Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at all things professional wrestling from the past seven days. Like every week, there has been quite a it happening this week as WWE builds towards Wrestlemania weekend by way of Super Showdown, AEW looks ahead to Revolution. So much wrestling, and so little time. Luckily I am here to give you the run down on the best and worst of everything from this past week. Let's go chronologically, and we'll start with Smackdown.
While Smackdown has not exactly been the most engrossing show in recent weeks, it feels like there is even less to say this week. Not because nothing happened on Friday’s episode, in fact plenty went on, but because it lacked a cohesive direction. Perhaps the most meaningful development this week surrounded the Smackdown Women’s title, as Bayley retained her championship against Carmella. The “”Moment of Bliss” interview, earlier in the night did a good job of setting this up, and while the match was probably a little longer than necessary, it felt like a worthy main event. On the quiet, Bayley has slowly evolved into a very effective, believable heel and I hope this is the start of her getting more time in a highlighted role. As for as her next challenger, it would appear based on the other things on this show that Carmella will take on Naomi for the right to challenge Bayley at Super Showdown in what will be the first women’s title match in Saudi Arabia, although that may hamper what sort of match we get. Hopefully they hold off Naomi for a big Wrestlemania match as she definitely seems like the best option for a babyface o go up against Bayley on that big show.
The rest of the show was so-so. The segment with Bray Wyatt and Hulk Hogan was weird, but in a car crash kind of way, it was really entertaining. The end result of the whole Otis-Mandy Rose story was entertaining, but I hope this doesn’t segue into a lengthy Otis-Dolph Ziggler programme. Sheamus beating Shorty G and Apollo Crews made the Irishman look really strong, but for his opponents it further reinforced how low they are on the totem pole. Elias’ segment with Cesaro, Sami Zayn and co was fine, but nothing too exciting. Finally Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan (as Reigns’ mystery partner) had an entertaining back-and-forth contest with The Miz and John Morrison, but unfortunately, it seems that the main purpose of the whole match was to further the never-ending Reigns vs Baron Corbin feud, with a cage match now lined up for Super Showdown.
A decent, but largely forgettable episode of Smackdown, with some good in-ring action but a bigger focus on storylines heading into the big Saudi show.
NXT Takeover: Portland
It feels like it goes without saying that an NXT Takeover show was a top quality wrestling event. These shows tend to be stacked with excellent matches and the card from this past weekend in Portland was no exception. The main event may not have been to everyone’s tastes, but it certainly matched the high standards of drama that we have come to expect from NXT main events. I predicted Tomasso Ciampa would be unsuccessful against Adam Cole, and that is what happened, although I couldn’t have foreseen a Johnny Gargano heel turn as the key factor. Gargano, who himself came up short in a tremendous bout with Finn Balor earlier in the night, turning on his former DIY partner does have some logic behind it but the flip flopping between face and heel has really killed off the momentum Gargano had during his original run with Ciampa. I’m sure the two of them having a major match, presumably with a big stipulation at Takeover: Tampa will be a great spectacle, but having watched some combination of Gargano/Ciampa/Cole for almost two years headline NXT, it does feel like it’s getting a bit old hat. Still, a very good main event.
As you would imagine, the rest of the show was stellar. Tegan Nox and Dakota Kai put together a heated brawl in their street fight, and although the introduction of Raquel Gonzalez as Kai’s muscle is a bit out of nowhere it certainly makes sense for her character going forward. That table bump on Nox looked nasty, and although accidents do happen, Gonzalez will need to be more careful in future unless she wishes to be labelled as an unsafe worker. Bianca Belair continued to make a strong statement against Rhea Ripley, even in defeat. The angle after the match finally confirmed the Ripley vs Charlotte Flair match for Wrestlemania, although Flair’s attack on Belair certainly opens the door for more possibilities beyond just the Ripley match. Keith Lee and Dominick Dijakovic continue to impress by having rock solid matches featuring feats of agility and strength that stretch the audiences imagination. Lee is a star in the making, but Dijakovic has earned his place as a future top star through sheer hard work too. Finally, in what was probably the best match on this show, The Bro-serweights defeated Undisputed Era to win the NXT tag team titles in a bonafide classic. Matt Riddle may not be everyone’s cup of tea, especially within certain parts of the company if reports are to be believed, but he is electric in the ring and the perfect compliment for Pete Dunne. That shouldn’t sell Bobby Fish and Kyle O Reilly short, however. The former REDragon are probably the most underrated workers in the whole WWE system and once again put in another predictably excellent performance. The unsung heroes of NXT, month after month.
