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    Wednesday, March 9, 2016

    The Smark Henry RAW Report (3/7/16): Predicting the WrestleMania Star Card

    We’re a little less than a month away from WrestleMania Star, and despite a lot of our usual complaints regarding the WWE’s creative direction, they’re actually taking time to lay the foundation for the ‘Mania card already. And I’m not just talking about the biggest attractions on the card. They’re actually setting up angles that could very well have a huge payoff in Dallas assuming the WWE plays its cards right. This week, let’s take a peek at what the ‘Mania card looks like based on what we’ve been seeing play out on WWE TV.

    The WWE World Heavyweight Championship Picture

    At this point, anything can happen right here. While Triple H vs. Roman Reigns is still the advertised main event for April 3rd, the sudden emergence of Dean Ambrose as the #1 contender could be the shot in the arm the world title picture so desperately needed. The WWE won’t admit it, but this could be their way of acknowledging how they’ve fucked up Roman’s buildup as Triple H’s foil.

    By the time Roadblock ends on Sunday (Manila time), it’s possible that Dean Ambrose could be holding the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. If that were to happen, we could still get any among the following options:

    1. 1. Dean Ambrose defends the title against Triple H at WrestleMania 
    2. 2. Dean Ambrose defends the title against Triple H and Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 
    3. 3. Dean Ambrose defends the title against Triple H, Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 
    I think they can still promote the hell out of a fatal 4-way for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania within the remaining three weeks. It’s a match that will be appealing to the different demographics that tune in to WWE. The fans who want to root for the legit badass can root for Brock. Old school fans can root for Triple H. The IWC can totally root for Dean (or Brock). And you can split the women and children between Dean and Roman.

    The more I think about it, the more I’m sold on this possibility because you can’t just end Dean and Brock’s feud without a resolution after everything they’ve done to each other over the last month. But at the same time, Dean’s feud with the Authority also dates back to last year, and it—along with Ambrose’s popularity—is arguably at its crescendo right now. You can’t just deny Roman Reigns his title shot even though the internet hates him, so you might as well keep him there. In fact, the inclusion of Ambrose and Lesnar could be the catalyst that sparks the heel turn he needs to save his career. Think about it, WWE. You’re welcome.

    Hell In A Cell: Shane McMahon vs. The Undertaker

    The more that Vince McMahon rubs in Shane’s face that he’s disowning his own son, the more it becomes clear that Shane is actually facing Taker at ‘Mania, which in itself isn’t a problem. For all we know, Shane could be keeping an ace up his sleeve in the form of his own fighters for hire, who could debut at WrestleMania

    If there’s going to be a swerve, I want it to really shock us because at this point, I’ve bought in to the idea that Shane can still go toe-to-toe with the Undertaker. The match will be must-see, but getting the fans to care about the story on a deeper level is a bigger issue. You can only go so far with stretching the whole father-disowns-his-son angle. They have to bring it back to the power struggle per se, and more importantly, why the Undertaker is a willing participant in all this.

    Intercontinental Championship: Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn

    Cue One Direction.

    When Kevin Owens came out this week to face Neville, we were all excited because we wanted to know if the rumors surrounding Sami Zayn’s return to RAW were true. Needless to say, they were.

    Bringing Sami in to attack Owens and reignite their feud, which dates all the way back to their ROH days, is an easy, logical thing to get us excited for a potential matchup at ‘Mania. Sure, Kevin Owens has been crossing a lot of people lately, including Dolph Ziggler, Neville, and the Big Show, and it wouldn’t surprise us in the least bit if the Intercontinental Championship was defended in a multi-man match. But the smarter move here will be to let Owens and Zayn have their own singles program because that’s a story that just writes itself. 

    It’s also worth pointing out that Neville and Owens had one of the best matches of the evening, highlighted by a Phoenix Splash that Neville hit from the second rope as a tribute to the recently departed Hayabusa.

    Divas Championship: Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks

    It took a while for us to get here, but I’m really glad that we eventually did. Becky and Sasha are both gunning for Charlotte, but they also have their own tension with each other, which makes for an interesting dynamic between all three women. 

    Charlotte’s maturing into a very despicable heel before our very eyes, and a lot of that is a testament to Ric Flair and how great he is as a character, even at his age. The more I watch Charlotte, the more I see her as an egotistical, entitled bitch, and the more I want to see either Becky or Sasha put her in her place. It works, and I love it.

    The only challenge for this angle moving forward is giving the ladies something fresh to do every week. They realized that they can only keep doing the non-conclusive finish to Becky and Sasha’s matches for so long.

    The Dudley Boyz vs. The Usos

    This one’s also been building up for quite some time, and I wouldn’t mind seeing this match as just a pure tag team match. With the way they’ve set up this angle, they don’t really need to have the tag titles in the mix. Besides, if the Dudleyz and Usos were shoehorned into a multi-team tag match in the Kickoff, it will surely dilute the story they’ve been building so far.

