Hello wrestling fans, and welcome to the inaugural edition of Slammer Jabber – a new weekly column bringing you the best of the last seven days in the world of professional wrestling, as well as thoughts on the current product and anything of interest upcoming over the next week.
Extreme Rules 2016
So first up, we should probably tackle last weeks PPV, Extreme Rules. Top to bottom it was a pretty good card from an in-ring perspective (you can as always expect a full review of the event when the blu ray hits the shelves). However, two matches stick out massively above the others. The first is the fatal four-way for the Intercontinental championship – featuring Cesaro, The Miz, Sami Zayn, and Kevin Owens. This is arguably one of the matches of 2016 thus far, and if you haven’t seen it I cannot recommend highly enough seeking this match out. All four guys worked incredibly hard to create a fast-paced, hard-hitting spectacle.
The second major highlight for Extreme Rules was the main event, with AJ Styles taking on Roman Reigns for the WWE Heavyweight Championship in an Extreme Rules match. This was an all-out war, and it’s great to see a re-match between these two after their phenomenal encounter at Payback. AJ really has shown his worth since debuting in January, having great matches all over the place – to the surprise of no-one given his pedigree. To his credit Reigns also put a massive shift in here, and while he has his critics, he deserves plaudits for his performance in this match. However, this will all be somewhat overshadowed by the shocking return of one Seth Rollins.
Indeed, Rollins has returned after having to vacate the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in November due to a knee injury and he made an immediate impact this week, attacking Roman Reigns at the end of the PPV and making his presence felt at Raw. In some respects I’m in two minds about this. Yes, it will undoubtedly be a good match, and yes they have been trying to make this match for quite some time in a meaningful fashion, but it seems like such a wasted opportunity having Rollins come back as a heel. I would definitely have likes to see the proto-typical Triple H 2002 return rather than what we got. On the other hand, with John Cena returning soon, arguably Rollins would have relegated to third or fourth choice babyface and left without a top-line programme. It will be interesting to see how things develop, and his presence definitely injects a big name back into the main event picture, but it seems a bit short sighted for my liking.
Brand Split: Smackdown goes live
In unexpected news, late in the week came the announcement that WWE Smackdown will be moving from a Thursday taped show to a live programme on the USA Network in the States (the same network that carries Raw on Mondays), with it's own "distinct roster". The rumblings of a brand split similar to the one in 2002 have been doing the rounds for a while, but it is really something to see it actually happening. This should lead to a superstar draft, and further call ups from NXT, which comes with its own challenges, of course. However, this should also mean a renewed focus for some of the mid-card competitors and a push for Smackdown to become more than a skippable B show. I for one am very excited about the possibilities of where this could lead, and while WWE have not necessarily made this concept work in the past, it'll be interesting viewing seeing how this all develops. Interestingly, in what signals this may be a big move Sky have also picked up the rights to simulcast Smackdown, as they do with Raw. To me that suggests that for the first time in years Smackdown will be a relevant integral part of the weekly storylines, and not just a supplemental Raw recap. A new era indeed.
Money in the Bank
Much of the focus of Raw this week was on the build for Money in the Bank on June 19. While Rollins and Reigns have their main event set, we got a number of qualifying matches for the match the event is named after, with Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho and Dean Ambrose advancing. There are still two spots to fill, which I would imagine will involve John Cena (provided he isn’t slotted into a programme with Rusev for the US belt, a very real possibility). It’s difficult to see who will get the final slot, and with AJ Styles busy with Gallows and Anderson, I again wouldn’t be wholly surprised to see a returning Bray Wyatt or Randy Orton in the final slot, just to give the match a really stacked feel. Personally, I’d like to see Kevin Owens win, ideally costing Sami Zayn the win right at the death leading to a programme between those two over the summer. Forgive the fantasy booking, but the idea of having Zayn beat Owens in the big blow-off match, around the same time Owens cashes in for the belt would elevate both men, and lead to an interesting first challenger for Owens as WWE champion. So, it’ll probably be a John Cena win (which in fairness I actually have very little issue with – in fact, a Cena/Reigns match would be quite the spectacle at this stage). Regardless, it looks like an exciting time for the "new era" continuing on into the summer.
Cody Rhodes and Adam Rose released
Two men who won’t be enjoying the "new era" are Cody Rhodes and Adam Rose, who have both been granted their releases this week. For Rose, it was probably the best move as he was going nowhere fast and given his recent well-publicised personal problems he was likely on the chopping block anyway. However, Rhodes' release comes as something of a bigger surprise; especially given his long standing tenure with the company, his family ties, and that he has never exhibited any signs of wanting to leave. However, I have to think that this could be a very positive thing for Cody. So many other superstars who have found themselves dwindling in the mid-card and have asked for their release in order to refresh themselves, coming back revitalised a few years down the line, their passion and value invigorated. It’s hard to see where Cody goes, but hopefully he’ll avoid TNA and go everywhere else, New Japan and ROH being particularly good shouts if he can adapt his style accordingly.
Well that’s all from me for this week, see you back here next week for a round-up of all the happenings from the world of professional wrestling – who has been wearing the crimson mask, and who has been breaking through the glass ceiling. For this week, so long from the Screenjabber state.