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The Smark Henry RAW Report (6/22/2015): How To Train Your Beast


Wrestling fans aren’t that different from the Filipino people.

Here in the Philippines, our people are so quick to forgive those who have wronged us. Case in point: our politicians. When former President Ferdinand Marcos ruled the country with Martial Law in the 70s and early-to-mid 80s, many of our countrymen suffered through the government’s ruthless aggression in carrying out the law. 


Six years after the Marcos regime ended, the people of his hometown in Ilocos Norte quickly elected his son to be their Congressman. Less than thirty years after the People Power Revolution of 1986, Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. was elected Senator. What’s even more surprising is that the elder Marcos’ widow, Imelda Marcos, continues to be celebrated as a member of elite society in the Philippines. She also happens to be the current Congresswoman of the Second District of Ilocos Norte. Hell, Filipinos are quick to point out that the adjective “imeldific” was named after her. Do we even have to go into detail about the shoes? THE SHOES!


The elder Marcos’ successor, Cory Aquino, wasn’t perfect herself. While the Filipino people celebrated her assumption of presidential duties in 1986, her administration would soon be marred by instability in government. She ultimately wasn’t able to control her own cronies, whose thirst for power and influence affected the decisions she made. After her presidency, she became a maternal figure for the country, especially in the last years of her life. Filipinos would affectionately refer to her as “Tita Cory,” and the country mourned her passing in 2009 with a state funeral, which eventually led to the sudden candidacy—and victory—of her son, President Benigno Aquino III.


The reason I pointed this out is because we wrestling fans are so quick to forgive ourselves. And it’s not a good thing because we shouldn’t be trained to forget a character’s history.


Fans hated Brock Lesnar in 2004 when he was on his way out of the WWE because he wasn’t content with a business which had been kind to him in the two short years he was there. He wanted more. He wanted to be in the NFL. When that didn’t work out, he tried New Japan, and later, the UFC. When Lesnar achieved success in both, wrestling fans still claimed him as their own, with the argument that he was “our star first.”


When Lesnar came back to the WWE in 2012, he received a nuclear welcome from the post-WrestleMania crowd. And then he brutalized John Cena, who was the first of many heroes he set his sights on. From Cena to the likes of Triple H and CM Punk—and to an extent, the Big Show—he went on a path of destruction as he staked his claim as the Beast.


And then there was the Streak. 


Everyone who challenged the Undertaker’s undefeated streak at WrestleMania was instantly cast as a villain because the Streak was supposed to have been something that endured the test of time. When Brock Lesnar challenged Taker’s streak, it was meant to draw as much heat for him as possible. When Brock Lesnar ended the Streak, it became his biggest achievement to date, and something that Paul Heyman tirelessly reminded us of.


Using his successful conquest of the Streak as his biggest achievement, huge conquests became Brock Lesnar’s raison d'être. It’s what led him to being the Authority’s chosen #1 Contender for John Cena’s WWE World Heavyweight Championship last year. When he finally got his hands on Cena, he annihilated him in front of a shocked WWE Universe, taking the WWE World Heavyweight Championship with him. Of course, that also meant that the world title wouldn’t be seen on WWE TV for months on end.


Through Brock’s current run in the WWE, he’s become a throwback to the territorial days of pro wrestling—a monster heel they would bring in to challenge the WWE Universe’s beloved heroes for a blood feud. That didn’t change after his title win in 2014 because he became like the World Champions of old, who would go from territory to territory to be challenged by the number one babyface. 


But after Lesnar lost the title at WrestleMania Play Button to Seth Rollins, something changed. He was angry, and why wouldn’t he be? His title was taken from him by an opportunistic Rollins. He lashed out against the system by taking it out on Michael Cole and JBL. And he got suspended for it by the Authority—the same group that brought him back to the WWE and eventually gave him his title opportunity. Now that he’s back, he’s got a chip on his shoulder as the champion who never got pinned for his title. And suddenly, we’ve all forgiven him because there’s a bigger fish to fry, and that’s the egotistical weasel we call the WWE World Heavyweight Champion. 


