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The Smark Henry RAW Review (7/26/16): Rebirth



The new era of the WWE is upon us, and the flagship show RAW takes the first roll of dice. With a logo change, a brand-spanking new intro and the return of the fabled red ring ropes, would all of this prove to be mere decorations, or enhancements to a new age? 


Two Fatal Four-Way matches were on the card to determine who among RAW's eight main-eventers would go on to face first overall draft pick Seth Rollins at SummerSlam. But it won't be a regular match, mind, but a bout for the new WWE Universal Championship. The new title belt has not yet been unveiled, but the name is a stark, eerie reminder of names gone by for tacky fantasy wrestling championships made by e-fed participants. A lack of intergalactic competitors is also startling considering the title's all-inclusive and progressive name.

We also witnessed three glorified squash matches, wherein Nia Jax, Braun Strowman and Neville crushed their respective competition. One is a debutante from NXT, one has a reinvented hairstyle (but virtually no upgrades otherwise), and another one is a returning Superstar. RAW could use much less of these, given their obvious outcomes. But, for now it's completely understandable as a need to fill up three hours is still there. Once the Cruiserweight division is established, it should be expected for matches of this caliber to decrease significantly. 


Sasha Banks' ultimate Bank Statement came in early, in the form of vanquishing Charlotte and winning the Women's Championship. The fans cheered rabidly for Banks' win—this change in the guard for the division was a statement in itself by WWE. It clearly has plans to fix the missteps taken initially with its Divas Women's Revolution.

Cesaro, Rusev and Kevin Owens were all poised to win their bout, but the victory came to NXT call-up Balor, which was a definite surprise. Meanwhile, golden boy Roman Reigns looked to rebound off his Battleground loss by winning his own Fatal 4-Way match. 

This narrative has been played out countless times on WWE television, from different angles. A fan favorite overcoming the odds, only to fail in overcoming the hurdle that is the company's face. Thus, it was a foregone conclusion at this point for anyone who's even remotely familiar with WWE programming. Dashed hopes in the form of a forced redemption arc. We've all been there. 


However, to signal a change or a rebirth, there must be a catalyst. Finn Balor looked to be that catalyst as he picked up the win against Reigns in a very competitive bout. Balor delivered, not missing a beat with his dazzling offense, while Reigns brought his A-game as well. The two crafted one of the smoothest main events on RAW in quite a long time, and quite a rarity that a RAW finish involved merely two competitors duking it out in the ring with no shenanigans. Just Vince McMahon's pet project, and a world-traveled underdog looking to be the one to head on to SummerSlam and possibly winning a newly-made championship. 

Less focus on authority figures and pointless segments and instead more attention given to the wrestlers was the true highlight of this week's episode. A wrestling show actually showcasing some actual quality wrestling has become such a novel idea for the WWE, but it's proven that it's still a tried-and-true idea as evidenced by this week's episode. 

Also, to cap off the dawn of this new era, a new hero was seemingly christened in the form of a demon. With that in mind, SmackDown! Live would have a difficult time trumping RAW this week, proving that if they keep this up, the new era would exactly be what it says on the tin and not just a brand new buzzword that would just fall to the wayside in three-to-six months' time.

Photos from WWE

*****

Miguel Asistio (@MTGMAis also known as the best writer in the world—at least according to his CM Punk-inspired delusions of grandeur. In the real world, he's been a proud fan of the WWE since its Ruthless Aggression days. He also enjoys reading comic books and playing fighting games when not trying to make his dream of being a successful novelist come true.

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