Skip to main content

The Smark Henry RAW Report (4/24/17): Going Home To A Dump


Hey, did you know that there’s a RAW-exclusive pay-per-view coming up in a few days?

Did you know that you can stream it LIVE on the WWE Network for only $9.99?

Did you know that the main event of that pay-per-view is Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman?

Of course you did. RAW has been beating us over the head with this shit since after the RAW after WrestleMania. Look, I’ve always enjoyed the period between ‘Mania and the first PPV after that because that’s when WWE does a soft reset for all of the storylines as a means of flipping the calendar over to a “new year” of sorts. This is kind of where we’re at right now, especially after the Superstar Shake-Up from a couple of weeks ago. But while all of this is happening, I find myself asking a question that nobody seems to be asking right now.

Where the fuck is the Universal Championship?

We all know the answer. It’s with Brock Lesnar, and he’ll defend the damn thing when he fucking wants to. I get it. That’s the deal with the devil that you make when Brock is your champion. I also get that the endgame is having more mainstream exposure for the title with Brock as the champion and for Roman Reigns whoever ends up beating Brock for the title.

And just so you don’t call me myopic, I understand how the absence of the Universal Championship creates an opportunity for the midcard championships to be elevated because they become the top titles by default.

But take a look at the Payback card. Is there even an Intercontinental Championship match? Yeah, there’s a U.S. title match, but that’s a residual effect of the sudden nature of the Superstar Shake-Up. It feels weird not seeing what should be the top singles title on the show not even being defended on the first PPV after ‘Mania.

The mini-tirade above just really illustrates how poorly RAW has been written in the absence of its top champion. Yes, it’s awesome that we’re getting this Braun Strowman push, and yet, there’s this lingering fear that when Payback is over, Roman Reigns will have overcome the Monster Among Men because #REIGNSWINSLOL. It also doesn’t help that we’re getting all these video packages reminding us of how ~~strong~~ and ~~compelling~~ Roman Reigns is despite his absence.

Aside from watching out for whatever freakish act of strength Braun and Roman could pull off this Monday (Manila time), the real hook to this story is the metanarrative of Strowman’s unlikely rise as an internet favorite despite not fitting the mold of the traditional internet darling. Juxtaposing that against Roman Reigns’ status as the company’s clear chosen one only makes the metanarrative that much more compelling. But that’s what happens when you leave viewers to connect the dots for themselves, rather than writing a cohesive story that’s actually fleshed out. Who am I kidding? This is RAW. This is par for the course.

*****

What’s most annoying about RAW these days is that the absence of the Universal Championship creates a vacuum that Creative can’t necessarily fill. For starters, Finn Bálor is back and the easiest storyline for him to be inserted in should be the Universal title picture. Give the former champ a title shot for the championship he never lost. But we can’t do that because Brock’s not here, and even if he were here, you have a catch-22 where Brock vs. Finn may not give off a result that Vince would want at all. Have Brock beat Finn and you destroy the latter before he even gets a chance to take off on the main roster. Have Finn beat Brock and you already waste the supposed rub that Brock brings with him.

So instead of dealing will all that shit, Finn Bálor now just gets to be the hero who beats random jobbers or gets inserted into six-man tags when you’re down a babyface. Welp.


And then there’s Bray Wyatt. Just a month ago, it seemed that the sky was the limit for the Eater of Worlds. He was WWE Champion heading into a prominent spot at ‘Mania. Now he’s back to cutting promos nobody understands and he’s on his way back towards irrelevance. His sudden appearance at the end of RAW to help the Miz does seem a bit intriguing. But if it means having to feud with Dean Ambrose or Chris Jericho again, then it’s something I won’t get too excited about because we’ve already gone down those roads before. Never mind that we’ve seen Miz vs. Dean as recently as half a year ago, too. There’s just really nothing new here other than a possible Miz/Bray alliance, which Wyatt immediately put to rest when he hit Miz with a Sister Abigail to close RAW.


Well, what about Bayley? At least she’s Women’s Champion, right? Not really.

