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RAWDown RunDown (3/2/20): A Break from the Pavlovian Show


Oh, hey! You probably weren't expecting a RAW review this week, especially from me, #NitPickRick. You see, things are getting stale down in the Blue Brand so I decided to creep my way to RAW for a change in scenery. It's been years since I watched a full episode of RAW, and that's why I'm hyped. Just don't rat me out, okay? No one in the Smark Henry offices knows I'm here. It will be our little secret. After all, snitches get stitches. You dig?

Right off the bat, I can easily say that RAW is doing way better than The Roman Reigns Show back on Friday nights. They have a protagonist worth cheering for, an antagonist healthy enough to be considered a beast, a Women's Champion interesting enough to get invested in, and a newcomer who loves biting necks. And at the center of these busy storylines, there's Randy Orton and Beth Phoenix setting up the best match CasualMania 36 has to offer.

One way to describe this storyline so far is beautiful with a capital B. The characters, the premise, the setup, the execution, and the escalation of the buildup is near perfect. I can’t believe this angle started two months ago and the wound is still fresh in our minds. And this week, the escalation continued as Beth Phoenix gets involved. Just when you thought this storyline couldn't give you any more wrinkles, it gives you Orton RKO-ing Beth straight to the mat.



But before Orton did the dirty deed, he spun our emotions over and over through stellar mic work. Since when did a supposed heel get an unironic round of applause and then garner a “bullshit” chant right after? We already know he’s not being a villain for villainy’s sake, but they did a better job adding a more emotional layer to Orton’s vicious actions. For a minute there, I started agreeing with him before I was reminded that he is, in fact, a son of a bitch. Best promo of 2020, anyone?

If there was an Olympic event for mental gymnastics, Randy Orton will definitely win all the gold because, holy smokes, who else can make the connection of injuring Edge and Beth Phoenix enabling him make some sort of sense? Only a twisted character like Orton can equate hurting others with love. And the way he mentioned the names of their kids seemed off to me. I don't know if it's Orton's natural heelish aura or that he plans to actually hurt the kids just to further his point.  

There’s really nothing more I can say about this storyline other than praise and adulation. Part of its genius is that it gave us a legitimate reason not to overwork Edge but still make the narrative compelling to the highest degree. The WWE Universe will definitely flip their tables when Edge finally makes his return and I can’t wait to see that happen. But for now, let's settle for this beautifully-executed segment that everyone should study and dissect for years to come. 



And how about that opening segment, huh? For starters, Brock Lesnar appeared, so that's already awesome. We also got a Paul Heyman promo out of it, which is nice. And we have the conquering hero Drew McIntyre giving us a taste of a Brock Lesnar-less RAW by taking out the champion not once, but twice. And that’s a lot of hard work for Lesnar. We all know he doesn’t enjoy doing that, amirite? Joking aside, this was a great promo to kick off the show.

It’s also a great way to make Drew McIntyre look hella lit for CasualMania 36. This instantly makes it the better world title scene because we have a plucky newcomer with all the potential in the world and a champion you can trust to still deliver a great main event. I’m pretty sure the other world title match is closing the show in April, but at least I’ll know I don’t have to stay until the end. I’ll definitely won’t miss Drew McIntyre’s coronation as the real Chosen One.



This must be my lucky week because I got to witness a title change in the form of Street Profits finally winning the RAW Tag Team Championships. I’ve always enjoyed them on NXT and I’m glad they’re still as enjoyable now that they are on RAW. Isn't it great to see them inside the ring and not backstage ripping off Saturday Night Live? And isn’t it great Seth Rollins isn’t tag team champion anymore? The guy has held it too many times that it doesn’t feel special anymore.

This is probably why his new Monday Night Messiah gimmick isn’t clicking with me. Sure, he had garnered strong allies to back him up, but why is he wasting his time in the midcard? Shouldn’t AOP be the ones chasing after the tag titles? They probably would have the better shot at winning it. I guess we’ll just have to wait for CasualMania 36 to pass by for the Monday Night Messiah to truly realize his potential: by chasing after the WWE Championship. 



And then there’s Shayna Baszler’s RAW debut. WWE dodged a bullet there by not making Asuka compete against Baszler. That’s a money match and I think it deserves a bigger stage someday. Or next week, probably, because they don’t know how to build up these things. Anyway, in Asuka's place is Kairi Sane, giving us a rematch of the first Mae Young Classic finals. Man, time sure flies fast. One minute you’re on top of the world, the next you’re out jobbing for Shayna Baszler.

