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The Smark Henry RAW Report (8/3/15): Mister, I'll Make A Champ Out Of You


I said last week that I was excited for the possibility of a feud between Seth Rollins and John Cena because I know that these two can put on a great program heading into SummerSlam. Plus if the match they had on last week’s RAW was any indication, then their match on August 23 (US time) would be one hell of a slobberknocker.

Let me now say that I am officially terrified of the result for that match and feud now that Rollins has declared his intentions to make it Champion vs. Champion, Winner Take All.



I get that Rollins immediately seemed without a dance partner two weeks ago right after Battleground. And with SummerSlam looming, he needed a big star to feud with, someone who you know could have sparks with Rollins both on the mic and in the ring. That didn’t leave a lot of choices on the table especially since we’d already seen Rollins defeat the likes of Dean Ambrose and Randy Orton.

Enter John Cena.

I initially had problems with Cena entering this feud still as United States Champion because I felt that he should have dropped the title to Kevin Owens at Battleground. But since we’re already past that, there’s no point in crying over spilled milk. Instead, let’s focus on the fact that the mere idea of a Champion vs. Champion match is a less than subtle dig at Ring of Honor, who had their own Champion vs. Champion match at Best in the World. If you weren’t convinced that WWE is on a mission to out-ROH Ring of Honor, then this should do the trick.

So let’s fast forward a bit to SummerSlam with both the United States and WWE World Heavyweight Championships on the line, and let’s take a look at the two outcomes of the match:

Outcome 1: Seth Rollins defeats John Cena to retain the WWE World Heavyweight Champion and to become the new United States Champion.


Many of us in the IWC will rejoice over this scenario. Imagine Seth Rollins achieving the rare feat of being a double champion, the first since the Miz briefly held the World Tag Team Championship in with John Cena while simultaneously being the WWE Champion in 2011.

The only problem with this is that we only have one World Championship now. When there were two world titles, it wouldn’t be as harmful to have one of the World Champions win a second title (be it a midcard or a tag team title) because you still have another World Champion whose feud you can still build around as the main rivalry.

I’ve complained previously on this space about viewer fatigue that comes from seeing the same characters in the same segments in the same spots on the card week after week. Seeing Seth as both the World Champion and the U.S. Champion will only exacerbate the situation because he’s if Creative double-books him every week, we’ll not only get tired of Rollins, but his body will break down sooner than you think, too.

Even if Rollins winning the U.S. Championship continues to elevate this title beyond its status as a midcard championship, we’ll have to face the fact that the guy can only realistically have one feud at a time, so one of the championships will just be a literal prop in the meantime. Guess which one it’ll be.

Outcome 2: John Cena defeats Seth Rollins to become the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion and to retain the United States Championship.



This is legitimately scary.

And I’m not just saying that as an anti-Cena member of the IWC. I don’t even hate John Cena.

My problem with Cena winning the title for a record-tying 16th time is that it will reek of Vince McMahon’s blind worship towards the ratings yet again. History has shown that McMahon will be quick to pull the trigger on a Cena world title run every time ratings are down. Some more recent examples include the stunted WWE Championship reigns of CM Punk and Alberto Del Rio. It was observed that during their runs on top in 2011, RAW ratings did not reach expectations, which coincided with rumors of WWE putting the world title back on John Cena. A more concrete example shows that Del Rio immediately dropped the title to John Cena at Night of Champions 2011 after RAW got a paltry 2.7 in the ratings during the go-home show before NoC.

Daniel Bryan himself admitted in his autobiography that his run in the main event alongside Randy Orton in 2013 met an abrupt end after the Hell In A Cell pay-per-view due to a bunch of factors, with the low WWE TV ratings being one of them. Could the setup of the Champion vs. Champion Winner Takes All match be indicative of the current slump in ratings?

Consider the rumors from today’s Grapevine indicating that the Undertaker is scheduled to appear in at least one more episode of RAW after SummerSlam. Assuming but not conceding that Taker gets his win back this month, that will get a face pop from the fans. This opens the door for the Creative team to book a result that will garner nuclear heat.

We know that Vince isn’t wholly deaf and that he is self-aware to an extent. So what if he actually anticipates the crowd to gloriously crap on a Cena victory? He could just as easily recoup that with the pop that comes from the Taker win in the main event. That makes Seth Rollins’ title reign expendable, and that’s not a good thing, especially if this result is only justified by “The crowd will go home happy after Taker wins anyway.”

