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The Smark Henry RAW Report (10/26/15): Kung Ayaw May Dahilan, Kung Gusto Laging Mayroong Paraan


Just when you thought WWE’s going through a slippery slope from one craptastic RAW to another, they miraculously pull a bunny out of a hat and give us a great episode of their flagship show. It’s a shame that these nuggets are few and far between, that they’re more of the exception than the rule. You can blame that on the lack of creativity from the Creative team or on the ever-changing whims of Vince McMahon, but it doesn’t really matter because the bigger issue is the lack of good stories being told well in a consistent manner. This is how you turn a casual fan into a dedicated viewer and this is also how you keep longtime fans coming back for more.

This week’s RAW opened with a promo from Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, in which they sung Seth Rollins’ praises as their golden boy and essentially said that he has vanquished every single opponent they have put in front of him, so now he’s out of contenders. That being said, I was very impressed with their decision to hold #1 Contender’s Qualifying Matches involving all of the superstars who won their matches the previous night at Hell In A Cell

In doing so, WWE established several nuances last night:

1. PPV matches are no longer just matches on a big stage. They make wins and losses mean more. The biggest stab against wrestling matches in WWE is that wins and losses generally don’t matter. By limiting the pool of contenders to those who won their matches at the previous night’s PPV, it puts a premium not only on winning but also winning on a big stage.

2. Believe it or not, WWE actually gave the Kickoff Match some form of credibility. With the exception of WrestleMania, where the Tag Team Championships are routinely contested before the main show, a kickoff match is normally reserved for stories not big enough to get its blowoff on the main card. Sometimes, even matches haphazardly put together for either the U.S. Championship or the Tag Team Championship find their way to the Kickoff Match, and when RAW comes back on the next night, barring a title change, the previous night’s match will have been just another memory. This time around, winning the Kickoff Match had serious championship implications for Dolph Ziggler and Team No First Name. 

3. They made being #1 Contender something that you had to earn, and that means a lot, especially when WWE has often turned to lazy booking to establish title contenders. For instance, all it took Kane to get his title shot at Hell In A Cell was to attack Seth Rollins and avenge his beatdown from last July. Sure, he had a personal vendetta against the Architect, but what had he done to deserve the title shot? The last time WWE viewers saw Kane, he was being the Authority’s bitch in a suit. I will take a #1 Contender’s tournament on an episode of RAW any day over a match in which somebody beats the champion in a non-title match, effectively setting up a title feud. Now that wasn’t too hard, was it, Vince?


What an obvious foreshadowing though.
4. It was an easy and logical way to limit your pool of contenders. Upon tuning in to RAW at the top of the second hour, I was confused as to why a guy as popular as Dean Ambrose wasn’t a part of this mini-tournament. It wasn’t until I had watched the first hour later on when I realized that Dean wasn’t qualified in the first place on account of him not having a match at Hell In A Cell. His interaction with Roman Reigns backstage prior to the Fatal 4-Way #1 Contender’s Match in the main event was actually pretty interesting because I thought it would have set up an eventual heel turn in which Ambrose costs Reigns the #1 Contendership. After all, Ambrose put so much effort into stressing how Roman had been screwed out of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship time and time again that it all but guaranteed Ambrose as the next guy to screw Reigns out of the title. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be as the Lunatic Fringe was nowhere to be found in the main event.

Speaking of the main event, it was all sorts of fun from the opening bell. Seeing the temporary alliance between Alberto Del Rio and Kevin Owens made for a great viewing experience, and so did their subsequent turn afterward. It was especially interesting that both heels are the midcard champions, so a future champion versus champion match based on how they interacted against each other in this match could be an appetizing future storyline. While Dolph Ziggler was admirable in doing what he could to make himself look like he had a shot to win this, it was obvious from the get-go that this was Roman Reigns’ match to lose. 

