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The Smark Henry RAW Report (11/9/15): Up in the Air


First off, let me apologize for not having been able to crank out a RAW Report last week. Our whole-day teambuilding activity at the station just exhausted me and got my routines off track for the rest of the week. On the bright side, I jumped off a 50-foot ledge and got my karma for all the trash I talked, so you can enjoy that. It didn’t help that last week’s RAW was just so tiring to get through. Mahina ang kalaban, guys.

But it’s a brand new week, and while we’re all still reeling from the news that Seth Rollins will be out of action for 6-9 months due to a torn ACL/MCL, and would therefore have to relinquish the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, the positive in the situation is that it has forced WWE’s hand into setting up a 16-man tournament to crown a new champion by Survivor Series.

I’m a huge fan of tournaments, especially for the top prize because it gives everyone involved something meaningful to fight for. Plus, a tournament bracket can either start new rivalries or allow existing ones to play out through them. It’s one of the simplest storytelling devices a wrestling promoter can use.


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Out of all sixteen guys in this tournament, the ones whose presence make sense are the following: (1) Roman Reigns because he’s the #1 Contender—something which I’ll get to further in a bit, (2) Alberto Del Rio for being the United States Champion, and (3) Kevin Owens for being the Intercontinental Champion. I’ll always be biased towards the midcard champions because these guys shouldn’t be treated like chumps at all, and thankfully, they weren’t. They’re champions for a reason and deserve a higher spot on the totem pole than everyone else on the card. If anybody randomly deserves an opportunity at the vacated world title, the midcard champions should definitely have a crack at it before anyone else.


As for everyone else, it boggles me as to why they randomly appeared on the bracket. So to conduct a fun little exercise, why don’t we go through everyone else in the tournament and rank them according to how much they don’t deserve their spot in this tourney? Let’s rank them on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 standing for, “Meh, I can tolerate them in the bracket,” and 10 standing for, “BAKIT IKAW, POTA?!” Let’s begin!


Big Show — Prior to this week’s RAW, he was demolishing Cesaro and Mark Henry just so he could job to Brock Lesnar. He also got beaten by Ryback over the IC title convincingly. 


To be fair to Big Show, he’s always been a good foil for Roman Reigns. He and Roman had another solid match, albeit with a predictable ending. If there’s one guy who can work and make Reigns look like a physical underdog at the same time, it’s Big Show, who served his purpose well as the Big Dog’s first round opponent.


How much does Show not deserve to be in the tournament: 9




Cesaro — The Swiss Superman has been meandering about in the midcard with storylines that have more stops and starts than a student at A1 Driving School. We don’t even know if his tag team with Neville is going anywhere anymore, let alone if Stardust and the Ascension actually plan on attacking him. He’s a personal favorite of mine, so of course I’m happy to see him get a shot and even advance to the second round over Sheamus. As always, Mr. Pure Energy brought it and gave us a hell of a back-and-forth with Mr. Money in the Bank.

How much does Cesaro not deserve to be in the tournament: 4




Sheamus — If I were in Creative, I would actually make a case for Sheamus laying claim to the WWE World Heavyweight Championship now that it’s vacated, unless his Money in the Bank contract specifically states that he’s only entitled to a match with an active champion. In any case, Sheamus’s slot in the tournament is easily the most expendable because he can be #1 Contender whenever he so wishes. In fact, I want to propose all future Money in the Bank contract holders to be excluded from these Championship/#1 Contender Tournaments moving forward because their status as Mr. MITB already guarantees them a future title opportunity.

How much does Sheamus not deserve to be in the tournament: 10


Stardust — The Cosmic One had been quietly picking up steam through October, picking up wins over jobbers like Fandango and Zack Ryder on Main Event and Superstars. But let’s be honest, nobody gives a fuck about Main Event and Superstars. Stardust hasn’t done so much as touch a hair on Cesaro’s body, so why does he deserve to be in this tournament?


How much does Stardust not deserve to be in the tournament: WHY.


Kalisto — Kalisto may have a bit of an edge over the other guys who just haven’t been doing anything meaningful by virtue of him being one-half of the #1 Contenders to the WWE Tag Team Championship. But if Kalisto’s in this tournament, then why isn’t Sin Cara in it? Did the Lucha Dragons play Jack En Poy in the back to see which one of them gets to participate in the tourney? Did Sin Cara draw the shorter stick? Hell, why couldn’t they at least have exploited this for a storyline between the Lucha Dragons so that we can get to know them more beyond the basic template of Masked Latinos Who Can Fly?!


