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The Smark Henry RAW Report (10/12/15): Time For A Cool Change


Ever since his star-making moment in the main event of Survivor Series 2014, Dolph Ziggler has been running in place. Over the last year or so, he’s been hanging in the upper midcard, challenging for the Intercontinental Championship, negotiating a new contract, and involved in a love square. But looking back at the events since last November, it’s hard to believe that Ziggler’s exactly where he was at this time last year. It’s as if he took one step forward, and two steps back.

This is why the news that Lana and Rusev got engaged in real life could be the best thing that’s happened to Dolph Ziggler’s career all year.

Now, as a storytelling purist, I will admit that I’m upset that WWE just flat out acknowledged the news and injected it into their canon. Granted, they do ease in the marriages of their talents into their respective characters. (See: Natalya and Tyson Kidd, Naomi and Jimmy Uso, and most recently Eden Stiles and Cody Rhodes), but the abrupt nature of Rusev and Lana’s engagement was shocking, even to viewers like me, who have long been used to the silly nature of storytelling in professional wrestling.

There’s the obvious problem of how to reconcile reality with canon, which they attempted to by having Summer Rae call RuRu out on it. Left with no choice, Rusev owned up to it, and Lana did the same on social media, explaining it as “self-preservation” due to their characters’ Eastern Europe origins. If Lana is supposed to stay babyface, then her kayfabe explanation just undid all of the character development they did for her when she split from Rusev. If the endgame is to turn her heel, then this can be forgiven.

Summer Rae’s situation was handled about as well as they could have, which was to make her look like the sympathetic face. After all, she was the one who kept acquiescing to whatever demands Rusev made of her. She changed her look, she got him match/title opportunities, and she would attack Lana, all out of her (seemingly) genuine love for RuRu. And in return, he went back to Lana anyway and proposed marriage. You’re damn right she had a right to be upset.

So why is this the best thing to happen to Dolph Ziggler in the last year again?

Simple. He finally got his “Get Out of Jail” pass from this stupid love square storyline.

Sure, he acted like a sad puppy in the RAW Backstage Fallout video with Tom Phillips. He was hurt. He was heartbroken. Lana’s quite the catch, and if she did that to me, I’d react the same way, except with a little less suaveness and a lot more huhubelles. But in the bigger picture, this allows Dolph to move on from Lana and Rusev and Summer Rae to focus on a bigger (and better) target: John Cena and the United States Championship.

The seeds were planted, anyway, as of last week, with the New Day having thwarted Dolph’s attempt to challenge Cena. But since the New Day was busy fucking around with Randy Orton and Dean Ambrose this week, it allowed Dolph—or anybody who had Cena in their crosshairs that night—to answer Cena’s Open Challenge. And with the news going around that John Cena is supposedly taking time off following Hell In A Cell, then a quick program with Ziggler that leads to the Show Off winning the U.S. title could be the the shot in the arm that his character desperately needs.

Dolph gave Cena a hell of a match on RAW this week, and he surprised me when he pulled a page out of the playbooks of one Kevin Owens (and that of a certain Social Media Sinister) when he raked Cena’s eyes as he was on Cena’s shoulders. I thought that was a great move because it told the story of Dolph being pushed to the brink of desperation. Plus, deep down, I’d like to think it was revenge for Cena being #ScumbagCena during all those times when Dolph needed him.

My issue with the match was the finish, because after both Cena and Ziggler seemed to be at their respective breaking points, Cena just easily scoops Ziggler up for an AA and gets the win. It was like they’d built up to a crescendo for 14 minutes and 57 seconds, and then over the last three seconds, Cena becomes “Big Match John” and ekes out another #LOLCenaWins masterpiece. 

What will redeem that move from being another total Cena copout is if Dolph comes back next week with an edge to him. He already showed flashes of it during his match with Cena. The question is if Dolph Ziggler will be willing to give into that dark side in order to win the U.S. Championship. I’m all for #HEELZiggler because now that his kayfabe life is so prearranged, I know that it’s time for a cool change.

It's Going Down, I'm Yelling "Timber!"

