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The Smark Henry RAW Report (7/21/15): Away o Gulo?!


In case you were hiding under a rock—or OHHH, YOU DIDN’T KNOW?!—the Undertaker returned to WWE TV yesterday at Battleground, interfering in the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match by lowblowing, chokeslamming, and Tombstoning (twice!) Brock Lesnar. He made his presence felt at the top of RAW this week to address his actions and to make two big points. The first was that he was calling Lesnar out and challenging him to a match at SummerSlam, which seems fine and well because that’d instantly be main event material.


It’s the second point that the Phenom addressed that I have a problem with. He said he attacked Lesnar because the latter cost him something that was of value: the Streak. Undertaker felt that by defeating the Streak, Lesnar took away something so vital to him. To add more insult to injury, Paul Heyman would come out repeatedly to remind the world that his client, Brock Lesnar, conquered the Undertaker’s undefeated streak at WrestleMania. This is why Undertaker had to do what he did at Battleground. He wanted to get revenge for conquering the Streak and for continuously rubbing it in.


I have an issue with that because that makes Taker look petty and shallow. The irony isn’t lost on me that a lot of storylines we see in pro wrestling are actually shallow. Wrestler 1 hates Wrestler 2, so they’re booked into a match to blow off some steam. I get it. But the Undertaker is a character that’s more developed than your average wrestler. To an extent, Brock Lesnar is, too. The layers that have been added to their characters have helped them transcend the traditional face/heel dichotomy. After all the work that Creative has put in to establish these two characters, they just decided to pit them against one another over a match that took place 15 months ago?


I would understand if Undertaker’s motivations behind attacking Lesnar revolved around Kane. The Beast destroyed Kane last week on RAW, and Paul Heyman (and Seth Rollins) mocked the Big Red Machine and his family, so that would have instantly made the feud between Undertaker and Lesnar personal. The Brock Lesnar character’s evolved to the point where he will hurt everybody when he’s pissed off, not because it’s personal, but because it’s just business. That doesn’t necessarily a bully, especially after how Seth Rollins and company feuded with him leading up to Battleground. That just made him a very angry physical specimen. But Taker made his presence felt and reignited a feud—a blood feud—over the Streak.


Yeah, I get it. Conquering the Streak was a damn big deal when it happened. So why did it take Undertaker over a year to exact his revenge? Was the Bray Wyatt feud a practice session for him to warm up for his eventual return against Lesnar? Look, I’m as happy as anyone that we got to see a bigass brawl all over RAW this week. It was also fun seeing almost the entire locker room was involved in just trying to separate Lesnar from the Deadman. That’s the kind of moment that we look wistfully upon when we talk about wrestling’s “good old days”—which is something I also have an issue with, but is an entirely different topic altogether.



So the Undertaker’s pissed that Lesnar and Heyman kept gloating about the victory at WrestleMania XXX. As Heyman would later explain, isn’t it normal for anyone to brag about the biggest victory they had to date? Brock Lesnar may have won the WWE World Heavyweight Champion last year at SummerSlam, but let’s be real. There was no bigger win than conquering the Streak at WrestleMania. And to remind everyone about it is actually normal, meaning the Undertaker still comes across as petty and butthurt because here’s the kicker. Taker had to wait for that exact moment when Brock Lesnar was about to become world champion again. And that’s when he struck. An action like that is very much like the crabmentality we Filipinos bitch about a lot, and that reeks of pettiness.


I just wish the story made a little more sense other than, “You took away my Streak, so I’m taking away your title opportunity.” In many ways, it’s a throwback to the machismo that wrestling feuds have been built upon since time immemorial, but we’re at an age where we in the audience crave more intelligent storytelling. These characters already have years and years of nuance in their personas. We shouldn’t have to waste it on a stupid reason to have a big fight. Nonetheless, we are getting a big fight this August for SummerSlam, and it’s one the entire wrestling community will be paying attention to, and for good reason.


Before I get to the rest of this week’s RAW recap, let me focus on a few little things:


