Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at all things professional wrestling from the past seven days. It has, as expected been a crazy week for wrestling with NXT Takeover, Survivor Series, news of a possible new major promotion, and even an invasion. Let's get started with one of the best shows anywhere this year, NXT Takeover: War Games
NXT Takeover: War Games
The first of four nights at the Staples Center in Los Angeles featured the performers of NXT as they put on the Takeover: War Games show, which was such a roaring success last year. With only four matches announced ahead of time, it felt like the spotlight was firmly on the featured matches. Of course, as the name suggests, War Games took centre stage in the main event with a variant of the traditional WCW/NWA stipulation match (the brainchild of one “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, fittingly enough given his involvement with NXT in his later years) pitting The War Raiders, Ricochet and Pete Dunne against The Undisputed Era. You know you aren’t getting a technical clinic with War Games, and frankly, I’m glad the match was rough and ready, but it had some huge spots especially one in particular from Ricochet which has to be seen to be believed. That said, I was somewhat disappointed to see the established faction losing to the thrown together unit, but I guess the heels had to get their comeuppance in order to blow off this feud. A very good main event and one very worthy of the gimmick.
The rest of the card was spectacular. The NXT Title match between Tomasso Ciampa and Velveteen Dream went as expected, but the match was so well built with such great near-falls that I believed there was a title change in the offing. This was proper career making stuff for Dream and another stellar outing for Ciampa that on any other show would have been a show-stealing main event. Johnny Gargano vs Aleister Black was a physical, intense battle that had a real strong-style feel to it, while Kairi Sane vs Shayna Baszler was another stellar chapter in a fantastic rivalry over the past year and a bit. Dakota Kai and Io Shirai also deserve credit for their cameos here fending off Marina Shafir and Jessamyn Duke, with Shirai hitting a stunning moonsault to the outside, and Kai showing great fire. Finally, Matt Riddle made his Takeover debut in shocking fashion knocking Kassius Ohno silly in about 2 seconds. The jury is still out on Riddle at this level, but this is certainly a great statement win to get him started.
Takeover: War Games might be a contender for card of the year, with no down moments, wall-to-wall action, and something for everyone. All of the matches delivered and delivered big. NXT is on fire at the moment, and when they put on shows like this they easily surpass the main roster shows.
While NXT put on a great show the night before, the main roster slipped on their collective working boots and put on a cracking show, even in spite of some unusual booking decisions. The main event of the show between Daniel Bryan and Brock Lesnar was superb, with Bryan playing into his newfound heel persona, being dominated by Lesnar at the beginning only to make a comeback and almost get the win. Bryan gained so much in defeat, and Lesnar put in a real shift here. Although it was physical, the two told a great story and it made for a compelling main event.
In the run-up to the show Becky Lynch vs Ronda Rousey was the match we were all looking forward to but in Lynch’s absence, Charlotte vs Rousey was a fine substitute. Given the short notice the two had, they put together a very entertaining bout which made Rousey look like she was on the same level as her opponent. The ending, with Charlotte flipping out was an odd choice, as it seems they are trying to build her in the same fashion they did Becky Lynch, ignoring that Charlotte’s role in that build was a pivotal one. I’d wager they are aiming to have a rematch at the Royal Rumble if the plan is to go for Becky vs Rousey at Mania.
The rest of the show was very enjoyable top-to-bottom. Seth Rollins vs Shinsuke Nakamura was everything you would expect it to be and more, the women’s 5-on-5 match was a hot opener and it put a spotlight on Nia Jax as the company steer into the skid as far the Becky Lynch situation and the fallout from it goes. The men's 5-on-5 match was fine, if not particularly spectacular and it went down about as routinely as you might expect, but it was enjoyable and well booked for the most part, except for Samoa Joe being squashed in the first minute which was bizarre. It was nice to see the Cruiserweight title match on the main show for once, and Buddy Murphy and Mustafa Ali absolutely made the most of it putting on a cracking back-and-forth affair. Finally, AoP took on The Bar in a match that was marred by the appearance of one Enzo Amore in the audience (clearly this was not a work, more on that later) and also the tasteless Drake Maverick urination spot, which was childish, and embarrassing to watch. A low point on an otherwise excellent show that demonstrated what the main roster is capable of when they
Raw & Smackdown
With such a busy week, I’ll just hit on the main talking points from Raw and Smackdown, because neither show exactly set the world on fire on the back of Survivor Series. On the red side of things the opening segment, match and angle took up almost a third of the show, and while it effectively set up Baron Corbin vs Braun Strowman at TLC, as well as Strowman vs Lesnar at Royal Rumble (presumably culminating in Strowman getting the belt, but we’ve all thought that before). The match was fine, although nothing hugely memorable, although the post-match with the heels destroying Strowman and “shattering” his elbow was impactful. Strowman is reportedly dealing with a legitimate elbow injury, so this is a good way to write him off TV until TLC, and get Corbin some more heel heat. The rest of the show was dominated by Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose dominated the rest of the show, and the closing confrontation with Rollins surprising Ambrose did plenty to forward this feud. That said, the scripted comments about Roman Reigns were in very poor taste and left a bad taste in my mouth. The rest of the show was all pretty throwaway, with Ronda Rousey vs Mickie James a standout, while Tamina and Nia Jax vs Sasha Banks and Bayley, AOP vs Bobby Roode and Chad Gable, and Natalya vs Ruby Riott were all perfectly serviceable bouts. However, the brightest spot on the whole show came from The Revival vs The Lucha House Party who really took the briefest of chances and ran with it and put on the best match on the whole show.
