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The Smark Henry RAW Report (1/11/16): One Versus All


I’m trying my hardest to believe that Vince McMahon is an evil genius of a boss.

I really am.

In theory, it shouldn’t be hard, especially given everything he’s done to build WWE into the global superpower it is today. The evil part isn’t difficult to conceive either thanks to all the Vince horror stories that have been shared about him by a multitude of sources of the years.

And yet, watching him reprise his role from the Attitude Era feels so weird when it should feel so familiar, even for those of us who weren’t able to watch wrestling during that time.

As a kid, when you watched Vince McMahon terrorize Stone Cold Steve Austin, all you could think was that the old white man was a meanie and the bald beer drinker was going to kick his butt one day. As an adult, watching McMahon stack the deck against Roman Reigns gets you excited for the good ol’ days of wrestling, and then you start to think about the things McMahon isn’t doing properly as the evil boss.

As thinking wrestling fans, it becomes harder and harder to enjoy wrestling as it is, which is why the moments when we lose our fandom are so valuable to us because we let ourselves take the smark glasses off and get caught up in the moment.

Heading into Alberto Del Rio’s U.S. title defense against Kalisto, the smark in me believed that Kalisto had little to no chance (in hell) of beating Del Rio. But as the match went on, both men were able to tell the classic David vs. Goliath story, which painted Kalisto as the feisty, never-say-die underdog and Alberto as the arrogant and complacent villain. Seeing El Patron mechanically and systematically work on Kalisto made me think that this was just going to be another win under his belt.

And then Kalisto pulled off the upset win. Again. For the U.S. Championship.

The moment was so sweet and it was one where purely marking out was the only appropriate reaction.

“Holy shit! He actually did it!”

Arms were raised, mouths left agape. I allowed myself to get caught up into the story, which is why the result took a while to actually sink in. After all, there were no rumors about Del Rio dropping the title soon. Kalisto was said to have just been a stopgap opponent for Del Rio over the U.S. Championship now that Cena’s on the injured list. He wasn’t supposed to actually win the title.

But he did.



And it caught us all by surprise, but I’m not complaining because everyone played their roles well. The story took me back to when I first started watching wrestling and Shelton Benjamin would get upset singles victories over Triple H. I felt the exact same way watching Kalisto win the title from Del Rio—that of pure elation in seeing the hero win and the villain fall.

I am not feeling this way with Roman Reigns vs. the Authority right now.

Perhaps the biggest problem with the Authority right now is that for all of the things they try to do to give Roman Reigns a hard time, they overstock on the pomp and circumstance at the expense of the little things. This was most evident during the One Versus All main event featuring Roman Reigns and the entire heel half of the locker room. One by one, the heels entered the arena: Sheamus, Alberto Del Rio, Kevin Owens, the New Day, the Wyatt Family, Stardust, the Ascension, and Tyler Breeze.

Thirteen versus one, those odds are stacked as fuck. And yet, Vince McMahon sicks Kevin Owens on Roman Reigns, with the idea that Roman will keep wrestling—win or lose—against all of these guys one by one until his body can no longer take it. The idea is fine, in principle, except thinking viewers will have considered that the match started at the last quarter of RAW's final hour, which meant that the main event wasn’t going to go longer than twenty minutes at best. That means that while KO tries to soften Roman up, the rest of the heels will have just spent the match standing on the outside and waiting for their turn to take some bump.


We needed more of this.
And that’s exactly what happened. One by one, the heels began to interfere in the match, only for Roman to take them out himself until he got outnumbered again. Once Roman was overpowered by the heels, out came Brock Lesnar, who teased an alliance with the New Day—who must have forgotten that Brock destroyed all three of them in Tokyo just half a year ago—but ended up laying waste to all of them in the ring. And when Roman was left on his own, Brock picked him up on his shoulders and delivered an F5 to send the message that he was coming for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.


Roman Reigns! I'm comin' for you, brother!
Don’t get me wrong. That was an impactful finish. But it didn’t make the best sense in the world. If I were Vincent Kennedy McMahon, I’d have put all thirteen heels in a handicap tag team match right then and there. Don’t run Roman through the gauntlet. Have all these bad guys beat him up all at the same time. Make it a handicap tornado tag team match to stack the deck even more against Roman! Don’t just let the heels look like chuwariwaps on the side, because that’s exactly how they appeared in the main event. Way to shit on their credibility.

The worst part was that the Wyatt Family—who had a blood feud with Roman Reigns through the middle of 2015—were just there. They were just wallflowers who didn’t leave their mark on this match. Despite the characters’ history with each other—and Bray teasing an extension of his feud with Roman in the opening segment by uttering “Anyone but you, Roman”—the Wyatts couldn’t be bothered with fucking with Reigns one more time?


