Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at the biggest stories in professional wrestling from the past seven days. It's been a busy week with the go-home episodes of Raw and Smackdown ahead of Sunday's Hell in a Cell show. NJPW also gets their Destruction tour underway this week. We'll start as we so often do with a look at this week's edition of Raw from Monday night.
If you didn’t know that Hell in a Cell was this Sunday before this week’s edition of Raw you certainly did by the time it had finished. I’m not complaining, and while this show had plenty of faults it was also very focused on building everything for Sunday which has to be considered a good thing. The biggest story on the show centered around Braun Strowman and Roman Reigns, and by extension Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre (who may or may not be known as the “Dogs of War” as a triumvirate with Strowman) and Reigns’ Shield brothers Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins. The opening segment with Strowman, Ziggler and McIntyre gloating with the lower card heels at ringside only for The Shield to emerge to confront them, taking out the backup heels while Strowman and co scarpered. This then kicked off the whole night-long storyline of The Shield being threatened with arrest if they don’t leave only to use the paper-thin rhetoric that by changing their gear and returning as their individual acts they are not, in fact, The Shield, which for me makes little to no sense. What made even less sense was Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose then “turning the tables” on Baron Corbin (after attacking Ziggler and McIntyre following their successful title defence against The B Team) and threatening to get him arrested in a hugely convoluted segment. That said, it does mean we are getting Ambrose and Rollins vs Ziggler and McIntyre at Hell in a Cell, which could be superb. Finally, Reigns and Strowman had a big brawl to close the show which left Reigns standing tall ahead of the PPV. The Samoan drop spot was well executed, and overall the stories between the two rival groups were well intertwined even if there were some major logic gaps in how we got there.
The rest of the show had lots of interesting developments. Bobby Roode and Chad Gable had a good outing against The Ascension, with their tag team dynamic providing some great moments. Ronda Rousey and Natalya vs Alexa Bliss and Mickie James was a very enjoyable tag match, and the injury angle to Rousey is a good hook for her rematch with Alexa on Sunday. Mick Foley’s segment with Elias was functional and set up Foley’s involvement on Sunday, as well as the resulting match with Elias and Finn Balor which provided some much-needed momentum for Balor. Nikki Bella vs Ruby Riott had a pretty contrived setup, but the match was more than serviceable. AOP (along with Drake Maverick, thankfully not in tactical gear) squashed some local talent in a dominant display. Speaking of managers, Lio Rush being paired with Bobby Lashley is an interesting use of both men, and could well be a good fit for both men. Triple H cut a standard promo hyping his match with The Undertaker for the big show in Australia, although I still feel that the big tease if for a Shawn Michaels return. Finally, Kevin Owens mauled Tyler Breeze before cutting a good promo that filled in lots of the plot holes around his uneven booking in the past few weeks, and although it doesn’t excuse the misuse of such a talented performer he is running with it. Hopefully, this signals a renewed push and a more vicious character going forward for Owens.
All things considered, this was a fairly decent show. I wasn’t super excited about the execution of the angles with The Shield, but I appreciate they managed to put all the pieces in place by the end of the show, and that’s the main thing. Plus, I do love a show long storyline. Also, it looks like we’re getting more managers which can only be a good thing, even if it appears to be mostly the cast of 205 Live. Renee Young’s first night as a permanent member of the Raw broadcast team had a few ups and downs, and while she’s far from a natural in that role she should grow into in over the coming weeks and she’s certainly an upgrade on Jonathan Coachman.
The go-home show for the blue side of things prior to Hell in a Cell was pretty heavily focused on Sunday’s show. The main event pitting Maryse against Brie Bella was a surprisingly good bout complimented by The Miz and Daniel Bryan being at ringside to give a preview of the mixed tag match on Sunday. Bryan and Brie standing tall at the end made sense, especially with the heels likely winning on Sunday, and the whole segment was very well produced.
Samoa Joe and AJ Styles both put in a cracking performance this week, providing contrasting pre-taped promos to hype the WWE title match on Sunday. Joe’s “bedtime story” was a great piece of heel work as he tried to get under AJ’s skin by bringing his family into things again. AJ did the disgruntled, angry babyface promo with plenty of fire and both men did more than enough to garner my interest for the match at Hell in a Cell.
