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 both Raw and Smackdown pushing forward with the build to Summerslam, while Riptide wrestling has a huge set of shows this weekend, and the wrestling world dealt with some sad losses. Let's start as normal, with a look at this week's episode of Raw.
This week’s Raw was all about one man: Brock Lesnar. With his impending return to UFC looming, and his return to the testing pool for USADA, Lesnar arrived on Raw and basically refused to leave his dressing room to confront Roman Reigns, before later attacking Kurt Angle, his own advocate Paul Heyman and generally coming across as someone who believes himself above appearing on Raw. It’s an interesting tack for WWE to take, with Lesnar presented as the guy who doesn't care about the fans, and it did seem to do the trick here, with audible chants for Reigns. The treatment of Heyman is interesting, especially with Lesnar on the way out. It’s not likely, but I would love to see the culmination of this angle be a Reigns heel turn by aligning with Heyman. An effective angle that dominated and energised Raw.
The rest of Raw was pretty uninspiring. Sasha Banks and Bayley vs The Riott Squad was fine, although I’m more confused than ever about where the Sasha/Bayley angle is going and The Boss and Hug Connection is a woeful name. Jinder Mahal vs Braun Strowman was more of an angle to build the Strowman vs Kevin Owens feud but it was fine for what it was. Seth Rollins vs Drew McIntyre was really quite enjoyable until the finish. Finn Balor vs Baron Corbin is presumably still going now, such was the bloated length of that match. Alicia Fox vs Natalya was just an excuse to set up Fox vs Ronda Rousey next week and push the Alexa Bliss programme along for Rousey, which was vaguely effective. Apollo Crews beating Akam was surprising, but not in a good way, while Elias and Bobby Lashley doing a duet was hard to watch although the feud could be fun. Finally, The Revival getting a win over Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt was a nice surprise, and well overdue. Dash and Dawson have been massively underused but this looks to signal a renewed push for them, which can only be a good thing.
A pretty uneventful Raw outside of the Lesnar stuff. That said, I’m now more intrigued about the main event at Summerslam than I was and this sets up some interesting possibilities which is far more than I would have said before Raw so I think you have to chalk that up as a success for WWE.
Although light on matches, this week’s Smackdown was certainly eventful. The big storyline throughout the show focused on the return of Charlotte, who made the save during Becky Lynch and Carmella’s confrontation. The main event with Charlotte beating Carmella for a spot in the title match at Summerslam, coupled with Lynch’s reactions backstage was really well executed. The simmering tension between the two friends is a great hook for the match, and I imagine there will be an escalation in the coming weeks. There is a risk of Carmella becoming an afterthought, but it’s a promising development for Summerslam.
The rest of Smackdown had plenty to enjoy. The Usos vs The Bar was a cracking match, probably the best thing on WWE TV this week, and sets up a really exciting final between The Bar and The New Day next week to determine who faces The Bludgeon Brothers at Summerslam. Samoa Joe cut a superb promo on AJ Styles, while Jeff Hardy was interrupted and got beaten down again by Randy Orton, with help from Shinsuke Nakamura. Orton has been a revelation since returning and I’m genuinely enjoying his work for the first time in years. Zelina Vega vs Lana was far better than expected, and I’m enjoying the tease of the Rusev Day break-up, although I hope Aiden English and Rusev aren’t going their separate ways. Finally, Daniel Bryan and The Miz had a red-hot segment with Bryan challenging Miz to a match at Summerslam and Miz refusing. I had concerns this angle might go a bit too meta, as WWE often does when they blur the lines of reality but these two keep it grounded and it’s totally believable that they really do hate each other. If they keep this up, that could be the biggest match on the show at Summerslam.
Another excellent episode of Smackdown this week, with top in-ring action and a shedload of storyline development. The show moved along at pace, and nothing felt throwaway. Smackdown is on a roll, and I really hope they keep it up as the build to Summerslam reaches its climax.
