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The Smark Henry RAW Review (2/18/19): NXT Takes Over RAW



I miss one RAW review and NXT Daddy Triple H tries to butter me up by having my favorites win their debut matches on RAW? I should miss more reviews that more often then. That or Triple H probably found out it was my editor Stan Sy's birthday and decided to give him—not the Gift of Jericho, but—the gift of a pretty exciting RAW. Well, I mean, most of it was good, so that makes all of it good, right? RIP, Riott Squad, but hello, NXT Invasion: Wave 2. Oh, and hello, Lafayette, you low-energy heel city.



In a move that made me freeze in disbelief for a few seconds, RAW imported four of NXT's best this week to fight people, and guess what? They all won their matches, every single one of them, with #DIY even pissing on RAW's tag team division just the way Blackheart Tommy Champagne wanted to. What a heel! Meanwhile, Ricochet partnered up with Intercontinental Champion Finn Bálor versus Bobby Lashley and Lio Rush while Aleister Black murdered Elias for playing the guitar. 

This was most definitely the better way to debut anyone, putting them in action right away and letting them show what they can do in that ring. All those weird backstage segments with sexy mute EC3, hilariously creepy Heavy Machinery (mostly just Otis but Tucker didn't do anything to help), and fashionably awkward Lacey Evans were a complete waste of time when compared to the way these four athletes were handled and introduced. At least Nikki Cross got herself a match against then-champion Becky Lynch over on SmackDown way back when. 

It was awesome when Heavy Machinery finally got themselves a couple of matches but now they're back doing #dumbshit with Lacey Evans again, so prayers to them. EC3 went on to have a match but it was against the soon-to-be released Dean Ambrose and prior to that, he was made to do A Moment of Bliss, a talk show without him talking, which was weird, to say the least.

In just one show and three separate matches, Ricochet, NXT North American Champion Johnny Gargano, NXT Champion Tommaso Ciampa, and Aleister Black jumped right over EC3, Lacey Evans, and Heavy Machinery without even breaking a sweat. Then again, Ricochet and company brought their respective hype with them, and suffice to say, outside of EC3, none of his "batchmates" were nowhere near this week's newest call-ups in terms of fan clamor—outside of Lafayette, anyway. Still, having people make their debut in action is obviously way better than having them randomly appearing backstage to talk with their gal pals while wearing a cool hat, making weird drinks with their guy pals, or gawking at their abs in the mirror.


Speaking of abs, Finn Bálor became the new Intercontinental Champion at Elimination Chamber, beating both former champion Bobby Lashley and Lio Rush in a handicap title match. There were two of them, and one of Finn, so RIP, Lashley's push. Also, Finn didn't even need The Demon to beat them and take the title, though we're not actually sure if The Demon is still a thing since it's been so long since we've seen that guy. Maybe he went with The Undertaker and saw "greener" pastures elsewhere. Hopefully, Bálor's run as Intercontinental Champion will be better than Shinsuke Nakamura's lackluster run as United States Champion over on SmackDown Live. At the very least, when he does lose that title, The Extraordinary Man Who Can Do Extraordinary Things can set his eyes on tag team gold with Ricochet as ABS-olution. Get it? Because they have abs and, well, abs are a great solution to some problems.

Where do Bobby Lashley and Lio Rush go from here, though? After Lashley attacked Rush, I thought they'd be done as a pair. Lashley even came to Baron Corbin's aid during his Elimination Chamber match against Braun Strowman, which made me think they were putting him with Corbin and Drew McIntyre again for the nth time. Ugh. I was actually worried not for Rush, but for Lashley, because let's face it, Lashley on his own in the WWE hasn't been any good so far. Rush has actually made him tolerable as a heel, with the exception of that dumb mooning pose he introduced. It might be interesting to note, however, that Lashley has played a heel elsewhere and he seemed like he could agitate people on his own. 

