Welcome wrestling fans to another edition of Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at the biggest news stories in the world of professional wrestling. This week has something of a UK-centric theme as we look at some of the biggest moments from WWE's jaunt to the UK, including the usual Raw and Smackdown tapings. However, we'll get started with a look at the first ever WWE UK Champaionship tapings.
UK Championship tapings
This past weekend marked the first set of tapings for WWE's UK Championship TV show, following on from the successful tournament in January to crown Tyler Bate as the first ever UK Champion. Bate has since defended the title on NXT, while his competitors such as Moustache Mountain partner Trent Seven, and their fellow British Strong Style cohort Pete Dunne, although in WWE-land he is the chief antagonist to Bate. We have also seen appearances on camera from Wolfgang, Mark Andrews, and perennial NXT regular Danny Burch. However, these taping mark the first set of tapings for WWE UK, and by all accounts both nights were great shows. I'm not 100% sure when this will appearing on the WWE Network, but you would imagine that it happens in the next few weeks as the main event of the second night had implications for NXT Takeover: Chicago on May 20. where Bate will be defending the title against Dunne (don’t start crying about spoilers, WWE have had it all over their social media). That should be a cracking match, much like their bout from the initial tournament final, and should provide both a great showcase for the new show as well as a bit of extra padding to a threadbare takeover show. The other notable detail that came out this week was the addition of Jim Ross and Nigel McGuinness as the commentators for the weekly show once it launches, something that adds some gravitas to proceedings but is also a shot at World of Sport. WOS have had to postpone their tapings due to 'logistical issues' and with JR resigning with WWE, you would have to assume that this was deliberate to prevent WOS from using him , as they did on their pilot show late last year. Advantage WWE for now at least it seems. Whatever happens this can only be good for the British wrestling scene in the short term if not longer, and I am very much looking forward to seeing the finished article.
As usual, the UK-based Raw was a bit of a damp squib for me. The co-GM gimmick with Dean Ambrose and The Miz was a nice idea, although I'm not really sure why they didn’t fly Kurt Angle in for this given he would have been a really big deal to the crowd. The resulting main event between Ambrose and Bray Wyatt was good, although it immediately evoked bad memories of their feud in late 2014 which I could have done with never thinking about again. In addition to this, the match between The Miz and Finn Balor was very good, and again this all served to build further towards the big IC title match next week. I completely understand the need to raise the profile of the IC belt while Brock Lesnar is at home, but it didn't quite have the gravitas to be the main focus of the show. I was also confused as to why we got no interaction between Wyatt and Balor given they were both involved in the Ambrose-Miz feud here and yet that story was barely given any attention.
The Kalisto vs Braun Strowman "match" was not exactly what I expected when it got made during the opening segment, but with Strowman being legitimately injured (more on that later) this segment was necessary, and helped continue the build to Roman Reigns vs Strowman once Braun is healthy again. It's not tipping an ambulance over, but the angle certainly does enough to write Strowman off for a few weeks without hurting him too much.
Alexa Bliss was once again brilliant this week and rare bright spot in an otherwise pretty dire show. The idea of teaming her up with Nia Jax is genius and will only benefit both of them I think, with Alexa able to do the talking for Jax and Bliss able to manipulate Jax into doing her bidding for her. This could also potentially build to the eventual Jax face turn ala Diesel and Shawn Michaels. The match with Mickie James and Bliss was fine for what it was, although it clearly was more intended to drive the story forward and lead to Bayley running in. Equally I do wonder whether the Sasha Banks heel turn has been dropped here, given she was kept completely separate to the main angle as she battled Alicia Fox in a nothing match here. Unless the build here is to Jax/Bliss vs Sasha/Bayley leading to the turn, but you would think that programme needs the belt really.
The rest of the show was a bit of a struggle really. Samoa Joe vs Seth Rollins was fine, but the DQ was predictable and I struggled to get invested in the match. The tag team turmoil match was enjoyable, but again really predictable. Sheamus and Cesaro are definitely better as heels and I'm glad to see them dominating, but I just wanted to fast forward to the inevitable post-match confrontation with The Hardys. Finally Jack Gallagher vs TJ Perkins was actually very good, but the assembled crowd couldn’t care less, which really hurt the match and is a real shame as you would think Gallagher would be a big draw here, especially against Perkins who is on a real roll as a heel. Still, a very decent match if not quite on the level of the match they had on 205 Live last month.
All in all a pretty arduous Raw to get through, ranging from enjoyable to turgid, but never getting anyway more engrossing. Let's hope for better next week.
Despite being a UK show (and therefore not having anything of note happen on it, as per usual), Smackdown was a far more entertaining show than Raw this week. WWE Champion Randy Orton's promo to open the show was very good (including a nice mention of a certain fridge), and the multi-person match for the main event was well set up, especially as all three have distinct face/heel dynamics and it keeps the Sami Zayn vs Baron Corbin, Kevin Owens vs AJ Styles and Randy Orton vs Jinder Mahal programmes pushing forward and developing. Between this segment and the main event I felt like there was more story development than most of the show on Raw this week. The match itself was your typical Smackdown main event, but it was certainly enjoyable and I liked the idea of Mahal getting the pin on Orton. Now, not for a second do I think Mahal is getting the belt at Backlash but it doesn’t hurt to make it look he is actually a credible challenger.
