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The Smark Henry RAW Report (1/4/16): It's a New Year, Yes It Is!


This year’s Royal Rumble might just be the most interesting one from this decade.

At the end of RAW, Vince McMahon announced that Roman Reigns will be defending his WWE World Heavyweight Championship against 29 other Superstars in the 2016 Royal Rumble. Let that sink in for a moment.



Has it sunk in, Roman?! Has it?!
The WWE Championship has not been defended in the Rumble since 1992, and in the time since, nobody has really given serious thought to the idea that it could happen again. After all, giving the Royal Rumble winner the #1 contendership at WrestleMania has become a tradition over the years that it’s become borderline sacrilegious to even think of bucking the trend.

But consider this. The best moments in wrestling come when fans don’t see it coming. And one of the best ways to take advantage of the element of surprise is to turn the rules on its heads.

WWE successfully did this just last March when they had Seth Rollins cash in his Money in the Bank contract during the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match between Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns. Up until that point, nobody knew that cashing in mid-match was actually possible, let alone feasible. We had gotten so used to seeing a cash-in happen right after a match that we’ve already been conditioned to expect it at the end of every pay-per-view.

In the same way, we’ve already been so used to expecting the Royal Rumble as a christening of whoever the main protagonist of this year’s WrestleMania is going to be. As each new calendar year begins, we start churning out our shortlists of who the early favorites to win the Rumble are. And then there’s the oddsmaking and the list of possible surprise entrants. WWE changed all that by dropping the bombshell that the Rumble won’t be for the #1 contendership, but for the championship itself.




What this does is cement Roman Reigns as the lead protagonist of the Road to WrestleMania 2016, which is fine because we’ve all come to terms with it. If Roman wins, then this further adds to his legend as the babyface who overcame the odds and beat Vince McMahon at his game. If Roman loses, the loss doesn’t hurt his credibility at all, especially if he puts up a valiant effort in defeat. As an added bonus, having Roman potentially drop the title to whoever through the Rumble is a great way of transitioning to a different champion without making Roman look weak.

Pretty much the only way Roman comes out looking like a jabroni is if he loses the title after coming out as one of the last five men to enter the Rumble. This is why Roman absolutely has to come out first. There’s no other way to do this and make it as compelling as possible. Vince is already reviving his role as the evil boss from the Attitude Era, so he might as well just go all out and commit to it fully by stacking the deck against Reigns in the most dastardly way possible.

I’m excited for this year’s Royal Rumble, and I can’t wait to see who else declares their entry into it, as well as who the surprise entrants are going to be. If WWE plays their cards right—and with a win-win scenario like this, it’ll be extremely difficult to fuck this up—we could have one of the best Royal Rumbles in history. If there was ever a time to come out of your abstention from watching WWE programming, it is now, just to see how this all plays out. Happy New Year, WWE Universe.


Bexcellence in Bexecution

Lost amidst all the news about the supposed New Japan exodus and the Royal Rumble news was the fact that Charlotte finally turned heel on the main roster this week. Becky Lynch got an upset victory over the Divas Champion despite the dirty tactics from both Charlotte and Ric Flair. As Becky was celebrating her win, Charlotte would blindside and attack her now-former friend.


We're not sure if Becky bexpected this.
Looking back, I’m very pleased with how this storyline worked out. It started organically and used nuances like Ric Flair’s penchant for dirty tactics, how he would pass them on to Charlotte, and Becky’s preference for the straight-and-narrow. Having the other players like Team B.A.D. fit in as supporting characters while tension built up between Charlotte and Becky Lynch was also a nice touch because it added to the idea that Team PCB (or CB, for that matter) was no more.

Becky Lynch has done a great job of being such an endearing babyface, and it shouldn’t be difficult for everyone to really get behind her during this feud. Plus, Charlotte has shown that she can really play the bitchy heel role well, and having her go off and beating Becky down after losing was a step in the right direction. 



Welcome to the family business, Charlotte.
The best part of it all was seeing Becky finally win one against Charlotte this week. I found myself marking out as it happened and had to actively stop myself from flooding my Twitter feed with heart emojis to celebrate Becky Lynch’s win. It’s nice to know that Creative is finally learning how to properly book the Divas and their characters.


Quick Hitters

  • Lost in the shuffle of all the things that happened this week was the fact that John Cena was nowhere to be found on RAW. He’s most likely selling the attack from the League of Nations, but the problem is that without Cena or any mention of what happened to him last week, the League of Nations—particularly Alberto Del Rio—looked lost in limbo this week. Sure, he and Rusev had a tag match against the Usos, but I’d rather see ADR continue his feud with Cena and then have Rusev and Barrett—who is still sidelined by injury—challenge for the Tag Team Championships.

  • I’m not surprised that Kevin Owens is once again in a multi-person feud. His character is so abrasive that he was bound to piss multiple people off simultaneously at some point. That’s simple and realistic booking right there. I’m all for having Neville figure in Ambrose and Owens’s feud as a third party, and I’d love to see a triple threat match for the Intercontinental Championship between him, Owens, and Dean Ambrose. 

  • The Social Outcasts have my attention, if only for the fact that this is another ragtag group of jobbers led by Heath Slater. At best, this group could have the endearing popularity of 3MB, and at worst, they could all be fired by this time next year. So yeah, no pressure. On the real, though, I want to see these guys in the Royal Rumble, if only to see how they’d fare as bit players from the lower card in a larger story that has ramifications from top to bottom.



  • Chris Jericho’s return was quite a surprise, though not as big of a deal as Vince’s announcement, mostly because Jericho returns so often now that the shock factor in his appearances has become diluted. I do love the way he dressed down the New Day. To quote our resident PWR and Lucha Underground reviewer Anthony Cuello, “Jericho vs. The New Day on the mic is one thing we didn’t know we needed until it happened.” 


  • Y2J’s return should have come next week, though, as it would have made a bigger impact after we all found out that the Rumble was for the title. It would have sent the message that this Rumble is so huge, everyone wants a piece of it now more than ever.

  • I have no idea what they’re planning for Titus O’Neil and Stardust. These two guys are just running in place, trading wins on RAW, SmackDown, and Main Event, with no real logical progression in their stories. I’ve checked out of this already.


*****

I’ve always said that RAW is much better when there’s a larger storyline that hangs over the entire roster because it makes everyone’s moves and decisions have an impact on the bigger picture. As a result, I foresee RAW getting a bit better in the coming weeks because the Rumble and its championship implications will have everyone focusing on one target: Roman Reigns and the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, and that’s a simple yet effective way to tell the bigger story.

That being said, this week’s RAW set the foundation for what should be an exciting buildup to the Royal Rumble. Add to that the new faction in the Social Outcasts, the wonderfully executed Charlotte heel turn, and the solid feud over the IC title, and you have an A-OK episode of RAW. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I actually missed John Cena this week. As a whole, this week gets an 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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