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The Smark Henry RAW Report (7/27/15): For the First Time





Those are the questions that Vince McMahon and Kevin Dunn must have wanted us to ask ourselves as we watched this week’s episode of RAW. Maybe they wanted us to be in awe, or maybe they wanted us to appreciate their brilliance. After all, it should be one fine day when RAW features matchups that we’ve never seen before.


To be fair, there were new things—several, in fact—that were brought up on this week’s RAW. One of them was the Authority’s announcement that SummerSlam would now be a four-hour event, just like WrestleMania. That’s huge news because we’ve been hearing rumors about WWE making a push to build SummerSlam back up to its proper status as the #2 event of the year. With the additional hour, it seems that we’re finally getting that little by little. The only gripe I have with it right off the bat is that all of us Filipino fans will have to wake up extra early again to catch it LIVE at Skinny Mike’s on August 25. Huhubelles.


What wasn’t new was WWE clearly showing the limitations of Brock Lesnar’s appearance dates. Despite having a brawl that spanned multiple segments, which made for one of the best episodes of RAW all year, we got nothing to advance the Brock-Taker feud this week. Instead, all we got was another one of those recaps from last week, which we’d already seen on SmackDown!. Come on, WWE. I know you’re limited out here, but how hard would it have been to have Paul Heyman come out to bitch about the brawl?


We got a match between Big Show and Dean Ambrose, which was the first of many “for the first time ever” matches this week. I did some fact-checking of my own, and this match is actually the first singles match between Show and Dean on WWE TV, making it legit with the theme. Who’d have imagined that with all of the times these two have been in matches together, even after all these years, they just now got the feeling that they’re meeting for the first time?


Dean Ambrose is that ipis your yaya can't seem to kill.
Photo from WWE.com
Ambrose and Show had a good match, where Dean played the resilient cockroach who just won’t die to Big Show’s angry giant. Both men did a great job of telling a story where Big Show threw everything but the kitchen sink at Ambrose, to the point that Show had to hit Dean with the Knockout Punch while the Lunatic Fringe went for a dive outside the ring. That led to Ambrose finally not making it back into the ring, after several teases in which Ambrose beat the 10-count by a hair.


Having Ambrose lose via countout the way they did was a great way to reestablish Show’s legitimacy as a giant, while keeping Ambrose’s credibility and resilience as a babyface. What I wanted to see in this match, though, was the interference of Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper. If we’re going in the direction of seeing Wyatt and Harper against Roman Reigns and Ambrose, then the Wyatts should be attacking Ambrose, especially since Roman isn’t there to help Dean out immediately. It would have been a great way to draw even more heat for the heels at the expense of a beloved lunatic.


In the night’s second “for the first time ever” match, Neville took on Fandango in a quick match that pretty much killed any hope I had about a push after they ditched his dark Fandango gimmick. To add to that, the match merely served as a setup for Neville’s celebration, which Stardust would cut short with a promo that referenced Neville being a real-life comic book hero. To his credit, Stardust does a great job of standing up to be the villain that Neville needs as a hero. And as someone who joined the Arrow bandwagon three years late, I can’t be any happier that Stephen Amell looks to be confirmed for SummerSlam as Stardust’s foe. If the rumors about Miz being Stardust’s partner to take on Neville and Amell are true, then this could be the undercard bout at SummerSlam that people will definitely invest in.


“Oh, these times are hard, yeah they’re making us crazy…”


But I won’t be giving up on the #DivaRevolution just yet, even though there are too many glaring flaws on the outset already. Team BAD and the Powerpuff Girls had an altercation backstage, which led to an excellent match between Paige and Sasha Banks. It’s at this point where the commentary team’s constant badgering of “for the first time ever” becomes annoying since Paige and Sasha had actually already faced each other on NXT. But I’m nitpicking here, so let’s move on.


Paige and Sasha Banks proved to us why they’re at the forefront of the so-called Divas Revolution by putting out another great match this week. I can say the same about Charlotte and Becky Lynch, who had a great showing against Nikki Bella and the now-injured Alicia Fox. As Ro Moran mentioned in Textual Chocolate, having these nine divas in this storyline open up the possibility for multiple combinations for matches over the next few months. The only problem is that these matches don’t bear much significance because a win or a loss doesn’t lead to anything bigger like contendership for the Divas Championship.