  1. Seeing Trips and Steph rallying the entire locker room from the upper midcard all the way down to the jobbers to make sure that Lesnar and Taker wouldn’t come to blows made for great TV because it played up the gravity of the situation. That scene in the locker room all but foreshadowed their involvement. Plus, it gave the rest of the roster a bit of TV time, which was nice.
  2. It was interesting seeing characters like Sheamus, Kevin Owens, and Rusev (the heel team in the main event) actively trying to separate the Undertaker and Brock Lesnar. I don’t get why they’d do that. For three guys who supposedly give zero fucks about anyone else, why did they suddenly look like they cared about these two behemoths not beating each other up? Did they really take seriously the fact that Trips and Steph just told them to get in the middle of Brock and Taker? Trips and Steph didn’t even issue a warning that anyone who wouldn’t participate would be fired. Jeez.
  3. Speaking of guys who wouldn’t participate, where the fuck were guys like Neville, Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose? There were several noticeable wrestlers missing from the brawl aside from the two I mentioned, but all of them had generally reasonable excuses for not being there: John Cena (because he’s #ScumbagCena), The Wyatt Family (may sariling mundo), Stardust (may sariling mundo rin), Randy Orton (a guy who actually gives zero fucks), and Seth Rollins (missing in the sub-atomic particle realm after the main event at Battleground).
  4. Michael Cole, Byron Saxton, and JBL all getting the hell out of there as soon as Taker and Lesnar came to blows was a nice touch. That showed continuity—always a plus—and the gravity of the situation.


The Champ is… Where?


Seth Rollins found his way out of the sub-atomic particle realm on RAW and he addressed the WWE Universe given the events of Battleground. Forcing Lilian Garcia to announce the official result of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match was also gold. I bitched about it being a no contest, when it should have been a DQ win for Brock Lesnar. Thank God that Creative actually got it right and had Lilian announce Brock as the winner via DQ, but that Seth Rollins had still retained his championship. That was a heel move I totally approve of because it was logical.


Seth explains how he got out of the sub-atomic particle realm to John Cena.
Photo from WWE.com
John Cena then came out and appeared to start a feud with Rollins. Cena cut his usual promo about Rollins being a disgraceful champion as a slimy, chickenshit heel. Just as they were about to throw down, Rollins decided to leave and live to fight another day. I’m not so sure I like where this is going even though Cena and Rollins can have an interesting feud. Besides, Rollins is one star-making match away from being the undisputed franchise player of the next generation. It’s just that I want Cena to take care of the upper midcard first while Rollins deals with his next opponent now that Lesnar’s dealing with the Undertaker. The problem is that there doesn’t seem to be a next opponent for Seth Rollins.


I hate to say it but Seth Rollins is slowly getting the CM Punk treatment. He’s the World Champion who got lost in the shuffle. WWE better find a way to fix this soon.


Ang Kawawang Cowboys


Sheamus and Kevin Owens walked out on Rusev during their six-man tag team match in the main event this week, leading us at the Smark Henry offices to think that this will eventually lead into a face turn for Rusev as the WWE Universe slowly sympathizes with him.


Cue "Ang Kawawang Cowboy".
Photo from WWE.com
Then again… Rusev probably deserves all of this karma after the shit he’s putting Lana through. Dressing Summer Rae as Lana 2.0? I loved it! Way to be an asshole to your ex, bruh. With the way that Lana and Summer have been going at each other, I wouldn’t be surprised if the rumors of Dolph teaming up with Lana against Rusev and Summer Rae at SummerSlam are true. Man, what is it with Dolph Ziggler always being in mixed tag matches at big events? Remember WrestleMania 27?


Speaking of Kevin Owens, if today’s Grapevine rumors are indeed true, then let it be said that Owens—and every other NXT alum—does not deserve to be caught in the crossfire of petty politicking within the WWE hierarchy. I tried not to be too upset over his clean submission loss to John Cena at Battleground, but after reading about the potential reason behind it, I’m a very pissed off Kevin Owens fan. While Owens still has a lot of heat, especially after his actions on RAW, I want him to get at least one last shot at Cena’s United States Championship. Rusev and Cesaro still appear to be in the picture, so I would go all-in on a 4-way feud heading into SummerSlam. Hell, Owens can pin Rusev and/or Cesaro, and I wouldn’t mind at all just so Cena gets to stay protected—as if he needs to be.


And what about Cesaro? We have to give him props for being in the main event of RAW for the second straight week. This is also the third straight week that he’s been in a segment with John Cena, and the optimist in me believes that he’s finally getting his due reward for having put out consistently good matches throughout his main roster run.


What I wanted to see from Cesaro this week was some supposed tension between him and Cena. I mean, just because Cesaro is a babyface, too, doesn’t mean he doesn’t want the US title. Having been booked to team with Cena should be a good reason for WWE to shoot a backstage segment depicting at least a bit of tension between Cena and Cesaro. They don’t have to be enemies, but show the tension because at the end of the day, the championship should trump whatever kayfabe friendship these guys have in the locker room. That’s how you put a higher premium on the US title.


One last thing: if there was an absolute highlight from the 6-man match, it would be Cesaro using the Cesaro Swing to catapult Rusev into an RKO. It was glorious.


Two Divas Matches, One Episode of RAW


I don’t remember the last time we had multiple Divas matches on RAW, and that’s probably because the last time it happened, the Divas matches were nothing more than bathroom breaks. Thankfully, that’s changed given the emergence of the #DivaRevolution, which we at the Smark Henry offices proudly support.