Given his performance, I actually have no problem with it. Now, I wanted him to challenge Kevin Owens for the Intercontinental Championship, but I guess they’d like to establish Reigns’ credibility as a main event player much faster than I’d like. I’m sure this is going to piss me off down the road, but for now, I don’t seem to have a problem with Roman as the new #1 Contender to Seth Rollins’ WWE World Heavyweight Championship because: (1) Roman never got a proper one-on-one match for the title against Seth, (2) they could very well be using this to eventually set the Shield triple threat main event for the title at WrestleMania Star, or (3) Roman and Seth were supposed to feud last year until a herniated disc sidelined Reigns. This is your chance, Roman. Prove to us that you belong here. I’m actually open to seeing if you can grab the brass ring. Believe that.



All four qualifying matches made for solid wrestling on TV. Roman’s match with Kofi was a good way for the New Day to be in a situation where they still had a numbers advantage, even as they continued to sell Xavier Woods’ injuries. Throughout the match, I found myself holding my index finger up to my forehead like the unicorns the New Day believe themselves to be. Big E and Kofi’s pre-match promo was also enjoyable, particularly when Kofi told the San Diego crowd to call him Harry Potter because he was “about to go in the ring and make some magic”. Brilliant.


Yeah, this guy is totally boring.
Cesaro vs. Kevin Owens was a fun match and one I would absolutely call the match of the night. It wasn’t too long ago when these two had a pretty serious one-on-one feud heading into SummerSlam, so it was nice to see that they were paired up with one another for this week’s RAW. Mr. Pure Energy was at it again, showing us why he is the best workhorse in the WWE today. From the European Uppercut Express, to the numerous pinfall counters he and Owens exchanged, to the huge spinning uppercut, the Swiss Superman delivered in another match where he totally connected with the fans. 



Kevin Owens was also impressive in his role, as usual, and his pre-match PIP promo unleashed a new level of arrogance for the prizefighter. I like how they’re writing him as someone who has complete and utter disregard for the WWE’s history by saying that the company didn’t have a history until he came along, and that his greatest moment hasn’t happened yet because that’ll happen when he’s the World Champion. You go, Glen Coco.

Neville vs. Alberto Del Rio was quite the treat in the sense that the Man that Gravity Forgot was the perfect opponent to showcase El Patron’s heel in-ring mannerisms. They had a great back-and-forth, but even if Neville was one of the most dynamic talents on the WWE roster, you know that he was there to put the returning ADR over. That being said, it was still a great match and a reminder of how versatile Del Rio can be in the ring. The Welcome Back, Alberto Del Rio Tour has begun.


Alberto also got up close and personal with Neville really quickly.
Let’s take a moment to talk about Alberto Del Rio and Zeb Colter’s alliance as the only citizens of MexAmerica.

MexAmerica.

What the flying fuck is that even supposed to be? How the hell is Zeb Colter—who used to hate Alberto so much for being an immigrant—now aligned with Del Rio? And why the hell are they even pushing to unite Mexico and America as MexAmerica? Del Rio cut a quick promo against selfish, entitled immigrants—something which his character has become, by the way—and yet, they want to unite the two countries? What for? Because immigration and emigration is the true sin? I don’t get how this is supposed to make sense.

Furthermore, watch how Zeb and Alberto have been interacting since Hell In A Cell. I noticed at HIAC that Alberto was slow to respond to Zeb when the latter had reached out his hand or his fist. They were also jubilant as a duo after Del Rio had won the U.S. Championship against Cena. However this week on RAW, it’s worth noticing that Del Rio was even more hesitant to shake Zeb’s hand or to bump his fist. It could be a delay that El Patron does to milk the reaction, but we at the Smark Henry offices are speculating that it could be because Zeb may just have some leverage over Alberto Del Rio. Think of Zeb as the JBL to Alberto’s Shawn Michaels circa 2008, or the Zoom to Alberto’s Atom-Smasher or Sand Demon. 

Alberto should have returned to WWE as the triumphant hero after having established himself as one of the biggest international stars outside WWE since being fired last year. And yet, he returns as a heel, seemingly doing the bidding of one Zeb Colter for reasons we have yet to figure out. One thing’s for sure: On a meta level, Alberto does deserve heel heat for calling WWE an evil machine for tolerating the racism against him, and 15 months later, Alberto’s been taken back into WWE’s loving arms as he happily cashes in on their paychecks. This sellout attitude would have made him the perfect new Authority golden boy!