As a viewer, I’m happy that the girls are getting more time to wrestle quality matches than they’ve ever had. In fact, I’ve been paying extra attention to the Divas matches more than the mens’ matches in recent weeks because I’ve been so excited about what I’ll see in this Divas match and in that Divas match. But as someone who consumes these stories, smarks like me are left wanting more because I find myself asking “so what?” after every win or loss. Why does it matter that Paige tapped out to the Boss? Why does it matter that Brie’s been the weaker link of Team Bella thus far? If this is a Divas Revolution, then where the hell are girls like Nattie, Emma, and Rosa? Where do they stand in all of this? These are questions I actually want to have the writers answer.


“And we don’t know how, how we got into this mad situation, only doing things out of frustration…”


Rusev came out with Summer Rae this week and continued to bitch about Dolph Ziggler and Lana. Rusev presented Summer Rae with gifts: a dog that Rusev named Dog Ziggler (this actually made me snigger) and a decapitated fish named Lana. I actually had to google what Rusev meant when he referred to Lana as a cold fish, and when I did find out, I found myself asking why this is okay. I’ll try not to gripe about the use of the cold fish figure of speech very much because I realize it’s very American, and not a lot of us Pinoys actually get it.


So I’ll talk about what the cold fish remark actually means. Rusev was taking shots at Lana’s inability to reciprocate anything while they were having sex. I get that Rusev was trying to get heel heat, but isn’t there another way to deride Lana to get your heat without having to dig at the sexual undertones? (Spoiler alert: there is.) And if anyone out here is still on Team Rusev after how he and Lana 2.0 have been treating Lana, then there’s something seriously wrong with your moral compass.


Itong si Summer Rae, daig pa ang malansang isda.
Photo from WWE.com
The best part about this segment was Lana marching to the ring, shoving Summer’s face onto the dead fish, slapping Rusev and marching happily back to the locker room afterward. I can’t wait to see Rusev and Summer Rae vs. Dolph and Lana. I actually want to see Lana wrestle, but more importantly, I want this storyline to end so everyone can move the fuck on.


“Trying to make it work, but man, these times are hard…”


Los Matadores took on the Lucha Dragons this week, and for the first time all night, the announce team took a break from calling this a match that happened “for the first time ever” since we’ve seen this before. Hell, I saw this match take place live in Singapore.


The Prime Time Players were also involved in this match to provide commentary, which they actually aren’t bad at, for as long as Titus keeps running his mouth. We’ve said numerous times on this site that Titus and Darren fit well together because Darren’s workrate is complemented by Titus’ ability on the mic. That was on display again this week.


The PTP can't be the Kenan and Kel of wrestling forever.
Photo from WWE.com
The New Day also made their presence felt by  provoking the PTP with a “REAL MEGA DAD OF THE YEAR” sign that suggested that Kofi is better at being a celebrity dad than Titus is. I’m not going to dispute which daddy is the better daddy, daddeh, but it was great seeing all four of these teams somehow interacting and being connected. After all, the New Day’s appearance distracted Los Matadores enough for the Lucha Dragons to roll them up for the quick win. All signs lead to a multi-team tag match for the Tag Team Championships at SummerSlam because of course they’re having a multi-team tag match for the titles at SummerSlam. Let’s hope they add a bit of a story in there other than, “HEY, CHAMPS. WE’RE HUNGRY AND WE WANT YOUR GOLD.”


“But we’re gonna stop by drinking old cheap bottles of wine, shit talking up all night, saying things we haven’t for a while…”


It sure feels like that for Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper, doesn’t it? Especially with the way that Wyatt has brought up the notion of family and how he once found a damaged man in Luke Harper, only to build him up, set him free, and to watch him come back. Harper then cut a good promo of his own to talk about how the fans’ apathy towards him gives him enough reason to shun them in return. He also built Bray Wyatt up as his raison d’etre, claiming to be stronger than ever.


I love you, man.
Photo from WWE.com
It was especially jarring when Wyatt spoke again and warned Reigns that Dean Ambrose would be the ultimate casualty if Reigns were to continue hitting back against the Wyatts. Going back to my earlier point, I just feel like they dropped the ball on getting more heat for the Wyatts by not attacking Ambrose earlier in the night.


