Welcome to this week's Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at all things professional wrestling from the past seven days. This week we focus on some very sad news from the world of Joshi, we have a look back at AEW's Double or Nothing show, as well as the TV from AEW and WWE this week. Let's begin on an unfortunately sombre note.
Hana Kimura RIP
We kick off this week with some particularly tragic news that was picked up by news sources all over the world, with the death of Stardom wrestler Hana Kimura. A number of disturbing tweets were released from Kimura’s Twitter account on Saturday which suggested she was self-harming and having an intensely hard time with some of the messages and abuse she was receiving online, and she later released a message essentially saying goodbye. Naturally, this caused a flurry activity as concerned wrestlers and fans tried to ascertain whether she was ok, but unfortunately her body was found a few hours later. She was just 22.
I am no expert on Joshi, but from what I can understand 22-year-old Kimura was set to be a huge star in Japan and globally, having wrestled in the first women’s match in almost twenty years at the Tokyo Dome earlier this year, as well as having a prominent role with Stardom. In addition, Kimura had previously performed for the likes of Ring of Honor, Pro Wrestling EVE and a variety of other international promotions. Kimura, the daughter of former Joshi star Kyoko Kimura, had most recently been a part of the Japanese reality show Terrace House, which eventually led to a deluge of online abuse. Indeed Kimura appears to have spiralled into a depression which would eventually take her from this world.
The potentially toxic nature of social media and the ability for people to say things that they would never dare in person without repercussions has once again struck and resulted in a young woman taking her own life. As a society, we need to learn to be more respectful, more understanding and more responsive to people’s feelings and the impact we can have through our words and actions on their mental health. A person being in the public eye does not mean they are any better equipped to deal with abuse from strangers than anyone not in that position. A tragic and wholly unnecessary loss of life. RIP Hana Kimura
AEW Double or Nothing
Onto happier subjects, this past weekend AEW presented its second annual Double or Nothing event, and although it wasn’t the best thing the company has done to date, it certainly presented a few big talking points. The main event Stadium Stampede match was unlike anything else I’ve seen in a long time, with lots of interesting and unique comedy spots, especially with Matt Hardy and Hangman Page both doing outstanding work, while Chris Jericho, Sammy Guevara (who continues to be fantastic), The Young Bucks, Jake Hagar, Santana and Ortiz and Kenny Omega all performed their roles with aplomb, mixing some ridiculous comedy spots with intense physicality. The whole thing managed to stay just the right side of silly and they did a great job in making everything work really well. If you haven’t seen it, I suggest you go and check out a really fun main event.
The rest of the show was generally pretty good, with a few meaningless or slightly disappointing affairs thrown in. Jon Moxley vs Brodie Lee was a physical, intense brawl but the finish, while designed to protect Lee, felt a bit out of nowhere. Speaking of finishes, I wasn’t a huge fan of the Cody vs Lance Archer match, and although I understand the rationale of having Cody as the secondary champion given he cannot challenge for the main title, I would have preferred an Archer win here and having Cody chase. The stuff with Mike Tyson was nothing spectacular, and felt like a rehash of Tyson’s previous involvement with wrestling.
The Casino Ladder match was well put together and Brian Cage made for a good surprise, although his association with Taz and that god-awful entrance music (well mostly a very robotic-sounding Taz voiceover) is a little perplexing. Penelope Ford vs Kris Statlander was instantly forgettable, because there is no issue between them, but that’s understandable considering Ford was a late replacement for the injured Dr Britt Baker. Hikaru Shida and Nyla Rose put forward a cracking, weapons-filled brawl and although seeing Shida win was a surprise, this is a nice potential reset for the division. Dustin Rhodes vs Shawn Spears was a nothing match, despite efforts to try to make it seem significant, while MJF vs Jungle Boy was fun but ultimately seemed pretty inconsequential.
A decent show, with a tremendous main event. Running a PPV in the current climate is always going to be a big ask, and I felt AEW did a more than serviceable job under the circumstances.
Smackdown and Raw
Even with Backlash coming up in a few weeks, I am struggling to get overly invested in Raw and Smackdown at the moment. Everything feels really stagnant and just a little stale. Naturally this is in part due to the nature of these shows, but it still doesn’t make for “must-see” TV. As such, we’ll just hit the key points from both shows this week.
On Smackdown, Braun Strowman vs The Miz and John Morrison for the Universal Title was set up for Backlash. AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura had a very strong TV match, perhaps the best thing they’ve done together in WWE, maybe due to diminished expectations after their series in 2018 didn’t live up to expectations. Bayley vs Charlotte Flair was solid, if not a bit below par for two women who have great chemistry. Mandy Rose and Otis vs Sonya Deville and Dolph Ziggler was better than expected, although the finish suggests that this programme will rumble on for a while yet. Finally, Jeff Hardy vs Sheamus was everything you’d expect from two old pros with both looking excellent in a fun main event. Hardy advancing to take on Daniel Bryan is particularly exciting, and I am very excited to see what those two can put together.
Over on the Red brand, we got the surprise inclusion of hockey glass and an “audience” made up of NXT wrestlers and PC trainees. It didn’t fix all the issues with these shows in recent weeks, but it certainly lifted the atmosphere that has been sorely lacking in recent weeks. The show opening segment with Kevin Owens speaking to Nia Jax devolved into a brawl between Jax, Asuka, Natalya and Charlotte Flair (not sure where Shayna Baszler was), setting up a three way match later in the night that confirmed Jax as Asuka’s title challenger for Backlash. It’s a combination we’ve seen before but it should yield a decent match and strong first title defence for Asuka as the top female star on Raw.
