Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at all things professional wrestling from the past seven days. It's been a very busy week with both Raw and Smackdown upping the ante in their build to Survivor Series, and moving all the pieces into place for the big November show, while NJPW have their last big show before Wrestle Kingdom, this weekend. There has also been some big news on the Raw 25th anniversary and much more. Lets get started with this week's edition of Raw.
Another busy week from the Red brand following on from last week's invasion by Smackdown this week. The opening segment with Kurt Angle was well done although I could have done without the return of Stephanie McMahon, given it was completely unnecessary. That said the announcement that Angle will be returning to the ring again as part of the Survivor Series as team captain for the Raw team is exciting. The appearance of Daniel Bryan later in the show was also a nice touch and sows some interesting potential seeds of dissent between himself and Shane McMahon. Equally, I'm not sure what WWE hoped to achieve by having Kane take Bryan out, other than building Kane further, and creating sympathy for Bryan. Obviously there is the link between the two as former tag partners, but it seemed a weird choice. I do feel we have to applaud WWE for finding a way to have Bryan appear to take a bump without actually having to take a physical risk which was very clever.
Speaking of Kane, his match with Seth Rollins was passable, and far better than the matches they had a few years back when Rollins was WWE Champion. I did also enjoy the post-match with the 3-on-2 beat down by Kane and The Bar on Rollins and Dean Ambrose, presumably leading to a return for Roman Reigns next week once he is medically cleared. Kane really was all over this show, which is baffling, also giving Finn Balor the Tombstone on the stage after Balor beat Cesaro in a very good match. There is lots of build still to come over the next few weeks, but you can begin to see the pieces starting to move into place for Survivor Series and it certainly should have the makings of a very good card from an in-ring perspective, shame that it means next to nothing due to the lack of any actual stakes, but well done to WWE for trying to create some sort of interconnecting set of storylines centred around the big elimination match at Survivor Series.
The main event between Mickie James and Alexa Bliss was probably the best match the two have had so far and it was one of the better matches on the show this week. Bliss's forearm/punch finisher looks really good and she caught James pretty flush which helped. Bliss has quietly become one of the most able performers WWE has, improving her ring game significantly over the course of this year, likely in no small part to the presence of James. The match itself will likely be overshadowed by the angle afterwards involving the return of Braun Strowman, and the absolute destruction of The Miz-Tourage, well mostly Curtis Axel, but still. Strowman looks more of a beast than ever, and the garbage-based return was a nice nod to how he was taken out. It's a shame this seems destined to end in a feud with Kane, but we'll have to see how that pans out.
The rest of the show was very mixed in quality terms. Samoa Joe returning and crushing Apollo Crews was excellent, and Asuka squashing someone named Stacie Cullen was really fun. With both of these superstars it seems the booking team has got themselves back on track with how best to book both Asuka and Joe as absolute killers. Nia Jax vs Bayley was a very enjoyable match, although Alicia Fox pretending to be an airline captain was easily the highlight of the match. Kalisto vs Drew Gulak was fine, but really just served to keep building to another Enzo Amore vs Kalisto match; Jason Jordan and Elias are still feuding for some reason, and Matt Hardy had a fine match with The Miz for the Intercontinental Championship. I do feel for Matt Hardy, as with his brother Jeff Hardy on the injured list Matt is very much floating around the mid-card directionless. Here's hoping he can find a "break" sometime soon. Finally, Heath Slater and Rhyno (dressed as Santa and Mrs Claus for some reason I cannot fathom) vs Gallows & Anderson (dressed as their Southpaw Regional Wrestling alter egos, Tex Ferguson and Chadd 2 Badd) in a Halloween Trick or Street Fight, which was just awful. I’m all for holiday fun, I love the WWE Christmas shows because they are normally a lot of fun (see Alberto Del Rio running over Santa a few years back for further proof), but this was a mess.
A very mixed show this week, with lots happening and a very fast pace. There was lots of effort to make things seem fresh and exciting, even if it didn't quite all go over as well as the writers had hoped. I was certainly more interested in Survivor Series after this show than before it, even if the rivalry of Raw vs Smackdown still seems to mean very little, making it hard to get invested in the conflict between the two.
Much like Raw this week, Smackdown was in full Survivor Series build-up mode. Shane McMahon's opening promo was very good at stoking the fires of the invisible and unbelievable rivalry between Raw and Smackdown. In fairness, Shane did well here to frame Daniel Bryan being assaulted as a tangible issue for the two brands to feud over, and the motivations for Smackdown invading Raw a couple of weeks ago. The idea that Smackdown had been deemed the inferior brand and long-neglected is a nice hook, and does give this story some credence, which is nice. I'm less sure about the idea of Shane McMahon being involved in the match itself as a captain, but given that Kurt angel will be opposite him it does have some logic to it, even if it means Shane will need more carrying than someone else might in that position. Shane taking this spot also gives some nice motivation to Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens to feel aggrieved, as they were later in the show, about Shane taking the spotlight for himself. With Owens losing in the main event to Shinsuke Nakamura, presumably this means that Zayn and Owens will be positioned as spoilers attempting to interfere with the potential success of the Smackdown team. The aforementioned main event between Owens and Nakamura was excellent, and I think did plenty to help with rehabbing Nakamura after his recent feud with Jinder Mahal really depleted his momentum. It's not the push he needs to be considered and seen as a main eventer, but it's a good first step in the right direction and shows that despite WWE's best efforts Nakamura is still salvageable.
