Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at all things pro wrestling from the past seven days. This week has been somewhat quiet, but both Raw and Smackdown had eventful weeks, we had some sad news from one WWE legend, and some changes of management in the company formerly known as TNA. Let us get started as we so often do with a look at this week's Raw, and the return of a very familiar character which was...DELIGHTFUL.
With things a little quiet this past few weeks, Raw was not the liveliest of shows especially while it sits in a holding pattern until the build for the Royal Rumble starts up in a few weeks. However, perhaps the most eventful moment came in the form of the arrival of "Woken" Matt Hardy, doing the full gimmick from TNA in a pre-taped back and forth segment with Bray Wyatt. Last week, Hardy appeared to reach a breaking point and here he was in "Broken", sorry "Woken" mode in WWE, with all the catchphrases and mannerisms present form the gimmick that he developed in TNA with such ferver, and which won him such acclaim within the wrestling fan community. Whether WWE will let him go the whole hog with the gimmick remains to be seen, but the signs are certainly encouraging based on what happened here. Equally, Bray Wyatt seemed somewhat different here, perhaps more focused and less rambling, almost playing the straight man to Hardy's delusional, crazy entity. Hopefully, if booked correctly this could do a lot for both men, especially as they have both been floundering as of late. Here's hoping for a return of Vanguard 1 sometime soon.
The main event angle of the show chiefly involved The Shield in various guises, but the show closing angle with Samoa Joe and The Bar leads me to believe we are getting a six man tag between the two units in the near future. The matches between The Bar and Dean Ambrose & Seth Rollins have been of the highest quality, but after seeing them feud constantly since August I am ready for this grouping of superstars to come to an end. The finish of the main event, with the re-start was odd if there was no title change, as it seemed pretty pointless, but the match was very good. Roman Reigns had his own eventful evening, with a heated opening segment alongside Jason Jordan and Samoa Joe. I enjoyed the heat Jordan is getting, with him now functioning somewhere between Kurt Angle in 2000 and Rocky Maivia in 19967. There are subtle heel tendencies emerging slowly but surely, although he is still ostensibly a babyface and while it is definitely being played for the slow burn, the heel turn is definitely coming, presumably with Kurt Angle the last one to figure it out. The actual match with Reigns and Jordan was very good, and the post-match definitely kept a fire burning under the Jordan-Angle story, as well as Joe and Reigns. Good work all round.
Monday night was certainly a busy night for the women of the Raw brand. Paige making her in-ring return against Sasha Banks was very welcome, in what was another excellent match. Absolution continue to impress, dominating the landscape, even making Alexa Bliss a secondary element despite being the current champion. Paige looked excellent here, and is more over than ever. Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose still look a bit shaky but both have lots of time to get comfortable on the big stage while being protected as part of a group. Absolution also crashed the ring after Asuka dominated Alicia Fox, beating down Fox. I like that the tease of something with Asuka continues, but they aren’t rushing to add her into things in a meaningful way just yet, which makes sense with no immediate PPV blow-off in site.
The rest of the show was pretty enjoyable. Drew Gulak getting the win in the cruiserweight four-way is a fun twist, as he has been excellent lately and keeps Cedric Alexander in reserve for something more prominent in the future. Speaking of the cruiserweights, it was interesting to see Enzo Amore being potentially paired up with Nia Jax, although I suppose it could have been a one off for pure comedy purposes. Finn Balor vs Bo Dallas was a nothing squash, while Braun Strowman squashing Elias was tremendous fun.
A very decent show, with lots of good wrestling, way more than normal, even if in storyline terms things are circling for the time being.
Smackdown has been a bit more difficult to get through recently with a number of talents not quite getting the top-line billing, or at least not the booking they deserve. This week, the work of rehabbing and rectifying that issue began. The opening segment with Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens explaining how they got one over on Shane McMahon on a technicality last week was very well done, as was the RKO out of nowhere by Randy Orton. It was a satisfying segment for everyone involved, but also built to a very enjoyable main event. I know it took a heel turn, but it is great to see Zayn hanging at a main event level with Orton. The post-match with Shinsuke Nakamura was perhaps the best part of this, however. Nakamura was presented as a big deal and a game changer in making the save, which was great to see. Nakamura could still be rehabbed into a main eventer in time for Wrestlemania, but WWE really need to get their skates on and start soon, and this was a great first step. Orton and Nakamura vs Zayn and Owens at Clash of Champions should be a fun match, although it would be more so had it not happened on Smackdown a few months ago, but still it should be a fun match.
The rest of the show was a mixed bag. The women's championship picture got more complex, as Charlotte beat Tamina but ended up facing down a Lumberjack match with Natalya at the PPV. I enjoyed the idea that the Riott Squad have caused chaos and the lumberjacks will be just as volatile as the in-ring action. Rusev and Aiden English continue to be great fun, and the win against The New Day was a great momentum boost for the tandem. Bobby Roode vs Baron Corbin seemed only to exist to push Dolph Ziggler as dangerous now that he has been added to the match between the two for the US title at Clash of Champions. All three are floundering currently, and I'm not sure grouping them together is exactly helping anyone here. Finally, Bludgeon Brothers squashed some local talents. Nothing much to add there.
A decent show in terms of the top end of things, but very mixed in the shallow mid and under card of the roster.
Impact Wrestling - Change in management
In some interesting news this week Don Callis, who many may remember as The Jackal in WWE and Cyrus in ECW was announced as the Executive Vice President of Impact Wrestling alongside Scott D'Amore. While Callis has been recently working for NJPW on commentary, D'Amore has had several stints backstage working for TNA over the years and if I'm honest they couldn't have picked two more interesting and experienced hands to run Impact for now. More intriguingly, apparently Chris Jericho has some involvement here, although what exactly remains to be seen. Between this and his appearance with NJPW in January it is very interesting to see how this affects Jericho's relationship with WWE going forward, or whether this is simply an exercise in keeping himself relevant, and upping his asking price for future WWE stints. Either way, it could be a very interesting 2018 for the company formerly known as TNA.
Finally this week, in sad news it appears that Rob Van Dam may no longer be able to wrestle for WWE. Although he has not been with the company for a while he has been on good terms with WWE, and I wouldn’t have ruled out an appearance in the Royal Rumble. However, news appeared this week that RVD suffered a concussion this year that gave him vison issues and WWE will not clear him as a result. Of course this is sad news and unfortunately it is all too common for competitors of RVD's generation, especially those who competed in ECW, but you have to respect WWE for continuing to try and protect talent who they believe may have health issues, which is certainly creditable when looking after the long term health of former employees.
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.