Add to that the cons of having your World Champion act as a double champion brought about by fatigue, holding one title in a vacuum, and leaving the upper midcard without an upper midcard title to fight for. Consider the fact that there is no timetable yet on Ryback’s return, and you basically have no midcard championships after SummerSlam. The only pro I can see here is that it forces Creative’s hand to come up with good, compelling stories to justify rivalries, but we all know better than to expect that out of Creative.

BONUS Outcome 3: Rollins loses the match via DQ so both champions retain their respective championships.





This will be a cheap cop-out of a finish, but at the same time, will remain the only way that both guys get to leave Brooklyn with their own titles in hand. Given the magnitude with which they’re building this program, it seems unlikely that they’ll end a match like this with a DQ. Even if the match ends in a non-pin/submission finish so that both men retain, WWE will have wasted so much hype and time to have no winner take it all.


Did They Send Me Daughters When I Asked For Sons?
Speaking of not having any rankings, the Divas Division still didn’t clarify what each match and subsequent win meant in the Divas Championship picture. This is utterly disappointing since the last few weeks have given us at least two Divas matches on every episode of RAW, and they aren’t even filler matches that end in two minutes anymore.

The only good thing we got out of it was the fact that the Powerpuff Girls (Paige, Becky Lynch, and Charlotte) now have an official name in the Submission Sorority. I didn’t like it when I first heard it, but now I’m coming around and appreciating the fact that they’re really just a bunch of girls who can kick your ass. And I love it now. Bonus points that “Submission Sorority” is actually a porn keyword. It really is. Google it. I’ll wait.

Like what you see?

You done? Okay, let’s continue. It annoys me how it took them three damn weeks to figure that name out. I do wish they just ran with PPG as an acronym to reference the Powerpuff Girls since the internet’s using it anyway. Way to listen to your audience, WWE.

Charlotte and Becky Lynch took on the Bella Twins in a decent tag match, and Charlotte scored the win for the Submission Sorority, getting Divas Champ Nikki Bella to tap out to the Figure Eight.


My issue with the Submission Sorority is that their in-ring work lacks in psychology because they don’t work on the respective body parts they target with their finishers. In Charlotte’s case, she rarely worked on the Bellas’ legs during the match, while Becky Lynch herself doesn’t work the arms much. I can say the same about Paige whenever she gets in the ring. Sasha Banks is probably the only Diva who works on the crucial body part that her submission finisher, the Bank Statement, targets. And she isn’t the one in the Submission Sorority!

Meanwhile, Naomi challenged Paige to a match just because Team BAD had nothing to do for the night. Paige ended up with the win via her PTO, and it allowed all three members of the Submission Sorority to stand tall by the end of the night as a victorious trio. But what does this mean for the Divas Championship? Is this Diva warfare storyline really just about proving which team is better? Because if it is, then what’s stopping all nine of them from just brawling again, or having a 3-on-3-on-3 matchup at SummerSlam? It seems that as the weeks go by, the idea of this #DivaRevolution is becoming more abstract since the girls don’t have anything concrete to fight for, and it takes away from the brilliant women’s wrestling we’re all seeing.

I’m Never Gonna Catch My Breath

Having Rollins come out this week to mock Cena’s U.S. Open Challenge by having his own open challenge was a great way to get Seth some heat while advancing their storyline without Cena around. In typical heel fashion, the champ had to put some restrictions on his challenger, insisting that the only eligible challengers are those “under six feet tall and two hundred pounds.” Brilliant.

Even though he was only targeting El Torito, I actually thought he missed Neville and Kalisto. That being said, Neville was the obviously logical choice as Rollins’ opponent for the week. Neville and Rollins faced each other in an enjoyable TV match on Neville’s second week on the main roster, so that set expectations fairly for this week’s match.

And, my God, did both these men surpass them. I found myself holding my breath when Neville had that unique takedown for a close 2-count, and even more when it seemed like Neville was about to jackknife pin his way to his first WWE World Heavyweight Championship. If that wasn’t enough, then Neville’s kick to Rollins and the successful Red Arrow both nailed 3-counts that the referee had to stop because Rollins was on the ropes both times. I absolutely enjoy matches like these because they get me to take my smark hat off and just allow me to live in the moment of enjoying an excellent match.