I can't believe you didn't see it coming, champ.
Photo from WWE.com
The thing about watching wrestling is that it requires a certain level of silliness, and said silliness goes both ways. It requires the viewer to be silly enough to suspend disbelief in order to accept kayfabe, and it also requires the performers to be silly enough to make kayfabe come to life.

But there comes a point when the silliness saturates you and it becomes stupidity because your intelligence is being insulted. That’s how I felt after seeing Corporate Kane this week on RAW

I’ve been trying to convince myself to let this story play out and see where Creative takes the dichotomy between Corporate Kane and Demon Kane, even though I’ve had all the evidence I need to prove that the duality of his character is irrelevant. Kane’s transformations are part of his bigger plan of messing with the Authority. This week’s installment should be the final nail in that coffin.

As Director of Operations, Kane deliberately took advantage of the absences of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon to book himself into a Lumberjack Match against Seth Rollins. And when Trips and Steph finally secured a clear phone connection to Kane—I didn’t know they were Globe subscribers—they forbade him from facing Rollins. So he finds another opponent in the form of… Demon Kane… which is himself, too. It was at this point when I was convinced that Creative dropped the ball on a story that could have fleshed out some layers out of Kane by giving him the Stanley Ipkiss moral dilemma.

Instead, they rushed everything, and in the process, Hunter and Steph lose their credibility and ultimately look like stupid authority figures for not cracking down on Kane, who’s clearly been making them look like fools. Hell In A Cell cannot come any sooner.

The Wyatt Saga

If Roman Reigns were to file a Certificate of Candidacy as the next franchise player for WWE, and if the only thing he had going for him was his promo work, he’d instantly be a nuisance candidate. It’s no secret that his promo skills leave so much to be desired. That’s why I appreciate it when WWE doesn’t book Roman to give lengthy monologues a la John Cena or Paul Heyman. I’ve always preferred Roman to be the brooding man of few words, because angas Roman is Peak Roman. He’s not yet at the point where he can keep a crowd, especially a notoriously smarky one like Chicago, in the palm of his hand.


That being said, he survived Chicago by retorting well when they peppered him with “What?” and “Boring!” chants. However, he also cut a promo that was too damn long and ultimately cheesy. There’s something about Roman’s delivery that feels manufactured, as opposed to John Cena or CM Punk, whose promos feel like they come from the heart. Maybe it’s his relative youth and inexperience coming into play, in which case they should ease his development by not saddling him with such lofty expectations just yet. Yes, he’s being groomed to be the next face of WWE, but it wouldn’t hurt to slow down the learning process for Roman to get an organic acceptance from the WWE Universe. 

Luckily for Roman Reigns, he somehow redeemed himself in his match against Braun Strowman and his subsequent interactions with the Wyatt Family. Reigns works well as a big man against smaller opponents, but I’ve begrudgingly found myself appreciating his work as the smaller guy when he matches up against giants like Big Show and Braun Strowman. His athleticism serves him well in making his relative lack of size a key point in the story. At the same time, his experience being in the Shield also gives him the necessary wits not to challenge the Wyatts head on when he sees it’s three-versus-one. 

Speaking of the Wyatts, I’m slightly confused and amazed with the decision to book Harper and Strowman in a tag team match against Ambrose and Orton at the Hell In A Cell kickoff show. Outside of the rare title change, nothing of impact actually takes place at the kickoff show, so I don’t see the point of teasing tension between Ambrose and Orton, only to have them work without a hitch at HIAC. I’d rather see a turn between both guys happen on the big show, rather than a random episode of RAW, because saving the turn for RAW defeats the purpose of leading up to the PPV, where the bigger moments are traditionally supposed to happen.

I will, however, give props to the booking team for writing the opening segment well this week. It was refreshing to see Creative go all self-aware towards Randy Orton, to the point where the New Day calls him out for being a horrible team player, and Orton himself agrees. The Randy Orton we saw on RAW this week is the Orton we needed to see in 2013, when he and Sheamus were trying to find a way to stop the Shield. 

