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The Smark Henry RAW Report (2/15/16): Only the Strong Survive



One of my most frequent gripes about RAW is how the same people (Read: The Authority and Roman Reigns) are in the opening and closing segments all the time. That’s why it’s always refreshing when a different story opens and/or closes the show. The caveat there, though, is that the story closing the show has to be important enough because the ending always represents a cliffhanger for either the next week’s episode or the upcoming PPV.

The Wyatt Family closed out RAW this week, in what was a rather puzzling move given that they haven’t really built a lot of momentum outside of what the WWE has been forcefeeding us through their destruction of behemoths like Ryback, Kane, and the Big Show. The announcers hyped a Big Show vs. Braun Strowman match at the start of the show, but didn’t make it seem like a big deal until the main event came and it was actually Show vs. Strowman. So that in itself was odd, and then the match itself was nothing more but an excuse to have Ryback and a returning Kane run in to make the save on behalf of Big Show.

Kane and Big Show have been tagging together about as many times as Big Show has switched alignments, so to see these two titans standing side-by-side with Ryback didn’t have the gravitas it did when I first saw the pairing myself in 2005. What’s worse is that it’s pretty obvious that Kane, Show, and Ryback are just stopgap rivals for the Wyatts until they can focus on Brock Lesnar again after Fastlane—which also all but guarantees that Lesnar will not be Triple H’s opponent at WrestleMania Star. There really isn’t much of a story outside of “we’re the Wyatt Family and we want to crush you big guys because we’re bigger and stronger. Rawr!”

All of this means to point out that WWE missed the mark on choosing a different story to close out RAW. They could have used the AJ-Jericho-Miz feud to close the show, if they wanted to. Or Brie Bella’s interview, which turned into a confrontation with Charlotte over Daniel Bryan, who has suddenly become the central character in the Divas Championship storyline despite being officially retired. Or they could have just stuck with the Roman-Brock-Dean feud, which just got way more interesting thanks to one Paul Heyman.




For months dating back to Survivor Series, WWE has been teasing some sort of tension between Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns, and yet this is the first time we’re actually seeing the possibility of one turning on the other when the stakes get high. Heyman did a great job of smartening Roman up to the fact his situation heading into Fastlane is lifted straight off an Erap speech: walang kaibigan, walang kumpare, walang kamag-anak.

And while Roman did his best to keep playing his role as the idealistic and altruistic babyface, the Los Angeles crowd couldn’t get behind that all, which actually made it even more interesting because Reigns looked like a character in denial through all of it. That sense of altruism and denial, is what could eventually lead to Reigns’ downfall this Sunday, unless Creative puts it all together and gives us the heel Roman Reigns we’ve been waiting to get behind. Otherwise, I have no problems with Dean Ambrose finally turning on Roman Reigns as he teased this week. It’s about time one of them pulled that sort of stunt, and Dean was the right character to do so. Nothing personal, right?

Besides, Ambrose is supposed to be one angry motherfucker after he lost the Intercontinental Championship on a night he didn’t even expect to defend it. I think the Fatal-5 Way match was a great way to blindside Ambrose, and having Kevin Owens—a man who has history with Deano, and with the guy challenging him for the title he just won, Dolph Ziggler—win the championship was a savvy move. 




More importantly, taking the title off Ambrose opens up the possibility of having him actually win the Fastlane main event. Ironically, it was the Intercontinental Championship that held Dean back in the eyes of fantasy bookers as the eventual #1 Contender to Triple H’s WWE World Heavyweight Championship because both belts have to be defended, right? Now that Dean is without a championship, he could very well be the plucky underdog who challenges Trips for the top prize at WrestleMania without any baggage whatsoever. I could buy into that.

One last note on Heyman: Michael Cole did well to remind the audience about Heyman’s ECW connection with the Dudley Boyz, who immediately attacked Roman Reigns from behind after Paul E. left the ring. It opened up the possibility of Heyman orchestrating the attack since Lesnar wasn’t in L.A., while also keeping the Dudleyz relevant in the upper midcard as heels. 


The Road to WrestleMania is finally getting some steam, and several matches should be more or less confirmed by the end of this Sunday’s pay-per-view. Let’s hope that the momentum trends upwards as we get closer to Dallas, as opposed to last year where the buildup to WrestleMania Play Button fell flatter than Arwind Santos’ vocal chops.


Quick Hitters


  • We got three Divas segments on RAW this week, which didn’t feel forced at all. I’m glad we live in a world where this can happen and not seem all that weird, well, except for Paige vs. Summer Rae, but that’s more because these two Divas don’t really have a story other than whatever they plan to do with this match on Total Divas.


  • How sad is it that the only thing the Divas Championship storyline needed to have some teeth is to have Charlotte mock Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella’s personal lives? WWE is definitely trying to get Brie over via osmosis from Daniel Bryan, but if you take Bryan away from this story, then there is no story. There’s something very wrong with that.


  • I don’t get why Sasha had to step over Becky Lynch while the latter laid on the mat after getting beaten up by Naomi and Tamina. I get that Sasha’s supposed to be the tweener, but she could have at least shown a bit of compassion while maintaining some competitive tension between her tag team partner.



  • Leave it to AJ Styles to get another good match out of the Miz. Sure, Miz is a tertiary participant in this storyline between Jericho and Styles, but Mizanin has done his job well in making this feud relevant as the guy who literally gets between AJ and Y2J. I can’t wait for the rubber match at Fastlane.



  • Alberto Del Rio has turned into such a delusional heel, that it’s becoming more and more fun to root against him. He’s trying to convince himself that Kalisto’s three wins against him were flukes, so he challenged the U.S. Champion to a Two out of Three Falls match at Fastlane as their rubber match. Not a bad way to go at all, if you ask me. Expect sparks to fly once again on Sunday over the U.S. title. I’m in!


  • Mark Henry might have gotten legitimately injured out there from Big E’s splashes. Seeing Big E not even follow through with the Big Ending already raised a red flag. The way the match ended and Big E’s looks of concern towards Mizark immediately after the match could very well have confirmed my fears. We hope that wasn’t too serious, big man.


*****

By the end of RAW, I had to ask myself if it was 2005 all over again with Big Show and Kane standing together as a team, the Dudleyz being heels, and Triple H being the World Champion. That aside, WWE did well to build up to the suspense leading into Fastlane with Dean losing the IC title to Kevin Owens, and the U.S. and Divas Championship feuds getting a bit more intense. WWE officials said earlier this year that they didn’t intend for Fastlane to be a throwaway PPV, and it isn’t looking like one with less than a week leading into it. Let’s hope this Sunday’s show lives up to it. As for this week’s RAW, it gets a B.

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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