Hello everyone, and welcome to this week's edition of Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at all things wrestling. This week has been another busy one with a Smackdown PPV, Raw, Smackdown, a bit of Hollywood news, and more. Let’s waste no time this week, and plough straight on with looking at Elimination Chamber from this past Sunday.
The first of two single-brand PPV specials in the run up to Wrestlemania, this wasn't necessarily the most memorable show in WWE history, but it was certainly sold and did plenty to shift the pieces around in order to get things in order to build to Wrestlemania in earnest. We'll start with the main event, which was very enjoyable indeed as all the guys really put the effort in to make this seem like a big match. The new chamber structure helped also, getting rid of those unnecessarily dangerous steel floors and making the pod roofs a bit more spacious, allowing for dives from them without unnecessary risk of injury or botching the move. The outcome of the match was never in doubt for me, as Bray Wyatt always seemed the logical choice to take the belt, but that doesn’t make the reality any less surreal. Since the genesis of the Bray Wyatt character in NXT (briefly alongside the lumbering oaf known as Eli Cottonwood, who some may remember from the early days of NXT before it became a development league), you could see there was something special there, especially given the sharp contrast with his previous onscreen role as Husky Harris. However, time and time again it has seemed like WWE were going to pull the trigger on him, only to beat him when he was the cusp of winning the big one. I'm sure his weight loss, update of his look and general top quality performances alongside Randy Orton this year haven’t hurt his chances, but Wyatt very much deserves this, and this should set up a cracking match and feud at Wrestlemania. More on that shortly. I was slightly disappointed to see Baron Corbin exit the match so early, but a feud between himself and Dean Ambrose coming out of this for the Intercontinental Title seems a good move for both. AJ Styles and John Cena were both excellent here, and it was surprising to see Cena ousted as champion so easily, but this frees him up for the match with The Miz and Maryse alongside Nikki Bella, which I can’t say I'm looking forward to, but it is what it is. This does leave AJ Styles as the odd man out somewhat, and I'm not sure where they put him for Mania at this stage. The rumoured match with Shane McMahon hardly seems a fitting reward for carrying the company in the ring this year. A good main event, which certainly sets up a number of interesting scenarios moving forward.
Elsewhere, we had three women's matches on this card, which had varying degrees of importance. Becky Lynch vs Mickie James was a good match, but felt a bit inconsequential and Lynch winning initially seemed to pretty much end the feud, although it did end up continuing on Smackdown. Nikki Bella vs Natalya was essentially a brawl that never quite made it into a match, but I enjoyed this immensely. It was heated and felt believable and seems to at least be going somewhere, I would assume that the interaction with Maryse is the kicking off point for the mixed tag feud with Miz/Maryse vs Nikki Bella and John Cena, which was well done, and surprisingly subtle. Alexa Bliss vs Naomi felt a bit rushed, and I would be surprised if this was given the full allocation they were originally working with, but it was enjoyable, even if I am sad to see Bliss lose the belt. It is probably well deserved and Naomi has improved a whole lot in the last couple of years. However, the sickening 'You deserve it' chant was just embarrassing, and completely unwarranted. This could develop into a rant on the attention-seeking nature of modern crowds, but I'll leave it there for now.
The rest of the card was a mixed bag. Randy Orton vs Luke Harper was very good, and Orton made Harper look great even in defeat. Hopefully this provides a platform for Harper to push on as a singles competitor, as he is really quite talented. Dolph Ziggler vs Kalisto and Apollo Crews was a dull mess featuring three characters I am finding it difficult to engage with currently. Kalisto is a flyer who shouts "lucha", Crews smiles and does backflips, and Ziggler shows off but is very angry. All three really need something more meaty and substantial in order to actually have some sort of impact going forward, and frankly barring a huge change of pace, I expect all three to be in the battle royal at Wrestlemania, if not relegated to the pre-show. Finally we had the tag-team turmoil match, which was patchy but generally enjoyable. I'm glad American Alpha and The Usos seem to be picking up their feud that inexplicably ended months ago without any real conclusion, and it was good the see The Ascension actually have a good showing after languishing in mediocrity for some time now (where arguably they belong, but I have a soft spot for them for some unknown reason). All in all this, was a good show, nothing majorly dragged and all the in-ring was at least decent if not particularly enthralling at points.