The rest of the show was generally very good. Jinder Mahal's promo was the usual rubbish, but after AJ Styles squashed Samir Singh, Mahal's beat down looked really good and he seemed to have found some excellent intensity here, even if it still doesn’t seem to connect with his in-ring work. I'm still not 100% where his feud is going, unless the idea is for Styles and Mahal to face off at Clash of Champions in December, or this is being blown off on television in the next few weeks before Survivor Series. Bobby Roode vs Dolph Ziggler was surprisingly good for a sprint through a 2-out-of-3 falls match. I'm glad Roode went over and looked strong, and it looks like this feud is now over. With Roode winning he gets a place on Team Smackdown at Survivor Series, so it'll be nice to see him rubbing shoulders with some of the top stars and see how he does, I suspect very well when given the opportunity.
Baron Corbin vs Sin Cara was another unexpectedly gripping bout, and I loved the fiery fury from Cara after Corbin went for his mask. It's a nice touch, and makes Sin Cara seem far more relevant than he has in about 6 years. Despite having no interest in this feud over the past few weeks, WWE have done enough to get me interested here, and if this leads to a hair vs mask match, and Corbin losing that dodgy barnet I'm sure we'll all be much happier as a result. If Corbin is ever to be taken seriously, this could be a great first step and a great way to elevate Sin Cara as well. This week's Breezango segment was the usual comedy segment, with lots of references to The Bludgeon Brothers, which makes me think there is some sort of swerve coming, especially given we also got a Bludgeon Brothers promo too. We shall see. Shelton Benjamin & Chad Gable's confrontation with The Usos was brief but well done, and I do expect that to be a top drawer match next week. Finally, The New Day's interactions this week with Rusev and Aiden English were fantastic. There is some great comedy chemistry between them, helped along by The New Day dressing as Akeem, Jimmy Hart and Brother Love for Halloween. However, Rusev was the star of the show for me again here, he's got such great timing. The resultant match between Big E and Rusev was lots of fun, and it was nice to see Rusev pick up the win.
A very enjoyable show, with plenty of story development, lots of feud being pushed forward and some great in-ring action, as well as plenty of light relief. A really fun show, and a very easy watch this week.
Over the weekend the news broke that WWE had come to terms on the release of several superstars, later revealed to be Darren Young, Summer Rae and Emma. Obviously Rae and Young had been pretty much MIA from WWE television for a significant period of time and if I'm, honest it's to really a surprise that they were both cut form the roster. However, Emma’s release came as something more of a surprise having just faced Asuka on the TLC PPV. There have of course been rumblings that a number of talents on the WWE roster are unhappy with their character direction and financial situation with the company, with Neville and Nia Jax being mentioned in the speculation as specific examples (how true that speculation is remains to be seen). Emma is not someone who had been noted as being disgruntled, but it's not difficult to see why she might be, having been somewhat overlooked in the revolution among the women in the division despite playing a pivotal role in the launch of the NXT women’s division in 2014. Unfortunately Emma was very unlucky with injuries, each time seemingly just as she was on the cusp of breaking through to the next level. However, as a very competent worker you have to imagine Emma will do fine on the independent scene if she wishes to, and potentially set herself up for a better run in WWE at a later date.
NJPW Power Struggle Preview
New Japan Pro Wrestling presents their final big show of the year (there are a few smaller shows including Tag League but this is the last huge show), in the run up to Wrestle Kingdom 12 on January 4th at the Tokyo Dome. The main event sees Hiroshi Tanahashi defending his IWGP Intercontinental Championship against Kota Ibushi, a man who beat him during the G-1 Climax tournament in August. The match itself should be an absolute barnburner. Interestingly Kenny Omega is also making a big title defence on this show as he hopes to retain his IWGP US title against Beretta. If I were a betting man I would assume that Omega retains and Ibushi loses his bout (or vice versa) and there is some sort of interaction between the two leading to the much hinted Ibushi-Omega match being made for WK12. Given their prior relationship as a tag team, and seeming lack of animosity it should be interesting to see where they go with this budding rivalry. Elsewhere on this card we have the finals of the Super Jr Tag League tournament, Will Osprey defending his IWGP Jr Heavyweight Championship against "The Villain" Marty Scurll (in what is presumably a first time occurrence of two British wrestlers facing off for a Japanese title), and Minoru Suzuki vs Toru Yano in a Bull rope Deathmatch which might be a hilarious comedy match, or an absolute bloodbath, hard to say either way. Tetsuya Naito and Kazuchika Okada will be opposite sides of a six man tag pitting Chaos against Los Ingoberables de Japon, which should be fun and continue the slow build to Okada vs Naito at Wrestle Kingdom 12, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Naito get the pin on Okada in this match to that end. Finally, we are going to find out who is behind the "Switchblade" vignettes that have been running for some time now, which likely means we are in for an interesting return or debut. Whatever happens I suspect this should be another top drawer show from NJPW. and the latest in a streak of red hot shows from them in 2017.
Raw 25th anniversary
Earlier this week WWE sent out a press release announcing that in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the first episode of Monday Night Raw in January WWE will be running a show live form the Barclays Centre in New York, as well as the Manhattan Centre, home of the first ever episode of Raw. It's not immediately clear what form this will take , whether it will be a simulcast, or just a live event at the Manhattan Centre, or if the Hammerstein show will be earlier in the day, but I'm sure details will become clearer in the next few months. However, one of the interesting parts of that press release is that The Undertaker is listed as appearing on this show. Given the way he seemingly retired at the end of Wrestlemania 33 I can’t see him appearing on television unless it is to announce his induction into the Hall of Fame, but stranger things have happened. Other stars listed are Kevin Nash and Shawn Michaels, so perhaps this is some sort of legends reception rather than a proper appearance on TV. It will certainly be very interesting to see what WWE cook up for the 25th anniversary, and I can only imagine it'll be a huge show given the nature of the milestone they've reached.
Well that is it from me for this week. I will be back at the same time next week with all the continued build to Survivor Series, Raw and Smackdown, as well as whatever other stories 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.