Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at all things professional wrestling in the past seven days. This week we had the usual episodes of Raw and Smackdown to get everyone excited for Sunday's Stomping Grounds show (not sure how well that has worked out), NJPW announced the line-up for the G1, a British wrestling stalwart passed away and much more. We'll get started as we so often do with this week's episode of Raw from Monday night.
After a couple of pretty dire episodes of Raw in recent weeks, things finally looked up somewhat on this Monday’s show. It’s a low bar admittedly, but any improvement should be regarded as progress. The show long storyline of Seth Rollins taking out various potential special guest referees for his match on Sunday with Baron Corbin was pretty well executed and gave Rollins a bit more edge than he has had in recent months. Having The New Day involved (you know in the way angles on Raw seem to involve multiple performers who have vaguely aligned agendas, magically just in time for a PPV) but in a 2/3 fall match against Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens, especially with the two teams pencilled in for Sunday was odd. The match between Rollins and Daniel Bryan was fine, although I would prefer to see these two go at it without all the interference. Corbin standing tall at the end, plus the intrigue of the mystery referee, and the potential of a Brock Lesnar cash-in (as detailed in Paul Heyman’s promo) actually made me mildly curious to see Stomping Grounds which has to be thought of as a win considering I had minimal interest before this week’s show.
The rest of the show ticked along at a nice pace. The segment with Roman Reigns, Shane McMahon, Drew McIntyre and The Revival was a nice way to rehabilitate Reigns as a badass ahead of Sunday. I enjoyed the tease of AJ Styles reuniting with Gallows & Anderson, although their match with The Usos was less than memorable. The fatal-five-way match was easily the best in-ring segment on the show, and Ricochet getting the win sets up a potentially fantastic match with Samoa Joe. In many ways Ricochet is the perfect substitute for Rey Mysterio in this programme given their stylistic similarities, and the potential of a match between the two when Rey returns is very exciting. Having seen their match in Lucha Underground when Ricochet was under the mask of Prince Puma, I know they are capable of great things.
Becky Lynch calling out Lacey Evans felt like the same thing they’ve been doing every week since Wrestlemania. The IIconics vs Nikki Cross and Alexa Bliss was more about building Bliss vs Bayley for Sunday than the tag match itself. The 24/7 stuff was fun, although not on the level of some of the other bits they’ve done over the past month. The Viking Raiders squashing some local talent was very enjoyable. Finally, Bray Wyatt put on another phenomenal performance in a cracking Firefly Funhouse segment. We’re definitely building to something with Wyatt, but where and exactly what I do not know. It's been a great journey, but I'm very curious about the destination.
A decent go-home episode of Raw, and although it was far from perfect it was certainly a major improvement on recent weeks and set things up nicely Stomping Grounds on Sunday, or at least they did what they could to generate interest in the show.
While Raw was better this week, I feel like Smackdown had a less than stellar week. Nothing was bad, but nothing felt urgent either, which is a bad sign going into a PPV. As I have mentioned previously, I am not a huge fan of Dolph Ziggler and seeing him face off with Kofi Kingston again is not something I particularly want to see. So Ziggler’s promo to open the show was not exactly a welcome sight. However, he was booked strongly against Xavier Woods, making him seem like more of a legitimate threat to Kingston on Sunday. Speaking of Kingston, his match alongside Seth Rollins (who was on the show to take out anyone who might be considering the offer of being Baron Corbin’s referee at Stomping Grounds) against Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens was a decent main event, although why it was set up as another 2/3 falls match is anyone’s guess. Still, both were made to look like dominant singles champions and stood tall to end the show.
