Hello grappling fans and welcome to this week's installment of Slammer Jabber, your look at all things pro wrestling over the past seven days. In WWE land it's all about Extreme Rules for the Raw brand, which takes place this Sunday, and building to Money in the Bank for the Smackdown Live! brand. Plus British-based upstarts Progress Wrestling held one of their biggest events of the year. Lets get started with this week's Raw.
The red brand was in full build mode this week with Extreme Rules just around the corner. The three way match between Finn Balor, Samoa Joe, and Bray Wyatt was really well done and was easily the match of the night for me. I'm glad Joe came out of it looking strong, while it didn’t harm either Bray or Balor going into the PPV on Sunday. Equally Seth Rollins vs Roman Reigns in the main event was a fantastic bout, and felt surprisingly fresh given these two have faced off in the past year a few times. The execution was on point, and much like the earlier match both guys still looked strong, even with Reigns getting the clean win. All five guys seem like they could feasibly win the five-way bout on Sunday, and they have certainly done well to get all five into a position to fill the number one contender position coming out of the PPV.
Perhaps the segment from Monday's show that will stand out, and for all the wrong reasons, is the Alexa Bliss presentation of Bayley: This is Your Life. First off, this was always going to be a poor imitation of the famous segment featuring The Rock and Mick Foley from 1999 which is one of the most viewed segments in WWE history. So they were on a hiding to nothing right form the off, and it only got worse. The writing, the "guests", the general mood, and even the payoff with Bayley running in was badly handled, with Alexa doing her level best to save a segment that was just awful.
I enjoyed the element of mystery that was added to this week's show, with both the Corey Graves-Kurt Angle secret issue, as well as the "Who attacked Enzo?" angle. Wrestling needs more whodunit angles, and I enjoyed the element of mystery here, with various suspects fingered, and Big Cass getting in Graves' face to deny insinuations he was involved in Enzo's attack. Personally I feel we're getting a red herring here and Cass will be behind the attacks, but it'll certainly be interesting to see how it all unfolds. Equally the Angle story has piqued my interest even though I have absolutely no idea where they could possibly go with that story, but I'm very excited to see what happens next, so I suppose that's a job well done by WWE.
The opening segment to the show was pretty well handled with The Miz interviewing Sheamus and Cesaro for Miz TV, and this morphing into a six-man tag with The Hardys. It wasn’t the most exciting match I've ever seen, and both of these feuds are being stretched a bit too far for my liking, but it did its job in building both feuds ahead of the PPV. It also featured Miz completely misjudging how to take a Twist of Fate, but it's a minor gripe in the end.
The rest of the show was so-so, with "The Drifter" Elias Samson squashing a local talent and getting some pretty good heat for his singing, Rich Swann and Noam Dar having a decent bout, Titus O'Neill beating Kalisto to further the Apollo Crews storyline, and Austin Aries and Jack Gallagher defeating TJ Perkins and Neville. The latter match was certainly done to put in place the seeds of doubt over Neville retaining his cruiserweight title against Aries at Extreme Rules, but I'll cover that in more detail a bit later.
All in all, a decent show, if not one that blew me away. Week on week this show is definitely improving but the three hour run-time does have an impact. This was not as much as a slog as some weeks, but it certainly wasn’t the most enthralling show they've ever produced. A definite thumbs in the middle.
You're probably tired of hearing this, but again this week's Smackdown was a pretty decent show, especially in comparison to Raw. The build for the main event continued this week with Kevin Owens' Highlight Reel (which is a nice way to keep Chris Jericho in the back of everyone's minds while he's off with Fozzy, and guarantee a nice pop for his eventual return to avenge his beatdown from Owens). Owens was very good here, but the way they are booking him opposite Shinsuke Nakamura concerns me, more for Nakamura than Owens. Nakamura now is apparently no longer being referred to as 'The Artist' but as 'The Rock Star' which seems odd, and while he's getting huge reactions form the audience, he is not being treated like a big deal and being protected as a special attraction. Still, he looked good here even if it is the wrong move in my opinion, which is more than I can say for Baron Corbin. The continuation of last week's insult of 'Eric Cartman' towards Owens is not a good move and makes him seem as out of touch as when AJ Styles dropped it previously. The resulting tag match pitting Owens and Corbin against Nakamura and Sami Zayn (who made the save as the others beat Nakamura down) was very good, as expected if not a little underwhelming in terms of fresh matches (I've already voiced my thoughts on Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens facing off again and again), but it puts more personal issues in place for the Money in the Bank match which can only be a good thing. I feel for Baron Corbin, because I suspect he is picking up the briefcase, but I also fear he will be booked to lose week in week out, fail consistently with cashing in before taking advantage of an injured face champion, having an underwhelming run on top, and fading back into the mid card. It;s not for a lack talent, he's improving constantly, but he needs to be booked correctly and I'm not sure that is what is necessarily happening.
Dolph Ziggler vs AJ Styles was a fantastic main event, as you'd expect. These two both have some nifty moves, and Ziggler is always good at selling his opponents offence which plays into Styles wheelhouse particularly well. Both guys put in a great shift here, and getting the clean win over Styles does a lot for Ziggler ahead of Money in the Bank, although for me I think he's far too damaged at this stage without revamping his look and character to be considered a credible option to pick up the case. However, this does help him, doesn't hurt Styles and when considered in combination with the build to open the show makes everyone look strong going into the big ladder match in a few weeks.
