Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at all things professional wrestling over the past seven days. It's fair to say things have been pretty eventful and it's still only January. There were exciting developments on TV for WWE (including NXT) and AEW, but arguably the most intriguing happenings this week occurred away from the TV screen on a mobile screen (see what I did there?) via social media. Let's dive headlong into a whole heap of news by looking back at the big moments from this week's TV.
TV Round-up - Smackdown/Raw/NXT/AEW
It has been a pretty busy week in terms of news, so I’ll keep the TV chat to a minimum with a very quick look at each of the big shows from the past seven days. I have omitted NWA Powerrr as I have not yet seen this week’s episode because there are only so many hours in a week to watch wrestling.
Smackdown was overall a solid, if unspectacular offering this week. The build for Daniel Bryan vs “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt at Royal Rumble continues to be well executed. John Morrison returning and aiding The Miz against Kofi Kingston breathed new life into both Miz’s current character and potentially the tag team division. Roman Reigns predictably got beaten up by Dolph Ziggler, Baron Corbin and a returning Robert Roode (after Reigns announced he planned to win the Rumble and Ziggler/Corbin had a decent bout with The Usos), but it seems like this has been a weekly occurrence for a while now. Alexa Bliss vs Mandy Rose was more about the continuing Rose/Otis angle. Braun Strowman vs Shinsuke Nakamura was passable but not particularly memorable, which doesn’t bode well for their eventual title match. The segment with Lacey Evans and Bayley was fine, but Evans is largely miscast as a babyface, and her snapping when anyone mentions her kids feels overplayed already. Finally, Elias did some singing. A mixed bag of a show.
On Raw things looked a bit more exciting. The last two matches (not including Erick Rowan destroying some enhancement talent) on the show bled into each other as Buddy Murphy stayed at ringside, dejected after his loss to Aleister Black, only to shockingly involve himself in the AoP/Seth Rollins vs Big Show/Samoa Joe/Kevin Owens “fist fight” and join the heels, making for a new four-man stable. This is great for Murphy and a very intriguing move which certainly shows faith in the Australian. Brock Lesnar had an entertaining segment with R-Truth to build his Rumble appearance. Becky Lynch and Asuka’s contract signing predictably ended in physicality with Asuka giving Lynch the green mist, although Kairi Sane was also excellent in this angle. Bobby Lashley and Rusev fought in the most recent chapter of the feud that will not die. Ricochet vs Mojo Rawley and Charlotte Flair vs Sarah Logan were both designed to start hyping the Royal Rumble matches. Zelina Vega and Andrade cut a decent promo backstage to set up the ladder match with Rey Mysterio next week (which I can’t help but feel will kick off a heel turn for Rey’s son Dominick). Finally, Drew McIntyre beat Randy Orton and AJ Styles in a fun contest. McIntyre has quietly, week-by-week been building momentum as an absolute destroyer and it feels like crowds are starting to get behind him, possibly making him a dark horse for the Rumble in my eyes. More energetic and creatively booked, this was everything Smackdown should have been.
NXT was responsible for probably the most satisfying in-ring product this week. The battle royal to crown a new number 1 contender to Rhea Ripley’s women’s title was excellent, with Mercedes Martinez making her official NXT-signed performer debut, and Shotzi Blackheart making a huge impression by eliminating Shayna Baszler. In addition the Tegan Nox and Dakota Kai feud was furthered here too. There were several stories built here, but more than any this crowned Bianca Belair as the next big threat to Ripley, which is a logical programme and should yield a very strong match. The angle with Undisputed Era and Keith Lee, plus later Tomasso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano was excellent, further setting up Lee vs Roderick Strong next week. Lee is just incredible and it feels like WWE have finally realised he truly does have “limitless” potential. Lio Rush vs Tyler Breeze vs Isiah “Swerve” Scott was an absolute cracker and a must-see match coming out of this show. Matt Riddle and Pete Dunne vs Mark Andrews and “Flash” Morgan Webster was another very sound match and seeing Dunne and Riddle together was superb, they definitely seem to have the spark of some chemistry between them. Finally, the much hyped Time Splitters reunion ended in disappointment for Kushida and Alex Shelley as they were beaten by Grizzled Young Veterans in a fine match. It was a great performance from GYV, and a huge boost to get a win over such a revered team. That said, I suspect we’ll see more from Time Splitters on NXT in the future. A crazy show, with so much happening and a ridiculous number of standout matches.
Finally this week, AEW put on their Bash at the Beach episode of Dynamite. The fresh aesthetic was a suitable break from the weekly norm and helped this episode feel special. Cody Rhodes and MJF were front and centre on this episode with Cody cutting another sterling promo accepting MJF’s demands in order get to his hands on him. MJF was also involved with The Butcher and The Blade against QT Marshall, Dustin Rhodes and Diamond Dallas Page, which was probably better than it had any right be and featured DDP showing he could still go, even if the heels took the victory. Jon Moxley had a fun match with Sammy Guevara, although it was more of a set up for the attack by The Inner Circle and the angle with Chris Jericho seemingly stabbing Moxley in the eye. Moxley would return later, after PAC defeated Darby Allin in another very enjoyable encounter, dramatically refuting the idea he would forfeit to PAC who he will face next week as a result of both men winning their matches. The eye injury is a brave move, but if they’re pushing Moxley in a big way, having him overcome an extra obstacle is a great way to go. Also, he looks bad-ass with the eye patch/bandage. Hikaru Shida and Kris Statlander vs Brandi Rhodes and Mel (Awesome Kong was ill) was a bit of a mess all things considered. The Dark Order aired a video, which was decent if not particularly edifying beyond the fact they are still teasing a supreme leader, while Joey Janela cut a promo on Kip Sabian and Penelope Ford. Finally, Kenny Omega and Hangman Page beat The Young Bucks, and Proud and Powerful in a decent affair as the tease of tension between Page and The Elite continued. An entertaining show overall, with plenty of solid action and storyline development.
