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The Smark Henry RAW Report (12/14/15): Win Or Go Home





“Win or go home.”


These are four words that have implied the utmost gravity in must-win sports situations. These are words that raise the stakes to the highest, words that say so much with so little.

Ever since TNT started using “win or go home” as a tagline for its NBA Playoffs coverage in 2003, it’s been a staple whenever a playoff series reaches the climactic Game 7, where the winner takes all and moves on to the next round or wins the championship altogether. Game 7 is when all the pressure’s on, when the mettle of a hero is tested and legends are created. Game 7 is for all the marbles. Game 7 is a zero-sum game.

You see, a zero-sum game is an economic concept in which both participants in a game gain or lose a proportionate amount depending on whether they win or lose. In a winner-take-all scenario, both teams are playing for the same prize, and should a team lose, their consequences will be no different from the other team if they lost. Game 7 is a zero-sum game.

This week’s RAW main event for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship—as much as JBL hammered the point home—was not a zero-sum game. If Roman Reigns were not able to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, then he would be fired from WWE right then and there. If Sheamus were to lose the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, he will just have lost the title, and that was that. The stakes were not proportionate between both participants.

Instead of getting cute with a fancy economic term, JBL should just have kept it to something as simple as “win or go home,” because the drama was already built in. For a story that didn’t have much of a buildup leading to TLC, the Roman Reigns “one versus all” saga had suddenly escalated to a point where it was easy to get invested in Roman’s fate. And all it took were several steps that made for solid, logical booking.


Let the Authority and the League of Nations screw Roman out of the title again. Check.


Let Roman snap and take his frustration and anger out on his boss, Triple H. Check.

Let Stephanie McMahon come out, verbally abuse Roman, slap him, and tell him that Vince McMahon himself would deal with him later in the night. Check.

Let Vince McMahon order Roman to beg for forgiveness, and then issue the ultimatum surrounding the title match and punctuate it with a kick to the nuts. Check.
This is one of the few times I ever applauded something Mr. McMahon did.
And that led us to one of the most high-stakes RAW main events in recent memory. We know that WWE’s planning to build around Roman Reigns for the future, so the real question the IWC had on our minds was: is this it? Is WWE really ready to pull the trigger on a Roman Reigns title run tonight?

The f├╝hrer and I mentioned on the SGP Podcast several weeks ago that a Roman Reigns championship victory would be acceptable if he took the long, hard road to get there. Roman would not have been booed the fuck out of Atlanta at Survivor Series if he and Ambrose had the match of their lives in the WWE World Heavyweight Championship Tournament Finals. That’s because Roman’s non-believers—however many of us are still left out there—just want a reason to believe that Roman really is an underdog. He shouldn’t be a manufactured sympathetic figure because a storyteller can’t order you to overtly sympathize with someone. As an audience member, I’ll either sympathize with a character on my own or I won’t.

WWE has finally given us that odyssey that Roman Reigns needed to overcome in order to achieve his goal. And to his credit, Roman Reigns played his role well. He embodied desperation and urgency throughout his match. And when it mattered most, he allowed himself to be the vehicle of catharsis for WWE fans everywhere who have had a problem with Vince McMahon and his petty 70-year-old business. Interestingly, the crowd in Philly—the same city that rained boos upon Roman Reigns and even The Rock after the former’s Royal Rumble win—showered Reigns with “YES!” chants and a torrent of cheers upon winning the title. 



This is also one of the few times I applauded something Roman Reigns did.
That’s because finally, finally, we had a reason to cheer for this guy. His authenticity showed throughout his episode from his portrayal as both a desperate man and a father just trying to be a provider for his family. After all, how can you boo a guy who’s providing for his family?

Now, here’s the question. Was this week the right time to pull the trigger?

Let’s consider the fact that over the last few weeks, the RAW ratings have been plummeting to new depths. And in years past, whenever ratings took a dip, the WWE was quick to put the world title on either John Cena or Randy Orton, in that order. That being said, WWE felt it needed to make a change to give its own ratings a shot in the arm.

That’s why they started with the post-match Roman Reigns meltdown at TLC. That segment actually netted an extra million viewers. Ratings also went up when we saw the aftermath of TLC on RAW, with Stephanie confronting Roman and with Vince McMahon making a return to WWE TV. So on the surface level and in the short term, their plan worked. People wanted to see what the consequences of Roman Reigns’ actions were, and they wanted to see if he would win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship or be fired.

