Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at all things professional wrestling from the past seven days. There's a lot of ground to cover as AEW held their huge Full Gear show, WWE took a trip to Europe, and CM Punk dropped a bombshell (although not quite a pipebomb) by joining the WWE on Fox Backstage show. Plus NXT and AEW had their usual jam-packed TV shows. Let us start with the biggest show of the week, AEW Full Gear.
AEW Full Gear
All Elite Wrestling held their third official PPV event this past weekend as they looked to continue their momentum as a result of the weekly episodes of Dynamite. With lots of big matches and some unexpected moments, it was a very eventful show headlined by something very memorable that divided opinions within the wrestling community.
The top two matches on this show were like chalk and cheese. Jon Moxley vs Kenny Omega was a violent stunt show of a match that featured some huge spots. The barbed wire, glass and tables all provided moments that were difficult to watch, with the spiderweb especially brutal. That said, it did have the feel of something heated and personal and that itself made this an enjoyable main event even it was closer to a deathmatch or something that came from a garbage wrestling company. Moxley and Omega have great chemistry and there is a multitude of stories to tell for both men moving forward.
The other big match on this show featured Cody Rhodes’ first and only chance at the AEW Championship against “Le Champion” Chris Jericho. Much like the main event, there was tension and heat aplenty but in contrast, this bout had an old school feel which is something that Cody has done brilliantly since AEW started. The finish did feel a bit rushed, but I wonder if that was perhaps a knock-on from Cody’s blood loss, but I enjoyed that this reiterated how devastating the lion tamer version of the Walls of Jericho can be. The MJF-towel-throwing finish, as well as the cuts to shots of Cody’s mother in the crowd, did a great job of evoking memories of Bret “The Hitman” Hart vs Bob Backlund from Survivor Series 1994. The turn from MJF after the match could maybe have been saved for a bit further along the line, but it was certainly effective in cementing him as a top-line heel within the company.
The rest of the show was very good for the most part. The Young Bucks vs Proud and Powerful was a far more structured affair than I expected and put Santana and Ortiz over huge with the win over arguably the best tag team in the world. The tag team title three-way was nowhere near as good, and it felt a bit disjointed for my liking, but it wasn’t bad and the post-match with the Pentagon doppelganger and reveal of Christopher Daniels was well executed. Shawn Spears vs Joey Janela did nothing for me, and Riho vs Emi Sakura was fine but the lack of context going in hampered my ability to really invest in the student-teacher story. Finally, Adam Page and PAC had a very enjoyable match that really put over Page, and while both men were brilliant, it really was the former Neville who made this a truly fantastic bout, with Page gaining a big boost and PAC losing nothing in defeat.
A very solid show overall. It lacked the blow away factor of Double or Nothing or All Out, but given this was the first show at the end of a TV-to-PPV cycle it was a good way to cap off a variety of feuds while extending others and set the table for a very exciting show AEW put out on Wednesday night (more on that shortly).
CM Punk returns to WWE, ish.
On WWE’s new Tuesday show, WWE Backstage the company dropped a huge, paradigm-shifting announcement moments before the show went off the air as CM Punk made his return to WWE-based television as part of the Fox show, where he will be joining on a weekly basis as an analyst. Obviously, this a massive news story and although it had been rumoured for a while it was surreal to see Punk on a show with WWE personalities including Paige, Samoa Joe (which was a nice Easter egg for long-time Ring of Honor fans), Adam Cole and Renee Young, even if it was only for a few seconds. There wasn’t much here to discern what this will mean moving forward, but it certainly made a big splash. Will Punk be returning to WWE as an in-ring performer? Well probably not for a bit, and technically he is working for Fox rather than WWE directly, but then we saw the same thing happen with The Ultimate Warrior, Sting, Kurt Angle and others who ended up working for 2k but eventually that opened the door for a direct deal with WWE. Honestly, regardless of how this shakes out, it’s a huge story and something no-one saw coming a year ago. Perhaps a rumble return is not out of the question. Time will tell if that’s realistic of just wishful thinking, but AEW definitely dropped the ball in letting him go back to WWE.
