen the results, or wish to wait for the DVD, but it sounds like both tournaments produced some excellent matches and were very well received if the live reports are to be believed. I will certainly be checking these shows out once they are available.
Cody Rhodes’ Ring of Honor - literally
Ring of Honor World Champion Cody Rhodes made a few headlines this week, for an open challenge, but also for a change to the Ring of Honor canon. Cody introduced the "Ring of Honor", a literal ring that he appears to be wearing in lieu of the actual title belt as world champion. It's an unusual move, but it is certainly one that suits Cody's character and it's always nice to see a company trying to do something a bit different rather than the usual shtick. Rhodes' open challenge has now also been accepted, by one Minoru Suzuki, who might be one of the most legitimately scary men in the wrestling industry. Suzuki vs Cody at Death before Dishonor XV should be an absolute belter, and I enjoy that it brings a different perspective to the main events in ROH of recent months.
Speaking of ROH, this week WWE announced the signing of former ROH talent Donovan Dijak. Dijak, who will repost to the performance center, has been cooking up a storm on the indie scene for a while now despite only having around 4 years’ experience, so it's not a surprise if I'm honest. I saw Dijak face off with fellow recent WWE signee Lio Rush at the ROH tour last year and I was really impressed, not least because he is a legitimate 6 feet 5 or so and a decent size with plenty of athleticism to boot. I can definitely see big things for Dijak in WWE in the coming years, so definitely a name to watch out for.
NJPW update - KOPW
This week we got confirmation of the two big matches for NJPW King of Pro Wrestling in October, with Kazuchika Okada defending his IWGP title against EVIL, while Tetsuya Naito defends his Tokyo Dome title shot against Tomohiro Ishii. I'd be very surprised if either man lost their respective prizes ahead of the big Tokyo Dome show, but it's hard to say with NJPW. It should be two very good matches though, and I'm sure the rest of the card will be filled out once the big matches from the Destruction tour are resolved.
In late breaking news, GFW announced this week that founder Jeff Jarrett had taken an "indefinite leave of absence" due to some personal issues. Not much is known on the reasoning behind this leave of absence, but Jarrett has supposedly been acting erratically as of late and was not in the best shape. Obviously we wish Jarrett nothing but the best with his personal issues. However, there are some other details which have emerged that are more concerning, and that involved the name and merger of Impact Wrestling/TNA and GFW. Apparently Jarrett may still own the rights to the GFW name and logo, which could cause a huge problem for Anthem, who own and run GFW. This seems like a story that will run and run, but I'll report back with any further news as this story develops.
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.