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The Smark Henry RAW Report (2/22/16): Here Comes the Money!




Leave it to WWE to come up with an out-of-the-box plan to try to get back to our good graces after the debacle of a finish to last night’s Fastlane main event.

Shane McMahon came back like the prodigal son that he was and he received an ovation that I’m sure made him want to soak in it for an extra second before he got to work. Shane came back with the goal of taking control of RAW as a way of saving it from Vince, Stephanie, and Triple H’s mismanagement that has led to poor ratings, a stock drop, and multiple injuries across the roster. Say what you want about Vince McMahon’s stubbornness, but the man knows how to give his on-screen enemies the best ammo to use against himself.

I love how easily they explained Shane’s return. He revealed that over the years, Vince has made bad decision after bad decision, requiring his son to bail him out, and that father and son made a deal in which Shane could come back and take his rightful place any time he so wished. Shane-O-Mac was such a natural babyface, just using his body language, timing, and delivery to counter Stephanie’s petulance and Vince’s obstinacy.



On a tangent note, it was brilliant how Creative swerved us all by having Stephanie become the recipient of the Vincent J. McMahon Legacy of Excellence Award. Selfishly, I’m glad that our editor-in-chief’s prediction of Daniel Bryan being the recipient was wrong because that still leaves a Hall of Fame induction as a legit possibility. Plus, as a fan, it was such a masturbatory move for Vince to award his daughter with a Legacy of Excellence Award. Great heel work right there.

Going back, Vince allows Shane to take control of RAW, but to do that, he must go ONE ON ONE WIT DA UNDATAKAH—somebody get Teddy Long—at WrestleMania Star inside Hell in a Cell… and win. If he loses, then he’ll be future endeavored. Well, if that wasn’t a holy shit moment, I don’t know what is. This is one crazy car wreck waiting to happen featuring a dude in his 50s who wrestles once a year and a dude in his 40s whose hair is grayer than his 70-year-old father.

While WWE deserves major points for surprising the fuck out of us with this story, I feel like they’re going to be relying too much on the novelty of Shane being back for the first time in years, along with the Undertaker’s star power, to make WrestleMania Star something to look forward to. I’m not saying that it isn’t, but when you have fans already revolting against the main event between Roman Reigns and Triple H, you know they’re not overly excited for April 3rd.


Shane McMahon has aged much like Matt LeBlanc has.

On its own, the storyline is just wonderful because there are many layers that come into play, with the most obvious one being that the McMahon Family is once again divided, and that Shane has become the face of this rebellion. And then there’s the possibility of Shane’s return possibly leading to a brand split because he only specifically asked for control of RAW, and not WWE.

And then there’s the Undertaker, who hasn’t aligned himself with Vince McMahon since the Corporate Ministry days. In fact, Taker has pretty much existed in a vacuum throughout WWE’s stories since he stopped being a full-time wrestler in 2010. And even before that, since he returned at WrestleMania XX as the hybrid character of all his previous gimmicks, he was never one to join a war between groups or factions and pick a side. How are we even sure that Taker is going to do Vince’s bidding? What if he doesn’t want to face Shane?

Okay, that last question is silly because ‘Mania is Taker’s PPV, but what can Vince possibly hang over Taker’s head to force him into beating Shane McMahon bloody lifeless inside Hell in a Cell at the Show of Shows? That’s the missing element right now, which should be addressed immediately as we move closer to April 3. After all, we know and understand what Shane is fighting for. But what is Taker fighting for? What does the Deadman have to lose?

One thing is for sure: both younger and older fans are losing their collective shit over the return of the prodigal son, and with that, Shane McMahon just gave us one hell of a reason to care about WrestleMania Star.


*****

When Daniel Bryan was nowhere to be found in the 2014 Royal Rumble Match, the WWE Universe took a giant crap on Batista and his victory, forcing the WWE to turn Big Dave heel and to give Bryan the push that we wanted for him. Years later, we look back fondly on those moments as the time when our united voices forced the WWE to listen to us and change the product. That was a fan rebellion that worked and is looked at in a good light.



We established more than a year ago that Roman Reigns is the antithesis of Daniel Bryan. And while Reigns has worked his ass off over the last year to improve as a wrestler, there’s still something insincere about his character that makes it hard for him to get over like a main eventer should. What’s worse is Reigns has become Vince’s pet project: John Cena 2.0. And Vince’s insistence on turning Reigns into the next-generation Cena has resulted in Cena-esque reactions, except the boos are much louder than they are for Cena, even in his most Cena-like state.

You know there’s something wrong when the evil authoritarian boss comes out and interrupts a match to assault his weakened foil, busts him open, and yet the crowd cheers for him and chants his name. On one hand, you can say that this is the fans’ way of rebelling, of telling the WWE, “we reject your choice of who should be the top guy because we don’t like him.” But at what point are we supposed to stop and ask ourselves if we’re going too far? After all—regardless of whether or not it was legit—a man bled because of the shots Triple H took to satisfy our bloodlust.



