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The Smark Henry RAW Report (5/4/2015): Olé! Olé, Olé, Olé!

It’s been almost three years since Monday Night RAW permanently became a three-hour show, and in the time that’s passed, it’s become both exciting and tiresome to wake up at 8 a.m. on a Tuesday morning to catch RAW live. Sure, the time difference between the Philippines and the U.S. is a bitch, but we all know that already, and any hardcore sports (and sports entertainment) fan has already accepted that. The question is whether or not what we wake up for is worth sitting through an entire morning glued to the screen.
Fittingly, this week’s RAW was a little bit of good and a little bit of bad. And when I say a little bit of good in this day and age, that mostly means it was worth having stayed through the entire three-hour plus. Unfortunately, that doesn’t say much about WWE TV as a whole because the standard for excellent programming has become increasingly low, what with the lazy storytelling and questionable booking that we smart fans have been all but accustomed to.

Olé! Olé, Olé, Olé!
I have to start with this; I really have to! John Cena’s U.S. Open Challenge has become one of the most entertaining parts of RAW because the matches he has been putting out with the upper midcard have been solid. The only problem with the U.S. Open Challenge so far has been that Cena can’t win without crapping on his opponent’s finishers.

When Cena came out this week, the Montreal crowd was just out to get him, but Cena knew just what to do to get the crowd on his side. He busted out a hockey reference, and suddenly the audience was no longer his enemy. Anybody who yells, “John Cena sucks!” and firmly believes it in his heart of hearts is a damn fool. The man knows how to make you eat off the palm of his hand. Believe that.

After he kicked off the U.S. Open, Bret Hart came out and I legitimately thought he was there to accept Cena’s challenge, which would have been awesome and weird at the same time. The second Bret Hart started talking, my excitement died a bit because Lord knows that Bret still cannot cut a promo to save his life. Thankfully, Heath Slater came out and annoyed the hell out of Montreal enough for Bret to sock him with the mic, which was actually a lot of fun to watch.

And then Bret Hart introduced “a great wrestler, a hometown star, and one of NXT’s hottest,” and I just could not believe what I was hearing. When “Worlds Apart” started playing and Sami Zayn was introduced, I just marked the fuck out of my seat and I knew–I KNEW!!!–we were all in for a treat!

Needless to say, the match was brilliant, with Zayn being made to look like he actually stood a chance against Super Cena. For some reason, watching Zayn go toe-to-toe with Cena for the U.S. title reminded me of Cena’s own introduction to the main roster, when he went up against Kurt Angle in an open challenge on SmackDown! Remember when I mentioned that the US Open Challenge was bad in the sense that it craps on the opponent’s finisher? Well, thank God they had the decency not to have Zayn use the Helluva Kick on Cena, because that would have fallen victim to the Dark Matter, Dirty Deeds, and the (Royal) Bullhammer.

It also has to be said that the commentary team was actually commendable in calling the match. Cole knew Zayn’s signature moves, from the through-the-ropes tornado DDT from the outside, to the Koji Clutch, to the Blue Thunder Bomb. Cole also did a good job of incorporating Zayn’s NXT history into the commentary, including Sami’s underdog story until the fact that he ended Neville’s record-long NXT Championship reign. Here’s my issue with me applauding the commentary team for doing their job: I’m applauding them for simply doing their fucking job. The commentary on the main roster is lacking in so many areas that a simple match in which the announcers actually do their job and put the wrestlers over is already an achievement in itself. God help us all.

After the match, I thought it was a nice touch to have Cena show respect for Sami Zayn by helping the latter up as he sold the shoulder injury from the match, and then leaving the ring so that the hometown hero could have his moment with the crowd. Just when you thought you already hated #ScumbagCena, #GoodGuyCena had to remind you he was still around.
Insert Ambrose Here

Dean Ambrose was hungry for an opportunity to be in the main event of Payback.
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Dean Ambrose hasn’t beaten Seth Rollins one-on-one prior to this week’s RAW, and him finally getting the upper hand on the WWE World Heavyweight Champion could not have come at a better time. His first win against Rollins earned him a shot at the champ, making the main event of Payback a Fatal 4-Way. While I’m excited to see all three alumni of the Shield (plus some guy named Randy Orton) competing for the World Title at the next pay-per-view, I’m just slightly annoyed that Dean completely forgot about Dolph Ziggler costing him a shot at being King of the Ring at RAW last week. If I were Dean, I’d totally attack Dolph over that, but I guess the Show-Off still isn’t finished with Sheamus. But, hey, Deano gets to compete for that shiny belt around Rollins’s waist and he gets to beat Seth up in the process, too. Not a bad deal, I must say.

Randy Orton and Roman Reigns opened and closed Monday Night RAW, and somehow it doesn’t sound so strange in 2015. And that’s a problem since RAW is–again–three hours long, and you have an entire roster chock full of talents that you could find time for if the card was just managed properly. I mean, we didn’t see the Prime Time Players, Damien Sandow, or the Lucha Dragons on RAW. Surely we could have squeezed a match or two involving those guys and their respective opponents if the show was booked well, right? All of this goes back to my point on last week’s RAW review about seeing the same guys in the same spots. One last bit about this is that I love J&J Security. These guys deserve a raise for just how fun they make their schtick to be. Seeing them have guest roles at ringside (aside from being Seth’s enforcers) was golden.

