Welcome wrestling fans to a very special edition of Slammer Jabber. This week as part of Screenjabber's continuing Wrestlemania week coverage, I take a look at this Sunday's spectacular and preview the biggest show of the year. In light of that, I have chosen to summarise the go-home shows for both Raw and Smackdown in slightly less detail so I can focus more on Sunday's card. There is so much to get to, so lets get started with a lightning-quick look at the two go-home shows this week.
Both Raw and Smackdown had one final chance this week to get a few last minute viewers hooked in for Wrestlemania 33, and to push the final build to the biggest matches. On Raw, I feel like they did very well, with a good strong segment closing the show to build to Brock Lesnar vs Bill Goldberg, an excellent confrontation between Roman Reigns and The Undertaker, and more good build for the Kevin Owens vs Chris Jericho match. The women's championship got some attention and sewed further seeds of doubt between Sasha Banks and Bayley, while also reinforcing Nia Jax and Charlotte as big threats to the strap. There was even time to build to a last minute ladder match stipulation in the tag title match, the cruiserweights, and even the battle royal. It was efficient, enjoyable, and did absolutely what was necessary.
On Smackdown it was much the same, with AJ Styles and Shane McMahon front and centre for much of the show, but that worked fine and raised further interest in their bout. Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt had another low-budget horror movie moment, but it at least served to intensify the continued battle between the two. I'm not sure what that weird symbol thing is, but I'm sure it'll make sense eventually. Luke Harper and Wyatt also had a fine match, although it served more as a backdrop for the angle. The Miz and Maryse were excellent again here, although I thought John Cena and Nikki Bella also looked strong in one of the most excellently personal, and slightly uncomfortable verbal exchanges I've seen in a while. We even got build for the women's match, including a returning Naomi, which seems a waste but given the match is now on the pre-show makes little difference. Another good show that did exactly what it needed to and helped keep momentum going into Sunday.
Before we get into previewing the weekend, I'd like to quickly tackle the other, non-WWE news this week. World of Sport, fresh form the one off special on ITV on New Year’s Eve have formed a partnership with Impact Wrestling and their parent company Anthem, alongside ITV to produce a full series of WOS wrestling. This is a huge news story and the idea of having UK wrestling back on terrestrial TV is a very big deal. There are tapings upcoming in Preston, and much of the roster from the one-off appear to be returning, with a few additions including former TNA World Champion Magnus. It should make for very interesting times, especially with WWE having tapings of their own for their UK promotion upcoming in a few weeks. Interesting times indeed, but one thing is for sure, this is very good news for British wrestling.
NXT Takeover & Hall of Fame
In addition to the big show this weekend (have I mentioned Wrestlemania is this Sunday?), we also have the weekend festivities kicking off Friday with the WWE Hall of Fame, which should be great this year. I'm especially looking forward to hearing DDP and Kurt Angle's speeches, as well as the induction speeches from Jim Cornette and Eric Bischoff. It should certainly be very interesting night.
On Saturday, there is also the NXT Takeover show, which I feel is flying under the radar somewhat. The main event between Shinsuke Nakamura and Bobby Roode should be another stellar affair which I expect Roode to win, hopefully signalling Nakamura heading up to the main roster. Asuka and Ember Moon should also be fun, and again I hope Asuka will be moving up after this, with Moon presumably dethroning her. The tag team three-way between The Authors of Pain, DIY, and The Revival should be a fantastic match. The Revival are definitely ready for the call up to the main roster, so I expect them to lose. DIY are probably ready, but then again may be kept in NXT for now, given the lack of full-time tag teams in the division. As such I can only see The AOP retaining. Finally, of the announced matches at press time we have the debut of Aleistair Black, the former Tommy End as he takes on Andrade "Cien" Almas. It's almost a shame that Black will almost certainly have to go over, as Almas has been great lately but this should be a very good match.
This show feels under-hyped, especially compared to last year. However, I think this could be a great little show, and hopefully could surprise a few people. I will certainly be watching.
Wrestlemania 33 preview
Well here we are on the cusp of the biggest event of the year, and as such it would only be right for me to give you my predictions and thoughts on Wrestlemania 33. First of all, I do feel that overall the build for this show has been much better than in recent years, with a lot of different performers looking strong going into their matches, or certainly enough intrigue being built in what the outcome of their match will be. There were no childish tugs of war over the belt, (mostly) no babyfaces made to look like heels, and the big matches have been kept relatively independent of authority figures trying to get themselves over at the expense of the performers involved. In short, much better than the build to the last two (or arguably three) Wrestlemania events.
