Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at all things professional wrestling from the past seven days. This week has been dominated by sad news with the high-profile passing of Mexican wrestling legend right here in the UK, some big news for All Elite Wrestling, the go home Raw and Smackdown for Money in the Bank and much more. We'll kick off this week with a look at the news surrounding the tragic death of Silver King.
Undoubtedly the biggest news of the week, was the tragic passing of Silver King, real name César Cuauhtémoc González Barrón. Long-time fans may remember Silver King from his time in WCW in the late 1990s, although he was a huge name in his native Mexico for many years prior to that US run. However, for many his biggest exposure will have been as the villainous Rameses in the 2005 Jack Black film Nacho Libre. From the reports, and unfortunate video that is doing the rounds (do yourself a favour and don’t watch it, it’s graphic and disturbing and you, like I, will probably regret it) it appears that during the Greatest Show of Lucha Libre event at The Roundhouse in Camden on Saturday, Barrón suffered either a cardiac arrest or a stroke during the bout, collapsing in the face of some innocuous offence from his opponent Juventud Guererra (of WCW and WWE fame). What followed was distressing, as Guererra attempted to turn over and pin a lifeless Silver King, who the referee then counted out before officials tended to, and attempted to revive him. Whether Guerrera and the ref panicked or they were under prepared, the match should have be stopped immediately. However, that is easy for me to say, with the benefit of hindsight and without the pressure of an impossible situation. Regardless, it is a terrible tragedy as Barrón passed away in the ring. Only a few months ago there was uproar over independent promotions in the UK wishing to book talent on NXT UK contracts now being required to have a paramedic on site, but incidents like this bring home why there is a need for that sort of precaution, and if reports are to be believed might have made a difference in saving Barrón. Speculation aside, this story made major news in the UK, with all the mainstream outlets covering Barrón’s death, with varying degrees of accuracy and respect for the industry displayed depending on which news provider was involved. It certainly spotlights one of the more tragic, dark elements of wrestling, but it also showcased how loved and respected Silver King was within the industry. RIP Silver King.
AEW on TNT
Hot on the heels of the announcement that Double or Nothing would be shown in ITV Box Office in the UK, AEW have announced another big piece of news about their television future. On Wednesday, a press release was circulated stating that AEW would have a prime time weekly show on TNT starting in the autumn. Now of course, this is huge news in terms of the perception of AEW as a major player and certainly marks them out as genuine competition for WWE. TNT is also significant, given that was the former home of WCW during the 1990s. AEW has been slowly amassing a pretty stellar roster, they have made some smart deals to partner with other promotions like OWE and Dragon Gate, and they have been steadily building. Do I think this heralds the death of WWE? Of course not. For many within the mainstream the perception of WWE is that it IS wrestling. It will take decades to undo that perception if it even is possible. However, what this can provide is a viable alternative for performers who want to try their luck outside WWE, and that in turn creates a far healthier industry and hopefully will give WWE a jolt in terms of revitalising the creative elements of their product. This is absolutely a shot across the bow, and definitely a huge sign that there is a battle brewing between AEW and WWE, because if WWE didn't see them as competition before, they certainly do now. The real winners though are wrestling fans, because in the end it is more top quality wrestling on TV. We'll have more on this in the coming weeks I’m sure.
Monday marked the first of two nights of WWE shows taped in the UK, which for many years meant nothing of note would happen. Sure the in-ring action would be very good, but there was normally little-to-nothing at stake. However, since AJ Styles won the WWE title in 2017 it has been a bit less predictable, and as the go-home show for Money in the Bank, we actually got some more substantial occurrences on this show. The main event with Braun Strowman vs Sami Zayn turned into quite the wild brawl, and having Zayn inserted into the ladder match on Sunday (thanks to help from Drew McIntyre and Baron Corbin who used the opportunity take out arguably the biggest threat in the ladder match) makes for quite the interesting dynamic. Will Strowman come back for revenge? Or will Zayn get the surprise win? It certainly makes for a more interesting dynamic. The other big build for Money in the Bank came from the dual contract signing with Becky Lynch, Charlotte and Lacey Evans. While Becky got in some good verbal jabs, it was the challengers who took control, which both underscored the size of the task for Lynch but also gave Evans a bit of a rub by association with Charlotte. A very strong final push for both matches on Sunday.