Essentially, Brock Lesnar hasn’t changed. He’s still a hulking monster of a badass, who you wouldn’t dare challenge to a bar fight, even if he slapped your girl’s ass because he felt like it. All that’s changed is the way they’re writing him. As a heel, Brock Lesnar’s unstoppable. No one can touch him. As a babyface, he’s human—prone to making tactical mistakes and vulnerable to multi-person attacks that will eventually lay him out. The added humanity to Brock Lesnar is something since his babyface run in 2003, and that’s what makes it extra refreshing. That’s what makes the WWE Universe want to forgive him for what he’s done in the past.


That last nuance is what ultimately makes a wrestling fan different from the Filipino people. When politicians piss off an entire nation because of their corruption or their misdeeds, all they have to do is to jump ship to another party once the country hates the administration. Or they could just give a half-assed apology and end with, “God bless the Philippines,” or use religion as a whole as a safety blanket, and they’ll assume they will have turned babyface, even when the thinking class of the country doesn’t believe it.


If a bully's ever been forced to apologize to you, then you know how this feels.Photo from WWE.com
Our führer's first Textual Chocolate column was about how a wrestler’s alignment is determined by his actions, and not by crowd reaction. I’d like to argue otherwise. In wrestling, a character doesn’t believe they’ve turned babyface (or heel, for that matter). Brock’s seemingly unrepentant apologies—akin to that of a school bully forced by the teacher to apologize—are a great example of this. We live in an egocentric society, one in which we all believe that we’re the protagonists of our own stories and our own lives. As such, most of us fail to see whether or not we’re ultimately the faces and heels because in our own minds, we're always right. At the end of the day, it’s the people who are around you, those who are watching your actions, who determine your alignment and it shows in how they respond to you.

How To Book Your Giant





When Big Show came back a few weeks ago, he immediately declared his intentions to go for Ryback’s newly-won Intercontinental Championship. That seems fine and all, until I realized that he no longer affiliated himself with the Authority. I would have liked for his affiliation with the Authority to have closure of some sort. Why did he leave? Did he learn his lesson after Roman Reigns destroyed him at Extreme Rules? Did Seth Rollins also disparage him—albeit behind his back?

All that being said, what happened on RAW this week was nothing short of bad booking for a villainous giant. Ryback was being interviewed by Renee Young and then Show picked a fight with him afterward, only to lose the fight. We know that Big Show is also Big Slow, but couldn’t he have just hit Ryback with the KO Punch from off-screen while he was giving the interview? That would have been a short, but sweet segment, and it would have put Show and the KO Punch over again. We didn’t need Show to lose a backstage fight that would have made him look stupid (again).

How To Tell A Story



There are three stories being told right now that I’m keeping a close eye on because they’re all good stories on the surface, with the potential of being great if Creative doesn’t fuck them up.

The first is Seth Rollins’ story with the Authority, which we’ve talked about on this space before. Seth has already proven to the world that he can win a big match on his own, without the help of the Authority. But the return of Brock Lesnar has him scared shitless because he knows that he can’t slay the beast on his own. So this week, he resorted to sucking up to Kane and J&J Security to will himself back into their good graces. When that didn’t work out backstage, he went straight to Mommy & Daddy to ask for their help, after which Daddy Trips told Seth to suck it up, go to the ring, and apologize to the Authority personally.


Brock Lesnar isn't the only one who sucks at apologies.
Photo from WWE.com
The bigger payoff that I’d like to see is Seth Rollins realizing that he doesn’t need the Authority and that he can carve out a legacy of his own as a wrestler who is just that damn good. But the story we’re seeing right now isn’t as bad in itself. Rollins is basically getting the odds stacked against him by his own group. And he’s getting a taste of his own medicine. It’s wonderful that a heel faction is taking out its frustrations on a heel character so successfully that it makes for compelling storytelling. For the casual viewer, it’s simply a case of, “you’re the biggest asshole around here, so you’re getting what’s coming to you.”

The second story that looks good on the surface is that of the Prime Time Players and the New Day. While both teams didn’t have much interaction this week other than the PTP coming to Neville’s aid during his match against Kofi Kingston, the commentary team actually did a good job of telling us why the PTP-New Day feud is a story worth paying attention to. The announcers said that the New Day talks about the Power of Positivity and being role models, but they only talk the talk. Meanwhile, the PTP are role models without having to get on their high horses. 


