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The Smark Henry RAW Report (7/13/15): The Future Is Now


It's been awhile since we had a true go-home show, one rife with cliffhanging moments that make you look forward to the upcoming pay-per-view. We actually got one this week, and this RAW wasn't short on big moments—none bigger than the debut of NXT Women's Champion Sasha Banks and fellow NXT stars Charlotte and Becky Lynch. 

For weeks, we'd been reading rumors about the impending debut of the three NXT stars, with many wondering when, not if, WWE would pull the trigger on the three standouts. That only helped build up the anticipation for their highly awaited debut, which we knew would happen in the middle of this Paige vs. Team Bella storyline. 

In what can only be called a combination of poor logic and lazy storytelling, they had Steph McMahon come out to interrupt Nikki Bella's heel promo. Steph pandered to the Atlanta crowd by referencing the victories that women have had in pro sports as of late. Then, she talked about the NXT Divas being on the cusp of something great, something which those of us who watch NXT regularly already know about. 

After Steph mentioned Paige's one-woman army against the Bellas, she basically gave her allies in Becky Lynch and Charlotte. Well, that was disappointing. You spend all this time having Paige get beaten up by the Bellas, and you end up even weakening her character by having Stephanie McMahon assign Paige her allies! Couldn’t Creative have at least written a run-in where Becky and Charlotte come to Paige’s aid after another Bella beatdown (Here’s a bone for you, Creative).

Naomi and Tamina come out to declare that their issue with Nikki over the Divas Championship—along with their quarrel with Paige—is not done just yet. Steph sees that there are only two of them… so she gives them an equalizer in “the Boss” Sasha Banks. Great. So much for Sasha Banks’ eventual face turn in NXT

So now you have a face trio in Lotlot, Beki, and Amanda Paige, and a kontrabida trio in Team Bella Flores. Where does this leave Team Morena—or Team BAD (Best at Dominating, which is a stupid name, by the way)? From the looks of it, it seems that they're the tweeners of the story. Actually, since we’re still talking about alignments, did Steph turn face against the Bellas? Hell, Nikki was supposed to have been serving Steph as of last year, right? And then when Brie briefly turned babyface after Daniel Bryan’s latest injury, Steph turned heel on Brie by keeping her away from Nikki during the latter’s title defenses. THIS IS ALL VERY CONFUSING.

But since we have three teams of three members each all feuding with each other, you know what, I LOVE IT, MAGGLE! I've been supportive of the idea of a Divas tag team division ever since I saw how effective a Divas tag team was in the late 2000s (See: Lay-Cool and Nattie/Beth Phoenix). I'm also a big fan of stables and factions, or even just alliances, so the fact that we have three gangs of women who are all out to get each other is enough to get me excited about this! I wonder if WWE would be open to the idea of a three-way elimination tag team match once this feud hits its peak. Or they could have the leader of each trio all go for the Divas Championship, while the other two members of each team can compete for a Divas Tag Team Championship, should they come up with one. The possibilities are endless!

Now, while I was happy that the NXT Divas were all made to look strong and are part of what Stephanie called a “revolution” in the Divas Division, I hate that it had to come at the expense of logical storytelling. I have no problems calling up all three. Hell, all three of them are ready, plus, Charlotte, Sasha, and Becky all looked awesome putting on the Figure Eight, the Bank Statement, and the Dis-Arm-Her respectively on Team Bella. 


Glorious. Just glorious.
Photo from WWE.com
But imagine how big that pop would have been had they just written another Bella beatdown on Paige, and then, Charlotte and Becky/Sasha would have just come out to make the save instead. That would have been more impactful and sensible at the same time. They could have also toyed with the idea of having Paige go down to NXT just to recruit Charlotte and/or Becky to see if anyone there would have been willing to take her crusade on as their own. There were multiple ways to go about this, and yet Creative found the laziest way to introduce three new characters to a storyline that’s supposed to propel the Divas division to greater heights. How counter-intuitive. Sayang. Sigh.

We Got Next

Rusev came out to answer John Cena’s U.S. Open Challenge this week, but he was interrupted by Kevin Owens, who demanded his title shot right now. It was a matter of time until Cesaro got involved, and I think keeping Cesaro in this picture was a great move and a nice reward for having two outstanding matches in back-to-back weeks.


Here's a match made in heaven .
Photo from WWE.com
As a result, the Authority placed all three in a triple threat number one contender’s match, with the winner going on to face Cena right afterward. Seeing all three men balance their respective offenses with athleticism, speed, and power was quite the treat, especially considering that two of them were in developmental some four years ago, while the guy in the muscle shirt wasn’t even signed to WWE at this time last year.

Having Kevin Owens quit the match midway made sense in the bigger story arc because that was him making sure that he didn’t waste his title opportunity at Battleground. Having Rusev win but ultimately struggle against a fresh Cena was a nice way to subtly influence us to see the Bulgarian Brute as a babyface. But when Owens attacked Rusev to stop the match, you know they actually want you to feel sympathetic towards Rusev.

What I’m excited to see is how all four of these players end up crossing paths again. If Owens wins the US title at Battleground—and he should—does Cesaro go after him? Or does Rusev? Or do these three have a three-way feud after Cena moves on (hopefully to the Intercontinental Championship)? I have no problems with these three feuding over the US title as long as the credibility that Cena helped restore does not diminish.

Not Thunder Buddies Anymore

Seth Rollins has reclaimed his spot as the best heel in the game right now. I say this because it’s hard to call a heel successful if he has some qualities that make him redeemable in the eyes of the viewer. This is more important in this day and age when smarks like us gravitate towards the cooler wrestlers or the indy darlings, regardless of their spot in the face-heel alignment spectrum.

