Welcome to this week's Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at all things Pro Wrestling from the past seven days. This big news this week comes from these shores with the UK Tournament from Blackpool, but also looking at Raw, Smackdown, Kurt Angle and more. So let's get right to it, with a look at the UK Tournament from this past weekend.
WWE UK Tournament
Well, that was quite something wasn't it? Over two nights we saw the very best talent that WWE could get their hands on in the UK, and they nailed it. I loved that this show looked different from anything else they've done and much of that was down to the setting. The Empress Ballroom in Blackpool is such a phenomenal looking building steeped in history which made for a unique backdrop for this show. i should also point out that for me, the most surprising asset for this show was Michael Cole. Cole can be incredibly irritating on WWE television, clearly just towing the party line and regurgitating whatever Vince McMahon is barking into his headset, but here he seemed like a new man, unleashed from the shackles of the usual TV constraints. Cole was excellent here, calling moves I didn't even think he knew the name of, with Nigel McGuinness providing a welcome insight to the in-ring side of things and a great colour counter balance to Cole's play-by-play.
In terms of the in-ring product, we got some fantastic bouts here with some great talent on show. Tyler Bate was certainly a worthwhile winner, having cracking matches with Wolfgang and Pete Dunne (more on him in a minute), and he was a deserving winner I think, For someone so young he has such a big upside and already looks a really polished worker. Wolfgang impressed throughout, moving around in a far more energetic style than his look and size might suggest. Trent Seven provided some much needed personality and charisma, although I'm not 100% sold on his look. Mark Andrews looked great as well, and although he's quite small I expect he will end up moving to the cruiserweight division in the future, such is the level he is at. However, the absolute star of the show for me was Pete Dunne. Dunne was phenomenal from the outset, playing the bully heel, nasty piece of work. His in-ring work is phenomenal and he is a guy you can see straight away just understands the psychology of his character. Dunne's efforts in the final, as well as against Andrews were superb, as was his attack on Sam Gradwell the previous night, setting him up as the big bad for this tournament, which allowed them to tell the story with Bate as the underdog in the final.
All in all, this has to be chalked up as a huge success for WWE and for UK wrestling. Whether there is enough there for a weekly TV show remains to be seen, but there is certainly a solid base here. There are rumours that WWE will be having UK companies such as ICW and Progress on the network moving forward with the belt defended there, which might not be a terrible idea if they don;t want to opt for a full-blown WWE UK promotion just yet. The future is certainly bright for British wrestling between this, the World of Sport re-launch, and the Five Star Wrestling deal with Spike UK, of which there are precious few details available, but again an only be good for British Wrestling.
In contrast to the wonderful tournament we got over the weekend, Raw was a bit of a chore this week (Raw is Chore?). The build for the Royal Rumble continues, but it all seemed very formulaic. I enjoyed the big multi-man main event, and it was definitely nice to see Kevin Owens being made to look strong by leaving Roman Reigns laying to end the show, but at the same time he still seemed like an afterthought compared to Braun Strowman, who is clearly being positioned as a monster prior to the Rumble, and Brock Lesnar who they dd a good job of rehabbing on this show after the Goldberg loss. Both the opening and closing segments were designed to push the Rumble and they were effective to a degree, but it seemed a bit flat for me, but they still have plenty of time to build the likes of Sami Zayn, Seth Rollins, and Chris Jericho into genuine contenders on next week's show. It shouldn't take much, but you definitely got the impression something was being held back for next week.
Elsewhere Raw was a bit of a chore to get through if I'm honest. We had too decent, but not spectacular cruiserweight matches, with Cedric Alexander and Brian Kendrick having the better of the two matches , rather than Rich Swann and Tony Nese, although both were good vehicles for forwarding the story-lines for the division, with Alexander and Alicia Fox's ongoing love triangle with Noam Dar, as well as the Rich Swann-Neville feud (given that the match never really started with Nese as Neville attacked). The New Day and Titus O'Neill segment was a simple retread of last week, and the Gallows & Anderson vs Sheamus & Cesaro match was fun if not a bit predictable, even with the Dusty finish. Finally, I quite liked the Charlotte and Bayley segment for the most part, as it did really well to get across Bayley's role as the underdog with a passion for WWE, but I could do with never hearing her read poetry again.
Not a great show overall, but here's hoping that next week will pick up in the build to the rumble.