They referenced Titus O’Neil’s Celebrity Mega Dad of the Year award as a reason to call Titus a role model of a father. And they mentioned that we “all know Darren Young’s story,” which was a subtle way of not making a big deal out of D-Young’s homosexuality. The bigger story here is that the announcers actually did their job by advancing these teams’ storylines over commentary alone! (Side note: Kofi Kingston’s obnoxious clapping on the way to the ring was gold, as was Xavier Woods yelling, “Neville! I’ma call gravity! We know who you are!”)


The third arc I’m looking at is the Roman Reigns-Bray Wyatt story. I’m peeved by the fact that Roman’s match against Sheamus didn’t end in a countout loss for Roman when he left the ring to go look for his daughter. Why are we protecting Roman with a no contest? The countout loss wouldn’t have hurt his credibility, since the bigger issue is HOLY SHIT BRAY WYATT KIDNAPPED MY DAUGHTER?! OOOOOOOWAAAAAAAHHHH! If Roman’s daughter is ever kidnapped by Bray Wyatt, he should fire his babysitter or tell his baby momma to stop being such a shitty mom.



Bray Wyatt, for his part, has been bringing his A-game to the mind games, and that’s all I’ve been hoping for from the Eater of Worlds. The room with Roman’s pictures where his eyes are all whited out, plus the candles, plus the words, “ANYONE BUT YOU” painted in red, and the recording of Wyatt creepily singing “I’m A Little Teapot”... if that doesn’t give you the chills, I don’t know what will. I can’t wait for Roman’s daughter to make an actual appearance. I think they’re saving that for a huge payoff, and they should. Just don’t let Bray sing “Happy Birthday” to her, because CM Punk already beat everyone to that. There’s money in this feud. Now if only Bray Wyatt could stop shilling himself and go back to wearing plain shirts instead of his merchandise.


I would have mentioned the Divas division in this space, except there wasn’t much that went on other than a weird heel vs. heel matchup between the Bellas and Naomi/Tamina. It’s worth noting that Paige wasn’t on RAW this week. I’m really hoping that her one-woman mutiny against the Bellas leads to the eventual call-up of Charlotte and/or Sasha Banks, the latter of whom appears to be headed for a face turn as of the latest NXT spoilers.

How To Take Characters Seriously

This week’s RAW was also a good exercise in weeding out characters that Creative has been taking seriously vis-a-vis characters that have not been taken seriously.


Obviously, the Owens-Cena feud is being taken seriously, as it should be. I was initially confused as to why this blood feud eventually became a feud for the United States Championship, since normally title feuds become blood feuds and not the other way around. And then I realized that the grudge match between Owens and Cena has to be for the United States Championship because Owens now realizes how much the US title means to John Cena. Owens has now seen Cena’s title as a prize that he himself can take for himself. And that’s logical booking because at the core of the Kevin Owens character is a prize fighter, who seeks to go up the ladder to earn more for his family.




Meanwhile, we all thought that winning KOTR was going to make King Barrett a character worth being taken seriously by Creative. Apparently not. Can you believe that prior to this week’s win on RAW, Barrett hasn’t won a match on RAW since May 18? While he may have won a handful of times, he only did so on Main Event and SmackDown! I’m happy that he got a decisive win against Zack Ryder, but can we please move on from the King What’s Up angle? It makes no sense and it isn’t even funny. R-Truth has no claim to the KOTR, or to anything, because he hasn’t done anything significant other than being the guy you can instantly throw into a multi-man match just because.


And finally, if the rumors about Dolph Ziggler are true, then his current storyline with Lana and Rusev could very well be his swan song. As a Ziggler fan, I’m sad that this could mean that he’ll eventually go the John Morrison/Johnny Mundo route. For starters, he could have a better final feud than an on-screen relationship with Lana, someone with whom he has no chemistry with. 



Hello, Betty Cooper.
Photo from WWE.com
On the other hand, the one good thing about this storyline is that it keeps Rusev relevant by keeping him on-screen despite his injury. This makes me wonder, though: does Rusev do anything else backstage besides wear his tracksuit and seethe while hovering around the monitor? Creepy. 

And please, let’s not make Summer Rae Rusev’s rebound girl.

*****

What did you think of this week’s RAW? Have you forgiven Brock Lesnar for all of his atrocities since 2012? Are you enjoying the Seth Rollins storyline as much as we are? Are you not entertained? Hit us up and sound off on the comments section below!





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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