WWE’s “main roster” (can we even use that term anymore?) output this week was largely a little flat due to the taped nature of the shows. Smackdown on Friday was probably the better of the two shows, but it certainly had its fair share of issues. The segment and match that bookended the show with Roman Reigns and Baron Corbin was pretty paint-by-numbers stuff, with Dolph Ziggler and Bobby Roode getting involved to cost Reigns the match.
The New Day vs The Revival was excellent, but both teams could benefit from moving on as it feels like we’ve seen this combination of teams relentlessly for months now. Perhaps a return for The Usos in the coming weeks (if that’s on the cards) might spruce things up in a pretty shallow tag division. Speaking of which, seeing Imperium attack Heavy Machinery was a pretty cool visual that helped bolster the idea of NXT as a global entity. Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro vs Ali and Shorty G (sigh) was a very solid tag match, but the real story was Daniel Bryan watching as they continue to tease him considering Sami Zayn’s offer from last week, although more interesting for Bryan was the backstage attack by “The Fiend” later in the show that sets up a very intriguing potential programme between two superstars with tremendous chemistry.
Sasha Banks (complete with new ace entrance music) vs Nikki Cross was a decent TV match and the angle afterwards with Shayna Baszler was another great way to portray Baszler as an absolute star. WWE gets a lot of flak for the way they deal with NXT stars, but so far they’ve booked Shayna brilliantly. Carmella and Dana Brooke vs Fire and Desire was actually far better than I had expected and a credit to all four women, none of whom frequently get their due, especially Brooke who has improved immensely. Finally, Tyson Fury returned for a segment with Braun Strowman and they did the old mutual respect bit and leaving The B Team laying as a way to write Fury off WWE TV.
On the Raw side of things, with a much longer delay and a tired crowd who had already sat through Smackdown, it was a bit of a slog. The Lana-Rusev-Bobby Lashley pregnancy angle was car-crash awful, but impossible to tear yourself away from. I think WWE know how bad this is but they are running with it because of that factor of it being so horrendous that it’s entertaining. The Kabuki Warriors vs Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch was a hot opener, and the ending set up Asuka as a strong future challenger for Lynch, even it was partially due to the involvement of Shayna Baszler and Bayley. The aftermath with Bayley attacking Lynch was also logical given she has seemed like an afterthought in the three-way champions match set for Survivor Series.
Drew McIntyre vs Sin Cara and Andrade vs Cedric Alexander were both fine bouts but you’d struggle to find anything hugely noteworthy about either, while Erick Rowan vs Soner Dursun (no, me neither) was mostly about Rowan’s mysterious bag. The Viking Raiders vs Mark Andrews and Flash Morgan Webster was neither competitive, nor a squash as such, but I’m not sure I would have opted for the former NXT UK tag champions in this spot. The main event pitting Ricochet, Humberto Carrillo and Randy Orton against The OC was fine, but the audience was clearly burnt out by this point, and although it told the story of tensions between Orton and Ricochet as team members for Survivor Series, that very much overshadowed Humberto Carrillo finally getting a pinfall over AJ Styles after weeks of trying. The 24/7 handicap match existed.
Finally, Seth Rollins cut a promo that led to an open challenge answered by WWE UK champion, WALTER. While it lasted, the singles match was very entertaining, but maybe not as special as their first-time meeting should have been. Of course, it devolved into an assault by Imperium, and subsequently, Kevin Owens and The Street Profits coming in for the big multi-man tag match, which again was really quite good fun, throwaway stuff.
Two decent shows, with some good matches, but as is often the case with these UK shows, it was mostly fairly inconsequential stuff. On the other hand, there was a reasonable amount of Survivor Series build on these two shows and that all landed pretty well. Doing a double taping is problematic and definitely hurts the feel of these shows, so hopefully, WWE learn from that and we get two shows next time rather than one mega-taping.