The rest of this week's Smackdown was fine, but nothing special. The Moment of Bliss segment with Bayley was a nice final bit of build for the Smackdown Women's title match on Sunday and furthered the story with Nikki Cross too. Heavy Machinery beat The B Team in an instantly forgettable tag match, again to further build to their tag title match with Daniel Bryan and Rowan on Sunday. Finally, The Miz, who is apparently still feuding with Shane McMahon, had a decent tag match alongside his former Awesome Truth cohort R-Truth, against Drew McIntyre and Elias. Truth having to bail to fend off his would-be challengers to his 24/7 title (which he then lost to Drake Maverick, finally) was a great excuse to leave Miz hanging too.
It wasn’t necessarily a good show this week, nor was it horrendous. There were far too many tag matches for a two hour show, and nothing stood out as majorly important, but there were some effective moments in giving some final (and much needed) hype for Stomping Grounds.
In sad news this week, it was announced that ICW Heavyweight Champion and former WOS competitor Adrian “Lionheart” McCallum had passed away aged just 36. Lionheart had been a staple of the UK scene for many years, especially in Scotland, as well as PCW in England. In a lengthy career on these shores he would capture many titles and have some memorable feuds with some of the UK’s finest wrestlers, as well as international competitors. Of course, he is often remembered for the accident in which he suffered a serious neck injury on the receiving end of an AJ Styles-delivered Styles Clash, but he managed to return, resuming a successful career, and he eventually won the ICW title last year. I don’t want to speculate on the nature of his sudden passing, because frankly we don’t know the facts, but I will say he will be greatly missed by those within the industry and fans of the British wrestling scene. RIP Lionheart.
All out - Sell out
Given the success of All In, and the Double or Nothing it should come as no surprise that AEW sold out their All Out show in mere minutes. With Hangman Page vs Chris Jericho for the inaugural AEW Championship, as well as a grudge match between Jon Moxley and Kenny Omega announced, this show already has potential to be something really quite special. In many respects, this show will likely be the lead-in for the AEW TV show on TNT, and should definitely set the table and the tone for how the promotion begins life on weekly television. With only Fyter Fest (as part of the CEO gaming convention) and Fight for the Fallen (a charity show) announced before All Out it will be very interesting to see how the company builds to this event, but I am very excited to see how things unfold.
G1 Blocks announced
With NJPW fresh off the big Dominion show last week, the company announced some big news for the upcoming G1 Climax. We already knew that Jon Moxley, KENTA, and Shingo Takagi would be involved in the round-robin tournament, but now the full block listings and participants have been announced. Block A will consist of Kazuchika Okada, Zack Sabre Jr, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kota Ibushi, EVIL, Sanada, Bad Luck Fale, Lance Archer, Will Ospreay, and KENTA; this throws up some scintillating matchups, especially first-time encounters between KENTA and pretty much the whole block. In the B block, we have Tetsuya Naito, Tomohiro Ishii, Juice Robinson, Toru Yano, Hirooki Goto, Jay White, Jeff Cobb, Shingo Takagi, Taichi, and Jon Moxley. For me, Naito vs Moxley is a mouth-watering clash, while seeing Naito take on Shingo should be very interesting indeed. Jeff Cobb’s inclusion is also very promising given how talented he is. It really is the most exciting line-up in a number of years, and I will be doing my utmost to follow as much of the month of shows as I can.
Scarlett Bordeaux incident at AAA
In a worrying incident this week, Scarlett Bordeaux (who until this week worked for Impact Wrestling, but in unrelated news has now been granted her release from the company) was assaulted by a fan at ringside at the AAA show in Cancun, Mexico over the weekend. The fan grabbed Bordeaux as she was brawling at ringside as part of a six-woman tag match and she was freed by her partner Lady Shani. More disturbingly, the security that was on hand did nothing, which is very concerning. If I were a female performer this would certainly be wary about going to work for AAA if they are not willing to protect the wrestlers in their employ, and it is wholly unacceptable for a fan to put their hands on a performer like that. A very disturbing story.
WWE to move to BT
It has been rumoured for months now, but this week we got official news from WWE and BT that after almost 35 years WWE will be ending their partnership with BSkyB and the new home of Raw and Smackdown will be BT Sport. The press release below outlined what WWE fans can expect from BT.
