Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at all things professional wrestling. This week has been very eventful indeed, with Smackdown presenting the go-home show for Clash of Champions, NJPW hosting the finals of the World Tag League, an eventful episode of Raw and much more. Let's start things off this week with the major story of the arrest of one former WWE Cruiserwieght champion, Rich Swann.
Rich Swann arrested
In probably the biggest, and most unusual story of the week WWE babyface cruiserweight star, and former cruiserweight champion Rich Swann was arrested for false imprisonment and domestic battery. The victim of the alleged crime was his wife and fellow wrestler Vannarah Riggs (AKA Su Yung). The details are contentious currently, but according to witnesses Swann had an altercation with Riggs where he forced her back into the car. I don't want to rush to any conclusions, and Swann has given a different version of events, but what is clear is that WWE have suspended him indefinitely. WWE have a zero tolerance policy on domestic violence and have been quick to publically do damage control and point out that Swann has been suspended. In all honesty, things don’t look good for Rich Swann, and if he's found guilty or these allegations are not dropped, his career in WWE is likely over. Given the current climate of exposing inappropriate behaviour by those in high profile positions on television or in the film industry, Swann may have made a huge error in judgement. We’ll have more on this in the coming weeks as this story develops.
This week on Raw, WWE tried to start giving us an idea of who would be challenging Brock Lesnar for the Universal championship at the Royal Rumble in January, with Braun Strowman and Kane facing off, supposedly for the final time to decide who the true monster, and also number one contender is. Strowman, having lost to Lesnar a few months ago has been effectively rehabbed, but I had this horrible nagging feeling that old, slow Kane was getting the nod. Thankfully, it looks like from the way the match finished that we are getting a three-way dance, which while horribly predictable at least allows for Kane to take the fall and both Strowman and Lesnar to emerge without taking a loss. The match itself was far from great, and despite their best efforts with smoke and mirrors aplenty Kane is not up to main event standard in WWE any more, and he really should be looking at retirement after this latest run. Also, the spear through the barricade, and slam through the table spots really are losing their lustre with how often they are used, less is more sometimes.
The other big storyline running through this show was the three members of The Shield facing off with The Bar and Samoa Joe in singles matches as a show long storyline from the opening segment onwards. All three matches were obviously very good, as you would expect, especially Samoa Joe and Dean Ambrose which actually felt like quite a fresh match-up, and put Joe over huge once again. If it wasn’t for the long held plan that Roman Reigns will be facing off against Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania, I would have almost thought Joe was in line for the monster push. Perhaps a win at Royal Rumble and a switch to the blue brand in the vein of the now (understandably) erased Chris Benoit. Roman Reigns vs Cesaro and Seth Rollins vs Sheamus were both excellent, but you can certainly tell this is very much a filler programme for all six men until we hit Rumble season. That said, they are all making the most of it, and there were some great performances here.
"Woken" Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt had another segment this week, which somewhat sullied the excellent work of both last week by essentially repeating it, only with a terrible broken glass effect for Hardy. That said Hardy did a good job here, and Bray again was very good as the straight man by comparison and having Hardy claim that he and Sister Abigail knew each other from eons earlier, and if nothing else this was a an interesting way of building up a feud in an unusual fashion. The "Broken" character in WWE was never going to be the same as in TNA, but I feel it is something different and I'm willing to let them run with this a bit longer before judging how they handle the gimmick.
The rest of Raw was pretty average overall. Paige and Mandy Rose vs Bayley and Mickie James was a nothing match overall. Absolution attempting to beat down Asuka was well done, and made Asuka look particularly bad-ass, and the whole roster coming to chase them off certainly made Absolution seem like major threat, so job done there. Finn Balor squashed Curtis Axel in a nothing match, and Cedric Alexander won a four way dance to take Rich Swann's place against Drew Gulak next week for a shot at Enzo Amore, who is again pretty distracted by Nia Jax.
A decent show on the top end of things but it certainly is a brand that is circling around the same territory at the moment waiting to get started on the Royal Rumble build.
Just days before the Clash of Champions show, Smackdown's go-home show was a very mixed bag. The top angle with Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens attempting to start the "Yep!" movement to occupy WWE in the vain of Daniel Bryan's "Yes!" movement in 2014. Zayn and Owens are great, and there is certainly some credence to their gripe. Given their careers are on the line, I feel Shane McMahon getting involved as the special referee is almost a heel move by the Smackdown commissioner. That said, Daniel Bryan installing himself as a second special referee is a nice build on the continued friction between the two, even if it is not looking likely to lead to a match of any kind given Bryan can’t get cleared, although perhaps there is more too this than we realise, but it's unlikely. That said the resultant match with Kevin Owens and Shinsuke Nakamura was excellent, as you would expect it to be and I liked the idea that Bryan was willing to count the three against Nakamura even though Zayn interfered. There is definitely a hint of a heel turn coming, even if I don’t see how Bryan can work in that role given his popularity. It certainly makes for an interesting dynamic for the main event on Sunday, in what would otherwise have been a lacklustre affair.
The rest of the show was fine, if not spectacular. AJ Styles' segment with The Singh Brothers and Jinder Mahal was surprisingly well executed, and actually made Styles look an intelligent babyface avoiding what was clearly a set up, and then obliterating The Singhs. The beat down backstage by Mahal later was weird, but at least puts the result on Sunday into doubt, although I would be very surprised if Jinder gets the belt back given he lost to Triple H cleanly on the Indian tour recently. Charlotte vs Ruby Riott was a fine match although the post-match seemed eerily familiar from Raw. I'm still not sure why they felt the need to have the angels mirror each other unless this is going somewhere. Probably not. Aiden English and Rusev were once again brilliant this week, and their match with The Usos was really fun. For two guys who have taken a nothing segment and made it into something brilliant week after week it is great to see them getting a sustained push. Dolph Ziggler vs Baron Corbin was little more than an angle for Bobby Roode to get the heat before the three-way match at Clash of Champions for the US Title. Finally, Bludgeon Brothers squashed what appeared to at first be two local talents, but on closer inspection it turned out one of the locals was former ECW (well WWE ECW) underdog Colin Delaney, which was a nice little blast from the past for long time viewers.