The black and yellow brand had a very busy Wednesday night, with the picture for both War Games matches for Takeover starting to shift. The main event ladder match between Mia Yim and Io Shirai was tremendous with some wonderful spots. I enjoyed the build earlier in the show with members of the babyface women’s team being taken out by a mystery attacker. I had presumed this would be revealed to be a now-heel Dakota Kai, but she appears to be a still a face after her involvement in the main event. Seeing Kay Lee Ray of NXT UK was unexpected, as was Bayley returning to attack Shayna Baszler. It was a big main event segment with some huge ramifications for the coming weeks.
With Johnny Gargano unable to compete at Takeover, having Matt Riddle removed from the War Games team to face Finn Balor makes sense, The segment with both men was fantastic here, and the way it bled into Keith Lee vs Roderick Strong (in a superb match) and then the post-match brawl that brought Dominick Dijakovic in the replacement for Riddle was masterful. It felt chaotic, organic , and as shuffles of the pack go it made the most sense. It still remains to be seen who the final member of the face team is (a returning Velveteen Dream perhaps?), but this was brilliantly done and the War Games match remains a must-see bout, but we also get the mouth-watering possibilities of Balor vs Riddle. Sterling work all round.
The rest of the show whizzed by fairly quickly. Xia Li’s kick to Aaliyah looked very, very stiff and I’m pretty sure broke Aaliyah’s nose. Isiah “Swerve” Scott vs Bronson Reed was excellent and a nice showcase for both men, while Lio Rush and Angel Garza put on a clinic for the Cruiserweight title, including a clever finish that keeps Garza strong and builds nicely to a rematch. Finally, Damien Priest, Killian Dane and Pete Dunne had a massive brawl of a segment that sets up a three-way for Takeover. Also, what a dive from Priest!
This might have been NXT’s best show on USA so far. There were big matches, a strong show-long storyline, surprises and everything moved as a very quick pace.
Coming off Full Gear, this show was always going to be a show full of intrigue, and for the most part, I felt AEW delivered in a big way. The Cody-MJF situation was always going to be a big selling point here, and they addressed it very well. Chris Jericho cut a promo on his win over Cody only to be interrupted by MJF (doing Cody’s entrance, which was a lovely touch) who explained his actions with a fantastic heel promo. Cody hitting the ring was inevitable, but having the debuting Wardlow attack him and side with MJF/Jericho (it wasn’t 100% clear if MJF joined the Inner Circle or not) made for a nice surprise and an extra potential obstacle to Cody getting his revenge. Speaking of Jericho his main event alongside Sammy Guevara against SCU for the tag titles was very entertaining, and giving Jericho his first loss was a great way to add some new layers to that character as well as give SCU the rub here.
The rest of the show was very entertaining. Jon Moxley squashing Michael Nakazawa and offering an open challenge to anyone on the roster crazy enough to fight him was a great way to open the show, and while Darby Allin beating Shawn Spears and Peter Avalon was unspectacular, having him accept the challenge sets up a very interesting rivalry for both men going forward. The Dark Order vs The Jurassic Express was another fine, but oddly booked match and all the mask stuff with Marko Stunt and the “Creepers” was weird, although I will say it was good to see Luchasaurus return here. Nyla Rose squashed an enhancement talent, and she continues to be pushed while in something of a holding pattern. Allie was taken out by Brandi Rhodes and Awesome Kong and they cut off some of her hair. It was weird. Finally, Proud and Powerful and The Young Bucks had a crazy brawl backstage that took out Nick Jackson and pivoted the programme to Santana and Ortiz vs Private Party (who made the save), which might well be an excellent programme if they are given enough time. It's also a lovely nod to both teams' history with Matt Travis, an indie wrestler who sadly passed away this week and a way to give them a chance to do a tribute match for their fallen friend. A really nice gesture from AEW.
Another strong show for AEW, which sets up some new feuds moving forward, progressed the big talking points coming out of Full Gear and sets up even more potentially exciting prospects for next week’s show. A solid week to be All Elite.
Well, that is it from me for this week. I will be back at the same time next week with a look at Raw, Smackdown, AEW, NXT and 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.
Images courtesy of WWE/AEW