My answer is that for as long as the hate isn’t directed at Joe Anoa’i, the real human being behind the Roman Reigns character, then the fans can boo him as much as they want. I myself hate Reigns, but I wouldn’t want Joe Anoa’i to be legit injured or to lose his job. More importantly, the Roman Reigns character is the object of hatred that is ultimately directed at Vince McMahon and his stubborn booking. To boo Roman is to stick it to Vince and tell him that his booking style needs to change because it just doesn’t work anymore. To boo Roman is to tell Vince that we’re resisting his decisions, no matter how hellbent his is on them. To boo Roman is to force Vince to listen to the fans because isn’t he the guy who claims to listen to his live weekly focus group discussions in the form of live audiences?

I won’t get on my high horse and chastise fans all around the world for booing Roman Reigns because it’s the cool thing to do. At this point, this is the only way for us to truly voice our displeasure with the product. And with everything that WWE has done to ensure that Roman Reigns will be the most poorly received main eventer in WrestleMania history, turning Reigns heel looks like the only thing that can save his character.

*****



Brock Lesnar vs. Dean Ambrose in a No Holds Barred match at WrestleMania is another great reason to care about the show. Win or lose, Ambrose will come out looking like a bigger star because of the rub from Brock.

The bigger question is whether or not WWE will pull the trigger on finally having a young, up-and-coming star get a clean victory over the one in 21-1. Creative knows it can’t fuck that up because they only get one chance to make the most out of the rub that comes from beating the one guy who defeated the Undertaker at WrestleMania. Should Ambrose win against Lesnar at ‘Mania, I daresay that will be a bigger moment overall than Roman Reigns finally defeating Triple H for the title because title reigns are temporary, but beating the guy who ended the Streak cements your legend.




One side note: you have to hand it to Creative for (1) keeping Ambrose consistent as the crazy motherfucker who just does not give a shit and (2) maintaining continuity by establishing Lesnar’s beef with Ambrose as being borne out of Ambrose’s steel chair shots effectively taking Brock out of the Fastlane triple threat match.

And for those of you wondering, yes, Brock Lesnar has pretty much turned heel again.


Quick Hitters




  • Charlotte and Ric Flair are such wonderful heels that I find myself wanting to hurl something at my screen when they’re on. Turning Charlotte heel is the best thing they could do for her character, and having Ric Flair as a manager/heat magnet is just icing on the cake. Baby Flair did a wonderful job this week of sowing tension between Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch, knowing full well that both of them want to face her for the Divas Championship at ‘Mania, but that only one could do so. That is just manipulation at its finest. I hope we get a triple threat, though, because all three girls can definitely blow the roof off Dallas. Belee dat.

  • I’m actually happy that the Dudleyz targeted the Usos and sparked a feud between two legitimate tag teams that doesn’t require the championships to be relevant. There’s a serviceable story about how the Dudleyz want to be seen as more than a nostalgia act, and how the Usos represent the young’ins who only think of the Dudleyz as such. Now if they could find a way to add a layer in the story to make us want to know the Usos as individuals.



  • Ryback looks like he’s headed for a heel turn, too, after he left Kane and the Big Show high and dry against the Wyatts on RAW. Beezy says he doesn’t want to be held down by a team, which is perfectly understandable, except it’s not like he’s done much to be relevant as an individual either. But I’m open to seeing how they write Ryback’s character moving forward. Maybe this is why he started changing his outfit, and that the change planted the seeds of a turn! I just hope he doesn’t end up being a jobber again after a few months.

  • As for the Wyatts, I don’t know how I can take them seriously as a legitimate threat anymore. I just don’t. They don’t win their feuds. They haven’t done anything meaningful. They don’t even go after championships. They’re just… there. 

  • The Godfather is such a lame addition to the Hall of Fame. I’ll admit I was too young to see him in the WWE, but it’s not like he had such a legendary run. In fact, Charles Wright had too many characters that it became hard to just remember him as just the Godfather when he also played Papa Shango and Kama Mustafa. Here’s how meh he is as a HOF inductee: he didn’t even get the video package that the rest of the inductees got over the years. All he got were highlights with the announce team talking over them and JBL happily announcing that he and Ron Simmons were inducting the Godfather. Oh wait, here's his video:


  • AJ Styles and Chris Jericho had such a wonderful story from the Royal Rumble event until Fastlane, that I’m beginning to think that they should have saved that arc for ‘Mania. Then again, I don’t know how they would have done that given the amount of time between AJ’s debut at the Rumble and WrestleMania. Here’s to hoping both of them get meaningful stories again during the Road to WrestleMania.

  • How come the New Day and the League of Nations didn’t even interact on RAW? You’d think that the LoN would fuck with the New Day after the insults that the Tag Team Champions hurled at the League at Fastlane



  • R-Truth shoving that cake on Goldust’s face was just plain rude and mean. All Goldie wants is to be your tag team partner, man! Come on.


*****

What a crazy post-Fastlane episode of RAW. We got a hellacious beatdown on Roman Reigns from Triple H, several key WrestleMania storylines taking definitive steps forward, and the return of Shane McMahon! I’m glad that WWE is already working on these stories as early as now, as opposed to waiting a week or two before WrestleMania weekend to actually book the matches. Long-term planning is always a step in the right direction, except when it’s marred by a close-minded preference for a guy nobody else likes. All that being said, this week’s show gets a very solid 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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