Also NXT UK had their Takeover Blackpool show this week, which was very enjoyable although far from required viewing. The ladder match and the main event both delivered as much as any match that features Gallus can, while Eddie Dennis vs Trent Severn and Tyler Bate vs Jordan Devlin were both tremendous fun. The best match of the night was probably Kay Lee Ray vs Toni Storm vs Piper Niven. Unfortunately in a world saturated by good quality wrestling, NXT UK is a bridge too far for this writer on a weekly basis. That said, if you have the time to spare you could do worse than check out this show.
Sometimes social media can blow up in a person’s face, and for Tessa Blanchard that is exactly what happened earlier this week. On the eve of her being crowned as the top star on Impact Wrestling, Blanchard sent out a tweet extolling the virtues of female solidarity only for a number of her peers including NWA Women’s champion Allysin Kay to come out in force and call out Blanchard for her past conduct which includes alleged racist and abusive behaviour towards her fellow workers. Of course this couldn’t have come at a worse time and reflects badly on Blanchard, especially as there were rumours WWE passed on signing her due to an issue with her attitude. Blanchard has now openly addressed the allegations, but I think this may require a more in-depth explanation, and it is certainly a story that paints her, and by association Impact Wrestling in a particularly bad light.
After months of speculation on where “The Villain” Marty Scurll might go after his contract was due to expire with Ring of Honor, it looks as though his future has been resolved. While many believed that Scurll would end up with AEW and alongside his friends in The Elite, it was mooted that WWE had also made a play for the head of Villain Enterprises. However, in a surprising move it would appear that in addition to appearing on NWA programing, Scurll has not only re-signed with ROH, but will now be taking over as head booker for the promotion. It’s a bold move by ROH, but a brave step forward that could prove fruitful in turning around the companies ailing fortunes. Scurll has shown throughout his career that he has a great mind for the business and this has been pretty universally accepted as a positive move. Importantly Scurll is continuing to foster a strong working relationship with NWA, and reportedly has designs on strengthening relations with NJPW, CMLL and maybe even opening the door for a something in the future with AEW. For Scurll, he has the opportunity to further his career both in front and behind the camera while making a similar wage for fewer dates. A win-win for everyone and hopefully the start of big things for both “The Villain” and ROH.
RIP La Parka
In the first of two sad pieces of news this week, AAA superstar La Parka passed away after battling the after effects of a tragic accident in the ring a few months ago. La Parka - real name Jesús Alfonso Huerta Escoboza (not to be confused with La Park who is the original La Parka that also competed in WCW, it’s a long story) - landed head first on the floor/guardrail after an dive that did not land and was thought to be paralysed, but it was believed that an operation to help him regain movement was a success. However, reports surfaced late last week that Escoboza had passed away due to complications from that surgery. Escoboza had worked in AAA as Karis la Momia at first, and then as La Parka (or La Parka Jr/La Parka II) since 1996 where he had a storied career that included feuds with Cibernetico, Abismo Negro and even LA Park. Escoboza would continue his career in AAA right up until his accident and was a beloved act for the company during the best and worst years of the last quarter century. RIP La Parka
RIP Rocky Johnson
Following on from the sad passing of La Parka, word broke late this week that Rocky Johnson, father of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson had also passed away. Although his famous son is probably the reason his death has made its way into the mainstream media (BBC, Guardian etc.), Johnson, real name Wayde Douglas Bowles, was quite the trailblazer in his own right. His tag team with Tony Atlas in the early 1980s was ground-breaking as the first major African-American tag team champions in the WWF as well as his lengthy run working for the NWA in 1970s. Johnson was a very charismatic figure, and shone brightly in the ring, even if his prime was perhaps a bit too early to really benefit from the explosion of popularity for the industry in the mid-1980s and beyond. Johnson is fondly remembered by older fans and younger fans alike, and will be sorely missed having passed away aged 75. . RIP Rocky Johnson.
Triple H in hot water with Paige
During the media tour for NXT UK Takeover: Cardiff this week, Paul "Triple H" Levesque made something of a faux pas when answering a question about Paige potentially returning to the ring. The joke itself was tasteless and clearly did not take into consideration the tremendous difficulties Paige has been through in the past few years with her private videos leaking and revelations she has divulged about her personal life. However, Triple H has since public apologised for the remark. I don’t believe it was intended to be a personal jab, more a dad-joke gone wrong, but as a COO of a publicly traded company it is good to see Triple H not only being held to account, but taking action to rectify the situation and take ownership of it. Paige, Renee Young and others called out the comment and something happened which is a refreshing change for a largely male-dominated industry, even if the joke makes clear that there is still some way to go before wrestling conforms to the same standards as other industries on this front.
AEW Dynamite renewed
Finally, AEW announced this week that they had been renewed with TNT until 2023 for Dynamite, as well as potentially another weekly show. As good news stories go, this is huge for wrestling as it provides a stable option for workers who may no longer wish to work for WWE, as well as those who perhaps don’t fit what WWE are looking for. Between this announcement, the growth of New Japan Pro Wrestling, a potential resurgence from Ring of Honor, NWA growing in popularity and WWE continuing as the global juggernaut in wrestling, it a great time to be a wrestling fan and an even better time to be a professional wrestler. For AEW specifically, this is a clear vindication of the decision to start the company and should mean they are becoming a profitable, viable alternative which is far more than anyone could have expected when they launched less than a year ago. Congratulations AEW.
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, 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/ROH/AEW/Impact Wrestling