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The Smark Henry RAW Report (5/30/16): Welcome (Back) to the Club


Before we get to this week’s RAW review, I just want to say “thank you” to everybody who’s been reading my column on this space for the past year. Writing about the sports I watch and follow obsessively was a pipe dream I never thought I could actually pursue. The last four years have been proof that it was something I could actually do with the right purpose, drive, and team; and I’m incredibly grateful that I got to spend the last year reviewing RAW and PPVs for Smark Henry.

That being said, this will be my last RAW review on this space because I’ll be joining Sports Illustrated Philippines to write about pro wrestling and basketball very soon. I won’t be leaving the site, though, because I am still editing a good number of our weekly columns, so this isn’t farewell. I will, however, miss churning out these weekly columns for Smark Henry, but I’ll find a way to keep making noise around these parts. That’s a promise.

*****


The biggest story coming out of this week’s RAW is AJ Styles’ heel turn, after he ruthlessly attacked John Cena when Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson appeared during the former two’s in-ring segment on RAW. Upon seeing this, I honestly thought this was pretty stupid because this makes AJ Styles another internet darling that John Cena will eventually trample on. We see ya, Wade Barrett.

But after letting it sink in, this story actually has so much potential because HOLY CRAP. JOHN CENA AND AJ STYLES ARE IN A FUCKING FEUD. WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT WE’D SEE THIS IN THIS LIFETIME?

David Shoemaker first wrote about WWE now using outside canon as the foundation for their storylines last April heading into Payback, and it could not be any more true today. AJ Styles has reunited with his running buddies from the Bullet Club in NJPW, and he’s taking on another (f)ace, except this time, it’s the face who runs the place, instead of a once-in-a-century ace. Plus, the doubts about Gallows and Anderson being misused continue to be put to rest (for now) because these guys are playing a role in a story against John Fucking Cena. It can’t be a bigger deal than that for these two right now!

Here’s my problem with this story: where does this leave Finn Balor? We know that Balor’s on his way out of NXT and that his Steel Cage Match against Samoa Joe for the NXT Championship at TakeOver: The End is most likely his graduation match. We all expected him to debut on the main roster to immediately feud with AJ Styles over the Club—or in a twist, be AJ’s partner against the Club. All of that’s down the drain, at least for now, since AJ, Gallows, and Anderson will be busy with Cena. So what does Finn get to do on the main roster?

I’d feel really shitty for the guy if he gets called up only to be Cena’s sidekick because injecting Finn into the AJ-Gallows-Anderson story was supposed to be the continuation of the Bullet Club arc from New Japan. Finn and AJ could have feuded over taking credit for the Bullet Club and the impact they’ve made on the pro wrestling business, or who the true leader of the BC is/was.

If Finn Balor’s being brought up to be the Jimmy Olsen to Cena’s Superman, I’d rather he not be brought up just yet. Or they could just have Balor in another feud while Cena works with AJ and the Club. There’s too much potential waiting to be wasted in a situation like this, and I’d hate for Finn to go the same route as Bo Dallas, Tyler Breeze, and the Ascension.


As for the reason behind AJ Styles’ actions, none of us know why AJ is suddenly in cahoots with Gallows and Anderson again after the former blamed the latter two last week for costing him the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. It seemed all but certain that the Club would attack AJ for that, but they were conspicuously absent during last week’s main event. Since we got this sudden change in the story, it wouldn’t surprise me if this was a last-minute change of plans. If it really is, I hope they play it right. We’ll have to wait and see at this point, but honestly, any explanation would be way better than their inability to explain why Shane McMahon is still running RAW. It’s my last RAW review here, guys, allow me to bitch about that one last time.

For now, I’m just really stoked that we get to see Heel AJ teaming up with Gallows and Anderson in the WWE against John Cena, no less. This is it, guys. Minus the name itself (and all the other members), this is essentially the fucking Bullet Club in WWE! And they’re feuding with John Cena! If any of you are still salty over Roman Reigns defeating AJ or AJ not qualifying for the Money in the Bank Ladder Match, you can all sit your asses down and stop complaining on the internet. WWE knows it’s got a short window with AJ Styles, and they’re making the most of it. That’s a blessing in itself.


Quick Hitters

  • Seth Rollins took several pages out of Chris Jericho’s heel playbook this week by refusing to give the people what they want. The people wanted to hear Rollins speak, he never gave it to them. The people wanted to see him run to the ring and attack Roman, and he deprived them of that pleasure. Rollins makes the act of getting under an entire crowd’s skin look easy, and the WWE is so much better for having him back right now.



