Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at all things professional wrestling from the past seven days. As we covered last week in the previews, both WWE and NWA had PPVS this week, while WWE had Raw, Smackdown and NXT, and AEW presented their final episode of Dynamite for 2019. Lots of stuff happening, so we'll dive right in with Smackdown from Friday night.
Friday night’s Smackdown was mostly intended as a go-home show for TLC, although outside of the main two angles on this show I’m not sure how effective that endeavour actually was. Bookending everything else were interactions between The New Day and Baron Corbin/Dolph Ziggler. Kofi Kingston showed more fire than he has in months with the slap to Corbin, and defending the honour of Roman Reigns who was humiliated last week. The main event between Kofi and Corbin of course became a tag match with The New Day against Corbin and Ziggler, Teddy Long-style (playa!). Inevitably, Roman Reigns made his presence known and got a measure of revenge saving Kofi from the fate he suffered last week with the dog food and he got to regain some heat and look dominant in making the save. It worked all in all, especially with The Revival (who looked formidable beating Mustafa Ali and Shorty G earlier in the evening) getting involved, given they would face The New Day at the PPV, and everyone involved set up their roles for TLC effectively.
Nikki Cross and Alexa Bliss vs Fire and Desire was a fine tag match, while Bayley was dominant against Dana Brooke. Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro vs Heavy Machinery was another fine TV match, but it felt thrown together with the flimsy backstage segment about meat. Finally, The Miz was the victim of a unique “home invasion” angle with Bray Wyatt which was hokey, silly but ultimately actually surprisingly entertaining. I appreciate it’s a mini feud to build to Daniel Bryan vs “The Fiend” down the line, but this has been surprisingly fun.
As a go-home show it was relatively uneventful, but as a weekly show...it was relatively uneventful. This week’s episode of Smackdown felt as though it was booked on autopilot, even if it was enjoyable for the most part with plenty of entertaining in-ring action.
WWE’s final PPV of year, and indeed the decade, took place this past Sunday and it’s fair to say there were plenty of talking points coming out of the show, although not necessarily entirely for the positive. The main event pitting Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch against The Kabuki Warriors had the potential to be something very special, but a sloppy spot-filled bout will likely be remembered mostly for the concussion suffered by Kairi Sane. This match probably should have been stopped, or at least Sane taken out of proceedings, rather than taking a spear and a powerbomb which she was clearly in no position to safely complete. The finish was fine in the circumstances but it certainly showed a worrying mentality to carry on to the detriment of a performer’s health.
The rest of the show was satisfactory overall, but several matches could have been saved for an episode of Raw or Smackdown. Baron Corbin vs Roman Reigns was underwhelming and the brawl that followed through the remainder of the show unfortunately suggests that this programme will be continuing. Likewise for Bobby Lashley and Rusev, and I have to imagine that car crash of a storyline is going to rumble on. The Viking Raiders vs The OC was a waste of an open challenge, as well as a glorified advert for KFC. Bray Wyatt vs The Miz was short, and seeing "Funhouse Bray" rather than “The Fiend” was a nice novelty. The post-match with Daniel Bryan returning to take out Bray, and with a new look that took about a decade off his age, was excellent and builds up their continuing programme nicely even it meant throwing The Miz to the wolves.
The New Day vs The Revival in a ladder match was excellent, Although the stipulation felt needlessly dangerous for an undercard match. Finally, Aleister Black and Buddy Murphy put on a fantastically physical encounter before Black hit a scintillating Black Mass. Unfortunately the audience didn’t really get into this match, which is shame as both men deserved a bit more here for their efforts.
A decent, but instantly forgettable show. In fact, the only thing anyone is likely to remember from this show is probably the negatives from the main event, and maybe Daniel Bryan making his return.
NWA Into the Fire
With the NWA riding the crest of a wave of popularity after the first series of Powerrr, all eyes were on the company as they presented their Into the Fire PPV headlined by NWA World Heavyweight champion “The National Treasure” Nick Aldis vs “Cowboy” James Storm in a 2-out-3-falls match. Although they have faced off before n other companies and in different circumstances, this was definitely the most high-profile bout between them and it was certainly not without controversy. Kamille got involved but it still remains a mystery as to who she was helping, and after a ref bump towards the end of the third fall, Tim Storm got involved and subbed in for the unconscious Brian Hebner while Aldis (accidentally or not) pulled off the turnbuckle ad, leading to James Storm being knocked out and Tim Storm calling for the bell as Aldis put him in the cloverleaf. It opens the door for a rematch, and it keeps Aldis’ alignment up in the air. Of course, the headlines were reserved for the post-match where “The Villain” Marty Scurll appeared and confronted Aldis which sets up those two for a future encounter. A very solid main event and both men put together an excellent story that played out brilliantly over the three falls.
