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The Smark Henry RAW Report (1/25/16): You and Me Got a Whole Lot of History




This week’s RAW felt a lot like Old School RAW, the special episodes that RAW would air as if it were 1993 all over again, complete with special appearances by former wrestlers from the old days. In some cases, certain talent from the current roster like Mark Henry would come out to their old entrance themes and videos just for funnies. In many ways, this week’s RAW was a throwback to the past minus all the shenanigans.

One of the featured matches of the night was Chris Jericho vs. AJ Styles. Who would have thought that we would see this match on RAW in 2016? The show also started with a 20-minute Authority segment with Triple H as the WWE World Heavyweight Champion. And then you had the Rock coming out to do his schtick by making creepy jokes towards Lana, and dropping weed and penis jokes on live TV. You also got the return of Tourette’s Syndrome Goldust, who asked R-Truth to be his partner, with the latter assuming that Goldust was asking for a homosexual relationship.

The rash of injuries that has depleted much of WWE’s upper midcard and main event scene has created a void, which ideally should be an opportunity for the company to create more stars. They haven’t made the most out of this with regard to Roman Reigns, and it’s a damn shame they haven’t. Outside of Reigns, Dean Ambrose, Kalisto, and maybe Kevin Owens, nobody else has been really built up to compensate for the star power lost to the injured list. Instead, WWE’s been looking towards the waiver wire and picking up free agents like Styles and presumably, Shinsuke Nakamura, Karl Anderson, and Doc Gallows. It’s either that, or the focus has shifted to relying on old dependables like Triple H, Jericho, and in this week’s case, the Rock.

You’d think that with the absence of guys like John Cena, Seth Rollins, Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton, Cesaro, and others that WWE would be (1) alarmed enough to consider changing the way they do things and (2) look to create new stars from the many talents they have waiting in the wings. Even though they did take a step forward with the signing of Styles, they still took a few steps back with the way they built up their active talent. Let’s look at Roman Reigns as a solid example.

The Authority announced at the top of the show that they would review everyone’s performances during the night and then name the participants in the main event of Fastlane, with the winner advancing to WrestleMania Star to battle Triple H for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. The announcers spent all night repeating the implications of every matchup from Jericho vs. Styles to Kalisto vs. The Miz. And then in the end, Stephanie McMahon just announces that the Fastlane main event is Roman Reigns vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Brock Lesnar.

On one hand, it’s downright mind-boggling that the Authority would give Roman another shot at possibly taking on Triple H after they spent all this time kayfabe holding him down. But then you remember that the Authority are both the kayfabe and real-life promoters of the show, so putting the top babyface in that position is in their best business interests, just because that’s a name people would want to see on top. Consider also the fact that Roman Reigns technically has a rematch clause after having lost the championship, so it makes the Authority’s decision to have Roman still fight for his rematch clause a heel move.

The reason why fans are questioning the logic behind the booking right now is that the Authority didn’t properly set the table for all of this to go down as it should. They should have explicitly said from the get-go that Roman Reigns may have a rematch clause, but because they’re evil bosses, they’re not going to give it to him and that he should fight for it instead. And because they’re evil bosses, he’ll have to face his blood brother and the most badass living being on the WWE roster for a shot at redemption against Triple H.

It’s that simple, really. They didn’t have to tease the announcement by saying that every superstar on the roster had a chance to be in the main event of Fastlane. Sure, it gave the other matches some semblance of importance, but would you really have expected the winner of Kalisto vs. The Miz to be in consideration for the Fastlane main event? No? Exactly.

Had the Authority focused on denying Roman’s rightful rematch clause from the very start, it would have made fans more sympathetic towards Reigns. And that’s something he needs right now, considering the events of the Royal Rumble, in which he wasn’t booked as strongly as it should have been. This is the time for WWE to go all-in on Roman Reigns as their top babyface, and it’s a damn shame that they’re dropping the ball like Blake Griffin dropped the Clippers’ equipment manager.