Don't mind us. We're just standing here.
I get that the bigger picture is to establish how difficult it must be to be Roman Reigns right now. The guy has to defend his championship against 29 other men in the Royal Rumble match, which is no easy feat. But when you put him in a gauntlet-style match, where he just has to deal with one baddie at a time, and you allow him to make a Superman-like comeback at some point, it’ll be easy for fans to lose interest in the storyline because our intelligence feels insulted. As much as I don’t want to go back to my old complaints from last year, it becomes so hard to avoid when you book a story and conveniently forget how to book your bit players. This is one of those times when everyone down to the bit parts actually matters, so they have to be written properly or else the entire segment loses its meaning. In the end, the One Versus All match was just one giant clusterfuck written to usher Brock Lesnar back into canon.


Quick Hitters


  • I already touched on it above, but I just have to say that Match of the Night belongs to Alberto Del Rio versus Kalisto over the United States Championship. These guys told a great story and added to it with impressive counters and solid wrestling. It was so nice; I watched it twice!



  • I didn’t like the idea of having Brock Lesnar come back at WrestleMania to challenge whoever wins the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at the Royal Rumble. It just seemed off that you have a situation like this in which the title is ripe for the picking for anyone and Brock wouldn’t want to get involved. Why save it for WrestleMania? Yeah, I get that he’s a prizefighter, too, but wouldn’t the Beast thrive in a match where everybody is fair game and only the strong truly survive? Sure, the Rumble is an equalizer for main eventers and jabronis alike because once you go over the top rope and hit the floor, you’re out regardless of who you are. But that’s an environment Lesnar would have succeeded in and has succeeded in in the past. I’m just glad they officially wrote the Beast into the Royal Rumble through the events of the closing segment.

  • Another week, another Kevin Owens-Dean Ambrose run-in. Our SmackDown reviewer Ricky Publico thinks that Owens-Ambrose is the hottest feud in the WWE right now. I could agree with that, except the post-match ringside attacks are getting repetitive. Owens and Ambrose are getting a little mic time backstage, but they need more than that to get us to buy into the story. They actually need to tell us a story beyond two guys who just flat out hate each other. The problem with this feud right now is that it’s got little substance, and that’s what’s ultimately derailing its momentum. 




  • Speaking of post-match attacks, how about Stardust viciously taking Titus O’Neil out after the latter’s victory on RAW? The Stardust-Titus matchups are repetitive, too, and I was pretty upset that they had another meaningless match on RAW, but the one good thing is that Stardust finally snapped and went at Titus like a seriously savage heel should. I hope they finally turn this into a meaningful story and get Darren Young involved, after all, he’s still employed with the WWE. We did see him on the stage with the rest of the locker room in the opening segment.


  • Becky Lynch was as fiery as she’s ever been this week, and it was enough to get the New Orleans crowd to pop hard for her and chant her name! I’m glad that Becky’s getting over like this because we finally have someone who can properly play the role of sympathetic babyface in the Divas division. Charlotte failed at it, although she is excelling as a heel right now. And everybody else has fallen flat when they attempted to do it. You also have to give props to Ric Flair for being the perfect heel manager who accentuates everything you’ll want to hate about Charlotte as a legacy. Having Naitch throw the match out himself because his daughter wasn’t 100% was golden. 

  • Unfortunately, while all this was happening, Sasha Banks was just being active on Tumblr all night. Can someone please explain why this woman isn’t being used on TV right now?

  • Sting is the first inductee of the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2016. He is also a Hall of Famer in TNA. That makes him the only inductee of both Hall of Fames, which doesn’t say a lot because #LOLTNA.

  • Fuck you, Ryback, for ruining what would have been the start of a good program between the Wyatt Family and the Social Outcasts. Imagine that: Bray Wyatt and Bo Dallas, real-life brothers on opposing stables. And then you had to come right out and fuck it up. And you have the gall to celebrate afterward with the Social Outcasts… as babyfaces?! You used to eat all these guys up with a Shell Shocked (and then some). This bullshit does not make sense.

WHY.

  • While we have all these stables like the Wyatts, the Social Outcasts, and the League of Nations, everybody conveniently forgets that they also qualify as tag teams (and that the Dudley Boyz are also still in the picture). I don’t get why the Usos are the only ones feuding with the New Day and challenging for the Tag Team Championships. We know they’re the John Cena equivalents of the tag division, but you can at least make them earn their #1 Contender status against the other teams instead of making them stale #1 Contenders who beat the champs in a non-title match. 

  • That trombone had a family, Jericho! Francesca had a family!



*****


It’s amazing how we’re two weeks away from the Royal Rumble and Creative has found a way to make a mess out of the stories again. It’s a jarring reminder that you can have a solid 2-3 week run of decent RAW episodes, only to return to much of the crap we’ve gotten used to over the last decade. This doesn’t set the bar very high for the go-home show next week, which is probably a good thing because that’ll mean we won’t be too disappointed by then. Overall, this gets a C.

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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