Apollo Crews finally got his big moment on Raw taking the US title from Andrade in a really good match. WWE have done a very good job with Crews and taken him from someone languishing in the lower mid-card to a performer finally making an impact. Speaking of Andrade, his cohort Angel Garza got a big win over Kevin Owens on this show, after he injured Owens’ leg. Although the match was short, there was definitely some promise in this combination and I hope it is used to elevate Garza. There’s definitely a hint of that special something with him, and he could be a big star if handled correctly.
The segment with The Iiconics and Alexa Bliss/Nikki Cross was a decent set up for that feud to continue. The continued build for Drew McIntyre vs Bobby Lashley at Backlash was well-executed on Raw, first with the VIP Lounge segment with MVP hosting McIntyre (although having two talk show segments on one show feels a bit clunky), and then later as McIntyre got involved in MVP and Lashley vs The Street Profits (don’t even start on The Street Profits playing golf with The Viking Raiders on this show in some pretty tedious skits).
Edge cut a very strong promo about his match with Randy Orton at Backlash. The match will probably struggle to live up to the billing it has been given, but Edge went a long way to creating some hype for it here. Finally, Austin Theory and Murphy shone brightly against Humberto Carrillo and Aleister Black, with Theory already looking a better fit here with Seth Rollins and Murphy. The post-match with Rollins threatening to blind Carrillo was bizarre, but I like the direction for Rollins, so we’ll have to see where this all goes.
Two fine shows this week, still stuttering somewhat, but both are beginning to find a groove and the addition of some sort of audience will definitely help.
Coming off a busy Double or Nothing, it felt like we’d get a few eventful developments on Dynamite this week and for the most part we did! Perhaps the biggest moment on the show came in the show-closing segment with Chris Jericho and The Inner Circle getting into it with Mike Tyson and his entourage setting up what looks to be Jericho vs Tyson. Given it’s Jericho, I imagine he’ll make it work but while this was a big development, the execution was poor and the lack of fans made this felt like a second-rate rehash of an old WWE angle from twenty years ago using a WWE angle from ten years ago as a basis for the beef. Weird choice and I’m not sure it really landed.
Elsewhere, Cody Rhodes cut a great promo setting up a weekly open challenge for his newly-won TNT Championship. This opens up some fun possibilities both on the roster and from outsiders who could come in on short term deals. It creates some surprise and intrigue that should add something excellent to the weekly episodes of Dynamite. His first challenger will be Jungle Boy, who won a so-so battle royal on this show, so that should be fun.
Hikaru Shida and Brian Cage both won their respective squash matches, looking strong in the process. Jimmy Havoc and Kip Sabian, who I am starting to enjoy as a duo, beat SCU to get a future shot at the tag team championship, although presumably after The Best Friends take their opportunity, having earned it on the DoN pre-show. Finally, Matt Hardy (who had reverted to his early-career gear for this) and The Young Bucks (in very similar gear) took on Private Party and Joey Janela in a very enjoyable tag match, but it was the post-match that really made headlines. With The Butcher and The Blade attacking The Bucks, FTR (formerly The Revival, that’s not what it spells though) made their AEW debut making the save. It’s a shame that there was no “audience” as this would have gotten a monster reaction, but it still felt like a significant debut and injects another legitimate team into the tag division.
A decent show with a bit of a train wreck in the main event slot, but lots of interesting moments that should drive storylines forward and set up programmes going into Fyter Fest.
Over on the black and yellow brand, things looked very different in the main event, as we had a more MMA style match take place in a structure that felt very unique, a “fight pit” cage. Timothy Thatcher and Matt Riddle put together something really unusual and the structure, as well having Kurt Angle as referee made this something truly unique. Thatcher winning is a big statement about his future in NXT and this presumably frees Riddle up to head off the main roster. A strong, very intense main event.
Drake Maverick winning the three-way match and being one match away from both the Interim Cruiserweight title and “a job” made for an interesting story, and the disputed finish with Kushida sets up a future programme there. Johnny Gargano demolished Adrian Alanis, which was followed by a recorded skit by Keith Lee, Mia Yim and Tegan Nox mocking Gargano and Candace LeRae.
Shotzi Blackheart vs Raquel Gonzalez was decent, although it seemed to be designed to forward the ongoing Dakota Kai/Tegan Nox feud, as well as Nox and Candace LeRae, who got involved. The mini-tank is weird. Also, the landing by Blackheart on the dive to the outside was really scary, hopefully she is ok.
Rhea Ripley and Io Shirai vs Charlotte and Chelsea Green was excellent. Green was an unexpected pick for Flair’s partner but this was easily her best showing in NXT and this sets up a possible alliance between the two moving forward. Adam Cole and William Regal negotiating over Zoom was funny for a while, but dragged on a little Finally, Tomasso Ciampa squashed Leon Ruff while Scarlett Bordeaux seemingly scouted him from ringside, leading to a Karrion Kross promo to further hype a match for Takeover that I’m quite excited to see.
A busy show this week, with a lot of stuff happening in two hours. Perhaps too much, with not enough time for things to breathe.
Well, that is it from me for this week. I will be back at the same time next week with any big news from Raw and Smackdown, NXT, AEW Dynamite, and probably some more general thoughts, 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.
All images courtesy of WWE/AEW