The rest of the show had some nice moments. Charlotte vs Sonya Deville was a fun TV bout and a nice showcase for the underutilised Deville, but the angle after the match with Becky Lynch ambushing Charlotte was fantastic. Becky is amazing at the moment, and Charlotte sold it excellently. Rusev Day vs The Bar was pretty decent, and made for a nice development in the Aiden English and Rusev relationship. Andrade “Cien” Almas vs R Truth was a nice surprise, and not just for Almas as Truth performed well too. Finally, Jeff Hardy and Shinsuke Nakamura had a solid opener before Randy Orton got involved and he and Hardy had an exciting brawl.
This show was very enjoyable, with lots of build for Hell in a Cell, some excellent in-ring work and some superb promos. Smackdown really does benefit from not being three hours in length because they have to keep everything focused, which limits the amount of filler and generally makes for a better show. This week was no exception.
Hell in a Cell Preview
Although a little earlier than previous years, it is time for WWE’s annual Hell in a Cell themed PPV. Whether you like the concept or not (I have mixed feelings about how it could be diluting the stipulation made famous by the likes of The Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, Mick Foley et al), it does make for a spectacular show, and this year should be no exception. The main event of the show pitting Braun Strowman against Roman Reigns should produce a violent, possibly bloody brawl with some huge spots. I expect Reigns to retain given he’s just won the title but I wouldn’t put it past WWE to stick the belt on Strowman given he has cashed in his briefcase. Regardless, this should be a cracking main event within the confines of the cell. I’m also not sure if the addition of Mick Foley will have a bearing on things, but it adds some extra intrigue even if it was a last minute call.
On the blue side of things, the very personal feud between Samoa Joe and AJ Styles should yield another huge match between the two which arguably should be a cell match. However, I wonder if Joe is taking the belt here, unless WWE are planning on having AJ go the full CM Punk route wit AJ. Either way, I expect big things from this match.
Further down the card Rollins and Ambrose against Ziggler and McIntyre could potentially steal the show based on the people involved. The New Day vs Rusev Day (in the battle of the Day’s, apparently) should be good fun although it might not quite hit the heights of the Raw tag title match. Jeff Hardy vs Randy Orton has been really well built and I have high hopes for these two, although I am praying Hardy isn’t planning on doing anything too dangerous, like a Swanton off the cell. Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella vs Maryse and The Miz has had a mixed build, but the match should be entertaining although I don’t see it settling this rivalry, especially with Miz and Bryan lined up to face off in Australia in a few weeks.
Finally, we have the two women’s title matches which perhaps carry the most intrigue. The injury angle with Ronda Rousey adds a bit more intrigue to what might seem like a straight forward defence against Alexa Bliss, but I have no doubt Ronda retains. Charlotte vs Becky Lynch is probably the match I am most looking forward to on this show. While Becky’s portrayal may not have been spot on since Summerslam, she is massively over and these two have had some great encounters in the past. This could be the sleeper match of the night, and hopefully Becky gets the title she so thoroughly deserves.
Hell in a Cell should be a very good show in terms of in-ring action. However, I have a sinking feeling it may be something of a filler show with many of the participants facing off again in just a few weeks, which could mean some inconclusive booking. Hopefully, I’m wrong, we shall see.
NJPW Destruction preview
Finally this week, we have NJPW’s Destruction tour events are underway, with several major cards providing the first stop on the road to the Tokyo Dome and Wrestle Kingdom 13 in January. There are two very important matches on this tour, with Kenny Omega defending the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in the main event against Tomohiro Ishii this weekend in what should be a corker, and Kazuchika Okada challenging Hiroshi Tanahashi for his number 1 contender’s briefcase in a week or so. Omega and Ishii have had some stellar matches over the past few years, and I would love to see Ishii get a run with the belt but I suspect Kenny is retaining here. The briefcase match is a little trickier to call, with Tanahashi likely retaining, but given it is Okada it is hard to rule out the briefcase changing hands. Both matches should be superb. In addition, the tournament for the vacant junior title will continue with Kushida, Will Ospreay, Bushi and Marty Scurll, as well as a grudge match between Tetsuya Naito and Minoru Suzuki. New NWA World Heavyweight Champion Cody Rhodes will challenge Juice Robinson for the US title, while The Young Bucks defend their IWGP Tag titles against the Guerrillas of Destiny, plus much more. If you have NJPW World I definitely recommend checking these cards out as there will be some great action over the next couple of weeks.
Well, that is it from me for this week. I will be back at the same time next week with all the news from Hell in a Cell, 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.