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The Smark Henry RAW Report (7/6/15): The Franchise



When I was in Singapore last week for the WWE house show, I clearly remember waiting for John Cena’s entrance to hit so that I could sing “JOHN CENA SUCKS!” along to the tune. When the fans in Singapore began chants of “LET’S GO CENA!” I joined the adult male group in yelling, “CENA SUCKS!” as loud as I can. When all of us who supported Kevin Owens cheered for every strike he threw at Cena, I booed and jeered as hard as I can when Cena connected on Owens. Of course, I was only doing it because there’s nothing like participating actively in a live wrestling show. And besides, we’re free to cheer who we want to cheer and boo who we want to boo.  


However, deep down in my heart of hearts, I know that John Cena doesn’t suck at all.


In fact, John Cena is still the most important star in the WWE, but you already know that.


The reason I’m bringing this up is because I think that we smarks get caught up in all of the scrutiny and #ScumbagCena conversations that some of us may not have realized that Cena’s been involved in the best matches of the year… in just the last month or two. Cena-Owens I at Elimination Chamber is clearly in the running for Match of the Year, and Cena-Owens II from Money in the Bank got a lot of acclaim, too. Hell, the match Cena had with Owens in Singapore—which was basically a carbon copy of Cena-Owens II, except for the finish—was a great one in itself!


And then there’s the last two weeks where Cena faced Cesaro. Cena-Cesaro I was impressive. In many ways, Cena-Cesaro I was as meta of a match as Cena-Bryan from SummerSlam 2013. Cesaro was the indy darling who’s largely ignored, especially now that his tag team partner’s on the injured list for the next year. His pushes have been start and stop, with his character not really getting a continued run that his fans would like. And when he wrestled Cena, you could tell from the way that he moved that he had a chip on his shoulder and that he wanted to show how hungry he was for an opportunity.


Cena-Cesaro II was even better because here’s an insight that my buddy Brandon Sy (no relation) brought up: Cena and Cesaro wrestled at a furious pace for 30 minutes after coming off a trip to Singapore and Japan. That’s an insane amount of cardio and strength considering they must be feeling the effects of jetlag! Cena-Cesaro II was better because there was more urgency in Cesaro’s movement. His story was basically, “I need to make good on this one shot, because I don’t know when I’ll be getting the next one.” Cena, for his part, did a damn good job of holding his own and bringing out Big Match John. You could see how savvy of a veteran Cena has become in that he’s the ultimate measuring stick of how good a performer can really be in the ring.


For all of the largely undeserved crap we smarks have thrown at John Cena over the years, we have to appreciate (1) how he ultimately made Cesaro look as good as he’s ever looked in that match and (2) how John did the classy veteran move of putting Cesaro over in front of the Chicago crowd after RAW went off the air. That wasn’t just John Cena throwing Cesaro a bone. It was more than that. What Cena did was recognize Cesaro’s talent and how the latter has been largely overlooked for the majority of his WWE career despite his ability to put out classic after classic.  


The one thing that I’m still curious about from RAW this week is why Kevin Owens just backed off from Cesaro and didn’t even interfere in the match. Smark Henry’s führer made a hypothesis that Owens didn’t think Cesaro would beat Cena for the US title anyway, so he’d let Cesaro weaken Cena up for a post-match attack just the same. I initially thought that Owens was too steamed to even think of attacking Cesaro on the spot, but I didn’t think that made a lot of sense because the Kevin Owens character has been written as the one to take revenge immediately. He won’t let things pass and then attack later on. He’s cerebral, but not that cerebral.


My hope is that Owens takes this interaction with Cesaro and turns it into fuel or hatred that eventually leads to an Owens-Cesaro feud after KO takes the US Championship from Cena. If this does happen, then WWE may have just accomplished some forward thinking in their booking by planting seeds for the future early on. And that’s a good thing, considering they haven’t been doing that a lot.


Seth Rollins: The New Dick Dastardly



I met a segment producer  this week who saw me wearing a Daniel Bryan t-shirt, and immediately connected with me because he was a wrestling fan, too. After we finished up our conversation about work, he proceeded to ask me if I thought Seth Rollins was best for business. I said, “Of course he is.” When I said it, I was afraid that I was giving a typical IWC answer because Rollins is an IWC guy. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that that wasn’t the case.


My favorite feuds in wrestling have always centered around dastardly heel champions who deserve their eventual comeuppance. I think back to Brock Lesnar’s first WWE run and his latter title feuds with Hardcore Holly and Eddie Guerrero, or hell, Triple H’s “Reign of Terror” from the early 2000s. I agree with the notion that the best champions are the heel champions because the story of the babyface’s chase becomes all the more compelling when you have a long climb to the top leading to the climax of the babyface’s victory.


We’re probably never going to get another Triple H, but Seth Rollins being the Authority’s poster boy may be the next best thing. Sure, Creative was on to something when Kane, J&J Security, and even Trips & Stephanie began to turn on Seth. It would have been the perfect way to turn Seth face eventually. But even though I hate that they did pulled a 180, I think they can still book Seth to be the heel people love to hate.


His feud with Brock Lesnar right now has not only turned Brock Lesnar babyface, but it has also added more fuel to fans’ hatred of the Seth Rollins character. You have a guy who schemes his way to outsmart the Beast Incarnate, and then he does everything he can to poke the bear. He tries to act like such a tough guy, and then when the big, bad man comes after him, he’s so quick to tuck his tail between his legs and run away. The best part out of all of this is that he’s a damn good wrestler, and we all know it. So even if he doesn’t need to cheat and be a villain, he does it anyway because it’s the easy way out. How hard is it to hate a talented guy who cuts corners just to get his way?