We’re getting a great main event for Fastlane, and make no mistake about it, Roman Reigns vs. Triple H for the WWE World Heavyweight Champion is pretty much set in stone for WrestleMania Star. But the WWE has trapped themselves in a corner once again, and the onus is on them to book Roman’s redemption arc properly so we can get an honest-to-goodness awesome WrestleMania moment come April.


Quick Hitters


  • Jericho vs. Styles was a great RAW debut for the Phenomenal One, and it was great to finally see him “where [he] should have been all along,” as he said in his backstage interview with Renee Young. Jericho calling AJ “kid” was ridiculously funny, since AJ’s 38 (the same age as John Cena), but a smarter eye would see that as a solid heel move. AJ teasing the Styles Clash a second consecutive night was pretty sweet, since it assured fans that when he finally does hit it on WWE TV, the pop would be tremendous. Spoiler alert, though: he hits it this week on SmackDown.




  • It’s great that the New Day are getting the chance to work the mic against guys like Jericho and the Rock. Even though the latter two guys are odd throwbacks to a less politically correct era, seeing the New Day get this rub from these legends means that they’re rightfully not getting lost in the shuffle of all these big names coming in or coming back. Watching the New Day face off against the Usos is getting really old, though, so it might be time to pull the trigger on a New Day face turn.


  • I love the Social Outcasts, but not even they could have saved that stupid rap battle segment with Flo Rida. I get why they had to shill him and My House, since that’s the official theme song of WrestleMania Star, but a rap battle? Seriously? Flo Rida isn’t that type of rapper, and that segment just made him look like a jabroni. They should have just let him get physical with Heath. It would be believable since Flo Rida’s so jacked in the first place. 


  • Leave it to Kalisto to get a great match out of the Miz. I appreciate Kalisto’s arc, and I love how he’s being slowly built up in the midcard. As I said last week, he’s one of the few guys who’s actually benefited from these injuries. As for Ziggler and Owens—who had a solid TV match themselves—I feel like these two guys might start running in place unless we get solid storylines for them heading into Fastlane. If KO is supposed to feud with AJ Styles or Sami Zayn after what happened at the Rumble, then why aren’t we planting the seeds yet? Fans are chomping at the bit for these matchups.


  • We got Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch on RAW for the third time since they got called up, and this time, both women are part of a larger arc surrounding the Divas Championship. Sasha wasn’t the only who got a birthday gift here, guys. I’m thankful for this.


  • I like Serious Human Goldust way more than Creepy Tourette’s Goldust, but I’m willing to give the latter a try if it means more comedic gold while he’s with R-Truth. Truth has been consistently pulling off the comedy role ever since Santino left, and I love Goldust, so if it means more Goldust on my TV, then I’m in. Where’s Stardust going now, though?




*****

We’re about a month away from Fastlane and WWE can still write themselves out of this hole. They just have to make sure that they address the situation regarding Roman Reigns, by justifying their actions as a proper heel move of denying him his rematch clause instead of making it look like they’re throwing him a bone because there has to be a babyface contender.

As for the rest of the card, it’s all about making sure that they have decently written stories heading into the February PPV. They managed to make it work for all the singles championships in time for the Rumble. Sure, injuries change a lot of the plans for stories. But while the injury bug hasn’t claimed a new victim, they should start laying the foundation for the WrestleMania stories. After all, big payoff shouldn’t just be reserved for the main event.

As a whole, I’m giving this week’s RAW a B-. We got a treat out of Jericho vs. Styles, Kalisto vs. the Miz, and Ziggler vs. Owens. The Authority’s shenanigans were a bit of a downer, as were the Flo Rida segments and the mema nature of Team Bella vs. Nattie and Paige. We got some big moments as the fallout from the Royal Rumble, but as always, this episode was short on the little things that actually matter.

Photos from WWE.

*****


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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