The opening segment and match were really well done. The Elimination Chamber offers an easy out if they do decide to take the WWE Title off AJ Styles, and the tension between AJ and Shane McMahon was a nice touch here, something I wouldn’t be surprised to see develop further in the coming weeks. John Cena also played a blinder here, again playing up to the idea that he's the veteran trying to keep up with the younger guys (in reality AJ is actually the same age as Cena, but that's fine), while it was good to see The Miz mixing it up with the main eventers and looking strong here too. All good build for the Royal Rumble, although you have to imagine that given the focus has shifted to the Elimination Chamber that no Smackdown guys are winning the Rumble.
Dean Ambrose had a fun little match with Randy Orton, which was a nice bonus on this show, but the real story coming out of this match was the growing tensions in the Wyatt Family. I have enjoyed the slow build on this angle, and the simmering tensions don't seem to point to a simple Orton double cross, but something richer in terms of story development. I had never considered this might all lead to a split with Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper rather than Orton, and this week seemed to confirm that. I'm intrigued and very excited to see where this goes.
Speaking of intriguing segments the Jerry Lawler Kings Court segment with Dolph Ziggler was very, very interesting indeed. Ziggler looked liked a proper heel for the first time I can remember in years, and was actually effective in this role. Smart booking given Lawler was in his home town, and thus the heat for Ziggler was guaranteed. It was interesting that Lawler got involved in something physical here as that was unexpected for me, especially as they showed the footage of Ziggler's last physical interaction with Lawler minutes before his heart attack on air. Hopefully this isn't just something throwaway and we actually get some character development from Ziggler out of this.
Despite all these good things, for me this week's show belonged to the Women's division. The feud between Nikki Bella and Natalya is really heating up, and I like that the heat between the two is believable and plausible, which makes me interested in a feud where I previously had none. Equally in the main event, we got a cracking cage match between Alexa Bliss and Becky Lynch for the Women's Championship, which both really shined in, and then the reveal of La Luchadora as former Divas champion Mickie James. This is fantastic, and James is a great addition to the roster and puts another obstacle in Lynch's way in order to regain her title, and should allow them to stretch out the wait for that moment until Wrestlemania, which should be fantastic. The writing here is great, Becky vs Mickie should be excellent, and this sets up an intriguing partnership between Mickie and Alexa going forward.
Jimmy Snuka passes away
In sad news this week, WWE Hall of Famer Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka passed away following a battle with stomach cancer. Snuka is undoubtedly one of the biggest names in wrestling history, having been part of a famous rivalry with Rowdy Roddy Piper in the 1980s, cornering Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania 1, facing The Undertaker at Wrestlemania 7, creating waves with his high flying style and top rope Superfly splash, as well as on occasion from the top of cages. Snuka was a pioneer and inspired a whole generation of wrestlers. Snuka was a mainstay for WWE and one of their biggest stars in the 1970s. However, it's hard to celebrate Snuka's life to level that perhaps we might have previously after allegations resurfaced in the past few years that he murdered his then girlfriend, Nancy Argentino in 1983. Although the charges were quashed at the time, in 2015 the investigation was once again re-opened into Argentino's death. It all seems a bit murky, but we will never know what truly happened, as Snuka was ruled medically unfit to face trial late last year, and with his passing this will sadly leave a dark cloud over what perhaps could, or should be a wonderful legacy.
Kurt Angle Hall of Fame Induction
Despite having been out in the wilderness for over a decade, Kurt Angle will be welcomed back by the WWE for this year's Hall of Fame. The Olympic gold winning medalist will be honoured in Florida this year, as part of the Wrestlemania 33 weekend festivities. I had suspect Angle would be the WWE 2K18 featured star, so this was a suprise. Whether this leads to an in-ring return with WWE remains to be seen, much of which I'm sure hinges on whether WWE would actually pass him as fit to compete. However, there is definitely a role for Angle, be it as a GM, or a manager, or a coach-like figure for American Alpha perhaps. These are all very real possibilities for Angle, and I hope we do get to see him on WWE television in the coming months. Either way Angle is bound for the HoF. It's True.
Well that's all from me this week. I'll be out of the country next week, but never fear I will have a special look at the Royal Rumble over the years, as well as a look at this year's event next Thursday for you to enjoy, with regular service resuming the following week. For now, why not check out the rest of ScreenJabber for all the best in Movies, DVDs, Blu-rays, opinions, competitions, and much more. For now, so long folks.