Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at the biggest stories in professional wrestling from the past seven days. It's been a busy week with Progress at Wembley, WWE focused on the Super Showdown event in Australia on Raw and Smackdown, plus NJPW had a huge show in the US, while one former WWE star emerged from hiatus in a big way in Dragon Gate. With so much to cover, we'll start off taking a look back at this week’s huge show, Progress Chapter 76: Hello Wembley.
Progress – Hello Wembley
There is no bigger story in professional wrestling this week than Progress running a huge show at Wembley Arena, a year in the making. The show itself was a huge success, and we have expanded coverage from the day itself including some backstage access and an exclusive chat with Chuck Mambo. However, I just wanted to touch on the show very briefly to give a huge shootout to Progress for a very good show that did not disappoint. While the venue was spectacular, I am looking forward to seeing Progress back on a smaller stage as I do believe it suits the company style far better. That said, what an achievement for Progress. If you want to hear more (there will be spoilers, obviously) you can listen to our podcast from the day itself by clicking here.
Raw and Smackdown
With so much happening this week, we’ll keep the look at Raw and Smackdown short and sweet this week. In terms of highlights from Raw, the three matches featuring The Shield vs Drew McIntyre, Dolph Ziggler and Braun Strowman were very good and the tease of Dean Ambrose possibly turning heel, while also subtly teasing Dolph Ziggler as the weak link in his team was masterfully done. Ronda Rousey vs Ruby Riott was again very well put together and helped build the six-woman bout for Super Showdown. Kevin Owens and Elias did a great job in getting some serious nuclear heat. Konnor vs Bobby Roode, Bayley vs Alicia Fox (which was here to promote Mixed Match Challenge) and The B Team vs The Revival were all fine TV matches. Finally, the closing segment with Shawn Michaels (sporting something of a new look), Kane, The Undertaker and Triple H did a great job of building the big Triple H/Taker bout for Super Showdown and made it feel like a genuinely massive deal.
On the blue brand, there was plenty of focus on Super Showdown. The closing segment with Charlotte and Becky Lynch was very well orchestrated and did plenty to continue to generate interest for the title match on Saturday. Paige’s damning of Samoa Joe’s actions last week, followed by AJ Styles’ promo from his house wasn’t quite what I hoped for from the go-home angle for their match but it was effective and the No DQ stipulation adds something extra to the match in Australia. Asuka vs Peyton Royce was a fine TV match, but nothing more than you would expect from the pair, while R Truth and Carmella vs Andrade “Cien” Almas and Zelina Vega confounded expectations, even with Truth and Carmella getting the win. The Bar did a public service interrupting The New Day ’s terrible “cooking” segment. Randy Orton’s beatdown of Tye Dillinger was oddly enjoyable and continued Orton’s strong booking. The Lana-Rusev-Aiden English stuff was predictable, but I’m curious to see where they are going with it, and all three performed their roles well. Finally, Daniel Bryan and Shelton Benjamin had a fantastic match while it lasted, with Benjamin getting the win off the distraction from The Miz, which is a massive victory for Benjamin and adds fuel to the fire for Miz/Bryan. Bonus points for Miz taking out Bryan after the match and standing tall.
Both TV shows were very good this week, with lots of laser-focused attention on Super Showdown. This is clearly a massive show for WWE, and their television this week really reflected that. Roll on Saturday.
NJPW Fighting Spirit Unleashed - King of Pro Wrestling preview
While most eyes in the UK may have been Progress this weekend, NJPW has also been very busy, first in the USA with Fighting Spirit Unleashed, and then putting the pieces in place for King of Pro Wrestling this Monday. Last week I wrote that the Long Beach show was perhaps one visit to the US too many, but the show was very good overall. The main event between The Golden Lovers and Kazuchika Okada and Tomohiro Ishii was exactly as superb as you might expect, but the predicted heel turn for Ishii did not materialise with Okada looking to be firmly a part of the future of Chaos moving forward. The post-match with Kenny Omega challenging Kota Ibushi for a match at King of Pro Wrestling, only to be interrupted by who suggested a three-way dance (which I believe is a first for NJPW, although I may be wrong) was well constructed and it makes for a very exciting main event, although I can only think Cody has been inserted to take the pin unless there are shenanigans afoot.
Speaking of Cody, his US title match with Juice Robinson was very good and showed just how far Juice has come as a performer in the past year or so. The finish worked well and Cody getting the win is a nice touch with him also holding the NWA title. I also felt it protected Juice as he was beaten in less than decisive fashion, setting up a rematch. “The Villain” Marty Scurll vs Will Ospreay was another excellent bout from a very familiar pairing and sets up Scurll vs Kushida for KOPW for the vacant junior heavyweight belt. Jay White and Gedo vs Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kushida was another very good match and sets up White vs Tana on Monday for the briefcase. I still don’t see White taking the briefcase, but given his ramp up in his performances in recent weeks I could definitely see the argument in favour of it. The other memorable happening on this show was the Guerrillas of Destiny pinning The Young Bucks for the tag titles after a fantastic showing from all four men, and it’s a result that certainly makes sense given the whole storyline with the Bullet Club OGs.
Fighting Spirit Unleashed could easily have been something more akin to a house show, but NJPW put on an above average show, with some good story development and the expected high-level in-ring work. It also set up everything required for King of Pro Wrestling on Monday, which has a very good card on paper. The main event three-way has the potential to be something very special indeed, although I can only see Omega retaining given this is the last really, really big show before Wrestle Kingdom, and likewise for White vs Tanahashi I can only see Tana retaining as the White vs Okada and Omega vs Tanahashi matches seem like a lock for WK.
