Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your look back at the biggest events in the past seven days in professional wrestling. This week we look at a lacklustre Raw, a very decent Smackdown, a big international signing for WWE, a quick look at the NJPW Best of the Super Junior tournament, and more. However, we start off this week looking back at Raw from this past Monday night.
I’ve mentioned over the past two weeks that Raw feels like it’s in a bit of a holding pattern, and if I’m honest this week didn’t do much to dispel that opinion. As such, I won’t spend too much time this week focusing on a show that really felt like a slog to get through. That said, the main event gauntlet match featuring The Riott Squad, Mickie James, Dana Brooke, Sasha Banks and Bayley was a very enjoyable TV match, with plenty of enjoyable spots and some nice storyline development. Banks feels like the right call to take the final spot in the ladder match given she was the only person outside of maybe Ruby Riott who felt like they would be considered a viable contender to actually take the briefcase in the match. For the record, I don’t think Banks will do, but it at least adds to a more believable line-up. I expected a bit more interaction to build the continuing tension between Sasha and Bayley, but I suppose that can always be revisited later. Either way a fun main event.
The other big women’s division segment on this show featured women's champion Nia Jax squashing a jobber while Ronda Rousey, her challenger at Money in the Bank was on commentary. I’m not sure I totally like the way they have flipped Jax into an arrogant heel only weeks after doing the sympathetic anti-bullying angle, and now it turns out she is something of a bully. Be a star, eh? Given the role she was put in, Jax did fine, and Rousey was adequate with her reactions but they still have a lot to do to get the required interest levels for this bout.
The rest of the show was fine, but it didn’t do much to get me overly excited for Money in the Bank. Bobby Roode vs Kevin Owens was a fine filler TV match, as was Seth Rollins vs Jinder Mahal. Rollins did his level best to get a good match out of Mahal, but even he has his limitations. On that note, the absent Roman Reigns made Rollins look a bit silly for helping him out last week when Reigns couldn't be bothered to turn up to return the favour. The post-match with Elias was intriguing, and I could see those two having a fun feud for the Intercontinental title. Braun Strowman vs Finn Balor was an enjoyable opening bout, although even Balor getting a disqualification win was lost very much in Strowman’s violent display after the contest. Bray Wyatt and Matt Hardy vs The Ascension was basically a squash. The B Team's BBQ segment was pretty terrible, as was Sami Zayn and Bobby Lashley’s confrontation. Finally, Drew McIntyre had a decent match with Chad Gable. McIntyre is one of the few bright spots on Raw as of late, making even Dolph Ziggler interesting and with every showing, including this week, he shows why he is almost certain to be a main eventer in the not-to-distant future.
A decent, if not blow-away episode of Raw. A few interesting moments and some exciting in-ring action. However, there is a lack of momentum, a lack of excitement, and a whole heap of lethargy on this show. Something needs to change because Raw needs a decent kick up the arse to get out of its current slump.
In contrast to it’s Monday night counterpart, Smackdown feels surprisingly fresh at the moment. The main event scene in the run-up to Money in the Bank has been very interesting so far. The opening segment setting up Big Cass vs Daniel Bryan vs Samoa Joe was excellent, with Joe especially shining. He’s so believable on the microphone, and he really does carry himself like a monster. Big Cass was surprisingly good here too, while Bryan was his usual likeable self. The resulting main event was superb, and although we didn’t get the obvious Joe vs Bryan match that everyone had been clamouring for, the three-way was very enjoyable. The finish also made Joe look like the destroyer he claims to be while keeping both Cass and Bryan strong. I’m pleased to see Joe in the ladder match, and I genuinely hope they go all the way with him and give him the briefcase. Having Samoa Joe as the badass stalking the champion with the briefcase, or being so intimidating that he can just tell the champion he will beat him in advance seems a great move for the Smackdown main event scene. Presumably, Bryan and Big Cass also spin off now to finish up their programme before we start the build for Bryan vs The Miz at Summerslam.
The rest of Smackdown had plenty of high points. Shinsuke Nakamura vs Tye Dillinger was a pretty decent affair, and although it was mostly a showcase for Nakamura it was nice to see Dillinger on TV for the first time in a while. AJ Styles’ segment backstage also added to the slow build for the last man standing match. I much prefer this to the constant low blows, so this is a huge improvement. The New Day vs The Bar and The Miz was a very good match, with all six men on top form. I liked that there is a continued tease as to which member of The New Day will be in the ladder match, although I would guess Big E is getting the nod. Asuka vs Mandy Rose was decent, if instantly forgettable, although it provided some good shine for Asuka ahead of the PPV. Speaking of the women’s division, Becky Lynch vs Charlotte next week should excellent, and a nice hook to tune in on Tuesday. However, the less said about Lana and Naomi’s dance contest, the better.
Another fun show from the blue brand, with plenty of good build for Money in the Bank. Smackdown feels like a show with lots of moving parts and plenty of big stars all vying for the title. The two hours fly by, and I am actually looking forward to next week’s show, which is more than I can say for Raw.
Io Shirai to WWE
Earlier this week, Tokyo Sports reported that Io Shirai was on her way to WWE. Shirai has been one of the pillars of the Stardom promotion in Japan, but she was due to sign with WWE last year for the Mae Young Classic only for WWE to pass on signing her due to her some reported neck issues, as well as a possible heart problem. However, WWE have clearly had their concerns satisfied and Shirai is on her way, and I personally cannot wait. Having seen her work in Stardom, I am very excited to see what she can do on the biggest available stage.
NJPW BOSJ finals
Over the past few weeks, New Japan Pro Wrestling have been hosting their annual Best of the Super Juniors tournament, with sixteen of the very best junior heavyweights in the world taking part in two round robin-style block to determine the finalists who will face-off on Monday to determine the winner, who will receive a shot against the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion at Dominion (unless Will Ospreay wins, I’m not sure what happens in that scenario). At the time of writing it is anyone’s tournament, but for me I feel that Taiji Ishimori vs Hiromu Takahashi is the final to make, setting up two viable challengers for Ospreay, but I could easily see Flip Gordon, ACH, or even one of Roppongi 3K getting the nod. Yoh and Sho have shone in this tournament and definitely feel like two guys who could possibly kick on after BOSJ. Either way, the final days should be very exciting, and we should know very soon who will be in the junior title match at Dominion.
CM Punk/Colt Cabana trial begins
Finally this week, in legal news the trial of CM Punk and Colt Cabana begins, as they are being sued by WWE doctor Chris Amann. This all stems from the podcast Cabana did with Punk after he left WWE, where he made allegations of mistreatment by Amann, which of course as a doctor he took umbrage with. Whether the allegations are true or not, it’ll be very interesting to see how this unfolds. I feel for Cabana, who as a podcaster shouldn’t necessarily be held responsible, but yet he is being lumped in with Punk. I also suspect the outcome here, and whether there is a possible settlement before verdict gets decided will have a massive bearing on whether Punk returns to wrestling, be that with All In, or even eventually with WWE. Interesting times indeed.
Well, that is it from me for this week. I will be back at the same time next week with all the news Raw and Smackdown, as WWE continues to build to Money in the Bank, 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.