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The Smark Henry RAW Report (05/11/15): A Change of Course


Like any other wrestling fan, I have also dreamed of booking WWE shows and writing the stories myself, or at least just being in charge of what goes on in which parts of the show. As fans, it’s so easy to play armchair booker, go online, and tell anyone who listens how you would do things differently if you were Vince McMahon. But no matter how brilliant my ideas or realizations about the product are, the reality is that I’ll never be a white, 69-year-old, mountain of a man who runs a billion-dollar corporation—mostly because I’ll never be a white guy, but whatever.

This is the reason why it feels so good whenever something I called out the previous week seems to have been addressed in this week’s RAW. Case in point: I called out the fact that we see the same people in the same spots over and over again, particularly the main event players in the Authority and whoever they’re feuding with at the moment.

This week, the Authority did come out during the opening segment and the main event, but Randy Orton was saved for the main event. Plus, we survived a three-hour RAW without having a single backstage segment involving the members of the Authority. I wouldn’t call that a win just yet, but that’s at the very least a step in the right direction.

Now, I doubt that anybody from WWE actually read last week’s RAW review, let alone even figure that a website like this exists in the first place. But you have to applaud a show that seems to just read your mind and give you something that approximates what you want when you least expect it.

As for this week’s RAW, it was a bit underwhelming in terms of creating suspense as we head into this weekend for Payback. On the flip side, this week’s RAW actually featured more wrestling than backstage segments, which is something that we smart fans have been clamoring for for weeks. As always, we’re reminded that with the WWE—and life, in general—you’ll just have to take the good with the bad. On to this week’s RAW!

You’re a Good Man, Jamie Noble


You do you, Jamie Noble.
Jamie Noble has been one of the most underrated characters on WWE television lately. Observe the way he pays attention to detail whenever he’s on-screen. He’s the first to hide behind Seth Rollins, Joey Mercury, or even Kane or Triple H—whoever’s conveniently there—whenever shit is about to go down. At the same time, he’s not afraid to put his fists up and take a beating get down and dirty when he has to. 

This week, he reminded me why his on-screen presence has been a joy to watch when he got in Triple H’s face to complain about why he and Joey Mercury have a match against Dean Ambrose on the show. Trips using his height to mock Noble and his authority to throw his weight around was the perfect complement to Noble’s stubbornness and annoyance. Add to that his facial expressions, which are almost always on point, and you have a great, memorable character who doesn’t even have to wrestle all the time. Jamie, I’m gonna miss you when you’re gone.

Vacant-3, Daniel Bryan-0


Speaking of someone being gone, lookie here, Intercontinental Champion Daniel Bryan came back! (Sounds familiar.) And he talked about how he’d been sidelined for the last few weeks. (Sounds familiar.) And then he mentioned that he’s been talking to his doctors about his health. (Still familiar, but this could just be a nice little swerve.) And he just mentioned the bit about how he doesn’t know when he’s coming back, if he ever is. (Still familiar. Still open to a swerve.) And then he talked about how we deserve a fighting Intercontinental Champion—uh-oh—so he has to relinquish the Intercontinental Championship. (Well, that was too familiar.)

It’s been over half a day since my favorite wrestler from the current era relinquished a championship for the second straight year, at right around the same time of the year. This is also the third time in his career that Bryan’s been stripped of a championship, although the first instance from Night of Champions 2013 was part of the storyline. All that being said, I think it’s just really unfortunate that Daniel Bryan has post-prime Rey Mysterio 2.0, i.e. Mr. Glass.

Bryan has been wrestling for at least fifteen years, and those who followed his indy career could very well have seen the prime of his in-ring work. I just wish Bryan can still find a way to extend his career, as selfish as that may sound. Of course, at the end of the day, we wish Bryan Danielson to be on the speediest road to recovery, and that he and Brie Bella can live a long, happy, and relatively pain-free life together. But, man, my heart just goes out to him. It sucks seeing him have to be on the shelf again, but I can’t imagine what Bryan Danielson is going through.

Stop pushing it, guys.
One last note: I saw the meme above floating around the internet shortly after RAW, and I just have to make it clear that the supposed mentor-protégé relationship between Shawn Michaels and Daniel Bryan is being overblown. Bryan just happened to be a student at HBK’s wrestling school during HBK’s four-year sabbatical from the business. If we’re looking for someone who was really a mentor to Bryan, we should be looking at William Regal. I sound like I’m nitpicking, but I’m still pissed over Bryan and his injury, so can you really blame me?

Brie Mode


Since we talked about D-Bry, we might as well mention Mrs. Danielson, who came out to her god-awful entrance theme this week for the first time in forever. I thought we had taken that song out of its misery and retired it, but I was sadly mistaken. If we’re sticking with the Bellas as babyfaces, can we at least make Brie’s entrance theme more likable? Oh, and I’ve been saying this all over Twitter and Facebook, but for the life of me, I still have no flipping idea what Brie Mode is supposed to mean.

At least we got a decent match between her and Tamina. Naomi’s blood sister displayed the hard-hitting style we haven’t seen in the year she’s been away. It’s refreshing, even with her look, since basically all of the Divas are being molded for a spot on Total Divas very soon. It helps that we have at least one Diva who isn’t trying to be pretty, and that’s something I can appreciate because in reality, even women come in all shapes and sizes. More importantly, a woman can also be a rugged ass-kicker. And that’s Tamina. Never change, Tamina.

Swing It, Shake It, Move It, Make It, Who Do You Think You Are?




Whitney Houston once sang, “Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.” I can’t believe I just used two ‘90s song references in one go, but I couldn’t help it. Thanks, Damien Sandow, or whatever the hell you’re trying to be right now, because you clearly have not learned to love yourself since you brought back the impersonation schtick.

