Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at all things professional wrestling from the past seven days. It’s been a huge week with WWE Great Balls of Fire, two action-packed television shows, a surprising release, and more. With plenty to cover, we;ll get started iwth the big news, and the fallout form the worst named PPV in WWE history, Great Balls of Fire.
Great Balls of Fire
Goodness, gracious great balls of fire? More like smash, bang wallop, what a video! In the build-up to this event I was sure the main event with Samoa Joe vs Brock Lesnar was going to be the show-stealing affair of the night. However, it was the Roman Reigns vs Braun Strowman ambulance match that will be the lasting memory I have from GBoF. The match was a huge brawl, with big stiff shots with weapons, using the arena itself some big spots with the actual ambulance, as well as a cracking finish. I loved this match and I'm really high on both men, especially with Strowman's shouting. However, the post-match with Roman Reigns trying to literally murder Strowman by reversing an ambulance into a lorry with Strowman inside said ambulance, was crazy. It was a big stunt and was treated as a heavy duty angle, as it should have been even if it hardly painted Reigns in the light of a babyface. That said, I suppose Strowman did tip over an Ambulance with Reigns inside and throw him off the stage on a stretcher, so there was some justification. Presumably, this feud is not quite over.
The main event with Joe and Lesnar was a bit on the short side, but it certainly packed plenty of action into the six or so minutes it lasted. Both worked really snug and laid in some stiff shots, and while Lesnar only needed one F-5 to win the match, it definitely felt like a desperation move that fluked Lesnar the win, rather than a dominant performance. Joe certainly was made to look strong in defeat and I could definitely see him getting a rematch with Lesnar, if not immediately then certainly down the road. A really solid, if not slightly short main event.
The rest of the show was so-so. Alexa Bliss vs Sasha Banks was enjoyable, even if the finish was cheap and a bit lazy, although again the post-match made up for that somewhat. The Hardys vs Sheamus & Cesaro in an Iron Man match was really good, although I found it hard to invest too much because I feel like I’ve seen this match too many times this year already. The Miz vs Dean Ambrose was the same match they’ve been having for the best part of a year, Big Cass vs Enzo was a glorified squash, just to make Cass look like a monster (his new music is terrible though). Finally Bray Wyatt and Seth Rollins had a fine opening match, even though I have no interest in this feud (or Wyatt really at this stage). Oh and we also got Heath Slater vs Curt Hawkins, but that was purely there as a backdrop to the Reigns/Strowman angle and meant absolutely nothing. This was a decent show, but nothing memorial outside of the top two matches, and I fully expect the GBoF name and concept (well I say concept, but in reality it was just a fire-based image on the LED boards) to be scrapped before next year.
Following on from GBoF, Raw this week was a fairly busy affair. One of the big focuses came from Kurt Angle who had a pretty hectic evening. Aside from further development with Corey Graves on the big 'secret' that will be revealed next week (please don’t let it be Dixie Carter, given she appeared on the Angle 24 Special it isn’t beyond the realm of possibility), Angle also had to contend with sorting out the number one contendership for Summerslam. The in-ring segment with Brock Lesnar, Samoa Joe, Roman Reigns and Angle was excellent. Joe especially impressed, and the crowd responded to him really well. His line about Brock looking at him while he speaks got an audible gasp from the audience. For me, I really just want to see Joe vs Lesnar again at Summerslam, but Roman Reigns in that mix feels like a big deal. Despite attempting to murder Braun Strowman 24 hours earlier apparently Reigns is still a babyface technically. However, I like that they've given him a more ruthless edge here and he handled the crowd really well. While I wouldn’t normally advocate it for a main event of such a big show, the idea that has been doing the rounds of a fatal four-way between Joe, Lesnar, Braun and Reigns for Summerslam makes a lot of sense. It also allows them to potentially protect Brock Lesnar while still taking the title off him, should they so wish, and without doing Lesnar vs Reigns one-on-one which was rumoured for Wrestlemania next year. This was a really good segment in terms of making everyone look strong, and sets up Reigns vs Joe next week which should be excellent, even if it's likely to be marred by Strowman getting involved.
