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The Smark Henry RAW Report (4/11/16): Shots Fired



Believe it or not, RAW pulled out another great episode, which is surprising given that the trend they’ve set over the years has been to fall flat after peaking with a Grade-A show. In kayfabe, this is all attributed to Shane McMahon running the show, which made sense last week when Vince allowed it to happen as it amounted to a dick-measuring move.

What boggles me is that they did it again this week, justifying it as WWE giving in to “overwhelming social media support.” Last week was excusable, but this week threw out the entire storyline with the Undertaker and made it look completely useless. There’s obviously a payoff here as Shane continues to fight for control of RAW by proving that he was able to put on two superb shows on his own. But Creative should not have made it this easy for Shane to prove his point as well. Shane lost his match at WrestleMania Star, so he should have had to jump through hoops to even get this close to running RAW.


With that being said, watching RAW this week was an exciting experience, which is something I haven’t said for a while. It’s refreshing not having the show start with the Authority and/or Roman Reigns cutting a promo, and it’s high time WWE realized this, too. For his part, Shane played his role as babyface authority figure very well, standing his ground against Kevin Owens both in the ring and backstage, and not making the show all about himself, even as he got over in the process.

So for this week’s RAW review, let me focus on the three main things we got from Shane McMahon at the helm: the #1 Contender Tag Team Tournament, AJ Styles vs. Sami Zayn, and the uneasy alliance of Roman Reigns and Bray Wyatt (gasp!).


May the Odds Be Ever In Your Favor

I’ve said multiple times on this space that the tag team division on the main roster has become deeper than it’s ever been. Let me say that again right now as you have as many as 13 active tag teams. Thirteen.
  1. 1. The New Day
  2. 2. The Dudley Boyz
  3. 3. The Lucha Dragons
  4. 4. The Usos
  5. 5. The Social Outcasts
  6. 6. Golden Truth
  7. 7. The Vaudevillains
  8. 8. Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady
  9. 9. The Ascension
  10. 10. The League of Nations
  11. 11. The Wyatt Family
  12. 12. Whatever they’ll be calling Los Matadores Primo & Epico
  13. 13. KARL ANDERSON & LUKE GALLOWS
Yep, you got that right. IT FINALLY HAPPENED!

Are you done picking your brains up from the floor after going apeshit? Can we continue? Alright.

Granted, Anderson & Gallows hadn’t debuted yet when Shane announced the Tag Team Tournament, but the fact that it was easy to get eight established teams to participate in the brackets solidifies how the division is moving on up. It’s also a great way to give the New Day some fresh challengers, who actually earn the right to face them for the titles. Plus, it’s an easy way to reestablish old feuds or create new ones among the teams who take part in all of this.


It was interesting to see the Lucha Dragons get handily defeated by the Dudley Boyz, especially after the singles pushes Kalisto and Sin Cara both appeared to get through WrestleMania season. I would have wanted Sin Cara to continue trying his luck as a singles star, and for Kalisto to continue his feud with Ryback—who has noticeably been absent from WWE programming since ‘Mania.


The post-match segment between the Dudleyz and Enzo & Cass was hilarious; and you have to give Enzo Amore props for thinking on his feet and having a comeback like this:

D-Von Dudley: The reason you (Enzo & Cass) exist [as a tag team] because of us!
Enzo: *stutters* Uhhh, no. The reason why I exist is ‘cause my mom and dad got it on! How ya doin'?

Fucking brilliant. If there were any doubts as to how Enzo & Cass would survive on the main roster beyond their standard self-introductions, you may now put them to rest. Whether or not either of these two teams wins the tournament is important right now. I just want to see them spar on the mic and eventually mix it up in the ring.


As for the Usos and the Social Outcasts, they had a decent, if not run-of-the-mill, match. I called it “Pee Break #2,” with Roman’s segment earlier in the show having been called “Pee Break (#1)” by someone on Twitter, and I would be proven wrong right as the Usos celebrated their victory.


Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows made an impactful debut, demolishing the Usos in the process, and getting a great reaction from the live Los Angeles crowd in attendance. They were barely on TV for three to five minutes, and it was enough to get the internet to explode. Props to WWE’s Creative Team for letting Anderson keep his name, while bringing “Luke” Gallows back. And give the announcers credit, too, for building these guys up as legit threats by establishing how everybody had been talking about their signing since these two were so dominant in the New Japan tag team division. It’s a great time to be a fan of tag team wrestling, people.

Stay tuned to this week’s SmackDown for the latter two first-round matches featuring Enzo & Cass against the Ascension and Golden Truth versus the Vaudevillains, who appear to be SmackDown-exclusive as of the moment. Not that it works against them right now. It actually does because the editing for their entrance makes it easier for the production team to handle when the show is on tape delay.

The Phenomenal Underdog

AJ Styles and Sami Zayn also had a hell of a match this week, with WWE World Heavyweight Championship implications, too. If Sami Zayn were to win, he would have made the world title main event at Payback a triple threat match, which gave AJ Styles something to fight for. After all, winning a triple threat match is trickier than a straight up singles match. Who knew we’d get to see a match between these two with these stakes in 2016?


AJ and Sami looked great and told a compelling story of oneupmanship, so much so that at one point, Sami Zayn actually landed on his head after a spot, and made me legitimately worry for his health and well-being. Fun as their match was, I was expecting Kevin Owens to interfere and cost Sami the match, which would also take their blood feud to the next chapter. But Creative decided not to go there by having Shane call security to escort Owens out of the building after his match with Cesaro earlier in the night.

