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The Smark Henry RAW Review (1/7/19): All Mighty, All Righty



Universal Champion Brock Lesnar was on this week's RAW? Someone "new" gets to challenge RAW Women's Champion "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey for the title at the Royal Rumble? RAW Tag Team Champions Bobby Roode and Chad Gable cheat The Revival... again? Intercontinental Champion Dean Ambrose and his former Shield brother-turned-bitter-rival Seth Rollins pulled double duty on this show? Hulk Hogan—ugh. There's always that one guy, am I right?

I've got to admit, though, RAW started 2019 with a bang! And by bang, I meant brawl. And by started 2019, I meant it started its first live show of 2019 with a pull-apart brawl between Seth Rollins and Bobby Lashley. That was pretty new. Wait, Rollins just wanted to impress Triple H enough to give him an Intercontinental Championship rematch? Mixed feelings.


What wasn't new was, or rather is, the state of the WWE Universal Championship. It's 2019 and Brock Lesnar is still champ, Braun Strowman is still angrily calling him out in the middle of the ring and promising he'd "get these hands," and I'm still not even mildly interested in this repeat feud

I mean, what the heck was that promo segment? They just had Brock circle Strowman outside the ring while smirking. The Beast Incarnate just smirked at The Monster Among Men. That's not whetting my appetite for their title match at the Royal Rumble, truth be told. Something was also a bit off about Braun on the mic. He sounded a bit intimidated—or at least distracted—at some points, pausing too long where he shouldn't have and, all in all, making this his worst promo to date. 

Everyone knows Braun's no Paul Heyman, so why didn't he just brawl with Brock outside the ring? One of them's The Beast and the other's The Monster. They should've been mauling each other throughout the arena. This was a pretty disappointing face-off for an already disappointing feud. Fingers crossed these two manage to surprise us at the Royal Rumble


It's no secret that I've always considered Alexa Bliss to be one of the best on the mic, so I was excited for A Moment of Bliss, the talk show. It was definitely different compared to its predecessors in The Highlight Reel, The Peep Show, and The Cutting Edge, both in terms of the good and the bad. The good? The segment ushered in a pretty interesting development, which meant that it wasn't just filler. The bad? Her first guest didn't even bring her A-game on the mic. Like Strowman, RAW Women's Champion Ronda Rousey isn't known for being great with promos, unless she's threatening someone. So this wasn't as great as it could've been, especially since this was supposed to be the talk show's very first episode. I loved the set and the idea, though. Bliss heeling it up with her "staff" made me smirk.

The interesting development came in the form of Sasha Banks beating Nia Jax to become the new number one contender to Rousey's title at the Royal Rumble. The match was, well, something. I'm pretty sure Banks was going for a huracanrana on that apron, flipping Jax from that apron to the floor, but Jax awkwardly sold it as some sort of DDT on the apron, so I'm not sure what to make of that. 

I'm a little worried now that the strange sequence in the corner where Banks ended up hitting her neck on the top rope, which was painful by the way, might be some sort of accident. Hopefully not. Watching this match made me feel like I was in Bird Box sans the need for a blindfold, with whatever that entity was consistently whispering in my ear that "Banks botches a lot" and "so does Jax" throughout. Bayley and Tamina's ringside shenanigans were pretty entertaining, though. 

This whole thing's setting up the Four Horsewomen versus Four Horsewomen match at WrestleMania, right? I mean, Ronda mentioned Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch and now she's going to defend her title against Sasha Banks with Bayley watching her back... Sounds like a done deal to me. 


What shouldn't be a done deal is RAW Tag Team Champions Bobby Roode and Chad Gable cheating The Revival out of a title match yet again! Scott Dawson's foot was clearly on the bottom rope! Was the referee blind? Are the champions unable to beat The Revival in a fair fight that they have to resort to such underhanded tactics? How many shenanigans must The Revival endure to get a proper RAW tag team title run? Just turn on Gable already, Bobby! He's stealing your whole thing! 

