Greetings wrestling fans and welcome to this week's installment of Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at the past seven days in pro wrestling. Compared to last week's craziness this week is a tad less busy, but there is still lots going on especially with WWE having another PPV, Elimination Chamber this Sunday. Let's get cracking with this week's Raw.
Going into this week's Raw, all eyes were on the company's reaction to Seth Rollins injury and how that might impact plans for Wrestlemania. We were promised an update, and we got one. It cleared up absolutely nothing, but it was an update. Rollins has a torn MCL, which may or may not rule him out of the biggest show of the year, and he certainly wasn't heavily featured in the booking on this show. I suspect he will make it to Mania, but I also imagine they have a fairly substantial Plan B to trigger if he doesn't make it. One man who should definitely make it to Orlando on April 2nd is Samoa Joe, who had a very strong showing this week. I think it's a real statement of intent that they gave him a win against Roman Reigns in his first match on the main roster. I know Braun Strowman interfered, but it's still a big win for Joe, who looked great against Reigns. Equally as important as how good he looked in the main event, is how composed and intense he was on the microphone in the opening segment with Mick Foley and Stephanie McMahon. A cracking showing from Joe this week, really solidifying him as a force to be reckoned with and reinforcing his alignment with Triple H, but without painting him as a subservient lackey. Oh, and he looked like an absolute killer in that suit. Reigns and Strowman is also now official for Fastlane and I'm enjoying watching that feud bubble along, as both looked strong here.
The other big story coming out of Raw was the situation between Universal Champion Kevin Owens and US Champion Chris Jericho. The tease of the break-up between these two over the months has been masterfully handled, and Jericho accepting a match with Bill Goldberg for FastLane on Owens' behalf was great. I also really enjoyed not only Owens' reaction to this, but also his subsequent acceptance and reconciliation with Jericho that had just a hint of insincerity about it. This was great acting and a nice little seed sewn for the eventual break-up between these two. The Festival of Friendship next Monday could well be something very special too, I'm hoping they go full ham with it. In the meantime, we did get Jericho beating Sami Zayn in a fine TV match, which I very much enjoyed, and Owens' interference made sense both in the story-line but also given his history with Zayn. A good job all round here.
The involvement of Goldberg in the aforementioned segment had little to do with Owens and Jericho themselves, but I fully expect Goldberg to leave Fastlane with the belt. Presumably some sort of botched interference from Jericho leads to the Owens turn on him and we're off to the races from there. Goldberg was very good in this segment, so I can only assume he didn't hit his head on a cupboard on his way out this time. I'm also very happy he accepted Brock Lesnar's challenge for Wrestlemania, as that gets a main event set in stone with plenty of time to promote it, and with it likely being for the title I think that match will almost certainly be going on last.
Elsewhere on Raw we got plenty of action in the cruiserweight division. The six-man match was fun and it's starting to feel like this division actually has some sort of substance to it, Jack Gallagher is especially looking like a star in this division. Neville still looks like an absolute killer, Austin Aries is still to come back (although his "journalist" gimmick and commentary have both been good fun) and the in-ring action of the division is improving every day. However, we also got the Raw debut of Akira Tozawa, who looked really good and could well be the ace-in-the-hole for this division given time. Having seen Tozawa close up with Dragon Gate UK a few years back I can verify there is plenty to come from him yet.
The rest of Raw's highlights included more development between Bayley, Sasha Banks, Nia Jax and Charlotte, with the teases for a Sasha heel turn being further reinforced here. We also got Braun Strowman absolutely decimating four jobbers in an absolute squash. What a man. A surprisingly good show, where the three hours flew by. Good work Raw.
Another good show this week from the blue brand building up to Sunday's Elimination Chamber. I enjoyed Daniel Bryan's promo to open the show, although the continued tease of a match between himself and The Miz, for a match that cannot actually happen is frustrating. Equally I enjoyed this dovetailing of this into a four way promo battle between Miz, Baron Corbin, AJ Styles and Dean Ambrose. This did plenty to put over all four men ahead of the chamber, and the match the naturally followed on involving the four was excellent. This was an especially good showcase for Corbin, who looked like a beast here, especially pinning former champion Styles. The End of Days is a great finisher, which looks devastating and this did a great job of making Corbin seem a legit threat to John Cena's championship in the chamber.