I initially didn’t know how to feel about AJ beating Sami cleanly without a KO interference, but after realizing that they went with the story of Styles just being the better man out there, I can live with that. This helps AJ solidify his credentials as Roman’s #1 contender anyway.


Seeing Shane McMahon approach both guys backstage after the match to applaud them was also a nice touch for all three characters. It made Shane look like a benevolent boss who knows when to deliver praise, and it showed the mutual respect between two equally-competitive babyfaces.

An Unholy Alliance: Belee Dat

This week’s main event featured Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio taking on Roman Reigns and Bray Wyatt. You read that right: Roman Reigns and Bray Wyatt.


Earlier in the night, the League of Nations came out to punk the champ, but the Wyatt Family made the save and took care of the Lads, saving Roman Reigns in the process. I had some reservations with this because I didn’t think that they could make the Wyatt Family look like babyfaces. Sure, Bray Wyatt is generally popular and is a very good wrestler, but the Wyatts have been made to look like chumps against everyone they’ve feuded with. How could the fans possibly get behind them?

Apparently, sticking them in between a faction—well, mostly Sheamus—with negative (read: go-away) heat and THE (generally loathed) guy was the solution.

The tag team main event was an enjoyable affair, with both Roman Reigns and Bray Wyatt taking turns to take a beating from the League of Nations. Throughout the match, Reigns and Wyatt played up the tension stemming from their history with one another, which Michael Cole was right to bring up on commentary. Hooray for continuity!

In the process, Bray Wyatt managed to look like a very hot babyface, making a comeback to overcome the League of Nations. Seeing Erick Rowan and Braun Strowman magically appear towards the end of the match to take care of Rusev at ringside was also a sight to see because I don’t think anybody expected that to get the crowd’s thunderous approval.


Finally, seeing Bray Wyatt dispose of ADR with a Sister Abigail and the pinfall—next to Roman Reigns, who had speared Sheamus—may have just been the first step into making Bray Wyatt relevant again. This is the last thing anybody expected after the way the Rock and John Cena shat on the Wyatts at WrestleMania, and yet the Wyatts are now smelling like roses.

The best part of all of this is that none of this feels forced. It’s easy to root for the Wyatts because you know they’re chaotic and deranged, so they can turn on Roman Reigns anytime, and it’ll be fun to watch Roman get beaten down by them. At the same time, the LoN is insufferable, so we’ll all want to see the Wyatts eat them alive, too. This might just be the best Wyatt Family run since their feud with the Shield from two years ago. Let’s hope this lasts longer than Zack Ryder’s Intercontinental Championship run.

Quick Hitters


  • Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro is always a must-watch, and these two proved it again this week. I will never get tired of watching them go toe-to-toe. The match was exciting from start to finish, and I just found myself smiling all throughout.

  • I don’t know why WWE didn’t think of bringing Maryse back sooner. She is such a great character and she brings so much to the table to make Miz even more hateable. Speaking of the Miz, it was nice of him to keep Zack Ryder somewhat relevant by bringing him up backstage. 


  • But I’m pessimistic about Ryder’s short-lived push now that Cesaro’s the #1 Contender to Miz’s Intercontinental Championship. I’m a huge fan of Cesaro and I love that he’s got this spot, but I’ll be upset if our favorite Broski gets swept aside after how well he’s performed since his push began.


  • Chris Jericho’s self-interview was so much fun to watch. I found myself hating the character for being so egotistical, and yet it was so wonderfully executed that it worked! Dean Ambrose coming out to spoil Jericho’s fun was great payback after the events of last week’s SmackDown, when the latter interrupted Deano’s victory celebration. It’s great to see that they’re finally building off the tension they established between Jericho and Ambrose at last year’s Night Of Champions.


  • Did you notice that RAW has been building off a lot of events that are being set in motion on SmackDown? The blue brand is slowly becoming must-watch TV again because of that on top of the solid wrestling we’ve been noticing every week. It’s time to stop sleeping on SmackDown.


  • I was initially skeptical about Dr. Phil’s involvement on RAW, as I wasn’t even sure that he was a wrestling fan. We’ve seen how non-wrestling fan celebrities do poorly on WWE TV, and seeing Dr. Phil break that mold was a joy to watch. He did very well backstage as he called out Charlotte constantly relying on Ric Flair to win her matches and retain her championship, while also planting the seeds of dissent between father and daughter by saying that Ric is holding Baby Flair back.


  • That Women's Championship match between Charlotte and Nattie was also really good, and it's pretty sad to see it go under the radar with everything that took place on this week's RAW. Do yourself a favor and watch it because it was a wonderful match from bell to bell.


  • He also held his own every time he was out there, making sure that his presence was felt, without stealing too much of the spotlight. He did that best when he tried to play guidance counselor for R-Truth and Goldust backstage, but then thought better of it and just walked away in an exasperated manner. THAT’S how you use a celebrity properly!


  • Oh, and Apollo Crews versus Adam Rose happened. Looks like they are going the Ryback route with building Apollo up.  

*****

This episode of RAW was by no means perfect, but it was great enough to leave you with all these plot points to think about heading into next week’s show. There were no throwaway segments, and all of them properly set up something bigger that paid off either later in the show or possibly at a future event. Why can’t every episode of RAW be like this? Whoever wrote tonight’s show should get a raise, Mr. McMahon. Grade-A shit right there.

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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