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The Smark Henry RAW Report (5/18/15): The Prize Fighter

Kevin Owens is taking on John Cena.

I cannot believe I just typed those six words.

Kevin Owens is taking on John Cena.

For all of the hate I’ve given Roman Reigns for being fast-tracked to the big show, I should be one to eat my words for getting behind Kevin Owens and the push he’s getting, right?


Kevin Owens has been in the game for the last fifteen years. Roman Reigns has only been in the game for about a third of that time. Kevin Owens had been making a name for himself on the independent circuit for over a decade before he got his opportunity in the WWE, whereas Roman Reigns was handpicked based on his potential, his lineage, and his look. Kevin Owens has a layered character that many can either get behind or can find flat out despicable, depending on how you look at it. Roman Reigns’ gimmick is composed of the leftovers of the Shield’s.

Six months after debuting in the WWE, Kevin Owens is scheduled to take on its franchise player, John Cena. I admittedly haven’t seen firsthand the legend of Kevin Steen in the indys, but even I am frothing at the mouth with excitement over his feud with John Cena.

You see, I’ve been advocating for the return of the brand split since it faded into oblivion some four years ago. With the depth of talent that WWE has right now, it’s apparent that the brand split has become necessary if we want to give adequate time to the roster and at the same time, decrease the risk of viewer fatigue. 

Ever since Cena’s U.S. Open Challenge debuted, I realized that we already have a brand split of sorts through the gap between the main roster and NXT. During the brand split days, whenever a RAW superstar would show up and on SmackDown!, you knew it was a big deal, otherwise why would he be there? Whenever a SmackDown! superstar wreaked havoc on RAW, you could be sure it was part of a larger storyline that deserved a lot of attention.

Guess what, we’ve been getting that right under our noses. Sami Zayn’s RAW appearance as John Cena’s challenger was the among the first steps to actually make that happen. Kevin Owens coming out on RAW as the NXT Champion, putting John Cena in his place verbally, then physically assaulting him put the icing on the cake. Once he had leveled Cena with a Pop-Up Powerbomb, he stood above Cena and stepped on the U.S. Championship in a display of defiance, arrogance, and outright disgust. It was easily the best part of RAW and I loved it.

Kevin Owens wasn’t there to answer Cena’s U.S. Open Challenge. Owens was there to let Cena know that he was coming for Cena himself. He wasn’t about to let Cena dispense some veteran advice. He didn’t need it. He’d been toiling on the indys for about as long as Cena’s been in the WWE. It just so happened that Cena had gotten his opportunity first. You could tell that there was a bit of real-life gravitas in that exchange between Owens and Cena. In a way, Owens was speaking on behalf of all the indy darlings that we smarks have been getting behind for years. Obviously, this isn’t the first time we’ve had someone speak on their behalf. We’ve had CM Punk and Daniel Bryan in that spot before. But what makes Owens different is that he was one of the unlikelier stars of their mold. And yet, he got to that spot where he could put a target on the franchise player’s back much faster than anyone would have even dreamed.

In two weeks at the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view, we’re getting John Cena vs. Kevin Owens in a match that is immediately must-see. We had just come from a PPV in Payback and yet, I’m already getting hyped for another one in two weeks’ time. This shouldn’t be right because two weeks isn’t enough to build up this match and the two Chamber matches they’ve got set up. But I’m still excited as fuck. The WWE must be doing something right after all.

Shortly after RAW, Smark Henry’s f├╝hrer asked me if I would be open to having Cena go down to NXT when he’s older to serve as the gatekeeper for the future generation of talent. He would play the elder statesman role, the guy that the upstarts would have to beat to see if they have what it takes to break the glass ceiling. After all, Cena’s legacy at this time is already secure. A John Cena loss won’t hurt him much in 2018 as it would have in 2006.

I was initially reluctant to say yes, but after a few hours, I have realized that I’m actually open to it. John Cena can very well be the WWE’s equivalent of Tim Duncan. Bill Simmons of Grantland likened Duncan to the Undertaker in that Duncan’s been so great for so long that he’ll win the NBA Championship one year, and then his team will lose it next year to an opponent that will be anointed as the next great team on the rise. In a way, Duncan’s Spurs have been winning titles and putting other teams over since 1999. Going with that logic, Cena would be the Duncan of the WWE in that elder statesman capacity, and I wouldn’t mind that at all. It’s the ultimate act of passing the torch. He’d be paying it forward in the business while still remaining relevant to both the hardcore and casual fanbases.

Kevin Owens is taking on John Cena.

Good God. We haven’t even talked about the rest of RAW, so I’ll just jump right into it.

You Get a Chamber Match, You Get a Chamber Match, Everyone Gets a Chamber Match!

While I’m very much excited over the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view, I’ve got to admit I don’t like how the schedule of WWE program is so condensed for the month of May. I mean, we only had three weeks on the way to Payback, and then you only have two RAWs separating that show from EC. We just got back from Payback and we’re having another go-home show next week. Parang minamadali ata tayo? But I do get that they’re trying to have as many WWE Network exclusive shows as they can, much like King of the Ring and NXT Takeover: Unstoppable.

Anyway, much of this week’s RAW was used to set up the next PPV, especially the two Elimination Chamber matches. I’m alright with the idea of using the Chamber to determine who the new IC champ should be, but I wish they used this week’s RAW to at least set up qualifying matches for the Chamber. Sheamus, Ziggler, Barrett, and Rusev, all deserve to be contend, but what has R-Truth done to deserve his spot in the match? Is this the “unique opportunity” he won after his best-of-five series with Stardust? I can say the same for Ryback. The guy just came off a loss against Bray Wyatt at Payback. Why does he get to be rewarded with a shot at the IC title?