The rest of the show was generally very enjoyable. The Question Mark vs Trevor Murdoch was incredibly fun, with the Mongrovian flag ceremony before the match a big hit with the crowd, and with yours truly. Question Mark would accompany Aaron Stevens to the ring as he played a blinder in his match with Colt Cabana and Ricky Starks, both of whom looked great. Stevens may not be the most technical in-ring worker but NWA is the perfect place for him to showcase his incredibly well-defined character and he will surely make a fun National champion. Eli Drake had a very strong outing against Mr Anderson, although the attack by Anderson later on suggests these two are not done just yet. Thunder Rosa vs Tasha Steelz had a few good moments, but a few sloppy ones too. Melina and Marti Belle vs Allysin Kay and ODB (subbing for Ashley Vox who was injured by Thunder Rosa earlier in the night) was probably the weakest contest on the show with a few too many mistakes. Finally, and most surprisingly, The Rock “N” Roll Express beat Wild Card after interference from The Dawsons and Outlaw Inc. in a match that was better than it had any right to be. Rock and Roll.
A strong show from NWA, with lots of interesting potential avenues and directions for various programmes to go in, big debuts and some fantastic wrestling action. If I had to nit-pick I would suggest that this show could have done with being a bit different from an episode of Powerrr in aesthetic terms, but that is a very small gripe. Overall, a very positive show from the National Wrestling Alliance.
With no Brock Lesnar anywhere to be found, the US title has become the focus on Raw, and on this week’s episode things heated up in relation to that strap. After Seth Rollins and AoP kicked off the show with a strong promo setting up that they had something to do later in the show that would be unpopular with the fans. After a lengthy portion of the show was taken up with a gauntlet match that ended without a finish (it wasn’t actually very eventful and mostly seemed to exist to push Humberto Carrillo as well as continue his feud with Andrade) Rollins and AoP would attack Rey Mysterio and challenge him to a title match next week. It’s a mouth-watering proposition given the form Mysterio has been in and Rollins’ new found heel character and makes a lot of sense as a way to build interest before hit Royal Rumble Season proper.
The OC had a busy night. Gallows and Anderson picked up a big win in a so-so match against The Viking Raiders before AJ Styles was defeated by Randy Orton in the show’s main event. Gallows and Anderson and The Viking Raiders would return after the match and The OC would end the show standing tall. Erick Rowan squashed a local talent who predictably tried to look in the cage. There is genuinely no way this can have a satisfactory payoff. Asuka beat Deonna Purazzo in her debut on Raw, even though she’s been off NXT TV for a while. Finally, Becky Lynch took part in a fantastic sit-down interview that pushed the idea that WWE was hesitant to book her against Asuka, because Becky can’t beat her. I like this because there is a back story, it places Becky back in the anti-authority role but not overtly, and portrays Asuka as the biggest threat on the roster. Fantastic stuff.
A mixed bag of a Raw in front of a dead crowd, some good stuff but having nearly a third of the show taken up by a gauntlet match that ended in a non-finish was incredibly frustrating. Hopefully when we reconvene in January things will start to pick up steam for Rumble season.
What a night for NXT, and for Rhea Ripley. After months of pursuit and gaining a huge amount of momentum since she debuted at Full Sail, Ripley was the one to finally end the tyrannical reign of Shayna Baszler atop the NXT women’s division. The match was superb and a worthy main event on a very enjoyable show, and it definitely felt as though a torch had been passed here because frankly there is nothing left for Baszler to really do in NXT. A cracking main event, and a really great moment that paid off months of slow-burn storytelling and sets up a fresh set of matches, including Ripley vs Dakota Kai (who did really well in her interview with Cathy Kelly earlier in the show), Io Shirai (who beat Santana Garrett on this show in dominant fashion) as well as the likes Bianca Belair, Tegan Nox, Candace LeRae and various other challengers. It’s a fresh start for the division and it definitely freshens things up moving forward.
