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The Smark Henry RAW Report (4/25/16): Getting To Know The Guy


Since WrestleMania Star ended, Reigns has been slowly stepping into tweener mode as WWE as begrudgingly accepted the fact that the WWE World Heavyweight Champion draws an unequaled amount of vitriol every time he appears at an arena. They gave him a legitimately annoying catchphrase, a smug attitude, and a plucky babyface challenger in AJ Styles. All of these things were supposed to make it easier for fans to unite behind Styles, while making the most out of the heat that Reigns gets.

You can argue that WWE is taking the safe route by making him smarmy enough to get fans like us to hate him, while getting the women and children to cheer for his heroic comebacks every time he wrestles. But reality tells us that people aren’t one-dimensional good guys or bad guys, and that establishing shades of gray requires certain nuances in order to properly flesh out the character.

Brock Lesnar in 2015 was a great example of this. He was just a dominant super-athlete who either defended his championship or sought after it. He had no stake in the politics within the WWE canon. He didn’t fight for a greater good or a greater evil. He just wanted championship gold, and anyone who dared step in his path was guaranteed a one-way ticket to Suplex City.

Roman Reigns as a character is slowly becoming a more believable human being. He’s got family in the Usos, and these are his boys whom he looks out for. At the same time, he’s the current WWE World Heavyweight Champion, and he wears that title with pride. He’s become self-aware to the point that he makes an effort to tell you that he essentially doesn’t care how you receive him. He’s fully grasped the fact that whether you like it or not, he’s the face of the company.


Now that he’s in this storyline with AJ Styles, Luke Gallows, and Karl Anderson, another layer has been added to Roman Reigns. He started off being patronizing towards AJ Styles, but now that Anderson and Gallows are in the picture, the animosity has turned personal. While AJ tries to convince Roman that the former didn’t ask his old buddies to beat the latter up, Roman’s hardened himself enough not to trust Styles. It’s as if Roman finally gets the idea of “One Versus All,” which is a watered-down version of Stone Cold Steve Austin’s old mantra, “Don’t Trust Anybody.”

As a viewer, you may want Roman to see the inherent good in people and give AJ a chance. Or you may want him to continue not giving a fuck because you can’t trust anybody when you’ve got a huge bullseye painted on your back as the champion. These are struggles real people actually go through, and it’s refreshing to see a main character being fleshed out this way in WWE.

At the end of the day, it all boils down to consistency in character development, which has been one of the main gripes against Roman Reigns’ rise to the top of the WWE in the first place. Creative’s got a unique opportunity to make a well-rounded character in wrestling, which is overloaded with half-assed gimmicks that don’t make sense most of the time. As always, the pressure’s on them not to drop the ball, lest they waste all the work they’ve done to make Roman Reigns a believable human being in the cartoonish world of pro wrestling.


Quick Hitters

  • I’m not even going to ask why Shane is running RAW again anymore. This last month has been an exercise in shitting over a WrestleMania storyline involving the Undertaker. I just hope that the events of Payback pay off in a way that make actual sense now.


  • It’s interesting to see Sheamus, Rusev, and Alberto Del Rio all slowly revert to their pre-League of Nations gimmicks. Sure, they’re still announced as LoN members, but you can tell they’re slowly phasing that shit out. What a waste of what could have been a great gimmick.

  • You have to give WWE props for finally fleshing out the Kevin Owens-Sami Zayn rivalry because now, casual fans can finally understand why their feud is such a big deal.

  • Gallows & Anderson’s gear are pretty sweet. Not too sweet, but they’ll get there. That’s not the same thing I can say about their mostly meh entrance theme:


  • I loved this week’s Primo & Epico vignette. By showing these two chicos as ladies men who are all about the party life, you immediately give them more personality, which is what I asked of these characters last week. 


  • The segment between the New Day, Enzo & Cass, and the Vaudevillains fell flat because you would have thought that the two teams in the Tag Tournament Finals would have come to blows. I get that they were saving it for Payback, but the New Day was practically egging them on, and yet both teams were surprisingly calm. Even if you argue that neither team really has any beef with the other, you could still use the ensuing violence as the fire they could light under each other’s asses to do well at Payback.


  • Another week, another missed opportunity to develop a long-term storyline with Apollo Crews. They’re building him up as a video game character right now. Each week, he’s got a new opponent with a nice little backstory, but the result is the same every time. Apollo comes out with a dominant win and levels up. That’s nice and all, but that recipe doesn’t make you get behind Crews as much as giving him an actual story that lasts longer than this week’s episode.


  • Kalisto and Ryback are apparently getting a rematch over the United States Championship on the Payback kickoff. Naggagaguhan na lang tayong lahat.

  • WWE actually put out a Chyna tribute video, but that was literally the least they could have done for the departed pioneer of women’s wrestling. Too little, too late. She deserved so much better and so much more, and it’s a damn shame that WWE never gave her that opportunity while she was still alive.


  • Poor Damien Sandow. They trotted him out there in his ring gear, and they couldn’t even let him job to Baron Corbin. It’s hard to imagine that this guy was one of the hottest acts in WWE just a little over a year ago. I wonder if we’ll be saying the same thing about Zack—OH LOOK, CESARO DIDN’T TAKE HIS SUIT OFF THIS WEEK.

*****

The appeal of a go-home show is that it leaves you with more questions than it answers, especially since they payoff is coming at the upcoming pay-per-view, aptly called Payback. At this point, though, the only storyline with actual questions that need answering is the AJ-Roman-Gallows-Anderson program. While there are matches that I’m excited to see like Jericho-Ambrose, Miz-Cesaro, and Owens-Zayn, none of these stories are as gripping as the main event storyline right now. Not that it’s any of these guys’ faults. It’s just that the effort that Creative has shown in making the main event storyline compelling isn’t consistent throughout the rest of the card.

This week’s episode did produce some great wrestling, but the other stories being built around it didn’t pack the punch you’d want it to for a go-home show, so let’s give it 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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