Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at all things professional wrestling. This week has been quite the busy one with Raw 25, the Smackdown go-home show for Royal Rumble as well as all of the build up to Sunday's big show. There was even a WWE link to the Academy Awards nominees this week. However, we'll start with the ugly news that has dominated the news within pro wrestling this week, centered around Enzo Amore.
There is no bigger story this week than the scandal involving the, now former WWE Cruiserweight Champion, Enzo Amore. The news broke on twitter on Monday that Amore had been accused of sexually assaulting a woman, as well as the involvement of Class A drugs. I won't get involved in the more lurid details as frankly there are plenty of places you can go to read those. WWE, as they did with Rich Swann a few months ago, suspended Amore immediately. However, unlike the Swann case where this was immediately after the alleged incident, the assault that Amore is alleged to have committed had a police investigation ongoing since October. We don’t know whether Amore had told WWE anything about the case, or the allegations made, but given WWE took swift action once the allegations were made public, and then Amore was let go the next day I think it is fair to assume WWE were unlikely aware that anything was going on, especially given they had pushed Enzo as a featured character in that time frame. There was further breaking news on this case on Thursday, where others stepped forward to discredit the victim’s claims and cast doubt on the validity of her story. To be honest, I don't want to cast judgement either way, that is not the purpose of this column. However, one thing we do know for certain is that WWE have let Amore go, and given the lack of "Future Endeavours" in the press release it is fair to say Amore won’t be welcome back right away, even if the charges are dropped and the allegations do indeed prove to be false. WWE had Daniel Bryan announce on Tuesday's 205 Live that Enzo was no longer the champion, and that WWE would be holding a tournament to crown a new cruiserweight champion in the coming weeks, as well as announcing a new GM for the brand to be announced next week.
In some ways it may be a missed opportunity here to quietly drop 205 Live which has been far from a roaring success. That said, perhaps this fresh start is just what the division needs. As for Amore, he had been branded a troublemaker and someone who had perhaps let fame go to his head, and that was prior to these allegations. There were stories of him having to change in the hallway after being booted out of the locker room by the boys, among other things. There were women working in the company who had gripes with him over personal relationships, but he was very over with the crowd which was enough to keep him his job. However, with WWE's zero tolerance policy on domestic or sexual violence, they may have finally been given an out to remove Amore from the roster. It would seem regardless of the outcome of the investigation, this is more than likely the end for one Enzo Amore.
Raw 25, was something of a let-down for me. There were plenty of appearances by legends, but nothing really seemed to provide anything of consequence. The Undertaker’s appearance was to cut a promo that either said he was retired, or definitely isn’t. Chris Jericho, The APA, Trish Stratus, Torrie Wilson, Jeff Hardy and countless others basically turned up for a brief cameo. The opening segment with Stone Cold Steve Austin and The McMahons was good fun, but it really went downhill from there. The Miz vs Roman Reigns was probably the match of the night and the Intercontinental title change frees up Reigns to move on to the main event scene. Gallows & Anderson beating The Revival, as well as Heath Slater & Rhyno vs Titus Worldwide were just set ups for legends to have their moment, which was fine but it all felt like it completely ignored that WWE have arguably their second biggest PPV of the year on Sunday.
There were three angles that play into the rumble shot on this show. Elias' confrontation with John Cena was well done, and made the former "Drifter" seem like a big deal. Asuka asserted her candidacy for the Rumble, by throwing everyone over the top rope following a so-so multi-woman tag match. Finally, Brock Lesnar, Braun Strowman and Kane had a big brawl surrounded by the roster and a load of legends. Strowman looked like an absolute monster here, and it was a satisfying go-home angle on a show sadly devoid of much other build-up for the rumble.
A disappointing show, and a missed opportunity. This could have been the sort of big deal that Raw 1000 was a few years back, but WWE decided to stick with safe nostalgia. Hopefully Sunday brings something a bit more adventurous.
Smackdown was at least a slight more focused on the Royal Rumble this week, and chiefly with Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn taking on AJ Styles for the WWE title. The opening segment built up nicely to the two singles matches with Styles taking on Zayn and Owens. It also continued to tease a possible Daniel Bryan heel turn which may I imagine is little more than a diversion. The matches themselves were very good, and helped Zayn seem like more of a genuine threat to Styles by getting the win ere, even if it was after Owens softened Styles up. A nice bit of build for Sunday.