Well, that was eventful. This week felt like an episode of Raw with direction and intent. Everything (well almost, but we'll talk about Emmalina in a minute) had a purpose and a reason to be on the show. I'll start with the Festival of Friendship, which may well be one of the best segments WWE has ever produced. Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens were both in phenomenal form. The Jericho gag going into break was amazing, up there with anything else he's done in comedic terms, the Gillberg bit was a great (and Gillberg looked great in fairness). Equally the reveal of the 'List of KO' was executed masterfully, and the beat-down from Owens was both severe and nasty, two things that Owens really needs to heat him up going into his match at Fastlane with Bill Goldberg. I think everyone, myself included knew the break-up was coming but few anticipated it happening here, rather than at Fastlane. This sets up a great feud between the two before Jericho heads off with Fozzy again in the spring. A great segment.
The other big news coming out of Raw is of course the Bayley win in the main event beating Charlotte for the Women's Championship. The match itself was very good, and I liked that it furthered the Sasha Banks involvement with Bayley and sows the seeds for that heel turn in the coming weeks. However, it also feels like they have been flip-flopping the belt on and off Charlotte, to the point that it seems like she will lose any title match on Raw, and simply regain the belt at the PPV, something I fully believe happens here. Still, it was nice to see Bayley in the main event, and hopefully we get a fresh title picture between her and Sasha once this is all resolved.
There were lots of other developments worth mentioning, including more brawling between Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman, Strowman himself dominating Mark Henry, and Reigns getting beaten down by Gallows & Anderson, Tozawa had a fun little match with Ariya Daivari, and Jack Gallagher had an excellent bout with Noam Dar. Gallagher is easily one of the more over cruisers, and I’m glad to see him getting a strong push. We were also treated to a bizarre re-debut for Emma, as Emmalina. Only she basically just came out to the ring, said she would transforming into Emma, and leaving which was very bizarre. Hopefully they have a plan, and this isn’t just a terrible running joke.
Finally, and possibly best of all, we had more build for Samoa Joe. The sit-down interview with Michael Cole made him seem like a total badass, and sowed the seeds for a feud between Joe and Sami Zayn, something the acted on immediately as Zayn took exception to Joe's comments, only for Joe to choke him out like an absolute killer. This was brilliant stuff, and for the third week running Joe seemed like a top guy, may it long continue.
A cracking show, which doesn't happen very often, and one which made me genuinely excited for Fastlane. Here's hoping the can maintain that momentum into next week, and beyond.
It is normally pretty rare for WWE to produce excellent television on both brands in the same week, but this week it actually happened. The blue brand managed to put on an excellent show, which flew by. The development of the Randy Orton - Bray Wyatt feud was handled masterfully, from Wyatt's opening promo, to the three-way match with AJ Styles and John Cena where Wyatt was kept strong, the whole thing put Wyatt over massively. I enjoyed that they kept things bubbling under with his altercation with Luke Harper, as well as having Orton refuse to face Wyatt at Wrestlemania and pledging his loyalty. The story continues to have appropriate twists and turns, and now we have a battle royal next week to decide a new number one contender for Wyatt at Wrestlemania. I'm assuming that Luke Harper wins that match, leading to a three-way match between Orton, Wyatt, and Harper at Mania which would be a fantastic climax to a near-seven month story between the three. I'm very intrigued.
Elsewhere we got some nice development between Baron Corbin and Dean Ambrose, which made Ambrose look uncharacteristically sympathetic and Corbin look like an absolute beast. The electrical box spot was perfectly safe, but actually looked pretty ok and I really hope these two get an actual match on the big stage at Mania as I think it could be a nice little feud for both.
The rest of the show pretty much set the wheels in motion for the coming weeks. I enjoyed Mickie James getting a win over Becky Lynch which keeps both busy for now, while Nikki Bella and Natalya had another intense brawl ahead of their falls count anywhere match next week, and we got an announcement of a rematch between Naomi and Alexa Bliss next week. The women's division on Smackdown is ticking over nicely with three distinct feuds, and although it might not have the same profile as their counterparts on Raw, I would argue there is far more depth and diversity in this division.
