Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at all things professional wrestling from the past seven days. WWE has continued their build to Extreme Rules on Raw and Smackdown with carrying results, while NJPW has had an international flavour to their events over the past week. However, we'll get started this week with Monday's episode of Raw, which was not perhaps their best work.
We’ve had a run of a couple of weeks of fun episodes of Raw, so it was about time we got a dud, and this week was pretty much that. The opening segment with Roman Reigns, Dolph Ziggler, Drew McIntyre and Seth Rollins felt a bit played out, and although Reigns got a few words in on Bobby Lashley, this seemed like an odd diversion. The tag match between the four was very enjoyable, but the finish was oddly predictable. The Revival getting involved made sense with their match against Reigns and Lashley scheduled for the same episode, but it shouldn’t have been at the expense of the far superior bout with Ziggler and McIntyre. The announced Ironman match between Ziggler and Rollins at Extreme Rules should be superb, and I will admit this did help the build for that bout. The Revival vs Lashley and Reigns was basically a re-run of the match they’ve done two weeks running only with a different finish. I understand that WWE wants Reigns to get more over as a babyface (still flogging that dead horse), but all they’ve succeeded with on this show is overexposing him at the expense of other talents who could use the airtime.
The rest of the show was quite the mixed bag. Although the return of Dr Shelby was a nice surprise, especially with what is happening on Smackdown, the Sasha Banks/Bayley counselling sessions were a little disappointing. Curtis Axel vs Matt Hardy and Ember Moon vs Liv Morgan were both seemingly the victims of injuries, with Bray Wyatt and Ruby Riott’s respective issues forcing changes in plans, although both bouts were serviceable if not exactly memorable. Baron Corbin and Finn Balor had an entertaining segment together which is clearly building to a match, while No Way Jose and Mojo Rawley had a cracking brawl as part of a feud that is bubbling along nicely. Nia Jax vs Mickie James was a decent enough match, but it really only existed to keep the focus on Ronda Rousey returning at Extreme Rules and Alexa Bliss vs Nia Jax (and presumably Natalya turning heel on Rousey eventually). The Authors of Pain squashing Titus Worldwide was fine for what it was, but it seems like a waste of Apollo Crews to have him in this role.
Finally, Braun Strowman vs Kevin Owens as the main event was more of an angle than a match. While I am all for Strowman pushing over big objects or flipping cars, and Owens is superb as the cowardly heel running away, they really need to pull the trigger on Strowman as something more than a one-dimensional novelty act before it all ends up being for nought.
A pretty tedious show all in all, it seemed like the creative team reverted back to the slump of a few weeks ago. Nothing felt fresh, everything seemed laboured and the whole show was a chore to get through, barring a few bright spots. It wasn’t bad, it just felt really inconsequential, which is arguably worse.
This week’s Smackdown was all about Team Hell No. With Kane’s surprise return last week to aid Daniel Bryan, we were treated to some great back and forth between the two partners who seem not to have missed a beat in terms of chemistry. It really was a joy to see. The Usos involvement made for a logical main event, and the match did not disappoint. Both teams put in a great shift and it made for an excellent TV match, with a nice stare down with The Bludgeon Brothers to end the show. Great work all around.
The rest of the show had plenty of moments to get excited about. Jeff Hardy and The Miz had a really good match, although I question the logic of Hardy getting the clean win if they are building Miz for the match with Bryan, unless they are holding off until Wrestlemania. Asuka vs James Ellsworth wasn’t a match as such, but it builds nicely to their lumberjack match next week. AJ Styles’ promo, and subsequent back and forth with Rusev was more good stuff in the build to the match between the two at Extreme Rules. WWE have done a really good job of making Rusev seem like a credible challenger. While Styles vs Aiden English was a short, one-sided affair, the post-match was very effective. Sanity attacking The New Day during their pancake nonsense was a fine way to get the new group over further, but I would prefer they had something more substantial for Eric Young and company. Finally, Becky Lynch picked up a strong win over Peyton Royce, as she continues to rack up victories. It feels like there is a conscious effort to book Lynch strongly, which presumably means they have plans for in the coming months, and about time too.