That said, these two teams killed it. All four men are obviously masters of the tag team game, if not just the wrestling game. Chad Gable tagged with Jason Jordan as American Alpha after all, Bobby Roode was part of Beer Money and Fourtune among others, and The Revival are The Revival. 

Making this a lumberjack match was a great idea in that it featured the rest of RAW's tag team division, but at the same time exposed its lacked of depth. Heath Slater & Rhyno? The B-Team? Lucha House Party? The Ascension's the only team that weren't two effective singles stars lumped in together because the writers had nothing for them, and the writers currently have nothing for them. 

Rhyno's an ECW legend, Bo Dallas was an NXT Champion, Curtis Axel was an Intercontinental Champion, and the Lucha House Party are just three luchadors thrown together. They're basically just the new Mexicools. I hope Heavy Machinery joins the RAW tag division to inject some new life in it, and hopefully actually get some real storylines. If this was a preview of things to come, then gg ez for the rest of the RAW tag division. Thankfully, the former formidable NXT Tag Team Champions in AOP are still... You automatically read that as AOP-pee, didn't you? Sigh.


Speaking of gg ezOG BC? Close enough. Finn Bálor's push seems to be starting here. Or at least seeds of it are getting planted. I mean, he made the save for both John Cena and Seth Rollins in the show's opener. That's got to be something, right? 

Cena opened the show properly after that brawl between attention-seeker Rollins and Bobby Lashley by talking about the Royal Rumble. He's entering the Royal Rumble Match. Yay? Drew McIntyre interrupted him and I obviously popped because Drew is a-McIntyre-zing. Drew attempting to add Cena to his list of accomplished victims makes a lot of sense. He wants to be the best, so he's taking out the best. His back-and-forth with Cena was really great because it allowed Drew to actually explain his own logic for, as John said, making the same promo everyone already has. 

Resuming the Rollins/Lashley brawl to interrupt what could've been a great one-on-one brawl between Drew and Cena wasn't a bad idea, as Cena had just came back and it would be too early for Drew to send him back to Hollywood. On paper, the six-man tag match featuring Cena, Finn, and Seth against Drew, Lashley, and Intercontinental Champion Dean Ambrose could've been just another Teddy Long schtick. Having feuds interact with one another here, crashing and colliding against each other, made it less "meh" and more "oh, I see what you did you there." Cena versus McIntyre, Finn versus Drew, Seth versus Dean, and Rollins versus Lashley... This had a lot going for it and it pretty much worked.

With the amount of talent in the ring, the actual match ended up pretty fun. I though Finn was getting the pin on Lashley here, because WWE doesn't care about Lashley anyway, but Rollins pinning Ambrose ultimately made sense. This allowed Seth to go to the back, slap the drink from Triple H's hand, and demand the title rematch he so greedily desired. Triple H granted him what he wanted but made it a Falls Count Anywhere match. Oh, and Triple H welcomed him back. J&J Security returning next week confirmed?! God, I hope not. 

It's worth noting that in that six-man tag—probably the best of its kind in a long while—Bálor and Rollins had more time to shine while Cena took more of a backseat presence. Either this was a case of good-guy Cena or the people in gorilla are finally making actual changes. Nice.

We've seen Ambrose versus Rollins numerous times, so we already knew their Falls Count Anywhere match for the Intercontinental Championship was going to be good. They ended up fighting all over the arena, from the ring to the back, through the crowd, and back in the ring where Bobby Lashley annihilated Rollins from out of nowhere, essentially giving Ambrose the victory. Lashley drove Seth through a table, so I'm guessing they're having a Tables match next week or at the Royal Rumble

RAW going off the air with Lashley posing over someone he dominated was certainly new. Here's hoping they're actually going to finally turn him into a force to be reckoned with. Maybe he destroys Rollins at the Royal Rumble or next week to get some more credibility? Destroy some more people and eventually get him what he wants: Brock Lesnar for the Universal title. His shirt is 100%, by the way. I'd wear that.