On a positive note, the New Day were introduced as new enemies for Orton and Reigns, which was refreshing to see, except if you look at it from the angle that the Tag Team Champions seem to be obligated to take on whoever the Authority has an issue with (See: Heel K-Swiss). More importantly, all three members of the New Day took on Orton and Reigns in a handicap match and won. The New Day needed that because (1) we can’t keep seeing the main event guys beating the Tag Team Champions and therefore, crapping on the entire tag division and (2) it keeps the New Day’s heat alive all the more now that they’re clearly exercising the Freebird Rule, as the commentary team pointed out this week.
The Return of the Comeback

Tamina and Naomi are clearly amazed with their handiwork.
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Remember the Ascension? Yeah, that Legion of Doom ripoff tag team with the spiked shoulder pads and face paint who used to be the most dominant S.O.Bs on NXT. They returned to RAW this week and took on Tyson Kidd and Cesaro, which was a good way to build on both teams’ supposed stories. Kidd & Cesaro were out to prove that they still had the chops to challenge the New Day again, while the Ascension were built up as a team looking for a shot at the Tag Titles if they were to beat K-Swiss.
Remember Tamina? Yes, the Usos’ former valet and AJ’s former enforcer. It’s been over a year since we last saw her, and she finally returned to WWE TV this week as… Naomi’s family? Wait, how? Thankfully, Cole and JBL actually reminded viewers that Tamina is a cousin of the Usos, and since Jimmy Uso is married to Naomi, that makes Tamina her cousin-in-law. So Tamina’s now Naomi’s new partner–a huge upgrade over Cameron–and it was fun seeing both of them just assault the Bellas because it establishes both ladies as tough girls you wouldn’t want to mess with. Plus, for all of our talk at the Smark Henry offices over the Bellas’ unconvincing face turn, it should at least make viewers reasonably sympathetic towards them.

Bullhammers and Buzzards
Bad News Barrett came out on RAW with his crown, sceptre, and cape, and I thought to myself that this couldn’t happen to a better guy right now. I’m happy for King Barrett, as he now dubs himself, and I can’t wait to see him continue to rule with an iron fist. It was fun seeing him and Sheamus team up and bully Dolph Ziggler and Neville. The match was competitive and the shenanigans that occurred were enough to continue both the Sheamus-Ziggler and Barrett-Neville feuds. I honestly wouldn’t mind seeing more of both feuds.

Meanwhile, Ryback was interviewed in the ring by Renee Young, and he did a pretty good job of managing the Montreal crowd, who fervently let the Goldberg chants rain down on Beezy. I thought it was clever of him to say, “If you ignore it, they’ll just keep doing it,” which was enough to win the crowd over and start a “Feed Me More!” chant. That’s how you manage a crowd, Kofi Kingston. You don’t have to be like John Cena, but you have to know when to let the crowd chant, when to cut them off, and when to come in. Clearly, Kofi’s mic skills don’t last all day, let alone all segment.
Oh, and Bray Wyatt made his presence felt by taunting Ryback and telling him that deep inside, the Big Guy is just a scared little boy. Come on, you’re going to have to build a feud up better than that if Payback is two Sundays from now.

I don’t understand why they’re having R-Truth feud with Stardust, but if it gives both of them something to do, then I guess I can’t complain, right? After all, I’m the guy who wants most, if not all, of the talent to have TV time. I just wish their story was based on something less petty. I mean, Stardust bringing a bag of fake spiders to scare Truth and get an easy win? Sure, it’s annoying, as Stardust is supposed to be a crazy, annoying heel, but I wish they’d just have Goldust come back out and feud with his brother over losing “Cody” somewhere in the cosmos.

Let It Go, Lana

Rusev attacks Fandango as he was about to join Lana in the Fandango-ing.
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I thought it was interesting to have Fandango approach Lana backstage and tell her to make like Elsa and let it go–okay, maybe I included the Frozen reference on my own–and to accept the WWE Universe’s adulation of her. Remember, Fandango himself did just that a few weeks ago, and the character appears to love it. And if it isn’t obvious by now, Lana’s beginning to enjoy the attention herself. Hell, she Fandango-ed during the match and broke out that cute happy smile we haven’t seen since Rusev defeated Sheamus for the United States Championship last year! Needless to say, I’m excited for the eventual face turn.

I’ve gone over 2000 words, so I might as well ask you what you thought of this week’s RAW. As I said at the top of the column, the show was decent, but not quite solid, so we could give it a B rating this week. Agree or disagree? Let me know and tweet me @_StanSy and subscribe to the Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast on iTunes! This week’s episode features our very first international guest, so if that doesn’t get you excited, then maybe our Backstreet Boys concert experience will. And with that, I’ll make like Chito Miranda and just end this column right here.


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