Hello wrestling fans, and welcome to this weeks Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at all things pro wrestling. It's been another busy week with plenty of happenings in WWE, New Japan Pro Wrestling, here in the UK, and in even in TNA. We start off this week, as we do so often looking at this week's offerings from Raw and Smackdown.
Another week, another Raw and as usual this week was a bit of a mixed bag. I liked the possibilities that the main event opened up between Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho. It was definitely the right decision to take the belt off Roman Reigns, although that does make me think they will put the Universal title on him at Royal Rumble. This also means they could make Jericho and Owens a tussle over the US title. As it was a handicap match presumably both will have a claim to being US Champion, or they will be co-champions or some such thing. Either way, it adds something to the Owens-Reigns match at the PPV, and forwards the story-line between all three. Seth Rollins is also somewhat involved with this, and his spinning off into a match with Braun Strowman was nicely done, and the match was surprisingly entertaining. I also liked that they managed to protect both without making either look weak, which makes a nice change.
So The Undertaker has a dual-brand nomad status. At least that is what his appearance on Raw essentially suggested. Taker entering the rumble seems like a good use of him, and adds further unpredictability to the potential result of the rumble. I imagine coming out of the Rumble we will know who is facing whom at Wrestlemania, including Undertaker. I don't foresee him facing Strowman, despite the tease here, but this could lead to a nice spot in the match. Perhaps a showdown with a returning Finn Balor beckons? Or maybe Undertaker wins the match and takes on John Cena at Wrestlemania. It's another string to a misdirection filled bow that WWE have attached to the Rumble outcome, making this one of the most difficult events to predict in recent memory. A good segment, despite Undertaker having a weird (presumably accidental) cough at the end of his promo.
Stephanie McMahon was very good this week. Yes, you read that right. I think that on this one-off occasion Steph was very good in her role as the ratty authority figure, grumpy and annoyed. Her interaction with the female wrestlers also kicked off some nice story-line development there, with Nia Jax actually made to look intimidating for once, Charlotte excellent as always, and Stephanie setting herself up as the big heel foil for Bayley and Sasha Banks (at least til her eventual heel turn). The tag match also seemed to suggest we're getting a four-way match for the women's title at the Rumble, possibly with Stephanie hand-picking her chosen champion (presumably Charlotte), although that is purely speculation and fantasy booking on my part. It certainly sets up plenty of possibilities, and I really hope they are building to an eventual Bayley-Stephanie McMahon confrontation.
However, Raw was not all good, naturally. The Shawn Michaels segment with Enzo, Big Cass, Rusev and Jinder Mahal (who looks to a sure-fire candidate to be popped for a wellness violation any day). I know it was designed to be a comedy segment, but it really did not work and it dragged on massively. Essentially this was a throw away segment for HBK to promote his new film. Equally the Titus O'Neill segment with The New Day was utterly abysmal, serving to waste everyone's time and make Titus look like an idiot. Bad times.
A good show for the most part, but with some low points.
Another good week from the blue brand, and although predictably the standard dropped a little this week, Smackdown was a very good show. The main event was particularly good with John Cena having his first match back against Baron Corbin. Both men looked really good, and while personally I wouldn't have booked Corbin to lose clean to Cena, I appreciate why it is necessary and as long as Corbin is rehabbed effectively next week this shouldn't be an issue. Corbin was allowed plenty of offense and looked a real monster despite the defeat. I also really liked the post-match staredown between Cena and AJ Styles, which keeps the build for their WWE Championship match at the Rumble bubbling along nicely.
There were lots of other positives here, with more development for Dolph Ziggler as a heel, which was very good, but poor Apollo Cruise, he might need another stint in NXT before they try again. Ziggler definitely needs a bit of a makeover, but this was much better from him. I also liked the continued build for The Miz vs Dean Ambrose with the Ambrose Asylum segment which again made everyone look very strong. Interestingly, there was no Renee Young here, so perhaps her involvement with this angle has been nixed. The Wyatt Family dissension and loss to American Alpha was also very good, and continued to put momentum behind Alpha while also telling an intriguing story with tension between Bray Wyatt, Randy Orton and Luke Harper, all of which was well executed and sews the seeds for more down the line.
