Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at all things professional wrestling. This week is a big one in the pro wrestling calendar, with a rare weekend that si dominated by wrestling from outside WWE's main three brands. New Japan Pro Wrestling, All Elite Wrestling and NXT UK all host major shows on Saturday making for one epic day of in-ring action. However, before we get to that, let's have a look back at this week's Raw and Smackdown.
With the eyes of the wrestling world mostly looking forward to the many events happening this weekend, WWE still had a show to produce on Monday night and produce they did. For Braun Strowman it was a busy week, having had his Clash of Champions challenge to Seth Rollins accepted (via backstage pre-tape from last week) Strowman would go on to have a big main event against AJ Styles although the DQ would keep the US title on Styles. The post-match with The OC was another step in rehabilitating Strowman as a top guy as he dominated against arguably Raw’s top heels. Styles channelling Eddie Guerrero at least made this feel like a finish that had been thought out and gave Strowman the impetus to go on the offensive after the bell. With Rollins not on this show, it certainly made sense for Strowman to be the focus and he was booked very strongly here.
Sasha Banks had yet another strong week. After two memorable appearances on the past couple of shows, she cut a promo explaining her recent dastardly actions and while it went a little “inside” for my liking it certainly pushed the idea that she is willing to do anything and has no wish to pander to the fans. Equally, Natalya was booked much better here coming out and justifiably getting into it with Banks rather than just opting for further verbiage. The match between the two later in the night was very good, and definitely showcased what WWE has been missing without Banks. That said, there’s a big hole in this story that is very puzzling, with Bayley, who would have a decent TV match with Nikki Cross later in the show. With Banks claiming to not care about her former tag team’s match at Wrestlemania earlier in the year, surely Bayley would have something to say? But no, it was not addressed. I get they are planting a seed for a future match, but if you want to do a subtle tease, don’t have Bayley on this show in a nothing match. Good stuff overall, but there are definitely some holes in the story they are building.
The rest of the show was full of reasonably entertaining stuff. Ricochet vs Drew McIntyre was stellar, and a very creditable bout. I like that they have good chemistry and I wonder if Ricochet will go all the way now in the King of the Ring tournament. Cedric Alexander vs Cesaro was a nice showcase for Alexander and the injury story will definitely play a part in his next round match with Baron Corbin. Speaking of which, Corbin pinning The Miz wasn’t a huge surprise, and although Ricochet or Alexander winning the Raw side of things makes sense I do wonder if Corbin could play spoiler depending who on gets through on the Smackdown side of things. If they want to troll the fans, Corbin is the man to do it and his antics with the corn and throne after the match made that clear. Also, thankfully he seems to have dropped the waistcoat.
Finally, the return of the tag team turmoil match. Despite the number of teams this was a nothing affair for the most part, with The OC and Viking Raiders protected, and the remaining lower card talent never looking likely to win. Bobby Roode and Dolph Ziggler seems like an odd pairing, but neither are doing anything better and perhaps they can forge something out of this duo. Roode has excellent pedigree as a tag team wrestler and Ziggler has been on good form recently, so who knows.
A solid show, but one that was far from memorable. Everything was pretty positive, there were no head-scratching matches or angles and all the action was at least passable. In addition, everything seemed focus on Clash of Champions, which is shaping up to be a far better show than I had initially expected. Perhaps WWE are taking AEW seriously after all.
Coming on the heels of a pretty decent episode of Raw, this week’s Smackdown was a bit of a mixed bag. One big upside on the show was Randy Orton, who continues to experience something of a career renaissance. His promo interrupting Kofi Kingston was brilliant, creepy and venomous. In short, it was Orton at his best. The backstage brawl with Kofi and Orton added a level of intensity to their feud, and the draping DDT looked brutal. Orton had an excellent match with Big E later in the show, which again made E look like a proper star. While Kingston’s run as WWE Champion has been solid, on several occasions it has felt like Big E has outshone his New Day compatriot showing some real main event potential. The Revival getting involved made sense and they continue to be excellent running buddies for Orton. I especially love the super RKO as a combined finisher. All of this did plenty to garner my attention ahead of their rematch at Clash of Champions, though I suspect this will end with the two of them inside Hell in a Cell in October.
