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The Smark Henry RAW Report (2/6/17): Here Comes the Hotstepper



If you’re reading this, then you probably feel the same way most of us on the internet do: Kevin Owens vs. Goldberg for the Universal Championship is happening at Fastlane, and it’s the worst idea yet.

WWE made it official this week after trotting good ol’ Bill out to interrupt the Owens/Jericho promo towards the end of hour #1. Where do we even begin with the feelings of unease here? Let’s start with the fact that most of us have pretty much resigned ourselves to the fact that KO isn’t going to be walking into ‘Mania as Universal Champion. And you know what? That’s fine. As long as Owens has a solid singles feud heading into Florida, then he’ll at least avoid the Dolph Ziggler trajectory of never having a singles match at WrestleMania.

What’s bothersome is that Owens’ entire run as Universal Champion has been so lackluster due to his terrible booking. Remember the Triple H heel champion run from 2003-2005? Remember that guy? That guy was loathsome, terrifying, and successful. He didn’t need to cheat to retain his titles, but he did it anyway because he could. He was so ruthless and vile that his schnozz alone was enough to rile 14-year-old me up for the rest of the night. That was a villain whose comeuppance I was excited to see. Kevin Owens? Not so much.

The argument that Owens’ title run has been so irrelevant because of his comedy heel schtick with Jericho has been beaten to death at this point. Triple H’s refusal to come out on RAW until last week just exacerbated the damn thing. But now, rumor has it that Owens is bound to lose the title to Goldberg via squash match—the quintessential Goldberg outing. What a whimper to end such a forgettable title run.

So because Goldberg and Lesnar exist in their own little vacuum again, it’s safe to assume KO won’t get a rematch. Even if he does, there’s no chance he’ll win. Goldberg and Brock get to play with the Universal Championship to supposedly make their feud matter even more. On its own, the move is something I can get behind because having both of them associated with the title ups its prestige. But the way it’s being done completely craps on Owens, who’s pretty much made the title since he’s held it through pretty much its entire history.

And after KO is done with the Universal title, he’ll move on to the Owens/Jericho ‘Mania match that we’re seeing a mile away. With all of this going down, it’s pretty much like Roman Reigns being a champion again. Let’s just rip the bandage off. It’s going to happen anyway, might as well just get on with it.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s answer this week’s burning question:

Was RAW worth watching this week?



Okay...


For the parts that were must-watch, we have to thank Samoa Joe and—believe it or not—the Cruiserweights!

Here comes the Destroyer



RAW’s really going all in on the Creator/Destroyer dichotomy between Triple H and Samoa Joe, and I’m actually fine with it. I love that they had Joe come out in a suit to really drive home the point that he serves Triple H. Owens did that, too, upon winning the Universal title, and I was hoping he would continue that moving forward, but alas. I also didn’t imagine Joe looking great in a suit, which he did, and it was a glorious sight to see.

Having Roman Reigns come out and interrupt Joe, Stephanie McMahon, and Mick Foley was pretty annoying, though. WWE tries so hard to present Reigns as an underdog babyface, and yet, he goes out there and declares himself the “baddest man to step foot in WWE” and that RAW is “his yard.” Sorry, Roman, but I find that hard to believe when you show up to every fight WEARING A FUCKING BODY VEST. It also doesn’t help Roman’s cause that he’s acting like such a bully to the new kid for no reason. Sure, we can stretch the logic out and say that he’s angry at Joe for having injured Seth. But what did Joe do to you, Roman? Huh?

In typical RAW fashion, the opening segment sets up the main event, which is a great matchup on paper. It does bear asking, though, how an episode of RAW would actually progress if there were no opening segments. Would that mean that we won’t get a main event without an opening monologue from whomever?

Anyway, the main event was a fun affair, mostly because Samoa Joe (and later, Braun Strowman) would tear Reigns apart and throw him around the ring. Joe would get the win thanks to the Strowman assist, which initially irked me because they couldn’t even give Joe a clean win in his debut. Hell, we didn’t even see the Coquina Clutch or the Musclebuster. But in retrospect, I can live with this result because Joe is ultimately the heel, and winning the way he did was still underhanded. Not the best start to Joe’s RAW career, but hey, it took him 18 years (18 years) to get there, so congratulations, Joey Samoey. You made it.

The Cruiserweight division is getting lit


Akira Tozawa made his RAW debut this week, and he reminded us just why he’d been one of the most captivating names to come out of the Cruiserweight Classic last year. In just a few short minutes, he got himself over to the point that Portland was grunting along with him and rooting for him pretty hard. Tozawa’s got this magnetic energy that just draws you in and makes you want to pay attention to everything he does. Man, I’m so glad he’s finally in WWE.


As for the rest of the division, we’re getting ourselves a Fatal 5-Way elimination match on tomorrow's 205 Live to determine the next #1 Contender to Neville’s Cruiserweight Championship. It’s about time somebody in this division actually qualified to challenge for the title. More importantly, it shows us how the field is more open than it’s ever been—well, maybe except for TJP and Tony Nese, who appear to be headed for a feud with one another. But at least, it doesn’t isolate the champion and challenger from the rest of the roster anymore, so that’s at least worth the praise.


I’d be remiss if I forgot to shout Austin Aries out for challenging wrestling logic today. While interviewing Neville, he made a big deal out of being interrupted by the other Cruiserweights’ entrance music. The man refused to shut up while their songs were playing and it was hilarious! I’m surprised nobody’s ever really thought of doing that until now. Way to challenge the trope, Mr. Aries.

*****

This episode of RAW also featured two title bouts, which both served the purpose of advancing storylines. The tag title match between the Club and Sheasaro effectively inserted Enzo and Cass into the fold and turned it into a triple threat feud, which is fine only because it gives all of them something to do, while liberating Enzo and Cass from Rusev and Jinder Mahal. That said, Gallows and Anderson end up looking stupid here for attacking Enzo and Cass without provocation. Then again, you can argue that they’re the heel champs, so they might as well punk anyone out just because they can.

As for the United States Championship match between Sami Zayn and Chris Jericho, I thought this match would be even better than their affair from last week. I kept expecting the match to kick into a higher gear, and then it just ended. You remember how bitin the ending of “The Yes Yes Show” felt? “Kaya ganito na lang, bigla na lang mawawala—” That’s pretty much how that ending felt like. Sayang. It could have been so much more.

Nia Jax’s billed weight (272 lbs) was announced for the first time this week, and I was pretty surprised that they actually did that. They spent much of the commentary during the Bayley/Nia match building Nia up as this huge badass, who holds the records for female powerlifting at the Performance Center and everything. I thought it was a nice attempt at making viewers feel for Bayley, who had the unenviable task of facing Nia. But if you watched NXT, it didn’t really matter because you’d know that Bayley had already beaten Nia before. So much for that.

Overall, this week’s show wasn’t so bad. It was actually worth sitting through because the highs were worth it. And for the first time in a long time, the Cruiserweights actually played a part in making this episode memorable, so that should count for something. However, the rest of RAW is still largely forgettable, but I’m not getting into that because that’s a dead horse all on its own. This week gets a very solid B-.

Photos from WWE

*****

Stan Sy (@_StanSyis the Editor at Large of Smark Henry, and is also an events host, a freelance writer, and one of the hosts of the Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast and The Wrestling Gods on FOX. He enjoys watching WWE, NXT, Lucha Underground, and the occasional New Japan match. He dresses up in fancy suits from time to time to book matches as PWR's General Manager.

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