Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at all things professional wrestling. This week has been heavily focused on some controversy surrounding the big Crown Jewel show in Saudi Arabia, as well an eventful Raw, and a big anniversary for Smackdown. We’ll start this week with the biggest story in WWE’s world, regarding Crown Jewel.
WWE has had a difficult week, with lots of calls for them to cancel their show in Saudi Arabia on November 2nd in the wake of the widespread outrage after journalist Jamal Khashoggi was brutally murdered in mysterious, allegedly government sanctioned conditions. I don’t want to get into the ins and outs of everything that happened with Khashoggi, simply because it’s been written about extensively by far better-informed sources than myself. However, the criticism of WWE’s continued promotion of the Crown Jewel event in the circumstances is understandable. No amount of spin can remove the outrage, and if WWE is willing to continue the partnership with KSA (who are paying them handsomely) they have to be prepared for the backlash that comes along with it. As of right now, WWE has not cancelled the event, despite criticism from pretty much all sides, including being called out by John Oliver on US Television. However, they have stopped mentioning the venue for the event, leading many to speculate that the show could be moved to another venue. In all honesty, I think that unlikely, but WWE has moved events in the past, although not when they had a multi-year contract to bring events to a country and moving the event would presumably result in unprecedented losses. It’s bad press, and WWE will take a hit on this, but the company have been bulletproof through so many scandals, and controversies that you have to believe they will ride out the storm in the short term. From a business perspective, they may have little choice.
After a run of really very good episodes of Raw, this week was less than stellar. It’s not that the show was bad, but the writing was lazy. Having The Shield face off with Braun Strowman, Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre again plus having Drew vs Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose vs Ziggler was a bit too much for my liking. I get that they needed to do the qualifiers for the World Cup in Saudi Arabia, and they are continuing to tell the story of the cracks appearing in both The Shield and their opposite numbers, but this has dragged on quite a bit now. It’s a question of oversaturation, and they’ve reached that point in record time. I imagine the conclusion of the main event was designed to shelve the dissension in The Shield for now, and dissolve the grouping of their opponents. The one thing I did really like was seeing Drew McIntyre take down Braun Strowman with the Claymore Kick and leave his former teammates lying. McIntyre has looked an absolute beast in recent weeks and I am 100% up for seeing him have a strong singles run on Raw, free of Ziggler and presumably Strowman. One upside, from a fairly tedious main event storyline.
The build for Evolution continued in auspicious fashion on this show. The segment with The Bellas and Ronda Rousey was a bit of a throwback to the dark days of the divas, and while Ronda came out of this looking strong, I’m not sure that it sends the best message about competition and everything that Evolution is supposed to be about, when there are barbs being thrown around about the competitors personal lives, it feels a bit cheap. The tag bout pitting Ember Moon and Nia Jax against Dana Brooke and Tamina, as well as the Natalya vs Ruby Riott match, were both designed to build the Evolution show, I imagine with the intention of setting up Natalya, Bayley and Sasha Banks vs The Riott Squad, while the others find their way into the battle royal. None of it was offensive, or even bad, it was just a little uninspiring given Evolution should be treated as a historic, landmark show. Even the segment with Trish Stratus, Lita, Alexa Bliss and Mickie James felt more like a re-run of last week than anything and it all came across as somewhat flat. Here’s hoping next week’s show has a bit more enthusiasm for the Evolution show, or it is in real danger of being a total flop, through no fault of the talent involved.
The rest of the show was fine with a few standout moments. Bobby Lashley as a vain heel, flexing was not the direction I had in mind for himself and hype man Lio Rush, but it’s really inspired. Yes, the gimmick is nothing new, in fact, it’s been done countless times, but it’s a great fit for this duo and Lashley is so much better as a bad guy, and while Tyler Breeze deserves better than a squash I can absolutely understand the logic behind putting him in this role. The confrontation between Elias and Apollo Crews was another failed attempt to get Crews over when in reality he needs a heel turn and desperately. Honestly, I would put him with Lashley at this stage simply because Lio Rush could do so much for him at this stage. Finn Balor vs Jinder Mahal was another match between the two. What else is there to say? The return of Samir Singh and the tease of a feud between Balor and Lashley in the post-match was far more interesting than anything in the bout itself. The Undertaker and Kane’s pre-recorded response to the DX reunion was about the best use possible for the pair. Finally, Kurt Angle outsmarting Baron Corbin and AoP with the Conquistador bait and switch was a nice little angle and continue to keep Angle in a prominent role building towards Angle vs Corbin, presumably in a 5 on 5 environments at Survivor Series with the winner taking control of Raw. I could be wrong, but with Angle ostensibly involved in the World Cup (featuring mostly Americans) at Crown Jewel, it’s likely being set up for Survivor Series.
