Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at all things professional wrestling from the past seven days. As you read this, I am away on a little mini break to get over the post-Wrestlemania blues (not strictly true, but hey) so I thought this week we would eschew the normal look at the week and look forward to some things I hope happen in the world of wrestling in the remainder of 2019. With Mania in the record books, we can start looking forward and hopefully, some of the following comes to pass.
Bray Wyatt - puppets lead to something good
We’ve all seen the vignettes in the past few weeks, with puppets including a vulture and a creepy doll that have been clear signposts of the return of a newly repackaged Bray Wyatt, although the reformed “Eater of Worlds” as a Pee Wee Herman style children’s entertainer was not exactly what I expected. There is clearly more to the gimmick, but it is a very intriguing start. The former leader of the Wyatt Family has been MIA from WWE television since last summer, (although he has been working on house shows at various junctures) and the end of his tag team partnership with “Woken” Matt Hardy and his return has been rumoured for a while. However, the Wyatt character as it was had become stale and really quite boring. Having Wyatt return in something laterally related to his former gimmick, but refocused on a new agenda rather than the same old lamp-carrying cult leader with nonsensical rambling promos should make for very interesting television. The puppets could be symbolic, and I certainly hope so, but on first impressions, the new gimmick goes in a fresh direction this, and this could be a whole new fresh start for Wyatt, and a valuable addition to the main event scene on Raw or Smackdown, especially as he has come back in the best shape of his career.
Samoa Joe wins a world title
The current United States Champion Samoa Joe is one of the best workers on the main roster. His character is well defined, his in-ring work crisp and authentic-looking and his matches very enjoyable. He has flirted with the main event scene having memorable main events with Brock Lesnar and AJ Styles, but he has never had a run as the top heel in WWE with one of the company’s main titles. With Seth Rollins and Kofi Kingston as champions Joe seems like a great candidate to take the title from either man (he’s technically on Raw, but that’s not a huge issue) and go on a major run as an unstoppable heel. From his devastating squash of Rey Mysterio to being portrayed as the equal of Braun Strowman in recent weeks I can absolutely buy Joe as a world champion, and I struggle to think of someone else on the main roster who has had the sort of consistent performances that Joe has, so he definitely deserves a chance to run with the ball and hopefully 2019 is where he gets given the opportunity to do just that.
Shinsuke Nakamura gets back on track
For the “King of Strong Style” 2019 has not been great so far, but truth be told 2018 didn’t exactly end on a high point for the former New Japan star. Shinsuke Nakamura is arguably wasted in WWE at this stage, a victim of poor booking and a misunderstanding of how best to use him, but he hasn’t exactly looked like he was putting in a shift for much of the past year. Years of working a punishing style in Japan have probably taken their toll on Nakamura’s body, and in a sense, I can’t blame him for taking the opportunity to earn some money and fly on autopilot in WWE’s mid-card scene. However, he is wasted in his current role (much like his tag partner Rusev) and I’d like to see him get back involved in something worthwhile. Nakamura, when motivated, is a phenomenal competitor but he needs a substantial overhaul, and with any luck, the WWE booking team realise this at some stage in 2019 and give him something of substance before he inevitably returns to New Japan for one last big run.
Chad Gable gets the Angle push
With Bobby Roode (and his moustache) now on Raw, and his former partner Chad Gable on Smackdown it’ll be interesting to see how both men fare. For Gable, I really want to see him flourish on his own. The template is there, with Gable having an Olympic background and a style that is very reminiscent of one Kurt Angle. Smackdown has proved itself to be the land of opportunity and with some sensible booking Gable could easily become a player in the Smackdown mid-card. I would even go as far as to have the recently retired Angle operate as a mentor for Gable, endorsing him and giving him the extra push he needs to elevate him to that next level.
Shayna Baszler debuts on the main roster
The Queen of Spades has been sat atop the pile in NXT for quite a while now, dominating in a way not seen since the height of Asuka’s legendary reign. Shayna Baszler is, in my opinion, one of the top female performers on the WWE roster and although she has been superb on the black and yellow brand there is definitely a natural slot for her on the main roster. With Becky Lynch dethroning her mate Ronda Rousey at Wrestlemania it seems like only a matter of time before the submission specialist is called up and comes looking for revenge on behalf of Rousey. At 39-years-old Baszler is far from over the hill, but she is also not exactly young and for WWE to get the most out of her they should really consider capitalising on her, and getting behind her in a big way once she inevitably drops her title to Io Shirai. There are classics to be had with Lynch, Bayley, Sasha Banks (if she returns), Charlotte and of course her long-time rival Kairi Sane. In short, 2019 is the year the former UFC competitor needs to make her mark on the main roster.
Velveteen Dream wins the NXT Championship
While others make their way to the main roster, I hope that in 2019 Velveteen Dream stays put in Full Sail. Dream has unlimited potential, but I am concerned about how he will be handled under the watchful eyes of Vince McMahon and co. There are some nuances and subtleties to the Velveteen Dream character that I fear might get lost in the world of 50/50 booking. On the other hand, if he remains in NXT he can continue to be the hottest talent on the brand, and once he is done with the North American title he can begin the big chase for the NXT Championship before his eventual rise to join the main roster. Dream has the chance to be the next big thing for WWE, a megastar of unparalleled proportions, but let’s not rush him up to the bright lights before he is ready and squander that talent.
NJPW creates new stars
With the success of the G1 Supercard, 2019 could be a big year for New Japan Pro Wrestling. They have shows booked in England and Australia, as well as a fully-fledged G1 show in Dallas. NJPW is hell-bent on expanding their brand aggressively, but in order to do so, they need to create some more genuine main event level stars. Tetsuya Naito needs to ascend to main event status and finally win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at Wrestle Kingdom rather than lingering around the Intercontinental title picture. The same goes for Kota Ibushi, who could easily be in that upper echelon. However, I would also like to see Will Ospreay go up to heavyweight, and the likes of Evil and Sanada finally get the rub at the top of the card. NJPW is stacked with talent, but they need to better utilise that talent. With The Elite departing for AEW, there is a need to create more top-level stars, much like they have managed to do with “Switchblade” Jay White, especially with Wrestle Kingdom in January going over two nights this year.
Potentially one of the stories of the year in 2019 could be the launch of AEW. It is already a promotion that many see as a competitor to WWE, even though they are yet to actually run a show, or announce a TV deal. However, perception is reality and with the likes of Luke Harper, Tye Dillinger, Sasha Banks, Bayley and The Revival all looking for their releases with varying levels of success so far it definitely appears to be a place that talent is looking at as a potential solid option for career development. Whether you like or loathe the hype train surrounding AEW, one thing is for sure. If the company succeeds and has even a modicum of success it creates a sense of healthy competition not seen in the wrestling industry since TNA had their brief brush with taking on WWE. It creates a place for workers to go and revive their careers, and it gives WWE impetus to stop telling lazy stories as well as putting out a more compelling product. Everyone wins if AEW succeeds, even if only briefly.
Well, that is it from me for this week. I will be back at the same time next week when normal service resumes and we take a look at Raw, Smackdown and whatever else breaks in the next seven days. 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.
Photos: WWE.COM/NJPW1972.COM/ALL ELITE WRESTLING (@AEWRESTLING)