Steampunk Becky Lynch has captured my heart.
Photo from WWE.com
Charlotte made Brie Bella submit in a solid singles match, while later on in the night, Naomi and Sasha Banks defeated Paige and Becky Lynch. Both matches went a long way in giving the NXT starts some shine right now as we establish the fact that the Divas division is finally getting its long overdue legitimacy. We’ve still got a long way to go before we get on the same level as the USWNT or Ronda Rousey, but it’s a good start.


I particularly enjoyed Charlotte’s match against Brie Bella because I’ve become such a fan of Charlotte’s in-ring work. I’ve known this for a while now, but I still can’t believe that Charlotte has only been wrestling for two years. When the announcers call her “genetically superior,” that’s not just them putting her over. That’s a #FACT.


I can never get tired of Charlotte's Figure Eight.
Photo from WWE.com
As for the tag match, it was nice seeing Sasha Banks heeling it up again. While I can’t wait to see her turn face, I actually want Sasha to stick to a particular alignment first while Creative comes up with a way to flesh out her character beyond being “the Boss” and a member of Team BAD. Seeing Paige and Becky Lynch tag together was a treat as well, especially when you consider their history of teaming up at Shimmer Wrestling with Paige’s mom, Sweet Saraya.


Team Bella was particularly interesting on commentary because I thought they weren’t doing a good job as heels by saying that the Divas division belongs in the same category as Rousey, the USWNT, etc. for being part of this revolution in women’s sports. Our resident NXT reviewer Jocs Boncodin corrected me when he said that Nikki Bella was still heeling it up by putting herself—and Team Bella by extension—on the same level as Rousey and the USWNT and by saying that nobody was on their level. Good stuff right there.


Gulong Ng Palad… Ang Buhay ay Gulong ng Palad


The Prime Time Players had a nice little match against Los Matadores on RAW this week. I thought this wasn’t going to be any more than a glorified squash against the matadors, until the New Day came out, ran their mouths and distracted the PTP. All of that was enough to give Diego and Fernando the win. It’s a small step, but I hope this goes a long way towards making the feud between the New Day and the PTP personal. At the very least, it was nice to see that the PTP isn’t being booked as the interim John Cena of the tag team division unlike the Usos were.


The Miz also appeared this week so that he could whine about getting KO’ed by the Big Show at Battleground. You have to give Creative props for still doing something with this feud even though Ryback was injured. The SH offices have spent enough time speculating over whether or not the Intercontinental Championship is cursed, so the question that should be asked is: Will Ryback come back in time to defend it or will he have to forfeit it just like Daniel Bryan and Bad News Barrett before him?


If Ryback does, then Miz and Show might as well be the #1 contenders for it. The only problem with this setup is that there is no babyface among either guy. It’s also worth mentioning that Big Show dropped an elbow on Miz from the top rope to squash Miz this week. That could be a sign that Ryback’s returning sooner than we think. After all, it isn’t hard to decipher that shoutout to Ryback since the latter was trying to be #Flyback before his injury.


Before I end this RAW review, I have to talk about Shield vs. Wyatts lite. Kulang na lang talaga sina Seth Rollins at Erick Rowan. It’s weird that they haven’t really acknowledged that these guys did feud in early 2014. But at the same time, this beef is a bit new since Bray Wyatt just decided to target Roman Reigns on his own. Luke Harper just so happened to be idle so he reunited with Bray, and Dean also had nothing to do so he backed Roman Reigns up.


Dean and Roman give Bray Wyatt a first-hand introduction to the jombag.
Photo from WWE.com
Having Luke Harper go up against Roman Reigns gave us a good and physical hoss fight. Roman still hasn’t entirely won me over, but I am enjoying this feud with Wyatt and Harper because as I mentioned last Monday, the Wyatt Family knows how to get the most out of Roman’s athleticism and physicality. Plus, the Wyatts’ style also allows all the players involved to take and make the hits as realistic as possible, to the extent that you could feel these guys’ hatred for one another.


That being said, I’m already fine with this matchup as is heading into SummerSlam, so now I have no idea how or why Sting will even get involved. I just hope Dean Ambrose still has something to do in the leadup to and during SummerSlam.


*****


Overall, that was a rather enjoyable episode of RAW. I don’t recall the last time I had this much fun not watching it. It was also worth noting that this episode didn’t end at 11:15 a.m. Manila time, instead ending at 11:05 a.m. Not bad, WWE. While there were still some issues for me to nitpick, I would say that this episode is a solid B+. But what did you think about RAW? Let us know and sound off in the comments section!

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