By the way, you’ve got to love what they did with the Cadillac. Lesnar obliterating that car brought a level of joy that we haven’t seen since Kofi Kingston destroyed Randy Orton’s convertible in 2009. And it actually reminded me of that Street Fighter challenge in the old school arcade games when your character had to destroy a car in 30 seconds.



Who Am I Supposed To Root For?


I’m glad Rusev’s injury has healed and that he’s able to wrestle again. That way, this silly feud with Dolph Ziggler over Lana can mercifully end. The führer wrote about why you shouldn’t be cheering Rusev for being an abusive and creepy ex-boyfriend, and I agree. You shouldn’t cheer for Rusev’s behavior.


Rusev made a great point in his promo this week about America suddenly loving Lana and embracing her after all of the things she said about the US and its people since their characters debuted. It says a lot about the intelligence of your target audience when the heel makes the most sense in his promos, doesn’t it?


An argument could be made about Summer Rae being the only true face in this little story since she genuinely just wanted to help Rusev. But I disagree because Summer was the first to put her hands on Lana. Speaking of Summer Rae, let me just put this out here: How funny was it that Rusev kept putting Lana down by calling her a “blond-headed witch” when his rebound girl is a blonde, too? Give the guy who wrote hypocritical heel Rusev’s promo a raise.


Remind Us Why Are You Feuding Again



Randy Orton returned to RAW this week, attacking Sheamus after Mr. Money in the Bank celebrated his victory over Roman Reigns. As Orton went after Sheamus, Michael Cole attempted to tell a story by saying, “Randy Orton has not forgotten what Sheamus has put him through!” Cole, none of us know what Sheamus has put him through. We don’t know why they’re even feuding. Hell, I’ll be surprised as fuck if they know why they’re feuding.


At least Roman Reigns and Bray Wyatt know why they’re feuding. I love how Wyatt brought his A-game on the psychological level this week, using a fake Bray Wyatt to distract Roman Reigns during his match. It painted Roman as being too blinded by his anger and hatred of Wyatt, that he lost sight of the bigger picture, which was the match he was actually in. For his part, Wyatt does look like a credible antithesis to Roman, because he’s using the mind games to outwit a furious Roman Reigns. Anyone but you, Roman.


One-Woman Army



Paige’s one-woman crusade against Team Bella isn’t getting old… yet. I like that they’re establishing Paige as essentially an anti-Diva, minus the part where she openly disdains everything associated with being a Diva like they did with her in NXT. As I said last week, I wish they just went all in on it.


Rumors have it that the payoff to this storyline is the eventual debut of both Charlotte and Sasha Banks, so that they can join Paige against the Bellas. I’m definitely excited about that, but how long are they going to keep letting Paige get beaten down by Brie, Nikki, and Alicia Fox? If the debuts take place at SummerSlam, that’s at least 6-7 weeks of storytelling you’ll have to fill out.


On the bright side, the Divas division has got some serious long-term storytelling going on. When’s the last time we’ve been able to say that with a straight face? As an aside, how fun would it be for Paige, Charlotte, and Sasha to team up as an NXT alumnae contingent to basically take over NXT? Hell, at this rate, you could start a Divas tag team division with those three, the Bellas, Naomi & Tamina, and whoever they can pair up with Nattie.


Shut Up, Miz


Miz sitting at ringside with a mic in hand so he could do commentary and yell his version of encouragement at Ryback and Big Show was money. If there’s one thing Miz is good for in this feud, it’s his loudmouth ways, and thank goodness they actually put that to good use this week.


As I’m writing this, it just hits me that Ryback is holding the second-highest championship in WWE right now, and his challengers are Miz and the Big Show. And yet this feud is way less interesting and entertaining than the US title picture. Daniel Bryan’s latest injury really hit the Intercontinental title picture the hardest. :<


Stray Thoughts


I was hoping that the New Day and Bo Dallas would continue to team up against the Prime Time Players. It’s bad enough that the New Day outnumber the PTP 3-2, but having another man on their side would just get them even more heat, especially since Bo Dallas is on Xavier Woods’ level of annoyance. Besides, the New Day does Bo Dallas’ gimmick way better than he does, he might as well latch on to them as much as he can since there’s no point in trying to separate himself. All that really differentiates him from the New Day are the catchphrases.


King Barrett has finally defeated King What’s Up? Can we please move on and give Barrett something more meaningful to do now? I’m thankful that they didn’t wait until Battleground for this feud to be resolved. And please don’t tell me that the feud isn’t over until the babyface wins. R-Truth has nothing to fight for against Barrett. He’s just making a mockery out of Barrett, and if put Truth over Barrett to end the feud, you might as well flush the King of the Ring down the drain. It’s a crying shame that Barrett hasn’t really done anything noteworthy since winning the KOTR last May. That’s got to change. Shouldn’t he be at least entitled to a midcard title opportunity?


*****


Overall, it was another meh episode of RAW, with Brock vs. Car and the United States Championship match being the saving graces of the week. That being said, I’ll have to give this week’s episode a C.


But what did you think of this week’s RAW? Is Cena-Cesaro II in the conversation for Match of the Year? Did you want to see the Cadillac take more damage from the Beast Incarnate? Are you on #TeamZiggler or on #TeamRusev? 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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