Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at all things professional wrestling from the past seven days. This week was one full of change as AEW hosted their second big show, Fyter Fest, and WWE presented their first week of television since the big Paul Heyman/Eric Bischoff announcement last week. Let’s get the ball rolling by taking a dive into the Fyter Fest show and some of the good, and bad from the event.
Hot on the heels of AEW’s hugely successful Double or Nothing show the upstart company presented their second major show from the Ocean Centre in Daytona Beach, Florida. Fyter Fest looked on paper to be another potential home run for AEW, but what they delivered was more of a mixed bag than a statement of intent. The main event with Jon Moxley taking on Joey Janela in a no-holds-barred match felt more like a stunt show than a contest of any consequence. It was a nice showcase for Moxley, and highlighted Janela’s insane bumps, but the whole thing seemed disjointed and lacking in any real heat. The post-match attack from Kenny Omega on Mox was well executed, although Omega didn’t quite feel believable in the furious fiery babyface role. It did make sense that Omega would want revenge and it definitely progressed the rivalry between the two.
The sanctioned main event of the show with The Elite taking on The Lucha Bros and Laredo Kid was more the sort of thing that AEW should be presenting, it was fast paced, fun and unlike anything you’ll see in WWE. There are, naturally, detractors of this sort of style and although I have my own issues with The Young Bucks, Kenny Omega and The Lucha Bros, there is no getting around the fact that these matches have been spectacular. Plus it had the video game tie-in which was a nice extra for the CEO convention which this event happened in conjunction with.
One match on this show garnered more attention than most, Cody Rhodes vs Darby Allin. Fresh off his stunning bout with his brother at Double or Nothing, Rhodes seemed to be riding a wave of momentum but Allin was attempting to stop that. Darby Allin is a very unique prospect who takes some of the most unusual and unorthodox bumps I have ever seen. He’s perhaps a tiny bit on the small side, but AEW seems to be less focused on size so that shouldn’t work against him. However, based on this match I wonder if Allin has a death wish, given the “coffin drop” spot he did on the apron, he is lucky not to have a broken back. The stuff with the body bag could have been excellent, but the execution was farcical. Going to a time limit draw should elevate Allin, but given the post-match I fear everyone had forgotten about him when the dust had settled. There is no excuse for unprotected chair shots to the head in 2019, not with everything we know about CTE, and I am not buying the idea it was gimmicked chair at all. The criticism it garnered shows how stupid the spot was, and although it builds up the future feud between Cody and Shawn Spears (formerly Tye Dillinger) it was a brutal spot that could have been done far more safely.
The rest of the show had some bright moments, but nothing massively memorable. The women’s three-way was fun, although I still think they have a lot of work to do in order to flesh out the characters of the competitors within the division. Cima vs Christopher Daniels was a fine opener between two old pros. Finally, the four-way between MJF, Hangman Page, Jimmy Havoc and Jungle Boy was a decent affair that achieved what it needed to. Page continued his forward motion as they build towards his title match with Chris Jericho at All Out. MJF continued to grow as the biggest antagonist heel in the company, while this also shone a light on what Jungle Boy and Havoc can offer in the mid-card. Not a brilliant match, but far from awful either.
Fyter Fest was definitely a step down from Double or Nothing in terms of the quality of the show. Their previous show set a pretty high bar, but there was far too much comedy and plenty of ill-judged booking on this show that dragged it down. That said this was definitely designed as a “B” show for the company so we’ll see how the next show pans out before jumping to conclusions.
Last week we reported that WWE had hired Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff for off-screen creative roles on Raw and Smackdown respectively. While Bischoff may not be starting for a few weeks, it became abundantly clear from this week’s Raw that Heyman is very much involved in the creative process and as a result this was easily the best Raw in months. The opening segment with Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashley was explosive, literally. The stunt with the LED set has been done before, but having it open the show was a great idea, and the fact the rest of the episode went on with a big hole in the set was a constant reminder that helped reinforce the impact it had. It’s the best thing they could have done for both men, and a great way to kick off the show.
The main event of Raw also did wonders for making this feel like an important show. Ricochet vs AJ Styles was always going to be a god match, but I like that both this week and last week these matches were kept short and the audience is left to wait for a PPV quality bout. AJ turning heel feels like a fresh direction for his character, as well as an opportunity to revitalise Gallows & Anderson, who have been floundering in the mid-card for some time. AJ Styles is a great babyface, but he’s proven in the past he can also be a top heel and with Raw short on top level heels there is certainly a gap that The Club can easily fill. A hot way to go off the air and a hook for people to tune in next week.
Sandwiched between those two segments was a very good show. The Undertaker’s return promo confronting Shane McMahon and Drew McIntyre was by-the-numbers stuff but that was still more than effective. The New Day vs The Viking Raiders was a backdrop for Samoa Joe’s involvement and although this was a device to insert a commercial break, the six-man tag with Joe getting the clean fall on Kofi Kingston was a great way to continue to present Joe as the most credible threat to Kingston’s WWE title reign thus far. Baron Corbin and Lacey Evans were pretty much an afterthought on this show, despite Evans pinning Natalya, which can only be seen as a good thing. Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch took part in a match/angle with Mike and Maria Kannellis, I’m not sure where they are going with this angle and if Maria is really pregnant, well done to them for making the most of the current market conditions in getting a great deal from WWE. An odd segment though that did little for Rollins or Lynch (who really shouldn’t appear as an onscreen couple after this mixed tag match is done) but put Mike and Maria in their most high profile role since they signed with the company a few years back.
