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    Tuesday, May 3, 2016

    The Smark Henry RAW Report (5/2/2016): Same Old Brand New You

    The problem with WWE storytelling is that they’re so quick to use these huge, all-encompassing terms in the hopes of getting your attention; but when you ask yourself what it really means, you realize that it doesn’t change anything from status quo.

    Take this “new era” of WWE, for example.

    Shane McMahon began running the show right after WrestleMania and promised change, a new era, as if he were running for President. He kept talking about this “new era,” and he hyped Payback as the first show under it. At Payback, Vince McMahon pretty much acknowledged said new era and gave both Stephanie and Shane the power to control RAW.

    As it stands, there’s a power struggle, and you can see signs in which both Shane and Stephanie are trying to win over both the main roster and the WWE Universe. Naturally, Shane would do babyface things, while Steph would be inclined towards the heels. But when it comes to making matches, it seems both of them are booking things in the most interesting way possible because that appears to be what’s best for business.

    The best examples are the rematch between Roman Reigns and AJ Styles for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship with an Extreme Rules stipulation and the rematch between Charlotte and Natalya over the WWE Women’s Championship in a Submission Match.

    All of that is fine and well, but I still don’t know what this new era is supposed to be or how it’s supposed to be different from what preceded it. If Shane McMahon is going to cite the NXT Superstars he called up as an example, then that’s silly because there have always been NXT call-ups every year for the last half-decade. If Shane wants to bring up the fresh matchups he’s created, well, you can attribute that to the fact that there are new faces on the roster in the first place. Plus, WrestleMania always serves as a reset button for almost all the storylines, so there’s bound to be some new matchups. If Shane says that he’s finally giving the people what they want, well, isn’t that what he’s supposed to as the babyface authority figure?

    The fact of the matter is that the landscape of the WWE hasn’t truly been changed because status quo remains as it is. We didn’t get a game-changing event like a brand split, and that’s not good enough because a brand split is what we honestly need right now.

    You have a WWE main roster that’s as deep as it’s ever been, with a depth chart that goes 10-deep for tag teams and several singles stars that can queue up as contenders for the different singles titles. And as I said in the Payback review, WWE has at least five hours of weekly programming to go on, and they can make the most of all of their talents with a brand split, while avoiding overexposure.

    You can argue that the endgame could very well be a brand split. But if that’s the case, then why tease it? Or why did Shane McMahon have to lose or go through Hell In A Cell at WrestleMania in the first place? Somewhere in Death Valley, the Undertaker is asking himself the same questions.

    If they started the brand split as soon as WrestleMania ended, you can have the excitement and suspense of a Draft Lottery. And then you can circulate trade rumors and have actual trades and free agency signings, which makes the offseason exciting for any professional sport. Plus, you can have the two competing brands one-up each other on a weekly basis, which makes us as viewers the real winners here. This can go on all the way until Survivor Series, where you have a RAW vs. SmackDown showdown waiting to happen. All this armchair booking sounds so simple, right? But what do I know? I’m just a fan and part-time armchair booker.

    Look, I’m not bitching about the WWE being crappy because that’s not entirely the case. I’m just not a fan of throwing around all these fancy terms when the reality is that the emperor is really not wearing any clothes at all.

    Quick Hitters

    • Anybody who says that the Roman Reigns-AJ Styles story is boring has clearly not been watching the product. This has been the most compelling program on WWE right now, and I love how they took things further this week by having the Usos formally team up with Roman Reigns against AJ, Karl Anderson, and Luke Gallows. There’s still some tension between Anderson and Gallows, and it was great that they tempted AJ to join the dark side, especially at the end when they held Roman up for AJ to hit him with the steel chair. In the end, AJ Styles is the victim here because he’s being put in between a rock and a hard place by Anderson and Gallows, and in the process, he’s getting his ass handed to him by Roman and the Usos. How can you not sympathize with that?

    • That segment between Charlotte, Ric Flair, Nattie, and Charles Robinson was pretty enjoyable. Everyone knew how to play their parts well to get the maximum reaction they could get from the crowd. Charlotte’s evolution as the best heel in the women’s division is such a treat to watch, particularly when Stephanie McMahon told her that Naitch will be banned from ringside during the Submission Match against Nattie for the title at Extreme Rules. Don’t stop being you, Charlotte.

    • Rusev is the new #1 Contender for Kalisto’s United States Championship, and I’m okay with that. He got a convincing win during the #1 Contender’s Battle Royal—one in which the final two (Rusev and Ryder) really got the crowd going—and that should give him and Lana the momentum they so desperately need after the repugnant run they got last year. I can’t wait to see Rusev and Lana go at it with Kalisto (and Sin Cara).

    • Putting Cesaro and Kevin Owens—two men who have legitimate claims to be the #1 Contender to Miz’s IC title—was a step in the right direction because they didn’t take the lazy way out of just booking both of them and Sami Zayn as Miz’s opponents at Extreme Rules. They took their time with it, as they should have, and escalated the tension between all four men via the interference at the end of the match.

    • Awarding the #1 Contendership to the Tag Team Championship to the Vaudevillains makes sense, as I stated in the Payback review. They get the heat by being associated with Enzo Amore’s injury, and it gives the New Day a fresh heel team to go up against. It will be interesting to see how Big Cass moves on from here while Enzo’s on the shelf.

    • I missed seeing Becky Lynch wrestle, and I’m glad she’s finally okay. She had a solid match with Emma, and I hope that they can have their blowoff match at Extreme Rules, too. Now, when can we see Sasha Banks on TV again?

    • #RIPMitch. You were gone too soon.


    This week’s RAW was a bit tough to sit through because it wasn’t as exciting and gripping as Payback, or even the last few RAWs after WrestleMania. I know it’s not easy making every three-hour episode exciting, but that should be a testament to the fact that putting on a three-hour show every week just isn’t sustainable in terms of maintaining fan interest and energy. Maybe we should include “bring RAW back to two hours” under the platform of a real new era. As for this week’s episode, let’s give it a 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 (5/2/2016): Same Old Brand New You Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Stan Sy
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