Elsewhere on the show we had the inconclusive number one contenders match for the Smackdown Women's Championship, which led to the announcement of the first ever Women's MitB match. It was obvious the direction they were heading in, but the mass brawl was well executed and the non-finish certainly makes sense in terms of the impetus for Shane McMahon to make this match a reality. Given the talent available on the roster, this should be excellent and I have pretty high expectations for the bout, possibly even as one to watch in terms of stealing the show. I also like that the uneasy alliances with Becky Lynch and Naomi and Charlotte could make for some interesting television should one of Becky or Charlotte pick up the case. Have Becky win, and tease that they can't trust Charlotte, only for Becky to make the heel turn down the road cashing in her case after swearing she's do it the "right way". There are lost of possibilities, so I'm certainly intrigued.
The rest of the show moved along nicely, with Breezango having a fun match with The Colons (and another great Fashion Files segment), The Usos being confronted by the returning/debuting The New Day who are now facing them at Money in the Bank for the tag titles, and Randy Orton cutting a decent if not slightly dull promo while Jinder Mahal offered a pre-recorded rebuttal. It says something when the WWE Championship is the least interesting thing on the show, but there wasn't much to this. That being said, the video with Mahal's celebration and the reaction of the Indian media did plenty to make Jinder seem like a big deal, and without a doubt a big star in India.
A good show overall, with plenty to talk about, lots of good action, loads of storyline development, and some good build for the PPV. I would certainly say based on this week's shows that I'm more excited for Money in the Bank than Extreme Rules, but that could change in the coming weeks. Oh also, where is Rusev? That is one long hockey game he is watching.
This past weekend Progress Wrestling held their SSS16 2017 tournament (Super Strong Style 16) event, which was held in Camden at the Electric Ballroom over the course of three days featuring some of the best independent talent in the UK and around the world, including Jeff Cobb (Matanza from Lucha Underground), WWE UK Champion Pete Dunne, Tyler Bate, Trent Seven, Travis Banks, Mark Andrews, Zack Sabre Jr, Matt Riddle and many more with the main feature spread across all three days a 16-man tournament. The two previous winners of this tournament were Will Osprey and Tommy End AKA Alestair Black, so it's definitely a prize worth winning. We also got the crowning of the first ever Progress Women’s champion on this show. I have yet to see the show (it should appear on the Progress On Demand service within a week or so), but I am certainly looking forward to seeing what sounds like a great show based on live reports. As Progress march on towards their big show at Alexandra Palace this September, they continue to deliver excellent shows and we at Screenjabber are certainly looking forward to watching SSS16 2017.
Extreme Rules preview
Another two weeks, another WWE PPV. This time the red brand is putting forward its latest offering, Extreme Rules. Originally, this show looked likely to be built around Braun Strowman and Roman Reigns facing off in some sort of Ambulance match, but with Strowman's injury and likely absence until after WWE Great Balls of Fire, WWE have changed up their plans and we have a Fatal Five Way match to crown a number one contender to WWE Universal Champion Brock Lesnar at the aforementioned July show. The contenders have been all suitably built up as potential winners over the past few weeks, with Bray Wyatt, Samoa Joe, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and Finn Balor all having shining moments in the past month. For me, this should be a very good match with some huge spots and big near falls, and presumably this spins off the other four competitors into their summer programmes while the winner goes on to face Lesnar. For me, despite the tease with Paul Heyman last week, Finn Balor is not quite where he needs to be and will almost certainly spin off into a programme with Wyatt, while I could also see Samoa Joe and Roman Reigns spiralling off to have a hard hitting programme in the coming months, which leaves Seth Rollins to take on Lesnar. This way you keep Lesnar and Reigns separate as planned, Balor and Wyatt can resolve their continued issues and the eventual build for Balor as a challenger to Lesnar can be a slow burn. Rollins is a perfect babyface fodder for Lesnar, given his flashy style and the previous inconclusive resolution to Lesnar and Rollins' previous headline bout (Battleground 2015) there is enough to garner interest and keep both guys credible. This isn’t necessarily what they'll go with, but it certainly seems the most logical step.
The rest of the card has shaped up quite nicely, with Dean Ambrose and The Miz having a feud that has been built for some time, although with the stipulation that Ambrose can lose the belt on a DQ, I fully expect "The Drifter" Elias Samson to get involved and cost Ambrose the belt in order to forward that feud, and then The Miz can head off to a new feud over the IC title. Alexa Bliss vs Bayley in a "kendo stick on a pole match" should be a good match, especially based on their bout last month, despite the awful segment on Raw this week. Bliss, despite being hampered by booking and scripting, has looked really good in this role, and provides a great bitchy heel foil for Bayley. However, I can definitely see Bayley coming up short again here, given Sasha Banks is busy with her pointless feud against Alicia Fox.
The other two matches announced currently should both be very entertaining. The Hardys vs Cesaro & Sheamus will undoubtedly be a very good match, even if the cage stipulation doesn't really add too much for me. Equally, I hope this is the blow-off to this feud and both teams move on to whatever is next. Finally, we have Neville vs Austin Aries in a submission match, which by rights after being cheated out of beating Neville two PPVs in a row, Aries should win. I feel you damage Aries massively if he loses here, unless he's about to turn heel somehow, but the booking on Raw leaves me feeling very concerned that they will do just that. You can always have Neville lose and somehow win it back in a week or two without it hurting him, but an Aries loss here really will leave him irreparably damaged I believe. I imagine we are also getting Alicia Fox and Noam Dar vs Sasha Banks and Rich Swann, which will probably be fine even though I have almost no interest in this programme, although it does at least provide something different for the cruiserweights so that can only be a good thing. I also assume something with R-Truth and Goldust will be added to the pre-show, not that anyone cares especially.
I expect this should be a good show overall, and will hopefully give us a better idea of how things are mapped out for the summer months ahead, with a solid undercard and an excellent main event.
Well that is it from me, I'll be back next week with a breakdown of Extreme Rules, plus of all the happenings from Raw and Smackdown and much more. 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.