The angle with Roman Reigns, Rowan and Daniel Bryan took another turn towards the ridiculous on this show. For the third week in a row, they finished the show with almost no time left leaving everyone wondering what is happening. Reigns showed “proof” with Rowan pushing down the rigging that landed on Reigns a few weeks ago, and Bryan feigned shock before Reigns speared Bryan to end the show. So are we getting a Rowan-Reigns match? Or will there be a reveal that Bryan was the mastermind? What happened to the forklift that was supposedly involved? It’s a mess. It’s not beyond saving, but this angle needs some clear narrative storytelling in order to get it back on track and build to the inevitable Bryan vs Reigns match (I suspect at HIAC).
The rest of the show was patchy, but generally watchable. Both King of the Ring matches delivered as Ali beat Buddy Murphy is a cracking contest (although I would question the booking of Murphy to lose given his recent elevation with Reigns and Bryan), and Chad Gable beating Shelton Benjamin in a short but effective bout. Gable has been the butt of short jokes, but I wonder if they are using that as a way to build him as the ultimate underdog. Hopefully that is the case, as despite his height Gable is one of the very best on the roster and has so much untapped potential. If Corbin wins the Raw side of things, they could do worse than have Gable win the Smackdown side and challenge the big bully, a role Corbin would thrive in. Shinsuke Nakamura and Sami Zayn already feel like a dynamite combination and they worked really well in laying out The Miz. Kevin Owens beating up Elias and costing him the 24/7 title was a nice first step in rebuilding Owens’ heat after last week’s disastrous booking. Finally, Bayley and Lacey Evans had a pretty terrible TV match with several blown spots, which went far too long. If anything it exposed what a great job Becky Lynch did with Evans and that perhaps she isn’t quite ready for this level.
A so-so episode of Smackdown this week, and definitely a step behind Raw. It feels like a show that was disjointed and muddled in its creative and reeked of Vince McMahon re-writing the show (which reportedly he did, over the phone earlier in the day). With the Fox debut looming, Smackdown really needs to right the ship and in a hurry.
AEW All Out preview
First up (well actually last in chronological order) on the super Saturday full of wrestling is AEW’s second major PPV, All Out. The big news in the run up to this show was the withdrawal of Jon Moxley from this show with an MRSA infection in his elbow. In some ways, it’s a blessing in disguise because his match with Kenny Omega felt somewhat cold going in, which is one of the flaws of having to build a show without a weekly TV show, something they won’t have to deal with soon. This allows them to save this for down the line, but also we get something of a dream match in its place with PAC coming in to face Omega. On paper this has the potential to be the match of the night, and although it’s not the main event it is certainly the bout I am most looking forward to.
The main event of All Out, will feature the crowning of the first ever AEW World Champion with Hangman Page facing off against Chris Jericho. It’s hard to say what sort of match these two will have, because it’s not quite clear as yet which version of Chris Jericho AEW has on its hands. He’s not quite the same as his character in NJPW, nor is he anywhere close to the role he played in WWE. As such, his in-ring style may or may not mesh well with Page. That said Jericho is a wily veteran and I’m sure he’ll make Page look fantastic. Page himself has the athletic ability and in-ring skills to provide a fitting opponent for Jericho. I just feel this comes a bit too soon for Page and if they do want to build the company around him then the real story is the long term chase, which makes me think Jericho will and should leave with the belt. That’s not to say they won’t shoot a major angle off the back of the match, in fact I’d be stunned if they don’t given it will lead into their TV starting on October 2nd. However, a Jericho win makes the most sense here for the long term.
Further down the card, Cody Rhodes vs Shawn Spears should be quite interesting especially with the presence of Tully Blanchard at ringside in Spears’ corner. Once again, Rhodes has employed old school storytelling in order to make his match feel distinct and a stand-out on card that has lots to offer. For his part Spears has been great in the build-up and has shown far more here than in his time in WWE. It doesn’t hurt that he towers over a big chunk of the roster, where he was less easy to pick out within his former employer’s roster. The Lucha Bros vs The Young Bucks will undoubtedly be spectacular, while Darby Allin vs Joey Janela vs Jimmy Havoc will surely be absolutely nuts, and very violent. The Best Friends vs The Dark Order should be a fine tag match, as will SCU vs A Boy and his Dinosaur (and Marko Stunt). Finally, Riho vs Hikaru Shida rounds out the night as the lone women’s match on the main card (they are revisiting that woeful “Casino Battle Royal” idea on the pre-show with the women), but I would expect we’ll get some development in the division at this event, given the title tournament will be starting on TV in a few weeks.
Looking at the card, this should be a very good show. It still feels like they are lacking some star power and some credibility outside the bubble of existing AEW fans. However, this show offers a chance for a number of performers to step up and make an impression and if they go off the air with something monumental (not necessarily CM Punk, but something on that level or even just a shocking angle) then I can absolutely see how this could be a great springboard for their TV show.
