Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at the world of professional wrestling from the past seven days. It's been a very busy week, with WWE putting on one of the best shows in a long time and gearing up for one of the more controversial shows in weekly history, with two big episodes of TV mixed into things. Let's start off with the huge Evolution show from this past Sunday.
WWE may be under fire at the moment, but for a few hours on Sunday night the company put out a top-notch evening of-of women’s wrestling that was arguably up there with anything the company has produced this year. You can argue the toss about the way the show was promoted, but the actual event was superb. The two main event matches delivered really strongly, with Becky Lynch vs Charlotte being easily the match of the night, and perhaps even a contender for match of the year in WWE. There was so much heat, and the emotion, as well as the chemistry between the two, was off the charts. It was superb. Ronda Rousey vs Nikki Bella may not have had quite the same level of emotion attached but it was a very serviceable main event which put Rousey over strong. If Ronda is to be the face of the company in the coming months, especially with Roman Reigns absent for the foreseeable future this was a fine way to make her a focal point.
The rest of the show had plenty of enjoyable moments. The finals of the Mae Young Classic with Toni Storm and Io Shirai was good, but perhaps slightly short, while the NXT title match between Shayna Baszler and Kairi Sane was arguably the second best match on the show, although you could argue the finish with Marina Shafir and Jessamyn Duke getting involved takes some of the shine off things. That said it provides a nice stable for Baszler to hide behind and I imagine a leads to Sane recruiting Io Shirai to help her battle two-thirds of the Four Horsewomen, while also opening the door for a Rousey heel turn somewhere down the road. Trish Stratus and Lita vs Mickie James and Alicia Fox (subbing for the injured Alexa Bliss) was a fine nostalgia trip, but I’m glad it was used as the opener rather than in a more prominent spot. Micke James deserves all the credit in the world for making this match tick, as she was the absolute workhorse here. The Riott Squad vs Bayley, Sasha Banks and Natalya was fine, if not particularly spectacular. I’m not sure whether this was designed to tease tension with Bayley and Sasha again, but I really hope they don’t resurrect that storyline after the damp squib earlier in the year. Finally, Nia Jax winning the battle royal lined her up as the next challenger to Ronda Rousey, which makes a lot of sense given they did not have a conclusive finish to their match at Money in the Bank in June, but I would (and the crowd seemed to agree) have preferred to see Ember Moon or Asuka given the nod.
Overall, Evolution was a very good show, with no major low points. There were several stand-out matches and all the performers put in a massive shift to make this show a success. Ignoring all the self-congratulatory promo material included within the show, and based on match quality alone this has to be a contender for the best show of the year top-to-bottom.
Just twenty-four hours removed from Evolution, Raw was a pretty dull show overall, so we won’t spend too much time on it. The segment with Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose probably should have been the focal point of the show, but with Crown Jewel to hype, it sadly was not. I enjoyed the segment, and Rollins showing a bit of fire eventually was nice, especially as it also featured his questioning of whether he was ultimately responsible for the way Ambrose turned on him, dating back to his original heel turn in 2014. However, he should have been angrier, to begin with, although Ambrose refusing to give him an answer was a very nice piece of storytelling and hopefully allows them to elongate this feud into something very special.
The Brock Lesnar-Braun Strowman segment was very good, and I think everyone enjoyed seeing Baron Corbin get slammed multiple times. The match between the two will undoubtedly be brutal and probably a highlight of Crown Jewel. Paul Heyman was his usual self, and there's not much more to say about that. This was fine and did what it needed to in order to drive interest to the Universal Title match on Friday.
The rest of the show was fine, if not particularly inspiring. The Revival vs Lucha House Party was a nice change of pace, although the booking of The Revival continues to baffle me. Finn Balor vs Bobby Lashley was a fine TV match, but this feud feels like it’s going nowhere. Nia Jax vs Ember Moon was actually much better than I expected it to be, while the notion of Jax teaming up with Tamina offers a nice potential obstacle for Ronda Rousey. The 10-woman tag match was a nice tribute to the prior evening but nothing too memorable. Dolph Ziggler vs Apollo Crews was seemingly just a showcase for Ziggler ahead of the World Cup tournament. Elias vs Jinder Mahal provided a good platform for newly babyface Elias, although the match wasn’t up to much. Bobby Roode and Chad Gable vs AoP vs The Ascension was a fun sprint, and the post-match attack by AoP ensured they remained dominant despite not taking home the win. The segment with Degeneration X and The Brothers of Destruction was fine, but the nostalgia-fest is getting slightly old. Finally, we had the big announcement for Survivor Series that not only we will be getting the very tired Raw vs Smackdown concept again, but hearing the news that Ronda Rousey vs Becky Lynch match was going to happen at Survivor Series was a nice surprise after Evolution.