It was clear from the very beginning who would come out on top, not just for this week, but in the women’s Elimination Chamber match. Kudos to them, I guess, for making Baszler earn the opportunity. At least the RAW women’s division gets some involvement, too. Props to them also for giving Kairi Sane some glimmer of hope by not letting the match end quickly. 

After all, Kairi isn’t just some jobber. She’s a former NXT Women’s Champion and Mae Young Classic winner for a reason. Sure, the match dragged for a while, but that extra amount of time showed us Kairi Sane still has that fighting spirit. That’s good enough consolation for me. To sweeten the deal, Becky Lynch came out dressed like Macklemore, for some reason. I guess you can do anything when you’re The Man. 



Everything looks good so far if you know where to look. But alas, RAW is still a WWE brand after all, and I have to deal with yet another old-timer trying to take spots away from more exciting upstarts. Case in point: The Undertaker is picking a fight with AJ Styles. I roll my eyes every time the Deadman makes an appearance in the modern era, but not because I'm a fan. And why exactly is Aleister Black the Deadman’s body double for this buildup? 

Remind me again why we can’t have Aleister Black vs. AJ Styles at CasualMania 36? Oh, is it because Black isn’t a household name despite being one of the most explosive Superstars in WWE today? Gee, I wonder why he isn’t a household name. Maybe if we asked the old dead guy to not compete, maybe Black can carry this rivalry on his back, create a WrestleMania moment with Styles, and further cement his name as one of the greats.

No? Too much? Yeah, you’re right. I always forget that we’re dealing with WWE here, a company so afraid of the future, they always bring back the past to prevent the future from shining. How many times do I have to reiterate this? Undertaker is old. He’s not the Phenom anymore. He’s just some old dude now. Why do you want to watch him wrestle past his prime? Don’t you want an amazing match between two perfectly healthy competitors? Is nostalgia really that good?

They even did Aleister Black dirty by making him a bumbling buffoon for not reading contracts. Why get contracts involved, anyway? Can't Styles just throw his henchmen to Black like a regular heel wrestler would under the guise of a challenge? Babyfaces love challenges, right? At least we can say Black lost because Styles was a conniving heel, not because he doesn't read contracts carefully.  

RAWDOWN RUNDOWN: See what happens when your show isn't built around a has-been and a teacher's pet? Sure, Undertaker’s lurking around here somewhere, but you can’t deny that the quality of storylines here on RAW is far more superb. I will probably start watching RAW more often now up until CasualMania 36, just to see how long can they keep this momentum going. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be going back to the SmackDown-sized hole where a great show is supposed to be. Remember, #NitPickRick wasn’t here...

Show Grade: B

RAWDown CutDown

  • Anyone else wants to see Andrade vs. Angel Garza vs. Rey Mysterio vs. Humberto Carillo for the United States Championship at CasualMania 36? I really hope it’s not just me.
  • It’s great that they’re giving the implosion of the Riott Squad more time on the show, but am I the only one who wants them back together? I mean, they have yet to do something great as a team anyway. And now that they’re all directionless, a reunion doesn’t seem like a bad idea.  
  • Hey, uh, anyone want to check on Ricochet? He just lost to a jabroni. You guys saw that too, right? The supposed rising star just lost to a jabroni. I get that it's WWE's way of saving whatever legitimacy the 24/7 Championship has by contesting it in a proper match so props to them. But at Ricochet's expense? Nah, fam. That ain't it. 
  • A giant toy spider. I mean, it’s not like we expected something great from Erick Rowan’s mystery pet. Jokes on you if you actually thought it’s something monumental. 
  • They can say “bitch” willy-nilly now? Holy shit, the Attitude Era is back! *cue hardcore ear-busting metal rock music*
Photos from WWE.com


*****

Ricky Publico (@TeetotaleRicky) is Smark Henry's resident SmackDown reviewer... for better or worse. A known lover of wrestling tournaments, he's a sucker for well-executed promos and fast-paced matches. While he enjoys nitpicking shows, he now prefers enjoying wrestling for what it is instead of stressing himself over things he can't control. He just bought an Android phone and he couldn't be more delighted.

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