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The Smark Henry RAW Report (5/25/15): The Dramathon


Throughout my wrestling fandom, I’ve encountered many a ninny who have asked me why I continue to watch this fake sport. For years, I've struggled to come up with something intelligent to say other than, “I find it fun and interesting, so bug off.” It wasn’t until I started reading about wrestling as if it were a text analyzed using comparative literature when I realized the classic argument that wrestling is basically soap operas on steroids (pun intended).

Of all the ongoing storylines on WWE programming today, none are as close to telenovela levels as the one involving Lana and Rusev. When they were first introduced in NXT and on the main roster, there weren’t really any blatant signs that showed these two characters would end up having romantic feelings for one another. 

The funny thing is that Lana was originally meant to be the Ludmilla to Rusev’s Ivan Drago. Like Lana, Ludmilla was Drago’s mouthpiece at press conferences and interviews, and her role was to dismiss any allegations that were supposed to disparage her client. It is worth mentioning that Ludmilla is Ivan Drago’s wife, so if you actually called for Lana and Rusev to be an OTP since their NXT days or at least prior to this current story, then good for you. On a related note, it’s also rather interesting that the people behind the Lana and Rusev characters—C.J. Perry and Miroslav Barnyashev—are also in a real-life relationship. 

For all the talk about WWE not treating its female characters with the respect that they deserve, it was quite a treat to watch Lana hold her own against Rusev on RAW this week. Rusev yelled for Lana to come out and meet him in the ring, but he also mellowed down seconds later and added the word, “please.” He then acknowledged that Lana cared about Rusev, which led to the events at Payback. Rusev went on to extend an olive branch by offering his hand so that all will be forgotten, and after sharing a hug, he asked Lana to say “three magical words.”

At this point, it would have been fair to assume that he would have expected Lana to say “I love you,” but when he asked her to say “I was wrong” instead, I thought it was brilliant. I liked how Lana finally stood up for herself and said that she was no longer putting up with Rusev’s “caveman” attitude. She even said that she belonged to no one and that she was no longer Rusev’s victim. Count one victory for women everywhere who have to put up with this type of abuse from their partners. It’s about damn time a female character in WWE said something along those lines. That was worthy of a mic drop, which I’m glad Lana actually did.

Now, I have mixed feelings about Dolph Ziggler being a pawn in this little story. Ziggler acknowledged on SmackDown! that he knows the game that Lana’s trying to play, and that he’s in for the ride. My problem is that even though Ziggy’s a willing participant, the fact that it’s been acknowledged that Lana is playing this kind of "mind game" to push Rusev’s buttons still paints her as a manipulative woman. 

If you want to raise up the Lana character and push her as someone who has turned her back on Rusev’s ways, then she should be above using her womanly charms on Ziggler. The only positive thing I see from this is the fact that Rusev’s jealousy is clearly a harbinger of the eventual Rusev-Lana romantic reunion on-screen, which I hope becomes the SummerSlam ‘91 moment of this generation. 

The Good, the Bad, and the Crazy


Did somebody call the police?
Photo from WWE.com
Dean Ambrose has a history of stealing vehicles and using them to make a surprise appearance on RAW. We saw this last December when Ambrose turned the tables on Bray Wyatt’s mind games during the build up to their Ambulance Match on the January 5 episode of RAW. This week, he stole a police van and dressed himself up as a cop to make his way back to the arena, just so he could sign the contract that would make his match against Seth Rollins at Elimination Chamber official. 

I have a hard time believing that arena security would be that stupid not to recognize Ambrose in the driver’s seat, especially after how he was supposedly arrested and taken to the slammer for allegedly striking a cameraman. But wrestling logic, so whatevs. I will praise the little wrinkle that Creative added where they had the Authority demand that Ambrose be physically present to sign the contract for the championship match himself. 

After all, Trips was right in saying that the Authority was under duress when they acquiesced to his demands last week. Now if these guys could just get David Otunga to be part of the Authority as their legal counsel, then they could make him be the guy who officially explains all of their actions and why they’re always in the right. Make it happen, WWE!

The tag team match involving Ambrose and Roman Reigns against Rollins and Kane was a surprising choice for the opening match on RAW, but given the action that all four men put out, I don’t have much to complain about. It was nice that they had Ambrose pin Rollins clean because it actually gives Ambrose the momentum he needs to be taken seriously as the #1 Contender at Elimination Chamber. Of course, if we’re to follow the traditional booking pattern heading into a pay-per-view, this all but means that Ambrose loses to Rollins this Sunday.

By the way, for anybody asking where Randy Orton’s been since Payback, I offer this explanation.


All My Tag Teams


For a go-home show, this week’s RAW failed to properly build up the Elimination Chamber Tag Team Championship match. I get that they were trying to get even more heat for the New Day by having them rip into the Long Island audience and by whining about the match this Sunday. But I think that putting all five contending tag teams together in a handicap tag team match against the three members of the New Day was a copout.

