Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at all the big happenings in the world of professional wrestling. This particular week has been very busy, with eventful episodes of Raw and Smackdown, as well as NXT and AEW Dynamite. Additionally, WWE released some talent, much to the surprise of everyone, and a couple of WWE superstars were sent home for a month after wellness violations. Additionally, we have WWE's big TLC event this weekend and NWA putting on their first PPV of the Powerrr era. There is a lot to talk about, so let's get cracking with this week's Smackdown
The big headline coming out of this week’s Smackdown was certainly centred on the closing angle of the main event. As the feud between Baron Corbin and Roman Reigns threatens to continue into the New Year, Reigns beat Dolph Ziggler in a fine TV main event before he fell victim to the numbers game with Ziggler, Corbin and the guys who carry Corbin’s sedan ganged up on “The Big Dog”. The dog food angle was a bit crass, but it was also important as it allowed Reigns a renewed reason to want to get revenge on Corbin and to escalate the feud to its (hopefully) natural blow-off at TLC. A well-executed, but pretty disgusting angle.
The rest of the show was generally enjoyable. The interactions between The Miz and Bray Wyatt (not “The Fiend” to be clear) were interesting, and with Daniel Bryan apparently MIA after last week’s assault from Wyatt, it looks like Miz vs Wyatt is now planned for TLC, but possibly this version of Wyatt rather than his alter ego. It’s an interesting turn and certainly not a wholly expected one, but seeing Funhouse Bray in the WWE rather than “The Fiend” could make for a very unusual and intriguing dynamic. I also liked the use of the theme of “family” as Wyatt’s motivation and the call-backs to Wyatt’s past as a reason of his targeting Miz.
The tag team fatal-four way was easily the match of the night although I’m not sure I would have gone for The Revival winning and going on to face The New Day again when any of the other three teams would have created a fresh matchup. The stuff with Drake Maverick, Dana Brooke and Elias was fairly tedious overall, while Alexa Bliss vs Mandy Rose was more than passable, but far from memorable. Finally, after beating a local competitor, Lacey Evans had a confrontation with Sasha Banks that ultimately ended with Sasha and Bayley getting the better of Evans. I’m not sure Evans is ready to be a babyface, or that her gimmick lends itself to heroism. We’ll have to see how that pans out.
A decent show, but perhaps a bit light on in-ring action for my liking. That said, there was a lot to do to get the pieces in place for TLC, and this show did that pretty effectively.
On the red brand, this week was once again all about the recent change in the attitude of one Seth Rollins. After Kevin Owens spent a chunk of the show searching for AoP, and thoroughly convinced that they were in cahoots with Rollins, he would find himself across the ring from Rollins, who quickly left claiming his innocence. Then Mojo Rawley and his new mouthpiece Sami Zayn appeared, having had a disagreement with Owens backstage. After dispatching both relatively quickly, Owens would continue his search for Akam and Rezar, who appeared briefly on the titantron to brush off Owens’ demand they face him.
Later in the show Owens would find AoP, who would beat him down, and reveal they were indeed working with Rollins who completed his teased heel turn with a curb stomp onto the concrete floor. Seth would go on to cut his big heel promo immediately, essentially turning on the fans and offering their real-life reactions to him as of late as the reason, Excellent work from Rollins and a great way to take an increasingly faltering babyface run and turn it into something really worthwhile. Owens provides an excellent foil, and AoP are elevated massively by providing Rollins’ muscle. Excellent work all around.
It has been obvious for a few weeks that Becky Lynch and Charlotte were going to end up as partners against The Kabuki Warriors at TLC, and not least because it has been advertised by the arena’s website for some time. However, I was hoping WWE wouldn’t just ignore their history and previously heated rivalry and throw them together, which happily they largely managed to do this week. Becky vs The Kabuki Warriors was a bit long, but generally pretty good. That elbow through the table by Kairi Sane was thing of beauty, fantastically shot as well by the WWE production team. Having Becky initially refuse Charlotte’s offer but then accept it later on after taking a beating was sensible, and at least means they are reluctant teammates rather than happy, smiling and willing. Plus the tag team TLC stipulation should make for a fantastic match.
The rest of the show ticked along nicely. Humberto Carrillo vs Andrade was superb, and I urge you go out of your way to check it out. I do hope this isn’t the tease of breaking up Andrade and Zelina Vega though, as that would be a huge mistake. Buddy Murphy vs Zack Ryder and Aleister Black vs Akira Tozawa were both designed to highlight Murphy and Black ahead of their match at TLC. That Black Mass on Tozawa was sublime, and despite the booking of the former-NXT Champion, it got an audible gasp from the audience, which shows how that move is when delivered so crisply. Rey Mysterio vs AJ Styles was a fine main event, although it also seemed like backdrop to further the Styles vs Randy Orton programme. Drew McIntyre vs Matt Hardy was essentially a squash match, while Erick Rowan vs a local competitor was more fun than anyone expected as the local guy snatched Rowan’s mysterious cage and attempted to get a count out win before Rowan destroyed him. Inventive.
