Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at all things professional wrestling from the past seven days. With Royal Rumble firmly in the rear-view mirror and Super Showdown, Wrestlemania, AEW Revolution, NXT Takeover: Portland and more in the near future it was an eventful week. Aside from the on-screen developments, the location for Wrestlemania 37 was unveiled, and WWE announced the signing of a member of a very notable wrestling family. We'll kick-off, as we always seem to, with this week's Smackdown.
The big news coming out of this week’s Smackdown was the return of one Bill Goldberg, via satellite, who laid out a challenge to “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt for Super Showdown. It's a really intriguing direction for Goldberg, and I’m not sure what exactly they’ll do with these two. Conventional wisdom suggests that Wyatt will stay strong in order to face Roman Reigns at Wrestlemania. However, with the gimmick perhaps growing a little less fresh, could this be an opportunity to get one last Mania main event out of Goldberg against Reigns? Spear vs spear? Probably not, but it is certainly a big test for Wyatt to try and adapt his methodical, character-based offence in order to play to Goldberg’s strengths. It could be brilliant, or it could be a car crash, but I am certainly intrigued.
The rest of the episode had lots of stuff happening, some positive, some less so. On the positive side of things, Carmella had a very strong showing in the main event four-way against Naomi (who arguably should have been winning this match given her recent return and surge in momentum, but I appreciate the result here was a bit of a swerve), Alexa Bliss and Dana Brooke. The post-match angle with Bayley sets up that programme nicely, although I don’t know if we’ll get that bout at Super Showdown or further along the line without the well-documented restrictions of a show held in KSA. The opening Dirt Sheet segment with The Miz and John Morrison was fun, although The Usos vs Dolph Ziggler and Bobby Roode afterwards was quite the comedown. Elias vs Cesaro was fine, but I still can’t buy Elias as a babyface. Sheamus vs Apollo Crews and Daniel Bryan vs Heath Slater were both solid but largely uneventful. Shinsuke Nakamura, Sami Zayn and Cesaro seemingly aligning with The Revival is a strong move, and the beat down on Braun Strowman was an effective way to reheat Nakamura. Finally, Baron Corbin and Roman Reigns had another tedious chapter in a feud that should have ended months ago, with a cage match now set up for Super Showdown. I feel like I’ve been saying this for months, but hopefully, finally, this will be the blow-off to this programme.
With Raw on a roll in recent weeks, I wondered if perhaps this week might be when Smackdown get their act together, and to some degree they did just that. There was certainly more to get your teeth into, but there is also an issue with repetitive matches and a lack of creative direction for certain fueds.
Over on the red brand, the biggest stories emanated from the women’s division. After Becky Lynch defeated Asuka in a terrific match, Shayna Baszler made her official Raw debut by brutalising Lynch after the match and biting a chunk out of her neck. For some, this was cheesy, out of character approach towards Baszler’s debut. For me, I thought it was great. This gives Shayna an extra psychotic element to her character, and if handled correctly could round out her persona as she is introduced to a wider audience. Having Becky hijack the ambulance and come back got her heat back, but I’m not sure it didn’t undercut the brutality of Baszler’s assault. Elsewhere, NXT Women’s Champion Rhea Ripley had a very enjoyable bout with Sarah Logan, who is much underrated. This was another good setup for Ripley and Charlotte Flair at Wrestlemania, and they again teased Flair accepting the challenge, but stopped short which is wise.