As much as I'd want to see Bálor defend his title against someone new—like, say, Ricochet perhaps?—Rush was the one pinned in that handicap title match at Elimination Chamber as well as in their tag team match on this week's RAW, so expect Lashley to go the way of "I was never pinned!" to finagle his rematch... even though the McMahons assured us that automatic rematch clauses weren't a thing anymore. Promises, promises, promises.


A more conclusive non-title loss by a champion—rather champions—took place when RAW Tag Team Champions The Revival faced the reunited DIY, NXT North American Champion Johnny Gargano and NXT Champion Tommaso Ciampa, in a champions versus champions tag match, where the Revival lost. Congratulations, Dash and Dawson! You're RAW tag team champions now. Time for you to immediately lose your first tag team match as champions. Ha. Ha. Ha. 

Of course, I popped when DIY beat The Revival but it was in disbelief. DIY is a great tag team, but they haven't really been teaming together for quite some time now. They're also individual singles champions now while The Revival are RAW's Tag Team Champions. If Gargano and Ciampa don't even try to take the gold off them—or worse, don't even have the intentions to do so—then doesn't that just degrade the RAW Tag Team Championships? Yikes. 

Still, the action was great and I love both teams, so this was definitely a treat for me, especially keeping in mind that these two teams were involved in NXT's Match of the Year in 2016. Wait, are DIY going for the NXT Tag Team Championships now? Oh, no, watch out, War Raiders, said no one ever. 

The most likely scenario is for DIY to drop their titles on NXT if they're permanently on RAW now. Oh, maybe then they'll go for the RAW tag titles and dethrone The Revival. If that happens, then this match wasn't just fanservice filler like I implied. Hmmm. Heel DIY as RAW Tag Team Champions DIY could be pretty amazing—certainly more amazing than whatever's going on with Heavy Machinery and Lacey Evans. 

Okay, I'm not going to lie, Otis is too charismatic to get mad at, but what happened on RAW was basically a waste of time for everyone. I'm sure there were better ways to remind everyone that Lacey Evans is around, right? I actually like her gimmick and I think it could thrive on its own since it makes her stand out from the rest of the RAW women's division. Just get her in some matches, please.   


Speaking of matches, sources say that the WWE Women's Tag Team Championships will be defended across all brands including NXT... and maybe NXT UK? Don't quote me on that NXT UK bit. I don't think that's going to happen any time soon, especially since the UK brand's women's division is still growing. 

Anyway, Nia Jax and Tamina made their intentions to chase after the Women's Tag Team Championships known, interrupting the newly crowned champs' promo to assert their dominance but they were successfully fended off, with Sasha Banks even locking in the Banks Statement on Nia before Tamina pulled her to safety. That's probably the only thing Tamina's good for in that relationship since she ate the pin during their opportunity to become the first WWE women's tag champs. At least "first" in this iteration anyway. 

I'm just going to put it out here: I didn't like it when Bayley and Sasha Banks won the Elimination Chamber match and became the first-ever WWE Women's Tag Team Champions. I didn't like how they were shoehorned together haphazardly: Bayley attacked Banks at ringside, almost ending her career blah blah blah, and they went into a couple of terrible therapy sessions that were reminiscent of the comedy therapy sessions Team Hell No went through, and now they're good to go as tag team champs? The journey was whack and the abrupt end to their tension was not good. The Riott Squad or The IIconics or the pair formerly known as Absolution or even The Samoan Cousins would've made for better first-ever champs storywise. 

Do Bayley and Banks deserve it, though? Debatably. Sure, they regularly put on great matches but most of those matches were singles matches against each other. That makes them deserving of proper RAW Women's Championship runs, not exactly of being crowned as the first-ever WWE Women's Tag Team Champions. Fingers crossed Kairi Sane and Io Shirai beat them for the titles soon.


While we're on the subject of proper RAW Women's Championship runs and the Riott Squad deserving to be crowned as the first-ever WWE Women's Tag Team Champions storywise, wouldn't it have been awesome, storywise, if all three members of the Squad came out of Elimination Chamber with gold around their waists? 

