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The Smark Henry RAW Review (6/11/18): Baby, Let's Save the Best For Last


You probably didn’t expect to be seeing my byline back on this column. After all, Nicole Le Saux had been doing a wonderful job of reviewing RAW over the last year or so. But your girl has to work on her thesis so she can actually graduate and get back in the ring. So I’m tagging in and taking over this review column in the meantime. If you think you can do a better job, though, hit me up at stanlysy@gmail.com and let’s talk about how you can be the next Smark Henry RAW Reviewer! Okay, now on to the actual review.

Hot take: Monday Night RAW was actually enjoyable this week.

Okay, I’m going to have to qualify this because it’s not like the entire show was actually worth a crap.

The episode’s main story—centering around the RAW participants in this year’s men’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match—was pretty compelling from start to finish. Yes, it started out awkwardly with all eight RAW representatives each atop a ladder, bickering with one another over why they’re going to be Mr./Ms. Money in the Bank—well, except for that cute moment between Alexa Bliss and Braun Strowman.

For starters, I get the visual they were trying to go for, even with the blocking of certain Superstars getting taller ladders than others. But if I were an opportunistic prick like Kevin Owens, why wouldn’t I just get off my ladder and tip the other ones over, or even use them to bash the other Superstars’ brains in? That’s what he was essentially trying to do all night anyway.

I loved watching Owens spend the entire episode trying to manipulate Finn Bálor and Bobby Roode into helping him dismantle Braun Strowman. After all, it made sense and it banked on continuity. All three guys have previously lost in singles matches against Strowman, so all three guys knew that whether they liked it or not, it was in their best interests to work together against Strowman so he’d be less of a threat come MITB. Owens just happened to be the logical devil on their shoulders.

It carried over into the match, which was a treat of a main event. KO, Finn, and Roode tried everything from attacking Braun in the ring, Shield-style, to hitting him with a ladder, to setting KO up for a Bullfrog Splash on the announce table. But it was in the match’s last act when everything began to unravel, and yet, it was completely understandable. With a match of MITB’s magnitude, you’d want to have the momentum in your favor, so screw the alliance. If you see an opportunity to get the W, go get it, dammit! And get it, they did—or at least, they tried. 


Hilarity ensued as each competitor tried to pick up the scraps and get the pinfall, as they got selfish and remembered their own individual goals—a common trope in these multi-man matches. It was all for naught, though, because Braun gotta Braun and he monstered his way into a decisive victory, overcoming all the odds stacked against him. I’m not even mad. Strowman is being booked as a monster, and I wouldn’t have bought KO, Finn, and Roode as being enough to take him out. Now if you counted the other participants in the MITB Ladder Match, you might have convinced me. But not the guys in the RAW main event, and that’s why the finish made sense.

If a narrative like that can be told simply, then I don’t understand why RAW’s writers can’t get Nia Jax’s booking right. They spent months building sympathy towards her as a victim of bullying and body-shaming, only to immediately turn her into a bully herself against Ronda Rousey. Yeah, I get that Rousey is the bigger star here, but I don’t buy Ronda as a sheepish babyface reluctantly accepting the title shot. I want The Rowdy One to live up to her being The Baddest Woman on the Planet. I want her to demand the title shot because she’s Ronda fucking Rousey. 


In a similar way, hearing Nia Jax tell Ronda that the former challenged the latter because it would make for an easy victory is such a backwards-ass move. By bullying Ronda, Creative just took all the good will they built for Nia and flushed it down the toilet. Seeing Nia try to punk Ronda out before their title match at MITB made the champ look like a weak punk. So who’s the real winner here? Alexa Bliss, that’s who—because she was right all along.

It boggles my mind how RAW can be really enjoyable when the people who run the show are actually engaged into putting a good story together, and yet they just drop the ball on everything else. Yes, I understand that in writing stories for the screen, you have to have your end goal in mind and work backwards from there. But when you’re too fixated on a goal—i.e., Roman Reigns as the top babyface, with Ronda Rousey on a similar trajectory—you lose sight of what you already have and could build further on. They were on the right track with the main storyline this week. RAW just couldn’t follow through on everything else in the periphery. B.

Quick Hitters:

  • What is up with Coach's Word for the Hour gimmick? What does that even mean? It doesn’t even fit with what the stories they’re trying to tell on commentary, so it just comes across as forced. Stop, Coach. Stop. 
  • Ember Moon looked really scared atop her ladder at the start of the show. 
  • The Women’s Fatal 4-Way match was actually pretty fun, even though it seemed clunky. Glad they were given enough time to build on that. 
  • So if the Riott Squad aren’t just a random group, why hasn’t anything been done to show what bonds them as a trio? All we get is commentary repeatedly saying they aren’t a random trio. Show, don’t tell. 
  • Nia Jax’s top this week was very unflattering. Who the fuck approved that? 
  • Why did the timekeeper ring the bell after Nia tapped out? That wasn’t even a match. 
  • Baron Corbin looks great in his corporate attire plus the shaved head. He even looks younger now. Note to balding guys, don’t try to force the thinning hair look. It’s just sad. About time Corbin manned up and rocked the skinhead. 
  • So who from among No Way Jose’s conga line is going to be the next big star like Adam Rose’s former Rosebuds? 
  • Damn, Bobby Lashley tearing through that obstacle course in under a minute was impressive as fuck! 
  • On that note, the entire Lashley/Zayn segment this week was a great platform for Sami’s heel work. Watching Sami Zayn be a petty, underhanded, chickenshit heel reminds me of mid-2000s Christian, whose work I loved growing up. The Lashley/Zayn story might have been terribad over the last few weeks, but this week’s segment was actually good and made me care about their match at MITB. That’s how you make the most out of what you’re given.
  • I still don't really care for Roman Reigns vs. Jinder Mahal. But conversely, I'm really invested in Rollins/Elias for the Intercontinental Championship Match. Hey, here's an idea. If Elias wins the title, how about he gets his last name back?
Photos from WWE


*****

Stan Sy (@_StanSy) is the Editor at Large of Smark Henry, and is also a radio DJ on Wave 89.1, an events host, a freelance writer, and one of the hosts of The Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast. He also used to be one of the hosts and writers of The Wrestling Gods on FOX. He enjoys watching WWE, NXTLucha Underground, and the occasional New Japan match. You can ask him questions about wrestling, Survivor (yes, the reality show), or whatever you like on his CuriousCat account.

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