For me, the big matches look really good for Sunday, and few matches are bigger than The Undertaker vs Roman Reigns. I know Brock Lesnar vs Goldberg is a huge match, but with concerns over the quality of the match and how long it might actually last I can see Reigns vs Taker going on last. Although this is not being billed as a retirement match, this looks like it genuinely could be Taker's last go round as he has looked rough since turning up at the Royal Rumble, something which continued this week. His hip is clearly bothering him and there are frequent reports surfacing that he's in visible pain backstage, and if you're going to go out putting Roman Reigns over on the way out would be a pretty good way to do it. Reigns really should go over either way, hopefully turning heel in the process. It would absolutely breathe new life into him, and make him ready for a face run down the line. I'm also confident that Reigns can carry a frail Taker to a good match, so I'm genuinely hoping this gets to go on last.
Lesnar vs Goldberg has the potential to be a very good match, or an absolute car crash. There is still certainly some reservations about Goldberg's ability to go more than a minute or so, and Lesnar is not exactly a ring general. However, there was an excellent match between Goldberg and Scott Steiner at Halloween Havoc 2000 that I genuinely believe should be the template for this bout, it was hard-hitting, impactful and accentuated the positives of both men, as well as masking their limitations. If they follow this blueprint there is no reason why this shouldn’t be a slobberknocker for about ten minutes.
Bray Wyatt vs Randy Orton is a match that should deliver on the build-up, given it's been six or so months in the making. There have certainly been points where I've been taken right out of this feud, given that Orton is being presented as the babyface, despite being an arsonist and it being hinted that he might be a murderer also. If anything Wyatt should be the face, having had his house burnt down and his sister's remains destroyed as well as having his partner turn on him for seemingly no reason. However, they’ve pulled it back in the past couple of weeks, and I am now actually quite looking forward to seeing this match. Bray should definitely retain given the options it leaves available to the company for after Wrestlemania, although I fear Orton may have been promised the belt for the concussion he took from Lesnar last August in the name of realism.
The two women's matches present some interesting possibilities. The booking of the Raw Women's title match has been a very mixed bag, with the opportunity to end Charlotte's PPV streak and give Bayley her big win both squandered. As such I can only see two scenarios, one where Bayley triumphantly retains and Sasha turns on her either here or on Raw the next night, or a scenario where Nia Jax walks away with the belt. I certainly prefer the former, so let’s hope for that. In terms of the Smackdown Women's match it's really hard to know how it will end up, I expect Alexa Bliss to have a very strong showing but given the way this match has been set up I expect her to be dethroned by the returning Naomi. Sadly this has been bumped to the pre-show, but it still should be worth a look.
One of the major matches that has been built brilliantly over a long period of time has been Kevin Owens vs Chris Jericho for the US Title. I enjoyed their partnership very much, and the split was done very well while heating up both in their respective heel and babyface roles. Jericho has been a revelation in the past twelve months and Owens has never shone brighter, so in many I am sad they are facing off but this should be an absolute barn-burner, with a strong underlying personal issue between two fantastic workers. I fully expect this to be one of the best matches on the card.
Seth Rollins vs Triple H should be a fun brawl, most likely with plenty of shortcuts and interference to account for Rollins' injury, although I still have a sneaky suspicion Triple H will be winning. On the Smackdown side of things AJ Styles and Shane McMahon will likely be better than it has any right to be, and I fully expect Styles to win after Shane misses a huge spot possibly from the stage which is rumoured to involve a rollercoaster. Something spectacular seems likely either way, despite the claims on Smackdown that this would be a straight-up singles match. I sense shenanigans ahead.
There is something strange about seeing John Cena so far removed from the main event of Wrestlemania, but this year it makes a lot of sense for him to be in the spot he inhabits. His mixed tag match alongside Nikki Bella against The Miz and Maryse has been built really well, especially with those phenomenal skits Miz and Maryse starred in a few weeks back ("I'm the one who wears a hat" was a particular highlight). However, I can only see Cena and Nikki getting the win, followed by the much-rumoured proposal from Cena and some sort of involvement from Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella in order to justify the Yes chant that feels inevitable while Nikki decides how to answer.
Further down the card, it looks like the Raw tag title match will involve a ladder, and if it is only the existing teams involved, then I suggest Enzo & Big Cass will likely take the big win here. Dean Ambrose vs Baron Corbin will likely be a short affair, probably with a Corbin win, and the Andre the Giant Battle Royal seems most likely to be a vehicle for a big Braun Strowman, but that should fun in itself. Finally, although it has been relegated to the pre-show Neville vs Austin Aries should be a corker, and while Aries has the momentum I have a sneaky feeling that Neville will retain in a fashion that will result in a rematch down the line. In some ways a ten minute showcase on the pre-show might be a better opportunity, than a rushed five minute match on the main card. We shall see.
So there you have it, Wrestlemania 33. It should be a top card, and a great show. I'll be back next week with full coverage of Wrestlemania, the Raw and Smackdown after and whatever breaks in the meantime. Check out all our Wrestlemania week coverage on Screenjabber with new content every day this week to celebrate the "Ultimate Thrill Ride”. In addition, check out all the newest film, DVD, Blu-ray and games reviews as well as the biggest interviews, competitions, blogs and more right here at Screenjabber. Until next week, so long folks.