It's Thursday, which means it's time for Slammer Jabber. It's PPV week, as WWE present Hell in a Cell this sunday. However, before we get onto that we had the small matter of two TV shows, and a bit of news on the US indie scene. Lets start as we do most weeks, with Raw.
Last week's Goldberg return was easily one of the best things WWE have done for a while, and as such I hoped this week we'd get a good follow-up. We did not, sadly. The big response from Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman was woefully handled here. Firstly, Brock Lesnar is never getting booed in his home town, so why they tried to present him as a heel here is beyond reasoning. Secondly, just because he beat the stuffing out of Randy Orton at Summerslam there is no reason to feel that Lesnar is now a heel, they've changed nothing about his presentation and I think this is going in the wrong direction for me. Why not just present them as two big lads ready to knock the tar out of each other rather than trying to push an artificial heel-face dynamic. It's frustrating because there is already a good chance the Toronto crowd will not react as the company hope, as traditionally has been the case. Given Lesnar is now a naturalised Canadian, there is a very real chance Goldberg is booed out of the building at Survivor Series. There is a whole lot of work to do if they are going to build this into something worthwhile.
The other big segment for Raw was the contract signing between Sasha Banks and Charlotte ahead of their history-making match at Hell in a Cell. Both came across well and Mick Foley did well to add some sense of danger to the cell element. However his point is a bit undercut by the fact they have three cell matches on the PPV, and it's the law of diminishing returns with Foley doing his big shouty, impassioned promo prior to HIAC every year. It certainly helped, but this could have been far better.
Another big talking point from this week was the last bit of the build for Seth Rollins vs Kevin Owens in the cell for the Universal Championship. The triple threat match with Chris Jericho was excellent, although the finish was nonsensical and did very little for the heels, and the violent beat-down after the match seemed like far too little too late for this feud. It's been pretty lacklustre and building the whole show around Rollins stealing Jericho's 'list' was just awful. The build-up for this match has been pretty bad, and while I'm sure the match will be really good I feel a bit sorry for Rollins who is going to end up taking a backseat to the Jericho-Owens blow-off, although his babyface turn had been a bit lacklustre also, so perhaps some of the blame has to go in his direction.
I don't want to sound down about Raw, but this was not a good show in general. But it wasn't all bad; Enzo & Big Cass had a fun segment doing their usual shtick without a microphone, the cruiserweight match was good (more on that later), and there was some fun interactions between the criminally underutilised Sami Zayn and the monster Braun Strowman. But that really isn't enough for three hours, and this show is a huge slog to get through. Lets hope WWE have something more fun lined up for their Halloween show next week.
Once again, Smackdown was the better show this week. I'll have to stop mentioning this soon as if I'm honest this is now quickly becoming the norm. James Ellsworth was once again the unlikely star of the show here, and is getting huge reactions during what will ultimately be a very short run. AJ Styles vs Dean Ambrose was good fun, and the intertwining of Ellsworth makes me feel we are getting some sort of bizarre heel turn from him down the road. I assume Styles vs Ambrose is the big headline match for the next PPV, but I'm not sure with the Survivor Series coming up where it fits in. We shall see.
The other big talking point for me was the latest twist in the never-ending Randy Orton vs Bray Wyatt feud. Orton has seemingly joined forces with Wyatt after attacking his ally Kane, which was odd. I suspect this is a bit of a retread of the Orton-Rollins feud in the run up to Wrestlemania 31 as well as the Daniel Bryan-Wyatts feud a few years back. It's a weird direction for the angle to take but I'll certainly be happy with this if they decide to make this a lengthy alliance. Anything to avoid watching Orton and Wyatt fight for a while. It's not that the matches are bad, they just seem to have had too many too often, creating a real sense of over-saturation.
Everything else on the show was pretty good. The Miz was fun as always, it was good to see The Spirit Squad getting a title shot and the match that followed with Rhyno and Heath Slater was good fun too. Nikki Bella vs Natalya was a strong bout and furthered story-lines for both, and Becky Lynch and Alexa Bliss had a blinding little segment. Bliss is so good in this role that despite Lynch being a great choice for champion, part of me hopes Bliss goes over in their title match.