Ah, well. At least Ruby Riott, the great wrestler that she is, got enough time to showcase her skills on RAW even though she got tapped out. The match didn't really last that long, with everyone mentioning how "easy" of a win it was for Ronda Rousey. And then the announcers kept mentioning Charlotte Flair and one-legged Becky but... Actually, there is no but. Ruby Riott got the short end of the stick here and so did the Riott Squad when all three of them weren't enough to dethrone or at least get a disqualification win on the one-woman tank that is RAW Women's Champion "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey. 

A friend who watched WWE this week for the first time in a long while said it would've been cool if the Riott "girls" came out during the Elimination Chamber title match and tried to help Ruby out, only for both Flair and Lynch to neutralize them because they "want to beat Ronda at WrestleMania so bad." I mean, I get that the big story is Ronda versus Charlotte versus Becky at WrestleMania, but they could've at least given Ruby Riott and her squad something as an excuse for losing so often. They've been losing a lot, pretty much losing every match they're in, making them very ineffective as a unit—if they can even call themselves that anymore. RIP, Riott Squad, we hardly knew ye.

RAW REVIEW: There was a lot to like from this week's RAW, with the stuff to hate mostly being reruns of feuds well past their prime. Ricochet, DIY, and Aleister Black definitely gave this show a different feel, with Triple H opening the show being an inspired choice. The main event was a bit weak, though, because of how terrible Ruby Riott and the Riott Squad have been written for so long now and the fact that Rousey's two challengers are actually from SmackDown and didn't even appear. Still, this NXT Invasion, the better NXT Invasion, coupled with new champions made the episode very exciting. I'm giving this week's RAW a B for "Bálor brought friends." 

Quick Hitters:
  • Judging by that opening promo, NXT Daddy Triple H is playing a face again, which is good timing because I mean, we all know who to thank for this week's RAW, right? AEW. Congrats to DX for being the first inductees to the WWE Hall of Fame 2019 class, especially Chyna. She arguably deserves it the most.
  • Baron Corbin versus Braun Strowman needs to end. Hopefully, that Tables Match ended that feud. Wait, Corbin won their PPV match and now Braun won their TV match... OMG IS THIS A BEST OF SEVEN SERIES?! Please stop.
  • Paul Heyman was around to hype the MIA Universal Champion Brock Lesnar who's probably plowing fields (stop DMing me with your dirty jokes, Bee) back home. As per usual, Heyman was awesome on the mic. That encounter with Braun Strowman was a little weird, or more precisely, a bit unexpected, considering Braun isn't going to fight Lesnar any time soon. Or so we think. Heyman got another video package before Seth Rollins got to speak his mind in a backstage interview. Didn't they already do this plucky underdog bit with Bálor versus Lesnar? Oh, wait, there's less smiling here. Carry on.
  • Drew McIntyre was the next Superstar Dean Ambrose put over on his way out of WWE. That exchange between Triple H and Drew was awesome, I've got to admit. Dean not giving any F's is best Dean. His backstage interaction with Seth was a little weird and I'm not even sure if it was scripted because, well, Dean has been going off-script the past few shows. Now I'm second-guessing whether Dean's supposed exit is a work. Are they giving him an amnesia storyline? Oh no.
  • Curt Hawkins is still a loser and this time he's bringing his best bud Zack Ryder down with him. I don't think Ryder minds, though, because at least he's getting some TV time. But I am way past caring for the Lucha House Party, to be honest. Those weird handicap matches (stop trying to make Lucha Rules happen) with The Revival did them more bad than good.
  • Kevin Owens, my best friend in the whole wide world, is a fun dad. This segment reminded me a lot of Jablinski Games, Jack Black's gaming channel on YouTube. Screw PewDiePie, subscribe to Jack Black. For people wondering if Owens will come back as a face, it seems like it. I'm not into that idea, though, as I believe the best Owens is prizefighter back-murderer Owens who powerbombs everyone else on the apron. I'm willing to give it a try, though, since Owens is cool and all. Give him his change, nephew!
  • Wasn't this Abyss' first time as a WWE producer? Nice.
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. He believes in the ancient Chinese saying, "why have abs when you can have kebabs?"

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