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The Smark Henry RAW Report (6/15/15): Ridin' Solo

In light of Dusty Rhodes’ untimely passing last weekend, I was on the lookout for two things this week on RAW. The first was if they were going to write Dean Ambrose as more of a modern-day equivalent of Dusty to Seth Rollins’ Ric Flair. The second was if they were going to do anything with Stardust as a tribute to his father. Neither thing really happened this week, and it wasn’t really a bad thing that that was the case.

There was a sense of fear among Stardust fans that Dusty’s death would make WWE want to scrap the Stardust gimmick altogether and have Cody come back out as Cody Rhodes. That would be a huge mistake because Cody wrestles best when he has a solid character that he can play. Without it, you take away one of Cody’s biggest strengths as a performer, which is understanding and internalizing a character to the point of believability. That’s something he can’t necessarily do as just Cody Rhodes.

And we can’t be blamed for having that fear because we saw this happen ten years ago when Eddie Guerrero passed away. They quickly reverted Kerwin White to Chavo Guerrero. Granted, Kerwin White was a politically incorrect gimmick on its own, but the emotional nature of a death in the family is enough to abort any gimmick, no matter how far into it a wrestler has gone. In Stardust’s case, keeping that gimmick--and maybe the use of the Bionic Elbow as a signature move--should be enough, since Dusty did once wrestle as “Stardust” Dusty Rhodes.

As for Dean and Seth, I had planned to discuss the supposed rewriting of Dean’s character in the mold of Dusty for a column on how Dean and Seth are the Dusty and Flair of this generation. Since turning on the Shield last year, Seth sold out and was consumed by the power and influence that he craved as a member of the Authority and kept wanting more, much like Ric Flair, who sought the same power and influence as an NWA heel in the 80s.

However, prior to Dusty’s death, Dean Ambrose wasn’t really much of a blue-collar character. If he ever did do anything blue-collar, there was a deeper motivation behind it, and that was chaos. Ambrose would work tirelessly to sow chaos, and once the Authority’s plans were in disarray, then that’s how he could get what he wanted. Not your typical babyface behavior, which makes Ambrose more of an antihero really, and if there were a more appropriate comparison to the Ambrose-Rollins rivalry, it would be Austin-Rock from the 90s.

This week, Ambrose’s character took another turn when he came close to defeating Rollins for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Money in the Bank. The fact that Ambrose lost because Rollins was able to secure the title in midair as they crashed to the floor sparked something in the Lunatic Fringe. The next night on RAW, Ambrose mocked Kane for being a corporate schmuck and not having anything to live for. Deano then basically said that wrestling and the world title are the things that he lives for. From a guy who debuted as a bringer of chaos to someone who now aspires to be recognized as the best at his craft, that’s evolution right there.

As for Rollins, he appears to be headed for that babyface turn that we speculated about in yesterday’s Grapevine. He’s still doing what he can to agitate audiences, but how do you keep booing a guy who proves that he can win on his own, who keeps facing seemingly insurmountable odds, who keeps getting the cards stacked against him? Sounds like a babyface to me. Plus with the Authority and Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar supposedly aligning, it looks like they’re at the very least priming Seth for a face run as Lesnar’s underdog foil. Hell, with Lesnar, anybody he faces is automatically an underdog.

Happy Father’s Day, Roman

I'm pretty sure Bray just wanted to look at the photo. Chill, b.
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It was funny that they played Roman Reigns’ PSA on RAW this week because I thought it was an attempt to get more people to feel for Roman since he’s a father in real life. That could very well have been the case, but I would never have guessed the depths to which Bray Wyatt would go just to psyche Roman out now that they’re feuding with one another.

Roman came out to call Wyatt out for costing the former the Money in the Bank contract the previous night. Wyatt’s reason for attacking Reigns was that the latter denied the Eater of the Worlds the opportunity to grab his own destiny. So Bray Wyatt feels entitled to a shot at the world title and feels that Reigns got in his way.

Sounds like the typical IWC argument against Roman Reigns in reference to a real fan favorite like Daniel Bryan, who got denied the world title feud push earlier this year because of Vince’s hard-on for Roman. But the bigger story here is Bray’s desire to be a “beacon of hope” as champion. He feels that his influence will be bigger as a main eventer, and that’s actually makes sense, because the champ always has a bigger clout than the midcarder—unless his name is Daniel Bryan. All that said, Bray’s delusions of grandeur have been taken to a whole new level now that he has set his sights on a bigger goal: to become a main eventer, and eventually, a champion. Now that’s a scary sight.