Perhaps the biggest moment on this week’s Raw came from a pre-recorded segment with Bray Wyatt and the payoff for his Firefly Funhouse that has been running since Wrestlemania. The reveal of Wyatt as someone who can now control his darker side, but also the terrifying mask and new gear for when he is not the light hearted Kids TV host portion of his new character was executed brilliantly, and while I still have concerns that he will be booked like everyone else, instead of allowed to be a special attraction, there is little more that Wyatt could have done in these segments to make himself stand out from everyone else and hopefully WWE have a solid plan for him.
The rest of the show is more of what you might expect from WWE in the UK. The opening segment/match with Roman Reigns, The Miz, Shane McMahon, Bobby Lashley and Elias was fine, although I could do with all of these guys moving onto their next programmes as this feels like a match I’ve seen approximately 6 million times in some configuration or another in the past twelve months. Mojo Rawley vs Titus O’Neill was an attempt to introduce Mojo’s new character, but it was both dull and ineffective. Baron Corbin vs Ricochet was actually a very enjoyable contest and Corbin getting the win was a nice surprise, especially as Ricochet got his heat back afterwards, and it certainly added to the excitement for the ladder match on Sunday. Rey Mysterio vs Cesaro was enjoyable but hardly memorable. Nikki Cross (who was weirdly pretending to be completely normal backstage in a segment with Alexa Bliss in order to claim her spot in the four-way, bizarrely) took on Naomi, Natalya and Dana Brooke, with the latter shining as she performed a massive dive off a ladder. The match was fine, but again mostly existed to remind the audience that there is a women’s ladder match happening on Sunday.
Finally, we got some superb pre-recorded videos with Seth Rollins and AJ Styles to hype their match on Sunday, even showing some footage of the one match they had thirteen years ago on an indie show. This is what they should have been doing all along with these two, not tired reluctant partner angles. This match should sell itself, they just need to let it happen.
A decent show, with some big moments, a fine main event and one terrific segment involving Bray Wyatt. If you compare this to UK taped show five years ago it really is night and day. Raw is still tough to get through, but this week showed some glimmer of hope. The wild card rule is still rubbish, however.
The opening segment and match on Raw was sufficient for me, I really didn’t need to see it again on Smackdown, and yet that felt like what I was being shown as the blue brand got their show underway on Tuesday. Admittedly having The Usos, Daniel Bryan and Rowan involved added an element of chaos and evened up the numbers, but I’m really not sure about The Miz as a babyface. The match (with Miz barred from ringside) later in the show was surprisingly fun, which is probably due to the lack of Bobby Lashley and the introduction of the other team members. Seeing Shane get the clean win on Jey Uso surprised me, but the post-match with Miz certainly helped give the final push for the two to blow off their feud on Sunday.
The rest of the show was fun, well-paced and pretty enjoyable overall. Kofi Kingston and Kevin Owens put together a fantastic main event segment, and the involvement of Xavier Woods and Sami Zayn was logical in the circumstances. I like that Kofi stood tall at the end, but I do fear WWE will pull the plug too early and give Owens the nod at Money in the Bank. The four way between Andrade, Randy Orton, Ali and Finn Balor provided a mouth-watering preview of what to expect on Sunday in the ladder match and seeing Ricochet get involved afterwards only served to underline what a show stealing match we could have on our hands. Finally, Kairi Sane and Asuka, apparently now going by the awful name of The Kabuki Warriors, had a strong showing against Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville setting up a very promising clash with The Iiconics in the near future.
Smackdown once again delivered this week, with plenty of story development ahead of Money in the Bank, some nice previews of what to expect on Sunday and some sterling in-ring action to boot. A very good show.