This week, Rollins was both the slimy coward that fans have been raining “Justin Bieber” chants on, while at the same time, he also displayed a mean streak that’s been lacking since part 1 of his feud with Dean Ambrose from last year. When he blamed Kane for the failure of their plan to put Brock Lesnar down at the contract signing, the WWE World Heavyweight Champion reminded us all that he is still a dangerous man… as long as his target is down.

Regardless, he displayed all the qualities you’d want in your classic heel. He kept running his mouth against Paul Heyman and his client. When Lesnar put his foot down and decided to attack, Rollins tucked his tail between his legs and ran off immediately. When Kane fought back against Brock and got overpowered, Rollins watched from the stands and didn’t even help his demon out. And finally, when Kane was lying prone on the ground after Lesnar crushed the former’s leg with the steel steps, all Rollins did was berate the guy and exacerbate the injury. 


Yeah, there's no redeeming Seth Rollins anymore.
Photo from WWE.com
That’s the type of heel you want to see because that’s the type of guy whose championship you want Brock Lesnar to take at Battleground. While I’m at it, let me go right ahead and predict that Rollins will find a way to retain the title, possibly through a new recruit into the Authority or another cheap tactic. 

Written in the Stars

Stardust returned to WWE TV this week, his first appearance since the death of “the American Dream” Dusty Rhodes. His return to RAW was hyped up with a nice little comic book like video package and match poster, since his opponent this week was Neville, whose gimmick is fit to be a comic book superhero himself. Stardust also cut a heel promo before his match, which was a nice return to form. 



It was also reassuring because at least the question has been answered: Dusty’s death ultimately will not affect the Stardust gimmick. He’s still a heel, and his promos still don’t make a whole lot of sense. Oh, and for those of you wondering if the Stephen Amell vs. Stardust matchup is still happening, here’s a hint:



Where’s the Logic?


Randy Orton teamed up with Ryback against Sheamus and Big Show, while Miz sat in commentary for the second straight week. It’s been weird seeing Miz get actively involved in the Intercontinental title feud, but not actually wrestling. It’s not every day we see an active participant in a rivalry get heat like this.  

Meanwhile, I wonder why Orton has to even team up with Ryback. I get that they billed the tag match as an all-star game of sorts, but given Orton’s track record of being a lone wolf, shouldn’t there at least be some tension between him and Ryback? Those two characters also have a history, having a common enemy in the Shield at one point in time. Why not exploit that? 

Why should I as a viewer care about this random tag team match between babyfaces and heels when the characters themselves don’t seem to care that they’re now being teamed up with a fellow face or heel. I want to see more storytelling in which the two babyfaces have to either earn each other’s respect, or set aside whatever differences they have to achieve a common goal.



Since we’re going on another logic rant here, what about this site’s spirit animal, huh? Last I checked, Mark Henry was a heel after he tried going after Roman Reigns’ Money in the Bank ladder match spot. All of a sudden, he accompanied the Prime Time Players as their tag team partner against the New Day… and he’s dancing alongside the PTP and having fun. Umm, earth to Creative. Mark Henry =/= the Big Show.

And one last note on logical storytelling. I thought we’d already resolved the Barrett/Truth feud last week when the King of the Ring finally disposed of R-Truth. But nooooo. The idea of having Truth get his win back and parade around in his stupid cape, crown, and plunger again is too good to pass up! So now we have a rubber match at the Battleground Kickoff, and Barrett’s crown as King of the Ring is now on the line. I don’t get it. R-Truth wasn’t even in the KOTR finals. And Barrett beat Neville clean. SINCE WHEN WAS THE KINGSHIP OF THE RING ELIGIBLE TO BE CONTESTED?


R-Truth is trying to be the King of Fun. Sige, i-push mo 'yan.
Photo from WWE.com
All that being said, my predictions for Battleground are as follows: New Day get the titles back, Ryback retains, and Barrett also retains. As for Randy Orton and Sheamus, I just don’t care about that feud because I still don’t know what they’re fighting over. At least we all know why Truth has been trying to get under Barrett’s skin. 

You know where the logic was, though? In the latest chapter of the Wyatt-Reigns saga. I actually like the way they have been booking this feud. Over the last few weeks, the Eater of Worlds has been getting the better out of the Big Dog. A week before their big PPV matchup was the perfect time to let Roman get a little bit of shine, showing that he has enough mental chops to outsmart Bray Wyatt and to sucker him into an all-out brawl. 



To top it all off, it was fun seeing Dean Ambrose just snigger off by the announce table, enjoying the chaos that was unfolding right in front of him. It would have been sweeter if Reigns and Ambrose revealed that all of that was premeditated by the two of them! I doubt that Ambrose would get involved in the match at Battleground, though. But if Wyatt wins the match this Sunday, which I think he should, then maybe Ambrose can come in to start helping his buddy Roman out, while getting some revenge on Wyatt from their feud last year in the process.

Speaking of Ambrose, he’s going from the main event of Money in the Bank to not even being booked for Battleground. What gives? At this point, you might as well have him be Reigns’ corner man since they’re really pushing the Shield reunion between these two. Why not just turn them into a tag team again with the Shield name and theme song?

*****

Moments-wise, this was a good RAW, but it failed to connect on multiple logical points, so I’ll have to give this episode a B-. You can’t bank on big moment after big moment or good match after good match alone. You’ll have to make sure the stories make sense, too, because wrestling is still storytelling at the end of the day.

What did you think of this week’s RAW? Are you excited to see how Sasha, Lotlot, and Beki fare on the main roster? Did you like the way they were introduced to the mainstream WWE universe? Do you agree that Kevin Owens is just a “stupid French American, whatever [he is]”? Hit us up with your comments right here!

*****

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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