A strong show, and in contrast to Raw there seems to be plenty of creative ideas. I know the shortened running time in comparison means there is less filler, but Smackdown seems like a far superior show on all fronts at the moment.
NJPW SSE/CEO- Chasyn Rance controversy
It’s been a very interesting week for New Japan Pro Wrestling in two very different areas of the world, neither of which involves Japan. Firstly, there was the successful Strong Style Evolved events in Milton Keynes and Manchester this past weekend. The shows were very well received, and while I was unable to attend due to the recent birth of my daughter, I do hope they return for more shows. I like that there was major storyline development on these shows too, with the continued fall from grace of the formerly invincible Kazuchika Okada, as he lost to Zack Sabre Jr. The shows will be available on RPW on Demand, as well as NJPW World, and should offer some fantastic entertainment, hopefully leading to more NJPW tours in the UK moving forward.
Some notable names were absent from the Strong Style Evolved UK cards, with Kenny Omega, Kota Ibushi, Tetsuya Naito, Hiromu Takahashi and several others booked on a show in the USA that Kenny Omega masterminded in conjunction with fighting games tournament, CEO. This is itself yielded what was praised as a very strong show, and a resounding success initially. However, it has since been uncovered that the competitors in the opening dark match, who are not part of NJPW, included a convicted sex offender by the (in-ring) name of Chasyn Rance. Rance had been convicted for offences with a minor in 2011 and is on the sex offenders register. As you can imagine, this caused quite the stir. Omega, to his credit, put out a statement explaining that he did not book the match and had given the ring crew from a local wrestling school the opener as a thank you for their hard work, and essentially apologised to anyone offended, and promised it would not happen again. It’s a tough break for Omega, but I felt he dealt with the situation in the classiest fashion possible. There are those who will defend Omega blindly, and those who will try and use this as a way to attack him (despite Omega’s defence that he does not know Rance, there is a photo of the two a few years back doing the rounds, but in all honesty I imagine a travelling wrestler takes photos with all kinds of other workers and forgets them instantly, so that’s perhaps not a fair stick to beat him with) , but I’m inclined to believe he’s savvy enough to avoid deliberately booking a registered sex offender. Either way, this was some unwanted publicity for NJPW, and I imagine that the company were less than pleased, even though this will be very unlikely to cause any pushback to Omega. An ugly episode, hopefully, one that Omega learns from in the long term.
RIP Matt Cappotelli
In sad news this week it emerged that former Tough Enough contestant Matt Cappotelli passed away. Cappotelli had been suffering from brain cancer, which he has battled heroically on and off for many years. Cappotelli was seen as one of the real bright sparks from Tough Enough III, ending up as co-winner alongside John Hennigan AKA John Morrison. However, despite being seen as a potential star performer, his career was tragically cut short by his ongoing health issues, which would eventually lead to his untimely death. The outpouring of grief and sadness from the wrestling world was pretty moving, and it gives you an idea of how well-liked and respected Cappotelli was. One of the moments Cappotelli will be most remembered for involved getting beaten down by an overzealous Hardcore Holly, who was a coach on Tough Enough, in an infamous incident which brought about plenty of criticism. I’ve also seen some clamour online for Cappotelli to receive the Warrior award at next year’s Hall of Fame ceremony, and I fully support that idea. It seems like a natural fit, and while a similar campaign for the late British indie wrestler Kris Travis fell on deaf ears with WWE, the fact Cappotelli was a former WWE performer means there is a genuine chance this could happen, and I truly hope it does. RIP Matt Cappotelli.
On Friday, GLOW returned to Netflix for its second season, picking up where it left off following the end of the first season. While you don’t need me to tell you how good this show is, the critical acclaim has been pretty much universal, I really cannot recommend GLOW highly enough. As someone who has watched a reasonable chunk of the original promotion, I can say it definitely captures the spirit of the original promotion. One exciting development for this season is the mocked-up full episode of the GLOW TV show, which is a superb tribute to the original. A must watch for wrestling and drama fans alike.
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.