We're back again for the second week with Slammer Jabber, your weekly round-up of the biggest news and views on the best (and worst) of the past seven days in the topsy-turvy world of Professional Wrestling. Lets get to it...
Styles make fights?
So the big news coming out of this week’s edition of Raw is the return of John Cena and the subsequent heel turn from AJ Styles. With the upcoming brand split (of which there was precious little definitive information presented here, but more on that later) this makes a lot of sense in terms of positioning AJ as a big deal and one of the main stars, presumably on Smackdown, and giving Cena a big programme over the summer to keep himself busy. I really enjoyed the execution of this angle and as much as I enjoy Styles as a babyface, he makes an even better heel and you can capitalise on the impact Gallows and Anderson have made since coming in. Whatever direction they choose to take this I really hope "The Club" isn’t a name set in stone, which until I see it on a T-shirt I refuse to believe is the case. I appreciate they can’t use "Bullet Club", but at least something a bit more creative would be better than what they appear to be going with. I’m still hoping they will also recruit some other talent, maybe a Finn Balor or other performers from NXT to bolster their ranks and begin taking over the newly revamped Smackdown when it goes live in July. Either way, this leads to a lot of exciting possibilities.
Despite a clear willingness from the fans to cheer Seth Rollins, and a clear desire to jeer WWE World Heavyweight Champion Roman Reigns, the face-heel dynamic remains the opposite way round. That being said, Rollins has done an fantastic job of acting the cowardly heel since his return, and while I thought their segment on Raw this week was poorly orchestrated and translated badly on TV, Rollins is doing everything in his power to try and get the fans to root against him. I genuinely hope they have big plans to get this feud over in the eyes of the live audience because currently their big fresh match is losing steam fast. You have to imagine we are building to Reigns-Lesnar 2 at Summerslam, but unless there is a really decent plan in place to get the fans on side, that’s another feud where Reigns will be coming across like a heel while being presented as a babyface. The annoying thing is that he has already shown he could be a great heel, with some of the subtleties he has incorporated into his act, but alas I fear the company may stick to it’s guns and trundle onwards down the John Cena-style route of Reigns being a polarising figure.
Goldberg – unhatched?
For the past week or so the WWE has released a number of teaser images of a blocked-up “hatch” on Twitter hinting at a big reveal on this week’s Raw. While speculation was running wild on what might be behind the hatch door, be it a returning Randy Orton, Bray Wyatt or maybe a whole new character; what we actually got was Bill Goldberg announced as a playable character in the upcoming WWE 2K17 video game. Before everyone gets overly excited there are some things to remember. This is currently a deal between Goldberg and 2K games, not WWE. As such this does not necessarily signal a return to WWE television for Goldberg, or that he has even had a conversation with the company on that subject. However, historically these playable character deals with 2K have led to an increased interest in the featured superstar and led WWE to reach out. The past three editions have featured The Ultimate Warrior, Sting and Stone Cold Steve Austin; all of whom made some sort of appearance on WWE television in the months after the game was released. In addition, Goldberg has been vocal in recent interviews about a willingness to do one more match, ideally at Wrestlemania – which judging from the shape he is in on the WWE 2K17 video seems a feasible possibility. This is certainly a story to keep an eye on in the coming months, and while nothing is set in stone it will be interesting to see where this goes and if “Da Man” makes a final appearance in the squared circle.
Osprey vs Ricochet – farce or future
While Slammer Jabber is mostly focused on WWE, sometimes things happen in other promotions that require attention, and this week there has been a fairly contentious debate about the match between British wrestler Will Osprey and his American counterpart Ricochet as part of the New Japan Pro Wrestling Best of the Super Junior tournament taking place in Japan. The match was a highly athletic encounter that has split opinion due to its seemingly highly choreographed nature, with a huge number of flips and acrobatics throughout. Many fans and industry insiders were blown away by this display of athleticism, but some including a number former grizzled veterans were less than pleased, with NJPW legend Big Van Vader being perhaps the most vocal, criticising the foregoing of ring psychology and story for the acrobatics. For what it’s worth, I think Vader has a point, but the business has to evolve and the sort of match the Osprey and Ricochet put on was incredibly entertaining. I would prefer the match to have the story and the spots, which I think is very possible when you have two performers as talented as Ricochet and Osprey. Equally, any match that causes this much buzz and debate can only be a good thing, and while this bout might not have been for everyone, that’s the beauty of wrestling tradition – it’s a three-ring circus, if you don’t like the acrobatics you might like the clowns or the lion tamers. There is something for everyone, and in the incredibly snug New Japan style this certainly stands out as something unique.
The brand split – the end of NXT?
One final thing I wanted to touch on this week is the potential fallout of the brand split in July. One area of concern certainly seems to be the future of NXT. With former head writer Ryan Ward now in charge of Smackdown and the likely need for an influx of new talent for the brand split, you have to imagine a raid on NXT is likely. When you combine that with the next Takeover show being given the subtitle “The End”, and the apparent removal of Takeover: Brooklyn from the Ticketmaster listings, a few people seem to have gotten very worried indeed. However, the simple facts are that WWE will always need a developmental territory meaning NXT is not going anywhere, and the Ticketmaster issue is more than likely a glitch or a removal of a listing before it is updated nearer the time. Finally, “The End” seems more than likely a reference to the end of the top line feud in NXT between Finn Balor and Samoa Joe after nearly six months (I haven’t read ahead to spoilers so I don’t know this for sure, but it seems likely). There will certainly be call-ups, but I genuinely believe this is not going to be an issue for NXT, there is a whole performance centre full of hungry young stars and international talent chomping at the bit to get involved with NXT. The future for both the main roster and NXT looks very bright.
Well that’s it for another week in the crazy world of professional wrestling. Remember you can catch all the best reviews of WWE DVDs and Blu-rays right here on Screenjabber, as well as all the best in movies, games, news and opinions. That'll do it for this week. We'll see you next week, and until then, so long for now.