Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at all things professional wrestling from the last seven days. This week Raw and Smackdown held the "season finale" episodes as we hurtle towards the start of Smackdown on Fox, while Lacey Evans had a run in with Canadian law enforcement, New Japan Pro Wrestling held their yearly Destruction show, and All Elite Wrestling geared up for their maiden voyage on TNT (but not without a sting in the tail for UK viewers). Let's start things off with a look at a this week's Raw.
Another Raw, another opportunity for Bray Wyatt to raise the ceiling on the perceived potential of his current gimmick. Every week he excels himself and this week was no different. After Seth Rollins’ show opening promo set up the main event between himself and Braun Strowman, they had a decent back-and-forth match before the inevitable appearance by The Fiend (as it was teased earlier in the night during the Firefly Funhouse segment). Wyatt taking down Strowman not once but twice was quite the sight and further puts over Wyatt as a massive threat as Raw went off the air. I’m not sure the booking of Rollins, or his overselling of his fear of The Fiend is helpful for his run champion, but I am certain that WWE have to pull the trigger on putting the title on Wyatt at Hell in a Cell, because any other option is going to end badly. Speaking of the Universal championship, the fatal five-way with Ricochet, Rey Mysterio, Bobby Roode, AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura was a frenetic, chaotic affair and although it’s not the most inspiring choice to have Mysterio win the match, he should have a belter with Rollins next week on the “season premiere” of Raw, even if it feels like an inevitable set up for another attack by The Fiend.
The rest of the show moved along at a nice pace, with lots of really excellent in-ring action. Chad Gable and Baron Corbin had another very good match, although perhaps a step short of the standard they set last week. Rusev squashed poor EC3 in a match that did no-one any real favours. Carmella winning the 24/7 title at least takes that division in a new direction and freshens it up somewhat. Sasha Banks vs Nikki Cross was a solid TV match, but it was probably a bit too long for a bout that didn’t achieve a whole heap. Speaking pf Banks, her Hell in a Cell opponent Becky Lynch shone brightly in a sit-down interview with Michael Cole which did plenty to continue heating up that feud.
Lacey Evans vs Ember Moon was fine, although it wasn’t anything special. Evans’ use of the sharpshooter may not be perfect, but it at least gives a reason for her never-ending programme with Natalya a good reason to keep ticking along. The OC (with their new theme music) vs The Viking Raiders was entertaining and a nice reminder of how good both teams are, especially with the former-War Machine in a babyface role. Finally, AOP had another fantastic vignette which included an impromptu beat-down in the hallway before returning to their promo. These have been superb so far and I certainly hope they continue as a way to reintroduce AOP.
Next week’s show certainly promises to deliver quite a bit with the lead in to the Fox show and possibly a new set and theme song which may usher in a fresh, distinctive product that hopefully contrasts with Smackdown both in production terms and visuals. This show was very good, so hopefully they are well placed to kick on next week.
With the spectre of Fox looming large ahead of next week’s debut this show could have gone two ways. It could have been a big build to next week’s debut, or a lacklustre fulfilling of the company’s commitments for the last show on their old network. Thankfully they opted for the former rather than the latter. As such, this was a pretty hot show with pretty much everything keyed for next week’s massive show. Opening the show with Rowan cutting a promo and then having a match with Daniel Bryan was a bold move and got the crowd going. The match was better than I expected with Bryan and Rowan gelling really well. Of course, Luke Harper got involved, but giving Rowan the win over a former world champion is a big deal, especially after beating Roman Reigns a few weeks ago. Speaking of Reigns, the post-match with him making the save for Bryan sealed the babyface turn, and Reigns and Bryan vs the artists formerly known as Bludgeon Brothers seems to be nailed on now for next week’s show.
Kevin Owens vs Shane McMahon in a ladder match also seems to be destined for that first show on Fox. The segment with the legal team was a bit convoluted and dragged somewhat but the reveal of the ladder match stipulation and the general heat between Owens and Shane makes this seem like a good way to blow off this feud. I had been concerned that they would have another Hell in a Cell match, but given they have already done that in the past, the ladder stipulation makes sense and you know Shane will be looking to do something insane on such a big show.
Everything else this week was very enjoyable for the most part. It was good to see The Kabuki Warriors (I still don’t like that name) back on TV taking on Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose in a fun encounter. The New Day vs The B Team was pure filler, but Big E was on fantastic form. Sasha Banks and Bayley vs Charlotte and Carmella was more of a setup for Charlotte and Becky (who made the reluctant post-match save) against Bayley and Sasha next week. Shinsuke Nakamura vs Ali was probably the best match on the show, although Ali looked like he was lucky to avoid permanent injury after a scary landing at one stage. Chad Gable vs Mike Kanellis was a squash and nothing more. The post-match with Elias was a nice tease for Gable’s next feud. Finally, Kofi Kingston did a sit-down interview with Michael Cole to hype his title defence against Brock Lesnar on next week’s show. I really enjoyed seeing a more serious side to Kofi, and this build gives it a real big-time, sports feel going into a huge show.