At the time, Orton and Sheamus were just two midcard babyfaces who had grown tired of the Shield’s attacks, but the missing element was the self-awareness and maturity to realize that all the previous attempts from the rest of the roster to defeat the Shield failed because they couldn’t get on the same page. 2015 Orton seems to be playing the grizzled vet role as he tries to rein Ambrose in so the latter can trust him and work with him to accomplish the greater goal of defeating the Wyatt Family. Aside from meth-fueled Orton from late last year, this version of the Viper is one I’d love to get behind.

As for the New Day, it’s great seeing them mess with the upper midcard such that they aren’t shoehorned in the tag team division. Their current role has just elevated the Tag Team Championships to the point where the tag champs are no longer in their own little vacuum unlike their recent predecessors. Now, if only we could get more interesting challengers outside of the Dudley Boyz.

This Is What Teams Are Made Of

Here’s an idea: remember that United Kingdom storyline from WWE 2K12? That would have been such a badass stable had they kept Drew McIntyre on the roster and had William Regal in the Ric Flair role. Well, there’s no use crying over spilled milk, and Sheamus and Wade Barrett are still on the roster. Oh, what’s that? They’re a thrown-together tag team this week? Well, why don’t we keep them together as a tag team since they aren’t doing anything meaningful right now anyway! 


Hell, you could do the same for Cesaro and Neville if that’s what keeps (1) Cesaro on RAW and (2) Neville from being an afterthought after his feud with Stardust. Creative can even set up a mini-tournament just to get us to care about the tag team division the same way NXT got us to care about the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. Come on, fellas. We don’t need another legend to die to have an awesome tag team tournament. It can last a month leading up to the next PPV with the number one contendership up for grabs.

Some Revolution

So let’s get this straight: after Nikki Bella’s done with Charlotte at HIAC, she (and Team Bella) will move on to face Team B.A.D. Meanwhile, Paige has a vendetta against Nattie for being the N in Team NBC. (I wonder how much the NBCUniversal Group—which owns the E! Network—is paying WWE for this.) 

Hold up. Where does this leave Charlotte post-HIAC?

The problem with the #DivaRevolution now is that there are too many players involved and they can’t seem to get everyone a role, so obviously somebody’s bound to get left out. But you know you’re fucking it up when the champ herself is the one who’s left without a dance partner. Creative better get its shit together before Sasha Banks realizes that she’d be way better off staying in NXT for good.

Aung San Suu Kyi once defined a “revolution” as simply radical change. While the main roster Divas have been getting more time than they used to, the way they’ve been booked since SummerSlam has been lackluster and lazy. This is far from a radical change. We all know this by now, but it needs to be said: this #DivaRevolution is a farce.

The Kevin Owens Show

I really like Kevin Owens. And I really like the Lucha Dragons.

But I hope that this will be the last time that Kalisto and Sin Cara are used to job to Kevin Owens. The Lucha Dragons are far too talented to be treated like jabronis, even if the idea is to establish KO as a prize-fighting bully. I want to see more out of these two because since Kalisto debuted, nothing has been established out of their characters other than they’re masked wrestlers who like to jump and fly around a lot and once kicked the Ascension’s asses.


As for Kevin Owens, I want to see him in an intense feud against someone whose character can give him a run for his money. Throughout his WWE run, he’s been at his best when his foil is someone who can go toe-to-toe with him in terms of what their respective personas stand for. It’s why his program with Sami Zayn was brilliant in NXT, and why he was so well-received upon debuting against John Cena. Ryback just isn’t on their level as a fleshed-out character, which is why it’s easy to write him off as someone Owens will just steamroll through at Hell In A Cell. The problem is, outside of Cena, Orton, and maybe Reigns and Ambrose, there aren’t a lot of babyfaces whose characters are well-developed to match up against Kevin Owens.

*****

Overall, the show was a bit tiring to think about this week, which is an effect of both the crazy turn of events involving Rusev and Lana’s real-life relationship and the twists and turns WWE canon has taken us through. That being said, this week’s show wasn’t bad per se, but it wasn’t good either. So, let’s give it a B-, yeah?

What did you think of this week’s RAW? Are you excited to see #HEELZiggler back? Who among Orton and Ambrose do you think will turn on the other? Is Roman Reigns’ mic work actually improving? Let us know and sound off in the comments section!

Photos from WWE.

*****


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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