Kushida vs Scurll should be immense, but I 100% expect Kushida to take the title only to be challenged post-match by whoever the expected challenger is for Wrestle Kingdom. That said I’m at a loss to who that challenger could be at this stage, short of elevating a Taiji Ishimori, and even then that seems a bit lacklustre. Given their recent exchanges in tag bouts I look forward to seeing what Zack Sabre Jr and Evil can do together in the confines of a singles bout on a big show. This might be the sleeper contender for match of the night.
However, perhaps the most intriguing match on this show pits the Chaos team of Okada, Toru Yano and Roppongi 3k vs the LIJ team of Tetsuya Naito, Sanada, Bushi, and a mystery partner, who will be joining LIJ. There’s a number of layers to this, and of course, everyone was speculating that this would be the debut of Pac, AKA Neville from WWE in NJPW, but he has seemingly signed with Dragon Gate (more on that in a moment). Shingo Takagi looks to be leaving Dragon Gate and would fit the bill, but who knows at this point, it could be someone completely out of left field. One interesting thing to also consider is that Naito used the phrase “Pareja” to describe the new member, which is Spanish for “Pair”. Could it be a tag team joining? I’ve seen suggestions that Roppongi 3k could turn on Chaos given the recent Gedo-related upheavals and join LIJ, although I’m sceptical. Whatever happens, I am very much invested in solving the mystery of the new LIJ member.
King of Pro Wrestling should be a superb card in terms of actual wrestling, much like Fighting Spirit Unleashed, but the big question is whether everything lands in terms of storyline developments to make for the biggest possible Wrestle Kingdom card for the Dome in January. We shall know either way come Monday afternoon, UK time.
Return of the Pac
As mentioned previously, Dragon Gate pulled off quite the coup over the weekend with Pac making a surprise appearance, attacking the departing Shingo Takagi and joining the faction R.E.D. Pac, who previously worked with Dragon Gate for over 5 years including some memorable appearances at Broxbourne for Dragon Gate UK, is a surprise acquisition but given his history with the company it’s not surprising he went back. Now, of course, this doesn’t mean he won’t also be working for NJPW, or Impact, ROH or whoever, but I suspect DG is his Japanese base. Personally, I’m chuffed for the guy, as he clearly loved his time at Dragon Gate the first time around, something we even briefly chatted about when he was doing press for the WWE UK Tournament and frankly his eyes lit up reminiscing about it. The world is certainly Pac’s oyster over the next while, and even if he decides to go back to WWE eventually his stock has never been higher. He can pick and choose to work for basically any company in the world and I’d be stunned if we don’t see bookers everywhere trying to book him against the likes of Walter, Zack Sabre Jr, Will Ospreay and countless others. This is definitely a story to watch in the coming weeks.
Super Showdown preview
This Saturday WWE presents the big Super Showdown event from Melbourne, Australia and this show is absolutely stacked from top to bottom. Due to the time difference, unlike your average WWE event UK fans we’ll be able to watch this show at a reasonable hour, with the show starting at 10 am BST. While I’m not 100% sure what will actually go on last, the build-up has definitely presented Triple H vs The Undertaker as the main event. Although it’s hard to say what the match itself will look like given The Undertaker’s physical condition but I’m sure himself and Triple H will use every trick in the book (including Shawn Michaels and Kane on the outside) and plenty of smoke and mirrors to get the match to where it needs to be.
The other candidate for “main event” from the Raw side of things is the six-man pitting Braun Strowman, Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre vs The Shield. The seeds of a possible Dean Ambrose heel turn have been sown over the course of the past few weeks very effectively, and although I can’t imagine we’ll actually get the heel turn here if at all, it certainly adds intrigue to proceedings and the match itself should be excellent.
On the Smackdown side of things, one match towers over everything else, Samoa Joe vs AJ Styles. The feud between the two has been heated, personal and full of passion, while the matches have so far been very entertaining. I would love to see Joe get the belt here, and I certainly wouldn’t rule it out, although my gut feeling says Styles retains. As we know, the other match that will have an impact on the WWE title is the Bryan-Miz match which I expect to be a corker, with both men pulling out all the stops to make it a memorable affair. I expect Bryan to pick up the win to build to Bryan vs AJ or Joe at Crown Jewel or Survivor Series.
The rest of the card has plenty of action-packed encounters. Charlotte Flair vs Becky Lynch could be the best match on the undercard, while the six-woman tag match featuring The Bellas and Ronda Rousey vs The Riott Squad has lots of potential storyline ramifications, especially if Nikki Bella turns heel as has been rumoured. Asuka and Naomi vs The Iiconics should be fun, but it’ll be interesting to see how the crowd reacts to the hometown girls and the babyface/heel dynamic should be very intriguing. Speaking of hometown heroes, Buddy Murphy vs Cedric Alexander has the potential to be far better than the build it’s been given but I fully expect Buddy Murphy to get a proper hero’s welcome, even if he doesn’t take home the belt. The New Day vs The Bar is far from a fresh match, but it certainly should be worth watching as always. Finally, Kevin Owens and Elias vs Bobby Lashley and John Cena is an odd combination, but WWE has done lots to push this feud despite Cena’s absence, but it should make some fine mid-card fodder to pop the crowd.
So there you go, Super Showdown is this Saturday, with some stellar matches, some big stories, and the potential to be a Wrestlemania-level show given the card and the unique setting in front of what should be a pretty hot crowd.
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, Super Showdown and King of Pro Wrestling 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.