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The Smark Henry RAW Report (5/16/16): Return On Investment


For weeks, I’ve been using this space to rant about the WWE’s general inability to get us invested in their characters through it’s half-baked storylines. And even when Creative pretends to make it look like they’re actually exerting effort, they end up just needlessly letting a story drag on for far too long (See: McMahon Power Struggle).


But somewhere along the way, WWE’s writers got something right when it put Goldust and R-Truth together in a comedy angle that shouldn’t even have lasted past WrestleMania Star. It was funny watching Goldie try to win R-Truth over as a potential tag team partner, only for Truth to keep rebuffing him, and for the story to get turned on its head with the roles reversed.


When the next chapter—one that involved both Goldust and R-Truth recruiting their own partners in an attempt to make the other jealous—unfolded, I thought it was straight-up silly and irrelevant because the story didn’t seem to be going anywhere. The only positive I saw was that having this angle kept Goldust, Truth, Fandango, and Tyler Breeze all busy with something to do, which is way more than Zack Ryder can boast about these days.


And then this past week on SmackDown and on yesterday’s RAW, the story finally took a turn for the better: Fandango and Tyler Breeze turned on Goldust and R-Truth respectively. The two guys who were spurned decided to take matters into their own hands and finally teamed up against their erstwhile partners. Fandango and Breeze took advantage of a miscue between Golden Truth and picked up the win, much to the latter’s frustrations as a team. However Goldust and Truth did not implode. They were frustrated, but they vowed to get back at Breeze and Fandango.


I’ve been crapping on this storyline for weeks, saying that it’s so stupid and irrelevant, and yet with a solid video package to recap the five-month long storyline and the events of SmackDown and RAW, I find myself being won over by it. There’s something to be said about a story that takes its time as it plays out. I love how it requires patience from both the writers and the audience because that’s where you can see how willing the writer is to fully flesh out the characters and how willing the audience is to actually watch it develop.


Granted, the story isn’t the most compelling of all the programs on the main shows right now, but I find myself invested in Goldust and R-Truth now, and pretty soon, I wouldn’t mind seeing them contend for a shot against the WWE Tag Team Champions, whether it be the New Day or the Vaudevillains after Extreme Rules. As for Fandango and Tyler Breeze, I’m at the base level of happiness that they have something to do and a reason to be on TV. And I’m also interested in seeing the potential of two vain, young studs trying to make a name for themselves in this “new era.”


All of this goes to show that if the WWE is willing to put in the effort to build its characters, we as fans can be willing to get behind them and to invest in them. All you need is a simple, logical story that people can relate to. And honestly, who can’t relate to wanting to be friends with somebody and being rejected? That’s a very human experience that everybody and their mother has gone through at some point.


*****


With Extreme Rules coming up, let’s run through the card while I give you my predictions about what happens in Newark, NJ this Sunday!


Kickoff: Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin in a No Disqualification Match


Corbin finally gets his win back over Dolph Ziggler here. There’s really not much to be said other than both guys need to move on because this story’s been pretty boring. Neither guy even got to cut a significant promo to make us care about it, so I’m done here.


Prediction: Baron Corbin wins.


Fatal 4-Way Match for the Intercontinental Championship: Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro vs. The Miz (c) (with Maryse)



I still stand by my opinion that Zayn and Owens don’t need a championship to feud over right now to make their program significant. Their rivalry has remained interesting, especially given the wrinkle that Shane McMahon put them in this week: that KO and Sami were to team up. Seeing them begrudgingly work together was quite the treat, and I’d love to see that as a future chapter of their story, similar to how Matt Hardy and MVP were once forced to work together as tag team champions.


That being said, I’m down to a toss-up between Miz retaining and Cesaro winning the title. I’m torn here because I want to see Cesaro win, but I also know that they’re probably saving it for a bigger stage like Money in the Bank, or even SummerSlam. But I also know that Cesaro can’t afford another loss here, so if Miz were to retain, it’ll be because he pins Sami or even KO. I’m probably g0ing to stick with the Miz retaining the IC title thanks to Maryse and some shenanigans.


Prediction: The Miz retains the IC title.


Dean Ambrose vs. Chris Jericho in an Asylum Match



What I don’t get in this story is why both Shane and Stephanie seem partial towards Dean Ambrose over the last few weeks. Last week, Stephanie put Jericho in his place after the latter tried to drive a wedge between her and Shane, even though we all know that Steph’s planning to stab Shane in the back eventually. And then this week, they allowed Ambrose to have his choice of match after he challenged Jericho, just because it’s Extreme Rules.


Granted, the steel cage with Ambrose’s toys stuck on top of it got a huge pop on RAW and will get a huge pop come Extreme Rules, but an explanation behind how this match can be held in Ambrose’s preferred environment would be appreciated. That said, Jericho is probably going to get his win back so that both of these guys can have their rubber match at Money in the Bank, because wrestling logic. Then again, if this is the end of the feud right here, it should end with Ambrose standing tall over Jericho.


Prediction: Chris Jericho wins and we get a rubber match at Money in the Bank.


United States Championship: Rusev (with Lana) vs. Kalisto (c)



I already called Rusev to win the U.S. title as early as the former’s win in the #1 Contender’s Battle Royal, and Kalisto’s kayfabe injury just solidified my claim.