But in the long run, was it the right move?

Look, I’m among the camp that thinks that WWE should have saved the moment for WrestleMania. After all, having the underdog beat the odds and finally win the title at ‘Mania is an instant ‘Mania storyline. We’ve seen it work wonders with Shawn Michaels, Chris Benoit, and Daniel Bryan. The only problem would have been the fact that it was only two years ago when Daniel Bryan was the ultimate underdog who the Authority held down, and this story featuring Roman Reigns as the star would have been such a rehash.

That being said, there were so many ways to work around it so as not to completely rehash the storyline. I’d have been convinced if the plan would have been to just let Roman’s feud with Triple H come to a head at WrestleMania. As the fuhrer suggested to me via Facebook message, Reigns could have settled his feud with Trips while Sheamus (or whoever’s world champion by then) could have just dealt with the Royal Rumble winner. Now, predicting the Rumble winner is much more difficult than it’s ever been since last year, since having Roman Reigns as the babyface world champion opens the door for several challengers—babyface, heel, or in between.

WWE was bound to pull the trigger on a Roman Reigns world title run anyway. There’s no chance in hell that wasn’t going to happen. It was a matter of when, not if. So we might as well get it over with right now and see if Roman Reigns can draw as the man or not. They say that you separate the boys from the men by having them swim with the sharks. Roman’s achieved his goal by overcoming the odds that were placed in front of him. It’s time to see if he’ll sink or swim. Your time is now, Roman Reigns.

Quick Hitters

  • I like that they kept the Charlotte-Becky story simple this week. They didn’t have to make things complicated, and aside from the presence of Team B.A.D.—who now seem like lost bit players in this story—they were able to give the program some room to grow. Becky’s surely going to see that she won with the help of the Flairs’ dirty tactics, and that’ll definitely lead to some dissension between herself and Charlotte. I can’t wait to see this play out. 


That moment when the Devil's actually in your corner.
  • Miz-Neville was another story that took a step in the right direction this week. We finally figured out what Miz wanted from Neville, and again, as shallow as it was, it made sense. Miz is simply taking the “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” approach, while slightly putting Neville down, and the Man That Gravity Forgot is having none of it. I actually want to see what depths Miz would go to just so Neville would teach him how to speak with a British accent.
  • Speaking of Brits, we at the Smark Henry offices are glad King Barrett’s injury wasn’t serious, and we hope he rehabs it to full strength as soon as possible. I miss him on TV already.
  • That Extreme Rules 8-Man Tag Match was insane. You’d have thought that these guys could have used a day off after what they put themselves through at TLC, but they went at it as if they spent their Sunday at church with their families. It was also nice to see Erick Rowan finally get some shine after being the Wyatts’ fall guy over the last two weeks. 
  • I have to admit that I thought the promo from the ECW Originals was cool, until the cutaways to their ECW glory days came on. Without the flashbacks, the promo would have been equal parts campy and cool. With it, it just became pacool.
  • I enjoyed that ride of emotions the New Day put us through this week. They almost had me convinced that they had no agenda other than to show their respect to the Usos and to the Lucha Dragons. And I loved how genuine it sounded, especially from Kofi Kingston. And then to see them just turn it all around and put the spotlight back on themselves, man, it was awesome and they clearly deserved the beatdown they got at the hands of their foes.


Holy handshake, Batman!
  • Here’s what makes The Rosebush work: Adam Rose’s flamboyance as a personality gives him the Butch Francisco vibe that makes it convincing as a tsismis segment. You can see that Ray Leppan is really trying to make this work by giving it his all. I just fear that as entertaining as this segment is, it’s getting much harder to take him seriously as a threat in the ring. At least the Party Pooper gimmick had a mean streak to it. The tsismoso gimmick, not so much. I mean, there is a reason why nobody takes @ricochismoso seriously.

*****

This week’s RAW had the right balance of big moments and logical steps forward in storytelling, and that’s more of what we should be seeing every week. Who knew that a Vince McMahon appearance would make this happen? Seriously, though, I just hope WWE didn’t waste what could have been a solid WrestleMania moment by pulling the trigger on Roman Reigns now. I’m cautiously optimistic about this, but I’m not a believer just yet. I want to see him sink or swim.

As for the episode, it gets an A. But what did you think about it? Sound off in the comments section below!


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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