Once Wyatt and Harper are done with Ambrose and Reigns, I actually wouldn’t mind seeing them go hunt the Tag Team Championships down. Aside from the New Day, and maybe Titus, there really isn’t anyone in the tag team division who can create a compelling story through matches and mic work like the Wyatts. Having serious and brooding characters like the Wyatts in the tag team title picture could beef up the division and could even lead to a story where Luke Harper eventually breaks away from Bray Wyatt to be his own man.


“I am looking in your eyes, for the first time, I see who you are…”


Everyone who’s been following Kevin Owens’ young WWE career knows damn well that he and Randy Orton have never faced each other one-on-one. That didn’t stop Michael Cole and company from beating us over the head with the fact that this match was happening “for the first time ever.”



Owens and Orton had a competitive match, which I actually enjoyed watching, even though there wasn’t really much of a story to go for. Given the abilities of these two, it wasn’t long until they created their own story throughout the course of the match. While they made it clear that Owens could hang with the best of them, it was still a good move to have Owens repeatedly get out of the ring to annoy Randy. We’re in an era where being a heel is actually cool, so having KO resort to cheap tactics to annoy wrestling purists is always worth commending.


It was actually surprising to hear Sheamus praise Kevin Owens and somehow forgive him for the spat they had during last week’s main event, considering they’re both supposed to be heels who don’t give a fuck. I’m the type of viewer who hates it when faces automatically get along just because they’re fellow faces, with the same principle applying to the guys in the heel locker room. That just reduces your characters into two-dimensional cartoons. I want to see human beings who are capable of choosing who to like/trust regardless of alignment.


By the end of the match, Sheamus interfered and attacked Randy Orton, costing Owens a win and disqualifying him in the process. Oddly, Cesaro came out and saved Orton by attacking Sheamus, and then Owens. I found it silly that Cesaro, of all people, would go out of his way to save Randy Orton when we know that Orton wouldn’t be likely to rescue Cesaro if the roles were reversed. My big takeaway from the post-match run-ins though was the fact that we’re getting Orton vs. Sheamus XXL at SummerSlam, but we’re also getting Cesaro versus Owens. With a little more promo work to complement the work they did on SmackDown!, this feud could get hot. (Hot damn.)


“How we got into this mess, is it God’s test? Someone help us ‘cause we’re doing our best…”
John Cena and Seth Rollins had one hell of a match on RAW this week, and that’s without even considering that Cena wrestled half of it with a broken nose.


I’m surprised they even gave this match to us on free TV, considering the fact that they’re building towards an epic clash between Cena and Rollins at SummerSlam. Then again, I understand that the endgame is potentially a Champion vs. Champion match, which could be a great way to put Seth over as the world champ. Moreover, this relieves my fears of Seth Rollins getting the CM Punk treatment as the world champ who got lost in the shuffle.


Is it just me, or is that Trips' schnozz on Cena's mug?
Photo from WWE.com
Let’s talk about Cena for a bit and the fact that he just proved to the world how tough he truly is. I’m not going to be a John Cena apologist and argue that he’s just given us even more reasons to back up his case as the G.O.A.T. What I will say is that there is a reason that John Cena is the face of this franchise. Cena continuing to wrestle the way he did despite Seth’s errant knee to the nose—which legitimately pissed Cena off, by the way—reminds me of Triple H finishing his World Tag Team Championship match in 2001 with a torn quad. Different injuries, sure, but I can only imagine how painful and how difficult it must have been to breathe while wrestling with a broken nose.


All that said, the match between Cena and Rollins is Pick of the Week-worthy on this week’s Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast and should be added to the list of “John Cena Matches You Must See If Your Heart Believes That John Cena Sucks.”


*****


Despite a tight episode of RAW with minimal bullshit, Vince and co. found a way to give me a lot to bitch about, with the beating of “for the first time ever” to the ground being the most glaring error of the week. I’m giving this episode a B because it wasn’t as great as last week, but there were still some decent matches worth watching, with the main event between Cena and Rollins being the must-see match of the show.


What did you think of this week’s RAW? Are you satisfied with how they’re building towards SummerSlam? Let us know and hit us up in the comments section!

*****


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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