It’s been quite a sad week for wrestling with three high profile passings. First, we had the sad news that WWE legend Nikolai Volkoff had passed away aged 70. Known for singing the Russian national anthem badly, Volkoff had been a star in WWE during the 80s, having a second run in the mid-90s as part of the Million Dollar Corporation. In later life, Volkoff had many health problems, including issues with his heart and he passed away earlier this week.
Brickhouse Brown might not be a name familiar to all wrestling fans, but that doesn't diminish his importance. Although chiefly an enhancement talent in national terms Brown worked extensively in Texas and Memphis and is very fondly remembered. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2017 and after a brave fight, sadly succumbed this week aged 57.
Finally, and perhaps most tragically, Brian “Grandmaster Sexay” Christopher passed away after being found having attempted to hang himself in a jail cell, after being arrested on drugs charges. Christopher, the son of Jerry “The King” Lawler was a champion in Memphis before having a memorable run in WWE as part of the Light Heavyweight division and then as part of Too Much with Scott Taylor. However, Christopher would have his biggest run as part of Too Cool alongside Taylor and Rikishi, who were white hot in and around the year 2000. Unfortunately, Christopher would have a number of run-ins with the law in the years that followed, and would never quite recapture his former heights. He had a number of issues with drugs, which would land him in jail and appears to have contributed to his untimely death aged just 46. A real shame. RIP
All in all, a rough week for an industry that all too often sees its biggest stars passing away far too early. RIP Nikolai Volkoff, Brickhouse Brown and Brian Christopher.
Brighton based Riptide Wrestling present three nights of shows this week, starting Thursday and ending Saturday night as they host a tournament to crown their first ever champion. The tournament has been organised to coincide with Brighton Pride, which means the whole city should be full party mode, including inside the confines of the Brighthelm Centre. The line-up is massively stacked with an array of indie stars including Progress Champion Walter, Jonah Rock, David Starr, Chuck Mambo, Angelico, Jordan Devlin, Millie McKenzie and Spike Trivet. Given he’s been the main heel in the company almost since day one, I would wager the “King of Strong and Stable Style” will do well in the tournament, although I also wonder if we’ll get some shenanigans to get perennial Brighton hero Jack Sexsmith into the tournament somehow. He’s a crowd favourite and his triumph over Trivet who has bought off almost all of Sexsmith’s tag partners in a campaign against him would certainly be a fitting finale to the tournament.
Perhaps just as interesting as the tournament, is the special attraction tag match pitting the No Fun Police against “Session Moth” Martina and her tag partner, 90s TV presenter and local celebrity Dave Benson Phillips. It might seem like an odd move, but it’s got some great publicity for Riptide, and DBP has got some experience working holiday camp shows as a referee earlier in his career, so I would expect more that sort of match than anything else, but it should be a fun spectacle. Something for everyone at Riptide.
Riptide has fast become one of my favourite independent promotions in the UK, and anyone who has seen their VOD service can attest that their production values are of the highest quality. They produce really fun, well thought out shows with great action and it’s great to see nearly a year in that they are ready to take the next step and crown a champion.
Finally, this week, World of Sport made it's much-anticipated debut on ITV on Saturday. The show has garnered mixed reviews, with hardcore wrestling fans not happy about the production or the presentation. WOS is very much aimed at a specific casual fan base, and for what it was I can't find a great deal of fault with the show. There were some good matches, Will Ospreay vs Davey Boy Smith Jr especially, and it set up the direction of the company with Rampage Brown as the heel champion moving forward. Stu Bennett was very good in the, admittedly cliched, authority figure role and he certainly seems more TV-ready than most (seasoned by years on WWE TV). If I'm honest the only real issue I had, taking into account the target audience, was the commentary. I know Alex Shane has worked hard for years to get British wrestling back on TV, and love him or hate him you have to give him that, but as a commentator, he's not great, nor is So Cal Val. I would have loved to hear a Dean Ayass or someone of that ilk on board, but they have made the choices they have, and it's a minor thing overall. Let's see what episode 2 brings on Saturday.
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.