Overall, a very enjoyable show, nothing dragged and everything seemed to serve a purpose.
In news away from WWE, Flo Sports an online streaming provider for American sports (seems to be mostly collegiate or smaller sports) have partnered up with WWNLive which had been responsible for streaming many of the larger independent companies like Evolve, DGUSA and many more. It will basically function as a sort of WWE Network-style platform for independent companies to showcase their live events, all available to consumers under one roof as it were, showing 60 live events per year. While it sounds fanciful if it gives access to smaller companies, and exposure to a wider audience surely this can only be a good thing. There were a few rumours doing the rounds about WWE bankrolling this, or being involved but it'll be interesting to see where this goes. I suspect that also quashes the rumoured WWE interest in having a tiered network pricing structure hosting indie companies content alongside th archive and new content they produce. Or is there more to this deal than meets the eye? Who can say, but it will certainly be interesting to see how this pans out and whether it is a viable model.
Hell in a Cell
With Hell in a Cell approaching this Sunday I thought I;d end off this week with a little preview/my predictions. First off we have the match between Charlotte and Sasha in the cell, the first time two women have competed in such a match if the company hasn't reminded you enough times, and what will likely be the main event here. Having the two main event the show, and in a cell is a nice touch, but like many matches on this card the momentum in the build has waned a bit, and I'm less than enthused for the match. I can only see a Sasha win, possibly incorporating some sort of crazy unnecessary stunt for the future highlight reels.
The other main event type match is Kevin Owens vs Seth Rollins for the Universal title. Now I talked about this a bit in the Raw portion of this week's column, but I feel this is an odd feud. On the surface there is a number of logic holes. Rollins is a babyface because he's no longer Triple H's chosen champion, and Owens has taken his place. He is angry at Owens for this, even though it's actually Triple H he's angry at, and Owen's real programme is with Chris Jericho his current ally, but the man who is slowly being teased as his opponent down the line as the two have underlying tension. Hardly a blood feud worthy of the cell. Less is sometimes more and I think three cell matches a bit excessive. However, these two can both go, and I suspect that we get an excellent match, but again I can't see past Owens retaining.
The third of the main cell-based matches is Rusev vs Roman Reigns for the US title. This feels like a proper feud between two competitors who should be in the cell, it's personal and has been going on for a while and this is a good way to blow off the rivalry. Say it quietly, but this has actually been one of the better feuds over the past few months, and both men have excelled themselves in what should probably be the main event feud for the big belt. I expect Reigns to win prior to a big feud with Owens, but I wouldn't rule out a Rusev win. Especially if Banks and Owens both retain.
Elsewhere on the card, we have Bayley vs Dana Brooke which should be a Bayley win; Enzo & Big Cass vs Gallows & Anderson, a match built on very little but if they want to get some heat back on the former Bullet Club members a solid win here is required, and Enzo and Cass really lose nothing from a defeat here. The New Day vs Sheamus & Cesaro will likely end in New Day winning, as any match they feature in likely will between now and December as they are close to beating Demolition's record for longest reign in history. Not much else to say there, except hopefully this leads to a grudging respect between Cesaro and Sheamus, and they start working as a team because I have no urge to see them face off again.
Finally, we have the Cruiserwight title match between TJ Perkins and Brian Kendrick. As witnessed last month these guys will no doubt have a great match. However, the story is what is interesting here with Kendrick asking Perkins to lose on purpose to him, as a favour, on Raw. I'm not sure how this will work into the match, but I suspect it will play a part, which is intriguing. I am predicting a grizzled Kendrick going full psycho-heel half way through and decimating Perkins and cheating his way to a win for the belt here, setting Perkins up for the chase and also bringing in Rich Swann for a programme with Kendrick after he beat him on Raw. Hopefully they go this way and not the Vince Russo worked-shoot direction here.
Well that is it from me for this week. Be sure to check out Screenjabber for all your movie, Blu-ray, DVD and games reviews, as well as the latest news, opinions and competitions. I'll be back next week with a run-down of Hell in a Cell, Raw, Smackdown, and whatever else breaks in the next seven days. Until then, so long folks.