Finally, American Alpha picked up a nice win against The Ascension in a match that wasn’t terrible, which makes for two in a row for Konnor and Viktor. I liked that The Usos had some promo time, and as pointed to at Elimination Chamber, we are finally getting back around to this feud between the four which is easily the strongest available tag feud on Smackdown.
All in all another good show, with lots set up for an exciting show next week and plenty of intrigue on where things will land in terms of the big Wrestlemania programmes.
RIP Chavo Classic
In sad news this week, it was announced that Chavo Guerrero, father of Chavo Guerrero Jnr, and brother of the late Eddie Guerrero had passed away after a lengthy private battle with cancer. Guerrero was a huge star in his own right in the territory days as well as in Mexico over the years. However, he may well be best remembered for his run as Chavo Classic on Smackdown in the mid-2000s alongside his son, even capturing the WWE Cruiserweight Championship for a time. Chavo seems like a performer who was not only well respected, but well liked based on the outpouring of grief and tributes since the news came out about his death. RIP Chavo Classic.
Paige - the Hollywood years?
Last week, Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson announced via his social media accounts that his production company Seven Bucks, would be producing a film based on the life of WWE Superstar Paige, and her family who are all also wrestlers here in the UK. Apparently Johnson saw the Channel 4 documentary "Fighting with my Family" while filming Fast & Furious 6 in London a few years ago. Anyone familiar with British wrestling will probably know about Ricky Knight, his wife Sweet Saraya, their sons Zebra Kid (aka Roy Knight), and Zak Knight (together they are also known as the UK Hooligans), and the documentary was an excellent watch, both as an insight into the world of British wrestling, but also the idea of being a family unit within that crazy environment. It looks like the rights to the project have already been picked up by MGM, has Film Four backing it, and Nick Frost and Lena Headey have been cast as Paige's parents, and Vince Vaughn is on board to play a washed-up former megastar wrestler. In addition to all that Stephen Merchant has written the script. I'm sure we'll have more on this in the coming months, but this is bound to be a very interesting project as it gets off the ground, and hopefully it's a success for all involved. What bearing this has on Paige's somewhat strained relationship with WWE this may have also will be something worth keeping an eye on in the coming months. Previously I would have said she was done with the company, but this complicates matters somewhat, and WWE are always interested in mainstream publicity and this film could arguably bring plenty of that sort of attention. Interesting times.
Andre The Giant documentary
There is another film-based project involving wrestling that hit the newswires this week, with WWE and HBO announcing they are partnering on a documentary focused on the life of the late great Andre the Giant. Apparently, according to Rolling Stone, the documentary will focus on Andre's upbringing in France, his professional wrestling career, Wrestlemania 3, his roles in movies such as The Princess Bride, and his death in 1993. Andre was a true spectacle in wrestling, but that is probably only matched by the incredible stories of his behaviour out of the public eye, his drinking capacity, his friendships backstage, and his difficulties being a giant in a regular-sized person’s world. Although WWE have done documentary features on Andre in the past I fully expect this to be a much more in-depth look at wrestling's greatest giant (sorry Big Show), and it should make for very interesting watching especially as HBO documentaries are normally very detailed, in terms of both the good and the bad.
Brock Lesnar retires from MMA - Again.
Finally this week, we have the news that Brock Lesnar has retired from MMA. It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to anyone after he was suspended by USADA after his win over Mark Hunt at UFC 200. However, what is most important here is the timing. With contract negotiations likely coming up for Lesnar I would imagine that this signposts to a new deal with WWE being agreed moving forward, and Lesnar sticking around in WWE, which is probably for the best for everyone involved.
That's it for me for this week, keep your eyes peeled to Screenjabber for all the best in movie, Blu-ray and DVD reviews, as well as competitions, interviews, blogs, columns, podcasts and more. As for me, I'll be back next Thursday with more on the build to Wrestlemania, and whatever breaks between now and then. Until then, so long folks.