  • Having said that, I still don’t agree with the baffling decision to turn him heel so soon after his return. And then to release a WWE 24 documentary about his emotional and inspiring comeback WHEN YOU’RE TRYING SO HARD TO MAKE US BOO THE GUY is just counterintuitive and counterproductive. Come on, guys.


  • Having Steph and Shane open the show to address the upcoming brand split was a good move, and it was interesting that they quickly addressed the plot point of tag teams potentially breaking up as a result of the split. I don’t want teams to be split up just yet. We’re still in the process of rebuilding the tag team division, even though we have 7-8 teams in the mix right now. You don’t want to undo the work over the last couple of years by abruptly breaking teams up right now. That’s something WWE should do by next year’s WWE Draft, at the earliest.


  • Breezango is just a downright horrendous name altogether. Was that really the best they could do? Shit.


  • It’s about damn time Apollo Crews got a story and some character development. It was pretty neat seeing Big Show offering Crews some veteran advice. I wouldn’t mind seeing Show in the role of a coach to Apollo, or other young and up-and-coming talent, moving forward because he seems to fit that role already.


  • Either I’m becoming really optimistic again because I’m a Zack Ryder fan at heart, or I’m really becoming convinced that they’ve actually got a plan set for the guy. He’s always coming up short in these matchups that the commentary team takes time out to build as significant, but he doesn’t look like a total jabroni during the actual matches. I’m really hoping this is a set-up for another climb and another cathartic moment because Ryder’s approaching his peak at 31, and he’s another talented guy they can’t afford to waste.


  • Watching Stephanie McMahon call Charlotte out backstage for being a “spoiled, selfish, self-important brat” irritated me because that’s exactly what Steph is. It made her look like a hypocrite, which is fine if the objective is to get her heel heat, but it didn’t make sense in the overall picture to have Steph act all self-righteous because she’s still clearly a heel authority figure. Really, Steph? Who the fuck are you to be tearing Charlotte a new one?

  • Now that Enzo Amore and Big Cass have defeated the Dudley Boyz, are both teams going to move on? I don’t get the point of just having the match at RAW and giving Enzo and Cass the win clean. Then again, given the way they’ve been written, the story could have only gotten so far.


  • While I’m really annoyed that Dolph Ziggler and Baron Corbin’s feud still isn’t over, I actually liked the in-ring segment where Ziggler and Corbin had a “technical wrestling match,” only for Dolph to kick Corbin in the nuts and smugly walk away. Ziggler’s finally getting that edge we’ve needed! I can’t believe we got that through the Corbin feud, but in a vacuum, this is exactly the next step the Dolph Ziggler character needed.


  • When are we going to get the seventh Money in the Bank Ladder Match participant? They didn’t address that this week at all.


  • It's nice to know WWE hasn't forgotten about Becky Lynch and her issues with Dana Brooke.

Pick of the Week

The best match of the night clearly was the main event—a six-man tag team match featuring Dean Ambrose, Sami Zayn, and Cesaro taking on Chris Jericho, Kevin Owens, and Alberto Del Rio. We’ll be seeing matchups of these guys in various combos and permutations over the next few weeks, and it’s nice to see them get the six-man tag out of the way.

Part of the buildup to the match fell flat on its face because they showed the two teams backstage figuring out a gameplan, only for the babyface team to give us a Guide to the Heel Team for Dummies in the process. It insulted the audience’s intelligence and really just fell way off the mark because the babyface backstage segment seemed half-assed. A segment like that would’ve been way more interesting had some tension among the babyfaces already been established, and that’s why the heel segment worked. Owens thought he already had good chemistry with Jericho, only for Y2J to throw it back in his face. And then you had Alberto Del Rio, who reasserted himself as the only one among the six MITB participants who’s actually been Mr. MITB. That’s how it’s done.



As for the match itself, it was a great showcase of all six men, and a smart use of guys like Jericho and Ambrose—who I bet are still sore over that Asylum Match at Extreme Rules. There weren’t a lot of dull moments throughout the match, which is good since watching a three-hour episode of RAW can get pretty damn tiring. They were able to keep the energy up, and that entire finishing sequence was a whole lot of fun!

*****

All in all, the whole episode of RAW was nothing to write home about, which is a crying shame considering they knew that they were going up against Game 7 of the Warriors-Thunder Western Conference Finals (and Game 1 of the NHL Stanley Cup). You’d have thought WWE would step it up and deliver a better show. But no, so you can’t really blame a good chunk of WWE fans who opted to watch Game 7 instead. There weren’t a lot of matches that really got my attention, but the storyline development for Rollins/Reigns, Cena/AJ, and surprisingly, Apollo Crews and Dolph Ziggler’s respective stories—along with the main event—were the highlights of this week’s episode, which gets a B in my book.


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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