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The Smark Henry RAW Report (3/14/15): There's The Rub


It’s amazing how WWE has managed to make us care more about both the New Day and Dolph Ziggler—on top of how we’re all already invested in Dean Ambrose—than Roman Reigns after just one episode of RAW.

The New Day’s feud with the League of Nations has been brewing over the last few weeks over both TV and social media, and while I wasn’t thrilled that the Lads didn’t win the penny belts at Roadblock, I’m glad they got another shot at the gold on RAW. Being at full force and using a different combination of Rusev and Alberto Del Rio this time around, I expected them to use the numbers game to their advantage and to give the New Day a taste of their own medicine. Seeing as how the LoN is much more vicious than the goofier New Day, it would have been an easy way to draw sympathy for the unicorns.


What frustrated me was the fact that they had the New Day retain the titles anyway, and via cheating, too. I wanted to see a full New Day face turn, where the League would just bludgeon the New Day and outnumber them so the Lads could walk away as the champions. That would have accomplished two things: (1) make us feel sympathetic towards the New Day and (2) give the League of Nations some much-needed credibility. Instead, the League lost to the New Day again, leading to the post-match beatdown we all saw. The good thing about this is that we’re seeing both teams clash at WrestleMania, and that the tag team titles will most likely be on the line. I’d take that over a multi-team schmozz any day of the week.

As for Dolph Ziggler, the guy floundered around in the midcard week after week in meaningless matches, until Creative decided to reignite his long-running feud with the Authority last week. Through just one simple promo, Dolph managed to get us invested in his status and to pull for him to have his shot at a WrestleMania moment this year. It helped that Steph and Triple H stacked the deck against him by pitting him against Trips with something on the line. I won’t crap on the fact that Dolph had nothing to lose. The fact that he had something to gain, when he’s basically running in place, is enough drama already.



Dolph’s match with Trips was refreshing, if only because you appreciate how Hunter’s able to use his slow, methodical pace to his advantage. I didn’t necessarily expect Dolph to win, but he looked like a star out there next to Triple H, and it would have been nice to see what they would have planned for him had Dolph been booked to win. As it stands, Dolph gains some form of credibility through that match, but he still doesn’t have a WrestleMania match, which sucks since the guy hasn’t had a singles match at ‘Mania throughout his entire career. But for one night, he looked like a true #1 contender out there.

And then there’s Dean Ambrose, who got the rub of the night from none other than Mick Foley himself. I love every Foley appearance because he’s one guy whose presence always adds value to the program. I’m also a huge fan of segments where legends get to interact with young guys because it adds a different dynamic to these backstage vignettes. Foley played his part of grizzled veteran very well, providing insights his younger self may not have realized at the time to a guy who he may see himself in. 


Passing the torch through the barbed wire bat was a very nice touch because it had become symbolic of Foley and ECW and the violence they brought, so it was nice seeing it go to Ambrose, who also has some hardcore pedigree in him from his CZW days. The only negative I see in this is that this might shoehorn Ambrose into the crazy, violent match role in big shows the way Foley was in his day. But that’s just me being paranoid.

This brings us to Roman Reigns, who walks ever so slowly upon entering the arena. This is a guy who was beaten down mercilessly by Triple H. A guy who was taken out of action for two weeks, a guy who received all that punishment to the glee of the audience watching him. You would think that he’d (a) waste no time in laying waste to Triple H or (b) take his anger out on the crowd who delighted in his suffering. 


But no, we got the same gnarly Roman Reigns, with just a little bit of an edge in him. Sure, he returned the favor to Trips, but something about this week’s brawl felt bland and unappetizing. Even when it spilled backstage, it just wasn’t as exciting as I would have hoped, and that’s because Creative wasted two weeks of programming without letting us hear from Roman Reigns. It was so easy to forget about him, especially when the fan sentiment towards him is mixed, at best, so now that he’s back he needed to do something extraordinary to get our attention. 


If Roman had appeared via satellite on one of those two episodes he missed to cut a promo about what he would do to Triple H the next time they’re in the same arena, and then the following week, Roman makes good on his promise, that could have very well scored him some brownie points with the audience. A good babyface tells you what he’s going to do, and actually does it.

On a side note, it was fun seeing Road Dogg and Jamie Noble panic when the brawl made its way backstage, but I didn’t like that all it took to get Roman to stop were the Usos, Jack Swagger, and Mark Henry.

We’re less than three weeks away from WrestleMania, and the pressure is really on WWE to get us invested in Roman Reigns and his story. If they can do it so easily with guys like Dolph Ziggler and the New Day, then why can’t they do it with Roman? Even a heel turn at the Show of Shows would get the job done. The clock is ticking, Creative. Ball’s in your court.



Quick Hitters


  • Props to Chris Jericho for being a true pro and making the right call to ad-lib the finish of his match with Neville after the latter hurt his ankle on a baseball slide. Watching referee Charles Robinson assume that the match would go on as planned was pretty frustrating, but it’s good to know that Lil’ Naitch and Y2J resolved it all backstage after the fact. We hope Neville makes a speedy recovery in time for ‘Mania.


  • So there’s tension between the Undertaker, Vince McMahon, and Shane McMahon. We get that. I also like that Shane pointed out that Taker is being Vince’s bitch for doing the old man’s bidding. But instead of explaining why the Deadman is Vince’s “instrument of destruction,” Taker just goes on the defensive and punks Shane out. What that tells me is nobody in the Creative Team, let alone Vince, knows why Taker is doing what he’s doing. Welp.


  • I’m totally digging Sin Cara’s Black Panther look. It’s been a while since we saw Sin Cara Negro, and it’s funny that the guy underneath the mask is the one who played the original Negro Cara in the first place. The look is sleek and badass. It is something I hope to see more of. 

  • Creative really doesn’t know how to write stories about friendship. First, Cena is a terrible friend for never coming to the aid of his allies. Now Kalisto is being booked the same way. What the fuck, guys. Is that how you fuckers treat your friends?!


  • I found myself sniggering when Michael Cole inadvertently spoiled the ending of the Miz’s match with Sami Zayn by referring to Miz as “the man [Sami]’s beating tonight.”
*****

This week’s RAW was actually entertaining as a whole, and it also served as a good platform to elevate certain characters as WrestleMania gets closer. I honestly feel bad for Roman Reigns that his writers don’t know how to make him a more sympathetic figure. The fact that the next two RAWs will still be in smarky cities won’t make his job any easier. That being said, this week’s RAW had solid action and forwarded some good stories heading into ‘Mania. It 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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