Hello again everyone, and welcome back for another round of Slammer Jabber. It's been a crazy seven days in the world of Pro Wrestling, and we have lots to cover so lets dive on in with this weeks TV, before looking at all the other big news, and my predictions for Backlash this Sunday.
After the drama of last week’s main event I was hopeful of a good show to follow up here, and what we got was ok, but not quite what it could have been. Kevin Owens turning up in a suit was a nice touch, and marked him out as a big deal from the off in his championship reign. It was also nice to see Seth Rollins playing a babyface. I know he’s not done the full turn yet, but given his moves and abilities he should be really well suited as a face, something that should have happened upon his return in May. I also enjoyed that they actually did something with Sami Zayn this week, acknowledging he holds a victory over Owens, and giving him a shot. This was logical booking, and they had a good match as usual. It was a bit bizarre to see the artists formerly known as Kevin Steen and El Generico main eventing Raw, but a welcome sight. I actually like the dynamic of Seth Rollins vs Kevin Owens at Clash of Champions, and I think it could be a really solid main event, but the lack of Triple H to explain his actions seemed a bit odd. I can only assume they are holding off on bringing him back again so he can cost Rollins again at the PPV, and we get a Rollins vs Triple H match at Survivor Series or Hell in a Cell? I also don’t really understand the logic of putting Roman Reigns in a match next week with Owens where he could gate-crash the main event, the only thing I can think of is they need to do something with him while Rusev is on holiday, and I suspect this means a mini-feud with Chris Jericho in the meantime. Either way it seemed strange, but we will have to see how it unfolds next Monday as to where this all falls.
Speaking of Jericho, he was again brilliant this week, both in the ring and out. I thoroughly enjoyed his work as the back-up for Owens, and his line about the ‘longest reigning Universal Champion of all-time’ was excellent. He’s been on phenomenal form so far this year, and long may it continue.
Sasha Banks also made her return this week, in a weird, scripted mock retirement promo. It was odd coming so soon after the very real Daniel Bryan retirement and it never quite felt genuine. I also fail to see how this all pans out now, with Bayley beating Charlotte on Raw, why is Banks getting the shot at Clash of Champions? I would imagine we are getting a Sasha heel turn down the road, leading to Bayley challenging her at Wrestlemania, but in the short term I am at a loss to see where they are going with this. Hopefully it’ll be a notch up on the match from Summerslam anyway.
Finally, we got two interesting bits of booking on Raw. First up there was the odd decision to put The Shining Stars over at the expense of Enzo and Big Cass. I understand the intent, but it seems a waste of one of the most over teams on the roster when they should be pushing up the card. The Shining Stars deserve some recognition as a decent tag team, but this is not the way to go about it for me. Secondly, we got a new-ish gimmick for Bo Dallas, who seems to have been unaffected by his recent airplane related issues, and is now back with some sort of Donald Trump-inspired gimmick. If it makes him seem more serious and less of a joke, count me in.
Oh and we got the usual Braun Strowman and Nia Jax squashes. Strowman is bloody ace.
This week we had the go-home show for WWE Backlash, the first brand exclusive PPV of the new era, with talent exclusively from the blue brand. I’ve been very vocal the past few weeks about the slow improvements of Smackdown, with carefully thought out stories and hard workers making it a gradually improving show. This week was more of a mixed bag if I’m honest. I’m very much enjoying the tag storyline with American Alpha and The Usos. The semi-heel turn is making Jimmy and Jey seem much fresher and sets up some cracking potential in-ring action involving all four men. I’m not a big fan of The Hype Bros, but at least it makes for fresh matches, and you have to believe The Usos are advancing to spoil the fun with Rhyno and Heath Slater.
One of the other high points this week was the continued build to the Six Woman Elimination match for the new Smackdown Women’s Championship. The build for this has been really good, and all six women are very good workers and potentially believable winners. If you read on further I’ll give my prediction along with the rest of the matches on the show, at the end of this week’s column.
Finally we had the last big segment for the AJ Styles vs Dean Ambrose match. This has all felt a bit lacklustre in the build-up, and both men have cooled off a bit in recent weeks, but the match should be excellent. Styles has to win for me, for the sake of both men. But please no more crotching or cutesy trophy giving. Lets get serious.
A reasonable show, but not the sort of go-home they need if they want to drum up interest for the card on Sunday.
There are a number of rumours doing the rounds this week regarding Paige. Following her suspension and the apparent parting ways between WWE and her real-life boyfriend Alberto Del Rio, it looks like there is some possibility she might not be coming back after all. Some reports allege she was told by WWE to break up with ADR or risk being fired, with one theory being that if this is now coming out she is done with the company. Other theories seem to suggest this is a deliberate ploy by ADR to take the heat off Paige, so she can’t be fired upon her return. What is actually going on is anyone’s guess, but hopefully she can get herself back on track. For a time Paige was a leading light in the Women’s division, and could be right up there again with the right backing.
In better news for British wrestlers abroad, "The Villain" Marty Scurll, a leading light of the British independent scene, Progress Champion, Dragon Gate UK veteran, and former TNA British Bootcamp contender, has won the annual PWG (Pro Wrestling Guerrilla) Battle of Los Angeles. BOLA tends to be one of the high points of the US Independent wrestling calendar, and for Scurll to win such a huge tournament goes to show how well regarded he is, and that he is at the very top of his game. Well done Marty, Slammer Jabber salutes you!
Live at the O2
WWE hit London town this week for a one-off house show at the O2 Arena. It was rather odd, and based on the ticket prices and the random nature of the single date in September it led to much speculation that this would be some sort of Network special show. Alas, it was not to be and this was a basic Raw house show. However, WWE put on an excellent card with some fine matches, including Roman Reigns vs Chris Jericho, and Kevin Owens vs Seth Rollins vs Sami Zayn in the main event. While it may not have been as high-profile as some hoped I, and from what I saw everyone else in attendance, had a great time.
CM Punk MMA debut
This weekend’s UFC 203 card brings the much anticipated UFC (and MMA in general) debut from one CM Punk. The celebrated, beloved and often controversial former multi-time WWE champion made the switch to MMA after his acrimonious split from his former employers, and despite having no professional fights to date. He has been training in Milwaukee with Roufusport, the same camp that Anthony Pettis trains at, in the run up to his fight with Mickey Gall. Having seen Gall fight, I am expecting him to soundly beat Punk, but MMA is crazy so you never know. You also have to respect Punk’s grit and determination to do this against all odds, and I hope it is everything he hoped for. As a wrestling fan I will certainly be cheering on Punk for sure. As an aside, I do hope he will eventually find his way back to WWE, even if only on a part-time basis. Punk is a huge star, and I would love to see him mix it up with the current crop of top liners in WWE.
Finally this week, I have my predictions for Backlash this Sunday. For me the results should be fairly straightforward on paper (although we all know WWE love to throw a curveball to keep everyone guessing). I suspect we are getting Randy Orton going over Bray Wyatt (and then moving on to feud with the champion after that programme finishes), The Usos beating both The Hype Bros, and presuming the finals are on this show Slater and Rhyno to win the tag titles, Becky Lynch winning the Women’s championship match, The Miz retaining the IC title against Dolph Ziggler, and finally AJ Styles beating Dean Ambrose for the WWE Championship. Whatever the results, this looks like a great little card and the fact that there are only 5 matches hopefully means that everything will get plenty of time.
Well that’s it from me for this week, join me again next Thursday for a full run down of what happened at Backlash, CM Punk’s MMA debut, and all the other news over the next week. In the meantime check out all the new movie, Blu-ray, and game reviews, as well as news and views in your multimedia world, right here at Screenjabber.