Finn Balor vs Adam Cole was everything you would expect it to be, including the end of the match with Johnny Gargano returning to cost Balor the belt. It was a good way to get a result without taking the belt off Cole, so it made plenty of sense and they can still move towards Cole vs Tomasso Ciampa. Cameron Grimes beat Kushida in a fantastic match that sets up a much-anticipated rubber match between the two. Damien Priest bested Killian Dain in a very physical encounter. Pete Dunne beat Travis Banks in a rematch from their famous Alexandra Palace battle from 2017 in Progress. This was not quite such an epic but did provide a nice preview for Worlds Collide. Finally, it was announced that the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic would be returning. This is interesting to say the least, especially as it was recently rumoured that Cody Rhodes of AEW had secured the rights to his father’s ring name. It feels weird that WWE will be running a tag team tournament bearing the name of Cody’s father directly up against the show his son is an executive producer for. It’s weird, but that is where we are. I would imagine there will not be a Cody or Dustin Rhodes appearance to present the trophy in 2020 though.
A very strong show this week. Two big title matches bookended the episode and everything in between was very entertaining.
AEW Dynamite had a big task going up against NXT this week, but they also put on a very exciting episode with lots of big developments. The main event between SCU and The Young Bucks was excellent and put over SCU massively while also telling the story of The Young Bucks perhaps not quite being the force they once were. However, the post-match was more important than anything with The Dark Order basically taking out all of The Elite and SCU as well as Dustin Rhodes. Hangman Page was nowhere to be seen, which was noted by the commentary team (more on that shortly). The whole assault by The Dark Order was basically a soft reboot for the group after weeks of vignettes, and this worked as an “initiation" for Alex Reynolds and John Silver, who were handed creeper masks, but slightly different ones from the existing creepers, presumably showing they will be more featured and high profile members than the faceless goons. This was great for Dark Order and the most meaningful they have looked since they debuted even if it was still a bit cartoon-ish.
The rest of the show was largely fun. The Lucha Bros vs Kenny Omega and Hangman Page was full of spectacular spots and big moves. The finish forwarded the dissension between Hangman Page and Kenny Omega that is slowly being teased. This was quickly on the backburner as PAC was shown backstage attacking Michael Nakazawa and Omega and Page had to go and try and make the save while also fending off Fenix and Pentagon. I can only assume we are getting Omega/Page/Nakazawa vs Fenix/Pentagon/PAC in the coming weeks. Lots going on there.
Darby Allin and Cody vs The Butcher and the Blade was very entertaining, although I disagree with beating the new team so soon, even if I understand why it happened in order to set up Cody and Darby in a rematch, again while keeping the MJF programme on the backburner. Awesome Kong squashed Miranda Alizae (nope me neither) as the weird story with Brandi Rhodes and Kris Statlander rumbles on, and did so again after Statlander beat Britt Baker in a decent contest, as Brandi hit her in the eye with a shoe. Who uses a shoe?
Finally, Jungle Boy lasted well over the 10 minutes stipulated with Chris Jericho as “Le Champion” put his young opponent over huge here. A really fun match/segment, and Jericho’s tantrum afterwards was very entertaining and again keeps the Jon Moxley feud in the back of everyone’s minds.
A solid show, not a patch on NXT, but it forwarded a lot of stories that are all intertwined and multi-layered which is something they’ve not done well up to this point so I have to commend them for that alongside the high quality of the ringwork from the whole roster.
Okada Olympic Torch
Finally this week, it was announced that New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Kazuchika Okada, the current IWGP Heavyweight Champion, will carry the Olympic torch as part of the ceremonial run next year before the start of the games. It’s, of course, a very high profile spot and a big deal for Okada as the face of the company. It will be very interesting to see if that has any bearing on the outcome of the January 4th and 5th Tokyo Dome matches at Wrestle Kingdom and whether Okada is now more likely to be walking out with the belt given the media attention that will be on him later in the year. Equally perhaps we might see him regain the title (if he loses it) in time for the Tokyo games. Either way, congratulations to Kazuchika Okada for again making history in Japan.
Well, that is it from me for this week. I will be back at the same time next week with a look to 2020 in professional wrestling. Until then, 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.
Images courtesy of WWE/AEW/NWA/NJPW