A decent show, with a few intriguing moments, but a lot of filler at the top end of things and too slow a pace to the show as a whole.
For the blue brand, it was party time this week, with Smackdown celebrating its 1000th show, and they pulled out plenty of surprises. However, the highlight for me was the main event with Shinsuke Nakamura facing off with a returning Rey Mysterio Jr. The two had an excellent encounter and a worthy main event for Smackdown 1000. I would definitely be up for seeing more of these two men together again, maybe in an even longer match on a PPV. I would have had this close the show, as The Undertaker telling DX to rest in peace was a bit of an anti-climax for me.
My favourite segment on this show was easily the Evolution reunion. It was great to see Big Dave back in a WWE ring, and the combination of the Randy Orton, Ric Flair, Triple H and Batista in one place reminded me how much star power that group had. The tense standoff between Triple H and Batista was a nice tease for a potential Wrestlemania match, and I would be delighted if they pay that off in New Jersey in April. Edge returning was also a nice touch given his name is synonymous with Smackdown throughout the years. The segment with Becky Lynch and Charlotte was well executed and Edge added a lot of the story, although they still seem to be trying to get Becky booed with little luck.
The rest of the show was very good for the most part. AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan teaming to lose to The Usos made sense, given the miscommunication between the two men who will face off at Crown Jewel, plus it was a very good match. Rusev vs The Miz was more of a platform for the Rusev Day break-up story to continue, but putting The Miz in the World Cup tournament is a real positive, and I would certainly make him my favourite to win the whole thing, especially if he is going on to challenge the winner of AJ/Bryan at Survivor Series. The opening segment with the McMahons getting involved with R Truth and Carmella was nothing particularly inspiring, and the show would have been better off without it, but it was inevitable the family would be on the show in some form or fashion. Finally, The Bar had a very good match with The New Day punctuated by a Big Show heel turn that led to a title change. This is probably legitimately the 14th or 15th turn of Show’s career, but adding him to a group with The Bar is an intriguing move, although I can only assume it’s so they can say they have “raised the bar”, which is pretty cringe-inducing if so.
A very decent show overall, with some big returns and some interesting story developments. However, this didn’t perhaps feel like a big a show as it should have. When you compare it Raw 1000 in 2012, it was a bit of a disappointment. I’m not saying it was a bad show, but it could have been so much more of a celebration.
British Wrestling on TV
It’s a big week for British Wrestling on TV. While WOS may be gone for now (with no news on a second series as yet) Rev Pro has the first episode of their TV deal on Freesports this Friday, while WWE has launched the NXT UK brand on the network this week. In addition, although not televised, Riptide Wrestling has sold out their last show of the year (which is Halloween themed) on November 2nd in Brighton. That’s in addition to all kinds of British Wrestling shows happening all over the country this weekend and every weekend. It’s a great time for wrestling in the UK and a great time to see British talent on TV, as well as in venues up and down the country.
RIP Dick Slater
Finally, in sad news, this week veteran wrestler "Dirty" Dick Slater passed away, aged 67. Slater was a mainstay in various promotions throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s in Georgia Championship Wrestling, Mid Atlantic, the AWA, NWA, WCW and even the WWF briefly. Slater was a former tag team partner of Dusty Rhodes, who had a memorable run in early 90s WCW with Dick Murdoch as the tag team "The Hardliners", and as part of the Stud Stable before quietly disappearing from the company in the mid-90s following a back injury while teaming with Wayne Bloom, formerly of The Beverley Brothers. Slater was a very capable hand, who probably never really got the credit he deserved, but as a wrestler from an era characterised by hard-hitting and harder partying, Slater was legendarily tough, even once returning to the ring from a gunshot wound after a mere three weeks. RIP Dick Slater.
Well, that is it from me for this week. I will be back at the same time next week with all the news from Raw and Smackdown, 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.