What the hell did Ryback do to get a spot inside the Chamber?
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As for the Tag Team Championship scene, I’m mostly happy with what they’re doing. For starters, the Authority implicitly acknowledged Xavier Woods’ actions at Payback by banning him from ringside during K-Swiss’s tag team title rematch against the New Day. Booking the New Day to lose via DQ was a great way to extend the feud. I just wish they had announced the participants for the Chamber match differently. I mean, what’s the logic behind having them all come out and attack the New Day and K-Swiss? Is it just to make a statement? What if Harper & Rowan decided to join the fray just because they’re missing a few crayons in the box? Does that automatically make them contenders, too?

If there's anyone who would thrive inside the Chamber, it would be these guys.
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Speaking of the contenders, including the Lucha Dragons was easy to defend. The Ascension need to have an angle going for them to make them more legit other than beating up the Meta Powers, so having them in the Chamber works, too. The Prime Time Players? They’ve been calling out all the tag teams other than K-Swiss, so you might as well include them in the mix. Los Matadores? I’ll pass. I wish they included Harper and Rowan in the match instead. Barring an angle where Harper and Rowan take out Los Matadores, I’m still pretty satisfied with the field. It’ll at least be interesting to see who gets all claustrophobic during their stay inside the pod.


Dolph Ziggler is one lucky S.O.B.

He’s got to be the one guy on the roster who’s had the good fortune of being booked to make out with AJ Lee *AND* Lana on-screen! Then again, this is probably good karma for having to make out with Vickie Guerrero back in 2010-11, but still. I’d say Ziggy got the best deal.

That is the look of one lucky man.
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As for Lana and Rusev, if you ever had any doubts about the direction of their story, you can put all those doubts to rest. They’re officially the Macho Man and Miss Elizabeth of this generation. From the way that Lana and Rusev had an LQ (Pinoy slang for lovers’ quarrel) in the ring to how Rusev acted all jealous that Lana kissed Dolph in the middle of the ring, after he dumped her publicly, mind you. Man, this has all the workings of a telenovela. And since we call wrestling a telenovela for men, then it’s telenovela-ception, my friend.

Lana said that she translated Rusev’s words in Bulgarian and told the referee he was quitting because she cared about him. This is the first time she actually acknowledged a personal layer to her relationship with Rusev. Meanwhile, Rusev acts as if he’s a rock and doesn’t care about Lana, but you can tell deep inside, that’s not the case. I won’t be surprised if the long-term payoff of this is for him to declare his love for her, too, eventually—especially if the rumors are true that Rusev is ultimately headed for a babyface turn. This won’t be a bad way of making that happen.

A New Paige?

You have to love a woman who knows what she wants.
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Paige returned to RAW this week, which seems right about on schedule since she was only slated to be gone for about a month as she filmed her movie with WWE Studios. She came out to initially save Nikki Bella from a 2-on-1 attack from the Blood Sisters, but when Nikki got back on her feet, she hit the Divas Champion with the Ram-Paige.

I wonder if they’re now booking Paige to take AJ Lee’s place as the tweener of the Divas division. It wouldn’t be such a bad move, but only if they revive her anti-Diva gimmick from NXT. The only problem I see with the anti-Diva gimmick, though, is that Paige is part of Total Divas now, as well. So that makes her a bit of a hypocrite, doesn’t it? Welp.

Revenge on the Seth

The Pedigree: Pamana ni Daddy
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When Bray Wyatt appeared as a hologram ghost during Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose’s Hell In A Cell match last year, it all but confirmed that that feud wasn’t going to end just yet. True enough, Ambrose still holds a grudge against Rollins, which was on full display on RAW this week. With both Randy Orton and Roman Reigns out, Ambrose demanded that he be given a one-on-one championship match with the Architect.

Ambrose went so far as to turn the tables on Seth, gatecrashing the latter’s celebratory, post-Payback victory party. For some reason, there were cinder blocks conveniently placed at ringside that implied that maybe Ambrose is more calculating than we give him credit for. He even threatened to bash Rollins’ brains in with a steel chair on to the cinder blocks, which made me question for a while what made Ambrose different as a babyface from a certain John Cena. If you recall, Cena locked Rusev in the STF until the latter passed out, forcing Lana to acquiese to Cena’s demands for a U.S. title shot at WrestleMania Play Button.

What makes Ambrose different from Cena, however, is his DNA as a character. His nature has always been to bring about chaos to get what he wants. It’s been consistent since his time in the Shield, and even after their breakup. He didn’t care how he would have gotten his title shot. He just had to stir up some trouble on the way to getting there. On the flip side, John Cena has always been about being the good guy, being Mr. Hustle, Loyalty, and Respect. There’s nothing respectful about letting your anger get the best of you and being the demon that Bray Wyatt and 2012 Kane wanted him to be. This is why Ambrose—despite threatening to do something that could kill a guy—is still somehow excusable as a badass babyface, whereas Jearn is still #ScumbagJearn.

What I’m wondering now heading into Elimination Chamber is what Orton and Reigns are going to be doing by then. I don’t want them to feud anymore. We already saw that last year, and it had as much excitement as a tearful Kris Aquino interview on national television. I’ll pass.


What did you think about RAW this week? How excited are you for Owens vs. Cena? Who’s your pick to win the vacated Intercontinental Championship? And which tag team are you rooting for come Elimination Chamber? Hit the comments section and let us know what you think!


Stan Sy is a radio DJ, an events host, a freelance writer, one of the hosts of the Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast, and Smark Henry's official PPV reviewer. He enjoys watching WWE, NXT, Lucha Underground, and the occasional New Japan match. Every now and then, he dresses up in fancy suits to book matches as PWR's longest-tenured General Manager to date. Follow him on Twitter: @_stansy


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