On the blue brand, the booking followed a similar pattern with the opening segment providing a lengthy portion of the show. Charlotte cut a slightly heelish promo justifying her actions at Survivor Series and setting up a future match with Ronda Rousey. It was a decent promo, but it felt a bit like WWE were trying to use Becky Lynch’s recent upturn in personality as a way to get Charlotte over. The back-and-forth with Paige and Charlotte was very good and did portray Charlotte as the anti-authority figure here, but I’m not sure the fans will buy Flair in this role over Becky when Lynch returns. The matches with Peyton Royce and Billie Kay were very good TV matches, but much like most of Raw, they are unlikely to be something anyone is discussing in the future. Daniel Bryan’s in-ring promo explaining his heel turn was superb and set him on the road to a grudge match with AJ Styles at TLC. His mannerisms and delivery were superb, and this was a great direction for his character. Speaking of character direction, it appears as though The Miz has turned into a quasi-babyface based on his comedy segment with Shane McMahon, and the silly comedy match that followed. Asuka and Naomi v Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose was mostly designed to push the tensions between the former Absolution members. The New Day vs The Bar was the obligatory Thanksgiving mess, while Rey Mysterio vs Randy Orton was a fine main event, and the spot with the chair afterwards was pretty brutal. A decent show overall.
It’s been a while since Enzo Amore was let go by WWE over allegations of sexual misconduct (and the fact he did not tell them he was being investigated, which can’t have helped his case) and while those charges were dismissed, WWE has not elected to bring him back, which is understandable given he’s a bit of a PR nightmare. In addition, Amore, real name Eric Arndt, was apparently difficult to deal with and generally a bit of a pain behind the scenes. In fact, he was allegedly so irritating that the other wrestlers forced him to dress in the hallway rather than the locker room (so the story goes). So Arndt turning up in the second row at Survivor Series was a bit unexpected, but it was clearly not WWE’s doing and he was operating on his own to get publicity for his album. Honestly, it was a pretty desperate attempt on his part, and WWE acted accordingly to remove him pretty quickly, hopefully avoiding hiving him the oxygen of attention.
Former WCW Heavyweight Champion (yes, that is correct and it always will be) David Arquette hit the news this week as he was involved in wrestling once again, only this time it was against deathmatch legend Nick Gage. The resulting match was gruesome and violent, and Arquette was injured badly. I would not recommend seeking out the match unless it’s the sort of thing you like normally, but fair play to Arquette for getting involved and we wish him a speedy recovery.
For a while now there have been rumours doing the rounds that a new national US promotion potentially in the offing, with Chris Jericho and Jim Ross, mooted as being involved. This week that story potentially progressed somewhat, with a number of trademarks being registered for an All Elite Wrestling, sparking rumours that this was finally happening. However, it now appears that Jericho and Ross are only potentially talent who could be involved and this is being driven by “The Elite” (which makes sense given the name) with Cody Rhodes, Kenny Omega, and The Young Bucks et al at the helm. The interesting part of all this is not that they have filed the trademarks, but the fact they were filed to a business in Jacksonville, Florida, potentially confirming the involvement of one The Khan family, who own the Jacksonville Jaguars NFL team, as well as Fulham FC here in the UK. They even attempted to buy Wembley Stadium earlier this year, so we are not talking about rich investors with no business acumen. This could easily be a story that goes nowhere, or it could be simply a banner under which The Elite put on another All In-type show; however, this is definitely the sort of developing story that is very much worth watching in the coming weeks.
Well, that is it from me for this week. I will be back at the same time next week with all the news from 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.