As if that wasn’t enough, Wyatt took things a step further by flashing a still of Roman and his daughter from the PSA that was aired earlier in the night. Wyatt just made it personal, and anybody and their mother would tell you that you can mess with a man all you want. But mess with his family, and you’re going to get your ass handed to you. I just found a reason to care about this feud, and to actually root for Roman. You don’t fuck with a guy’s family, Bray Wyatt. You crossed a line, and Roman Reigns is coming to get you.

This is one of the reasons why Amor Powers is ultimately redeemable in Pangako Sa ’Yo. The Buenavistas tore her family apart, so Amor wanted to get revenge on behalf of her family. When you take away someone’s family, you basically have nothing left to lose. And nothing’s more dangerous than somebody who’s got nothing to lose. Holy shit. I just defended Roman Reigns in this space. Umm. It’s justifiable because the story is well-written so far. SO FAR.

Bad, Bad Man

Kevin Owens is a bad, bad man.

He also feels disrespected. That’s the motivation behind the post-match attack on John Cena at Money in the Bank. Owens feels that by offering a handshake and by telling him that he indeed belonged in the WWE, Cena was talking down to him and patronizing him. There are people—kids and adults alike—who go through the same shit every day. It’s a relatable experience because nobody likes being talked down to, especially when you know that you also deserve your due respect for what you’ve accomplished. That’s what makes Owens’ emotions and subsequent actions understandable from that point of view.

But the fact is that Owens is still an asshole. And he’s an entitled one, too, because the Kevin Owens character feels that he deserves the same respect and adulation as one John Cena because he’s been in the business for just as long. This is why he still gets (and deserves) massive heel heat at the end of the day.

Owens is impressing me more and more as the weeks go by because the writing for his character seems to have at least a little bit of nuance. For example, he knows how to outsmart his opponents, even though his opponents themselves don’t make it any harder for KO by doing stupid things. We saw it this week when Dolph Ziggler came out to answer Kevin Owens’ open challenge.

Ziggler wanted to fight for the NXT Championship, probably because he wanted to piss Owens off by going after his prize. But in the greater of scheme of things, how does this help Dolph Ziggler? He’s an established superstar, who always seems to be on the cusp of top dog status, but doesn’t quite get there. Going after the NXT title is a huge demotion for someone like Dolph, who clearly doesn’t need that title to be relevant and won’t necessarily elevate it with his rub.

Just the same, Owens goads Ziggler into a match, but it isn’t for the NXT Championship. After all, Owens never said it was an NXT Championship Open Challenge. Owens and Ziggler had a solid match, one that was better story-wise than Cena-Owens II. But that was something that was within the realm of possibility from both men in the match.

What I (and everyone else) didn’t expect was that he would come out to attack and powerbomb Machine Gun Kelly after the latter’s performance on RAW. You have to hand it to MGK for being game to get physical and do that segment. He’s automatically up there alongside Hugh Jackman for being such a game celebrity on RAW. If every guest celebrity would be willing to get involved with WWE talent like that on-screen, then their appearances wouldn’t have to treat them as bathroom breaks.

Paige Against the Machine

LOL Nikki wins.
Photo from
I wrote last week about how it would make sense to bring back Paige’s anti-Diva gimmick from NXT since she’s crusading against the Bellas and what they stand for. This week, they took it a step further by having Paige assemble all the Divas in the back, only for them not to want to have anything to do with her. For starters, it didn’t help that all the Divas whose help she asked were heels. I’m not sure what Layla is anymore since she hasn’t been on TV in so long, but let’s just assume that she’s heel anyway.

Foxy made a good point about how Paige has never treated her allies well, being one of those aforementioned ex-allies herself. In fact, the other Divas make a great point because Paige isn’t trustworthy in the first place. If I were one of them, I would think that a sudden change in Paige’s attitude may scream innocence, or even naïveté, but why would I buy that given Paige’s history? As a fan, I’m not sure I buy it either.

So let’s give Creative credit where it’s due—for all of the flak we’ve given them about changing the Divas’ alignment whenever the hell they want to, this bit of storytelling around the Divas actually makes sense.