A decent episode of Raw, not a great go-home for Crown Jewel but ultimately, given what a disaster that show has become I’m not sure what ore they could, or should have done.
Ah yes, the old bait and switch. Given Daniel Bryan was almost certainly not going to Smackdown, we all knew something shady was coming. However, WWE actually went the best possible direction they could in the situation. The segment with Bryan and AJ Styles to open the show was logical, and making the match for later in the show was a very good choice. As you would expect, the resultant bout was an absolute barnburner, with both men going full tilt. It wasn't quite at the level of a full PPV match, but it was certainly one of the better TV main events of 2018. I was surprised to see Bryan lose cleanly, although I’m sure many will see it as a punishment for Bryan. I doubt that is the case, an,d frankly I still expect him to be in a very prominent role moving forward. Inserting Samoa Joe into the segment was unexpected, but adds a cracking match to Crown Jewel, as well as teasing a potential programme with Bryan afterwards making this whole thing a success in the circumstances.
The rest of the show was very good. Becky Lynch cut a great promo firing the first shot n her feud with Ronda Rousey. Given both women will be mostly forced to grow interested in the match at Survivor Series in the next couple of weeks via promos, this was a great way to start. Paige’s interaction with Lynch’s beaten opponent from Evolution suggests that Charlotte will be either doing some soul searching and coming back as a resolute babyface or, as I think we would all prefer to see, she is going heel clearing the way for Becky to be the top female face on Smackdown. Shinsuke Nakamura vs R-Truth was fine, but ultimately it was mostly filler. The main event was a showcase for Crown Jewel and the tournament, and it achieved the required aim, but it didn’t really pique my interest if I’m honest, although the segment with Vince McMahon telling the competitors that they will be fired if they reach the final and lose was an interesting twist. Finally, we had the Trick or Street Fight, which was a whole lot of fun, especially with The New Day doing The Brood’s entrance in full late 90s garb. While completely throwaway, it was very enjoyable.
Another very good episode of Smackdown this week. A terrific WWE Title match between two of the best in the world, some Halloween fun, and some meaningful build to both Crown Jewel and Survivor Series.
On Friday evening (UK time), WWE will be hosting their highly controversial Crown Jewel show from Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. With everything going on, WWE has taken a whole lot of heat for going ahead with this show, and frankly, it feels warranted. At this point, Daniel Bryan and John Cena are both off the show despite both originally being booked in marquee matches, due to their moral objections towards the Saudi government. John Oliver absolutely eviscerated the company on his show this week, and there has been widespread condemnation of the show going ahead. I appreciate WWE made a deal for a ridiculous amount of money, but that is a lot of bad press to have to work with. Now WWE has begun quietly advertising Hulk Hogan for this show, which frankly is not exactly the way I would go about quelling the company’s detractors.
Just looking at the card itself in isolation and ignoring the wider context, there are plenty of intriguing contests on the show. Brock Lesnar vs Braun Strowman for the vacant WWE Universal title should be a very physical, probably quite violent affair, but based on their previous encounters. You have to imagine Strowman is taking the title, but its hard to say with WWE’s booking. Samoa Joe vs AJ Styles is a decent replacement for Bryan vs Styles, and given the circumstances the best option they could have gone with. Styles is almost certainly retaining, but Joe getting the win would be phenomenal.
For years people have clamoured to see Shawn Michaels come out of retirement, but this is probably not what anyone had in mind. The reformed Degeneration X vs The Brothers of Destruction will probably be a smoke and mirrors heavy affair, with all four men going through their greatest hits. It will be interesting to see whether this sets up more from Shawn Michaels, or if this is one and done for HBK. The Bar vs The New Day will likely be fine, but it’s nothing we’ve not seen before.
Finally, we have the “World Cup” tournament, which features eight men, all from North America, I might add, fighting for presumably a future WWE Championship/Universal Championship opportunity. Kurt Angle vs Dolph Ziggler, Rey Mysterio vs Randy Orton, The Miz vs Jeff Hardy and Seth Rollins vs Bobby Lashley (replacing Cena) should all be very good matches, with the rackets set up the way they are, it will be a Raw vs Smackdown final, and I would be stunned if Seth Rollins and The Miz aren’t in the finals. Potentially, Dean Ambrose can cost Rollins the match, and The Miz can head off back to Smackdown to face AJ Styles (presuming he retains). I fully expect the in-ring action from the tournament to be top notch, but the build has been somewhat lacklustre.
Crown Jewel, will likely be a very decent show on the night. However, it’s hard to see it being worthwhile enough to justify the amount of bad press and overall bad feeling that WWE has had to swallow as a result. Honestly, I hope WWE revisit this relationship with the KSA before putting on another show like this because it’s very hard to give them the benefit of the doubt if they keep running shows in such a controversial location, and the lack of mention of said location in the build-up demonstrates they know that very well themselves.
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.