NXT UK Takeover Cardiff preview
Over on these fair shores, we will have not one, but two major cards on Saturday. First up, WWE’s NXT UK brand is running their Takeover event in Cardiff. I have to admit that there doesn’t seem to be a huge amount of excitement building for this event. In part I imagine that will have something to do with the card looking somewhat lacklustre on paper. Don’t get me wrong I suspect the show will deliver on the night but it certainly feels weaker than even the most average Takeover show from the main US NXT brand. The main event of WALTER vs Tyler Bate will certainly deliver, as they did when they faced off for Progress at Wembley last year. Equally, I can’t see Bate taking the title as I assume they’ll want to continue building the champion up for when he eventually loses the strap.
Underneath that main event, the card is pretty so-so. Grizzled Young Veterans vs Gallus as a heel/heel title match was difficult to get invested in despite the sublime talents of the four men involved, but the late addition of Mark Andrews and Flash Morgan Webster makes this a far more interesting proposition. Dave Mastiff vs Joe Coffey and Noam Dar vs Travis Banks should also both be very serviceable, but I can’t say they really whet the appetite. There has been a tease of Cesaro making the trip over to the show, and I could imagine the show being boosted by him facing off with another surprise opponent, maybe an Aleister Black, Pete Dunne, Kassius Ohno or maybe even someone making a debut. Either way, it feels like something necessary to give this show a boost as it is the event over the weekend I feel least enthused by going in.
Finally, in probably the best built match on this show Kay Lee Ray will challenge for the NXT UK Women's title against champion Toni Storm. They have done a good job of setting these two up as former friends now turned bitter rivals and this will almost certainly be the match of the night.
Takeover Cardiff looks a decent show, but the idea of putting it on the same weekend as Royal Quest and All Out definitely undermines it's importance and makes it the third most important show happening on Saturday, no matter how good it might be on the night.
NJPW Royal Quest preview
For me, Saturday afternoon brings the main event of the weekend. Am I saying that because I’ll be in attendance? Possibly, but it does feel like a big deal having New Japan Pro Wrestling host their first ever full show in the UK. On Saturday evening at the Copper Box in London there will be an absolute belter of a card taking place. The main event of Kazuchika Okada defending his IWGP Heavyweight Title against Minoru Suzuki should be superb, and while the result feels like a foregone conclusion these two have a history of putting on crackers. It might not be in the rain this time, but I’m sure it’ll be just as dramatic. Likewise, Hiroshi Tanahashi and Zack Sabre Jr have had multiple stunning back-and-forth affairs and I am sure Tana will be pulling out all the spots to give this a big match feel, while it goes without saying that ZSJ will be on top form in his home country. Tomohiro Ishii vs KENTA will be incredibly physical, and I cannot wait. While the rest of the show is made up of standard tags, Tetsuya Naito, Sanada, Jay White, G.O.D, Kota Ibushi, Will Ospreay and many others appearing should make for a fantastic event. The one disappointment I have is the lack of Jushin Thunder Liger given his upcoming retirement, but there’s lots to enjoy and I anticipate it being a fantastic live experience in a brilliant venue.
Riptide Bank Holiday shows
As a final note this week, I’d like to mention the superb live show I attended on Monday as Riptide Wrestling held their biggest shows to date at the sold out Brighton Open Air Theatre. I was only able to attend the first of the two shows, but I was able to bring my one-year-old daughter to her first show, which was lovely. The atmosphere was brilliant, the venue was superb and most importantly the wrestling was excellent. It was made even better by seeing all the performers who had already had matches and those scheduled for show two enjoying the sunshine and watching their colleagues have cracking match after cracking match. I very much look forward to seeing Show 2 when it hits Riptide’s On-Demand service and would recommend you do too.
One wrestler I would like to highlight is Cassius, who opened the show against Mike Bird. Cassius is one of the most energetic, exciting and fun wrestlers on the roster and in a world where a lot of things seem dark and gloomy he provides a breath of fresh air. In addition Chuck Mambo, Rampage Brown, TK Cooper, Kurtis Chapman and countless others put on a series of superb matches as part of a great family day out in a unique venue. Highly recommend.
Well, that is it from me for this week. I will be back at the same time next week with a look at Raw, Smackdown and whatever else breaks in the meantime. Until then, 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.
Images courtesy of WWE/NJPW/AEW/Riptide