    A match like this deserves a definite conclusion with the Dudleyz putting the Usos over as sympathetic babyfaces. The Usos are still a team I don’t really care about, mostly because we still can’t differentiate Jimmy from Jey other than Jimmy being Naomi’s husband. But the more that the Dudleyz attack them and be all hypocritical about their use of tables, the more that the fans will want to get behind the Usos.

    This is a feud that actually needs some time to be fleshed out. We get that the Dudleyz feel slighted by the Usos being in their signature Tables Match several weeks ago. But I think this program needs something to make it personal, just to send the twins a little over the edge.

    AJ Styles vs. Chris Jericho

    It was the heel turn everybody saw coming a mile away.

    While I’m disappointed that we won’t get to see Y2AJ—a repugnant name, mind you—take on the New Day for the Tag Team Championships at WrestleMania, I’m actually okay with another huge match between these two. Jericho was being a tweener, at most, when he and Styles had their series of matches between the Royal Rumble and Fastlane. The feud did get a bit heated, but it didn’t get personal.

    Now that Jericho is a heel, he will get to unleash that side that could really force the WWE Universe to support AJ Styles 100%. I’d love to see a return to 2008 Jericho, the vicious, no-nonsense heel that just got everyone to hate him. Plus, this match at WrestleMania also needs a stipulation to freshen things up since we’ve already seen three singles matches between Y2J and AJ. I wonder, though, if Jericho could possibly be retiring, and that a match like this could write in a stipulation that forces him to retire at the end of this.

    United States Championship: Kalisto vs. Ryback

    This story’s just starting, but make no mistake about it. The way Ryback’s been behaving, especially the way he talked down to Kalisto backstage on RAW, solidifies his status as a heel. Ryback can actually go against smaller opponents, so they’re not going to have a bad match. I just want some solid character work from both guys here, hell, even from Sin Cara. He shouldn’t just be a chuwariwap in this storyline.

    Bonus points to Creative for booking Ryback to destroy Curtis Axel, who was his former tag partner, this week. It seems that the #SocialOutcasts are pretty much tweeners now that they’ve become such lovable underachieving characters.

    Brie Bella vs. Lana

    Two questions:

    1. 1. Is Lana actually ready to wrestle? 
    2. 2. Why did she suddenly dress up as if she were Ziggler’s girl again? 

    It’s sad that Creative let #WeWantLana organically die out, only to bring her back on TV in ways that make little sense. It could be their way of punishing Lana for her backstage heat, but nonetheless, it’s so sad to see how far she’s fallen from being the best onscreen manager not named Paul Heyman in modern WWE TV.

    The Tag Team Championship Picture

    Now that Y2AJ is out of the picture, I can totally see Goldust and R-Truth finally coming together as a tag team to take on the New Day. It’s not going to be a storyline that will wow us, but it will be a nice and meaningful “thank you” arc for both veterans heading into WrestleMania

    Or, you know, Golden Truth can just join the League of Nations and some other team like Mark Henry and Darren Young, or even the #Social Outcasts, in a multi-team tag match against the New Day for the Tag Team Championships. That will be a disservice to the New Day and what they’ve accomplished over the last year, but don’t be surprised if it does happen.

    The Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal?

    I’m surprised they haven’t mentioned the Battle Royal yet, but I’m pretty sure they’re bound to build to it within the next two weeks. Knowing the WWE, it won’t require much effort since it’s just their way of giving everyone else who doesn’t have a match their WrestleMania payday.

    What could make this match interesting is an old, but logical idea: Make the win mean something. Does the winner get a title shot against a particular champion? The dark battle royal at WrestleMania 24 was a good move because that year’s winner (Kane) got an ECW Championship match later in the night against the incumbent champion (Chavo Guerrero). The title shot doesn’t have to come at ‘Mania itself. But it’s a good start, isn’t it?


    The RAWs leading up to WrestleMania haven’t been all that exciting so far, but it took taking a step back to look at the card as it unfolds so far to get me just a tiny bit psyched for WrestleMania. Don’t be surprised if the card looks mighty different from what I predicted above come April 3rd. I’m actually hoping they still find time to push through with Stardust vs. Stephen Amell.

    As for this week’s RAW in itself, it was a solid, but unspectacular outing that yielded two really fun matches in Kevin Owens vs. Neville and the New Day vs. Y2AJ. Despite that, the second hour was largely tough to get through, but that’s an old complaint. This week’s episode gets a solid B.

    Photos from WWE.


    Stan Sy (@_StanSyis the Editor at Large of Smark Henry, and is also a radio DJ, an events host, a freelance writer, and one of the hosts of the Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast. He enjoys watching WWE, NXT, Lucha Underground, and the occasional New Japan match. Every now and then, he dresses up in fancy suits to book matches as PWR's longest-tenured General Manager to date.

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    Item Reviewed: The Smark Henry RAW Report (3/7/16): Predicting the WrestleMania Star Card Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Stan Sy
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