To sum things up, we had two title matches on the first RAW of 2019, John Cena, the Universal Championship's hostage-taker in Brock Lesnar, and even an interesting development in a new contender for Ronda Rousey's RAW Women's Championship, but I'm pretty sure that the main talking point everyone's going with will be Hulk Hogan's return. 

Yes, Hogan returned to WWE programming on the very first RAW of 2019 to pay tribute to WWE Hall of Famer "Mean" Gene Okerlund. "Mean" Gene passed away last week at the age of 76, and if you have no idea who he is, you should get an idea. The man was amazing. He was great. He deserves to be called a legend.

That said, I'm not really sure what to make of this. On one hand, it was probably cool for some fans to get that nostalgia pop with Hogan and him mentioning the many legends that have already passed away. In his own right, Hogan is a legend, perhaps the best-known from his generation, and he's done so many things that had an impact the professional wrestling world. 

On the other, his "shenanigans" outside the ring, however, have been disappointing a lot of us—his fans, wrestling fans, and fans of red and yellow color palettes alike. It's hard to separate his in-ring persona from his real-life persona, too, primarily because he doesn't even really make the effort to.

I've never really been that much of a Hulk Hogan fan, truth be told, and this segment made me relive my frustrations with Ric Flair when he was with Evolution, still winning tag team titles when his retirement was long overdue, possibly taking a younger guy's spot just because he could. With Hogan, I know that he factored heavily in "Mean" Gene's rise to popularity and what-not, but I didn't feel like he was actually necessary here. WWE could've gone with another pre-taped video as an alternative, featuring other still-living legends who could've also shared great anecdotes of "Mean" Gene, as well as younger guys who could've expressed his impact on their lives and careers. The ending of this segment also felt like Hogan was trying to leech off a legend's death to become relevant again, to be forgiven, and I hope that's really not the case because that would just be awful, even for a guy like him. This, I think, was just not for me. Not any of it. I'm out.

RAW REVIEW: The first RAW of 2019 tried something new with a brawl opening the show, a female-led talk show within the show, and a couple of new possible feuds to end the show. Despite that, it still fell prey to old, bad habits like an awful promo segment for this uninteresting Braun Strowman versus Brock Lesnar feud for the Universal title, RAW Women's Champion Ronda Rousey cutting a promo without threatening to break anyone's arm, and whatever the hell that was with Hulk Hogan. With two pretty decent title matches, a new contender for a title, and Bobby Lashley finally dominating a big name, I'm giving this week's RAW a C for "Champion Bobby Lashley when?" 

Quick Hitters:
  • Baron Corbin just pinned Elias but I'm pretty sure that's not the end of their feud, for some reason. I hope I'm wrong. It's odd watching Corbin wrestle in his clothes and then realize he's not actually an authority figure anymore.
  • Jinder Mahal and Alicia Fox are still a team? Apollo Crews and Ember Moon are now a team? Are mixed match tag team matches now going to be a thing? That could be interesting. Mixed Match Tag Team Championships coming soon? Now if only they'll let guys fight girls and girls fight guys for some equal opportunity pummelling. That might not sit well with WWE's PG programming, but then again, it's a show about fighting. People are supposed to fight each other.
  • Speaking of Mahal, can we just let the Bollywood Boys Singh Brothers be a proper tag team? I mean, they're already a proper tag team. You don't even need to dissociate them from Mahal if you don't want to. Just have them compete with people smh.
  • Triple H was seen backstage talking to Sasha Banks and Bayley. When are we having that NXT Invasion?
Images from WWE


*****

Jofer Serapio (@ShawarmaJoereviews WWE RAW & NXT UK for Smark Henry. He has been an avid professional wrestling fan since grade school. These reviews are as close to professional wrestling as he can get. People still pop for Hulk Hogan? Ugh.

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