Rusev’s slowly being put back on the right track since he and Lana got back together and broke away from the League of Nations. Weirdly, it’s as if Rusev and Lana just decided to pick up where they left off after losing the U.S. Championship to John Cena at WrestleMania 31, seemingly forgetting everything that happened for a whole calendar year. I don’t mind it too much, since Rusev took several steps backward in terms of character development, and it’s nice to see RuRu being taken seriously as a midcard championship contender once again.


As for Kalisto, he’ll probably need this loss as a kayfabe reason to be written out so he can recover, come back stronger, and have an instant feud with Rusev upon returning. Meanwhile, Rusev can keep the U.S. title warm until a certain 15-time World Champion comes back by Memorial Day.


Prediction: Rusev wins the United States Championship


The Vaudevillains (Aiden English and Simon Gotch) vs. The New Day (Big E, Kofi Kingston, and/or Xavier Woods) (c) for the WWE Tag Team Championship



The storyline between both teams got really funny when Xavier Woods brought out his time machine and allowed Kofi Kingston to get all meta by going back to his Jamaican accent days. Kofi’s off-hand remark about 2009 being his “best year” is worth praising, too, because it’s clearly a shoutout to the members of the IWC who believe that about him.


But aside from that, the feud hasn’t really any teeth because the Vaudevillains just don’t seem nasty enough to actually be despicable heels. Sure, they took credit for Enzo Amore’s injury, but everybody also knows that that was an accident in real life, so it’s hard to put that solely on Gotch and English. It doesn’t help that the New Day has been more silly than defiant against the Vaudevillains, so there’s not much to go on, really.


If the New Day retains, then the Vaudevillains just become another tag team that the New Day stomps all over like chumps. That also makes the Vaudevillains become the second coming of the Ascension so much faster. But if Gotch and English win, it’ll be quite the surprise since the feud hasn’t made them look like they could legitimately pull off the win. I’m pretty torn here, so I’ll go with the safe answer of seeing the New Day retain, but I’ll be open to being shocked if the Vaudevillains do win because I’m curious to see what they can do with the titles.


Prediction: The New Day retains the WWE Tag Team Championships.


Natalya vs. Charlotte (c) in a Submission Match for the WWE Women’s Championship. Ric Flair is banned from ringside and if he shows up, Charlotte will lose the championship.



I was pretty happy that Nattie and Charlotte got to close RAW this week because it’s been half a year since the last time a women’s segment got to end the show. Much like the Charlotte-Paige feud, the Charlotte-Natalya feud is actually getting some time to develop, and we’re all reminded at how wonderful a performer Nattie is when she’s not stuck in random multi-woman matches or 3-minute duds that don’t mean anything.


I still think that Nattie’s just keeping Sasha Banks’ spot warm until the latter returns to TV from whatever it is that’s keeping her off it. And that’s why I think Charlotte’s retaining this Sunday. With Emma out of the picture because of a ruptured disc in her back, it won’t surprise me if Becky Lynch and Dana Brooke find a way to get involved in the title picture so that Charlotte can get new challengers while keeping Nattie in the story somehow.


But as I’ve been saying since March, Charlotte’s going to have a record-long reign as the champion and only Sasha can end it at a big stage like SummerSlam, or even WrestleMania.


Prediction: Charlotte retains the WWE Women’s Championship.


AJ Styles (with Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson) vs. Roman Reigns (c) (with Jimmy and Jey Uso) in an Extreme Rules Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.



I’ve been such a fan of this feud for a while now, and I’m pretty excited to see where they go from here, even though it’s pretty much a sure thing that Roman’s retaining the title. I just hope we get a match as good as the one we got at Payback, where we all believe again that AJ might just eke out the win.


Regardless of AJ’s health status, I think it’s time for them to bring Finn Balor up and to have him reveal himself as the true leader of the Club. I’m expecting Gallows and Anderson to cost AJ the title at Extreme Rules or to turn on him the very next night on RAW, leading to Finn coming out as AJ’s new foil. There won’t be much confusion and disconnect with Finn’s NXT character since (1) he’s only going to be around the yellow brand for only a few more weeks as a babyface and (2) majority of RAW viewers are casual fans who don’t follow NXT as religiously as we do, so seeing a heel Finn Balor as the leader of the Balor Club can still work.


One thing’s for sure. I’m certainly going to have a fun time booing the fuck out of the Bloodline because now that they’re all tweeners, I won’t just be part of the vocal minority anymore. They’re all actually being assholes, which justifies my feelings of disliking all three of them. Sunday should be fun.


Prediction: Roman Reigns retains the WWE World Heavyweight Championship


*****


Those are my predictions for Extreme Rules, and I’ll be happy to know what yours are, too! Just hit me up on Twitter: @_stansy and let’s livetweet the show together on Sunday! As for this week’s RAW and Pick of the Week, I’ll probably go with the entire Golden Truth segment just because it won me over and allowed me to get invested in those two, as well as Fandango and Tyler Breeze.


Watch out for the Shining Stars, by the way. They made an impressive return, particularly Epico, who came back with an edgier, hard-hitting style more fitting of his size. The Shining Star didn’t impress me immediately as a finisher, but I’m open to giving it a chance when I see it more.


As a whole, this go-home show just about did its job by being passable, but not spectacular. I’ll have to give it a C+ for being this close to being pasang-awa.

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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