A decent show, nothing hugely standout except the main event angle, but nothing hugely offensive either.
NJPW World Tag League Finals
With January 4th’s big Wrestle Kingdom show approaching, NJPW is going full speed ahead with their final build to the big show, and Sunday’s World Tag League Finals was no exception. This was a very intriguing show in terms of WK12, with Hirooki Goto offering to put his hair on the line at the Tokyo Dome for a shot at Minoru Suzuki and the Never Openweight Championship. A number of cracking matches happened on this, one of which helped build to Kazuchika Okada and Tetsuya Naito, with Will Ospreay and Hiromu Takahashi also involved ahead of their four-way bout at the Tokyo Dome with KUSHIDA and “The Villain” Marty Scurll who were in action on opposite sides with Kota Ibushi and Cody Rhodes as their respective partners. As is usual, these matches were of an excellent quality, but as is only logical the performers are saving their truly best efforts for WK12. In the main event of the show Sanada and EVIL capped off a great showing in the World Tag League tournament, as well as a breakout year for both by beating The Guerrillas of Destiny and taking home the trophy, as well as securing a shot at Killer Elite Squad on January 4th. Given they are already two thirds of the Never Openweight Six man champions (alongside Bushi), this shows just how much faith NJPW has in these two and I expect even bigger things from both men in 2018, especially Sanada who looks like he could be a huge star if booked correctly.
However, when all was said and done, the one thing that everyone was talking about was Kenny Omega vs Chris Jericho. I’m sure that most, myself included, assumed Jericho wouldn’t be making an appearance until January. However, he surprised everyone here after Omega and The Young Bucks defeated Rocky Romero and Roppongi 3K, by appearing in the ring attacking Omega with a codebreaker, and bludgeoning him with the US title. However, Omega would have his revenge at the post-show press conference by taking Jericho out with a vicious assault. For a match that could have been pretty cold due to the lack of onscreen build, both men and NJPW should be credited for making this seem like a huge deal. However, I do hope NJPW resist the obvious temptation to put Omega-Jericho on last ahead of Naito-Okada for the IWGP Championship, because while his may be the most hyped and most anticipated match, this really should be Naito’s time to shine after turning his career around and becoming one of the most enthralling figured on the New Japan roster. We will of course preview the Tokyo Dome show in full in the run up to probably the most anticipated NJPW show of all time, but for now I have to applaud New Japan for the build thus far, it has been excellent.
NWA Revival continues
Since Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins fame bought the rights to the National Wrestling Alliance name and trademark a few months ago, the NWA’s revival has been slowly gathering some pace and a small amount of traction with NWA champion Tim Storm defending his belt all over the USA, including in Tommy Dreamer’s House of Hardcore promotion, on the Championship Wrestling from Hollywood TV show, and most recently CZW, all of which have been featured on the docu-series “Ten Pounds of Gold” on the NWA YouTube channel. However, spoiler alert, this all changed last weekend when Nick Aldis AKA Magnus/Brutus Magnus/Oblivion defeated Storm to capture the NWA Heavyweight Championship. Aldis has seemed poised to make it big multiple times during his various runs with TNA including a reign as TNA world champion (for what that is actually worth now), but I think he is an excellent choice for a champion for the NWA, and after following Storm around for several weeks I look forward to seeing where the web series goes from here. Aldis has huge potential and is still only 30 years old, so he is a great choice to carry the organisation and the belt. Well done Nick Aldis!
Clash of Champions preview
I won't lie, it is hard to get excited about Clash of Champions on Sunday. Much like Roadblock: End of the Line last December, it feels like this a placeholder show to get to the build to Royal Rumble. It feels like an obligation, rather than something to be excited about. That said, AJ Styles vs Jinder Mahal should be a decent match, and hopefully WWE aren't foolish enough to put the belt back on Mahal so this will be fairly routine (we all hope). Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn vs Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura is intriguing, but more for the special referees than the match itself. I can only see Zayn and Owens winning, perhaps in screwy fashion here, given the stipulation. Hopefully, the tease of a heel turn from Shane McMahon or Daniel Bryan is just that, a tease, and not something were actually getting. Charlotte vs Natalya in a lumberjack match will probably devolve into a brawl with the lumberjacks due to the recent happenings with the Riott Squad, but again Charlotte seems most likely to retain. Baron Corbin vs Bobby Roode vs Dolph Ziggler may end up being better than it appears on paper, but it could just as easily be a complete mess. Hopefully Roode or Corbin get the win, because Ziggler is going nowhere fast. Breezango vs Bludgeon Brothers will likely be a squash, given the path Harper and Rowan have been on since re-debuting. Finally, The Usos defend their tag titles in a fatal four-way match against The New Day, Shelton Benjamin & Chad Gable, and Rusev and Aiden English. While I would love Rusev and English to get the nod, I suspect Gable and Benjamin will be given the straps if The Usos do not retain here.
This is not show that is likely to be super eventful, but the in-ring product will certainly be at least passable. I do hope I'm wrong and this show ends up being monumental, but I can’t see it myself.
Well that is it from me for this week. I will be back at the same time next week with the fallout from Clash of Champions, 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.