The setup to the finish was something I was satisfied with: Neville got all frustrated and wasted some time bitching to the referee, which allowed Rollins to recover and counter Neville’s second Red Arrow attempt. This opened the door for a Pedigree from the champ to retain the gold in a match I’d call the must-see match of the night. 

Was this better than Cena’s attempts at putting people over in his open challenge? It was because unlike Cena’s open challenges, I actually thought Neville had a legit shot at winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Of course I should have known better. But if the standard was whether or not you believed, Seth’s open challenge accomplished the task more than Cena’s.

This Guy’s Got ‘em Scared To Death!

We saw two promo segments this week, in addition to Rollins’ rant against Cena, that reminded us that a little mic time can go a long way in establishing a story.

The first is the Miz TV segment featuring Kevin Owens and Cesaro. It seemed strange seeing Owens getting all chummy with Miz, since Owens has been portrayed as someone who doesn’t play well with others, at least since he debuted on the main roster. Fortunately, that didn’t last very long because a sharp-looking Swiss Superman came in to confront Owens over walking out on his matches and his unprofessional behavior.



While it seemed obvious that Owens and Cesaro were going to feud with one another heading into SummerSlam, I wanted to have a reason for this beef. I’m glad that we finally got one in Cesaro upholding his professionalism and calling Owens an embarrassment, while Owens went back to his prizefighter gimmick and said that while he was willing to throw down right there and then, he’d only fight if the prize is right. The segment didn’t take a lot of time, and yet it accomplished all I needed to see in order to add layers to what’s already become an interesting feud involving the two former indy standouts.

And then there was the Paul Heyman promo, which was just pure money.


It’s worth noting that Heyman didn’t build Brock Lesnar up as the babyface of this feud, which adds fuel to the argument that this feud isn’t necessarily between a hero and a villain, but between two humans with shades of gray. I agreed when Heyman called the Undertaker a submissive little bitch because of his actions, and he’s justified in doing so.

Heyman then adds to the Undertaker’s backstory in this feud by saying that Taker can’t rest in peace knowing that he can’t defeat Lesnar, and that the Deadman begged Vince McMahon for a rematch at WrestleMania Play Button. It’s interesting how this story straddles the line between the cartoon realm of the Undertaker and the reality of Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman. Heyman brings up that McMahon denied Taker the rematch, fully aware of what fate awaits the Phenom should he face the Beast Incarnate once again. This is why Taker had to exercise his own powers and force WWE to approve a showdown between himself and Lesnar at SummerSlam.

The more I hear from Paul Heyman, and the longer Undertaker spends not appearing on RAW, the more I’m convinced that Taker really is the petty little bitch that Heyman says he is. Perhaps I’ve drawn my line in the sand and placed myself among the camp of those who dislike the Undertaker for his actions. And maybe that’s okay, because as the fuehrer brought up several weeks ago, we’re human. And in the long run, a feud like this can work because these two characters are developed to the point where it doesn’t matter whether they end up dividing the crowd or not. What matters to the WWE is that either way, we’re getting a reaction that they’ll want. They know they can’t do that with every program, so they might as well maximize the feud that they have. Too bad it comes at the expense of the Undertaker’s legend.

I just fear that this main event, while it’s in a vacuum compared to the rest of the roster, ends up sparking a domino effect that affects the world title picture all the way down to the midcard.


You Must Be Swift As A Coursing River
The Prime Time Players have been on commentary for the last two weeks, and all they’ve been doing is being the Kenan and Kel of wrestling. Their tag title match against the New Day at Battleground renewed my hope in their title run, but so far, they’ve only been in one match since then, and it’s restored the underwhelming state of their reign as tag champs.

Xavier Woods’ hirit from ringside before the match started was just pure gold: “Commentary again? I thought you were fighting champions! Good job… Good job!”

Darren Young’s comeback made just as much sense: “We don’t make the cards!”

That’s the type of shit that should be said on the mic.

This week, the Lucha Dragons teamed up with Los Matadores to take on the New Day and the Ascension in a rematch from SmackDown!. I wasn’t too satisfied with this return match because it was shorter, and because the only takeaway I really got was that the New Day figured out how they could outsmart the babyface team after having lost to them on SmackDown!.



At this point, I’m also confused about where Los Matadores stands. They’ve become the new Justin Gabriel. They’re face or heel depending on how it can be convenient for the upcoming matchup, and it’s a shame.