The rest of the show was just basic build to Sunday, with The New Day and Bobby Roode taking on Jinder Mahal, Rusev and Aiden English, all of whom will be in the rumble. Shinsuke Nakamura vs Baron Corbin was a bit of a nothing match, but was really just set-up for Randy Orton to attack both to build him as a threat for Sunday. Naomi vs Liv Morgan was a decent match, although more for Naomi’s efforts than Morgan’s and the post-match did a great job of giving a final push to the women's rumble match from the Smackdown side of things. Finally, Chad Gable vs Jey Uso was a very enjoyable bout that was a good showcase for Gable ahead of the 2/3 falls match on Sunday.
A fine show, not super eventful, but a functional way to build to the rumble on Sunday.
Vince McMahon returns to American Football
We broke the news a few weeks back that Vince McMahon had sold a chunk of his shares in WWE to start a company, Alpha Entertainment, which was designed to seek out specific sporting investment opportunities. Well, late Thursday night we got the news that we all expected that McMahon was relaunching the XFL, his failed venture into the sport from 2001. The XFL was recently the feature of an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary, and I'm sure the publicity from that was the catalyst. The press conference was light on details for now, although we did find out the league will start in 2020. will feature 8 teams from to-be-determined cities, and will feature zero crossover with WWE. Obviously this seems like something that will almost certainly fail, but you have to credit McMahon with his stubborn belief that this concept will work. We will have more updates in the coming months as the XFL starts to become more of a reality.
The Oscars and WWE don't often go hand-in-hand, but this week one WWE superstar got the news that a film he starred had been nominated for an Academy award. No, it's not Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, but one John Cena, who provided the voice for the titular character in the animated film Ferdinand, which was nominated for Best Animated Film. While it is a surprise, t's great news for Cena, and well deserved as he has been doing great with the films roles he has had in recent years. A big congratulations from everyone here at Slammer Jabber.
Although this week's Raw may have been preoccupied, there is very much a PPV happening this weekend, and it's a big one. The Royal Rumble. The card is pretty stacked, but as always it is the rumble match itself that sells this show, and this year we are getting too. The men's rumble is a bit of a pickle with no obvious winner currently emerging from the possible contenders. I could certainly see Shinsuke Nakamura or Finn Balor getting the nod and going for the WWE title on Smackdown (obviously there would need to be some reshuffling for Balor to challenge AJ Styles, presuming he is champion come Mania). That said, Daniel Bryan has somehow become one of the betting favourites, but that would require there to be a lot more going on behind the scenes than we are aware of. It would be a huge thing, but I can’t see it. There is also of course the outside chance that a Brock Lesnar, or Braun Strowman get the win (but that will depend on the outcome of the universal title match, which I suspect Lesnar will be retaining), or even a Roman Reigns win, although again I assume WWE aren’t stupid enough to book Reigns to win in Philadelphia again. It is certainly one of the more intriguing rumbles in a good few years and it will be very interesting to see how it turns out.
The women’s rumble match is a slightly different affair, with Asuka being pushed as the biggest threat to everyone, and I wouldn't be totally surprised if she does win, but normally this sort of booking is a diversionary tactic and I think we might get that here. I could perhaps see Raw champion Alexa Bliss interfering and eliminating Asuka, letting a surprise winner come to the fore. If it is someone on the current roster I am going to guess that Becky Lynch would be a great choice. Of course the spectre of a possible Ronda Rousey debut also looms large, but we'll see on Sunday whether that transpires or not. Much like the men’s match, expect a good few surprises.
The rest of the show has big matches aplenty. AJ Styles vs Kevin Owens vs Sami Zayn should be fun, but I can only see it ending with Styles getting the win, be it via opponent miscommunication or via Shane McMahon or Daniel Bryan's involvement. The Universal title match will likely end in Lesnar walking away champion, but again depending on how they plan to do things I could see Lesnar dropping the title here (perhaps even to Kane) only to enter and win the Rumble, presumably then with Roman Reigns winning the belt at the February PPV to set up the obvious Mania match. The Bar vs Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan is an interesting one, but I assume Jordan and Rollins retain to further their storyline, while Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin vs The Usos in a 2/3 falls match should be an absolute cracker, but to me seems bound for the pre-show.
Royal Rumble is always a fun show, with returns, surprises, and a clearer picture of the top end of Wrestlemania emerging by the end of things. It should be a decent show, based on what is there on paper, let's hope the booking lives up to that potential.
Well that is it from me for this week. I will be back at the same time next week with all the news from the Royal Rumble, Raw and Smackdown, as well as touching on any major stories that might break in the next week. In the meantime, 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.