The Viking Raiders vs The Street Profits was excellent, and although Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins didn’t get the win, they lost very little in the way they were defeated, getting their heat back with the “mutual respect” deal after the match. Finally, Rusev and Lana did a live divorce (which is a ridiculously bizarre thing, even in 2019) that ultimately set up Bobby Lashley and Rusev for TLC. Honestly, how Rusev is still so over, and is making this work is beyond me, but he is. Bless him.
A very entertaining Raw, all things considered. Lots of good in-ring work, plenty of build for TLC, some actual match announcements and plenty of storyline development. Not bad at all.
Sin Cara/Luke Harper/The Ascension released
One of the biggest stories in wrestling this week came from a raft of releases from WWE. Despite it seeming as though the company would be keeping a stranglehold on its contracted talent, the floodgates have seemingly opened and WWE announced that The Ascension, Sin Cara and Luke Harper were being released. Although Konnor and Viktor being released was in a sense not that surprising, Sin Cara and Harper had both requested their releases on social media before they were turned down.
However, now it seems that WWE have softened their stance. There is no concrete reason as to why this might have happened, and we can only speculate. Could it have been that WWE has ceased to be concerned about AEW? Or is it that they have realised that all four men are a little older than the average age of their current roster, and as such are unlikely to have long term careers elsewhere that can damage their own interests? Or perhaps they have finally released that hoarding all available talent is actually counterproductive for their own business model, especially as more and more recruits come into the Performance Centre.
For Sin Cara, I expect he could easily find a role within one of the major Mexican companies, be it AAA, The Crash or CMLL. Equally, TAFKA Hunico did have a previous relationship with Camacho, now known as Tonga Loa in NJPW as part of G.O.D, so maybe he has an “in” there. Equally, he could go to AEW, Impact or ROH. The Ascension, well who knows? Free of the shackles of their gimmick they could go anywhere and do just about anything. For Harper, AEW seems a likely destination given the schedule and their lack of bigger guys, and he would instantly be a player with a host of mouth-watering potential opponents. NJPW also seems like a decent option, while I could even see Harper in NWA as a wildman brawler. There are so many options available to all four men, and hopefully they can have a great, fresh new start wherever they land because all four have been vastly underutilised within WWE in recent years.
Robert Roode, Primo Colon suspended after wellness violation
While some performers were being released this week, others were being sent home. Bobby Roode and Primo Colon were announced this week to have been suspended for thirty days each for violating the company wellness policy. Colon has not been on TV for some time, working primarily for WWE affiliates run by his family in Puerto Rico, but as a WWE employee he would still be required to pass WWE mandated wellness testing. Roode had been in a more prominent role in recent months as part of a tag team with Dolph Ziggler and aligned with Baron Corbin. Obviously we don’t know what exactly they tested positive for, it could have been a variety of substances, possibly even something ingested unintentionally. However, wellness violations are rarely a sign of good future prospects and if I were either man I would be concerned about my long term future within the company. That said, it’s a first offence and it is unlikely there will be further repercussions if past instances of these violations are anything to go by.
With so much happening this week, I won’t devote too much time to the Wednesday night shows, if nothing else because both were designed to hype everyone for next week’s huge shows which will lead to far more analysis after the fact, I’m sure.
For AEW, the segments Jon Moxley and Chris Jericho, as well as The Inner Circle/The Jurassic Express were well handled and built interest for next week, especially in Jungle Boy vs Jericho, as well as pushing Moxley and Jericho (presumably) for their PPV in February. MJF cut a strong promo, while Cody Rhodes and QT Marshall fell to the electric debut of The Butcher and The Blade who looked fantastic here. Speaking of debuts (on Dynamite at least) Big Swole made an immediate impression against Emi Sakura. Hangman Page and Kenny Omega vs Shawn Spears and Kip Sabian was largely a backdrop for two pieces of story development, firstly with Joey Janela and Spears, but also with Page showing more edge by “stealing” the win from his partner. Brandi Rhodes and Awesome Kong had an intriguing pre-tape that continued the developing feud with Kris Statlander, while Alex Reynolds looks like he could be the next Dark Order recruit. Finally, The Young Bucks beat Proud and Powerful in a superb Texas Street Fight. Kudos to all four men who put on a terrific match here, which nicely sets up SCU vs The Young Bucks.
On NXT, Finn Balor vs Keith Lee vs Tomasso Ciampa was a sterling main event, and although I’m not sure I would have gone for Balor getting the win I understand why it happened, and both Ciampa and Lee were fairly well protected in defeat. The match next week should be excellent, but the heel-heel dynamic concerns me.