It also puzzles me where the tag division is headed en route to SummerSlam. I understand that we can have another multi-team match, hopefully in the form of Tag Team Turmoil, because I’m just a sucker for it. But can we at least have a sense of ranking in the division? I mean, isn’t that the point of having a division in the first place? You have champions, and then you have rankings among the contenders. Having these 8-man tag matches reeks of lazy booking because you could still develop some tension among the teams by placing them in singles matches against each other.

With All the Force of a Great Typhoon

I have mixed feelings about Creative not really pushing the Rusev/Summer and Dolph/Lana storyline much this week. I get that it’s difficult without the presence of Dolph Ziggler, but couldn’t they have Lana come out again to get involved with Rusev and Summer this week? I also want to see more of Dog Ziggler, just for the funnies.

It seems that Mark Henry has been firmly planted as a babyface again, albeit with no direction. I hate to think that he’s on his way to following Big Show’s pattern of turning face or heel whenever it’s convenient for Creative to do so.



The match he had with Rusev was quick, and I thought there was something wrong with it ending in a pinfall when Mark Henry’s right shoulder was clearly raised above the mat. Sure, he was protecting his head because Rusev kicked it twice, but I felt like my intelligence was mildly insulted when they counted it as a pinfall when it shouldn’t have been. Or I could just be nitpicking.

Mysterious As the Dark Side of the Moon

This week’s main event was a six-man tag match featuring the babyface team of Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, and Randy Orton versus Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper, and Sheamus. In the leadup to the match, Wyatt and Harper appeared on the Titantron to punk Ambrose and Reigns out. That seemed par for the course of the Wyatt Family… until Sheamus appeared with his briefcase—in the dark—where only the Wyatts supposedly have access to their deep, dark corner of the arena.

I appreciated that the Wyatts seemed to always stick to their gimmick of being the underground cult that nobody really had access to. In a way, it seemed okay to isolate them from the rest of the locker room, especially in vignettes and segments, because that’s what set them apart. But now that they included Sheamus, they indirectly broke the fourth wall and made the Wyatts’ version of backstage seem like a joke.

It didn’t help matters when Ambrose and Reigns cut a Shield-style promo in their version of backstage, and then Randy Orton appeared to tell the Shield alumni that they better leave Sheamus to him. The Ambrose and Reigns promo sans Orton’s appearance would have been a perfect throwback to their history in the Shield and their long-running feud against the Wyatts. Orton’s appearance ruined it because he and Sheamus ended up being the epal in the feud.

Salingpusa arguments aside, the six-man tag match was a passable showcase, which featured the babyface team winning it.


If there was one thing that was worth praising with the segments and this match, it was the fact that there was a bit of continuity between the players involved. Orton’s uneasy alliance with the Shield referenced his tenuous history with Ambrose and Reigns, while Sheamus’s temporary alignment with Wyatt and Harper allowed Wyatt to identify that the enemy of his enemy is his friend. Strangely, I was actually expecting him to call Sheamus “family” at some point in the promo.

You’re Unsuited For the Rage of War

King Barrett defeated Zack Ryder this week in a short match, even though once again, Ryder wrestled his ass off and made the most out of the time that was given him.


Based on the commentary during the match, it seems that Barrett is on a self-imposed mission to cleanse the WWE of any false kings. Sure. That kinda works, save for the fact that Barrett’s been feuding with (and beating) jobbers and undercarders lately.

Barrett’s reign as King of the Ring was supposed to give him momentum on the way to a solid singles push. Instead, it seems that management has dropped the ball on him once again. What use is a win if it’s against some underdog who won’t matter in the big picture anyway? Barrett just beat a joke, and that makes his Kingship a joke. I really want to know who he screwed backstage to deserve all of this.

*****

This week’s episode featured a lot of great wrestling, but also several questions that actually trouble me as we shift to another gear on the Road to SummerSlam. WWE is lucky that they have at least three more episodes to fix everything before the second-biggest show of the year. And they should, especially if they want to maximize the four hours they’re getting on August 23. All of that being said, this week of RAW actually felt like a filler episode during the five weeks on the way to a PPV, and that’s a waste of the solid wrestling we saw. This week’s grade: B-.

What do you think? Are you still excited for Cena vs. Rollins at SummerSlam? Is Taker really a whiny little bitch? Hit us up in the comments section!

*****


Stan Sy (@_StanSyis the Editor at Large of Smark Henry, and is also a radio DJ, an events host, a freelance writer, and one of the hosts of the Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast. 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.

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