The missing two members of Sunday's main event were kept busy too as Randy Orton and John Cena went one-on-one with Bray Wyatt in Orton's corner. This was a really good back-and-forth PPV level match with both guys putting in a real shift. The dynamic between the two actually seemed fresh despite this being the six millionth match between the two in the past decade. I can't believe I'm even typing this but I really enjoyed this and I actually wouldn't mind seeing more of these two together. Not that we'll get a chance in the immediate future mind as I suspect Cena is dropping the belt soon, but I'll get onto to that in the Elimination Chamber preview. Luke Harper was also great here in the finish, which built nicely to what should be a cracking match with Orton on Sunday.
Elsewhere on the card, we got lots of last-minute build for PPV, with a nice video -link interview for Natalya and Nikki Bella with them trading barbs, a dual contract signing (possibly a first in WWE?) for Naomi vs Alexa Bliss, which should be decent, and Mickie James vs Becky Lynch, which might be one of the sleeper matches on the night. Obviously the contract signing ended in violence, but then when doesn't it. We were also treated to a multi-man tag match to get us all in the mood for the tag team turmoil match, which was enjoyable, if not a bit of an afterthought, A good show all-in-all, and a decent set-up for Sunday's big show.
R'n'R for HOF
On Monday WWE announced the latest inductees to the WWE Hall of Fame, the Rock 'N' Roll Express. Now if you aren't familiar with them (and if you're not you should stop reading this now and go check them out immediately) they are one of the most legendary tag teams in wrestling history having competed absolutely everywhere, including WCW, NWA, WCW, WWE, TNA, SMW, Memphis and anywhere else you can think of. Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson are rightfully regarded as legends and their tussles with The Midnight Express, Jim Cornette, The Freebirds and countless others are some of the best feuds any tag team have had anywhere. No-one did the babyface in peril sell like Ricky Morton in his heyday, while Gibson was a brilliant hot-tag. This is a great induction, and hopefully it introduces a whole new generation of wrestling fans to a phenomenal tag team, and opens the doors for The Midnight Express to be inducted in the future.
This Sunday brings us Elimnation Chamber, Smackdown's final PPV before Wrestlemania. The main event is incredibly intriguing to me as there are multiple directions they can take this match in. However, I suspect the most likely scenario is Bray Wyatt walking out with the belt to set up a match with Orton at Wrestlemania. It is the most logical move, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's the right one. I could also see Styles getting the win and facing off with Orton at Mania and Bray spinning off to feud with Harper, but I still think Bray is the obvious choice. Speaking of Harper I think he likely takes a loss against Orton, but I'm not sure how he figures into plans moving forward, so it'll be interesting to see how that all pans out,
Further down the card, we have two women's matches that should be excellent. First up Alexa Bliss defends her championship against Naomi, and I can't see past a Bliss win. Naomi is much improved over the past year, and Alexa is awesome so I think this should be good, but Bliss has to win really. Equally, Becky Lynch vs Mickie James should be a cracker of a match, but I think Lynch has to win to build to her eventually reclaiming her belt at Mania.
The tag team turmoil match should be a fun, fast-paced bout with lots of action, perhaps as the opening match, but I cannot see beyond American Alpha retaining in a very strong showing. The Usos could possibly get the win setting up a feud with Alpha but unless that happens or The Revival make an appearance I think Alpha takes this one.
Finally, we have Apollo Crews and Kalisto vs Dolph Ziggler in a handicap match. This is definitely one for the pre-show and the logic of the babyfaces having the numbers advantage seems a bit off to me, especially if Ziggler wins, which I think he might do. This will be a good match, and should establish Kalisto and Crews as a tag team which might be good as both lack direction currently.
This should be a good card, and the main event should definitely deliver given the competitors. Hopefully this should also give us a much clearer idea of the picture from the Smackdown side of things as far as Wrestlemania is concerned.
That's it from me for this week, when I'll be back with a run-down of Elimination Chamber, Raw, Smackdown and more. In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled to Screenjabber to fill your mind-grapes full of all the best reviews of Blu-rays, DVDs, movies and games, as well as all the best columns, competitions, blogs and more. Until next week, so long folks.