A very decent, quasi-go-home show for the Fox debut. Everything had direction and seemed to be designed to build towards next week’s episode. Lesnar vs Kofi, Owens vs Shane, as well as Becky and Charlotte vs Sasha and Bayley are all big matches with potentially major ramifications. IN addition, there are various legends that are going to be on the show, and I suspect we might even get a surprise or two, maybe even an appearance from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson if he’s free. WWE will be pulling out all the stops, and I suspect, based on this week’s evidence that it should be a great show.
This past weekend New Japan Pro Wrestling hosted their Destruction show which was the culmination of a short tour of shows. For the most part it wasn’t super eventful (lots of big matches are being held off until October’s King of Pro Wrestling event), with two major exceptions. In the main event, “Switchblade” Jay White defeated Tetsuya Naito for the Intercontinental Championship in something of a surprise. Given Naito has been pushing the idea of being a double champion, and now various other competitors have also seem to be aiming for that particular accolade, it seems odd that Naito would drop the strap. The match itself was more than serviceable, and White continues to show that he is among the best heels in New Japan when given the opportunity. However, I still feel he struggles to translate that to a western audience which is certainly a problem for his role within the NJPW expansion into other territories. Still, we’re yet to see how this all unfolds with Wrestle Kingdom lasting two nights this year, and what bearing this title switch has on how that all works out.
The other major thing to happen on this show was more of an angle than a match featuring the transformation of Jushin Thunder Liger to his demonic alter ego Kishin Liger. For those unfamiliar, Kishin Liger is a hyper aggressive demon god persona which Liger has assumed on occasion over the years when needed. Primarily this has happened when opponents have ripped his mask, but this incarnation involved Minoru Suzuki asking and taunting Liger in the run up to the multi-man tag match on this show, only for Liger to shed his body suit and mask and then try to murder Suzuki with a spike. This was brilliantly done, and with Liger hanging up his boots in a few months it was nice to see him bust out one of his most iconic looks one last time. With Suzuki and Liger due to clash at King of Pro Wrestling it will be very intriguing to see how Liger pulls off the Kishin character in an actual match, but to say it’s among my most anticipated moments of 2019 would be a major understatement.
Lacey Evans vs Canadian Law Enforcement
Lacey Evans caused quite a stir this week as she tweeted a video of an interaction with a police officer in Canada who was giving her a speeding ticket. The video has Evans in character and it is exactly what you might expect. Twitter, as you also might expect, jumped on it massively and there was all kinds of outrage. Evans, eventually, posted a statement revealing that the officer was in on the act, and had agreed to be involved to help drum up publicity for the live event in Edmonton. Evans also mentioned her background in law enforcement and her respect for the industry in her statement. The whole thing was a storm in a teacup and Evans attempting to use social media to her advantage, which should be commended, especially given she managed to get major news outlets to bite on the story.
AEW debut next week on TNT
This upcoming week is a big one for wrestling. AEW will be debuting on TNT on Wednesday, which is a huge deal. Finally we have a competitor to WWE with a weekly TV show on a massive scale, and if they back up their words with actions we can expect a huge first show for AEW with Chris Jericho, Cody Rhodes, The Young Bucks, PAC and Hangman Page all in starring roles, while Nyla Rose and Riho battle to be crowned the first ever AEW Women’s champion. I am very excited, especially with it going up against the first full episode of NXT on USA.
For UK viewers, watching AEW Dynamite is a bit more complicated. Despite Cody Rhodes previously claiming that AEW had a deal that was better than WWE's in the UK, it appears that the show will air at 8.20 AM on a Sunday (likely in highly edited form given the show is PG-14 in the states) on ITV4 with a highlights show late on Monday nights. In addition, UK fans can watch the show live for a monthly fee on Fite TV. This causes multiple issues with avoiding spoilers, the less than ideal timeslot to garner casual or lapsed fans, and the low likelihood of much in the way of promotion for a show on at that time from ITV. Honestly, it's a bit of a mess all things told. There may be reasons why this has happened. ITV might be reluctant to commit to too much after being burned by the WOS debacle. Equally, there may be a "wait and see" approach from the network to see how well the show does. There are potential issues with airing live that require extra resources that perhaps they are unwilling to offer at this time. They also had WOS in a Sunday morning slot that performed well (albeit on the flagship rather than ITV4, but in this day in age they aren't significantly different propositions) so maybe that is a consideration. Regardless of the reasons why this happened, it's a disaster for AEW in terms of the UK market and frankly a major PR flub for a fledgling company. Let's hope AEW sort this out in the coming months and this is more of a temporary bridging deal than the permanent home for AEW on these shores.
Next week also has the premiere of Smackdown on Fox, which should be an enormous show. With Kofi Kingston vs Brock Lesnar and possibly even Kevin Owens vs Shane McMahon this show is likely to be stacked.
In some ways these changes will alter how this column works each week. As we go to press on Thursday, we’ll be covering the prior Friday’s Smackdown and Monday’s Raw each week alongside whatever breaks and hopefully any major news coming out of NXT and AEW on Wednesdays (although that will necessitate a spoiler warning). Of course, should AEW pick up steam and become the hot show we will, of course, dedicate more time and coverage to that company as we go forward. There’s a whole lot of wrestling and I will certainly do my best to give you my thoughts on as much of it as I physically can.
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 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/NJPW/AEW