Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at all things professional wrestling form the last seven days. Or in this case a little longer. This week's column was somewhat delayed by a pesky wisdom tooth removal (if you don't have to have bits of your jaw drilled away to get a tooth pulled, I'd recommend avoiding it). However, fuelled by strong painkillers, it is here now, looking back at two eventful episodes of WWE TV, a development between some top AEW stars and AAA, as well as one WWE superstar signing a new contract. We'll start out with a look back at this week's Raw.
With Wrestlemania just a few weeks away, Raw should have been heating things up for the biggest show of the year, but arguably this wasn’t quite what it needed to be across the board. With Brock Lesnar returning from his most recent hiatus, there was a real opportunity to tell a simple, heated story with his Wrestlemania challenger Seth Rollins. However, it fell flat for me. It started well enough with Paul Heyman cutting a promo on Rollins for accepting a match with Drew McIntyre so close to his tussle with Lesnar. However, Rollins ambushing and beating down McIntyre on the ramp worked really well, and made Rollins seem like a real threat, outthinking his Scottish opponent. I understand that there was a need for further build for McIntyre vs Roman Reigns, and intertwining that story with Rollins/Lesnar isn’t bad on paper having Rollins lose to Drew in the main event, even with Lesnar involved felt like a step backwards. It could have been far worse, but it seems like a missed opportunity.
Ronda Rousey was certainly kicking things into gear on this show. The introduction of her husband, Travis Browne, who is a heavyweight in the UFC, is a nice move and his imposing physical stature provides a new dimension to Rousey’s act. However, it was Rousey’s obliteration of Dana Brooke in their match and afterwards that showed just how strong Rousey is in this crazy heel role. It brings a whole new element to her act, and makes her an even more dangerous champion as things ramp up for Wrestlemania.
Last week we learnt that Kurt Angle would be having his final match at Wrestlemania 35, and this week we found out who his opponent would be, and the announcement of Baron Corbin went down like a fart in church. It was not well received at all, in the arena or by fans online and understandably so. The backlash in the since time has been so strong that WWE are reportedly considering changing plans in response. We shall have to see how that goes in the next few days. Angle had a decent match against Chad Gable on this show, in something that would have been a dream match if Angle was still at the peak of his powers, but he still shows glimpses of what he once was, and Gable looked really good in this role. I also loved that Gable reverted to his American Alpha gear rather than his "Glorious" kit, which was a lovely nod to Angle. But seriously, Baron Corbin? Surely not.
The rest of the show had plenty of enjoyable action, significant segments and some landed brilliantly, while others did less well. The developments in the women’s tag division were interesting, and with Natalya & Beth Phoenix entering the fray it certainly appeared that we were getting a multi-team affair at Wrestlemania (more on that when we get to Smackdown). The match with Sasha Banks vs Natalya was fine, but operated as more of a backdrop for the overall angle. Batista’s segment via satellite was effective, and continued Big Dave’s stellar run as a heel since returning. Ricochet vs Jinder Mahal was a great showcase for Ricochet, who continues to look like a star since his call-up. Bobby Lashley and Lio Rush vs Finn Balor and Braun Strowman was a glorified squash of Rush which presumably signals we are getting the break up with himself and Lashley, while also building up Strowman for the, ahem, battle royal. It seems like a waste of Braun, but I’m not sure what else you would do with him on an already stacked Mania. Finally, Alexa Bliss’ Moment of Bliss with Elias quickly turned into a chaotic affair, with No Way Jose (who seems to be having a resurgence of sorts) ambushing Elias after the conga line, including Otis, interrupted. The match between the two was nothing special, but it filled some time on a busy show with a fun midcard angle, so I won’t complain.
This week’s Raw had some notable missteps, especially where the Universal title, and Kurt Angle’s Wrestlemania match are concerned, but overall it was a pretty enjoyable show, not dragging as much as some weeks. That said, the build of Wrestlemania still feels a little cold given we are only a few weeks out, but hopefully in the next two weeks things pick up somewhat.
This week’s offering from the blue brand was chiefly concerned with Kofi Kingston defying the odds and trying to earn a title match at against Daniel Bryan. The gauntlet was lengthy, taking up most of the show and really showcased Kingston as he managed to defeat Sheamus, Cesaro, Rowan, Samoa Joe and Randy Orton. That Kingston managed to have five very distinct matches was superb, and the last minute swerve of Vince McMahon making him wrestle a sixth time against Daniel Bryan was made so much more heart-breaking by Kingston’s heart, and exhaustion. Of course he fell short, but I’m not sure where the story goes from here. This was certainly a divisive development, not least because the story has begun to take on some racial connotations. I’m sure we’ll get more answers next week, but for now KofiMania is seemingly on ice.
The rest of the show still managed to provide lots of significant moments, even with the gauntlet taking up much of the show. The Kevin Owens show with Becky Lynch and Charlotte was basic, but it worked in continuing to build the two women up ahead of the Mania main event. The Miz cut a fantastic babyface promo. I wasn’t sure this heel/face alignment with Miz/Shane McMahon would work, built so far both have hit it out of the park. AJ Styles, fresh off recommitting to the company (more on that shortly), cut a good promo on Randy Orton. The commonality of Miz and AJ both wishing Kingston good luck was also a brilliant bit of detail. Rey Mysterio announced he’d be facing Samoa Joe at Wrestlemania, which was a bit out of the blue but it should make for a very good bout. Finally, The IIconics defeated Sasha Banks and Bayley in a surprisingly decent TV match, setting up the two to presumably join the multi team tag title match at Metlife Stadium.
Smackdown could have been a one (well, six) match show, with everything else acting as an afterthought, but WWE managed to make the main event seem like the most important aspect of this episode without trivialising the other matches and segments, which is quite the achievement. A decent show, with a brilliant main event.
The Young Bucks caused quite the stir this week, showing up unannounced on the AAA Rey de Reyes show and dethroning The Lucha Bros (who had just won the AAA tag titles moments earlier beating El Texano Jr and Rey Escorpion) in an impromptu match. Of course, The Lucha Bros had attacked The Bucks at the AEW press event a few weeks ago and presumably this match sets up a rematch at the Double or Nothing show between the two teams. Given the lack of television for AEW and the working arrangement between AEW and AAA this a win-win for everyone.
AJ Styles new contract
After months of speculation, with reported talks with AEW happening, AJ Styles revealed this week that he has signed a new deal with WWE. Given that Styles has been a featured performer for the company, holding the WWE Title for a year, as well as having multiple reigns with other belts it would have been a huge loss for WWE. Styles is entering his early 40s and while he may not have many years left at his peak, there is certainly more to come from Styles and it’s great to see him on the biggest stage available. Styles has so much left to do in WWE, and I'm delighted he is staying put.
Well, that is it from me for this week. I will be back at the same time next week with a look at the continued build to Wrestlemania on Raw and Smackdown, as well as whatever major stories break in the next seven days. 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.
Photos: WWE.COM/The Young Bucks (@MattJackson13)