Angle Garza vs Lio Rush was everything you would expect form these two, and a terrific win to elevate Garza, while perfectly setting the table for a tantalising rubber match. Travis Banks beating Jackson Ryker provided a nice upset, while Cameron Grimes vs Raul Mendoza was secondary to Grimes continuing his programme with Kushida. Breezango vs The Singh Brothers and Bianca Belair vs Kayden James were both passable TV matches, but felt a bit like filler ahead of next week. Finally, Mia Yim and Dakota Kai put together a very strong bout that felt appropriately personal with Kai getting the much-needed win. The big post-match table spot was spectacular and got Yim her heat back, but it looked like a very painful landing for Kai. Hopefully she wasn’t injured in the process given she is just starting out on her fresh new run as a heel. Lots of promos throughout the show for next week, and enough here to get more excited for that show than much on this week’s episode.
Two middling episodes on Wednesday, with both promotions clearly keeping their powder dry to some extent ahead of next week. I have high expectations for both shows next week, and after a slightly less exciting period, the “Wednesday Night War” will definitely be hotting up next week.
On Sunday WWE hosts its final major event of 2019 with TLC. Tables, Ladders and Chairs. Coming only a few weeks after the huge tri-brand Survivor Series show, this has felt like something of an afterthought until this week, but with some matches announced and others likely to happen spontaneously on the night, it should be a very solid card. It’s difficult to call which match will go on last on this show, but I would wager as it is the first ever Women’s tag team TLC match, Becky Lynch and Charlotte vs The Kabuki Warriors could fit the bill. If that’s the case all four women will be going out of their way to create a memorable, and probably insanely structured affair. Expect some bit spots, especially high flying from Sane and possibly Charlotte, and possibly this being used to set up Asuka vs Becky at Royal Rumble, which would make a whole lot of sense.
With Brock Lesnar away for a while, the only other major title match features The Miz taking on Universal Champion Bray Wyatt. I would wager we’ll see Daniel Bryan get involved here, but also it appears that Wyatt will be competing as the Firefly Funhouse version of himself as opposed to “The Fiend” which also brings with it a certain level of intrigue. The match itself will probably be short and relatively uneventful, although I am looking forward to seeing Wyatt wrestle in a jumper. Expect shenanigans or maybe a DQ finish.
The rest of the show looks fine, but it’s not exactly the most anticipated line-up either. Aleister Black vs Buddy Murphy could be the sleeper match of the night. Roman Reigns vs Baron Corbin, even in a TLC match, does almost nothing for me. Rusev vs Bobby Lashley in a tables match has potential, but unless it is being used to finish off this storyline I have no idea how this one plays out. The Viking Raiders offering an open challenge could be interesting, but could easily just result in Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins being crowbarred onto the show. Finally The New Day vs The Revival should be excellent, but sadly feels destined for the pre-show.
A slightly lacklustre card on paper, but one that will likely deliver on the night and hopefully results in some newsworthy developments coming out of the show before the festive lull.
NWA Into the Fire Preview
With NWA building arguably the most exciting wrestling television show going, week-on-week, it should come as no surprise that there is a palpable excitement about their upcoming PPV offering, Into the Fire. In a sense, they are perhaps not the most spectacular matches but then the NWA is not about how things look on paper, but the way the matches and rivalries are presented on screen. The main event between Nick Aldis and Cowboy James Storm would normally have a very “TNA” feel to it, but such is the job that NWA have done with both men and the story around this title match that there are multiple different potential strands to the tapestry of Aldis vs Storm. What is the status of the relationship between Aldis and Kamille? What did she say to Storm on TV a few weeks ago? What impact will Tim Storm have as referee for the second fall? So much to unpick, and so many possible outcomes. Both men have been on fire (pun intended) as of late, and this has the makings of a top main event.
Allysin Kay and Ashley Vox vs Marti Belle and Thunder Rosa (or possibly Melina) should be very good, and I have to imagine this will lead to someone getting the pin on Kay to set up her next challenger. Eli Drake vs Ken Anderson should be a fun brawl between two brash loud mouths. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express are surely dropping the NWA tag titles back to Wild Card here, but I’m sure they’ll have one last hurrah in this match. Colt Cabana vs Ricky Starks vs Aron Stevens is intriguing and I can certainly see either Starks or Stevens taking the National title given how both have been pushed thus far. Finally, Trevor Murdoch (who has been quietly a major highlight of Powerrr so far) vs The Question Mark should be tonnes of fun, and I fully expect further development from arguably the most over character in this organisation.
With those magic NWA touches and what will likely be a very hot crowd, this should be a super show with lots to enjoy. I anticipate plenty of old-school action, a couple of big angles and
Well, that is it from me for this week. I will be back at the same time next week with a look at TLC, Into the Fire, 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/NWA