How much does Kalisto not deserve to be in the tournament: POTA BAKIT IKAW


Ryback — The Big Guy is somebody who could actually have something to show for being in this tourney. He was on Team Reigns last week, and he could argue that being on the winning Survivor Series team makes him deserve his spot. It’s not the best argument in the world, but it ties it back to how winning matches should ultimately affect your place on the card.


How much does Ryback not deserve to be in the tournament: 2




Titus O’Neil — See: Kalisto. 

What’s worse is the Prime Time Players have absolutely no momentum heading into RAW, which gives them even less of a reason to belong. Thanks for putting Kevin Owens over.


How much does Titus not deserve to be in the tournament: POTA BAKIT IKAW


Neville — Since Night of Champions, Neville has been losing more matches than he has won them. Plus, he hasn’t really had much momentum since he stopped tagging with Cesaro, which is a waste because Team No First Name could have really gone places. Hell, Neville couldn’t even get a win with the Usos against the New Day! This version of the Man that Gravity Forgot is a far cry from his NXT days, and as a consistent stopgap in storylines where they need a flippy shit guy to fill a need, he’s more like the Man that Creative Forgot.


How much does Neville not deserve to be in the tournament: 8


King Barrett — Unlike his tag team partner, Sheamus, I actually think King Barrett could make a case for being in the tourney because (a) he doesn’t have the MITB contract, but (b) he’s been part of a winning tag team over the last month. He and Sheamus have been faring well both with Rusev and without him. 


Barrett’s sold me on his candidacy in the tournament, much like he sold that right hand from Wayne Rooney. I just wish Rooney acted more like he was into it when Barrett and Sheamus were talking trash towards him. He could have at least acted like he was being somewhat offended. Pssh.


How much does Barrett not deserve to be in the tournament: 3




Dolph Ziggler — Ziggler’s a guy who you can always expect to hover near or around the main event scene and it would be just fine. Those are the benefits that come with always being able to put on a high-quality match regardless of opponent, time constraint, or placement on the card. The problem with Dolph Ziggler in this tournament isn’t whether or not he deserves to be in it. It’s in what happens after he bows out. Ziggy hasn’t had a meaningful storyline since he was in the Intercontinental Championship clusterfuck leading up to WrestleMania Play Button. Can you believe it’s been that long?

How much does Ziggler not deserve to be in the tournament: 3




The Miz — The more I see the Miz wrestle to put someone else over, the harder it is for me to believe that this dude main-evented WrestleMania XXVII, and that it was just four years ago. Around a year ago, he and Damien Sandow struck gold with the Mizdow storyline, and it’s infuriating how the payoff to that story ended up helping neither of them in the long run. On the bright side, Miz actually worked on Dolph’s legs before attempting a Figure Four this week. Yay, ring psychology!

How much does Miz not deserve to be in the tournament: WRESTLER KA PA PALA.


Dean Ambrose — The Lunatic Fringe is similar to Ziggler, except Ambrose is actually at his best when he’s within sniffing distance of the main event. Him being on the complete opposite side of Roman Reigns’ bracket could very well foreshadow a finals match between these brothers. It could also open up so many possibilities for future storylines between the two, and for that reason, we can make a case for Ambrose’s presence in the tournament. It also helps his case that he was on Team Reigns last week.


How much does Ambrose not deserve to be in the tournament: 1




Tyler Breeze — This guy has done absolutely nothing of merit on the main roster. While one’s past in NXT is being referenced more and more upon debuting on the bigger stage, we’re still made to believe that all of that means nothing on the main roster. It doesn’t help Prince Pretty that he never won a championship in NXT or that his last major victory was in May 2014. Think about that. They didn’t even forward his storyline with Ziggler this week when both of them wrestled in the tournament anyway. What a wasted opportunity. This is a slot that could have gone to any member of the New Day. 

Speaking of the New Day, I loved their pre-match promo this week. They crapped on Harry Potter and the British fans in attendance, plus they attempted to sent their “captain”, Seth Rollins, some unicorn magic in the middle of the ring via their hand-horns!





Going back: How much does Tyler Breeze not deserve to be in the tournament: PUNYETA!