BT Sport will air both Raw and SmackDown exclusively live every week, delivering edge-of-your-seat action and showcasing the world-class athleticism from global Superstars including Roman Reigns, Becky Lynch, Seth Rollins, Kofi Kingston and Charlotte Flair. WWE and BT Sport will also partner across digital and social media platforms to create new content for fans that will increase reach for WWE and drive engagement across the UK and Ireland.
“We are incredibly excited by our new partnership with WWE. It is the most successful sports entertainment brand in the world, with a rich, fun and colourful history, loved by fans across the UK and Ireland. This is a brilliant addition for our customers and we can’t wait to get going in January,” said Andy Haworth, Managing Director Content and Strategy, BT Consumer.
“We are pleased to begin an exciting new chapter for WWE in the region as we join BT Sport’s innovative offering and impressive portfolio of premium sports content,” said Stefan Kastenmüller, WWE Senior Vice President & Group General Manager, EMEA.
WWE’s monthly pay-per-view events, including WrestleMania®, will be available on BT Sport Box Office. BT Sport will also carry same day primetime re-airs of Raw on Tuesdays and SmackDown on Saturdays, a two-hour version of Raw, one-hour version of Raw and one-hour version of SmackDown across its portfolio of channels.
It feels a bit like an end of an era, but with the price of sports rights these days and the relatively low ratings for wrestling as opposed to other sporting events, I can absolutely see the logic for both WWE and BT to make this deal.
Stomping Grounds preview
You’d be forgiven for forgetting that WWE has a PPV this Sunday, but they do and boy is it underwhelming. Nothing on the show is particularly inspiring, and all the matches feel like they’ve already happened recently. In many ways, this is a holdover show from the Saudi show, but all the matches should at least be passable from an in-ring perspective.
The two big men's singles matches are particularly uninspiring. Dolph Ziggler vs Kofi Kingston has the added cage match stipulation, but I can’t see past Kofi retaining simply because Ziggler would make such a terrible WWE champion. The Universal Championship match will likely be a re-run of the title match from Super Showdown, although the addition of the mysterious guest referee adds some major intrigue. Weirdly, my money is on Shane McMahon, perhaps linking his feud with Roman Reigns to that of Baron Corbin and Seth Rollins somehow. Speaking of Reigns, I have minimal enthusiasm for seeing him take on Drew McIntyre. Hopefully, it’ll at least be the end of their programme. The New Day vs Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn should be a fun mid-card match, but we’ve already seen this combination repeatedly on Smackdown in recent weeks. Perhaps the most intriguing contest on the whole show is Ricochet vs Samoa Joe which on paper could be an absolute cracker if these two gel in the ring. Here’s hoping. In a similar vein, I could see Heavy Machinery vs Rowan and Bryan being excellent, although it’s very much the sort of match that would have me worried for Bryan’s safety.
The women's side of things is at least a bit more interesting on this show. Becky Lynch vs Lacey Evans should be at least solid, although I wouldn’t bet against WWE putting the title on Lacey at this point, even though she’s clearly not ready for it. That said, Becky seems to have lost some momentum and perhaps having her chase a champion might reignite some of the spark she had. Alexa Bliss vs Bayley should be one of the better bouts on the show although surely Bayley will be holding onto her title in decisive fashion, given they seem to be building her up for something on the blue brand.
Stomping Grounds is very much a “B” PPV for WWE, and they’ve not exactly gone to lengths to disguise that fact. On paper, it is a fine show but a lack of fresh matches and feuds is definitely going to hamper this event, especially given there is a general malaise about the WWE product, compounded by the buzz around AEW. If the company have a plan to get fans back on side, they could do worse than getting that underway on this show.
Well, that is it from me for this week. I will be back at the same time next week with a look back at Stomping Grounds, Raw and Smackdown, as well as whatever else breaks in the meantime. Until then, 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.