The rest of the show was generally quite entertaining. The opening segment and the main event furthered the feud between the unit of Seth Rollins, Murphy (minus the “Buddy” now) and AoP and the opposing babyfaces, Samoa Joe, Kevin Owens and The Viking Raiders. The heels getting another win makes sense, but at some stage, the babyfaces will need some semblance of hope if this programme is to continue. The Street Profits vs Mojo Rawley and Riddick Moss was instantly forgettable, and having Moss turn on Rawley already seems a bit rushed. Aleister Black nearly took off Akira Tozawa’s head in rapid fashion. Despite Humberto Carrillo’s quest for revenge, Angel Garza looked excellent in victory against Cedric Alexander. Drew McIntyre continued to endear himself to the crowd by attacking MVP during the “VIP Lounge”. Ricochet did pretty well as the plucky underdog against Bobby Lashley as the build for his WWE title match with Brock Lesnar continues. Finally, Randy Orton took out Matt Hardy with a con-chair-to after Hardy attempted to get an explanation from Orton for his attack on Edge two weeks ago. This is likely writing Hardy off TV, as his contract expires soon and he is rumoured to be AEW-bound. Wouldn’t blame him at all, it seems like a better fit. A good solid angle to keep the Edge-Orton rivalry moving along.
A strong episode of Raw this week with a good mixture of build for Wrestlemania as well as Super Showdown. Feuds were progressed, the matches were good and nothing dragged enormously which is a miracle on a three-hour show.
NXT Takeover: Portland is just days away, and if you weren't aware of that before this week's show, you certainly would have been afterwards. Although the actual wrestling was as good as always, much of the action provided a backdrop for last-minute hype for Portland. In the main event segment, Adam Cole had a very entertaining back-and-forth tussle with Kushida, who looked great here, before having one final confrontation with Tomasso Cimapa ahead of their title match. Likewise Bianca Belair dominated Santana Garrett before taking out Rhea Ripley. Dakota Kai built some much needed momentum by beating Candace LeRae, and the shenanigans after the match increased my interest in Kai vs Tegan Nox. Johnny Gargano vs Cameron Grimes had a novel set up, using a confrontation at a live event to create a reason for the match to happen. Grimes was presented strongly in defeat, and Gargano looks primed and ready for his match with Finn Balor. The vignettes with Pete Dunne and Matt Riddle were also absolute genius. These sorts of segments are really underrated, and used perfectly here.
Rather than focusing only on Takeover, NXT also set up two matches for next week as Roderick Strong beat Bronson Reed, but again this was purely a backdrop to set up Strong vs Velveteen Dream for next week. I am a little confused as to whether Dream is the face or heel here, because bringing Strong's family into things definitely seems like a heel move. Additionally, Lio Rush and Angel Garza had another mini-epic that positioned Rush as the number one contender for Cruiserwight kingpin Jordan Devlin next week in what should be an absolute belter. Nice to see that these matches weren't crammed onto an already stacked Takeover.
With Revolution only a few weeks away (which given how few PPVS AEW run per year is relatively soon) it was all hands on deck to try and hype the big programmes ahead of that event. Jon Moxley continued his crusade against "Le Champion" Chris Jericho beating Santana in a unique match given they were both working with one eye. The introduction of Jeff Cobb as Jericho's bounty hunter is a solid move and a great way to position the former Matanza Cueto.
Nyla Rose vs Riho was probably the best match either has had in AEW so far, and told a great story. Given Riho's absence lately, it makes all the sense in the world to put the belt on Rose as the dominant champion. Dustin Rhodes vs Sammy Guevara was fun, and the post-match looks to be teeing up Rhodes vs Jake Hagar. MJF vs Jungle Boy was another match that delivered in-ring and pushed forward the MJF story. The tag match between Hangman Page & Kenny Omega and SCU was solid, but this was again about the storyline with Page/The Elite, although I like how this bled into the hype for the tag team battle royal next week and the continuing mystery with The Dark Order. Britt Baker continues to impress in her segments with Tony Schiavone, while Darby Allin and PAC both excelled in pre-taped promos.
A very solid episode this week, with all eyes on Revolution, but not neglecting the upcoming episodes of Dynamite that will form the build to that big event. Much better from AEW.
WM 37 location
With Wrestlemania 36 fast approaching, it was not unexpected that we might hear about the location of Wrestlemania 37. However, with few rumours circling, it was announced somewhat abruptly this week that next year’s big event will be taking place at the SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, the future home of the LA Rams and the LA Chargers. The stadium is currently under construction so it’ll be pretty much brand new and state-of-the-art when it opens, potentially holding a crowd of up to 100,000 fans for Wrestlemania depending on how the venue is configured. WWE have quickly branded it “Wrestlemania goes Hollywood”, which has understandably evoked memories of a similar tagline for their Wrestlemania 21 event 15 years ago which featured various performers on the roster re-enacting scenes from famous Hollywood movies. I personally hope they revisit this concept for Wrestlemania 37 as I believe it could be sensational. A big announcement, and potentially a huge show for WWE next year.