There have been many people clamouring for a reunion of The Shield since they split in 2014, and with all three men on the same brand now, it is certainly a possibility. However, seeing Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins grudgingly on the same side again certainly is an odd visual. I enjoyed that they acknowledged the past and it wasn't just a case of the two now being friends because they both happen to be faces now. The segment with The Miz that led to this, “The Mizzies”, was really good fun and The Miz was excellent as always. I am also enjoying that Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel look like new men after being paired with The Miz, and they finally have some actual character direction, which is excellent as both men have the raw abilities, just not necessarily the booking or gimmick to get to where they should be on the card. I also enjoyed that the main event seemed to put over Bray Wyatt, while also separating him from Rollins and spinning him off to do something else (I'd bet feuding with Finn Balor, given Balor beat Elias Samson earlier in the night, seemingly ending that feud. In case I don’t get to it later, it was a good match, but I'm glad both are moving on to other things, hopefully). Ambrose making the save for Rollins from the Miz-tourage was certainly interesting and creates some nice possibilities moving forward.
The Hardys provided one of the more intriguing moments on this week's show. their in-ring interview was peppered with references to their previous "broken" characters was interesting, and certainly suggests that they are close to agreeing a deal with Anthem, if they haven't already, for the rights to the gimmick. Their return has been really well handled but I feel both need to move onto something new now, or at least evolve beyond being a simple nostalgia act. Gallows & Anderson getting involved, as well as The Revival certainly sets up a few potential math ups for all three teams moving forward. The match, and the victory for Gallows & Anderson was a nice way to put them over, as well as giving The Revival a good spot on the show and making them seem like a big deal.
Elsewhere, the confrontation between Big Cass and Big Show was well done, and helped reinforce the size of Cass. I'm not looking forward to that match however, it will likely be pretty ugly. Also Cass's new music is still terrible. Sasha Banks and Bayley vs Nia Jax and Alexa Bliss was a fun match and kept the momentum going for the babyfaces, even if Bayley still seems to be in limbo. Goldust vs R-Truth wasn’t great, although not for the want of trying. Truth and Goldust unfortunately just don’t have the chemistry to really gel in the ring, and while both have been brilliant in recent weeks I'd like to see them both move on to new things (a theme on this show). Finally Akira Tozawa and Cedric Alexander vs Neville and Noam Dar was a good match, even if the crowd really didn’t care for it. It's a shame really, because they have some really good talent in the cruiserweight division, but they need to get better at presenting it as a big deal, and changing the ropes is not the answer of how that should be achieved.
A very good show for the most part, and the latest in a long line of good shows from Raw. Next week should be interesting with plenty set up for Monday night.
Before I tackle this week's Smackdown, I wanted to touch upon the news that AJ Styles defeated Kevin Owens on a house show at Madison Square Garden over the weekend to win the US Championship. It's not a regular occurrence for titles to change hands on non-televised shows, but I like that this happens occasionally. It makes it seem more worthwhile going to house shows because it does occasionally happen, and brings more gravity to the title matches on those house shows. This leads nicely into the opening of this week's show with AJ Styles reinstating the US Title Open Challenge, which of course brought out John Cena, who made that gimmick famous in 2015. The tease of a match between the two was really well done, and while I hope they hold off doing it for a while longer, I'm glad they put it in the back of people's minds that this is likely to happen again in the near future, especially given their match at Royal Rumble was some of the matches of the year so far. The interruptions by Owens and Rusev set up the main event, and the tag match while unspectacular was a fun TV main event. The mutual respect angle between Cena and Styles did a nice job of cementing Styles as a top babyface, and while it doesn’t do much for either man's feud, it was fine way to end this week's show. Also, Rusev is just excellent. It feels like he should be in the Jinder Mahal role at the top of the card, and hopefully he will be at some stage soon after this feud with Cena ends.