Meanwhile, Dolph Ziggler and Big E were booked to face each other, and this was a smart move considering (1) the histories of these two characters with each other and (2) the fact that the New Day had recently taken Dolph Ziggler out prior to answering John Cena’s U.S. Open Challenge. A little under three years since introducing Big E to the main roster, it’s interesting how much his character had developed, especially with his role in the New Day. While all of this is happening, Dolph Ziggler seems to be running in place—always the bridesmaid, never the bride, as we’ll come to see in the main event.

One quick note on Tyler Breeze: co-opting Miz and MVP’s previous iterations of the ringside VIP section as if it were a part of some club is genius. I want to keep seeing him just throwing his weight around and taking selfies, though probably not with Summer Rae. Speaking of selfies, considering how long Breezy was out there holding the selfie stick, it makes me wonder whether or not Tyler would tire his own arm out there. Nakakangalay din ‘yan, no!


Nakatukod man ang siko mo o hindi, pucha, nakakangalay 'yan.
As for the losers from Hell In A Cell? Well, they get to take their frustrations out this week… against fellow losers! I actually loved the idea of pitting Ryback and the Dudley Boyz against the Eurotrash Lads this week! It wasn’t explicitly mentioned on RAW, but the commentary team did bring up the fact that all these guys lost at HIAC, so in a way, the pairings and the match itself made sense. May all 6-man tag matches make this much sense moving forward. Oh, and the finish. THE FINISH. The Eurotrash Lads needs to be a thing. We need more of them in our lives.


If you think you're going to hit King Barrett straight in the nuts, D-Von, I'm afraid I've got some bad news!
Brock Lesnar was once again conspicuously absent on RAW this week. Does he automatically get to have time off by virtue of his win against the Undertaker? Why couldn’t he have appeared and taken part in the #1 Contender’s Qualifying Matches? He did win at HIAC inside the Cell. Is he bigger than the Championship once more? I’m speculating too much. Of course Brock needed time off to recuperate because after all, you can’t have your wrestlers work two matches in one night after you went inside Hell In A Cell. Oh wait.


Did you think this would end any other way, Glenn?
Kane also got destroyed by the Wyatt Family this week as he avenged the attack on the Undertaker, but alas, he himself got taken out. Because duh. Four against one is still an unfavorable matchup, even when you're the Devil's Favorite Demon. I really hope they're setting up Team Taker vs. Team Wyatt at Survivor Series. It'll be interesting to see who will be teaming up with the Brothers of Destruction. I hope they don't drop the ball on this one.

While all of this was happening, Paige was apparently meticulously planning how she was going to fully turn heel against Charlotte and Becky Lynch. While I’m still waiting for an official storyline update on whether (a) Paige did attack Nattie (duh) or (b) if Nattie will have a job to come back to (duh), it was great seeing Paige play off Becky and Charlotte. This tension had been building for about a month, and it was a relief that WWE finally committed to turning Paige heel after weeks of teasing it. 


CAN YOU FEEL MY PAIN NOW, CHARLOTTE?!
My only problem is if Nattie eventually takes Paige’s place alongside Charlotte and Becky Lynch when she returns. Nattie doesn’t need to have her own little sisters watching her back and being her squad. She needs to come back and kick Paige’s ass.

*****

This week’s RAW was a great display of effort in both the wrestling side and the storytelling side. While I will continue to be an advocate of keeping RAW to two hours, WWE did as best as it could with the three hours that they had. They just told a good overarching story that was told in chapters through the matches that they had. They set a theme for the night and everything else just followed. It was tight and didn’t have much bullshit, save for Miz’s segments to shill WWE 2K16, but even that was kind of fun, if only for the Stone Cold appearance at the end. All of that being said, this week’s RAW gets an A for effort.

What did you think of this week’s RAW? Did it deserve its grade? Are you cool with Roman Reigns finally getting his one-on-one feud and title opportunity against Seth Rollins? What do you have to say about MexAmerica? Sound off and hit us up 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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