When Sandow came out a few weeks ago to reestablish himself as a singles star no longer saddled by having to impersonate the Miz, it seemed like he was being primed for a solo run so we could see how good he truly is as an individual. That lasted all of one week. Last week, he showed up on Main Event as Macho Mandow, impersonating the late “Macho Man” Randy Savage, and he did much of the same this week on RAW.

Just when you thought Sandow’s career was taking five steps forward, he just went another ten steps backward. I mean, what the flying fuck are we doing here?! I feel my intelligence being insulted as Sandow said a couple of weeks ago that he was “done with lying” and that he’s going to just be himself from now on. And now he’s aligned himself with another impersonator in Curtis Axel—whom he used to mock—and now they’re taking on the Ascension, whose gimmick is a rip-off of the Legion of Doom’s in itself! No, the irony is not lost on me, but what the fuck. Really? Really? REALLY?!

Sorry, Paige. Erick Rowan can't play chess with you anymore because he's heel again.
Screencap from WWE.com

Let’s stay on the subject of identities and talk about Erick Rowan for a while. He had a 37-second squash match against Fandango this week, that reminded us of two things: (1) Erick Rowan desperately needed to get his heat back and (2) Fandango’s not even going to sniff that upper midcard scene any time soon.

I like the move to reunite Rowan with Luke Harper because keeping them as a team adds another layer to a suddenly burgeoning tag team division. Plus, the singles scene is crowded enough as it is, but you can never have too many good tag teams. Now if only Creative can make actual time for them on the card. 

I guess my only issue with Rowan’s heel turn and realignment with Harper is: does this effectively erase all the depth they attempted to put into the Erick Rowan character after Survivor Series? All that stuff about Rowan being a wine connoisseur, a savant with an IQ of 170 trained in classical guitar… that shit goes down the drain now that he’s back to being a scary hoss in a jumpsuit and a sheep mask, right?

The Return of the Comeback, Part 2

In case you missed it, the Elimination Chamber returns to the WWE Network on pay-per-view on May 31, and it’ll air on the morning of June 1, Manila time. I’ve always loved the idea of the Elimination Chamber match, and it has always been my favorite multi-man match type other than the Royal Rumble.

This year, two Chamber matches will be held, one of which will crown the new Intercontinental Champion, while the other will be ground-breaking as it determines the fate of the WWE Tag Team Championship. I think the latter match will be exciting since we’ll have twelve participants in a single match. I have no idea if a single pod can hold Big E and either Kofi or Xavier Woods, let alone the entire New Day if they choose to uphold the Freebird Rule until the moment their pod opens. Either way, it should make for a breath of fresh air for a match that basically marked the return of Shawn Michaels back in 2002.

Off the top of my head, we could have a great Tag Team Elimination Chamber match featuring the New Day, K-Swiss, the Lucha Dragons, the Ascension, the Prime Time Players, and Harper & Rowan! This is amazing. And this doesn’t even count the fact that we still have Los Matadores and Sandow/Axel in the tag team division.

As for the Intercontinental Championship picture, I expect Dean Ambrose to take part in it after he wraps up his role at the Payback main event. Ambrose, by the way, got a massive pop from his hometown crowd, which wasn’t surprising in the least bit. It was also nice of Daniel Bryan to give him a rub during his title vacating promo. This also most likely means that the Lunatic Fringe will not be winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Payback. Look for Dolph Ziggler, King Barrett, Sheamus, and Neville to also be in the fray.

Big Fight Feels All Around



In Neville’s short time in the main roster, he’s gone up against two of the three singles titleholders in great matches on Monday Night RAW. His match against United States Champion John Cena this week was a clinic on ring psychology, which was great on Neville’s part since Cena himself is still lacking in taking the lead as the ring general.

My one problem with Neville having been named as Cena’s challenger in this week’s U.S. Open Challenge was the fact that there was a very strong chance that the Red Arrow’s credibility as a finisher would have taken a hit with Cena having to kick out of it. Thankfully, Rusev came out at the last second and attacked both Neville and Cena, ending the match via disqualification. I liked that ending because (1) it protected the Red Arrow, (2) it didn’t allow Cena or Neville to win straight up, opening the door for a future rivalry or at least a series of matches, and (3) it hopefully builds to a crescendo for the Rusev-Cena feud as we head into Payback.

My takeaway from the Rusev-Cena feud so far is that I find it amusing that a midcard feud like this is the one that has gone on the longest in terms of the rivalries heading into the PPV. It’s also worth noting that the most brutal stipulation in all of the matches isn’t reserved for the main event just because it’s the main event. It’s actually been saved for a feud that has gone on since the Royal Rumble, and rightfully so, since this feud needs to be punctuated with impact. If the idea heading into WrestleMania was really to elevate both midcard singles titles by letting Cena and Bryan win them, then the WWE was definitely headed in the right direction. Bryan’s injury notwithstanding, it was a ballsy move on their end to pull the trigger on this, and it worked to an extent, which does deserve props.


***

What did you think about this week’s RAW? Are you excited for the return of Elimination Chamber? Does it matter to you that they’re only leaving two weeks between Payback and the Elimination Chamber PPVs? Am I the only one extremely bothered by Damien Sandow’s regression as a character? Abangan ang susunod na kabanata!

In the meantime, follow me on Twitter: @_StanSy and subscribe to the Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast on iTunes! This week, we got to interview 4 Front Wrestling's So Sai King, who told us about his experiences as a Chinese-Filipino pro wrestler in the United Kingdom.

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