Saudi Super Showdown - Goldberg vs The Undertaker
Outside of Raw and Smackdown this week, the biggest news story concerning WWE came as the company released further details on the controversial show in Saudi Arabia slated for June. Super Showdown (not to be confused with Super Show-Down, which they put on in Australia last year) will take place from the King Abdullah International stadium in Jeddah, site of last year’s Greatest Royal Rumble on June 7th. We knew all of that aside from the name, but the big news is the main event which will feature Bill Goldberg taking on The Undertaker, with Triple H vs Randy Orton and a 50-man battle royal in support. Ten years ago, that would have been a blow away card for any wrestling fan, but with Goldberg and Taker both ageing shadows of their former glory there remains a pretty big doubt over what sort of match these two can pull off. Hopefully it’s a sprint rather than a lengthy smoke-and-mirrors affair. I appreciate the booking on these shows are largely at the behest of the leadership within KSA and as a result have a heavy nostalgia component, but this feels like a disaster waiting to happen. Orton vs Triple H will be the same match they always have, which is fine if not particularly exciting while the battle royal should be fun. From a moral perspective these shows are dubious at best given the government who is backing them, but WWE is locked into a long term contract with KSA and as such we have to accept this is happening whether we approve or not. Removing the moral element, thus far these have been freakish shows to watch, as they play out in front of a pretty subdued audience. They are almost non-canon shows, existing in another universe, but let’s not get started on some sort of WWE multiverse. I’m sure there will be more on this show in the coming weeks.
Bret Hart-Tom Magee documentary
Professional wrestling is an industry built on urban legends and mythical performances. Whether it was Ricky Steamboat and Ric Flair doing nightly sixty minute draws, or any number of phantom title changes these are the things that wrestling fans can normally only speculate about. However, one such urban myth recent surfaced its way into reality as the tape or "Megaman"Tom Magee vs Bret “The Hitman” Hart was found by a photographer, and now WWE have created a documentary looking back at the history and legendary status the match has taken on. This match is the stuff of legend, and Hart even credits it as one of his great achievements. I would recommend very highly that anyone who has the WWE Network take the time to give this a whirl. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the story is fascinating and some of the talking heads (Kassius Ohno especially) are fantastic.
Money in the Bank preview
This Sunday WWE will be hosting its first PPV since Wrestlemania, and it is quite the line-up for Money in the Bank. Of course the big draw for this show are the titular ladder matches, and both should deliver in spates. For me it is hard to see past a Drew McIntyre win for the men’s match, it wouldn’t be a total shock to see Sami Zayn, Andrade or even Finn Balor get the nod, but regardless of the winner I expect the match to deliver massively given the participants. On the women’s side of things Ember Moon is definitely my pick, as she has the most upside but it’s difficult to count out Alexa Bliss or Bayley. Again, I have high hopes for this match, and hopefully it should be suitably spectacular.
The big title matches all have the potential on paper to be the best non-ladder match of the night. Becky Lynch vs Charlotte is always a fantastic outing for both, although regardless of the outcome I suspect Lynch will come out of this weakened ahead of the Lacey Evans match. Her second title defence on paper should be straight forward, but Evans has been excellent since Wrestlemania and I wouldn’t be shocked if she got the surprise win over a tired, beaten up Becky. Kofi Kingston vs Kevin Owens should be a very emotional, heated affair, while Seth Rollins vs AJ Styles is a borderline dream match and will likely have some very innovative spots. I hope both retain though, as both shows could do with strong babyface champions at the moment.
The rest of the card is a bit more underwhelming, although I imagine it’ll still deliver some excellent action. Roman Reigns vs Elias is pretty hard to invest in, and you would assume Shane McMahon gets involved unless Reigns is simply squashing Elias. The Miz vs Shane in a steel cage match will likely be bloody, and violent but on an already gimmick heavy show it could end up being overkill. Finally, Rey Mysterio vs Samoa Joe should be a fine midcard filler bout, but as long as it goes longer than at Wrestlemania it’ll be worthwhile, plus you could definitely see Rey’s son Dominick getting involved, maybe even turning on his father. Here’s hoping.
All things told Money in the Bank should be a highly entertaining event, providing the booking team make some shrewd decisions. The dynamics for WWE over the next few months could be set on this show, and if they get it right things it could be a very exciting summer. A big “if”.
Well, that is it from me for this week. I will be back at the same time 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.