Takeover: Portland was a very good event overall. Will it be something that sticks in the minds of fans as an all-time great show in weeks, months or years to come? Probably not. However nothing was bad, everything met or surpassed expectations and we got plenty of story development leading into Wednesday night’s show.
With Raw on something of a roll lately, I had hopes for this week and the red brand (on the whole) did not disappoint. The opening segment with Randy Orton and Matt Hardy was electric. Orton is doing some of the best work of his career, and with Edge selling the injury from Orton a few weeks ago having Matt Hardy here in this role has been a revelation. Hardy had been on the sidelines for months and his contract is due to expire in March, and this week and last week have proved why WWE should be doing everything they can to keep him within the company.
One of the heavily promoted items on this show in the past week has been Seth Rollins offering a “sermon”, which of course didn’t go to plan. The feud with Kevin Owens seems to be rumbling along without any real end point in sight, and his group with AoP and Murphy really needs a proper name if they are staying together. The obligatory brawl happened, which set up a six-man main event between Murphy/AoP and Owens/The Viking Raiders. Again, the main event ended in a non-finish, but what was more important was The Street Profits making the save, which could be the first step in establishing them as challengers for Rollins/Murphy and a possible big tag team title shot at Wrestlemania. We shall see.
The rest of the show chugged along nicely. Drew McIntyre’s segment with Paul Heyman and subsequent match with MVP was well received. Drew seems to be making it work, even if some of the material he has been given is questionable. Drew is over like rover. Ricochet beating Karl Anderson was a pretty underwhelming way to position Ricochet as an actual, believable threat to Brock Lesnar at Super Showdown. Bobby Lashley and Angel Garza vs Humberto Carrillo and Rusev was better than expected, and Garza continues to look like a big prospect for the company. Kairi Sane vs Natalya was more focused on Elimination Chamber than anything else, while Riddick Moss vs Mojo Rawley vs R-Truth was instantly forgettable, much like Riddick Moss who we have been less than nothing about thus far. Aleister Black beating Erick Rowan felt like a step up in terms of wins from Black, and hopefully they continue to build on that. Charlotte Flair’s promo on Rhea Ripley was strong, and we can now begin to see the angle the build will take in the coming weeks. Finally, Becky Lynch cut a scathing promo on Shayna Baszler, offering to pay her fine in advance for the violence she planned to wreak on the former-UFC fighter. Baszler responded, and even got a swear word onto WWE television. I like that Shayna is being portrayed as something different, and edgy that is completely at odds with what Becky is used to dealing with. Unpredictable, wild and yet methodical and cerebral. It should make for fascinating television in the weeks to come.
A very good Raw this week. Not too much in terms of memorable in-ring stuff, but plenty of movement in the big Mania programmes and nothing felt stale or stagnant. Good work Raw.
Coming off Takeover: Portland, there was a lot to cover on this week’s show with the fallout from that show. The main event, however, featured a feud that has bubbling along on TV. Roderick Strong vs Velveteen Dream was excellent, and although I still feel like Dream is the heel here it certainly appeared that he is being positioned as the big adversary for Undisputed Era, and presumably the challenger for Adam Cole in Tampa over Wrestlemania weekend? We also saw Finn Balor in a video feature and he’ll be live on the show next week, and he will also presumably have a claim to a title shot after beating Johnny Gargano. Interesting times for the NXT main event scene.