The Rock’s daughter signs for WWE
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is easily one of the biggest names in Hollywood, but also a legendary figure within the annals of wrestling. As a third-generation superstar it was in his blood. As such, it is very exciting that WWE have now signed his daughter Simone Johnson to a development contract, and she has reported to the Performance Centre in Florida. Obviously, a family background can be a leg up in wrestling circles, but it can just as easily work against someone piling on the pressure. If Simone Johnson demonstrates an ounce of natural ability and charisma of her father, grandfather or great grandfather then she has a very bright future. For now, she will be able to concentrate on learning her craft under the supervision of the PC staff, but she is certainly someone to watch as I imagine WWE would love nothing more than to promote her into a featured role in the future.
NJPW to run MSG - Wrestle Dynasty
This past weekend, New Japan Pro Wrestling ran their first big show since Wrestle Kingdom, New Beginning. In truth, this has been a tour that ran over the past few weeks but it culminated with the event at the weekend. I won’t go into all of the in’s and out’s on the show as it was a very enjoyable, not entirely memorable event. That said, for my money, the big news coming out of New Beginning was an announcement that NJPW will be running Madison Square Garden in August, the night before WWE run Summerslam in Boston and the same evening as a scheduled NXT Takeover. Of course, this is not the first time NJPW have run opposite a Takeover, but last time was a co-promotion with Ring of Honor who are not involved this time. Officially titled Wrestle Dynasty, this could be a very special show although I wouldn’t imagine WWE are delighted as this will surely split the audience who might have attended Takeover. Equally, WWE did something very similar last August by counter-programming NJPW Royal Quest n London with NXT Takeover UK: Cardiff in, well, Cardiff. Turnabout is fair play. NJPW cards on US soil in big arenas are surely a good thing and this further proves what a great time it is to be a wrestling fan with unparalleled levels of choice available.
NXT Takeover Portland preview
Although it is not the first occurrence of such a show, it still feels strange to have an NXT Takeover that is not attached to a big marquee WWE weekend. That is the case for NXT Takeover: portland, but the card is definitely worthy of marquee value as the "black and yellow brand" look to put on a blow-away show. The main event feels like a big deal as Adam Cole defends his NXT Championship against Tomasso Ciampa in what will certainly be a heated, personal affair. I don't expect Ciampa to take the belt at this stage, especially not with Wrestlemania weekend on the horizon. Likewise, although Bianca Belair vs Rhea Ripley could yield an upset I can't really see it given the build for Ripley vs Charlotte that has already gotten underway. Keith Lee vs Dominick Dijakovic is pretty guaranteed to steal the show, and unless Lee is moving on to Raw or Smackdown I would imagine he retains. Tegan Nox vs Dakota Kai in a street fight should be very physical, and I imagine will be the endpoint for this feud. Finn Balor vs Johnny Gargano will again surely be a strong outing for both men, although I can't imagine Balor losing here unless this sets up a babyface vs babyface, Ciampa vs Gargano (with Ciampa winning the belt later in the night) for Mania weekend. Finally, The Bro-serweights vs Undisputed Era. We might get a title change here, but I also wouldn't rule out a Pete Dunne heel turn, echoing what happened to him in the same spot previously. Dunne and Matt Riddle have been excellent together, especially this week, but if this isn't a long term pairing it presumably has been designed to go somewhere. We shall see.
A killer card, at least on paper. NXT Takeover: Portland has the makings of something very special. Let's hope it lives up to the hype.
That is it from me for this week. I will be back at the same time next week with a look at this week's Raw, Smackdown, NXT, AEW and anything else that breaks in the next seven days. 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/NJPW