The Miz vs Elias was a chore to get through and had no business being a 2/3 falls match. Nikki Cross vs Carmella was very enjoyable, and another statement of intent in terms of the way they are pushing Cross in this angle with Alexa Bliss. Drake Maverick was again superb, bring his wife to Raw and the setup for his potential honeymoon full of title defences was fantastic, let’s hope WWE follow up on this with some segments from their trip. Finally, we had some fun backstage as The Street Profits appeared on Raw, including interacting with Paul Heyman. Montez Ford is potentially the most charismatic performer on the roster and Angelo Dawkins finally appears to have hit his stride as the hype man for the team. I don’t know that this is a permanent move up from NXT or they’ll be on both shows for a while, but I’m excited to see them on Raw. We also got more teases of Bray Wyatt, with more puppet Easter eggs in the background. You have to assume Bray will be returning imminently.
I’m not saying this was a hot show, or the best Raw ever, but it was a massive improvement. Sure, the bar was low, but still this was so much fresher and exciting than anything on this show for the majority of 2019. If this is how the Paul Heyman-era is going to be, I can’t wait to see what happens next week.
With Raw hitting its stride for the first time in years, Smackdown had plenty to live up to, but alas it fell just short of the bar set by the red brand. Kevin Owens was easily the star of the show this week. The opening segment with himself, Shane McMahon, Drew McIntyre and eventually Dolph Ziggler was a clear face turn for Owens, who verbally cut Ziggler down spectacularly. The match later in the night with Ziggler and Owens forced to team against Heavy Machinery compounded the face turn for Owens after a miscommunication cost the odd couple team the match and Owens gave Ziggler a stunner after the match. This feels like the role that had been intended for Owens when he returned a few months back only for circumstances to require a heel turn from him to provide a challenger for Kofi Kingston. Now free and clear of that programme (and seemingly no longer with Sami Zayn) he is free to thrive as a babyface on a show that could really benefit from a kick-ass, take no prisoners likeable star beyond just Kofi Kingston.
The face-off between Samoa Joe and Kofi Kingston was a very effective way to continue the feud between the two men. Joe was excellent trying to taint Kofi’s accomplishments and make their tactics seem on the same level as a way to get into Kingston’s head. However, Kingston flipping Joe the bird and giving him the Trouble in Paradise was a nice way to give Kingston his heat back, and provide him with a bit more edge in this feud going forward.
The rest of the show was mostly enjoyable, but nothing blow away. Daniel Bryan vs Big E was a very good TV match and I’d really like to see more of these two together as they seemed to have excellent chemistry. Andrade vs Apollo Crews was fine, but instantly forgettable. Hopefully Andrade getting the win is the start of a build for him to get a main event programme in the coming months. Ember Moon vs Mandy Rose continued the mini feud between Moon and Fire and Desire (not that they use that name much anymore, probably because it’s terrible). Nikki Cross hosting Moment of Bliss was a nice twist, and the resultant match with Bayley was very enjoyable, although I’m not sure beating Cross here is necessarily beneficial for the overall story. Finally, we had some interesting backstage moments with Ali cutting an intriguing promo, Aleister Black ranting about doors again, Bobby Lashley threatening to murder Braun Strowman, and Shelton Benjamin doing something that I can’t really explain. It was weird. Still, it kept the show moving along.
A decent episode of Smackdown that had plenty to like, but also could have used some further fresh and new ideas for this to feel as strong a show as Raw this week. That said, Smackdown doesn’t require the sort of major surgery that Raw does so hopefully when Eric Bischoff comes in there will be a raft of fresh ideas to match the start Raw made this week.
RIP Pero Aguayo and Jaques Rougeou Sr
In sad news, two wrestling legends passed away this week. Firstly Jacques Rougeau Sr, the father of Jacques and Raymond who long time fans will remember from their WWE days as the Fabulous Rougeau Brothers, while Jacques was later The Mountie and one half of The Quebecers. Their father was a legendary promoter in Canada operating out of the Quebec region, although he also had a very successful career as a wrestler even competing for New Japan Pro Wrestling. Rougeau Sr had been suffering from pulmonary fibrosis, and passed away aged 89.
In addition to Rougeau, Perro Aguayo Sr also passed away this week. Aguayo was a household name in Mexico as one of the top heels in the UWA feuding with the likes of Konnan, El Texano and countless others. He would also be instrumental in the formation of AAA in the 1990s. Unfortunately the reason he might be familair to most fans outside of Mexico is because his son Perro Aguayo Jr passed away in the ring in 2015 after a tragic accident with Rey Mysterio. Aguayo Sr was aged 73 when he passed, although his cause of death is currently unknown. RIP Perro Aguayo and Jacques Rougeau Sr.
Well, that is it from me for this week. I will be back at the same time next week with a look back at Raw and Smackdown, plus the build to Extreme Rules and Fight for the Fallen, as well as whatever else breaks in the meantime. 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.