Tomasso Ciampa addressed the Gargano situation, before “snapping” and brutalising Austin Theory, and hinting at some sort of “Loser leaves NXT” type stipulation for himself and “Johnny Wrestling”. Lio Rush vs Jordan Devlin was superb and although Devlin retaining was always likely, they did enough to make me believe that Rush was in with a chance of claiming the title. Raul Mendoza and Joaquin Wilde vs The Grizzled Young Veterans was nothing special, but Zack Gibson cut a very entertaining promo afterwards. It’s a shame that The Forgotten Sons appeared to be lining themselves up for GYV later in the show, because frankly no-one wants to see that. Although Iappreciate they are doing what they can with the gimmick, I find it hard to raise any real interest in that particular trio. Kayden Carter vs Chelsea Green was enjoyable, although the match itself suffered from Bianca Belair cutting a promo in the middle of it. That said, Belair again came across like a megastar here. Robert Stone and his “brand” is definitely an intriguing concept and it feels different, which can only be a good thing. The Bro-serweights vs Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch was appropriately physical and I loved that. Dunne is really flourishing in character-terms beside Riddle. Finally Keith Lee squashed Kona Reeves before Dominick Dijakovic came out and they set up a rematch. Lee and Dijakovic have great chemistry, but I am really not sure that continuing to go back to this match is wise. Too much of a good thing, perhaps.
A very good show this week, with lots of strong follow up to Takeover, and plenty set up for the coming weeks.
AEW continued their very respectable run of top-quality episodes of Dynamite on Wednesday with lots of interesting developments, but none quite as spectacular as the main event with Cody Rhodes vs Wardlow. This was a surprisingly well-executed contest, especially given Wardlow is presented as a pretty average “big man”. The involvement of MJF, Brandi Rhodes and Arn Anderson added rather than detracted from the drama, and the moonsault off the cage was a highlight reel moment that put a cap on what was a beautifully executed main event. I loved every minute of it, and I am even more invested in Cody vs MJF than I was previously. Let’s see how they put the final touches on it next week ahead of Revolution.
Last week we saw Jeff Cobb debut as the “bounty hunter” for The Inner Circle, and this week he came to collect on Jon Moxley. It was, naturally, a surprise to no-one that Moxley beat the free agent, but the match was very enjoyable and left me wanting to see more of Cobb. The angle after the match with Chris Jericho and his cronies beating down Moxley only for Dustin Rhodes and Darby Allin (who arguably got the second biggest pop of the night) to make the save was well done and forwarded multiple programmes for Revolution.
On the tag team side of things the battle royal was chaotic and fun, and again pushed multiple storylines at once included The Young Bucks having to face Kenny Omega and Hangman Page (who retained their titles in a frantic match with The Lucha Bros) and the dissension there, while The Dark Order continued to try and recruit members, while teasing the potential appearance of the “Exalted One”, plus also hinting at involvement with Christopher Daniels. This is probably a red herring. They teased Cima joining, which would be odd. Week-on-week the Dark Order stuff is getting better though.
Finally, Kris Statlander beat Shanna is a so-so match, which bled into Nyla Rose cutting a promo about her dominance, as well as Britt Baker on commentary continuing to drag Tony Schiavone, while Statlander and Big Swole were positioned as the next likely challenger to Nyla Rose. This already feels better than anything they’ve done up to this point with the women’s division, so hopefully that bodes well.
A very solid episode of Dynamite, with lots of momentum going into next week’s go-home show for Revolution.
Hall of Fame 2020
Finally this week, a rumour has been doing the rounds that the late "British Bulldog" Davey Boy Smith is finally to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame this year. Smith had a historic run in WWE from the mid-1980s to the early 2000s on-and-off, winning a number of midcard titles including his famous Intercontinental championship win over Bret "The Hitman"Hart in front of 80,000 people at Wembley Stadium. With Bulldog passing away in 2002 and having had a history of drug issues, it was believed that WWE were hesitant to put him in the HoF in case it courted controversy, but it looks like this year could finally be the time it happens. It doesn’t hurt that Bulldog's son, former WWE wrestler Harry Smith, who wrestles as Davey Boy Smith Jr was recently seen on WWE web show The Bump, so there is obviously contact with the family.
From a UK-based perspective it is difficult to underestimate the level of stardom that Bulldog achieved in this country, becoming a household name in the early 90s. Bulldog was a name that many knew, even breaking into the elite level of name that non-fans would be familiar with, so it would be great to see him finally, and rightfully in the Hall of Fame. Other names rumoured for this year include JBL, Jushin Thunder Liger (who did have a couple of WWE matches, but very few) and The Bella Twins.
That is it from me for this week. I will be back at the same time next week with a look at Raw, Smackdown, NXT and AEW as well as previews of Super Showdown and Revolution, plus 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