As for the Bellas, they’re just playing their roles wonderfully. Working heel seems to come so easy and natural to them, that I’d like them to finally stay heel. I’m just wondering when Brie will turn on Nikki. I mean, they may be twins but (1) Nikki’s the champ, (2) Nikki did cost Brie the biggest match of her career at SummerSlam last year, and (3) Nikki abused Brie while the latter was the personal assistant of the former. I do hope Brie’s just biding her time and another Bella vs. Bella feud happens, this time with proper closure.

Sheamus, Rattle, and Roll

Same old shit, but a different day.
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I don’t like that they’re fleshing out another feud between Randy Orton and Sheamus. The feud doesn’t feel fresh because we’ve actually seen it as early as 2010, when Orton still had the Legacy on his side and when Sheamus was WWE Champion. We also got to see a bit of it between 2011 and 2013. Hell, Sheamus and Orton even aligned with one another in 2013 when they took on the Shield heading into WrestleMania 29.

I had a feeling that Roman Reigns would join the Authority had he won the MITB Ladder Match, but since Sheamus won it, that possibility could still very well be an option. I’d love to see Sheamus as an additional enforcer, or even the new poster child, of the Authority, unless Brock hasn’t taken that spot already. As for Randy Orton, there really isn’t much for him to do if he isn’t as angry as he was at the Authority late last year. Meth-fueled Randy Orton is the best Randy Orton, and if he just meanders between random feuds, then it won’t be long until he gets stale once again. Either turn Orton heel now or give him a really, really good blood feud to rile him up and set him off for a good run for about a month or two.

Started From the Bottom, Now We’re Here

Normally that line above is used for people or groups who’ve come from nowhere and have made something of themselves. In King Barrett’s case, he started from the bottom, and he’s back here… at the bottom.

I have no idea why the King of the Ring winner is booked to be such a lousy player within the grander scheme of WWE canon. Ever since Elimination Chamber, it seems as if he can’t catch a break. He was eliminated first inside the Chamber, and then he got demoted to the Kickoff of Money in the Bank, and he couldn’t even win that. Now, he has to deal with R-Truth making a mockery of his kingship.

I get it, the KOTR is a fake title, like every other title in wrestling, but we don’t need a series of losses and R-Truth to remind us of that cold, hard fact. I have no idea who King Barrett slept with to deserve this kind of stupidity from Creative, but the King deserves better than this.

Midcard Melee

It took eleven years and a giant for this matchup to happen.
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Having the Prime Time Players as the Tag Team Champions is an interesting move, especially since it’s at least a few years too late.

The PTP were pretty hot in 2012, shortly after Abraham Washington got fired, and were even the #1 Contenders for the tag titles until Team Hell No beat them for it and went on to beat Kofi Kingston and R-Truth at Night of Champions 2012. So Titus wasn’t very good at the time. But the PTP were hot again in August 2013, when Darren Young came out, which led to an overwhelmingly positive reaction and a subsequent face turn. And then there was the PTP split, which I’ll agree to never talk about again.

I want to see where how far they’ll take this feud, because it still has the makings of a comedy feud. I want the PTP to go deeper than mocking the New Day’s claps and chants, and I want the New Day to find something to say about the PTP that doesn’t just make them go back to the well of the Power of Positivity.

Meanwhile, Intercontinental Champion Ryback, the Miz, and the Big Show, look headed to be in a three-way feud against one another as we head into Battleground. It’s obvious that Show doesn’t need the title, so his role in this feud as credible-threat-who-won’t-really-win is a given. I can’t help but feel like Miz and Ryback are going to trade title wins the same way Miz did with Barrett a few years ago. But the Miz-Ryback feud looks compelling, especially if they’ll connect it with the returning Tough Enough.

As several folks on tha Twittah have pointed out, Miz vs. Ryback is 11 years in the making, since both men were part of the $1,000,000 Tough Enough back in 2004. That season produced an Intercontinental Champion AND a WWE Champion. To be fair, it also produced an MMA-trained bust, a male cheerleader, and the Boogeyman.


What did you think of this week’s RAW? Did you mark out for the return of Brock Lesnar? Are you ready to see Seth Rollins turn face? Are you also relieved that we get five (YES! FIVE!!!) weeks until the next PPV? Sound off in the comments section right now!

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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