While Alexa Bliss has been doing a great job at being the new bad bitch on RAW, Bayley’s character work has left a lot to be desired. That may not necessarily be a knock on Bayley the performer and more on the writing behind the character. After all, Main Roster Bayley hasn’t been given as much depth as NXT Bayley, and that’s why it’s easy to forget that she once had the potential to be the biggest pure babyface on the entire main roster. Instead, she’s just the bullied kid who seems happy to even be told to hold the Women’s Championship. Plus, with Sasha Banks always coming to Bayley’s aid, that impending heel turn may as well flash on the Titantron in neon lights like Naomi’s entrance. Jeez.


But let’s give credit where credit is due. There was an attempt to keep continuity in mind when Chris Jericho and Dean Ambrose referenced their history with one another. If there was one thing to be amused at with this week’s RAW, it was the storytelling between Jericho and Ambrose. They didn’t immediately team up just because they were babyfaces; there was effort to establish that they had their differences and that they were willing to put those behind them. So at least that’s something.


There was also a clear attempt to add layers to the Tag Team Championship feud between the Hardy Boyz and Sheasaro, which I appreciated. I love how Cesaro and Sheamus traded roles this week, with Cesaro having lost his cool during and after the match, and Sheamus being the voice of reason with a cooler head. It showed just how far they’ve come as a team, while also teasing us of a potential heel turn against the Hardys at Payback if they were to lose.

Meanwhile, I’m fine with the Hardys being the steadily confident veterans for now. If you’re observant, you’ll see Matt Hardy revert to little bits of his #BROKEN gimmick in the ring here and there. But until they settle the stuff with Anthem, don’t expect to get more than what we’re seeing right now. For what it’s worth, they have a nice little story going on with Sheasaro, and I hope to see a little more aggression (or crazy) come Payback.


On a final note, the build for Samoa Joe and Seth Rollins has been so underwhelming. Part of it is because it seems inorganic now that Seth’s actually vanquished the uberboss in Triple H. So going after his lackey in Samoa Joe feels… counterproductive. It’s like having to go back down a previous level in a video game you've already completed. The only thing worth looking forward to is the match at Payback, which could very well steal the show.

Overall, this week’s RAW made me feel like the writers just didn’t give a crap and wanted to just get Payback over with. And that just makes me sad because this was a go-home week, therefore, the tension should have been at an all-time high. I just didn’t feel the urgency heading into Payback, and a lot of it was mostly caused by the absence of a top title where the feuds should revolve around and a top character in Roman Reigns. I can cut Roman some slack, especially in light of the passing of his brother, Matt “Rosey” Anoa’i, but I can’t give the RAW Creative Team the same leeway because this is just an all-too-familiar pattern they’ve settled into. C-.

Quick Hitters:

  • That Dumpster Match between Kalisto and BRRRRAAAAAAUUUUUUNNNN! was way more fun than I thought it would be. I love how Kalisto got the upset win, but ended up losing anyway because Sore Loser Braun went apeshit on him. That’s how you book an angry monster.
  • Speaking of Kalisto, that new entrance theme might actually grow on me soon enough. I like it… for now. Watch out for my upcoming Theme Song Tuesday piece on it in the coming weeks.
  • Dean Ambrose’s version of the light-up jacket was the right prop to boost that comedy segment with Chris Jericho. I will never stop enjoying the comedy bits those two do.
  • That Alicia Fox vs. Dana Brooke match was just so bad that I found myself no longer caring about the Dana/Emma arc.
  • I wonder how fun it would be if Titus O’Neil started giving Apollo Crews lessons about how to handle his brand the way The Brian Kendrick used to dish lessons out for Akira Tozawa. 
  • If Elias Samson can keep drifting in and out of backstage segments like that for the rest of his main roster run, I’ll be happy.
  • After half a year, we finally have confirmation that the RAW GM is the authority figure on 205 Live! That backstage segment where Austin Aries requests Kurt Angle for the main event spot is proof enough. Took them long enough to establish that, though.
  • I’m actually cool with seeing Heath Slater and Rhyno in awkward situations backstage. That seems to be their niche now since moving to RAW, and it’s actually a nice little distraction from the shit we get for much of the three hours. Keep feeding them kids, Heath.
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.

Comments

Trending This Week

[WATCH] 13 Things We Learned From PWR's #UnFathersDay Show

[FULL RESULTS] PWR Renaissance 2017

Rederick Mahaba Suspended From PWR

GLOW Forth and Multiply

The Smark Henry Mailbag (6/23/17): Curiosity Killed The Cat