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New Day be like, “Sana ako pa rin, ako na lang

*****
Throughout this week’s episode of RAW, we could really feel the absence of Seth Rollins hanging over the card from top to bottom. Rollins’ absence is a perfect example of both WWE and us fans not realizing what we had until it’s gone. Fortunately, it gave birth to one of the best opening segments in recent memory between Triple H and Roman Reigns. Trips went to work this week, trying to convince Reigns to sell out, turn heel, and just take the title. It could very well remind one of when the Rock joined the Corporation or Triple H’s own association with Eric Bischoff in 2002

I was actually rooting for Reigns to accept and turn heel right then and there. After all, logic would dictate that as the easier choice. He’d already earned his status as #1 Contender, and without the champion, he could easily take the champ’s place as the top dog. However, by rejecting Triple H’s offer, Roman Reigns became even more poised to be an underdog a la John Cena. Here’s somebody who’s already earned his rightful place on top, and yet is willing to go to the back of the line and earn it again like everyone else because it’s the right thing to do. So much for Roman Reigns becoming the Rome.

What I liked about Reigns this week is that he kept it simple next to Triple H. His facial gesture game was just right, and he knew exactly what to say, how to say it, and when to say it. I missed brooding Roman, the guy we all popped for like crazy during his Shield days, and that’s the kind of Roman Reigns I can get behind. 

As for the rest of the roster in the tournament, it’s times like these when a system needs to be in place where wins and losses can actually be tracked, just so there’s clarity on people’s spots on the totem pole. This will all be much easier if we just had some ranking system, as our fuhrer has been advocating since last year on the podcast.

Magkaribal

Paige and Becky Lynch finally met one-on-one, and it didn’t disappoint! These two have history dating back to their SHIMMER days, and it’s nice to see that they’ve been able to carry that over into the WWE. It also helps that they were in Manchester, which is as close as “hometown advantage” can get for Paige.



I particularly liked her clever use of Becky and Charlotte’s first initials in her backstage promo, calling Becky the B and Charlotte a C, which was the perfect way to use aggressive language in a PG setting. To add, Paige’s post-match attack on a victorious Becky Lynch was the right amount of viciousness we needed to see from someone seething with rage and jealousy.

As for the other Divas storyline, it’s nice to know that WWE realizes that we want Sasha, and therefore, they’re really milking it as much as they can before finally giving us what we want. I hope that while they prolong and draw out the teasing of Sasha Banks’ eventual turn, they also figure out just how they can write/use Sasha Banks as a character. 



They took one step forward on SmackDown! last week when they sowed some friction between the members of Team B.A.D. by having Renee ask them who the leader of Team B.A.D. is because that’s who Natalya was challenging then. I can’t wait to see more of this.

Return of the Comeback

As smarky as I can get, I won’t deny that I popped like mad for the return of the Brothers of Destruction. You have to hand it to Taker for maintaining the lean look he’s had since the buildup to SummerSlam this year and we don’t need to worry about Kane, who’s always in good shape. 


You're gonna pay, you're gonna pay.
We also have to give props to Bray Wyatt for selling the fear he felt when he realized that Taker and Kane were slowly making their way to the ring to hand him a beatdown from Death Valley. My only issue is that when Luke Harper, Erick Rowan, and Braun Strowman finally appeared, the Wyatts didn’t attack as an entire group. Instead, Harper and Rowan initially attacked and got dispatched by the Brothers of Destruction, and it was only then that Bray sent Strowman in to attack Taker and Kane. That could be explained, however, with arrogance on the part of Bray Wyatt, since he could have felt that Harper and Rowan could have sufficed, only to realize that he’d need to send the Black Sheep in anyway.



It still remains to be seen who could possibly join Team Undertaker/Kane at Survivor Series. Hell, we don’t even know if we’re getting a traditional elimination tag match since we already had two last week! But let’s assume we still are, since the PPV is still called Survivor Series, after all. I can’t help but salivate over the possibility that NXT Champion Finn Balor could be a candidate for Team Undertaker! Finn could certainly use the rub from Taker and Kane, plus imagine how awesome it would be for the Demon to make his epic entrance to join the Brothers of Destruction! As for the fourth man, I really have no idea at this point because it can literally be anyone. Hell, it can be the Bunny, for all we know. 

*****

It’s nice to see RAW pick itself up after a dismal showing last week. Having a tournament means most of the matches on the card have an impact on the overall storyline, which means that everyone’s fates are somewhat connected to each other right now, and that’s always a good thing because it’s simple storytelling that makes sense. There are still some logical loopholes here and there, particularly with the inclusion of certain superstars in the tournament, but that’s forgivable because of the glaring need for a new WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Man, I miss Seth Rollins already. This week’s episode gets a shiny A-.

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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