For one, it lasted less than five minutes. And there wasn’t much a story told either, other than the fact that all five of these teams weren’t bound to get along anyway. Getting a win for the New Day via disqualification was the logical thing to do, but I wanted more action out of this segment other than a finisher party and a spotfest. I hope that this chamber match doesn’t disappoint next week.

Kahit Isang Saglit

No, Cena. I still don't forgive you for killing Ryder's push in 2012.
Photo from WWE.com
When the cast of Entourage came out to answer John Cena’s weekly U.S. Open Challenge, I was about to throw a hissy fit. I’m glad that they were just out there to introduce the Long Island Iced Z, Zack Ryder, as Cena’s opponent. It was also surprisingly pleasant to hear Michael Cole refer to the history between Ryder and Cena. And of course, given that Ryder is a hometown hero in Long Island, I would say that the match already had enough to give it a big fight feel. 

It’s amazing how these U.S. Open Challenges are able to make virtually anyone look like a credible opponent for Cena. To his credit, Cena does sell his opponent’s moves enough to get them over up until the opponent’s finishers. While I’ll be among the first to admit that Ryder needs a better finisher other than his Rough Ryder, I really wish Cena didn’t kick out of every damn finisher his opponent throws at him. It would be okay if the opponent had multiple finishers that he could use to end a match (see: Bad News Barrett, Sami Zayn), but for someone like Ryder who only had that jumping leg lariat, it was a wake-up call that that finisher only defeats jabronis. Here’s an idea: how about that 450 splash that Ryder busted out during the match? That could totally be a Zack Ryder signature move to add to his Broski Boot. 

And of course, Kevin Owens deserves a shout-out in this column for his new “Fight Owens Fight” muscle shirt, with matching shorts! His sneak attack on Cena was a joy to watch. I wish he’d actually demolished Ryder, too, just to get more heat on him. But he made up for it by stepping on the U.S. title again. 

Sinturong Puti

All six participants of the Intercontinental Championship match at Elimination Chamber were in action this week, with each babyface taking on a heel in a singles match. I wasn’t pretty happy with how all of them seemed lack any interactions with one another, except Ziggler, who reignited his rivalry with Sheamus, while getting beaten up by Rusev in the Lana story. 

I just wish they could all interact in one segment, like through a brawl or a six-man tag match. I mean, you’re supposed to be building all six guys as credible contenders in a combustible setup—I have no idea how that’s even possible with R-Truth, but we’re already here—so you might as well have a six-man explosion, right? 

The Bold and the Beautiful


We have ourselves a triple threat Divas Championship match this Sunday between Divas champ Nikki Bella, Paige, and Naomi, and I’ll be all for it, if future title matches will also include Brie and Tamina. Since we’re talking about the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view, I think we actually have enough Divas on the main roster for a chamber match. Just add Nattie in the mix, and you have six girls who can actually tear it up in the chamber--which won’t sound like that good of an idea for the people behind Total Divas. Welp.

I like how from the minute Paige got back, she already started attacking both Nikki and Naomi. That’s how you build a triple threat feud. You don’t build it such that the babyfaces are ganging up against the heels or vice versa. In the meantime, the match between Tamina and Paige served well enough to reestablish Tamina as a credible force in the ring other than being Naomi’s muscle.

I’m looking forward to seeing how she and Brie play a role in the Divas title match. Interestingly, Paige is the only Diva in the match who doesn’t have any enforcers/managers/sisters or any friend whatsoever, which works well for her continuity-wise, since she doesn’t do well with friends.

The Young and the Restless

If you didn’t believe that the WWE has been referencing NXT continuity on the main roster regularly, then the feud between Neville and Bo Dallas should nip that in the bud. 

The commentary team acknowledged that much of Bo’s beef towards Neville stems from the fact that Neville won the NXT Championship from Bo. I think it’s a nice change of pace, especially since for the most part, NXT alumni who are on RAW don’t get their histories mentioned much other than in little bits and pieces through their first few weeks on the main roster—look no further than Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, and Big E as the best examples.

Neville has been selling that knee injury since his match against King Barrett at Payback, and it has been a nice element in their feud, since it limits his high-flying repertoire. While Neville was able to ultimately hit the Red Arrow for the win, it gave Bo an easy opening, much like last week, so that he could come in and assaut Neville to get his heat. 

Meanwhile, Arrow star Stephen Amell was at ringside at RAW this week, and it was nice to finally see him on WWE TV. It’s no secret that Amell has been campaigning for a guest host gig for the longest time, and it was cool that they got him to interact with Stardust for a bit during the latter’s match against Neville. Judging by Amell’s tweet—and other examples of mainstream celebrities interacting with WWE superstars on tha Twittah, the Arrow might be making his main roster debut very soon. Sign me up!








*****

What did you think of this week's RAW? Do you like where the Rusev-Lana story is going? Who are you rooting for in the Intercontinental Championship Elimination Chamber Match? Which tag team are you rooting for in their chamber match? Do you think Stephen Amell's guest appearance on RAW is happening soon? I'm just so, so excited for Cena vs. Owens. Sunday can not come any sooner! In the meantime, hit us up in the comments section to let us know what you thought of RAW!

*****


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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