Finally, we had some good feud development for the women of Smackdown. Nikki Bella vs Natalya had a good brawl, and despite having little interest in this feud I found myself engrossed by their pull-apart so they must be doing something right. Equally, the brief segment with Women's Champion Alexa Bliss and Becky Lynch regarding the mysterious La Luchadora, setting up a cage match between the two next week. I like that there is actually some philosophy being employed here for having a cage match to prevent interference. However, I suspect we get more shenanigans next week, or certainly the reveal of who is under the mask of La Luchadora. All in all, some good build for next week and the Rumble.
Well it finally happened, Dixie Carter has been ousted from power in TNA, and now Anthem, the parent company of the Fight Network are the principal owners. In addition Dutch Mantell and Jeff Jarrett have been restored to the creative team, which is quite the turnaround. They have done an absolute marathon taping this week, which has some more sound booking and although there have been no enormous changes (aside from their new, and pretty awful logo), the future certainly looks brighter for TNA than it has done in a while. There is still a long way to go, and they are certainly not anywhere near back to the level they were at previously, but this is good news. Until the next drama.
NJPW Wrestle Kingdom
Although it had technically taken place last week before I posted my column, I had not yet seen it and I was wary of posting spoilers, but I'd like to touch on NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 11 briefly. This was a great card from top to bottom, including the pre-show New Japan Rumble which was tremendous fun. The highlights of the under card for me were Kushida vs Hiromu Takahashi which was phenomenal, the three-way tag match which was surprisingly good (it did make me wonder why WWE haven't had a look at Tama Tonga, who looked great here), and The Young Bucks vs Roppongi Vice. The only down point on the under card for me for Cody Rhodes vs Juice Robinson (the former CJ Parker in NXT) but even that was passable. Hirooki Goto vs Katsuyori Shibata was an absolute war, the Never Openweight Six Man tag match was phenomenal, and Adam Cole vs Kyle O'Reilly for the ROH World Title was everything I expected it to be.
However, the top two matches really took things to a whole new level, with Tetsuyu Naito vs Hiroshi Tanahashi providing an absolute masterclass, only for Kazuchika Okada and Kenny Omega to put on what may well be one of the all time great matches in NJPW history. Just an instant classic, and a must see. Wrestle Kingdom draws many comparisons to Wrestlemania in terms of it's role in the NJPW calendar, which is fair even though it is also very different, but this was certainly a mania level show, and one that is an absolute must-see for all wrestling fans. Blown. Away.
WWE UK Tournament
As regular readers will have noticed, there is a little tournament happening in the UK this weekend to crown the first ever WWE UK Champion, potentially leading to that competitor being the figurehead for a new weekly show on the network. I am of course, cautious on the latter part of that as I can see many potential issues ahead for a weekly show. However, this tournament from the Empress Ballroom in Blackpool should be excellent from an in-ring perspective. Obviously Pete Dunne and Trent Seven are arguably the front-runners for this tournament, but there are a few dark horses in the running for me. Wolfgang, Jordan Devlin, and James Drake are all guys I expect to impress, while the late entry of Mark Andrews certainly puts the cat among the pigeons. Andrews, a former TNA superstar is more than capable of putting on great matches, so he may well be a dark horse himself. Whatever the result, you can expect this to be a cracking tournament, and we will have a full report next week. I'm hitching my wagon to Devlin for the record, but anyone could feasibly win this tournament.
RIP Timothy Well
We end this week on a sad note with the passing of Timothy Well AKA Rex King (real name Timothy Smith), a former WWF(E) and WCW superstar most famous for being one half of Well Dunn alongside the late Steve Doll, who was going by the name Steven Dunn at the time. The two featured on the early episodes of Raw frequently and took part in a tournament to crown new WWE tag team champions in 1995. King might not have been a household name, but I had an odd love for Well Dunn in the early 90s, who were certainly a solid tag team, even if they never quite got their big break. King had also tagged with Sean Morley, prior to the birth of Val Venis, which is a nice little footnote. King reportedly passed away due to kidney failure aged just 55, which is very sad. In a lovely gesture, Chris Jericho donated the entire required total on the crowdfunding website set up by his family to raise funds for his funeral, which was a lovely gesture, the latest in a long line of similar donations Jericho has made to crowdfunding endeavors to help down on their luck former wrestlers or in this case the family of an ex-wrestler. A good egg, and a nice story to lessen the sadness of another wrestling death.
Well that's all from me for this week, I'll be back next Thursday with a roundup of Raw, Smackdown, the build to the Royal Rumble, and a report of the UK tournament. In the meantime, check out the rest of Screenjabber for all the best in movies, games, Blu-rays, DVDs, news, columns and more. Until next time, so long folks.