This week's Fashion Files was absolutely bonkers. If you haven’t seen it, I would recommend going out of your way to do so. Breezango have quietly become the most must-see part of Smackdown and they are clearly having a great time. I also enjoyed that this wasn’t just a throwaway comedy segment, and actually helped develop the continuing issues with The Hype Bros (well I say issues, but it seems like a split and heel turn is coming from either Zack Ryder or Mojo Rawley), much like it did for The Ascension a few weeks ago. With The Usos busy with The New Day, it's good to see the writers finding ways to keep other tag teams on television and busy while that programme plays itself out.
The rest of the show unfortunately felt a bit disjointed and almost thrown together, for me. Jinder Mahal vs Tye Dillinger was a nothing match really, and was mostly just used to give Jinder a reason to be out there to cut a promo hyping the Punjabi Prison match with Randy Orton. Xavier Woods vs Jey Uso was a fun match, with some nice spots and pretty nifty finish. Natalya and Tamina vs Charlotte and Becky Lynch was an OK TV match, but nothing special. I enjoyed the backstage segment announcing the 5-way match for Battleground to determine a number one contender for Naomi, although I'm not sure if making Tamina seem a bit dim is the way to get her over. The backstage segment with Sami Zayn and Mike and Maria Kanellis was interesting, and although it was predictable I think Mike vs Sami should provide a great first feud for the duo, and something for Zayn to do while all the other top line stars on Smackdown are paired off. Finally, Baron Corbin and Shinsuke Nakamura had a nice little brawl, and their match at Battleground should be a hard-hitting affair, but I do worry that Corbin is taking the fall, as per briefcase holder booking of years gone by. However, I don’t know if you want to beat Nakamura ta this stage either, so who knows how that one pans out. None of this was terrible, but I can’t say it had the same urgency, or intrigue as the big programmes on Raw. Smackdown desperately needs an injection of something vibrant, and hopefully we'll get that in the coming weeks, perhaps via some sort of NXT call-up.
Paige/Alberto airport drama
In some worrying news this week, Alberto El Patron was arrested at an airport, reportedly as part of an enquiry about domestic violence. In the wake of that enquiry, audio was released by TMZ of himself and Paige having a shouting match at said airport. I don’t want to cast aspersions on anyone’s personal relationship, but with rumours abound of their possible break-up and the somewhat disturbing nature of some of the things said in the leaked audio it certainly seems like an alarming situation. Hopefully for everyone involved this is simply a minor disagreement and there is nothing more untoward going on and all parties involved are safe and OK. There have been far too many tragic downward spirals in wrestling over the years, and hopefully this incident is not a red flag for a larger problem.
Austin Aries released by WWE
Despite challenging for the cruiserweight championship at Wrestlemania this year (well on the pre-show, but still), and being heavily featured on WWE television over the past six months, we got the surprising news this week that Austin Aries and WWE had come to terms on his release form the company. In some senses this is not wholly surprising. Aries has at certain points in his career been involved in controversial circumstances (for example the Christy Hemme incident in the company formerly known as TNA), and Aries is super confident in his own abilities which has allegedly rubbed certain other members of the wrestling community up the wrong way. I fully expect Aries to be featured heavily in ROH, GFW, NJPW or really anywhere he feels like working in the near future, which is probably for the best as if I'm honest I feel WWE had no plans for him beyond the obvious ceiling of 205 Live. It certainly is a shame, but Aries will have raised his stock (and asking price) for the Indies and who knows what the future holds. Good luck to him, and I certainly look forward to seeing what he does next.
Well that is it from me for this week. I will be back at the same time next week with all the fallout from what is shaping up to be a big edition of Raw, all the news from Smackdown, and 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.