For me, Breezango are quickly becoming highlights of the show. Their Fashion Police segment was excellent and very entertaining, something I could not have seen myself even considering a few months back. Equally it was good see them not just being presented as a joke, getting a decisive win over The Ascension, all of which is building them up nicely to challenge The Usos. It really is amazing what giving these lower card tag teams an opportunity and some faith can do for them. Speaking of The Usos, their promo against Breezango was also really good here and between the two of them I am genuinely looking forward to their match at Backlash.
The rest of the show ticked along nicely continuing lots of feud and forwarding the issues involved. Becky Lynch vs Natalya was as good as expected, and I enjoyed the backstage segment setting up the six woman match for Backlash. I imagine that will open the show, if nothing else because I can see it being a real high energy affair which is perfect to pop the crowd for a PPV. The Shinsuke Nakamura and Dolph Ziggler segment was much of the same they've been doing, but it is building further anticipation for Nakamura's debut which can only be a good thing. This is fine for an introduction, and I definitely think Nakamura should not be wrestling every week on TV, but there does need to be some variation in these segments once he's done with Ziggler if he's to climb up the card. Erick Rowan vs Luke Harper was a good little match, and I’m sad that it seems to just be thrown together as both men deserve far better, especially Harper. Equally I was surprised to see Rowan get the win, but at least it's keeping them both on TV. Also we had the Rusev and Lana videos (separately, to be clear) which didn't add much but should provide more star power in the coming weeks.
A good show, nothing mind blowing, but certainly nothing terrible. About as much as you can expect from a UK Smackdown show.
Strowman and Emma Injuries
It's not been a good week for WWE on the injury front. First off Emma suffered what appears to be a shoulder injury after a bout involving Sasha Banks at the live show in Liverpool, the extent of which is not yet known. To compound that loss, Braun Strowman looks to be facing some time on the sidelines with an elbow issue (hence the angle on Raw), and looks to be out for around 6-8 weeks which presumably will have an effect on WWE's plans for both Extreme Rules and, sigh, Great balls of Fire in the next month or so. It is terrible timing for WWE, but you have to imagine this means we get the Roman Reigns vs Brock Lesnar match sooner than next year's Wrestlemania, or we get Finn Balor vs Lesnar which is also a good option to go to. Hopefully this provides a blessing in disguise with Strowman being able to come back as a huge challenger to a face champion upon his return. Hopefully they don’t lose any more talent to major injuries, as that could cause all kinds of issues if they it happens.
Titus O'Neill - Swerved lawsuit
In an unusual story this week, news broke that WWE's Titus O'Neill is being sued by a cameraman who worked on Swerved, the WWE prank show on the network. It is being alleged that O'Neill lashed out and struck the camera, injuring the cameraman's hand, which he is suing for significant damages. The actual lawsuit is unlikely to be a big deal in itself, but what is more interesting is whether this will mean that the talent releases for the show signed by the talent will be published as part of proceedings, as those releases would presumably show whether the talent was in fact aware of the "surprise" nature of the pranks, potentially threatening to sink the whole concept if it does transpire they were aware. It could end up being a nothing story, but this has the quiet potential to be far more interesting than it first appears.
NJPW - Okada/Omega 2 confirmed
Kenny Omega vs Kazuchika Okada at Wrestle Kingdom 11 this past January will almost certainly be up there with most people's match of the year candidates for 2017, and rightfully so. As such, it is a hugely exciting happening that we are getting the sequel at Dominion in June, after the two have essentially been kept separate since their classic in January. I for one am hugely excited by this and hope they can keep the momentum going and put on a match that lives up to the legacy of the first match. If I were a betting man I'd put some money down on Omega winning this and the two having a rubber match in January at the Tokyo Dome, but this is NJPW so who knows!
Kings of Leon vs Wrestling Twitter
To paraphrase good old JR, Jim Ross, you don’t tug on superman's cape, you don’t spit into the wind, and you certainly don't rile up the wrestling community on social media if you’re an outsider. However, that is exactly what Kings of Leon (yes apparently they do still exist, mediocre as ever) bassist Jared Followill who made the mistake of tweeting "Hey, adults. Let's maybe not watch professional wrestling. Ya know?". This was met with a huge backlash and furore of epic proportions as the wrestling community rounded on him, including WWE performers Scott Dawson and Big E, and Independent stalwarts The Young Bucks, as well as a shed load of fans getting on the musician's case. Obviously Followill quickly realised the error of his ways and opted to claim someone on else nabbed his phone and wrote those tweets but the damage was done. The less on to learn, is that you probably shouldn’t criticise wrestling on social media, because wrestling fans are everywhere.
Well that is it for me this week, I'll be back next week with a look at the final week before Backlash, the various happenings from Raw, Smackdown and whatever news breaks in the world of professional wrestling in the next seven days. 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.